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The Union Leader reported yesterday on the most recent chapter in Manchester’s long-running Common Core saga. The Curriculum and Instruction Committee of the Manchester Board of School Committee convened to give the public an opportunity to comment on the new Manchester Academic Standards. Critics said they don’t feel the new Manchester standards are new enough. Supporters would say that’s because the Common Core already sets a high standard. But at least the process looks as if it must be coming to a conclusion. (more…)
I always say things like, “Virtually all NH teachers I’ve talked to with Common Core classroom experience are strong supporters of the new standards.” That’s true. But still, some NH teachers do disagree with the standards. Here are three examples. (more…)
The UL takes the expected editorial position on the strong affirmation by the House in support of the Common Core standards:
The New Hampshire House of Representatives sent a strong message to parents on Wednesday: Obey your educational superiors and don’t ask any questions.
Let’s be clear. The political opposition to the Common Core in New Hampshire is driven by the homeschoolers and voucher advocates who were in the forefront of the effort to privatize New Hampshire public education in the last Legislature.
Skeptical inquiry into the real impact of these new higher standards does indeed exist across the political spectrum. But, as Rep. Mel Myler (D-Contoocook) said on the House floor Wednesday, “There is a large gap between legitimate skeptical inquiry and ideological defiance.” That’s the gap the Union Leader blandly ignores, in spite of the great success in New Hampshire classrooms documented in their own news pages (here and here and here and here for example).
In New Hampshire local school boards choose what standards to adopt, even though ultimately all schools are accountable to the same standardized test, based on the same standards. So last October, after a series of heated Manchester school board meetings, board members voted to create the Manchester Academic Standards. The idea was to take the Common Core – a set of yearly goalposts for K through 12 students – and make them even more rigorous.
Manchester Rep. Mary Heath, long-time educator and former deputy education commissioner, speaks out on the importance of the Common Core and, especially, the new Smarter Balanced test:
Standards and assessments in New Hampshire are not new. In 1993, the General Court passed a bill which codified the New Hampshire Curriculum Frameworks and assessments. That action launched statewide conversations about student learning based on standards.
In 2003, in response to the No Child Left Behind Act, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont adopted Grade-Level Expectations and the New England Common Assessment Program, better known as NECAP. The next step is the state’s College and Career Ready Standards.
Sue Hannan, 6th and 7th grade teacher at Manchester’s Hillside Middle School: We need to set that higher standard. The Common Core does that.
Sue Hannan, a 25 year teacher, taught in a great special reading program until it was lost to the budget cut. Now she teaches 6th and 7th grades at Manchester’s Hillside Middle School.
What’s the status of the Common Core in Manchester classrooms?
“..we did not reject Common Core. It’s still part of what we do. We’re just going to build on it.”
What got you started down the Common Core road?
“Manchester School District principals essentially were told, “Roll out Common Core at your own school.” So our principal, luckily for us, jumped on it and brought lots of training in.”
Do the new standards raise expectations?
“In the past, schools let it slide when a parent said, ‘My student can do this or can’t do that.’ The educational community became fearful of raising expectations. But that’s where we’ve been failing. We need to set that higher standard. The Common Core does that.
Each teacher provides a different educational experience but achieves the same standard
“…under the Common Core I retain my autonomy.”
“Our teaching became illogical with the advent of No Child Left Behind because we were so concerned with adequate yearly progress. It became a data circus – became useless, really….Now it’s clear what students should know and be able to do by the end of the year. We can move through the year in a logical way.”
What about algebra in the 8th grade?
“…once students have learned multiplication and division, they can put a variable in and make basic algebraic equations….. When they want to do algebra or pre-algebra in the 8th grade, they understand the principles and can do it.”
Now all teachers are English teachers:
“Students are starting to see that their English skills need to be used in every part of their lives, not just language arts class.”
Students are responding to the challenge:
“Ms. Hannan, I don’t want to leave your class. It’s fun and I like what we’re doing.”
Even learning vocabulary is more engaging now:
“I’ve started giving them ten minutes at the beginning of class to sit with another student and study vocabulary together. They have to show what they know and don’t want to be embarrassed….Many more students passed most of vocabulary tests with flying colors.”
We read closely and drive deeper into the text:
“…they have to do close reading of the text, read it again and sometimes find a deeper meaning. But it’s no longer only a matter of writing. They’ve got to be able to discuss it.”
The kids learn to write for the real world:
“You can’t write a letter to your boss and say, ‘I need a raise. The end.’”
Teach to the standards, not the test:
“You can’t teach to these tests anyway…..But we’re teaching all year long to the standards. By the time the test comes along in April or May, we should have accomplished those standards and the students will be prepared for the test.”
