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Where is the curriculum?

DOE breaks its promise to have Common Core-aligned materials in schools by start of classes
New York Teacher
Is your school still waiting for its new curriculum?
Jonathan Fickies

Is your school still waiting for its new curriculum? Chapter leaders respond with a show of hands at the citywide chapter leader meeting on Sept. 12 in Brooklyn.

Thousands of teachers began the school year without promised Common Core-aligned textbooks, anchor texts, trade texts, teacher guides or manipulative materials, forcing them to improvise last-minute lessons and units. The curricula seemed lost in transit, despite repeated assurances from the Department of Education that all materials would arrive on the first day of school.

A UFT survey of elementary, middle and K-8 chapter leaders in the second week of September found that 64 percent of schools had not received all or part of promised Common Core math resources and 78 percent had not gotten their English language arts books and supplies as of the first day.

“We have received NO printed materials except teachers’ guides for Unit 1 in each grade,” a Manhattan middle school teacher wrote.

“Many teachers are missing teacher guides/manipulatives/books and/or online passwords,” a Bronx elementary school teacher wrote about her school’s DOE-sanctioned Go Math curriculum.

“We have not received any of the new math or reading curriculum,” a Queens District 75 teacher told the union.

A year behind

Last year, the UFT called repeatedly for the DOE and the State Education Department to get Common Core curriculum into teachers’ hands. But the state and the city’s rush to introduce new standards ran ahead of their ability to deliver the resources. Students took state tests in April that were based on the Common Core without their teachers ever having had the curricula.

The DOE then assured teachers that they would have the materials on the first day of school in September. ”Student test scores dropped last year in part because teachers were never provided with a curriculum that matched the new and more difficult Common Core Learning Standards,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “The DOE promised that these materials would be in teachers’ hands by now, but teachers all over the system are telling us that they still don’t have all the supplies they need to teach to the Common Core,”

The stakes are even higher this year as the new evaluation system will measure teachers’ skills in delivering Common Core curriculum and factor in their students’ growth on Common Core exams.

Benjy Blatman, a science teacher at PS 125 in Manhattan, said that teachers at his school lost two weeks of crucial planning time when the ELA Ready Gen curriculum did not arrive. “They didn’t have time to prepare,” he said. “This took out two weeks of the pacing guide,” he added, and caused a delay in giving student baseline assessments.

“What would happen if we didn’t have something in on time? Insubordination,” wrote Staten Island teacher Stephanie Dibella on the UFT’s Facebook page.

Schools that haven't received Common core resources

PD lacking, too

The survey, completed by 630 chapter leaders, also revealed that half of the schools — 49 percent in math and 53 percent in ELA — had not received professional development related to the purchased curriculum. Of the chapter leaders who said their schools did have professional development, the vast majority said the training was only “somewhat” or “not at all” sufficient.

What professional development the DOE did offer over the summer was “useless,” according to Caroline Gary, a teacher at PS 23 in Staten Island. “It was more like selling the program.” What the schools needed instead, she said, was professional development in how to make best use of the curriculum.

At her school, materials finally started arriving by the third week, though complete supplies were not expected until the fourth week of school.

“I have kids in front of me ready to go,” Gary said. “I don’t believe this was the principal’s or the assistant principal’s fault. The DOE was derelict.”