Southwestern Region PTA Hosts Common Core Meeting

Area parents and community residents had an opportunity to receive a crash course on the Common Core Learning Standards as presented by the leader of Jamestown Public Schools.

On Wednesday, the Southwestern Region PTA sponsored an informational session on the Common Core, which was held at Jamestown High School auditorium and featured Tim Mains, JPS superintendent, as its guest speaker.

According to Erika Zielinski, regional director of the Southwestern Region PTA, the informational session was intended to function as a more localized version of the series of upcoming public meetings to be held by NYS Education Commissioner John King. Zielinski said it offers parents the opportunity to learn about the history of the Common Core curriculum, as well as voice their questions and concerns in a public forum.

“(The Common Core) is the topic of conversation from every parent that contacts me or any of the local PTAs,” Zielinski said. “It’s such a complicated issue that we need to have a venue where parents can ask questions and get the information they need. Sometimes it’s easier to get it from a person rather than sitting and looking at the Internet. And, while Mr. Mains is not Commissioner King, he does have a certain depth of knowledge on the subject.”

The information session convened with a 40-minute presentation from Mains, who addressed a number of areas relative to the Common Core and its implementation in schools. Mains discussed the Common Core’s origins in the standards movement before moving into shifts in ELA and math curriculum, the construction of the Common Core, the modules offered by New York state for adoption in its schools, the distinction between Common Core and the Annual Professional Performance Review plans also being mandated by the state and the use of assessments in tracking the progress of student and teacher performance throughout the Common Core’s implementation.

Mains also addressed specifics behind the goal of Common Core, and the essentiality of education reform due to a widening gap between American students and those of other developed countries.

“The goal of the Common Core standards is very simple,” Mains said. “It is that long-term mission we have always had to get kids ready for college and career – not college or career. So, if everyone meets these standards and we’re able to get people to the level that we seek to, then they should have the choice about whether they choose the path to college or they choose the path to career. The expectations and the rigor of which they need to read and think is not uncommon or dissimilar in those two environments.”

“In my experience, I know that almost everybody agrees that schools should be better,” he added. “The frustrating part is that almost nobody really wants them to be different. We get kind of used to what we’ve had, but it needs to change. And that’s what we’re trying to do. It isn’t perfect, but we’re in the midst of constructing something that – when it’s done and finished – I believe will stand as tall and as proud as the Chrysler Building. And when we’re at that point, I think we can all feel very proud of what we’ve done because we will have done it by working together.”

Following his presentation, Mains also entertained parent questions, which were read aloud by members of the Southwestern Region PTA. Mains provided his email address – tim.o.mains@jamestown.wnyric.org – for any parent who has a question for him. Zielinski said parents are also welcome to email their questions to her at southwesternrd@nyspta.org.

Zielinski said the Southwestern Region PTA – which serves 19 PTA units throughout Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties – is anticipating hosting more public meetings in the near future, saying Fredonia has already requested a similar format in its district.

“We don’t have anything scheduled at the moment, but we’ve opened the doors of communication and it’s looking promising,” Zielinski said.