When Victoria Frye’s 6-year-old son came home from 1st grade with homework recently, she was dismayed.
“He’s getting some test prep-focused homework sheets, which is really not what I expected from our local magnet progressive public school,” said Frye, who is a member of Community Education Council 6. “The curricula is GO Math! and it has pages with problems and on the flip side are practice test questions, complete with fill-in-the-bubble.”
GO Math! is just one example of the new curricula aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards that some parents are finding a poor fit for early-grade levels.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew addressed parent concerns at his quarterly meeting with Community Education Council presidents. “We need developmentally appropriate curriculum that meets the Common Core standards, on that we all agree,” he told the parent leaders gathered at UFT headquarters on Oct. 21. But he called the new Common Core-aligned curricula approved by the city Department of Education “some of the worst I’ve ever seen,” citing the story of a kindergarten class asked to draw the concept of “responsibility.”
“I have parents calling me up, saying ‘I don’t understand the homework, I don’t know what to do,’” he said.
In testimony before the state Senate Education Committee on Oct. 29, UFT President Michael Mulgrew reinterated the union’s support of the Common Core, but criticized the new curricula and called for a ban on standardized tests for students in prekindergarten through 2nd grade [see story on page 5].
Mulgrew’s criticism of the new curriculum resonated with Shino Tanikawa, the president of the District 2 Community Education Council and the parent of a 6th-grader at the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School. Tanikawa said the math problems are more focused on language comprehension than mastery of math concepts. She expressed frustration with the for-profit companies that produce the tests. “These companies make millions of dollars, and they should do better,” she said.
UFT Director of Parent and Community Outreach Anthony Harmon, who runs Dial-A-Teacher, said that by Nov. 1 the union’s homework assistance hotline had taken more than 27,000 calls, an increase of 8,000 calls by the same date the previous school year.
“People agree with the concept of the Common Core but there are no curriculum and supportive materials — that’s where the problem lies,” he said.
Monique Lindsay, a member of the Coalition for Educational Justice and the UFT Parent Outreach Committee, wishes the city had waited another year before implementing the new standards.
“We know more kids failed this year,” Lindsay said. “You’ve got to train the parents to help their kids to prevent another disaster next year. And they have to have more support for teachers.”
“A Parent’s Guide to Common Core Learning," distributed to parents at the CEC meeting, has been published by the New York State PTA and New York State United Teachers.