WICHITA, Kan. -- Parents, administrators, and teachers headed into classrooms at Mayberry School in Wichita Monday. While students were in those classrooms earlier in the day, the adults were there for own education Monday night.
With pencils in hand, they heard from speakers about what their students will be learning in school under new controversial math and English standards, known as the "Common Core." In Kansas, those standards are referred to as the "Kansas College and Career Ready Standards."
The parents and educators were there Monday night as part of an educational meeting hosted by Kansas state leaders. State leaders say they are trying to get the word out about what the standards are and how they'll be taught.
"What I wanted to do tonight is to make sure the educators understood how the standards were developed, understood what they really are, so they can carry those messages to their (students') parents," said Diane DeBacker, Kansas State Commissioner of Education.
The Common Core State Standards originated in 2009 as an initiative of the National Association of Governors. The idea was for students from every state across the country to be taught and tested on the same academic standards. The "rigorous" standards were designed to define the knowledge and skills leaders believe students need to be successful in college and careers.
As part of its regular seven-year standards review cycle, Kansas adopted the standards in 2010. Kansas is now one of 46 states that have adopted the standards.
"These are targets so to speak," said Kathy Busch of the State Board of Education. "In other words, these are what we want the students to learn by the time they're done with each grade level."
While there was no debate Monday, nor any visible presence by any opponents of the Common Core, several groups are continuing to fight the standards.
Opponents call the standards, "nationalized education without representation." They say federal funds were made available to states who signed on to national standards that they say were implicit in the Common Core.
They say while proponents say the standards were established by states, they say the standards were established by the leaders involved with two D.C. based trade organizations rather than states.
Kansas education leaders said Monday night, that isn't the case.
"I think the biggest myth is that these are federal standards and they are absolutely not," DeBacker said.
She says even though 85 percent of the standards adopted by all states are shared, Kansas educators like Debbie Thompson played a big role in helping to shape them.
"We very much felt part of the process," Thompson said. "We did not feel it was being done from the top down."
The standards were adopted by the Kansas state board of education only after state specific additions were made as allowed for by 15 percent built in flexibility, DeBacker said.
She says local school districts still have control over the curriculum, in other words, how students will learn the standards.
Opponents say they fear that curriculum now will impose more test-driven accountability for teachers that will discourage innovation and student advancement. And, they say, it will cost much more money.
But Kansas state leaders say that's not the case either. They say these standards allow for more critical and deeper thinking rather than just teaching the basics. And they say, much of the framework to implement the standards is already in place so there won't be a tremendous amount of start up costs.
All in all, state leaders say they think there are a lot of misconceptions and apprehension about the standards because they are not yet well-understood.
That's why they are hoping that Monday night's meeting in Wichita will help get the word out there about, what they say, is a positive step toward helping Kansas students achieve new success.
"Ultimately, what we want is good education for our children," Busch said.