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SLC board members share concerns about Common Core curriculum

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BRASHER FALLS - A St. Lawrence Central School Board member says he’s been hearing one common theme from teachers about the new Common Core curriculum - how do they fit modules into 42-minute class periods.

“It seems to me a lot of people think the modules released by the state are what they have to teach. My understanding is it’s a guide and model. Has that been clearly communicated to teachers?” Jonathan Burnett, a music teacher in the Norwood-Norfol Central School District, wondered during Wednesday’s board of education meeting. “I interact with teachers at a lot of different schools; and I hear it’s too much.”

Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. agreed that there was too much material in the modules to cover during the period, but he suggested teachers could adapt as they began to feel more comfortable with the new curriculum.

“Folks who are already comfortable with the Common Core are going to be able to make changes as they go,” he said, while those who weren’t familiar with it may have a more difficult time trying to get all the information out in one classroom session.

“It is a better road map than having no road map at all. Common Core might not be the best thing, but it’s the best thing we have. I just think we need to be patient and develop a little consistency,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

Still, he suggested, “it’s been daunting” coming on the heels of the implementation of the Annual Professional Performance Review for teachers.

While the focus of discussion in many districts has been on the impact the Common Core curriculum has had on teachers and students, board Vice President Rhonda Shorette-Peets said it’s also been difficult for parents who had been accustomed to being able to help their children with homework. She wondered if the district planned to offer any support to parents.

“The major concern is they really want to assist students with their homework. It’s a big concern of mine,” she said.

Mr. Burnett said he even had difficulty helping his first grader with homework. “I don’t understand what they’re looking for,” he said.

“Remember,” Mr. Vigliotti said, “it’s not the answer. It’s the process of understanding.”

Mr. Vigliotti agreed that there was more the district they could do. For the time being, however, he suggested that parents visit the Engage New York website at www.engageny.org for information about the new curriculum.

“Every time I’ve written a newsletter or sent a letter home, I encourage them to go to Engage New York. That’s a pretty process. We need to do more. As much as we want kids to be self-sufficient, we also want, when it’s appropriate, for parents to be able to help,” he said.

Middle school Principal Christopher W. Rose said he believed parents had to give teachers time to absorb the new material first. He said, in some ways, the teachers were “starting from scratch” in their classrooms with the introduction of the Common Core curriculum this year.

“Some teachers have adapted sooner. Others are still struggling. I think we’ve gotten better. But we do need to give parents more help,” Mr. Rose said.

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