Todd Feltman: Letter to the New York Times Editor on the Common Core!

Dear Commons Community,

Todd Feltman, a graduate of our PhD Program in Urban Education in 2013 had a letter  (see below) published to the editor of the New York Times in today’s edition.  His comments are right on!



To the Editor:

Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes” (front page, June 15) focused on a boy’s viewpoint. Teachers must actively listen to students to find out what is happening in their minds about school learning. It is unacceptable that Chrispin Alcindor at 9 feels like a failure and that his future depends on two state tests.

His teacher, Trisha Matthew, sounds like a practical, dedicated and personable teacher who is doing her utmost to support student engagement and achievement.

If the Common Core is here to stay, the material to meet the standards must be taught in incremental steps, acknowledging the learning styles of our students. Let this article be a reminder that teachers must continue to build on academic strengths and focus on vulnerabilities in a supportive and professional manner.

Hope has arrived, since there is finally a dedicated chancellor who cares deeply about the academic and emotional well-being of the 1.1 million students in the New York City public school system.

New York, June 16, 2014

The writer is an elementary and middle school literacy achievement coach, New York City Department of Education.


  1. We were happy to see that the New York Times recently printed out our comments on Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom.

    Posted in New York Times comments 6/17/2014: Colorful Classroom but…

    ‘Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom’ article is of great interest but misses an important point; no mention of the potential for confusing ABC pictures. It is a nearly an impossible task for Latino kindergartners to find a common beginning sound from an image with two different names: ‘B’ is for BEAR/oso. As a retired LA kindergarten teacher, I find it amusing that the only way for Latino kindergartners (not yet fluent in English) to reach the ABC tool is through English only pictures (‘A’ is for APPLE/manzana).

    There exists an actual non-fit between kindergartners from Spanish speaking homes and English-only picture clues. For it will take a while for kindergartners to consistently identify English images and their beginning sounds. Until then, the ABC reading tools remain out of reach and the ‘catch-up’ mode begins.

    However, user-friendly picture clues are available. Spanish and English are similar languages and share at least 19 letter sounds-D, B, M, L, etc.: ‘B’ is for BICYCLE/bicicleta is an uncomplicated example. Students can then consistently identify pictures in either English or Spanish. These easy to recall picture names support the ABC reading tool. With pictures based on shared letter sounds, Latino kindergartners can stay even with their native English speaking peers and without delay move right into sight word recollection.


    Estelle Leisy
    Phonics for Latinos – ABCs in Common

  2. Isn’t it too soon to expect a three year old Latino from a Spanish speaking home to know the difference between English and Spanish? Ambiguous images such as Apple/Manzana handicap progress. ABC signs, B is for Bear/Oso etc., are only useful if the child recognizes English and Spanish. B is for Bicycle/Bicicleta (cognates) serves the same purpose without delays. The sooner Pre-K’s are exposed to unambiguous ABC sound clues, the faster they will read. Confusion leads to a lack of confidence which is an obstacle.


    Estelle Leisy
    Phonics for Latinos – ABCs in Common