An informational forum took place on Friday at the State Capitol focusing on Connecticut's controversial Common Core standards. Introducing the event, State Sen. Andrea Stillman described the forum as "a chance to see, hear, and digest information."
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told lawmakers that the state wants to be flexible with its approach to reform, knowing that local districts are struggling to make sweeping changes while also revising the way teachers are evaluated.
"We are doing everything that's within our power," Pryor said, "to flex these reforms so that they make sense, they interlock with each other, so that they're coherent, and so that there is this kind of ability at the local level to make choices that will ease the transition."
Pryor said that this year, local districts can determine whether to use the traditional standardized test -- the CMT or CAPT -- or shift to the new test that's aligned with Common Core standards, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
"It's not enough," Pryor said, "simply to provide for local choice -- that's important. It's not enough simply to be flexible and nimble. We need to ensure that our educators have the tools they need to succeed with these new practices and standards."
Pryor said in order to help teachers in the classroom, the governor's office is proposing an $8.3 million dollar line item in the state budget to help with Common Core initiatives, like teacher coaching and administrative training.
Chris Minnich, with the Council of Chief State School Officers, represents state education commissioners from all 50 states. He explained to lawmakers how the Common Core standards were developed in the first place. He said the plans were really drawn up by educators -- who agreed, he said, that higher standards were a good thing, because kids seemed to be unprepared for college.
"It's hard," Minnich said, "when we get down to the truth of it, that we were graduating kids that weren't ready. So now that it's coming into your schools, it's a situation where the controversies increase."
According to a survey just released by the Connecticut Education Assocation, state teachers say they want to be more involved in the rollout of Common Core, and more time to get it right.
Minnich said the shift to higher standards is a hard change across the country, and acknowledged that teachers will need support.