New York State School Boards Association

SED to create Common Core Fellows program

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • April 28, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

The State Education Department wants to borrow teachers from local school districts to craft a 2.0 version of the state’s Common Core-aligned model curriculum.

SED proposes to pay the salaries and benefits of the teachers while they spend next school year improving existing curriculum modules for math in grades K-12 and English language arts in grades 9-12.

The effort will be called the Common Core Institute, and participating teachers will be called Common Core Institute Fellows.

“We’re looking to find out if this is a model that works,” said Ken Wagner, deputy commissioner for curriculum, assessment and education technology. If so, it could
be used to develop curricular materials for other subjects.

Many details, including the estimated cost and the number of teachers to be involved, are yet to be determined. 

To gauge the level of interest among districts and faculty, SED sent school districts and BOCES a formal “Request for Information.” The response deadline is May 9.

The request also solicits suggestions on how the initiative should be designed.

“We are still very much in flux about how we are going to structure this,” Wagner said.

Based on information gathered from districts, SED plans to issue a “Request for Proposals” in late spring or early summer. Educators selected would start work in the fall, and their revised curriculum versions would be available for use in the 2015-16 school year.

Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. announced the plan in an April 11 address at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He noted that optional curricular materials that contractors created for SED have been downloaded 6.2 million times.

A segment of the curriculum upgrade program would be carved out for a school district or a BOCES to provide “professional-level copy-editing, electronic document formatting and packaging services” to prepare the revised curriculum modules for posting online.

Regents Senior Fellow Kate Gerson she said she does not envision expansive re-writes or replacement of the existing curriculum modules, but she said it is expected that Common Core Institute Fellows will share tips for tailoring instruction to the needs of their students and provide other practical advice (see SED navigates new role in curriculum).

Gerson calls the curriculum modules “fodder” that teachers can use to customize their own lessons and assignments. She said she is dismayed when she hears the curricular materials characterized as rigid mandates for content and instruction.

“Many of us have been handed a curriculum at some point in our careers and told: ‘Ignore your instincts. Just do it,’” Gerson said. “No one wants that.” 

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