Common Core Criticism Continues In Westchester

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WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – The New York State Board of Regents remains silent, three months after a trio of State Assembly members sent a letter, imploring them to slow down the implementation of the new Common Core Learning Standards in schools.

In October, Amy Paulin (D-88th District), Thomas J. Abinanti (D-92nd) and David Buchwald (D-93rd) sent a letter to Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., warning that the state wasn’t ready for the new mandates.

Buchwald said he and the Assembly was promised a response months ago from the Board of Regents, but so far, have received nothing. With four spots set to open on the board next year, Buchwald said that the Assembly would factor responsiveness into their assessment of future appointments.

“We were told we’d get a response, but haven’t gotten one back still,” he said. “In the state legislature, we ultimately have approval over new appointments to the Board of Regents. One of the criteria we’ll take into account is [candidate’s] accessibility to be willing to respond to the public.”

According to the state’s assessment, which tested third through eighth graders for proficiency in math and English language arts, 41 percent of Westchester County students were at grade level in English language arts and 40 percent of county students were proficient in math.

Statewide, the results were even lower, with just 31 percent of students meeting or exceeding proficiency standards in both the ELA and math standard.

The Assembly members believe that the new standards are doing more harm than good for students, and the pressure that they face during assessments is forcing them to crack, many times leading to tears and even worse scores.

“We’re concerned that the students are getting very upset and that they’re getting upset over a test that doesn’t even reflect their ability,” Paulin said. “The tests don’t seem to measure what they claim to measure. Within my districts, we’ve done poorly on tests, but have a lifetime of success. Children are being put through emotional trauma for something that’s inaccurate.”

Outside of administrators and elected officials, the new Common Core Standards have also drawn the ire of parents. Most agree that the tests were implemented too quickly, and are frustrated at seeing districts slash budgets while increasing pressure on children.

“At Yonkers, we've had cuts for guidance counselors, our psychologist, our social workers, our peer support, art, music, library, everything has been decimated," said Kevin Clifford, a Dobbs Ferry parent and teacher in Yonkers Public Schools said to King at a public forum in Port Chester. "Yet, you want our students to meet the same standards as everyone else. I tell you, that is not fair. That is not right. That is not just."

Buchwald noted that there are core inconsistencies and inequities with the new tests. Teachers don’t have access to the results of specific questions or subjects, they only know what the final grade is. This limits the amount of feedback for teachers and administrators alike, who have only basic information available for evaluations.

Ultimately, he added, it’s most important to foster a love of learning in students, so they’re able to contribute to the community as adults.

“When children come through our public school system, one of the most important things they should have is a curiosity about the world and a skill set that encourages them to want to find the answers, he said. “Not because there’s a test at the end of the year, because these are really interesting things to explore.

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Comments (9)

There is nothing wrong with the common core set of curriculum standards. The noise published about teachers and students being under stress is mostly just that -- noise. But the source of the noise is the way in which the common core curriculum and associated changes have been deployed. Insisting that in the first year of adoption all aspects of measurement (testing), teacher assessment, and the full breadth of common core curriculum be adopted is absurd. This kind of deployment is called a "big bang" approach and in this instance, it is blowing up. In Districts that already had high standards and comprehensive curricula, the "fall" in test results was nowhere near as bad as the average district. But if you look at the under-performing districts, they continue to under-perform. Why? Well, because just changing the standard against which performance is measured fixes nothing. These districts need time and funding to train their teachers on the new curriculum, prepare lesson plans, and actually get the kids up to speed. And this isn't something that can be done in one year as Gov Cuomo proposed and the entire NYS education establishment supported when pursuing race to the top funds. Well, they got the funds ($750million), but they sure weren't used to get common core effectively in place.

Most of the trauma I hear is from the teachers. In many cases the teachers are complaining to their 10 year old students -- which is a sad commentary on the lack of professionalism and mental maturity of some of the teachers. Frankly, the students should not even know that there is a new standard called Common Core. It should be transparent to them.

Furthermore, this is an issue that is almost exclusively domestic in nature. US Governors spearheaded the effort to develop common standards (not a common curriculum as many people mistakenly call it) while US university research confirmed that students are not entering their freshman college year adequately propared and many students need to take remedial classes and as a result graduate in 5 years rather than 4.

The academic debate of whether or not this is the right thing to do was settled a long time ago. While you may not agree with the way its being implemented it is highly supported by the educational community.

If you are really upset that your child was a 90% student last year and is now an 80% student you are foolishly concerning yourself with the wrong end of the debate.

Spot On!!!

