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September 5, 2013

Returning to school takes some adjusting

Cooperstown Crier

---- — It’s that time of year again as students are beginning a new school year. They are probably feeling excited or perhaps sad that summer vacation has come to an end. Most likely they are feeling both emotions.

The thought of the first day of school can make any student, regardless of age, a bit nervous no matter how many times they have experienced it. The first day entails adjusting to new teachers, new schedules, new friends and maybe even a new school. Even children who are eager to return to class have to adjust to the greater levels of activity and structure.

This may be an even more challenging year than in the past as students will be thinking about more testing and meeting the Common Core State Standards. As these standards are implemented, students and teachers are unsure of what is being expected from them.

Test scores for students in third through eighth grade plunged in the first year of new, tougher standardized tests. Will this put an added pressure on teachers and students? Probably yes, even though State Education Commissioner John King repeatedly stressed that the new results are a “baseline” for future years and shouldn’t be viewed as a slide in the performance of teachers and students.

“It’s important to emphasize that the changes in scores do not mean that schools have taught less and that students have learned less, but rather reflect this new standard, the Common Core,” King said in a conference call with reporters.

Hopefully this is true, but how can teachers not question whether they are doing all they can to prepare students and how can students not question their intelligence levels after such poor outcomes? It has to be discouraging.

New York is one of 45 states to implement the Common Core standards, part of a national effort pushed by President Obama to increase accountability in schools.

Technology is also changing the classroom. Schools are not just teaching technology, but are using technology to teach. With today’s communications, smaller rural districts can offer programming that in the past was available only in large urban and suburban districts. We would like to think technology will make learning easier, but are not naive enough to know that too comes with its challenges.

Local students have not been back to school for very long and are in the beginning stages of getting back in the swing of things. Students attending Cooperstown Central School started classes today, while those at Milford and Cherry Valley-Springfield central schools started Wednesday.

On a positive note, the academic calendar affords students a chance for a fresh start following the summer break from studies.