State Legislators Host Public Forum on Common Core, Propose Two Year Moratorium on High Stakes Testing

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

IMG_2566 IMG_2570 IMG_2574Close to 100 Rockland residents showed up on a frigid winter’s night last Thursday to express their concerns at a public forum about the adverse impact the rushed implementation of the controversial Common Core State Standards have had on the county’s children, teachers and school districts.

The forum was hosted by four of Rockland’s state legislators—Senator David Carlucci, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Assemblyman James Skoufis—as part of a continuing effort to address their constituents’ concerns and publicize the Legislature’s efforts to press the State Board of Regents and the Education Commissioner for a two year moratorium on further implementation and high-stakes testing.

Prior to the meeting Assemblywoman Jaffee explained that the idea for the forum grew out of the continuing outpouring of anxiety by the public about the standards themselves, their botched roll-out, the devastating effect of high-stakes testing on student and teacher evaluations and morale, and the as yet unanswered questions about the security of data collection by third party inBloom. She, along with her fellow legislators, fully supports the joint Legislative call for a two year moratorium on any further implementation and high-stakes testing in order to give educators and the State Education Department more time to study and evaluate what standards and what curriculum would really work for New York.

Assemblyman Skoufis added that if the Board of Regents does not agree to impose a moratorium, then the Legislature is prepared to pass a bill to instate one. Zebrowski noted that curriculum should not be legislated or imposed “top down;” ideally it must arise out of a collaborative process between the SED and local districts and remain responsive to the input of the entire community.

Many parents, teachers and PTA representatives spoke or submitted written comments overwhelmingly criticizing the poorly planned implementation both of the standards and of the accompanying EngageNY curriculum changes. They noted that teachers were ill-prepared to teach the new material, often receiving curriculum modules late into the school year. Many also denounced the curriculum itself as often too inappropriate for the age level of the students, or simply too convoluted even for the adults to understand. Several parents cited the frustration of trying to help their first or second grade children with what should have been simple arithmetic, but which, under the new modules, had turned into an incomprehensible maze of directives.

The speakers also attacked the concept of high-stakes testing, particularly when teacher evaluations are being linked to standards and learning methods they have not yet been trained to teach. Parents also spoke about their children’s frustrations and diminishing morale in the face of the changes, and how their kids have started to hate going to school. Several members of the audience also addressed the continuing concern about the current requirements for student data collection and the lack of privacy safeguards.

Some parents spoke out against the implementation of any common standards at all, asserting that standards and curriculum should only be locally controlled. Others, as well as the legislators, supported the idea of some sort of uniform standards, but not at the expense of the students’ quality of education. Students with special needs, as well as academically gifted students, were also mentioned as a population whose needs have been ignored by the concept of uniformity.

The legislators concluded by thanking all the participants for their input and encouraging their constituents to continue to ask questions and give feedback. In closing they all emphasized that a moratorium does not mean a simple postponement; it is a freeze on any further action so that all educators, parents and elected officials can have the time to look at the issues and then decide whether New York should go forward with the Common Core as is, or in some sort of modified format, or not at all.

Common Core Update—Breaking News

Just days after local legislators held a public forum on common core issues, including a discussion about the Legislature’s push for a moratorium on common core implementation, the state Board of Regents announced that it will adopt several measures that will delay the impact of Common Core-related state assessments on educators and students, and reduce the level of local school district testing associated with the new teacher evaluation law and higher standards for teaching and learning. Highlights include:

A five year extension of the mandatory common core based graduation requirements; the first class to be held to the higher graduation standards will be in 2022, a full 12 years after the initial adoption of common core.

Greater teacher supports, training, and funding for training so that educators are adequately prepared to teach to the higher standards.

Two year delay of the link to high stakes testing for teacher evaluations, in order to give the teachers additional time to adapt to the new curriculum.

Delayed launch of the data dashboards related to inBloom to allow SED to work with legislators to address concerns about data security and third party providers used by the State and districts.

It is to be noted that implementation of the standards themselves has not been rescinded; most educators still believe that the higher standards are necessary to ensure global competitiveness for future New York graduates.