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Christopher Zajac Record-Journal
Dr. Marty Semmel, principal of Southington High School, speaks in support of Common Core Standards at a press conference in Hartford, March 12, 2014. | Christopher Zajac / Record-Journal

Officials rally for Common Core

HARTFORD — Education officials from across the state gathered in the legislative offices Wednesday morning to rally support for the state Common Core standards before a public hearing by the Education Committee about legislation aimed at imposing a moratorium on the initiative.

The rally was organized by “Connecticut’s Big Six,” the self-titled pact of six statewide education and community organizations: the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

Joining them were representatives from the Connecticut Parent, Teacher, and Student Association, and educators from school systems across the state, including Southington High School Principal Martin Semmel.

Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the superintendents’ organization, opened the rally by saying on behalf of his organization that he was “strongly in support of continued implementation of Common Core State Standards,” and “much opposed to slowing it down.”

Cirasuolo’s opposition to “slowing it down” stems from a bill in the Education Committee that would put a moratorium on the implementation of Common Core standards, essentially freezing the funding being funneled toward putting the new standards in place for the rest of this, and all of the next, fiscal year.

“We should be discussing a bill that increases funding for Common Core, not one that puts a moratorium on it,” Semmel said. “To me, that’s simply a moral imperative.”

New Haven School Superintendent Garth Harries said passing the bill would “decimate the efforts we’ve made in the past four years” since the state adopted Common Core standards in 2010.

Cirasuolo said that since 2010, every school district in the state has revised its curricula to be able to meet the new standards — though that revision hasn’t been specifically mandated by the state itself.

“Practically speaking, if we have a moratorium, what are these people (educators) going to do? Dig through their files to find their curriculum from four years ago and trash everything they’ve been working on?” Cirasuolo said.

Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools, responded on behalf of the public school principals she represents. “No. They’d keep going because they know what’s best for their kids. And if that happens, blood is going to spill at the district level when it comes to preparing their budgets,” she said.

The sentiment among many of those gathered at the Education Committee’s public hearing Wednesday afternoon, however, was quite different.

The room was packed with parents, teachers and administrators from across the state wearing red shirts emblazoned with stop signs reading “Stop Common Core in CT.”

One of those parents, Lisa Simo-Kinzer, of Terryville, said she opposes the “cookie-cutter” effect that Common Core standards seemed to be having on curriculum changes, adding that her three children often come home from school in the afternoon feeling frustrated.

The Meriden school system’s performance evaluation specialist, Miguel Cardona, testified at the hearing, saying of the implementation, “We will not get it right the first time. Success is not linear. Our path to success will have bumps in the road, detours, compromises, negotiations and mistakes that will foster authentic collaboration.”

“Instead of halting progress,” Cardona continued, “I ask that we come together in support of a plan that is not Democrat or Republican, traditional or reform, urban or suburban.

“Proceed with caution,” he said.

Southington School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. submitted testimony to the committee.

“I am in opposition of this bill and I do not believe there should be any delay, in any way, pertaining to the present timeline for Common Core across all public schools in Connecticut,” his testimony read.

“We have prepared our educators and our students for Common Core because we believe it is the right thing to do. Delaying the implementation derails the energy moving forward at a number of different layers within the organization,” Erardi said. (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal

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