The Daily Star
---- — For students, back-to-school time always brings something new — new clothes, new shoes, new school supplies, a new classroom, a new teacher.
This year, local teachers and administrators are facing some new challenges of their own.
The 2013-14 school year finds local districts working to respond to last year’s standardized tests — the first administered under the recently implemented Common Core standards.
Most schools saw a drop in their scores under the Common Core last year; the state Education Department has said that those scores should serve as a baseline from which to improve.
Doing so “will require a lot of hard work from students,” Unatego Central School Superintendent Charles Molloy told The Daily Star last week.
In Laurens, teaching to the Common Core will be a year-long effort, as curriculums are aligned with the new state standards, and teachers and students are familiarized with the new model.
As if that weren’t enough, teachers are also working under closer scrutiny this year. The state’s annual professional performance reviews program is in effect, which required each district to come up with a detailed plan by which teachers’ performance will be evaluated.
While each plan is different, all are required to ensure that a percentage of a teacher’s evaluation is based on state-mandated “student learning objectives.”
In Delhi, Delaware Academy Central School Superintendent Jason Thomson didn’t mince words about what these changes mean for teachers and students.
“Word is out that the expectations are greater for everyone,” he said last week.
It’s easy to get nostalgic for what seem like halcyon days, when standardized tests were few and far between, teacher evaluations were locally controlled and primary education seemed like a simpler thing.
But the world does move, and we must move with it. If students had continued to thrive under the “old” model, these changes would not have been proposed in the first place.
The truth is, we can do better in preparing our young people for the world they will enter as adults. It is our sincere hope that the Common Core will help us do this.
As for the teacher evaluations, we bristle a little bit at the thought of the state telling us how to judge the performance of local educators, but we have confidence in our local districts to implement the plans they developed.
We are fortunate in the local area to have a strong foundation already in place to support these changes. While schools elsewhere in the nation and the state will have far to climb to reach the new Common Core baseline, we are well-positioned to make the transition.
We wish only the best for our local students, teachers and administrators as they face the challenges of a new school year.