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The Telegram
  • Common Core uproar: Slow it down

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  • Teacher Kelly Runninger thinks Common Core is great.
    “It’s basically the curriculum that we should be using to teach,” said the Remsen Central School District fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade math teacher.
    “I feel, like so many others, that it just needs to be slowed down,” Runninger said. “It’s so intense that sometimes it affects my teaching because I feel like I’m always rushing to get everything done, and that in turn affects my students.”
    But everyone has a different opinion about the more rigorous education standards, implementation for which began last school year for grades three through eight to increase students’ college and career readiness.
    In the past month parents, educators and advocacy groups statewide have been voicing their opinions and concerns.
    While some are in favor, others are calling for the resignation of state Education Commissioner John King Jr., and still others want a moratorium.
    “Unless there is a course correction, the entire system may implode,” said Carl Korn, spokesman for the New York State Union of Teachers. “What the commissioner can’t or won’t hear is the tremendous frustration by parents and teachers over the rocky implementation of the Common Core and the over-emphasis on standardized testing.”
    NYSUT and the Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group, are calling for a moratorium on the “high-stakes” consequences for students and teachers as a result of the standardized tests and to ensure that schools have the time and support needed to fix “deficiencies” in the implementation, according to a news release.
    One group on Facebook, called Common Core Don’t Go Protest Day, is calling for students statewide to stay home from school Nov. 18 in protest.
    King and the state Board of Regents responded to some of the criticism last week in a letter to superintendents statewide, proposing the elimination of some standardized tests for eighth-graders, looking at reducing tests for English language learners and for students with disabilities, as well as making funding available to help schools implement testing locally.
    “The Regents and the department will continue to look for ways to reduce testing that is not needed without sacrificing the valuable information assessments provide,” King told superintendents in more than 700 school districts. “We welcome your input.”
    Charles Chafee, Waterville Central School District superintendent, said he agrees with the standards, but slowing it down might be a good idea.
    “I also would support a transition phase where we still implement the process as it’s scheduled to be implemented, but take away worry teachers might have about composite scores being used against them,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - The results from June’s testing, which included the Common Core standards, were used in teacher and principals’ annual evaluations as well as student growth scores — though it was noted that the scores are creating a new baseline from which to start growing.
    “The increased standards are where we need to go,” Chafee said. “Teaching is an art and at this point they haven’t really had a chance to grasp the material. … We’re perfectionists. We want what’s best for our kids.”
    Because of all the confusion and differing ideas, area residents originally were given an opportunity to voice their opinions with the Education Commissioner at a forum, one of five statewide, set for Oct. 30 in New Hartford.
    The forums, sponsored by the New York State PTA, were canceled by King following the first, which he said was “co-opted by special interests.”
    After much backlash, including a call for his resignation from the New York State Allies for Public Education, King decided to schedule new forums through the state Board of Regents.
    Eight of the 12 district forums were scheduled, with the first having taken place Oct. 24 in Albany and the second Monday night in Westchester, though none are scheduled locally.
    Officials say communication is key.
    “I think that we need to continue with the assessment process,” said Howard Mettelman, Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES superintendent. “In addition to that, we need to make sure that people are aware of what it means and how it’s being used.”
    Many local districts are doing just that, offering parent nights to answer questions.
    “I think it needs much more information and time for people to understand what it is and for us to be able to use the data to make sure students are getting the academic intervention they need,” Mettelman said.
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