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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 real question is how do we go from the tremendous support for higher standards to the actual change in instructional practices?” he said. “That’s the work that F-M is doing so thoughtfully around professional development to ensure that teachers have the support they need to successfully implement the standards.

Another new part of the Common Core is the teacher evaluations, which are due out in the coming weeks. King assured they won’t be linked to the school’s test results.

“If you see the evaluation system as a ‘gotcha,’ it will be much harder to move forward,” he said. “Instead, we’d love to see the evaluation system as an opportunity to learn, to get better and to identify excellence in the classroom. Who’s getting the outstanding academic results from their students and how can we replicate their practices in other classrooms?”

However many of New York’s teachers say they were — and still are — inadequately prepared to teach Common Core, and that’s what contributed to low scores.

“These tests were attached to Common Core standards, which have been incompletely rolled out in New York,” said Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder, superintendent of the Voorheesville Central School District near Albany; the district boasts a 97 percent high school graduation rate, yet has comparable ELA and math proficiency levels to the rest of the state. Snyder, who has been a school administrator for several years, made the comments on her blog, which has been praised by education policy analyst Diane Ravitch. “The material covered large quantities of information that have not been taught, with texts well past grade level and concepts that require cognitive processing that is more typical of older students. From my point of view, after many years of studying teaching and learning — and multiple years spent working in schools — these assessments are impure science. I cannot justify impure science as a means of determining student learning or teacher effectiveness.”

But King said this is nothing he hasn’t heard before - he compared the backlash against the new curriculum to what he experienced in Massachusetts in the mid-90s, when the state raised its standards.

“People said the tests were took hard, that [the state] was expecting too much and that the students would never be able to adjust,” he said. “And since then, Massachusetts has become one of the leading states in the country in terms of academic performance… In the end, students rise to the expectations and schools rise to the expectations.”

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