Dr. Brenda Hillman, the administrator of Iowa Christian Academy in West Des Moines sent the following email out to parents and supporters.
Who wants to be Common?
Iowa Christian Academy remains in control of the learning process within our school; it is the academic freedom that we enjoy as a nonpublic school. The ICA Board of Directors in partnership with the faculty and administration will determine what to adapt from the Common Core standard according to what best fits the fulfillment of our unique mission statement. ICA will never allow the faith and the education of our children to be compromised. Vigilance and adherence to biblical Truth, upon which our school mission stands and upon which the mission of private Christian education was established, will always be the focus of Iowa Christian Academy. This school will continue to be a place of learning where our mission is to Develop Leaders Committed to Christ.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a reality and will impact the curriculum, instruction, textbooks, and assessments in public and private schools in the state of Iowa. Currently, there is no indication that the CCSS standards will be directly imposed on private or faith-based schools. However, it is important for communication to be ongoing regarding how the ICA curriculum and achievement results align with the standards.
The CCSS Initiative is a joint venture between the U.S. National Governors’ Association Center and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards, to this point, have been developed for Mathematics, English and Science. The mission of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is to “provide a consistent clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy” (Common Core State Standards Initiative 2012b). The goals established in 2009 were as follows:
- Upgrade the standards used by all states to reflect needed rigor.
- Align standards with the most rigorous educational communities internationally.
- Utilize established standards as a means for teacher preparation and professional development.
- Provide accountability that can be compared, contrasted and tracked by schools, districts and states.
- Serve as a basis for assessing students by established international benchmarks.
- The CCSS reflect a “lowest common denominator” in Iowa.
- The standards overemphasize skills over content knowledge.
- There are specific curriculum directives, especially in the language arts standards, which contribute to social engineering and may conflict with faith-based mission statements.
- The U.S. Department of Education has been leveraging acceptance of the standards with federal funds positioning states to not have autonomy ability.
- The standards, particularly in math, may inhibit and actually reduce gains that have been made.
- Forcing national standards based upon international benchmarks is an intrusion into parental, local, and state educational authority.
- The data collection that is a component of this initiative is ominous and may be an intrusion on individual freedom.
- Private school associations, groups, or educator representation was not sought or included in the discussion of the CCSS.
What does the Common Core State Standards Initiative mean for ICA?
At Iowa Christian Academy, Biblical Truth will never be replaced or compromised by any earthly mandate. The Board of Directors and school leadership will ensure that the CCSS are evaluated based upon the philosophical foundations of Iowa Christian Academy. We will find the common ground between ICA curricular standards and the CCSS. We will identify and embrace some of the best practices that are proposed to further our goals of; 1) technology implementation/usage; 2) promotion of higher level-thinking skills and; 3) encouragement of student-driven learning opportunities. ICA will prioritize standards contributing toward our mission statement and ensure they are being met. Formative assessment is critical to effective evaluation, and ICA will be utilizing the standards as a baseline and not as the ceiling. As our accreditation visit approaches in the Fall 2014, ICA will be evaluating our curriculum and determining to what degree it matches, exceeds or falls short of the CCSS. The CCSS will not be a wholesale benchmark for curricular quality at Iowa Christian Academy.
The conversations are just beginning in regards to the CCSS. I encourage employees, parents and alumni to see the many opportunities that will present themselves in the upcoming months to express the distinctive value of a biblical worldview applied to a well-rounded academic curriculum.
Dr. Brenda K. Hillman
Iowa Christian Academy