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Finals: To Common Core Or Not To Common Core? 

To Common Core or not to Common Core. That is the question the Northport-East Northport School District is facing regarding the administration of the English and math Regents exams.

For this year only, the New York State Education Department is allowing 11th grade students to take both the older, 2005 version of the Comprehensive English and Integrated Algebra exams as well as the new exams that align with the new Common Core state standards.

According to Northport-East Northport School District math faculty, 11th grade students will be required to take the new, Common Core Algebra I exam but can also take the older, 2005 version of the exam, offered later in June.

Mathematics Chairperson Robin Rann said the district will use the better of the two test scores to determine a student’s final grade.

“It’s really an unknown animal, some sort of unknown entity, so we’ll go ahead with what we know as an option,” Rann said of offering both exams.

The math chair said that although the department has been engaging both teachers and students in the Common Core curriculum since its implementation in 2010, the end of this academic year will mark the first time students will be tested by the state on the Common Core in algebra.

In the next few years, the state will begin testing student’s competency in trigonometry and geometry as it relates to their instruction with the Common Core.

In English, however, Northport-East Northport students will only take the older, 2005 Comprehensive English exam on June 17, and will not be tested June 3 on the ELA Common Core test.

District K-12 English Chair Patricia Schmitt said it would be unfair to make students sit for two separate tests, especially one with which the district and even teachers are unfamiliar.

Schmitt said she is concerned over the excess of multiple-choice questions that seemed to dominate much of the Common Core ELA exams administered to students in grades 3-8 last year, as well as the time-consuming nature of the new exams.

“We had students who had always finished with sufficient time to spare, all of a sudden running out; it wasn’t a matter of stamina, it was timing. There’s never been a test before that I’ve been worried about timing… It would be a disadvantage to our students to give them a test we don’t know the protocol to,” Schmitt said. “The way the ELA exam looks is much more rigorous.”

In addition, the English chair said that the state will remove the listening section of the English Regents exam in the Common Core version, and will rely heavily on the use of text-based answers.

The older version of the Regents, Schmitt explained, asked students to respond to open-ended questions as a way to measure critical thinking as well as apply controlling ideas and themes from texts they read outside of the classroom for the exam.

The new Common Core test, Schmitt said, will be highly rhetoric based, and will ask that students reflect on genres and ideas from passages within the test itself, rather than using knowledge from outside literature.

State Deputy Commissioner of Education Ken Slentz informed school districts July 15 that the last administration of the Comprehensive Examination in English will be in July 2016; the last administration of the Regents Integrated Algebra Exam will be in January 2015.

Students who entered the ninth grade this year will be the first to experience two years of academic instruction in English aligned to meet the Common Core standards.

Sletnz’s office said students who pass either exam in June 2014 will have met the state-mandated requirements for graduation.

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