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UFT: Where’s the curriculum?

Without curricula in place to guide more advanced instruction, “We are setting t Dave Sanders

Without curricula in place to guide more advanced instruction, “We are setting the children and their teachers up for falling short of the mark,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew tells a state commission on education reform.

A high-level gubernatorial commission on education reform on Oct. 16 got a rapid-fire earful from UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who warned that most teachers still do not have the curricula to prepare students for new state assessments this year that will incorporate challenging Common Core Learning Standards.

“Millions of students will be tested on a curriculum that was never supplied to their teachers,” Mulgrew warned the commissioners, to a round of audience applause, in his allotted three minutes of testimony.

Standards are not curricula, he wrote in lengthier submitted testimony. If the state and the city impose a new set of standards without the supports in place to teach to them, students and teachers will flounder. Some schools encourage common curriculum planning, he said, but many others leave teachers to come up with it on their own.

The Common Core, adopted by New York and 45 other states last year, asks students to solve more multistep problems, read more complex text, and explain and write at higher levels than current tests require.

Even before new textbooks and materials become available that teach to the Common Core standards, New York State, alone among the 46, plans to test students on them. Reading levels on this year’s state tests will be as much as two grades above current levels, city Department of Education chief academic officer Shael Polakow-Suransky confirmed, in response to the committee’s questions. State Education Commissioner John King said it is quite likely that test scores will go down.

Without curricula in place to guide more advanced instruction, Mulgrew testified, “We are setting the children and their teachers up for falling short of the mark. The clock is ticking.”

Mulgrew also ran through a list of his top priorities for the school system: making the new evaluations a true development tool for teachers; adding guidance counselors to help students prepare for college; creating community schools to serve children and families in need; and improving literacy in early childhood.

The “New New York Education Reform Commission,” assembled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and led by former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons, is charged with coming up with ways to reorganize and improve the state school system and has held hearings around the state. The governor wants to find cost savings, redirect funds to the areas of greatest need, improve teacher and principal performance, and raise achievement. This was its second session in New York City, arranged after many hopeful speakers at the first hearing were turned away for lack of time.

Other members of the commission include King, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, State Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan and AFT President Randi Weingarten.

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