Rochester Board of Education Ad Hoc Common Core State Standards Implementation Committee
Brief Highlights of the Work
Mary Adams, Convener and Chair, Rochester City School District Board of Education
Maureen Barrant, Jacqueline Cady, Carla Carey, Stefan Cohen, Gerald Coles, Mariella Diaz, Dan Drmacich, Leslie Edwards, Lisa Englert, Tracey Farmer, Mahreen George, Susan Goodwin, Elizabeth Hallmark, Paul Hetland, Robin Hooper, David Hursh, Sharon Jackson, Shalunda Junious-Concepcion, Stephen LaMorte, Rhonda Morien, Nancy Stanton Multer, Annette Ramos, Victoria Robertson, Candace Rubin, Judith Schuster
What is the Ad Hoc Common Core State Standards Implementation Committee?
The School Board formed a special committee to look at how Common Core State Standards are being put in place in the City School District because teachers, parents and others were raising important questions.
There were three main concerns with the new modules and materials:
1. Are we providing culturally responsive and historically accurate teaching and materials?
2. Are we providing teaching and activities that match each child’s learning stage and that bring out each child’s strengths?
3. Are standardized tests driving too much of what happens all year, and if so what can be done to make sure leaning is interesting and high quality?
What is the School Board’s role?
Local school districts “have clear decision-making authority over the adoption of curriculum materials and instructional practices.” (NYS Dept of Education) New York State law requires us to use the Common Core State STANDARDS, but the way we meet those standards is up to local districts – the actual curriculum, lesson plans, books, etc — is the responsibility of our local school district.
Who is on the common core committee?
In August 2013 we made an open invitation to interested members of the Rochester community to join the common core Committee. The Committee includes teachers, parents, principals, college professors and community members. We met monthly for over a year. Meeting notes are available on the School Board’s business website “BoardDocs.com.”
What did the Committee discover?
• MUCH WORK has been done by RCSD leaders to implement new standards. Staff are clearly dedicated and working very hard to implement.
• Concerns about culturally relevant teaching and historically accurate curriculum are founded. The Committee found that the curriculum offered by NY State Education Department is especially worrisome for grades Kindergarten -2. In all grade levels, a lack of cultural connectedness and accurate scholarship have been LONGSTANDING PROBLEMS. These problems are not solved by Common Core State Standards, but the close look at what our children should know and be able to do, prompted by all of the attention to curriculum and materials, presents an opportunity to really address them.
• Concerns about matching curriculum with children’s readiness were founded. Some of the materials provided by New York State did not seem based on either early childhood education research or on common sense. Some kindergarten teachers have spoken up and are working with the District to make needed changes.
• Students with special needs may be disadvantaged when teachers are not supported to individualize the materials and approaches they use to meet different learning needs. During Committee meetings, teachers explained that basic reading and writing are not adequately supported by New York State’s materials, citing specific concerns with the order and speed required. They also said the new State modules do not include anywhere near enough student writing in early elementary grades.
• Bilingual materials were reported as lacking and translated texts were not provided, resulting in the necessity of teachers not only copying State provided materials but being required to translate them. District schools do not generally have enough books in Spanish and other languages of our students, with an overall approach of adapting English language materials rather than supporting higher quality Spanish (and other language) materials.
• The Committee found confusion and contradictory messages about how much individual schools and teachers could use their knowledge and experience to implement the Common Core State Standards. Many teachers described having been clearly directed to use EngageNY (the State provided modules and guides) with precision, resulting in a scripted and paced approach to instruction.
• Some schools are actively designing curriculum, lessons and projects that aim to not only meet the state’s expectations, but to exceed them. The Committee wants examples of excellence like this to be visible and shared.
• There is evidence that when educators come together, look at the common core standards themselves (rather than only the modules provided by the State) they can develop the highest quality mix of resources, lessons, texts and approaches to meet those standards. Highly qualified educators should work together to develop curriculum and approaches that reflect local standards of excellence in all schools, not just in some. Input from families, students, subject matter experts and district level educational leadership are important for this process to be successful.