CHATHAM–Dr. James Baldwin, district superintendent of Questar III BOCES, discussed the Common Core Learning Standards with the Board of Education last week. The rigorous Common Core Curriculum has been the focus of much criticism by parents and school districts around the state since its adoption.
Dr. Baldwin told the board that the new standards are necessary to prepare students to be “college and career ready in the 21st century.” He said that since the National Governors’ Association developed it. He described it as not a “federal encroachment,” but rather an initiative coming from the states.
Board members told him that they heard from teachers that the concerns are not with the standards themselves but with the way the state has applied the curriculum. Kristen Reno, principal of the Mary E. Dardess Elementary School, said it was put in place too quickly for the students to be ready for the state tests. She said she was also concerned with the time limits required on the tests. She said, however, that she agrees the Common Core standards are “essential.”
“I have no problem with Common Core,” she said. “I have a problem with the way it was implemented.”
Dr. Baldwin said he agreed that resources for implementation have been inadequate. “Many of our teachers were prepared at a time when these Common Core learning standards didn’t exist,” he said. “It requires shifts in instruction they need to be trained about. It’s going to take a number of years to catch up with that.”
He said the Common Core encourages teachers to “exercise instructional judgment, and that the modules provided for the Common Core standards were meant as resources. He commended Chatham for the way it handled implementation.
Ms. Reno said her staff went through the modules with “critical eyes” to determine what would work for the school and what would not.
“It’s a tremendous number of reforms basically compressed into a very short period of time. The temptation would be to just go down the list and check things off and say that we did it and move on,” said Dr. Baldwin. “I am very proud of our superintendents because they resisted that temptation.”
Chatham Schools Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo asked what the board could do to provide feedback to the state. Dr. Baldwin suggested the board write a letter regarding Common Core, laying out what works and what needs adjustments.
“I don’t think Common Core is going away,” he said. “We need them, they’re here, and we know there’s work to be done.”
After a brief discussion, the board decided to work on a letter to the state Education Department.
Also at the January 7 meeting, Ms. Nuciforo updated the board on the capital project issue. Last November voters rejected a project that would have prepared the schools for consolidation. Last month, the board held a public input session in an attempt to find out what the community wants in a revised proposal. The feedback they received indicated the district needs a new plan to communicate with voters.
Ms. Nuciforo said that because of winter weather the Communications Committee had met only once, but it does plan to form a group of community members “to help the board determine what the next iteration of a capital project would look like and to help communicate that as well.”
She said that the committee wants to hear from all parts of the community.
Board member Gail Day asked whether this process would affect the timeline for consolidation. The board’s original plan was to move middle school students to the two buildings on the main campus in the fall of 2015.
“It does affect the timeline,” said Ms. Nuciforo. “To what extent, we don’t know yet.”
She said if the board were to rush a second proposal to a vote, another rejection “would set us back significantly further.”
Board member James Marks said the Facilities Committee had met and decided it would be better to wait until the Communications Committee has gathered information and feedback from the community before working on changes to the capital project proposal.