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Manchester education standards proposal derided at public hearing

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 08. 2014 10:12PM

MANCHESTER — The school district administration faced criticism during a public hearing Tuesday for not doing enough to distinguish the Manchester Academic Standards from the controversial Common Core standards.

The school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee convened the hearing at Memorial High School to give the public a chance to provide feedback on the Manchester standards, which a group of teachers and consultants have been working on over the past school year.

The school board opted to develop Manchester-based standards after concerns were expressed in the fall about the Common Core State Standards, which have become a lightning rod for conservative groups and others who consider the standards unsound and too rigid. Supporters of the standards say they are essential in ensuring that U.S. students are globally competitive.

Ann Marie Banfield, education liaison for Cornerstone Action, a state-based conservative advocacy group, said she was disappointed that the administration did not incorporate the input she solicited from James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky, education experts who are also Common Core opponents.

“The district has access to the nation’s top experts, and I have to wonder why administrators would not follow through with first obtaining their analysis and then offering that information to the public,” Banfield said. “How can anyone who does not have this kind of expertise offer feedback at this time?”

Doris Hohensee, chairwoman of NH Families for Education, which has fought Common Core in Concord, said she had concluded that the Manchester standards were fundamentally similar to Common Core. “I don’t understand why you spent $100,000 and 2,000 teacher hours to redevelop Common Core,” she said.

One person, Glenn Ouellette, offered support for the standards. “Your standards are much better than Common Core,” he said. “I believe students need to be creative.”

Only five people spoke at the meeting, which was attended by about 20 members of the public. It was adjourned after 15 minutes. Superintendent Debra Livingston and her two assistants were on hand, as were members of the committee that developed the standards, but they did not speak.

The district has not made available a document summarizing the Manchester standards, but it has posted draft versions standards for each grade online.

The Common Core State Standards remain the basis for the bulk of the lessons, although Manchester does go its own way in certain areas, such as a greater emphasis on literature in high school language arts and a greater use of conventional math in the lower grades.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said after the hearing that he was pleased with the Manchester standards because “I have confidence in the teachers that worked on them.”

Referring to the difference between Common Core and the city standards, he said, “I don’t know if it’s a big distinction, but there is a distinction, and a lot of people worked very hard to make sure there is a difference.”

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