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Despite opposition from Common Core foes, Manchester school standards OK'd

MANCHESTER — The Board of School Committee on Monday voted to accept the Manchester Academic Standards, despite an outcry from anti-Common Core activists.

Several of the opponents spoke against the standards during the public comment period, deriding them as being fundamentally similar, if not identical, to Common Core, the national education benchmarks that have drawn fire from conservatives around the country.

“The Common Core State Standards are literally written all over the draft,” Victoria Sullivan said. “As much as you say it’s just the foundation, it is the foundation, the framework and the door, through which will come more government control.”

Her comments drew applause from the approximately two dozen supporters in the audience.

Other speakers produced charts indicating that for most grade levels, the English and math standards are 80 to 100 percent derived from Common Core.

The city standards formation process was launched in the fall, with Mayor Ted Gatsas and Superintendent Debra Livingston declaring that they would serve as models for other districts wanting to go their own way with Common Core.

A special committee of teachers and consultants had been working on the standards over the past year, but the Common Core opponents steadily grew more upset, arguing they were shut out of the process.

Later in the evening Monday, the school board addressed some of the criticism before voting to move forward with the standards, with the stipulation that they be assembled in a single document with a table of contents.

Ward 9 school board member Art Beaudry said the board should heed the concerns of the critics.

“I would hope we table this and let the committee do further work on it,” he said. “The people opposed to Common Core have a lot of valid reasons for that.”

But other board members argued the board needed to respect the work of its teachers.

Ward 8 board member Erika Connors noted the start of school was fast approaching.

“School starts in three weeks,” she said. “Do we want another year in limbo? That doesn’t make any sense.”

The board voted to support a motion from Gatsas to approve the draft standards, while directing the administration to produce a central document with a table of contents to be presented at the next board meeting in two weeks.

The board further voted to support Gatsas’ motion to have the superintendent write a letter to state and federal officials indicating that the district would not participate in the Smarter Balanced test, the statewide assessment based on Common Core set to implemented in spring 2015.

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