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September 24. 2013 11:35PM

Common Core moved to full Manchester school board

MANCHESTER — The Common Core state standards have been dropped in the lap of the full school board.

The board's Curriculum and Instruction Committee voted Tuesday to send the matter to the full board without a recommendation, after several dozen people spoke against the standards and some school board members echoed some of their concerns.

Approximately 50 people turned out for Tuesday's meeting. Many of them reiterated objections to the Common Core standards that have been forcefully made at several school board meetings in recent weeks.

The committee has been asked to sign off on curriculum guides developed over the summer by city teachers in order to align teaching in the district with Common Core. District officials have said that Manchester is well behind other districts in adopting the standards; state education officials have indicated that state and federal aid could be jeopardized if the district does not agree to institute the assessment test derived from the standards.

Critics charge Common Core is an attempt by the Obama administration to impose a rigid educational system that relies on unsound principles and undermines local control. Supporters say its goal is to establish nationwide learning benchmarks and to make U.S. students prepared to compete in the global economy.
Richard Dumont, who served on the school board in the 1990s, said Common Core reminded him of earlier, ill-conceived proposals to revamp the curriculum.
"I can't for the life of me understand why the board would want to implement a massive rewrite on how we teach our kids," he said.

Another critic, Siobhan Tautkus, implored the board, to "ask one question — what does the federal government do well?"

At the same time, three Manchester teachers involved in developing the curriculum guides maintained that the standards were helpful and that they gave teachers more control rather than less.

"I found the standards open enough to adapt my own lessons," said Debra Villiard, a fourth grade teacher.

After more than an hour of public comments, the committee considered a motion from Ward 8 board member Erika Connors to approve the standards on a "draft and pilot basis," while withholding any support for adopting the Common Core assessment test, Smarter Balanced.

Committee member Art Beaudry, Ward 9, said there were still too many unanswered questions, and proposed creating a special advisory committee to review them. "I would like to see us formulate a committee to look at something more in line with best practices in Massachusetts," he said.
Ward 10 school board member John Avard, who is not on the committee, agreed more study is needed. "The more I learn about Common Core, the less I know," he said. "Let's not rush into this blind... We're not ready for this yet."
At times, the audience broke into cheers, prompting committee Chair Sarah Ambrogi, Ward 1, to bring down the gavel.

Connors later withdrew her motion, and proposed that the committee refer the matter to the full board without a recommendation, which the panel voted to accept.After the meeting, Ambrogi acknowledged that the board was being asked to approve something that it had relatively little time to consider.
"I wish that we had begun talking about this three years ago, when the state first adopted the standards," she said. "That is why we were probably continuing to play catch up... I think the full board is going to have a hard time with this."

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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