September 15. 2013 9:46PM

Manchester committee to address Common Core education concerns Monday night

New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER — Last month, city school board members authorized Superintendent Debra Livingston to move ahead with instituting Common Core curriculum changes this school year, despite a litany of questions raised by the public and city officials.

Monday night, they want answers.

The city's Curriculum and Instruction Committee will meet Monday night (6:30 p.m., City Hall), with the majority of the evening expected to revolve around addressing Common Core concerns.

"I am looking forward to tonight's presentation by assistant superintendent David Ryan," said committee member Erika Connors. "I am expecting to hear clarification as to what Common Core is in regards to standards and curriculum. There has been a great deal of discussion surrounding issues of curriculum, but it is my understanding that Common Core is a set of standards and will be replacing the existing state standards. I expect there to be a number of questions surrounding the use of specific materials as well as state mandated testing."

Last month, Livingston presented sample curriculum guides, created by district teachers over the summer with the help of a consultant hired by the district.

About two dozen residents attended the meeting last month, several of whom voiced concerns over the new standards. Opponents of Common Core argue it is a federally-imposed system based on unsound educational principles that will undermine local control.

Livingston has publicly argued that the standards were created to give students an education that better prepares them to compete for jobs in today's market, echoing arguments made by state education officials. Members of the committee expressed reservations about approving the curriculum guides, after being presented with only two examples, for Grade 2 English Language Arts and Grade 7 Math. But the OK was given to implement the changes, with the caveat that the issue would be tabled so further information could be gathered and presented by school officials. No formal approval of the guides has been granted.

"It's essentially a pilot program at this point in time," said Committee Chair Sarah Ambrogi, of Ward 1.

Livingston said in August that $21 million in federal funding could be lost if the district didn't adopt Common Core. Last week, Mayor Ted Gatsas raised new concerns after revealing he was told by the state education commissioner that the city could lose an additional $56 million in state aid to the district — about a third of its budget — if the Common Core assessment test Smarter Balanced is not adopted.

Deputy State Education Commissioner Paul Leather said last week he would "take a look at" whether state aid could be lost if the test is not adopted.

Leather did not respond to a request made Friday for an update on the situation.

On Tuesday the Americans for Prosperity Foundation will host a forum at St. Anselm's Institute of Politics on Common Core and its implications for students and parents in New Hampshire. The forum will feature several prominent critics of the standards, including Sandra Stotsky, a former professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas. The event begins at 7 p.m.