Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday wishes, Core beliefs

It seems like just yesterday the school year began, and yet winter is here and holiday recess begins next week!

With that in mind, I thank teachers, staff, students and parents for their kindness and their generosity this holiday season. Throughout the month of December, our Junior High Student Council has had its annual Adopt-an-Angel program while the High School Student Council has collected food for the local food bank. Teachers and staff from both buildings (WES, WJSHS) have bought gifts for children of local families in need to help make their holidays brighter.

Please take time this season to enjoy the most cherished gift of all—time spent with family and friends. I wish everyone peace and joy this holiday season.

Thoughts on the Common Core

Switching gears, you may have seen an article in the Times Union (Dec. 15) about the Common Core Learning Standards that featured interviews with educators from Watervliet. The article, which offers a glimpse into the efforts our teachers put forth each and every day to implement the new learning standards, has generated a good deal of positive feedback.

When I met earlier this month with the new education reporter who wrote the article, the topic of the state’s learning standards came up in conversation. At the time, I expressed that by and large, teachers in our district had ‘embraced’ the new learning standards, which seemed to surprise the reporter.

That is understandable given that the Common Core continues to make headlines almost daily and is often the topic of debate. At issue is the pace of implementation, concern regarding the amount of testing, or a combination of the two.

Most educators I know are not opposed to the higher academic expectations inherent in the new learning standards. I think that confusion surrounding the Common Core persists in general because, as polling suggests, there is not widespread understanding of the standards. In fact, a Siena Research Poll released in mid-November found that 41 percent of those surveyed were either "not very familiar" or "not at all familiar" with the Common Core standards.

As a result, misinformation about the standards abounds. The Common Core Learning Standards, which aim to improve student knowledge of math and reading, were developed to address a concern that U.S. students were lagging behind their international peers in college and career readiness. Education leaders from several states began writing the new standards in 2009 and received guidance from the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

New York is among the 45 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted the Common Core Learning Standards. The New York State Board of Regents adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 with the intention of better preparing all students for college and career in a rapidly changing world. The standards create consistent expectations at each grade level for students throughout their K-12 education.

Providing necessary support for teachers
I am proud to say that Watervliet is among a handful of districts across the state that Deputy State Education Commissioner Ken Slentz has said he considers to be “executing well” the implementation of the Common Core. A number of our teachers have appeared in State Education Department videos demonstrating high-quality lessons that address Common Core instructional shifts and goals.

Our school leaders recognize the integral role professional development plays in helping teachers make necessary adjustments in the classroom. Through grant funding, we are able to provide our teachers professional development each week with literacy and math instructional coaches from the Capital Region BOCES.

Even with support, change can often be difficult and challenging. Our teachers from kindergarten through grade 12 have embraced the changes and risen to the challenges of implementing the new learning standards. Their focus has been and will continue to be inspiring, challenging and educating every student, every day; that will never change.

Again, enjoy the holiday season everyone!

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