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BOE Rips State Mandated Changes

South Huntington School Board members, superintendent leery of new core requirements; implementation.

South Huntington Board of Education members say forced changes to core standards in classrooms might not produce any real results in their district.

After a lengthy presentation at Oakwood Primary School regarding state-mandated changes to common core learning standards and the Race to the Top program, BOE members were critical of the new plan — and the state commissioner of schools.

The new rules will require core learning shifts in math and literacy geared toward college and career readiness. But South Huntington BOE members warned that the district should be careful about saying that the new plan is going to make it any better.

"I'm not ready to concede that they need to do better," said BOE member Edward Nitkewicz. "I think that the results need to be better all the time, but changing the recipe as opposed to working harder with the recipe that's already in place is two different things. Constantly changing the recipe doesn't make us better, it means that we are learning a new system."

"This isn't going to change anything," said Board President . "A lot of problems in education are not education-related."

Kaden said there is almost a "perfect correlation" to the disproportionate failing rates of schools of poverty districts compared to wealthy districts.

Others agreed.

"I'm not entirely convinced that their way will be successful in the short-term process, it might be successful in the long-term process," said District Superintendent .

In nearly 10 years as superintendent, Shea said he has never had a parent come to him and complain that "Whitman never really got their kid ready for college." He said he's skeptical because the state doesn't have a proper plan for implementation or the resources to make the changes at a grassroots level in the classroom.

On Friday, Shea will meet with New York State Education Commissioner John King along with other superintendents, college presidents and teacher association representatives in Farmingdale to discuss the changes.

"We're talking about additional AIS services and we've just cut our nine-period day to an eight-period day — and the commissioner just refuses to accept that," said Shea.

Calling it a "180 degree turn" in a lot of ways, Shea and other board members said the recent changes are concerning because they are political and theoretically motivated.

"What American education has done, for certainly as long as I have been in it, is when somebody says this is what we are going to do now, we go ahead and do it," said Shea, who cited mandated programs including 1980s competency testing and the current core standards redesign.

"To actually see whether this is working would probably take about about five to 10 years," said BOE member Nicholas Ciappetta —  and by then there will be a new set of core standards, he said.

Kaden said the new system will not change the reality of the situation — especially when aid is being cut to schools.

"I don't think education bottom line results have changed all that much in the last 30 years," said Kaden. "Probably 30 percent of students have been unsuccessful in the school system forever."

Under the mandated plan, all educators will be required to be teachers of math literacy and reading.

Against too much change, Nitkewicz suggested keeping the same "recipe" in place in South Huntington which works and master it as a community. "We have a plan in place that we keep shifting and changing," he said.

According to the plan set to begin this year, instructional changes to math standards include more focus, coherence, fluency, deep understanding, applications and dual intensity.

Six shifts in literacy standards would stress the balancing of information and literacy text; building knowledge in disciplines; a staircase of complexity; text-based answers; writing from sources; and academic vocabulary.

Board members argued that many of the proposed shift areas are already being taught well.

"If we haven't been teaching vocabulary, then we all need to be fired," said Nitkewicz.

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