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Radford prepares for first Common Core Task Force meeting

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Governor Andrew Cuomo's newly named Common Core Task Force will be meeting for the first time this Friday.  A local representative named to serve on the task force is collecting feedback before heading to New York City. WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley tells us the leader of the District Parent Coordinating Council wants to make sure Western New York's voice is heard.

Radford met with a room full of  suburban schools superintendents who gathered Tuesday at Erie 1 BOCES in West Seneca.  Radford wants to bring their opinions and recommendations for improving implementation of the Common Core Standards back to the Governor and task force. He tells WBFO their message was clear -- it's not about the standards, but about executing them in the classroom.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
DPCC President Sam Radford will bring information from area superintendents to the Common Core Task Force.

"The two things that stood out to me -- one, how the Common Core Standards were able to take districts that were maybe not doing as well as they could have and it challenge them to do better, and it gave them a set of standards where they didn't have standards. The second thing I took from it, where the districts that were already doing well, who these standards came in and showed them they could do better," stated Radford. "Nobody has said anything is wrong with our kids being prepared."

Superintendents traveled to the meeting from as far away as the southern tier.  Randolph Schools Superintendent Kimberly Moritz came from Cattaraugus County to be heard.  "I really wish that the Governor's office would allow the state Education Department to do their job," said Moritz. "Our story has been that we started to implement early. You know people talk about this as if it is a recent thing, and really we've known about the standards since 2008-2009, and we have an incredible team of teachers and leaders in Randolph who worked really hard right away to start to look at the standards."

Moritz explained her school district has gained success in using the common core standards because they implemented early. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Randolph Schools Superintendent Kimberly Moritz explains how Common Core helped improve student performance in her district.

"The standards are not an issue for our teachers in anyway. They actually helped us rise to a higher level. There are other things that we would certainly change given the opportunity, but not the Common Core Standards," stated Moritz.

Superintendents at the session agreed it is not about taking away the standards, which are needed to help students complete globally, but teachers and administrators are not pleased standards are tied to teachers Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).

"I had hoped, back in the beginning in say 2011, that the changes with the APPR where going to help us to improve our school systems, because if we are really honest, if we've been doing we'd been doing a really good job of getting rid of poor teachers in the first place, I'm not sure we would be facing what we are facing with APPR now," noted Moritz. "Our school district has had the sharpest three year gain in the three through eight assessments of any district in Western New York, however, with the new APPR regulations, that have come from the Governor's office, most of my teachers will be listed next year with 50-percent of that being based on their gross score, most of them will be ineffective or developing, likely developing -- there's something wrong there."

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
School superintendents chatted following their meeting.

Tuesday's meeting included former Regent Robert Bennett. He helped Radford organization the session with the superintendents.  "You don't have to reboot the standards. That would be one of the worst outcomes you could have is too think you are going to rewrite the standards -- no body supports that" stated Bennett.

Bennett has remained a staunch supporter of Common Core and traveled heavily with former state Education Commissioner John King during the height of protests against Common Core.  Bennett has not changed his position.

WBFO News asked Bennett about critics of the learning standards who believe the Governor's task force won't make the right changes for students and teachers.

"Well they're the contrarians, and they don't have anything productive to offer, so I don't pay any attention to them," replied Bennett.  "Teacher evaluation law, which is a legislative issue, by the way, and the testing, you are going to have to have testing to measure progress of students period."

Credit WBFO News file photo
A child in a Niagara Falls school tackles a Common Core math question.

Bennett, Radford and many of the superintendents said the issue of over testing and teacher evaluations have to be reviewed as separate challenges.

Radford will hold another meeting with Thursday with Dr. Fatima Morrell, Buffalo's Assistant Schools Superintendent in  charge of Curriculum Assessment and Instruction.  The first Common Core Task Force meeting takes place Friday morning New York City.  

"These standards challenge our students to be better," said Radford.  "And we need to have the conversation about APPR and testing as a separate conversation, somewhere down the road, after we get an agreement that these are the standards we want to live by as a state, as a country and ultimately that our students will benefit from in terms of competing globally."  

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