Common Core curriculum draws education concerns


By Joe Moskowitz
Teachers have different tastes and different styles. They may teach different subjects, but one thing they seem to have in common is a strong dislike for “Common Core.”
Common Core’s full name is the Common Core State Standards Initiative. It is often called the Common Core Curriculum. Roxbury Central School Superintendent Thomas O’Brien calls it, “The ultimate unfunded mandate.” Margaretville Central School Superintendent Tony Albanese says, “It’s an airplane which is being built while it is in the air.”
But both educators say it isn’t a bad idea.
The Common Core concept was developed to provide unified national standards for each school year from Kindergarten through 12 in math and English Language Arts. It goes back to a study, which began in the 1990s and was completed in 2004. The study indicated that the U.S. wasn’t adequately preparing its students for success. The National Governor’s Association and the Council of State School Officers, with funding from some large corporations and foundations began the task of “fixing” American education. The goal of Common Core is to raise academic achievement and increase graduation standards. O’Brien and Albanese have no problem with the concept, but they have very strong objections to how the State of New York is trying to get schools to reach that goal. 
The Obama Administration offered “Race to the Top” money to states that would adopt Common Core standards, and all but five signed on, but Albanese and O’Brien are not pleased with the way the New York State Department of Education is implementing Common Core. O’ Brien says time is a huge problem. There is no time for the teachers to learn what they are supposed to teach, there is no time to give the tests. There is no time to do the reporting, and the state didn’t take nearly enough time to prepare. Albanese says the state is still figuring out what to do and that is putting an enormous amount of pressure on the teachers.
Both administrators spoke about teachers and pressure. There have been so any changes in education in recent years, including evaluations that even tenured teachers have to be concerned about their jobs, and now Common Core.
O’Brien says his teaches are very good, and very creative, and they will do the best they can to teach the way they feel is best within the Common Core guidelines.
Albanese says at the end of the year, MCS teachers will help determine what they can do as individuals while still adhering to the Common Core standards. Albanese says while there are some good things about Common Core, it was a mistake not including teachers in the process when the standards were initially formulated. He also says that while the idea of standards may be good, the personal relationships that are developed between teachers and students is special and he fears the demands Common Core places on teachers could threaten that.
O’Brien said he has a problem with the State Education Department’s, “One Size Fits All” approach. He says small schools aren’t the problem. They have excellent graduation and success rates. But he said they are being held to the same standards as inner-city school, which may be struggling.
O’Brien and Albanese point out that the state is providing virtually no money to implement these sweeping changes. Each school got only about $10,000 from “Race to the Top”, and that funding ends this school year. But both administrators say they will find a way to make it work for the students.
The Margaretville Central School Parent Teachers Association will hold an informational meeting on Common Core on December 10 at school.