State grapples with Common Core

A governor-appointed group of Connecticut teachers, administrators and parents met for the first time on Tuesday to discuss challenges in rolling out Common Core education standards.

Governor Dannel Malloy created the 25-member task force earlier this month, in response to teachers’ and parents’ concerns that districts are unprepared to transition to Common Core — a set of academic standards in math, language arts and English the state adopted in 2010. Malloy requested the task force consider ways to translate the Common Core standards into curriculum and to identify the best teaching practices from districts across the state. Through six biweekly meetings from now until June, the task force will develop a series of recommendations to submit to Malloy by June 30.

At Tuesday’s meeting held in the State Department of Education offices, the panel discussed how they would go about developing the recommendations.

“I was very excited by the attitude of the members at our first meeting,” said co-chair Nathan Quesnel, who is the superintendent of East Hartford Schools. “They all come with a range of different experiences, but everyone seems very solution-focused, and they were all there to get the job done.”

The task force meeting comes at the height of statewide and nationwide debate about whether adopting Common Core is a good idea. Earlier this month, a CT legislative hearing about placing a moratorium on Common Core attracted over 300 parents and teachers, many of whom testified against adopting the standards. Earlier this week, Indiana became the first state to drop the standards altogether, with the governor saying that the state would be better served through standards developed at a local level.

Despite this controversy, Quesnel said the job of Malloy’s task force is not to debate the efficacy of Common Core. The group is instead charged with identifying the challenges and successes of the rollout and creating recommendations for ways the state department can make the transition easier for school districts.

During the first meeting, the panel broke into small groups and created timelines charting the steps their individual schools have taken since 2010 to implement Common Core. Committee member Barbara Johnson, who serves as a librarian and elementary school teacher in Colchester, said that through this activity, she found that each district’s timeline looked very different. Whereas Johnson began receiving training for Common Core back in 2010, other teachers said that their training only started recently.

“I’ve been lucky in my district in that we have been preparing for quite a long time,” Johnson said. “But I know that some other districts have not been able to provide their districts with as many resources.”

Johnson added that during the 2011-2012 school year, her district focused on analyzing the curriculum already in place to determine how it could be tweaked to align with Common Core.

Elizabeth Brown, a member of the Waterbury Board of Education, similarly said that her district is prepared for the rollout because it has invested in resources to help teachers with professional development.

“We are in pretty good shape here,” Brown said. “I’ve talked to teachers, and I haven’t heard anything negative about Common Core. They just want to make sure that they have the resources they need and enough time to develop the curriculum.”

In creating the task force, Malloy considered self-nominations as well as recommendations from educational organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers and the CT Association of Public School Superintendents.

The task force’s next meeting is on April 9.

 

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