With nationwide outrage escalating quickly over the Obama-backed nationalization of education through “Common Core” standards, Manchester, the largest school district in New Hampshire, voted last week to move beyond the national scheme and create its own set of superior standards. Under intense public pressure to reject the establishment’s controversial program entirely, the school board refused to adopt Common Core and the curriculum aligned with it. Instead, however, they voted to create “The Manchester Academic Standards” (TMAS) — using the national standards as a supposed “floor.” Both sides are claiming victory, but the battle is far from finished.
To say that there has been confusion and controversy surrounding the decisions would be an understatement at the very least. While outraged parents and activists originally thought they had secured a major victory against the Common Core machine, contradictory and confusing statements made by officials have muddied the waters. Some have even publicly claimed that, while Manchester will modify the standards in some ways to make them better, the radical scheme will essentially be used as the basis for the new educational standards developed locally. It was not immediately clear whether the district would use the embattled federally funded tests currently being developed.
“Manchester has chosen not to implement the Common Core in its entirety but rather to use the standards as a floor on which to build its own academic standards for student learning,” Manchester School District Assistant Superintendent David Ryan told The New American in an e-mail when asked to clarify the situation. “Our teams of teachers will be using bodies of work from other sources such as but not limited to the NH College and Career Ready Standards, the Massachusetts Frameworks, the New Hampshire Grade Span Expectations and the NH Grade Level Expectations. Several others states and sources will be researched in terms of effective, high level academic standards.”
With wide swaths of Common Core already implemented in the school district, analysts said it would be hard to drop it entirely at this point. Going forward, though, Assistant Superintendent Ryan suggested that new standards would be in the pipeline. “Our teams will begin with English/Language Arts and Mathematics standards before tackling science and social studies,” he said. “It is our vision that our standards will be developed with our students' best future interests in mind and combined with innovative instructional practice and valid assessments for learning that all students will achieve and grow at high levels.”
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