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Debate Over Common Core

Syracuse, NY (PRWEB) April 15, 2014

At this time last year, approximately 1.2 million New York students in grades three through eight took their first Common Core exams in mathematics and the English language arts. Scores on state accountability exams have been declining, and parents are becoming increasingly frustrated by the number of required and regimented tests for their children. They are now exploring the option of enrolling their students in independent schools, where there are no Common Core mandates.

In fact, more than 30,000 students across New York State opted out of their ELA Assessment exam in recent weeks. The concern lies now with the districts that could lose federal or state funding if their exam participation falls below the 95 percent benchmark set by New York State.

“The recent concerns have created a tremendous amount of interest in our independent model,” says Scott Wiggins, Head of School at Manlius Pebble Hill (MPH), a Syracuse-based independent school. “During my 30+ years in education, it has become clear to me that great teaching and learning come from the process of taking deep dives into topics and ideas. As implemented in the public sector to date, the Common Core Standards are not achieving their intended result,” he added.

At independent schools such as MPH, faculty are given the liberty to create and power a unique curriculum that does not teach to standardized tests nor is driven by a “one-size-fits-all” approach. In such a setting, faculty are able to stimulate the intellectual, social, and physical development of students in a way that assures academic investment and success. This is why the Manlius Pebble Hill academic experience has recently been dubbed as “uncommon to the core.” And it has created the firestorm of interest in attending such an institution.

Students are allowed and encouraged to explore topics that interest them, and with guidance from their teachers they are motivated to learn as much as they can about that subject. They then apply the research and critical thinking process taught in class to a professional application. They are learning the material, and having fun doing it.

At MPH, students’ enthusiasm and morale for learning is nurtured. They are guided to find which learning style best suits them, instead of conforming to the students on their left and their right. Their excitement for exploring subjects that interest them is not suppressed by the required summative standardized testing at the end of a unit. This perspective on education has proven successful for students not only throughout the Pre K-12 experience, but also college and their careers.

MPH alumni are accepted to prestigious colleges and universities across the county, but more importantly become very successful professionals, executives and entrepreneurs. This is proof that the independent school format at MPH works, and that independent schools are being sought after as a successful alternative to the Common Core.

“There’s a very open, accepting social and intellectual atmosphere among kids at MPH. There’s no expectation that we all have to think alike. That’s been a very important part of my success after MPH,” said Alexandra Watson, who graduated in 2007, and continued on to graduate from Brown University in 2011. Watson is now employed as an instructor in the undergraduate writing program at Columbia University.

“It is time for elementary and secondary education in this country to embrace anew the critical aspects of time, passion, and feedback in our quest to teach to greatness. Those of us in the independent school world have the freedom to do this,” said Wiggins. “It was said best when a 2001 alum Adam Castano stated that MPH is where he learned ‘how to learn,’ and how to love learning, which set him on the path for success,” he continued.

With roots stretching back more than 140 years; Manlius Pebble Hill School is Central New York’s oldest independent educational institution and the area’s only Pre-K through Grade 12 independent school. Approximately 460 students are served by an administration and faculty philosophically committed to and guided daily by the mission … “to inspire students to think critically, act responsibly, and discover a passion for lifelong learning.”