NEW HARTFORD — While some educators and legislators have vocalized their frustrations with the implementation of the Common Core curriculum in New York state classrooms, the testimony of a West Canada Valley student during a recent education forum drew attention to another issue with the standards.
Michael Jacobs-Mijolovic, an eighth-grader, addressed state legislators during the Nov. 25 forum at New Hartford BOCES Learning Center. Jacobs-Mijolovic introduced himself as someone who had been diagnosed with autism, and that according to the “experts,” he was told he would never be able to talk, among other things.
Speaking clearly and poised before the panel, Jacobs-Mijolovic talked about how “experts” have also put the Common Core curriculum in place. He said his favorite subject is history, and has ambitions to be a World War II professor someday. He said, however, he is discouraged if this is the future of education.
“I am not a robot. My classmates are not robots, and we should not be tested as we if we are,” he said.
State Assemblyman Al Graf, R-Holbrook, commended Jacobs-Mijolovic on addressing the forum.
Jacobs-Mijolovic was asked by the panel if he’s noticed a difference in his school from last year to this year. “The teachers seem more stressed out than usual,” he said.
Jacobs-Mijolovic, who has opted out of the Common Core, commented on the testing.
“It’s longer and more stressful, and they give us less time to do more work,” he said, noting they have 50 to 60 questions to answer, about 20 to 30 more questions then before.
Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, and Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, joined the forum’s panel on Nov. 25, which was led by Graf and Assemblyman Ed Ra, R-Franklin Square. Graf and Ra have been conducting similar forums around the state over the past six weeks to hear from educators, parents, students and community members about their thoughts on the Common Core curriculum.
Several of spoke during the forum, including parents and educators, read from written statements, like Jacobs-Mijolovic, which will be included in an official report to be released when the forums conclude.
Some legislators are looking at some kind of reform of these standards, including Graf who, along with 24 other legislators, put in a bill in June to withdraw New York from the Common Core curriculum and Race to the Top initiative. Both Butler and Tenney have co-sponsored the bill.
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, sent a Nov. 15 letter to state Education Commissioner John King, Jr. calling for the commissioner to reconsider standards placed on students with special needs.
“New York has long been noted for having an outstanding educational system for students with disabilities and special needs, but judging from some comments I’ve received from parents of special needs students, the current system of testing is simply too strenuous for many of these students,” Brindisi wrote. “Currently, only a very small number of special needs students can be exempted from these requirements, and I think that needs to change, keeping in mind the federal requirements for students with disabilities.”
Page 2 of 2 - Brindisi also called for the requirements for pre-kindergarten through second grade students to be reconsidered.
The forums are taking place in response to King canceling town hall meetings with the public after he received criticism about the Common Core.
“Government and its leaders should never shy away from tough conversations like these, because they present opportunities to improve the services we provide to New Yorkers,” said Butler, in a news release. “[Tenney] and I will take the feedback we gather today back to Albany so we can work to alleviate the problems presented by Common Core and improve education for New York’s kids.”
“No matter how well-intentioned the new standardized testing scheme was, it failed to take into consideration the human side of education,” said Ra, ranking minority member on the Assembly Committee on Education, in a news release. “Rather than start the school year renewed and recharged, ready for the challenge of a new year, our children and teachers are instead discouraged and anxious about tests and standards.”
The next forum is scheduled for Dec. 3 in Lowville.