Southwestern School District administrators met with parents at an informational meeting at the high school auditorium recently to discuss the controversial Common Core standards. The parents - largely made up of parents from the grade school - arrived with questions and concerns about helping their children integrate the new set of educational standards.
It was a meeting focused on the specifics of implementation and less on debating the merits of the new standards.
Shelly O'Boyle, coordinator of curriculum and instruction, led the discussion, highlighting the differences between Common Core Learning Standards and Common Core Learning Modules. She also addressed specifics of how Common Core was started and how it is being integrated into the curriculum.
"I want to make sure that you understand that every decision that is being made is being made with your child in mind," O'Boyle said, also adding that she hoped to present the "good, bad and the ugly" of the Common Core.
The Southwestern School District is slowly implementing the Common Core standards, and as it does so, it's making it clear that while the district must meet these standards, how it gets there is up to the school. Schools can adapt, adopt or ignore the Common Core Learning Modules and create their own. The curriculum is so new there are no books yet available, only modules and worksheets. The state has provided videos and modules electronically through www.engageny.org.
"Most of the time," O'Boyle noted, "It is the Common Core Modules that people are having difficulty with."
As vendors rush to keep up with the demand to produce modules, errors are being made that require tweaking and revising to correct the errors, especially in the math modules.
"The question is, why did we not ignore the modules?" O'Boyle said. "It's because the standards are new to us and we need something to guide our instruction."
Recent controversy has centered around certain books listed on a national reading list which many parents across the country have called "developmentally inappropriate." but O'Boyle noted that reading lists are determined by the schools. As an example, O'Boyle pointed out that administrators have already pulled a book deemed "too heavy" for third grade.
"We're trying to make educated decisions in our effort to adapt rather than adopt" the Common Core curriculum, O'Boyle said.
Halfway through the meeting, parents, administrators and teachers broke off into groups to discuss concerns in each of the individual schools. Questions ranged from helping children with homework to math tutoring sessions.
Also discussed at the meeting was New York State Common Core testing, and the results of the 2012-2013 NYSED ELA and math tests, which reflected a 30 percent drop in students who were deemed efficient in those subjects.