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July 07. 2014 9:16PM

Proposed Common Core alternative will get public review tonight

MANCHESTER — The public will get a chance this evening to weigh in on the Manchester Academic Standards, the district’s alternative to the controversial Common Core benchmarks.

The school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee is to hold a public hearing on the standards at 7 p.m. in the Memorial High School auditorium.

The board approved the development of the Manchester standards in the fall, following an outcry from activists opposed to the Common Core State Standards.

Conservatives have charged that Common Core is part of a federal effort to impose rigid and unsound standards on local districts. Common Core has also drawn fire from teacher unions over what they’ve alleged is the hasty and mismanaged rollout of assessment tests based on the standards.

A special committee of Manchester teachers and consultants has been meeting over the past school year to devise the local standards, which were to draw from numerous sources and experts, including Common Core and its critics.

Members of the committee gave a presentation to the board last month on the proposed Manchester standards. No final document has been produced detailing the standards; the presentation last month was conducted via PowerPoint, and no documents associated with the new standards have been made available with the agenda of today’s meeting, nor will documents be distributed at the meeting, according to the school board’s clerk.

However, much of the work of the committee is available on a district website at curriculum.mansd.org/resource-documents/standards-development.

The site has draft versions of the standards for language arts and math classes in grades kindergarten through 12.

The documents show that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) remain a central part of the city standards.

For example, the CCSS is cited as a source in all of the math instruction lessons for grades 9-12.

In the lower grades, the CCSS learning goals are retained for most lessons, although there are some modifications. For fourth grade math, the Manchester standards propose replacing the CCSS goal of representing “verbal statements of multiplicative comparisons as multiplication equations” with “interpret a multiplication statement as an equation and vice versa.”

Among the criticisms of the CCSS are an emphasis on word problems over conventional math.

There is greater deviation from the CCSS in high school language arts courses. Sections on fiction, poetry, drama and traditional literature are added, while CCSS components concerning “comprehension, analysis and interpretation” are retained.

The task of finalizing the Manchester Academic Standards is likely to be complicated by the Smarter Balanced test, the statewide assessment exam that is based on the CCSS and is set to be instituted next spring.

Mayor Ted Gatsas and other school board members supported forming the local standards, with the understanding that the city would be able to get a waiver from the test. However, state education officials recently informed the district that it will not be granted a waiver.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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