The movement to put the brakes on the national education standards known as the Common Core is gaining momentum across New York State.
Some are calling for a one-year delay while others want a two-year hold on using Common Core-based tests to evaluate teachers and place students. And there are those on the fringe calling for more drastic measures including completely eliminating the tests or withdrawing New York entirely from the standards.
Dr. Carol Burris is principal of Southside High in Rockville Centre. She lays blame on State Education Commissioner John King, who has taken flack from parents and teachers around the state during a series of visits this year. “The commissioner is not supposed to be the superintendent of every school. Local districts should be allowed to create their own teacher evaluation systems, dependent upon local needs. They should not have to include growth scores from state tests if they choose not to. I don't know anyone who sits back and says 'wow this has been a success' - I think it's been a huge waste of taxpayer money, and i think it's caused more - chaos - to a certain extent, especially in some schools than a need to have existed.”
New York State Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley, is on the same page: he posted a YouTube video in late January in which he challenged King. “We're in a tax cap world, those of us outside of New York City. That tax cap world does not give school districts the time and the energy, much less the money, to spend on other things. ”
In the Hudson Valley, close to 100 people gathered at Rockland Community College Thursday to urge state lawmakers to reject the Common Core. Parents who spoke at the gathering stressed that students, especially those with special needs, are suffering under it. Capital Region Democrat Phil Steck of the Assembly explains why he and his colleagues are pushing for a two-year Common Core delay. “At present, the school districts are under tremendous financial pressure, and to add to that, the requirements of dealing with implementing the Common Core is not sustainable. It's import too, that the Common Core be properly thought out in its implementation, which hasn't been done. Some of the information is available from the state, some isn't. And until it's all available and in place, and the State Education Department is prepared to provide our local schools with the tools to put this program in properly, we're not ready to go forward.”
This spring, some parents are expected to “opt out” – asking that their child not take the test. In response, some school districts are prepared to tell teachers to make those students sit and stare at their desks. In the Comsewogue School District on Long Island’s North Shore, assistant superintendent Jennifer Reph says they don’t do “sit and stare.” "...parents are unhappy and concerned for their child’s well-being ... I don’t think that it’s realistic to expect that a third-grader, for example, is going to be able to sit for several hours without making any sounds or distractions."
NYSUT president Dick Iannuzzi, whose union passed a no-confidence vote in King, weighs in. "‘Sit and stare’ is a symptom of a very aggressive disease which is over-testing and testing of material that students simply have not been appropriately prepared for."
Assemblyman Steck adds the concept of Common Core is not “bad” or “wrong.” "There's a lot of good in what they're proposing in the Common Core, but the testing seems to be testing for it's own sake, and doesn't really accomplish much."
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who believes a moratorium would be “premature,” has indicated he intends to appoint a panel to address any flaws in Common Core. The State Education Department did not respond to a request for comment.