The Student News Site of Stratford Academy

Stratford Gazebo

The Student News Site of Stratford Academy

Stratford Gazebo

The Student News Site of Stratford Academy

Stratford Gazebo

Public Reform Affects Private School

Five years ago, if you had asked a kindergartner to subtract 5 from 12, most of them would have been stumped.

That is because Stratford used to teach addition and subtraction in the 1st grade.

Now, under standards provided by a new educational reform known as the Common Core, Kindergartners are learning these skills a year earlier.

Georgia, which adopted the Common Core in 2010 and began implementing them last year, is one of 45 states that is installing the standards in its public schools.

Although Stratford is an independent school, it too is adopting portions of the Common Core in its lower and middle schools in order to increase the rigor of its lower school curriculum.

The Common Core is a set of standards that encompass reading and writing, as well as mathematics. It was designed to create a uniform national curriculum so that students at the same grade level in different states would learn the same concepts in math and English.

But the Common Core also has sparked controversy in Georgia and other states over concerns that the federal government is using the standards to take control of public schools, as well as objections to some of the English texts in the new curriculum.  (The Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, not the federal government. No state is required to adopt the standards.)

Governor Nathan Deal (R) has ordered a review of the Common Core, and the state has backed out of the standardized tests associated with the new curriculum, citing cost concerns.

But how does the controversy over the Common Core affect an independent school like Stratford, which is not required to align with the public school standards or take state standardized tests?

While public schools have limited leeway in diverging from the Common Core standards mandated by the state, being an independent school gives Stratford more flexibility about which elements it adopts.

“The Common Core will be a good rigorous set of standards to use as a baseline,” said Dr. Kelly Causey, who assists with the integration of technology and curriculum, and is a former elementary school principal. “As an independent school, we have the best of both worlds. We pick and choose what we want and don’t want to use.”

Exercising its freedom to pick and choose, Stratford will not use the Common Core to prepare lower and middle school students for state testing.

“We don’t look at the Common Core as test prep,” Middle School Principal Mr. Andrew Myler said. “We look at it as a set of good standards for our students to learn in the classroom. We are not concerned about state testing. Our evaluation is based on each teacher’s own evaluation of their students.”

Most of the Common Core’s standards were already part of Georgia’s curriculum.  The major change is the grade level at which the curriculum is taught – like teaching kindergartners to add and subtract.

“We have stepped up the level of rigor. We are introducing certain skills in earlier grade levels to meet certain Common Core standards,” Causey said. “The rigor of the standards has improved dialogue between teachers in different grade levels because they understand that each grade builds on each other.”

By adopting the Common Core, Stratford also is hoping to make it easier for new students from the public schools to enter Stratford, particularly between lower and middle school.

The middle school has followed the lower school in adopting the Common Core in some areas. Myler said that as the lower school began implementing some of the standards, Mr. Myler thought it was important that the 6th grade math and English curriculum in the middle school was aligned with the lower school so that a student could pick up in middle school where they left off.

Local public schools are having a more difficult time with the standards.  According to Stratford’s new Head Librarian Ms. Elaine Murray, who was previously at Springdale Elementary.

“Teachers experienced a lot of anxiety,” Murray said.

Murray also said that in trying to stick to the Common Core guidelines, many teachers at Springdale asked themselves, “Am I teaching the right material so that my students will get what they need to know?” Murray said it was particularly difficult to know the answer because most didn’t have up to date textbooks that align with the Common Core guidelines.

Stratford teachers will continue to pick their own textbooks, and teachers will also continue to make and administer their own tests.

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Public Reform Affects Private School