The teachers of the Montauk School, who have embraced the Common Core, the national education standard for students from kindergarten through 12th grade, seemed to have swayed a large group of parents and some board members to support it at a school board meeting on May 13.
The Common Core, which also links test scores to teacher evaluations, was implemented last year, some say too quickly. “I felt it was overkill,” said Jack Perna, school superintendent. Across New York State, parents and educators have protested, saying its implementation did not offer teachers the proper tools for teaching the new standards. Some parents allowed their children to opt out of taking the state tests, saying the tests were too hard and included questions even they didn’t know how to answer.
Kathy Piacentine and Donna Etzel, who teach seventh-grade math, led the discussion. Parents were handed leaflets with examples of problems that Ms. Piacentine went over. Some parents looked at the problems and shook their heads or rolled their eyes, but once Ms. Piacentine got going even they seemed satisfied.
As Chantal Adamcewicz, who teaches fourth grade, said, “You don’t want your kids doing the same work as you; you want them to progress.”
The tests require students to visualize the process and use their heads to solve problems, the teachers said. They added that students also learn there is more than one way to solve a problem. They learn to be critical thinkers, they said.
They agreed that students had a bit of difficulty when first challenged to use math to solve everyday problems and to find information using graphs, tables, and charts. But, the teachers told the parents, once students get it, it clicks. “It’s incredible,” they said, with Ms. Piacentine adding, “They have to get over that fear of learning something new.” Ms. Piacentine went over examples of the math problems from first to eighth grade with the group and provided parents with tools to help at home.
“I’m a better teacher because of Common Core. We’re going to have such great thinkers when they graduate from this school,” said Ms. Adamcewicz, who has three children in the district.