The private schools that are signing up for Common Core

Carol ThomasCarol Thomas is a career educator and former high-level urban district administrator who is now working with private schools that participate in Florida’s tax credit scholarship, and she tells a remarkable on-the-ground story about Common Core State Standards today in Education Week.

Thomas, who is vice president for student learning at Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, is working with about 140 private schools in a pilot project focused on a learning compact for low-income scholarship students. The intent is to build meaningful engagement between parents and teachers and, to guide the relationship, she offers an online tool to help both parties mutually track the academic progress of each student. That tool relies on the standards enumerated in Common Core, which is where this plot thickens. These are private schools for whom educational independence is in their DNA, after all. But what she is finding is that these schools are all in for Common Core.

“Our target for the state pilot was to find 100 scholarship schools that would volunteer to participate,” she wrote. “We already have more than 140, and my phone is still ringing. These principals aren’t calling to lecture me on state sovereignty or intrusive regulation. They are calling because they think the common standards will help them guide the learning plans in their schools.”

Thomas relates the impressions of Suzette Dean, principal at Bible Truth Ministries Academy, a small mission-driven school in Tampa that serves mostly African-American students. Dean told her: “Finally, we are all on the same page (with the standards), our teachers know what to teach, and the parents know what their children should be doing in school. Sure, it is a change, but it is real change that is needed if we are going to prepare our students for college and a successful future.”

The project has caused Thomas to reflect on the national debate of late, and to suggest that those who see the standards as a federal government plot might want to ask these private-school principals why they would volunteer for Common Core. The answer, apparently, is that these educators think the standards might help students. Go figure.

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BY Jon East

Jon East is special projects director for Step Up For Students. Previously, he was a member of the editorial board and the Sunday commentary editor at the St. Petersburg Times, Florida’s largest daily newspaper, where he wrote about education issues for most of his 28 years at the paper. He was also a reporter and editor at the Evening Independent and Ocala Star-Banner. He earned a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.