Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 5, 2013

Common Core discussed

Niagara Gazette — It's almost impossible to have a conversation about education without bringing up the Common Core Learning Standards.

New York state, like many other participating entities in the federal government's latest involvement in education, has been met with heavy criticisms from parents, teachers and administrators over the demanding lessons and reliance on standardized testing it brings to the classroom.

Niagara Falls is no different, though its leaders say they can't afford not to keep implementing and developing the new model even in the less-than-perfect situation it finds itself in.

"I'm perplexed by the method the state's using to get its students college and career ready," Superintendent Cynthia Bianco said Thursday. "But we cannot sit back, though, and wait for the state to get its act together. The data is telling us we can't wait."

The data she speaks of is damning of a school district already falling below or barely meeting state averages in graduation rates and student performance. It turns out, through extrapolating numbers from a nationwide study of college professors indicating how many students they see are college ready coming out of school districts, only about 32 percent of Falls students who graduated in 2012 fit the bill.

The numbers are even worse for the district's African-American community, according to district officials, which report about 20 percent of its black students, one of its most populated demographics, enter college or careers with the basic skills in both English Language Arts and mathematics learned. It's only slightly better at 39 percent of white students meeting the goal, though it's noted these figures include graduates the district is responsible for but may not have educated due to special needs or disabilities.

While it's looking bleak, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, district officials said. In the last major overhaul of education, Niagara Falls went from having respectable scores to plummeting through the basement. The district quickly recovered, though, and was posting positive gains. Now, after this past spring's tests came back with disastrous results for students in grades 3-8, it could be looking at rebounds when students finish what could be a much more realistic examination experience.

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