LEWISTON — There’s nothing more contentious in New York State education circles right now than the common core standards and how they’re being implemented.
It has administrators and teachers in a tizzy, parents up in arms and students crying and, worst of all, failing assessments they likely passed a few years ago.
Lewiston-Porter is just one of many school districts which saw a dramatic dip in student performance in this past April’s assessments for mathematics and English Language Arts in grades 3-8. But Andrew Auer, principal of the district’s Intermediate Education Center, said the problem isn’t actually the common core.
He’s upset with the way it’s been rolled out to the state’s districts.
“It’s not the common core that’s the problem,” he said during a presentation about the controversial curriculum Tuesday. “It’s the timeframe we’ve been given to implement it. If they told us two years ago ‘You have two years to implement this,’ we would’ve been (fine).”
Auer said his major concern stems from the process by which the common core designers have been rolling out their standards. He said development of curriculum is still ongoing, as one of the “modules,” or educational maps, was actually released to everyone Monday. It was the same day parents across 16 states, including New York, organized a protest of the common core standards by keeping their children home from school for a day.
Especially in mathematics, he said, the state is giving everyone involved entirely too little time to prepare for something that, at the end of the day, will affect both a teacher’s evaluation under the new Annual Professional Performance Review mandated by the state and an administrator’s review. Both are tied to student performance on the state tests, which began assessing common core-level standards even though some grade levels don’t even have standards to teach to during the year.
“There’s no foundation (for students),” Auer said.
Lew-Port is in a precarious situation it brought on itself concerning the common core, though. As part of attempting to stay ahead of the curve, the district purchased a math curriculum called enVisionMATH for $80,000 two years ago with promises it would meet common core standards.
But what was delivered, Auer said, is anything but. The district is falling dramatically short in its math department because what was provided simply wasn’t up to snuff with the detail and development needed to meet the common core standards set forth in the modules already released, he said.
“When you look at our curriculum compared to the modules, our curriculum isn’t even close to where it needs to be,” Auer said, adding the district’s ELA curriculum is much closer to what the common core standards suggest.
Another issue, he said, is the current modules for teaching kindergarten through second grade aren’t even written by the same people who write the followup grade levels. And with students only assessed between grades three through eight in common core standards, he said the district shouldn’t even consider trying to implement the youngest grade levels yet.
But while the entire process is a mess, Auer still maintains the idea at the center of the effort, which is to provide all states with a standard level of education across the country, remains valiant, he said. And he has the backing of his boss.
“I agree with (him),” Superintendent R. Christopher Roser said. “The common core curriculum is really phenomenal. It’s a lot of work. It gives us a good template to understand the level of instruction needed in the classroom. It’s challenging for the teachers to teach, it’s challenging academically for the students.”
In other district news, a modification was approved to the contract with Interim Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Susan Villiers, allowing Roser to pay her for four additional days of work before her agreement ends in January.
She’s currently working two days per week in a role previously held by Don Rappold, who retired this past June. She’s currently paid $650 per day of work.
Roser added an ongoing search for Rappold’s permanent replacement identified 14 candidates, of which he said have been narrowed down to three. He said interviews should begin either next week or the following one with a goal of having a hire in place early in the new year.
“I hope to have somebody here by the end of January,” he said. “We had several great candidates apply, but there’s also been some who’ve come to us with no experience.”
Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.