Parents should be thinking….
“My child needs to be challenged more. My child needs to work harder and do better.” Isn’t it every parent’s goal for their child does better than they did? And if we’re providing something that’s going to help them be better, why oppose it?
Even in Manchester, recently famous for voting to create its own standards, the Common Core is deeply rooted. On the last day of the Union Leader series on the Common Core, Reporter David Solomon reports on a Gossler Park first grade classroom alive with Common Core based learning:
MANCHESTER — The 19 first-graders gathered for reading class with teacher Amy Villeneuve at Gossler Park Elementary School were excited to have visitors and anxious for the reading to begin, but first they had to answer some questions.
“What kind of stories have we been reading?” Villeneuve asked.
“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.
“What are some of the words we can use to show beginning, middle and end,” Villeneuve continued.
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.
They agreed to share the pond.
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.
If you think first grade is too early to start learning the basic structure of a narrative and applying it in your own writing, think again.
“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.”
read the rest at Manchester opts for own standards.
The Manchester School Board has voted to modify a new set of state-wide education standards to make them more rigorous.
The vote was in response to pressure from critics of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 states.
The Manchester School District will create something called the “Manchester Academic Standards.” However, the Common Core standards will still form the foundation for the district’s new goalposts.
“We did not per say, reject the Common Core, but with one exception last night everybody voted to agree that there may be areas where the Common Core need amplification,” says Sarah Ambrogi the chair of the city’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee, “but that’s going to be the basis on which we move forward.”
Earlier in the same day the state’s largest business group announced its support of the standards, calling them “clear and concise” and “an important part of ensuring our future workforce.”
The envisioned standards come in response to consistent pressure this summer form the conservative group Cornerstone Action. They say the standards are mediocre in some areas and not developmentally appropriate in others.
The Common Core was adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010, and schools are transitioning to them this year. The first standardized test based on the Common Core, called the Smarter Balanced test, will be given in the spring of 2015.
Here’s what she told me a couple of weeks ago:
How big a change are the new standards?
Common Core standards don’t limit what I do in the classroom – they open doors. I can use interesting topics from articles or chapter books and dig deeper into literature with the students. I can teach them to look at the text, see who the source is and see if they believe it. That’s what the standard says.
What I’m teaching hasn’t changed drastically. But we go deeper and spend more time on skills. We don’t just teach something and move on. In math, for instance, we do lots of different activities having to do with place value. I try to make sure that not only can they do a paper and pencil task but, maybe, a task with place value blocks or a word problem or game that involves, say, adding five ten-thousandths to this number. I try to make sure they really, really own those skills.
In English, we spend a lot more time looking closely at the text and answering real questions. There’s no more, “How did you feel when you read that?” Now it’s, “How did the character feel or why did the character do this?”
We do have teachers’ guides that help with questions on such things as identifying the themes, the skills and the vocabulary. It’s all right there for the teacher. But I don’t use those worksheets.
I’m looking for, “What are the things in the new standards that I need to use from that teachers’ guide?” – like identifying the theme, for example. Say the theme in a given book is “friendship.” I might draw from the questions in the teacher guide that deal with friendship but leave out the questions that say, “Describe a time when you had a friend”
We just have to pick the parts of existing materials resources that best fit the standards so we don’t have to start from scratch.
McLaughlin Middle School (Manchester) teacher Robin Galeaz asks the Manchester school board to support the new standards
Robin Galeaz is a committed and highly effective 7th grade math teacher at Manchester’s McLaughlin middle school. She has made great strides in implementing the new standards in her classroom and helping other teachers do the same. Here is what she told the Manchester Board of City Schools last night:
Mayor Gatsas and Board of School Committee members, Good Evening. My name is Robin Galeaz and I teach 7th grade math at McLaughlin Middle School.
I am here tonight to add a much needed show of support to the state education standards and the Manchester Curriculum Guides. I would like to focus my thoughts tonight on three areas: education standards, education curriculum and education instruction.
Education Standards are set at the state level. These standards are goals for each child to meet at a specific grade level. New Hampshire introduced Grade Level Expectations/Grade Span Expectations in the mid-2000s. These standards were accepted with little fanfare or dissension. In 2010, the state adopted new standards entitled, College and Career Ready Standards. Incorporated into these standards/goals are standards that over 40 other states have deemed important for the educational growth of our students. It has only been in recent months that these standards have been met with dissension.
When the State of NH adopted these new College and Career Ready Standards, they were strengthening the GLEs/GSEs that already existed. Standards were added, while others were moved from one grade to another grade to allow for a more focused approach, but no standards were discarded. By adopting these new standards the state has increased the expectations of students in terms of how they apply their knowledge and show mastery.