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Common Core plan outlined in Hamburg School District

HAMBURG — One thing that New York state residents have expressed agreement about, regarding state Common Core testing, is that it is a polarizing issue.

Inside the Hamburg School District, many in the local community dispute the Common Core’s fairness to students and staff members. During the board of education’s Jan. 14 meeting, teachers and administrators discussed current and future plans to address such standardized testing in the district.

District Director of Pupil Services Colleen Kaney and other administrators presented various plan items, specifying at first terms such as “evidence,” which is students’ producing proof of answers from text; “arguments;” “focus” and being college- and career-ready.

Other outlined steps included English language arts shifts, which included students’ reading more non-fiction, learning about the world through reading, and learning how to write from what is read. They also focused on math shifts, which included building learning year after year and spending more time reviewing fewer materials.

Common Core learning in Hamburg was said to be broken down divisionally into instruction, assessment and curriculum, all geared toward collectively preparing students for post-high school. Kaney mentioned Engage NY as being a valuable resource, as an “adopt or adapt” mantra has emerged with examining modules, throughout the year.

For 2013 – 2014, Network Teams – defined as collaborative squad efforts of teachers who have met regarding curriculum during the past several years – have been established, with module and domain review’s taking place at the elementary level. Math sources were reviewed, with two Common Core-aligned programs to pilot at all grade levels. Additionally, grades nine – 12 joined Network Teams for the current school year, prefaced by summer curriculum days that were used to prepare for ninth grade algebra and ELA.

A four – five-year plan was said to be in place, with a focus on writing. Despite all of the adjustments as part of Common Core, Hamburg was said to be ranked No. 1 in all of Western New York, in fifth grade math scores.

Regardless of that success in addressing Common Core needs in Hamburg, some in attendance at the meeting spoke about the initiative’s being forced upon students and administrators, as a difficult implementation item. One attendee expressed concern about pupils’ confidentiality being exposed to third parties, as part of the program’s disclosure of mental health cases.

In another matter, a description of Union Pleasant Elementary School’s involvement as part of the local Homework Help Program and Lunch Brunch was outlined.

Hamburg Presbyterian Church hosts the program, which includes current Hamburg District students, nearly two dozen volunteers and graduates and community members.

A second grade class participates in Lunch Brunch and 23 students from third – fifth grades are part of Homework Help, which includes homework assistance, as well as Math Facts with learning and reading.

Learning instruments were said to have been donated, as part of the program.

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