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Underneath the shouting, a hum about curriculum standards

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wasn’t completely wrong when he said tonight’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting had met its goal of promoting conversation about curriculum standards.

The meeting was pushed off course within minutes when protesters aligned with the Occupy movement shouted down Walcott and the standards’ architect, David Coleman. Walcott sped the dissolution into small-group sessions rather than try to talk over the nearly 200 protesters.

Most protesters stayed in the auditorium, but about three dozen parents and teachers followed Walcott and Coleman upstairs for workshops about the new standards, known as the Common Core.

Speaking to close to 20 attendees in a third-floor classroom, Coleman explained that the Common Core, which has been adopted by 25 states since 2009, is meant to “make our kids competitive within this country and outside of it, and to close the gap between high school and college.”

The development of the standards, he said, “was a vast process where thousands of teachers and parents were involved around a shared question of what is the evidence for college and career readiness, and based on that, what are the standards that most determine that.”

Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, whose two children attend Manhattan’s P.S. 199, said she came to the event because she wanted to learn more about how the Common Core would affect her children and was blindsided by the protest.

“I was really surprised because I thought it was going to be a simple, easy discussion about Common Core,” she said. “It took me an hour to get here and I was very afraid I was going to walk out without getting information.”

Rosie Frascella, a 12th-grade English teacher at the International High School at Prospect Heights who participated in the protest, lambasted high-stakes test during her turn at the “people’s mic.”

Later, speaking to reporters, she said she saw promise in the new standards but skipped the sessions about them because she didn’t think they would solve the problems she faces.

“I am very happy to talk about Common Core standards, but before I want to talk about Common Core standards I want a moratorium on the high-stakes testing. You can’t have two types of standards,” Frascella said. “I have to choke my curriculum to do test prep for my students. I would love just to have Common Core standards. That would make me really happy.”