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Common Core Shakes Parents’ Confidence

Tools for parents listed on district’s website

More than 60 concerned parents of Island Trees children filled the auditorium at the January PTA meeting, which took place at Stokes Elementary School on Jan. 2. The meeting focused on the new Common Core learning initiatives that are being rolled out this year. Led by Dr. Penny Fisher, principal of J. Fred Spark Elementary School, and Robert Harrington, interim principal of Michael F. Stokes Elementary School, the meeting focused on the major differences that will appear on the New York State tests this spring. And the differences, both said, are major. 

“We are competing with other countries for the economic dollar,” Harrington said about the reasons why the U.S. is stepping up education standards, before adding that the curriculum has dropped down a grade – meaning that what children were once taught in fourth grade, they will be taught in third grade. “Full day kindergarten now allows for an enriched curriculum,” he explained. 

However, with the first round of the newest state tests being rolled out this spring, Harrington and Fisher discussed the instructional shifts for the Common Core and how parents could help prepare their children at home for the test. The largest shifts in curriculum are in the English and math sectors, where there is an increase in nonfiction literature as well as more practical applications in math. The duo showed the gathered group sample questions from the newest test and compared them to questions from an exam from five years ago. The result? A sharp increase in reading and problem-solving skills will be needed in order for children to excel on the exam – an issue that the school is addressing currently, Fisher said. 

“The more we expose our children to work like this, the faster their researching skills will grow,” she said. “But we have been proactive in getting [the changes] into the classroom and preparing the kids.”

The conversation got heated, however, when the fact that the district is having issues getting staff members to offer extra help and this year, extra help would only be offered to students nominated by their teachers. 

“The biggest concern among the parents is that their child won’t get the extra help that they need to get them prepared for this test,” said Kathi Sidewitz, a parent and PTA member. To resolve the issue, Dr. Fisher said she would see if there would be high school students available to help tutor the children privately after the parents requested such a service multiple times. 

Other challenges include the need for assistance materials at home or classes for parents to help prepare them to help the children when it comes to prepping for the exam. “Not all of our parents have an education and not all of our parents have English as their first language,” one parent pointed out. “How can we help them to help their children?” Although Harrington said that he did not have anything planned, such as parent workshops; he said that he has been putting all Common Core materials on the school website and it is available in several different languages. 

Another main concern, according to parents, is the fact that the new curriculum is very challenging for the students; students may begin to feel badly about their academic performance if they don’t do well on these exams. 

“This curriculum is de-motivating to these children,” said Karen Mossman, “It’s much more academic and much less fun. It’s a sad state of affairs that we need to be pushing more and more on these…babies,” she said. 

“Confidence is fragile at this stage,” added another concerned mother. “If I have a child who does fairly well in school and not so well on this exam, I’m just afraid that it will change the way they feel about themselves,” she added. 

Harrington explained that the tests would not be used as an indicator of how children perform overall, but as a way to preventatively identify children who will need to the extra help the next year. “Over-identification will happen at first because we have heard that the test is really hard and there is a lag,” he said. 


News

A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.

 

All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.

 

Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.

 

Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.

 

In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.

 

“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”

 

With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.

Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.

 

The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.

 

The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “

 

At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.

 

Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.

 

Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.

 

The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.

 

Last June, Nassau County passed legislation that allows for the deployment of a speed enforcement camera system in school zones for each of the 56 public school districts in the county. 

 

The new systems will be implemented throughout the county on July 25, and will be operational on scheduled school days throughout the year. 


Sports

Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.

 

In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs. 

Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.

 

Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games. 


Calendar

Lazy Days Of Summer - July 26

Flea Market - July 27

Darlene Prince and the Bragg Hollow Band - July 28


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com