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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

— The goal behind Common Core standards is to move schools across the nation away from rote learning to a writing-intensive curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving skills, as well as to standardize learning from state to state. Tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 4; levels 3 and 4 indicate proficiency. Statewide, 31.1 percent of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard, while 31 percent met or exceeded the math proficiency standard. Last year, those numbers were closer to 55 percent, but state education officials said the tests are so different that they shouldn’t be compared.

“These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness in the 21st century," State Education Commissioner John King said. “I understand these scores are sobering for parents, teachers and principals. It's frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity. The results we've announced are not a critique of past efforts; they're a new starting point on a roadmap to future success.”

Common Core forum

And on Nov. 18, in Baldwinsville, Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-120th district) held a forum to discuss the Common Core curriculum and its current implementation. The forum, which was planned for two hours, ran well into five as several groups, including district superintendents, members of the SUNY system, local chambers of commerce, school administrators, teachers, education union representatives, parents, parent-teacher-student advocacy groups and students themselves, came from across the region to present their views and concerns about the Common Core.

Of the many views expressed, common sentiments were voiced from the groups addressing the panel. They agreed with the principle of the Common Core curriculum: to encourage higher standards in education to prepare students to be a competitive work force in a global economy and the creation of a national standardized curriculum that is the same from state to state, for each grade level across the country. To have high standards and a prepared workforce was considered a positive aspiration. Where groups found fault with the Common Core Curriculum was the way in which the New York State Education Department forced the rollout of the program.

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