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Common Core Task Force Holds Listening Session In Lake Placid

In the wake of fierce debate over the implementation of the Common Core education standards in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a task force to undertake a comprehensive review and present recommendations. WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley was in Lake Placid last night for one of three simultaneous public listening sessions.
The Common Core Task Force is holding listening sessions in 10 regions around the state.  Simultaneous sessions occurred Tuesday evening in the North Country, Central New York and the Mohawk Valley.  Two members of the 15-person task force were in Lake Placid to hear from North Country educators, administrators and parents.  

Few praised Common Core.  Some called for the system to be scrapped.  Most described the system’s faults and its negative impacts on students and teachers.

Parent and teacher Tim Butler told the panelists Common Core is strangling his ability to teach as he focuses on test preparation.   “The tests themselves of course are flawed. Last year I wasn’t supposed to but I read a sixth grade test that was written at a post-graduate level. I know because I did a readability on it. It sickens me that I’m going to be judged on such unfair items.  We should throw out the whole Common Core system and reboot and move on.”

“Good evening my name is Bob Ladouceur. I’m a teacher, a parent, a member of the NYSUT Task Force on the Common Core standards.  I’m hoping that we will definitely start making sure that teachers are involved in this process.  They are they experts. Our governor is not the expert. Business leaders are not the expert.  It’s the teachers who see the kids every day.  They are the ones who should be involved in this process.  Not just one or two. Let’s bring them in in herds to settle this problem and fix it.”

Hi I’m Elizabeth Guglielmi.  I’m a first grade teacher.  I’ve been teaching kindergarten for a few years in the Common Core. The Common Core is not appropriate for those students. It’s not what they need.  It doesn’t match where they’re coming from.  People are not one dimensional and these students coming in are not one dimensional either. The best decisions I’ve made under Common Core are when I try to ignore what I’m supposed to be doing and teach the kids what they actually need. That’s a terrible way for our system to be running.”

Not everyone who testified criticized the Common Core system.  Clarkson University Vice President for External Relations Kelly Chezum:   “Schools like Clarkson find ourselves on the frontline of the effects of an education system that does not prepare enough students in New York State for the challenges of college and work, and especially in the STEM disciplines.  This is why we strongly endorse the Common Core standards and Common Core aligned assessments advocated by the governor. We are at a crossroads and it’s critical that we continue implementing the core standards while making reasonable improvements to insure that everyone has, teachers have access to the professional resources they need, test questions that are age and grade level appropriate and attention to ELL and special need students. We have an opportunity to improve what has been a rocky start.”

This was the third listening session Common Core Task Force member and Sleepy Hollow High School Principal Carol Conklin-Spillane has attended. She is hearing recurring themes in the testimony.   “We’ve clustered them in categories.  Issues about curriculum, issues about assessment and issues with the standards. So our work will be to bring that back with all the research that we’ve done influenced by the public outcry and we’re ready to sit down and do some work and come up with some hard recommendations.”

New York State United Teachers Vice President Catalina Fortina is also a member of the Task Force:   “Teachers want to be in the development of the standards that they are working with. What you hear in the forums is the passion that our educators have about really providing the right type of instruction for our students. What you’re hearing is parents and educators joining forces to say let’s make the assessments really more responsive to teaching and learning.  And it’s about bringing the joy back into the classroom.”

The Common Core Task Force must report back to the governor by early December.


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