Upstate New Yorkers Want State to Dump Common Core

Most comments put on record were from teachers, professors and parents who are fed up with the state’s four-year attempt to install a more rigorous curriculum.

by Kim Smith Dedam, Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y. / November 12, 2015 0

(TNS) -- The Common Core “listening tour” made a stop Tuesday night in Lake Placid — one of about 10 sessions being held throughout New York.

A Task Force charged by the State Education Department is collecting feedback from parents, teachers and school administrators about the federal-based Common Core standards.

Just to Listen

Task Force member Carol Conklin-Spillane, a school administrator from Sleepy Hollow, said they had strict orders “that we just listen.”

And listen they did as about 25 area parents, teachers and college professors weighed in. Of the group, only two spoke with any encouragement about continuing Common Core programs.

One of them was Kelly Chezum, vice president for external relations at Clarkson University.

She described a recent job fair held at the university where employers searched for the level of education necessary in their workforce.

“They need more talent than we can offer,” she said, explaining how students are missing key components of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education) discipline upon college entrance.

Chezum called for state education officials to supply test questions that are age appropriate.

But, she asked, “How will students fare if they are not challenged? How would an employer feel if (a new hire) opted out of a work evaluation?”

Most comments put on record were from teachers, professors and parents who are fed up with the state’s four-year attempt to install a more rigorous curriculum, with high-stakes testing that also measures teacher performance.

'Needs to be Terminated'

Kathryn Brown, a parent and teacher at Chazy Central, said the loss is greater than any gain Common Core meant to deliver.

“We have sacrificed creativity, imagination, experimentation and innovation for a false belief that we will have a well-trained workforce. We have forgotten the purpose for education is far greater than being ready for a career or for college.”

Brown said the Common Core program is fraught with faulty, illegible standards.

“Common Core does not need to be tweaked. It needs to be terminated,” she said.

Local Control

Christy Bezrutczyk, an early childhood educator, has a daughter at Momot Elementary in Plattsburgh.

She pointed to issues the State Council of Superintendents recently raised with testing standards.

“Education standards should be state-developed, not dictated by federal mandates," ,” superintendents said via a letter to lawmakers in Washington. "Local control over curriculum should be maintained to the maximum extent possible.

“Accountability should also be returned to the states, by allowing states to develop their own clear and appropriate accountability standards for schools."

Bezrutczyk said she sees the same problems with incomprehensible education standards at home, particularly when trying to do homework with her child.

“I can’t teach my fourth-grade daughter without help from the Internet,” she said.

“I know the Common Core Task Force is here to reboot the system,” she said, likening the current standards and their endless policy loop to poisoned food.

People don’t continue to eat poisoned food, she said; they stop eating it until the source of the poison is found.

“We are continuing to poison our children on a daily basis.”

'Unfair System'

Tim Butler, a father of three and a fifth-grade teacher at AuSable Valley Central, described how he spent Tuesday teaching his social-studies students about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and writing letters to veterans for Veterans Day.

But that curriculum isn’t part of Common Core, he said. It doesn’t help his class prepare for high-stakes testing, upon which his job performance will be measured.

“It sickens me that I am going to be judged on such an unfair system.”

Malone Federation of Teachers President Nate Hathaway, a teacher and a parent, spelled out how two educators on the Standards Committee had refused to sign off on the Common Core curriculum.

Neither educator, he said, were attached to corporate interests.

“Look into Sandra Stotsky’s statements,” he advised the Task Force.

'No Standardized Child'

An education professor at SUNY Plattsburgh, Dr. Doug Selwyn, told the Task Force flat out: “There is no such thing as a standardized child.”

He said reading and mathematics are steps children take toward something that matters.

“There’s nothing that matters in the Common Core,” he said. “It’s a forced march.”

Selwyn said that when he asked, state officials could not provide him with a definition for “career ready.”

“Bubble sheets (test answer sheets) will not prepare them to live their lives forward.”

While Selwyn agreed with the need for assessment, he charged that any method has to also review life situations that students sometimes face, such as poverty and food insecurity.

“These tests are measuring zip codes, not what’s happening inside the school house.”

He and SUNY Plattsburgh colleague Dr. Mark Beatham, a professor of adolescent education, said they are seeing students steer clear of education and teaching programs even though they love working with children.

That, in part, they said, is what Common Core confusion has wrought on the teaching profession.

December Deadline

Task Force administrators will take all comments to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state education leaders.

They are expected "to come back and work in groups and make very serious recommendations based on all of this input in the area of curriculum, in the area of standards and in the area of assessments,” Conklin-Spillane said.

“We’re supposed to produce something by December,” she said.

Asked afterward if they are hopeful for real reform in this second Common Core review in four years, Selwyn and Beatham were dubious.

"The proof, as they say, is in the pudding," Selwyn said.

©2015 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.