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Hultgren hosts spirited forum on Common Core

CRYSTAL LAKE – A spirited crowd filled a McHenry County College auditorium in Crystal Lake on Wednesday for the Common Core Summit, a debate-style forum that featured strong opinions for and against the new education standards.

Hosted by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, the forum brought together individuals from varying educational backgrounds to paint a clearer picture of what the future holds, Hultgren said during his opening remarks.

The Common Core learning standards were adopted in Illinois in 2010 and are set for full implementation by next school year.

“We need to better understand what our state is undertaking and whether we should continue with it or take a step back ... and reassess our options,” Hultgren said.

The new standards replace Illinois standards that were written in 1997.

So far, 46 states have said they’ll implement the new Common Core standards, which proponents say will lead to better student achievement.

Illinois Deputy Superintendent Susie Morrison echoed that belief Wednesday, speaking before the debate portion of the night began. She said the state board implemented the change for the right reasons.

“They did it because they believed it was an opportunity to improve the opportunities and outcomes of our young people,” Morrison said.

But Erin Raasch, who came in with the least practical experience but garnered the loudest cheers of the night, said the public was left in the dark during the process.

Raasch founded the website after inquiring why her child, a special-needs student who attends public school, wasn’t working on skills such as penmanship and spelling. Raasch said she was told that the skills are “not emphasized in the core curriculum.”

Bob Bowden, executive director of the education reform news service Choice Media, said the issue with Common Core is that government has had its hand in it from the start.

“Standards can make sense. They can help our lives,” Bowden said. “The problem is when it’s a top-down standard.”

That point was disputed by Mike Petrilli, a writer and education analyst who said the Common Core standards were built as a reflection of the standard needed to succeed after high school.

Petrilli serves as executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which rates standards of learning.

He said the old Illinois standards came in at a D, but new Common Core standards for math and English rate at the A and B range, respectively.

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