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The Common Core conundrum

Are the new standards the best thing to happen in education or are they setting the bar too high for teachers and students?

Tiffany MacRae, of Jordan, made these shirts for her children to wear on Nov. 18. She got the idea from a Facebook friend who had designed the shirts for her kids, and liked the idea for her daughters.

Tiffany MacRae, of Jordan, made these shirts for her children to wear on Nov. 18. She got the idea from a Facebook friend who had designed the shirts for her kids, and liked the idea for her daughters. Sarah Hall

— Laura Leitch kept her daughter home from Nate Perry Elementary School last Monday.

Leitch’s daughter wasn’t sick, nor was there a family emergency. She wasn’t simply playing hooky.

No, Leitch kept her daughter home in protest of New York state’s Common Core education standards.

“I have to say, the school is great and her teachers are wonderful,” said Leitch, whose daughter attends school in the Liverpool School District. “The reason I kept her home on Monday was strictly in protest of Common Core.”

Leitch was one of hundreds, if not thousands, of parents across the state to protest the state’s new, more rigorous education standards on Nov. 18 by keeping their children home from school, sending them to school in T-shirts with messages or in certain colors or in other ways. Parents and educators, as well as policy experts like former Education Secretary Diane Ravitch, have banded together in opposition to Common Core, citing concerns ranging from excessive testing to the age-inappropriateness of the materials to the interference of the federal government in education, which has traditionally been left to the states. Leitch kept her fourth-grader home because she believes Common Core doesn’t serve her educational interests.

“I do agree with the fact that kids have got to be better educated and learn more,” Leitch said. “My issue with Common Core is the age appropriateness and the fact that they’re not teaching them the basics first. They’re not giving them the foundation before giving them the opportunity to learn the material outside the box. I don’t mind them thinking outside the box, but they need to learn the foundations first. They’re missing out on a lot.”

‘Common’ standards

Common Core learning standards, which are aimed at helping children acquire more sophisticated reasoning skills, have been adopted in states across the nation, everywhere but Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia. New York’s Board of Regents adopted the more rigorous benchmark in 2010, though the 2012-13 school year marks the first time state-mandated standardized testing incorporated the standards. And according to those tests, the results of which were releases Aug. 7 of this year, less than a third of students in grades three through eight are performing at grade level.

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