In part three of his series, Common Core: The Basics, 7 News reporter Asa Stackel looks at the criticisms of Common Core - and how those criticisms are being answered.
When school started this fall in the Potsdam Central school district, it was the first year teachers were using the new "Common Core" modules. Not too many people were happy about it.
"The atmosphere starting the school year was probably the most difficult I've seen since I've been in education," said Potsdam superintendent Patrick Brady.
That's what administrators are dealing with across the north country - parents and teachers criticizing Common Core. The biggest argument is that students just aren't ready to learn the modules. that's because the teaching material has been written under the assumption that the students have been learning "Common Core" for years.
(Think of modules as "units of instruction." They're the basic building block of Common Core teaching.)
Some critics suggest phasing Common Core in over a longer period of time, but Copenhagen superintendent Scott Connell said that would be too slow. If you were to start in kindergarten, for example, and phase it in one more grade a year, that would shortchange older students, said Connell.
"Problem is, there's 13 years of cohorts of kids who aren't going to get a rigorous curriculum," he said.
Another argument: the modules don't allow teachers to be creative and don't allow them to personalize lessons for struggling students.
Thomas Burns, superintendent of the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES, said it's up to individual districts to decide how closely teachers have to follow the modules, and most will allow teachers to adapt those modules to their own style.
"So teachers can use some of the sample questions, all of the sample questions, none of the sample questions in the modules, and the same goes for the modules and the lesson plans themselves," said Burns.
As for the criticism Common Core standards are just too tough, none of the administrators we spoke with believe that.
"I've seen many times, over and over, that given the opportunity students will rise to the occasion," said Brady.
BOCE chief Burns estimates it will take five to 10 years before Common Core yields real progress, but he asks a question: "If we don't stick with Common Core, then what do we do? There has to be a plan, and there has to be a way for us to improve."
Sunday, March 29, 2015, Watertown, NY
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