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Milford Common Core Forum #3 Wednesday

Get answers on the new state standards at the last of three community forums Wednesday night.

Superintendent Elizabeth Feser talks to parents at the first of three community forums on the Common Core State Standards on Monday, Nov. 11. Credit: Jason Bagley
Superintendent Elizabeth Feser talks to parents at the first of three community forums on the Common Core State Standards on Monday, Nov. 11. Credit: Jason Bagley
The last of three community forums on the Common Core State Standards is Wednesday (6:30 p.m.) at Harborside Middle School, 175 High St., Milford.

The forum on the new standards, which are being implemented across the country to better prepare students after high school, is hosted by Superintendent Elizabeth Feser and Assistant Superintendent Michael Cummings.

At the first forum held Nov. 11, Feser called the Common Core "a sea change" in education. Our coverage from that evening follows.

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Milford School Officials Discuss 'Sea Change' That Is Common Core

New state standards are currently being 'field tested' at Milford schools before they replace CMT/CAPT testing in 2015.

(Published Nov. 13)

Milford school officials say “one of the biggest shifts” with the Common Core State Standards is an increased expectation that a student needs to think deeply about a problem before coming to a solution.

Under this new initiative currently being “field tested” in the district, teachers are more advised to let students work out problems themselves, even if that means watching them struggle a little.

The idea is that this approach will lead to a more self-reliant individual who is better prepared for life after high school, whether that means entering the workforce or enrolling in higher education.

This was one of many points shared with about 60 parents at a community forum on the Common Core at Harborside Middle School on Monday. The second of three forums is tonight (Nov. 13) at 6:30 p.m. and the third is on Dec. 4.

'A sea change'

“This is a sea change,” said Superintendent Elizabeth Feser, who hosted the forum with Assistant Superintendent Michael Cummings.

Literature handed out at the forum said that 45 states, including Connecticut, “have pledged to the federal government that they will adopt the standards specifying the English language arts and math skills that students must attain in each grade from kindergarten to the end of high school.”

Feser said the standards were released in June of 2010 and shortly thereafter adopted by the state. She stressed that the federal government did not develop the initiative, saying federal officials had “absolutely nothing to do with this.”

Rather, teachers and researchers across the country worked to produce the standards after governors in 2008 called for a set of common education standards, Feser said.

Core is not a curricula

The superintendent made clear that the Common Core is not a curricula but that curricula will be “written in light of the Common Core.” Added Cummings, “These are guiding documents we have to implement in our curricula.”

The standards will be evaluated in Milford with a test called the Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which will be first administered to grades 3-8 and grade 11 students in the spring of 2015. The assessment, which is completely on the computer, will replace the CMT and CAPT, Feser said.

“The test itself will respond to the test taker; it’ll either become easier or harder,” said Cummings, adding that a student’s ability to navigate a computer screen is also part of the assessment.

The SBAC is “expected to be far more difficult” than the tests it is replacing, Cummings said. Added Feser, “We expect that our scores (compared to CMT/CAPT) are going to decline. I just need to say that to you.”

Preparatory assessments

To prepare students for the SBAC testing next school year, teachers have started to discreetly embed sample “common assessments” in their curricula this year. These questions reflect the more in-depth thinking that will be required of students come SBAC test-taking time.

For example, with math, Cummings said, “Now there’s a lot of memorization, not necessarily application, that will be switched…Knowing your times tables for knowing your times tables will no longer be an acceptable outcome. It’s what you do with it.”

Cummings added that math students will begin to “dig deeper into fewer concepts.”

Mark Ahrens, center director of Mathnasium in Milford, was called on from the audience to further explain how Common Core will affect math curricula.

Ahrens said algebra problems where a student was given a formula and told to solve for “x” are being replaced by questions that involve more narrative and critical thinking.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said.

Schoolwork-induced tears

Several parents to speak after Ahrens said that the new preparatory assessments are so difficult that they are draining their students’ will to learn.

“She’s losing the love of learning, which she’s always had,” said one parent, who added that schoolwork this year in her daughter’s 7th-grade advanced math class has often caused her child to break into tears, something school has never done before.

“I feel like she has homework she never went over in school,” added another parent, apparently referring to the Common Core notion that students should experience more independent learning.

One parent, however, said it's time parents let their kids work toward solving more problems with less assistance. 

"We need to let them struggle," he said.

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