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.