I want to take this opportunity to address an issue that has caused anxiety to our teachers and school community this year, the Common Core. This has been particularly an issue with math as teachers have worked to adopt the new modules which have not been fully released by the SED. We have heard from many teachers and parents about how difficult this new transition has been given the level of math expected of our students and the method of instruction within the lessons provided by the SED. You are not alone.
This past week I spoke to our regional superintendents and like NNCS their schools have mostly adopted the math modules with similar concerns raised. I also spoke with many around New York State and the issues of excessive copying, time spent on lesson prep and delivery, student homework, and the prescriptive nature of the lessons were expressed again and again. These issues were also addressed with the Commissioner. So what can we do?
Though we wish the Commissioner had provided another year to prepare for the implementation of the Common Core, he did not. That we cannot change and it is unlikely that anything will be rolled back to provide the additional time. The Common Core is here to stay as it is with the other 45 states in the country which have adopted these higher standards. As a whole student achievement needs to be raised to better prepare the next generation for a successful life and the Common Core has been chosen as the vehicle to get there. However, we can find ways to work within the curriculum to provide high quality instruction without taking out the gifts each teacher brings to the classroom.
Though like most districts, NNCS has adopted the Common Core math modules it does not mean the teacher has to rotely follow every word of the documents. We expect that teachers will infuse their own personality, creativity, and supplements to bring these lessons to life; while maintaining the integrity of the lesson components. Many teachers have already begun to do so as they have become more comfortable with the curriculum. They have also modified the homework assignments to provide students and their parents with a better understanding of what is expected given the lack of a textbook or other materials which would explain the nature of the work.
On the parent front, I would encourage you to share the resources from the parent section of EngageNY and the PTA website (http://pta.org/parents/content.cfm?ItemNumber=2910). Any additional suggestions from our teaching staff to assist our parents in understanding would be greatly appreciated.
I know that people are stressed. I want all to know that we are in this together and teachers can only do the best they can as we get through this transition period. There are no easy answers and it is clear that even the SED cannot predict everything that will come up as this reform of historic proportions is implemented. We have an excellent teaching staff at NNCS and I have great confidence that with time we will work our way through these issues. We stand ready to support your efforts.