PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Chancellor Dennis Walcott looked on in a sixth-grade math class at Brooklyn’s Academy of Arts and Letters where the teacher listed all of the different ways students solved the same math problem, an emphasis of the Common Core.

City and state education officials liked what they saw this morning when they stopped by the Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn to see how the new Common Core standards are being implemented there.

During a two-hour visit, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and State Education Commissioner John King sat in on an English class and watched sixth-graders identify specific words that illustrated the theme of a poem about mushrooms. In a math class, they saw five students present different solutions for the same problem, then heard the teacher explain that one strategy of problem-solving might make more sense for one student, or in one situation, than another.

“Their critical thinking in developing the evidence to support the facts, I found amazing,” Walcott said about the students.
“It goes a long way in not just preparing students for the test, but preparing them for life, and how to communicate with each other and then not to be intimidated by adults, and not be able to wilt when an adult asks you a question to support your facts as well.”

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch listened to two sixth-graders at Arts and Letters analyze a poem about a mushroom.

Principal John O’Reilly, who took over last year after the founding principal departed for a private school, said he understands that teachers, students, and parents are anxious about facing Common Core-aligned state tests for the first time next week. But he said he is confident that Arts and Letters students and teachers are fully prepared for the tests.

King offered a confidence-booster when he said the instruction he saw in Arts and Letters’ classes proved that the state was right to move quickly in making its standards and assessments tougher.

“We’ve got to make sure that our assessments reflect our standards and the kind of instruction that we want to see,” he said. “That’s the work we’ve been engaged in [at the State Education Department] over the last three years, and it’s exciting to be in a school and see it come to fruition.”