Written by Rich Forestano, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:00
During a lively forum on Nov. 13, parents, teachers, taxpayers and students from Mineola and other local towns took State Education Commissioner John King and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to task over the “common core” standards, venting their concerns and outrage about testing, evaluations and student privacy.
State Senator Jack Martins of the 7th Senate District moderated the talk.
Martins’ team selected 38 questions out of 250 submitted by interested parties. The primary concerns stemmed from four main issues: application of the standards, teacher evaluations, testing and student privacy.
Parents angrily questioned the one-size-fits-all approach that seems to underlie the standards—the “common” in common core. One of the questions tailored to those concerns was submitted by Michelle Kiasermann, a member of the executive committee of the Garden City PTA-Parent Association.
“Communities with high performing school districts that receive no Race to the Top funds, minimal state aid, and negligible e-rate funding are required to divert limited resources to a compliance-driven agenda,” she stated. “Why aren’t there mechanisms in place to recognize and give credit, (even if credit is in the form of opting out), to those who have successful models and performance in place such as Garden City?”
King said the alternate assessment design is “challenging,” acknowledging that devising one test to serve all levels is a tall task. State reps are discussing possible remedies.
“What the education department tried to do with an alternate assessment, based on feedback from educators around the state, was for every standard to have a range of [educational] paths,” he said.
A second key issue was teacher evaluations. Twenty percent of a teacher’s or principal’s rating is linked to state test scores. The state reported a 40 percent drop in test scores of third- through eighth-grade in the new roll-out of the English and math curriculum.
Cheers and jeers were the norm, and especially rose when Westbury Teachers Association Christine Corbett stepped up to discuss students losing interest in school because of rigid testing regime.
Corbett was curious as to when it became “sound to ignore the whole child in an effort for students to be college and career ready in elementary school?”
“When we talk about college and career readiness, we’re not just talking about the skills in math and English,” said King. “In all the work we do, our emphasis is to address the needs of the whole child.”
Corbett argued that the common core roll-out should have been started from the beginning, not in third grade, and that it was rushed.
The final topic of the forum focused on student privacy, specifically inBloom, a nonprofit organization the state is using to mine student testing data and personal information. Manhasset Data Coordinator Colleen Leon questioned why student data would still be provided to inBloom even if a district did not participate in Race To The Top, a federal grant program to spur innovation and reforms in schools.
“The only use of data that is allowed is data that is being used to provide a service,” King said. “Now, aggregate data will be available through the portal. A district will be able to see the performance of other students in other districts, but not students’ names.”
Dr. Robert Feirsen, superintendent of Garden City Public Schools was one of the attendees at the forum and as such, saw it more as an outlet for parents to get their collective points across than anything else.
“Commissioner King heard a wide variety of questions and comments that addressed attendee’s concerns about the implementation of the Common Core, APPR, Race to the Top, NYS testing, and data collection,” Dr. Feirsen noted. “I don’t think any new ground was broken in the forum, although people had a terrific opportunity to express their points of view.”
- Dave Gil de Rubio contributed to this story