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Manchester panel OKs new academic standards, despite Common Core criticism

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 22. 2014 10:29PM

MANCHESTER — The school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee on Tuesday approved the draft version of the Manchester Academic Standards, sending them on to the full board.

The standards, which a special committee of teachers and consultants have been working on over the past year, were meant to be the district’s alternative to the controversial Common Core State Standards.

Since they were presented last month, the city standards have been criticized by activists for being too similar to Common Core, which conservatives around the country have said are an attempt by the federal government to impose a curriculum on local districts.

Several of those activists spoke against the Manchester standards at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.

“Everyone was watching what Manchester would do with these standards, and they’re quite disappointed and disgusted by it now,” said Deborah Olszta, a vocal opponent of Common Core.

But most members of the committee have defended the city standards and the process by which they were developed.

One member of the committee, however, faulted the administration for not producing one document summarizing the changes for the public.

“There still seems to be a lot of questions about what Common Core is or what the standards are,” Ward 2 board member Debra Gagnon Langton said. “There’s a lot of feedback in the community that they haven’t seen a document.”

Assistant Superintendent Dave Ryan, who led the standards process, maintained that all the documents are easily accessible on the district website.

“The document is 259 pages long; it’s been online since January,” he said. “The standards continued to be developed right through the June meeting.”

Ryan stressed that other teachers were eager to get the draft standards and to be able to provide additional feedback.

Committee member Robyn Dunphy, Ward 6, said she read through all the standards, as well as materials provided by the critics, and had met with teachers about them.

“I didn’t find anyone who disliked the concept going forward,” she said of the teachers. “They’re excited about creating the curriculum to go with the standards.”

All of the members of the committee voted to approve the standards, with the exception of Langton.

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