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Common Core Concerns Discussed At Chappaqua Schools ‘Knowledge Café’

Fifth-grade English teacher Eileen Kenna talked to Chappaqua parents about her lesson plans in the classroom.
Fifth-grade English teacher Eileen Kenna talked to Chappaqua parents about her lesson plans in the classroom. Photo Credit: Michael Nocella

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – More than 100 parents listened in on Chappaqua School’s “Knowledge Café” on Wednesday, Nov. 13, as school officials offered a glimpse of what’s going on in the district’s classrooms.

Superintendent Lyn McKay led a presentation that showed the difference between the controversial “Common Core” lesson plan, which is spreading across the nation, and a “Chappaqua lesson plan.” Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Eric Byrne walked the audience through a history of education reform, from it’s introduction in 1983 all the way up to 2010’s regents reform agenda, which includes the Common Core standards.

Common Core standards are designed to specifically train students' minds in a way that is conducive to state regent testing. An example shown to parents in the Knowledge Café asked students to read a passage and come up with an answer, but not necessarily an explanation as to how they got that answer. It is a teaching and learning style that can come off as robotic.

Though McKay is not against Common Core standards, she said it leaves something to be desired. She added that the district incorporates the standards into its own, more personalized, lesson plans.

“We don’t dislike the Common Core, but it’s not very different from what we do already,” she said. “There’s nothing in Common Core that we’re looking at and saying ‘This is terrible.’ But it is very limiting and scripted.”

A video of a Chappaqua Schools 5th grade lesson plan showed a similar reading prompt, but this time the teacher used student reaction and conversation to further explore the text. The teacher, Eileen Kenna, said no script can anticipate what students will bring to a discussion.

Although new regent exam formats and scores from last year have caused concern throughout the state and neighboring districts, McKay is confident in Chappaqua’s test scores and more intimate teaching methods moving forward. It’s safe to say students will never find the Common Core inside a Chappaqua classroom.

“Some districts are adopting the Common Core curriculums out of a fear that their students won’t do as well on test scores,” McKay said. “That’s why we stress that this is not about test scores but what’s right for Chappaqua students. We are in a very good place and I really mean that.”

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