Well, I am totally against this implementation of the new Common Core Standards. I have been a completely involved parent with their education since nursery school. They are now a 5th grader and a 3rd grader and we STILL do homework together each and every night. On time off, I try to sneak in educational lessons through fun activities. Shopping and cooking and such. However, the new standards are completely insane. My kids are absolutely traumatized by the upcoming state exams, homework that takes hours to complete, work packets to bring home and complete on weekends and school breaks, spending too little time on topics in class so that they cannot possibly have a thorough understanding of the concept being taught, and multi step multi computational math and ELA questions they have no idea how to answer or compute. Their frustration level is off the meter. And so is mine. I have decided to have my kids REFUSE to take the state exams. Please don’t confuse Refuse with Opt-Out. There is no provision to Opt Out, but a “refusal” is allowed. Refusing the state exams has NO negative impact for the child at all. They are not considered having “failed” the exam, rather they will receive a final score of 999 reported to the local level, with an achievement code of 96, indicating refusal, and will not move to level 2 of the SIRS. Level 2 of the SIRS is from where they gather the data to report to inBloom (and this data mining is a whole separate issue, so please don’t get me started.) These students will be considered to have "no valid test score" and will be counted as not tested in verification reports and for accountability calculations. State Exams have no bearing on being promoted up a grade. No bearing on their report card. No bearing on whether or not they need any type of special services be it advanced classes or interventional type of classes. And clearly it is a VERY poor measurement of the child’s knowledge. 60% of students fail. If any business had a 60% failure rate, would they still be operating in the same way??? It really is meaningless. And why should I put my kids through the stress when the test is meaningless. State Exams DO have meaning for some school districts where schools are selective. In White Plains, there is no choice which middle school or high school you go to, so for us here, again, the State Exams do not mater. But don’t take my word for it. All the facts are out there to find for yourselves. Most parents do not know you can have your child refuse the state exams. Look into it.

personally, i think the changes will be very helpful to my kids. i feel like my 3 kids are not challenged enough and i welcome the higher standards. i have actually been researching moving to other school districts that have stronger academic programs.

While I totally understand your point we are also falling further and further behind other countries in many areas such as math and science. As a result our children do not have the skills to fill highly technical jobs which are more and more of what you will find out on the job market today so they are filled outside of the country when they move the work or in the US but by foreigners. We have to wake up, the system IS broke but we have to find a much better balance then the extremes that they have gone to now.

More than just jobs in the math and science fields are going to foreign countries. I call customer service for any of my accounts and I have to speak to someone in India. The reason for hiring foreigners is because they're cheaper. Americans are greedy and want to cut costs as much as they possibly can. The rich are the reason why no one can even afford to live in this state, let alone this country.

The system wasn't broken, but it is now. We need to stop comparing ourselves to other countries, and we need to start hiring US citizens, not illegal aliens and not people in other countries. But we all know that that will never happen because all these companies care about is padding their pockets. Companies should be charged large fines for outsourcing. It's taking jobs away from Americans.

We're not Japan, we're not China, we're not Switzerland, we're not Russia, we're not Spain. We are the United States of America. And we are New Yorkers, pushing our children to their breaking point for absolutely no reason. Our children learn at different paces, and for all of them to be forced to learn at a pace that they cannot adjust to is not right. And we're the only state doing this. I'm fed up with the New York State school system. My 5th grader shouldn't be learning things that are normally learned in 9th grade. Put children in advanced classes at younger grades!! You cannot put them all in the same category, and you cannot compare them to children of other countries. Regardless of whether or not we "catch up" to them, American companies will continue to outsource because it's cheaper. So why do we even need to waste our time if the government is going to do nothing about it? Especially since we all know that every government official is receiving kickbacks for allowing American companies to do all the things they do.

I'm against the Common Core Curriculum and most of the parents I know are against it. These are the types of issues that residents of the state should be made aware of, and should be allowed to vote on, before they are implemented. It's our lives, its our kids, and its our right.

You obviously don't work in the business world it is a global economy and a global business world. Yes some jobs are going because it's cheaper but many can't be filled because WE IN THE USA do not have the skills. You are misguided and not sufficiently informed if you think our education program was good enough because they aren't. As I said there is a better balance then there is now in my opinion but what we had was not working.

I don't understand why they are doing this to our children at all. My daughter is in 5th grade, learning stuff I learned as a Freshman in high school. All I have to say to the State Department of Education is - "WE'RE NOT F@#@ING CHINA!!!" We should not be putting this much pressure on our children. I'm getting tired of my son telling me hates school and hates doing homework and seeing my daughter get frustrated to the point of throwing stuff while doing her homework. They way the curriculum was before was perfectly fine. The pace was perfect for our kids. It's like the old saying - "If it's not broke, don't fix it." The system wasn't broken, so why are you destroying it? I can understand implementing a curriculum for students who are more advanced than other kids in their grade, but trying to put all these kids in the same category is just ridiculous and absurd. New York is the only state that has a Regents Exam that the children need to pass in order to graduate high school. No other state uses these tests so why are we? New York is no better than any other state so why is the Department of Education making our children's education so much more difficult? As a parent of young children in this state, I'd rather move out of the state and have my children go to school elsewhere than keep them in the New York state school system.