Over the last three years, St. Paul’s School has been incorporating an alignment with the Common Core Standards, which could cause some confusion in the public eye with those who confuse Common Core Standards with the controversial so-called Common Core Curriculum. For those who might think that aligning with the standards will drastically change curriculum choices at SPS, the school’s administration says this is the farthest from the truth.
According to SPS Curriculum Director Joe Dickens, Common Core Standards are benchmarks of what students should be learning, while the so-called Common Core Curriculum that has been mandated in the public school systems is a specific plan for exactly what and how students should be instructed to reach those benchmarks. However, St. Paul’s still maintains control over its own curriculum choices.
“We are going to teach what we want and how we want, and we are always going to be true to St. Paul’s,” Dickens said.
According to Assistant Principal Trevor Watkins, before St. Paul’s even incorporated the Common Core Standard, the school was meeting most of the benchmarks anyway, so it is not a major change for SPS.
“As with previous standards movements, St. Paul’s has always made sure that our students meet or exceed any set of standards put forth. The Common Core Standards are no different. St. Paul’s has been reviewing these English and Math standards since they came out three years ago, and we have been selectively adopting those that we think will enhance our already rigorous curriculum.”
Watkins adds that the primary confusion on the issue typically comes from a lack of public understanding of how a curriculum is developed to meet a set of standards.
“Common Core Standard is not a curriculum, how you choose to reach those standards is a curriculum and the curriculums are up to each school system,” Watkins said. “We were already reaching most of the standards to begin with. The standard is the goal you want to reach. The method you use to get there, the books and all the teaching materials and what the teacher is using to achieve that standard is the curriculum. What is controversial about Common Core Curriculum is how the system reaches it, and we are not changing our curriculum at all. The Common Core Standard is the baseline for what we achieve.”
As proof of the school’s already rigorous academic standards, the administration points to average scores achieved by SPS students on the ACT college admission and placement exam. According to Renee Miller, head of the SPS Guidance Department, the average ACT score for the St. Paul’s class of 2013 is 25, significantly higher than the average score for Louisiana of 19.5 and the United States average score of 20.9.
According to Watkins, both ACT and SAT are aligning their tests with the Common Core Standards, noting that as a college preparatory school, it only makes sense to do the same. “Naturally, we want to give our students the best chance of success. It’s something you can’t ignore,” Watkins said.