Arm-in-Arm

We are approximately three weeks away from the beginning of another school year.  As many of you know by listening to the news, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be implemented in high schools throughout the state this academic year.  Most of these changes will affect the incoming 9th graders, as the curricula in Algebra and English will be changing to align with the CCSS.  Our staff has been preparing for these changes for the past few years, but this is the first year of full implementation.  Please know that our staff is ready for these challenges and will do its best to prepare students for the new curricula and corresponding assessments.

At the same time, I understand there is trepidation among parents and students when something new is being introduced into the school system.  Parent concern about the new educational reforms is indeed real when the number of students not meeting proficiency benchmarks has increased by approximately 33% throughout the state.  High schools will now be facing the same type of challenges that elementary and middle schools have already experienced.  For this reason, staff members and I have been attending workshops and Network Training Institutes (NTI) sponsored by the State Education Department (SED).

During the NTI workshop, drafts of English and Mathematics modules were introduced to teachers, principals, and superintendents.  As the Common Core State Standards arrive at high schools all over the state this fall, we have been busy aligning the present curriculum with the new one.

As principal and a student of educational policy, I wonder why the introduction of new teaching modules occurred during the summer when most teachers, those who will actually be delivering and teaching this curriculum, were not scheduled to be working.  How will these new modules be implemented at the beginning of the school year when most teachers have either not seen or received training on these new modules?  I proposed to the State Education Commissioner, Dr. King, piloting this curriculum on the high school level so that teachers have enough time to be trained.   In response, I was told that in the business world, corporations must be flexible and adapt right away or face the prospect of going out of business.

Another session I attended was called Supporting Parents Through Change: Answering Tough Questions.”  One scenario we were asked to consider involved explaining to parents how is it possible that student test scores plummeted by 18%, while 90% of teachers are rated as effective or highly effective.  One participant asked the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Ken Slentz, to explain how he would respond to parents.  Mr. Slentz stated that we should inform parents how a teacher’s state growth score is calculated: 1) a comparison of students’ performance in a teacher’s class with similar students state-wide, 2) statistical consideration for how students with disabilities, low-income students, and English language learners impact state results, and 3) an attendance formula and days of enrollment in a teachers class based on a ratio of hours present in class.  Although this statistical formula may make sense to some, it is based on many biased and faulty assumptions for which there are no sound evidence to make such decisions.  Similarly, there is no evidence to show that the CCSS will actually improve student learning.  This, too, is based on statistical assumptions and predictive statistics.

The SED has attempted to make this information to parents through a web page devoted to resources for parents and families.  This page can be accessed by clicking here.

Where this year will lead, no one knows.  But please rest assured that we will be traveling this road together, and I am confident that arm-in-arm we will do our best to make the 2013-2014 school year an enjoyable and productive one.