October 01. 2013 9:50PM

Nashua Board of Education seeks Common Core clarity

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA — With the debate over Common Core standards heating up, the Nashua Board of Education is reaching out to help parents and members of the community understand what the new standards mean to the city.

The school board will hold the second in a series of open workshops on Common Core tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the lecture hall at Nashua High School North. Administrators and teachers will present different aspects of Common Core, a set of national standards that define the English language and math skills kids should have at each grade level.

“We have a number of administrators and teachers who will be making presentations,” said Superintendent Mark Conrad. “I’ll be speaking, Karen Crebase, our assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will be speaking, and we have some teachers who will talk about how Common Core will affect what they do in the classroom.”

Although New Hampshire adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, public discussions about the new guidelines have started only recently, and opinions are mixed.

Some educators and communities welcome the new guidelines they feel emphasize abilities needed in a science and technology-rich economy and culture. Others worry about the loss of local control over schools, and untested and unfunded mandates from state and federal governments.

“The education community hasn’t done a good job communicating what Common Core is,” said Conrad, who said the standards do not mandate a specific curriculum nor do they dictate how teachers should instruct students.

Common Core standards for second-graders include demonstrating the ability to express opinions supported by reasons and to write explanations using facts and definitions. It’s up to school districts and local educators to choose the materials and methods used to teach kids those skills.

Conrad said concern and opposition to Common Core is coming from several directions. Common Core comes with annual standardized assessment tests that will be used to evaluate students, teachers and administrators. Low scores could put promotions, graduations, raises and jobs at risk.

The American Federation of Teachers, the national union that represents the Nashua Teachers Union, has called for a moratorium on any penalties or consequences from test scores until schools have a chance for a Common Core reset.

Conrad said the other major wave of opposition to Common Core is political. More than 500 people, including residents of Nashua, have signed an online petition opposing the standards because they turn over control of local schools to the federal government. Opponents also believe Common Core violates privacy by collecting personal information on students, dictates how teachers should be evaluated and forces districts to spend significant amounts of tax dollars on new materials, technology and staff.

Common Core opponents have urged residents to attend the Nashua school board’s workshop.

At Nashua’s first workshop on Common Core, school board members expressed support but they also wanted more details on how teachers will bring the standards into their classrooms.

Conrad said Nashua schools are already focused on developing many of the math and literacy skills that Common Core emphasizes.

“In my view, if Common Core would suddenly go away, we wouldn’t be doing anything different,” he said.