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October 16. 2013 10:57PM

Common Core rejected by Manchester in favor of developing own academic standards

MANCHESTER — The Board of School Committee voted Wednesday to have the district develop its own "Manchester Academic Standards," following months of debate over the adoption of the Common Core standards.

The city-based standards were proposed by Superintendent Debra Livingston following months of acrimonious debate over the national standards.

Under her proposal, the Common Core State Standards would serve as the "floor" for the development of the city standards, which would take place over the school year and would make use of several sources.

"The Manchester academic standards would be our star," she said.

The 13-1 vote came after nearly two hours of public comments from opponents and, in lesser numbers, supporters of the standards.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said he strongly supported the development of city-based standards, after he did not get satisfactory answers about Common Core and its implementation.

"I'm sure Manchester students will learn by Manchester standards, which will be the highest in the state, because everyone in the state will want to follow them," Gatsas said.

Opponents of the Common Core standards, which have been adopted in more than 40 states, have argued that they would undermine local control and that they rely on unsound principles.

Ward 4 School Board member Roy Shoults, who has been highly critical of Common Core, reacted enthusiastically to Livingston's proposal.

He asked Livingston, "Voting for Manchester academic standards, does that mean 100 percent local control?"

Livingston replied, "That is correct, with also the understanding we can't start at ground zero. We need to look at what we currently have, what Common Core offers, the standards in Massachusetts... Let's collect the best."

Chris Stewart, Ward 3, was the only board member to vote against Livingston's proposal. He noted that Common Core was recently endorsed by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, and he said he didn't think the district had the resources to develop its own standards.

The district has already spent $80,000 on developing new curriculum guides over the summer that were designed to align the curriculum with Common Core. It appears changes that were adopted by teachers based on these guides this school year will continue for the time being.

The state will be implementing a new assessment test based on Common Core in the spring of 2015. The board voted to back the superintendent's recommendation to consider at a later point whether to adopt the test or seek a waiver.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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