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State Education Commissioner praises F-M for its adaptation to the Common Core curriculum

New York State Commissioner of Education John King made a quick stop at Wellwood Middle School to talk with F-M Superintendent Corliss Kaiser and visit a couple of classrooms on Sept. 6. Pictured here are seventh graders Michelle Sipple and Maurita Jeffery, who worked on some math problems with Dr. King.

New York State Commissioner of Education John King made a quick stop at Wellwood Middle School to talk with F-M Superintendent Corliss Kaiser and visit a couple of classrooms on Sept. 6. Pictured here are seventh graders Michelle Sipple and Maurita Jeffery, who worked on some math problems with Dr. King. Allie Wenner

— The first week of school brought a big surprise for one local middle school: on Friday, Sept. 6, State Education Commissioner John King visited Wellwood to talk with F-M Superintendent Corliss Kaiser and observe classes teaching the new Common Core curriculum, which was implemented last school year.

The Common Core learning standards are a more rigorous benchmark approved by the Board of Regents in 2010. The requirements, which have been adopted in states across the country, are aimed at helping children acquire sophisticated reasoning skills. The goal behind these standards is to move the schools away from rote learning to a writing-intensive curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving skills. 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.

“The Common Core is really about changing instruction – ensuring that teachers have the professional development they need,” said King. “For example, where teachers are responding to the needs of individual students and are able to ensure that each student is reading the texts that are going to be challenging for that student and to help them move forward.”

During his visit, King commended F-M for its ability to adapt to the changes in curriculum and teaching support in order to meet the new standards. The Fayetteville-Manlius district performed well above the state average on last year’s tests, and King said that the key to success with the Common Core is the ability of a district to provide “professional development,” or support for teachers so that they can provide the richest possible instruction.

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