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Beaver River contingent touts Common Core successes at conference

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BEAVER FALLS — A contingent from Beaver River Central School promoted its Common Core successes at a regional school board workshop in Lake Placid.

“It was quite an honor,” district Superintendent Leueen Smithling said.

Mrs. Smithling and six other Beaver River representatives delivered a presentation on March 22 at a Student Achievement Institute session, one of five held throughout the state by the New York State School Boards Association. Only one district from each region was afforded that opportunity.

The intent of the sessions — titled, “Heeding the Call for Higher Student Achievement: Successes and Challenges of Common Core Implementation” — is to give school board members from around the state greater insight into the adoption of the Common Core; the current state of college and career readiness; an overview of the standards; and an understanding of the successes and challenges in implementing the new standards.

As part of that discussion, leaders and staff from five districts statewide, including Beaver River, were slated to share their stories.

The seminar offered an opportunity for district officials to showcase the hard work that went into implementing Common Core standards, high school Principal Rebecca Dunckel-King said.

“It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever gone to,” middle school Principal Christine LaBare said, noting she got to talk with officials from many other small school districts.

Mrs. Smithling said she was contacted out of the blue by a researcher from the School Boards Association asking if she and her board president would speak at the Lake Placid forum.

“I was surprised, to say the least,” she said.

The Beaver River superintendent said the researcher had read an article she had written on the district’s “common sense approach” to Common Core implementation — although she is not certain whether it was from the school newsletter or her written submission in December to a state legislative panel in Lowville — and was impressed with it.

The district in 2013 had 51 percent show proficiency in state testing, while the state average was only 31 percent, she said.

Mrs. Smithling said she requested that, along with board President Gary Herzig, her three principals — also including elementary school Principal Kimberly Lyman-Wright — and teacher ambassadors Emily Mayer and Michele Ellis also be allowed to participate, and the association conceded.

“I felt it couldn’t be just the two of us, because it’s been a team effort here,” she said.

Five Beaver River teachers received extra Common Core training from the state Education Department, the first to obtain such training in the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services district. They then served as teacher ambassadors to their fellow instructors at Beaver River and other local districts, Mrs. Smithling said.

“We have always looked to our teachers as being the curriculum experts here,” Mrs. Smithling said.

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