Manchester opts for own standards
Teacher Amy Villeneuve reads the book "It's Mine!" to her first-grade class at Gossler Park Elementary School, one of six schools in the city to develop a new reading curriculum with the help of a reading specialist. (DAVE SOLOMON/UNION LEADER)
"Narratives," the class replied.
"And what are the three parts of a narrative?"
It took some coaching, but the class soon established that every narrative has to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Hands shot up, with students providing the answers: first, next, then and finally.
And so Villeneuve began to read the story, titled "It's Mine," about a pond full of frogs who told a visiting toad to get lost, only to find themselves swamped in a flood and stuck on a rock, which turned out to be the back of the toad.
Afterward, each student had to produce what could be considered a first-grade book report, in which they had to say what happened at the beginning, middle and end of the story. Some used words; some drew pictures; each took a turn presenting to the class.
"It's not education like it used to be," said Principal Lori Upham, who was observing the class. "They start narrative in kindergarten. It's much more rigorous."
Gossler is one of six schools in the city that benefited from the work of a reading instruction consultant for two years, in 2008 and 2009, through the America's Choice Literacy Workshop. That effort gave the schools what looked like a headstart on adopting Common Core State Standards in English when the New Hampshire Board of Education decided to recommend the standards in 2010.
"This school has been a school in need of improvement (under No Child Left Behind), so we've had so many different programs come our way that our teachers are used to having things change on a dime," she said.
"Our classroom teachers continue to use the draft documents from the summer as we develop our new standards," David Ryan, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, wrote in an email. "As soon as curriculum is revised to help students achieve the Manchester Academic Standards, they will begin with implementation. One constant in this process is the high level to which our teachers teach and professionally approach this difficult task."
While some districts in the state jumped on the Common Core standards soon after the 2010 state Board of Education vote, Manchester delayed implementation, leaving principals to their own devices.
"We don't have a waiver process for state law," Gage said.
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