New York Urban League embraces national curriculum for schools

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The state and city’s top education officials faced the public this week at a New York Urban League forum in the Schomburg Center to discuss a new national curriculum for kindergaden-to-12th grade.

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King and the City’s Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Dennis Walcott were on hand to discuss Common Core State Standards, which New York will implement starting with 9th graders next September. New York Urban League President and CEO Arva Rice moderated the forum
Under the initiative, 45 states will share the same standards and much of the same curriculum, textbooks, lesson plans and assessments. The standards, which include the subjects of English, language arts and math, were written in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts for students to be fully prepared for the future and to compete in the global economy.

“Common Core address the mismatch in K-through-12 between what is taught and what is needed in today’s marketplace,” said King, noting that 80 percent of CUNY junior college students have to take remedial high school courses at college prices.

King said that Common Core standards is expected to address this issue with the expectation that students in all communities must meet these standards, rather than to lower standards and enabling students to still graduate.

Walcott said the DOE has budgeted $100 million to go for both the Common Core standards and teacher evaluations.

“We will probably see test scores go down in late July that will reflect Common Core’s goals of learning more,” Walcott said.

When Rice inquired about how these raised expectations will be implemented in high-need areas, King responded that firstly the Common Core curriculum materials will be more rigorous.

For example, students used to have to do book reports on something they’ve read, under Common Core they will have to use evidence from the texts of the books to support their writing, he said.

King said in math rather than covering a multitude of topics, the Common Core curriculum will focus on subjects deemed most important to learn for the future such as fractions.

King also said that Common Core will utilize a video library for teacher use on learning, and create a parent tool kit on what parents can do to increase learning the Common Core standards.

Walcott said the DOE has already informed text book publishers that they won’t accept any material unless it’s in line with Common Core standards. The DOE will also provide more support to teachers.

Rice and others also inquired how Common Core standards will be taught to older and special needs students – particularly in high-need areas.
King responded that the state gave grants to both SUNY and CUNY to do professional development work in high-needs areas. The state is also changing teacher certification assessments to reflect Common Core, he said.

Walcott said the disparities between wealthier districts and poorer ones is a different issue than Common Core standards.

It is harder to retain staff in some areas so pay scales should be reflected in that as well as teacher evaluations, he said.
Walcott also advocated more choice in choosing schools and phasing out schools that are not working.

King said it helps to understand there are different public school consumers in different areas and to cater more to these consumers.
“We also have to get more active in communities of color in early childhood education” he said, regarding pre-K education.

Rice said the Urban League is behind Common Core, but the organization remains committed to ensure that resources are spread around equitably.

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