Smithtown school officials take dig at Common Core

Smithtown High School East. (Feb. 20, 2012) Smithtown High School East. (Feb. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

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Smithtown's school board has unanimously approved a resolution critical of the rollout of Common Core standards for reading and math.

The largely symbolic resolution, which board president Gladys Waldron said had already been adopted by 40 other districts across New York, also criticized "high-stakes testing" used to gauge teacher and student performance, which it said could drive some teachers from the profession and reduce education to test preparation.

New York is among the first of 44 states to adopt Common Core, which sets uniform learning goals for each grade level. Some federal grants are open only to states that participate.

New York signed on when the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top initiative awarded grants to states with the program; the state received $700 million in 2010.

The resolution came as Smithtown schools officials prepared to mail out individual student results for state reading and math exams, which they warned could be dramatically lower than in past years. Fifty percent of students in grades 3-8 passed the English test, and 48 percent passed the math test, officials reported.

The results reflected a shift to more rigorous Common Core standards designed to better gauge college and career readiness -- not a drop in actual performance, assistant superintendent for instruction Jennifer Bradshaw told parents at a school board meeting Tuesday and in a letter posted on the district's website.

"These numbers do not indicate what our students are capable of," Bradshaw said Tuesday. "The new information shouldn't be compared with the old results."

Last year, 78 percent of Smithtown students passed the English test and 87 percent passed the math test.

While Smithtown has changed its English and math curricula and added training for teachers and extra help for students with low scores on the new tests, Bradshaw said a response focused simply on raising scores would be a mistake.

"My fear is that when we see the results . . . we'll put all our resources into testing," she said, a move that would be "antithetical to what we do here in Smithtown." The district's "whole child" approach is also concerned with creativity, citizenship, and social and emotional growth, she said.

The district has outperformed the state overall over the last three years, and it continues to do so.

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