The subject matter of the Common Core curriculum isn’t what has teachers protesting.
By Sarah Varney
The subject matter of the Common Core curriculum isn’t what has teachers protesting. It’s the time pressures and concerns about the developmental appropriateness of the content, explained three Rye teachers at the February 12 forum, “The High Cost of Reform: How Public Education Reform Affect’s Rye’s Students, Parents, and District Educationally and Fiscally.” The forum, held at the Rye High School Performing Arts Center, was well attended by community members and school parents. The speakers were Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, Board of Education President Laura Slack, faculty members, State Senator George Latimer, and Assemblyman Steve Otis.
Coincidentally, at the beginning of the week, in response to concerns raised by the Board of Regents, NY State Education Commissioner John King agreed to push back the high school Regents graduation requirement from 2017 to 2022. That means that seniors graduating in 2022 will be held to Common Core standards.
Last Wednesday’s forum began with a presentation by three Rye City School District teachers outlining some of the Common Core Requirements. Dayna Reist (Milton), Suzanne Short (Rye High), and Jennifer Fall (Rye School of Leadership) delved into some of the curriculum details. Board President Slack then outlined some of the current problems with school funding of the Common Core curriculum in Rye. She was followed by Latimer and Otis, who also weighed in on the subject of finances. Implementation of the Core is an unfunded mandate. “We’ve spent $150,000 already implementing this curriculum and that’s unbudgeted money we won’t get back from the state,” said Slack.
One of the main complaints from teachers is that Common Core requires students to learn content that is beyond their ages. To illustrate, Ms. Fall showed a list of subjects suggested for first graders, among them an explanation of the Code of Hammurabi. (You remember now, if not consult Wikipedia, that it’s a well-preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Iraq, formerly Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1772 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world.)
The list was met with laughter from the audience — presumably some of whom have first graders immersed in Lego, Minecraft and Paw Patrol. Her point was not that you’ll be seeing Code of Hammurabi worksheets, but that some curriculum points are too advanced.
Rigidity of the time allotted for each unit is also a concern, said Ms. Reist. “Your students have become the victims of this very rapid rollout.”
Ms. Fall added, “The core prescribes how many days you have to teach each unit. If you have students who don’t understand the material you don’t really have time to stop. We’re very concerned about how to cover all the content in the amount of time that we’re given.”
Nearly all of the teachers’ concerns stem from the speed of the rollout, added Ms. Fall. “We are not opposed conceptually to the Common Core curriculum. We are opposed to the speed of the rollout.”
Ed Note: In last year’s initial Common Core testing in grades 3-8, Rye City District schools, overall, ranked near the top in the State. But, as if to illustrate the Teachers’ points, fewer than 70 percent of students tested as proficient or better.