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Syracuse teachers prep for new standards as NYSUT lashes out

As a union representing teachers called for the state education commissioner's removal, more than 650 teachers in Syracuse attended a professional development academy this weekend.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- More than 650 teachers attended a professional development academy for the Syracuse City School District on Saturday.

Understanding the Common Core learning standards was a big part of the workshop, as well as integrating technology into the classroom and classroom management strategies.

Beth Squire has been teaching for 11 years. She believes the Common Core's purpose is to give all children, regardless of their zip code, access to an excellent education.

"We had kids that couldn't read at the beginning of the year and they've jumped up to 20 words a minute which is great for them," said Squire, a teacher in the Syracuse City School District.

Squire teaches English as a Second Language. She says adjusting her teaching to meet the common core standards hasn't been easy. But she thinks it will benefit students in the long-run.

"Our standards are so much higher today then they used to be. But we're here on Saturday taking workshops, we're staying late after school, meeting early in the morning, and we want them to succeed," said Squire.

The transition has been a challenge for many teachers, students, and parents, who are struggling to keep up with evolving lesson plans.

"We have reallocated funding to make sure teachers are armed with strategies and skills to go into the classroom and make sure students are learning," said Sharon Contreras, Superintendent of Syracuse City School District.

After many districts scored a low grade on standardized testing last year, Syracuse teachers say they've been preparing all year to meet the standards. When state tests roll around this year, they believe their students are prepared to score those higher marks.

"Now we know what is expected of them. We've been given more guidance, new programs and more technology this year to help us with it," said Squire.

"You can see from the number of teachers here, our teachers are dedicated to the Syracuse City School District students and we are just going to continue to get better," said Contreras.

The district says its goal is to use the Common Core to prepare students for the classroom, while preparing them for real life. 

An intense focus on standardized testing has fueled controversy surrounding New York's implementation of the education strategy. The outcry from parents and teachers opposed to the plan has led to protests in Albany.

The New York State United Teachers Board of Directors approved a resolution on Saturday declaring: "no confidence in the policies of the Commissioner of Education and calls for the New York State Commissioner of Education's removal by the New York State Board of Regents."

The union's board unanimously withdrew support for the Common Core standards, demanding that the state's education department revise their implementation of the plan. The group also wants a three-year moratorium on "high-stakes consequences from standardized testing."
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