Bronx teacher chosen for Gov’s panel

The Bronx has its own advocate for Common Core teaching.

Nick Lawrence, 8th grade social studies teacher at the East Bronx Academy for the Future, has been appointed by Gov. Cuomo to his Common Core Implementation Panel.

The 11-member panel — including teachers, administrators, legislators, and a parent — will meet and offer recommendations about the roll-out of the common core standards.

The new standards have been controversial across the nation and in New York, where the new tests had more students failing than last year.

But despite the critics, Lawrence is a big fan of the new standards.

“My feelings are based on how its improved my instruction,” he said.

While Lawrence said the new standards are not perfect, he said the Common Core, which emphasizes critical thinking and literacy across disciplines, has created better discussions among teachers about best practices.

“The Common Core is moving the conversation to what good writing really is; what good reading really is,” he said.

Lawrence said before the Common Core, social studies teachers were not given much instruction about how to teach reading and writing because the focus was on content delivery.

He also hopes the new teacher evaluations associated with the Common Core will be more helpful than those in the past.

“I think the primary reason to give assessments is to inform instruction,” he said, adding that state exams often don’t give teachers clear feedback.

In addition to teaching social studies and heading the department, the 30-year-old Lawrence teaches a college preparatory elective, does research with a former professor, attends conferences and is involved in Educators 4 Excellence, a teacher organization that seeks to influence education policy.

It was because of his involvement in Educators 4 Excellence that Lawrence was chosen for the panel. The governor’s office called the executive director of the organization, who recommended Lawrence.

“It was out of the blue,” Lawrence said of the call he got from the governor’s office.

Although Lawrence says he wants the Common Core standards to be implemented as soon as possible, he also says there needs to be a conversation about what “ASAP” means in this context in order for the standards to be successful.

He said that he supports the common core in general, but will go into the panel meetings open minded about specifics.

“The emphasis should be about teacher support and making sure the kids are supported as well,” he said about the panel’s discussions. “If the conversation starts that way and stays that way, then whatever comes out of it will be beneficial to New York.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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