School Board Approves Draft of New Academic Standards

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Last night the Board of School Committee voted to conditionally accept a draft of the Manchester Academic Standards, which have been presented as an alternative to the prescribed Common Core curriculum.

Ward 9 Board of School Committee member Art Beaudry.
Ward 9 Board of School Committee member Art Beaudry.

The vote came after much discussion between board members about the wisdom of voting on an “incomplete document” presented during the Aug. 11 meeting without a table of contents.

Ward 8 board member Arthur Beaudry said he was looking for a complete draft of the document that would allow board members to follow the “strands” or standards for uniformity, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“I would like to see it broken down,” Beaudry said. “I would hope we do table this and let this committee do further work and study. I don’t believe it’s a complete document and I won’t vote on an incomplete document.”

Ward 6 board member Robyn Dunphy said that with the exception of the middle school section, the draft can be broken down by the common core content and changes made specifically for Manchester schools by a committee of district educators.

A presentation by the Manchester Academic Standards Committee outlining their adjusted curriculum framework was made June 9. [Click here to link to the presentation.]

“If you look at the website where the draft is listed, it documents where everything comes from. It’s all there except for the middle school,” Dunphy said. “If you want a curriculum, you have to have a final document that includes strands and a table of contents so teachers are using the same document with the same idea.”

Beaudry also referred to public comment offered by about eight speakers at the beginning of the meeting, all of them urging the board not to move forward with the Academic Standards draft.

State Rep. Jane Cormier, R-Hooksett, raised the question of assessing students rather than administering standardized achievement tests. She cited NH RSA 193 C, which she said “demands students must be tested objectively.”

State Rep. Jane Cormier, R-Hooksett.
State Rep. Jane Cormier, R-Hooksett.

“This is a behemoth and it’s been made a behemoth. I hope this board has the ability and spine to say no, none of our children are common. All of them are individuals and they deserve to have an individual education, and you are their firewall.”

At-large board member Kathy Staub said she fully supported the recommendation of the Manchester Academic Standards Committee, tasked with developing the district’s alternative to the common core curriculum.

At-large school board member Kathy Staub.
At-large school board member Kathy Staub.

“Student learning is a product of the relationship between teacher and student. The teachers that worked on this and went through the standards are in our schools with our students 180 days a year, some of them have been doing so for 30 years… I fully support their recommendation on these standards because I believe they are true education professionals. We all agree we need a unified curriculum, and I think we need to move forward because we just can’t continue to argue about whether we teach a kid to write a sentence with correct punctuation without getting to the point of how we are going to get that student to write a sentence,” Staub said.

Ward 8 board member Erika Connors echoed Staub’s support of the Academic Standards draft.

“Our teachers who sat down and worked on these things addressed all these concerns. Since the Manchester Academic Standards have come to us I have not had a single call. There is not a single standard that anyone has sent an email or picked up the phone to complain to me about,” Connors said.

She added that with school starting in three weeks, it was time for the board to move forward so that teachers can begin to start writing curriculum.

Ward 3 board member Christopher Stewart said he agreed with Staub and Connors in supporting the district’s efforts to create a set of standards to build on.

“I strongly support it. There will definitely be bumps in the road and tweaking, but we have to figure out how to teach our kids and move forward,” Stewart said.

Mayor Ted Gatsas.
Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said a condition of the vote to accept the Academic Standards would include submission of a completed draft, which would include a table of contents, by the Aug. 25 meeting.

He also said he would hold NH School Commissioner Virginia Barry to a statement she made during a public meeting last year in Bedford, that the district could be granted a waiver from the Smarter Balanced assessment testing.

“Do we have a recording of that statement?” Ward 10 board member John Avard asked Gatsas, who responded that there were several copies of the statement on video.

“That’s all I wanted to know,” Avard said.

Prior to the vote, Avard asked Assistant Superintendent David Ryan whether adopting the standards as written would in some way restrict Manchester classroom teachers from doing their jobs, or whether it simply provides a baseline.

“Neither,” said Ryan. “It’s a benchmark, and our students will exceed the benchmark. The goal of the standards is to raise all students.”

Avard said that he agreed with Staub and Connors, that the board should defer to the “experts” in adopting the district’s Academic Standards.

“I spoke against the Common Core as it was presented from the federal government and the state, and we asked our teachers to put together a system for our city, and we have to trust our experts in this city,” Avard said. “This should be a living document, and it should be forever, and it should change and morph and grow. I think our teachers have done exactly what we’ve asked them to do.”

Below are direct links to the Manchester Academic Standards templates. You can also link to them here, at mands.org.
Grade Level Document Date Created
Grade 1 LA Literacy May 14, 2014
Grade 1 Math Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 1 LA Speaking and Listening Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 1 LA Reading Foundational Skills Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 1 LA Informational Text Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 1 LA Literature Draft June 2, 2014
Grade 1 LA Writing Draft May 7, 2014
Grade 2 LA Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 2 Math Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 3 LA Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 3 Math Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 4 LA & Math Draft May 14, 2014
Grade 5 LA & Math Draft May 14, 2014
Grades 6 – 8 Math Draft June 2, 2014
Grades 6 – 8 English Language Arts June 2, 2014
Grades 9 – 12 Math Draft June 2, 2014
Grades 9 – 12 Language Arts Draft May 14, 2014
Grades K – 5 MAS ELA Progressions June 13, 2014
Grades K – 5 MAS Math Progressions July 16, 2014
Kindergarten LA & Math Drafts May 14, 2014
Pre-Kindergarten LA and Math Drafts June 2, 2014

 

About Carol Robidoux 5218 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.