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Common Core providing early year headaches for teachers

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POTSDAM - Meeting just days after the start of the new school year members of the Potsdam Central School District Board of Education heard from administrators, as well as fellow board members about the early year struggles the Common Core has caused.

“I’ve poked around a little bit myself and spoke to some teachers,” board of education President Christopher C. Cowen said. “One of them was about in tears.”

Board member Judith Hinman said she has a daughter in fourth grade. “I’m frustrated and we’re only four days into it,” she said. “I have a fourth grader, and I’m getting frustrated with this math.”

Both AAK Middle School Principal Mark Bennett and Lawrence Avenue Elementary Principal Larry B. Jenne have said that from what they’ve seen so far the curriculum being provided under the Common Core is a bit off.

“The lessons are taking about twice as long to teach,” Mr. Jenne said, noting a 20 minute lesson is taking teachers 40 minutes.

“I’ve heard that,” said board member Rachel Wallace, who has a son and a daughter in the fifth grade.

Mr. Cowen said that if there was anything board members could do to help staff to let them know.

“I have great concern that our staff is going to be over stressed,” he said. “We need to do anything possible to get them through this.”

Mr. Cowen said he’s looked at some of the curriculum online and from what he’s seen he is not impressed.

“I got an excerpt from a fourth-grade math problem and as I’m looking at this, I don’t even know what I’m looking at.”

School Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said that at this point teachers have been supplied with the curriculum to teach their first units, but to date that is all they have.

“The teachers have their first modules,” he said. “We should be receiving the second and third modules soon.”

Mr. Brady continued, “The teachers know what they’re teaching now, but they don’t even know what’s coming in the second and third modules. It’s a little bit, no, it’s a lot a bit of a concern for us.”

Mr. Jenne agreed.

“I hope that doesn’t go down to the kids,” he said referring to the additional stress being placed on teachers.

“There is a lot of change, but we’re working through it so we can support them and they can support the students,” Mr. Brady said.

Ms. Hinman said if there is anything she can do to let her know. “At this point I’ll do anything I can to help make this better,” she said.

Mr. Brady said academics aren’t the only concerns connected to the Common Core either. “It’s been a concern to us in terms of budgeting too,” he said. “There’s going to be different costs, notably with printing and with different books the Common Core suggests.”

The board is also expected to discuss the Common Core, its implementation and how the district is responding to its challenges when they meet again in two weeks.

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