All About the Common Core with
Pawling Public Radio is proud to introduce a new program called “Get to Know Your Pawling Schools.” This program is in collaboration with Pawling Parents, an on-line community started by Inga Garbarino with the goal of fostering constructive discussions about education, our local schools, and school district issues. Each month, we will interview an administrator or school board member so that the community can get to know them, their views on education, and their hopes for the future of our district. With so many new administrators joining us within the last two years, we welcome this opportunity to learn more about the folks who are charged with the task of preparing our young students for their futures. Our first interview, broadcast during the month of October, was with our new superintendent of schools, Dr. William Ward. This month, the chair of PPR’s Education Committee, Amy Emke, speaks with Interim Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Mrs. Elsa Kortright-Torres, about the newly adopted Common Core standards which have been in the news so often recently.
On a quiet day in late October, I sat down in the Pawling Public Radio studio on East Main Street for a conversation with Pawling’s Interim Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Mrs. Elsa Kortright-Torres about the new Common Core state standards that are being implemented this year in Pawling and in all public school districts across New York State. As the parent of both a public high school student and a preschooler who will be entering kindergarten next year, I was eager to learn more about the Common Core and also to bring up some of the concerns about it that I’ve been reading on-line.
Mrs. Kortright-Torres answered questions about many aspects of the Common Core, including descriptions of a typical lesson in reading or math, and how it would be different now that the Common Core state standards have been implemented. One example that she gave was in how a simple phonics lesson would be given about the letter “M” compared to how the lesson would have been taught previously to the Common Core. She also described an Eighth Grade English Language Arts lesson, explaining that under the Common Core, there is an emphasis on informational texts that may also tie in with other academic subjects such as Social Studies.
I asked Mrs. Kortright-Torres about some of the controversy that has surrounded the roll-out of the Common Core standards across the state. Some parents and educators have expressed concern for a variety of reasons — including what some see as the foolishly hasty speed with which the new standards have been implemented, and the impact of increased standardized testing on young children. We talked about the growing “opt out” movement that is taking place across the state, in which individual parents are choosing to not allow their children to sit for the tests. I asked Mrs. Kortright-Torres about what might happen in the Pawling School District if a lot of Pawling parents decide to join the “opt out” movement. She explained that there are state regulations in place that require all school districts to have at least a 95 percent participation rate in these evaluations.
“If we do not achieve that percentage, we may have consequences that would impact our district in terms of funding, so we do need to be realistic about that,” she said.
Our interview lasted about 30 minutes and included a lively discussion about how much flexibility districts and individual teachers have in the types of testing they do at various grade levels, the professional development the district is providing for teachers to support them in the shift to the Common Core standards, and how parents and teachers can voice any concerns they might have about the standards and how they are being implemented.
Finally, I asked Mrs. Kortright-Torres what she most wants parents to understand about the Common Core.
“The Common Core is about good teaching and good practices….The Common Core State Standards is a nationwide initiative–it’s not just for New York State. Forty-four states have adopted this, and they have adopted it for a reason….They were very much needed. It is good practice; it is good to raise the bar for our kids. And surely our kids rise to the occasion when given the tools and when given great teaching. That’s what we’re focusing on here — to have a great teacher in every classroom. So that’s what I really want people to know about us, and that we’re on our way to doing great things in Pawling!”
To listen to the complete interview with Mrs. Kortright-Torres, tune in to Pawling Public Radio online or in the Village of Pawling at 101.7 FM., Monday through Friday at noon and 6 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at noon.