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A Common Core story in a Rochester NY student newspaper teaches a lot about NH

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Why read an article in a Rochester, NY student newspaper?  Because it’s a model of thoughtful, balanced reporting on the Common Core and the educators quoted make a thoughtful contribution to the debate.

It’s also interesting because, although to comes from New York, with possibly the most disastrous Common Core implementation in the country, the teachers’ observations are much like those of teachers in New Hampshire, which had done one of the best implementations of the new standards.

Here’s an ed school math professor:

Professor Jeffrey Choppin, director of the mathematics education program at the Warner School of Education, noted that higher-level content is being pushed down to lower grades, meaning students will learn concepts at a younger age.

New Hampshire teachers just roll their eyes when they hear political opponents say that Common Core math is dumbed down.  The goal is now to achieve “numeracy,” comparable to the ability to real well, by the third grade and complete a deeper and tougher Algebra II in high school – a big step up.

Prof. Choppin goes on to say,

The standards are aligned with the content taught but are “agnostic to curriculum,”…..

According to Choppin, the Warner School has taken an advanced role in educating teachers on “developing active roles for students” and how to be more attentive to individual students. The school  has been encouraging a “hands-on” philosophy for over 20 years, and even with the new changes brought about by CCSS, it was not necessary for Warner to make changes to ensure that its teachers comply with the shift in teaching technique.

The dominant theme among New Hampshire teachers in the upper grades is that the Common Core changes are not dramatic – that the new standards demand what good teachers have always done. Lower grade teachers will often say that the new standards are more focused and set a higher bar – they are more demanding of the teacher, but better for the students and teachers.  Over all, the theme is that the new standards provide a better ability to meet the needs of each child – just the kind of thing Prof. Choppin is saying.

But an eighth grade English teacher went on to identify two key destructive features of the New York implementation of the standards:

 One new teaching approach that has been developed is “modules,” an approach designed to make lessons be more focused. “When I have the freedom to teach to the standards without the modules, I think it enhances my teaching.  But these modules are the second to worst thing to happen to U.S. students in my lifetime, only second to the high-stakes testing craze.”

Well put.  Just look at the suffocating detail prescribed for New York teachers on the state web site.  And the New York teacher evaluation policy is a hard core version accountability in the current style of education reform.

New York clearly has no respect for its teachers and the result is visible in the state’s mediocre educational performance.

The opposite is true in New Hampshire.  Our annual assessment is as close to no stakes as an assessment could get and teachers do their own lesson plans, often together with others in their schools or in summer workshops across the state.


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