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State education commissioner pays visit to Cooperstown schools

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - The New York State Education Commissioner doesn't have to leave the house to know that many children struggle with the Common Core curriculum. His own fifth-grader recently informed him that it's his fault his math homework takes so long to complete. 

But Commissioner John King got in his car and drove to Cooperstown Elementary School on Wednesday -- no entourage, no staff members -- to sit in on a class and see how they're coping with Common Core.  King stressed the need for higher educational standards for all students.

"The balance you've got to strike is, we know we have students who are arriving at college and careers under prepared," King said. "When I travel around the state and often meet with employers, I hear from employers again and again. They can't find employees with the writing skills, the communication skills, the problem solving skills they need."

King said a recent meeting with the SUNY chancellor reinforced the need for higher standards.

"I just met with Nancy Zimpher, the chancellor at SUNY, and we were talking about the $70 million a year that SUNY spends on remedial courses -- high school classes that students are taking when they arrive on college campuses."

King said the involved, sometimes-complicated math isn't intended to torture students, but rather-prepare them for real-world problem solving.

"The banker doesn't tell you, 'Here's how to set up a percent problem right and  pick from one of these four answers.' No, you have a set of documents from the bank that you have to read and you've got to figure out,  'Well, what does this interest rate mean for what I'm going to have to pay over time?' "

The Cooperstown superintendent says there have been challenges. But students there are getting it.

"We certainly have experienced those here in Cooperstown, but I feel the faculty as a whole have embraced  the rigor of the new standards and are certainly working hard to put in place lessons that are going to position our students to be college and career ready," said C.J. Hebert.

As for what encouragement he could offer students who are still struggling with Common Core and their parents, King shared his hopes for the governor's Common Core Review Panel.

"My hope is that the panel will focus on professional development. One of the things the board of regents proposed is a significant additional investment in professional development."

The governor has asked the Common Core Implementation Panel to work speedily in bringing forward a set of "actionable recommendations to improve the implementation of the Common Core."
 

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