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By Anne Ryan

The executive council of the American Federation of Teachers recently passed a resolution supporting the “promise and the potential of the Common Core Standards.” This was reinforced a few days later when SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and SUNY colleges and universities also announced unanimous support of the standards. Both are encouraging developments.

The Common Core is not a curriculum – it is a set of aligned expectations of what children must learn at each grade level to be successful in a global economy. If students and teachers are to be successfully measured against these standards, they must be supported starting in prekindergarten.

Unfortunately, too many students simply do not have the foundation to meet these evolving standards, which in turn puts a tremendous burden on teachers. Nor have teachers had access to training or classroom support to change their practices based on the new standards. It’s no wonder the roll out of the Common Core has been so controversial and misunderstood.

What has been encouraging in the 14215 neighborhood in Buffalo has been the implementation of Community Alignment for Reading Excellence (CARE). CARE provides teachers and students, pre-K through first grade (and through third grade when fully implemented in 2015-16) with data-driven information, support and the necessary coaching skills to build a research-based foundation for teaching and learning language and literacy skills.

By integrating science-based reading research strategies, and age-appropriate assessments emphasizing the predictors of reading success, CARE’s innovative approach supports teachers in personalizing and sequencing instruction based on specific learning needs of individual students.

Data-informed instructional strategies provide CARE-coached teachers with information to support students effectively. The success of the program was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the national Promise Neighborhood Institute.

In 2014-15, CARE will provide literacy supports to 22 pre-K through second-grade classrooms. This means 450 students will be in a better position to achieve a higher standard because their teachers will have real-time data and classroom support.

While this is a positive development, we must remain vigilant in building this foundation of success for early childhood learning for both teachers and students in order to meet these demanding standards. We can continue the uproar or we can choose to work constructively to meet the challenges that the new standards present, in order to provide a strong foundation from which our children can compete on a national and international scale.

Anne Ryan is executive director of Read to Succeed Buffalo.