Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles on the Common Core standards and their impact.
PLATTSBURGH — More than 100 community members attended a recent panel discussion on the Common Core Learning Standards, with speakers making their concerns clear.
The forum at Mountain Lake PBS studios was the latest in a series of public discussions held statewide by New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King Jr. in an effort to gather feedback from parents, children and educators regarding the new standards.
Other panelists at the event were New York Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Willsboro Central School Superintendent Stephen Broadwell, Beekmantown Middle School Principal Amy Campbell, Chazy High School English teacher Kathryn Brown and Ausable Valley Central School English teacher Michele Dorrey.
The discussion was moderated by “Mountain Lake Journal” host Thom Hallock.
ERRORS IN MATERIAL
Of the audience members who signed up for the chance to speak, seven educators, two parents and one student were randomly chosen to ask questions.
Though a number of the speakers said they appreciated the goals of the Common Core program, a majority of the comments offered stern critiques of what speakers felt were the program’s negative effects.
Educators at the event, some of whom were also parents, focused on the effects and effectiveness of Common Core policies and exams in the classroom.
For St. Regis Mohawk School Principal Sharlee Thomas, concerns about the new standards included spelling and technical errors in Common Core curriculum materials and homework assignments.
“We’re sitting here talking about Common Core standards and about being college and career ready, and the curriculum that we’re being given by New York state is not even up to that standard,” Thomas said, drawing a round of applause from the audience.
‘NO EFFECTIVE ACTION’
King and Tisch offered replies to each of the specific problems and concerns raised at the event.
Throughout the evening, King emphasized that the larger goal of the forums was to gather information in helping the Board of Regents modify and improve the program throughout its seven-year rollout period.
Valerie Butler, a mother of three from Port Kent, argued that the board had spent too much time on discussion and not enough on reformation.
Butler pointed to the number of parents who had already voiced their concerns at similar forums as evidence of the growing need for drastic change in the program.
“I’m tired of being told that you and the Board of Regents are listening to my concerns, and yet I see no effective action,” Butler said.
Along with addressing Butler’s specific concerns, King noted the difference between suggestions to fix the program and requests to halt or eliminate it.
“We are listening to the concerns that we hear, but it doesn’t mean that we are in any way retreating from our conviction that the Common Core is a path to better outcomes for students in New York and across the country,” King said.
One of those students, Peru Central School fifth-grader Kayleigh Jackson, read a speech she had prepared expressing her concerns with the program.
Those concerns ranged from her own frustrations and boredom with her English language arts and mathematics lessons to more general comments on the effects of a larger workload on students’ free time.
“We spend a lot of time learning how to take tests, practicing tests, and you are leaving us no time to have fun and enjoy being a child in school,” Jackson said.
SAME NUMBER OF TESTS
In a separate interview after the forum, King told the Press-Republican he believed the biggest misconception among parents regarding Common Core was that the standards increased the number of tests that students have to take.
“The state tests that we give today are basically the same state tests that we’ve given for the last decade,” King said, explaining that it was the content of the tests that the standards adjusted.
Tomorrow: The portals and who pays.
New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King Jr. encouraged people who wanted to comment on the standards outside of the public forums to visit www.engageny.org. The forum is available to watch on the Mountain Lake PBS website.