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December 27, 2013

Cuts, curriculum sparked debate in '13


ONC BOCES District Superintendent Nicholas Savin said that although 2013-14 budgets were better than expected, districts realize “they are not out of the woods yet.”

The 2012-13 school year was the first year the state implemented the Common Core curriculum. It is being used in more than 40 states as part of national effort to improve learning standards.

But before the curriculum had completed its first year of usage, the state had students tested on it. The results were reported in August, with English Language Arts scores for proficiency or above down more than 20 points from the previous year, to 31.1. Math scores were down more than 30 points to 31.

State Commissioner John B. King Jr said that the scores should not be compared to previous results, because this was a new test. Instead, it should serve as a baseline to measure future achievement.

In light of the scores, the Board of Regents gave districts greater leeway in deciding who needs remedial services.

The scores and other issues led superintendents to talk in August about their concerns at the start of a new school year. Unadilla Valley Central School Superintendent Robert Mackey said the continued implementation of the Common Core will be the main issue.

At Sidney Central School, Superintendent Bill Christensen said the tests are different in style than those previously given because they call for applying knowledge and using high-order skills necessary in a real-world situation.

That is an improvement, he said, and while the previous standards may have been too low, they were what the state required.

Oneonta City School District Joseph Yelich, who started in the district in July, addressed the issues at a September school board meeting attended by more than 80 parents and teachers.

They were concerned with the district’s implementation of the Common Core and its use of modules, which they said provide step-by-step directions for teachers instead of letting them use their experience.

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