While few dispute the need for the Common Core Learning Standards adopted by New York State, the Rye City School District has stumbled a bit out of the starting gate due to lackluster communication.
By Sarah Varney
While few dispute the need for the Common Core Learning Standards adopted by New York State, the Rye City School District has stumbled a bit out of the starting gate due to lackluster communication. Complaints from parents have a common refrain — lack of communication from the District about the how’s and why’s of the process.
In mid-December, many parents of elementary school students were unpleasantly surprised to see their children’s grades drop as the first part of the core implementation process kicked into gear. But educators are seeing the same sorts of decreases across the country as the standards are put in place. “Most states are finding that student performance assessments are decreasing because of closer attention and more carefully delineated student outcomes,” said Dr. Mary Ann Evangelist, interim Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.
While that may be, Rye parents complain that it was not adequately explained how the new standards would affect grades or how much. “I felt like the grading on the new report card was much harder, and that was an adjustment that I was not well prepared for,” commented one mother who requested anonymity. “I think the district has done a terrible job of explaining the reasons behind the changes,” added the same mother of a fourth grader.
The lower grades are a result of the more rigorous standards imposed by the CCLS. The national core requires students to measure up to a more exact, finer delineation list of “Student Outcomes.” Students who had previously earned mostly E’s for Excellent, instead received VG’s for Very Good or even G’s for Good. In grades 6-12, there are numbers assigned to each letter grade.
But other parents observed that the teachers themselves appeared to be ill-prepared to explain the changes in scoring. “The teachers seemed as confused as the parents when trying to explain the changes,” added the mother of a fifth-grade student.
“It’s not so much that the new standards are more challenging, it’s that they’re more exact,” avowed Dr. Evangelist. “We’ll be able to measure accurately whether the students are learning what they should.”
To make the changes clearer, the Southern Westchester BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) is sponsoring an “Introduction to the Common Core Learning Standards for Parents” on January 15 from 7-8 p.m. at the Osborn School auditorium.
Nationwide, the core standards have received generally good marks from education policy insiders including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education policy think tank based in Washington, D.C. The Common Core Learning Standards were released by the Department of Education in 2010 and adopted by the state Board of Regents in 2011. New York State is requiring school districts to put the common core standards in place by the end of 2014.
The implementation of a new curriculum capable of preparing Rye students to meet these new standards dovetails nicely with a ticklish truth about the school system. The current curriculum is out of date. “The [current] curriculum had not been updated for five or six years,” explained Dr. Evangelist. The usual practice is to review and revise curricula every two years, she added.