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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • C-PP to develop its own Common Core curriculum

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  • The Corning-Painted Post School District has decided to shift away from using the curriculum provided by the state Education Department to teach the Common Core.
    The school board, during a four-hour workshop Wednesday, directed Superintendent Mike Ginalski to come up with a plan for C-PP to begin using its own curriculum for teaching the Common Core.
    Common Core is a new set of learning standards implemented by most states across the U.S., including New York, to better prepare students for college and careers.
    There's been a passionate backlash from educators and parents across New York, not so much about the Common Core itself, but about the state Education Department's curriculum for teaching it.
    The issue for most has been the material the state provides for local school districts through its website, Engage NY. Many educators say it was developed without enough input from teachers and rushed into place, is too rigid, and is often developmentally inappropriate.
    The Engage NY curriculum is currently used for grades 3 through 8 in math and English, as well as for ninth-grade algebra. Many have criticized the methods given to solve math problems and the selections for the literature in English classes, for example.
    The Engage NY curriculum isn't mandated by the state. The problem, however, is that the state will give tests to students in grades 3-8 in the spring to assess how well students learned the Common Core standards. The ninth-grade math Regents exam is also tied to the Common Core.
    Teachers, schools and entire districts are evaluated on their students' performances on the tests.
    To make sure students were prepared for the tests, most school districts felt they had little choice but to use the state's curriculum.
    The majority of districts statewide use it, including 20 of the 21 districts in the Greater Southern Tier BOCES region. Only Horseheads decided to use its own curriculum from the outset.
    But under persistent pressure led by a vocal group of parents, the C-PP school board decided this week to abandon the Engage NY curriculum and develop its own approach to teaching the Common Core and preparing students for the state tests.
    "The modules do have their problems," said Dr. Dale Wexell, C-PP school board president, referring to the units within the curriculum. "There are some teachers who are very comfortable with it, and are getting success. But that's not what the majority have reported to us. Certainly, parents are not very happy with it."
    "We'll still have the Common Core standards, but we're saying, 'Can't we be more successful if we do it our way, and then incorporate the important things that we have to have from the modules?'"
    The board has decided the Engage NY modules won't be used for the 2014-15 school year, and the district may stop using them this school year, perhaps stopping as soon as late February, Superintendent Mike Ginalski said.
    Page 2 of 2 - A committee of teachers, building principals, and central administration has been formed to craft the new approach.
    "We want a plan that everybody can support and at the same time meets the standards," Ginalski said.
    Some of the material from the state - particularly in math - will have to be part of the new approach, simply because students have to be taught that way to pass the assessments.
    Rick Gallant, president of the Corning Teachers Association, said there's a wide range of opinions on the Engage NY curriculum among the 480 teachers in the union.
    He says many teachers have already been slightly modifying the modules anyway, but he's not sure it's wise to abandon them this year.
    "We think it'll be virtually impossible to stop and do something different right now in the middle of the year," Gallant said. "We still have state tests in April and May, and those aren't going to change, and those are based on the (Common Core) standards."
    But he said teachers are glad they'll be involved in crafting C-PP's own curriculum.
    "This was put onto us by the state in an incredibly rushed manner, so now we'll have some time to do it correctly, in theory, and we'll have time to work together," Gallant said. "We're excited to be at the table to help plan this."
    The next C-PP school board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Administration Building, 165 Charles St., Painted Post.

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