Anton Community Newspapers  •  132 East 2nd Street  •  Mineola, NY 11501  •  Phone: 516-747-8282  •  FAX: 516-742-5867

Passions High At Common Core Forum

Over the past few decades, Long Island parents and students have had to come to terms with various changes in both curriculum and standardized testing procedures dictated by the New York State Education Department. But none of these changes has caused such vocal and wide-spread outrage from both parents and educators as the implementation of the new Common Core standards and the high-stakes testing that accompanies them.  

 

While the controversy over Common Core is multi-dimensional, ranging from concerns about the swift implementation of the program, the appropriateness of the curriculum and the loss of local autonomy, the Dec. 11 forum, sponsored and moderated by New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, focused specifically on the mandated testing regiment associated with Common Core, its effect on our students and the challenges our local school district teachers and administrators now face.

 

A capacity crowd filled the main chamber of Glen Cove City Hall to hear a panel of experts speak on the topic and to have an opportunity to have their voices heard and their questions answered. Speaking at the forum were Maria Rianna, Superintendent of Schools for the Glen Cove School District,  Dr. Arnold Dodge, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Administration at LIU Post, and Jeanette Deutermann, parent, former teacher, co-founder of the group New York State Allies for Education and founder and administrator of the Facebook page, “Long Island Opt-out Info.”  

 

Rianna spoke eloquently about the practical challenges now facing school districts. Rianna is not necessarily against the concept of Common Core standards and, in fact, feels that some of the curriculum changes are positive ones, especially those that endeavor to develop critical thinking skills; however, she firmly stated that “the over-reliance on state testing as a single measure of student progress is decimating the educational experience.”  

 

Additionally, the new mandate linking teachers’ performance reviews to their students’ performance on the assessments has led to an even further increase in the number of tests being administered and the amount of class time being devoted to test preparation. 

“Under the former testing mandates,” said Rianna, “out of 180 school days approximately 140 were actual instruction days and the remaining were devoted to testing and test preparation. Now the number of school days devoted to testing and test preparation has significantly increased.”  Districts are further pressured with the constant threat of the loss of state aid should the district not measure up to the new standards.

 

Dr. Dodge spoke next, saying, “We are all here with the common interest in what’s good for our kids. This is not.” His anger with the new testing mandates was perfectly clear. “This is an awful testing regime on both the state and national level,” said Dodge. 

“This is the old testing regime on steroids and the children are our tenderest victims.”  

 

Dodge has traveled extensively to study educational systems worldwide and wants no one to be fooled by “studies” suggesting that American students are lagging behind by comparing the performance of our students to those in other countries such as Finland. 

Such studies are outright “fraud,” said Dodge, “based on bad science.”  

“What’s the magic in Finland?” he asked. In Finland there is only a 4 percent poverty rate, no standardized testing, teaching is one of the most revered professions and teachers are given full autonomy over the curriculum.  In addition, the population is much smaller and homogeneous. He questioned, “How does this in any way compare to a country such as ours, so vast and diverse?”  

 

Dodge urged parents to speak up and take a stand against what he called the developmentally inappropriate standards and testing regimes that are so damaging to our children.

 

Jeanette Deutermann, the final speaker, became involved in the opt-out movement, refusing to allow her children to be subjected to inappropriate testing,  when her own son, who formerly loved school, was starting to complain of stomach aches and headaches on the days leading up to the tests. Deutermann agreed that what we all want for our students is a good education and good standards, but she asked the audience, “What price are we willing to pay?”  

 

Deutermann’s remark that third-graders now spend more time taking mandated state assessments than graduate students spend taking the MCATs or the bar exams drew a collective gasp from the audience. Deutermann has received literally hundreds of emails from parents and teachers describing how the new mandated testing has negatively affected children, including reports of hysterical crying,  throwing up before the test, throwing up on the test, and even the soiling of underpants.  One teacher reported that one child in her class started to cry, a second child started to cry and soon her entire class was crying uncontrollably.   

 

Furthermore, in many districts, students who did not do well on the assessments were later pulled out for additional AIS time at the expense of specials, such as art or music.  Again Deutermann asked, “At what price?” The Long Island Opt-out Info Facebook group has more than 13,500 members, and “last spring,” said Deutermann, “over 1,000 kids across Long Island successfully opted-out of mandated testing.” 

 

Several parents in the audience shared their concerns about the changes brought on by the implementation of the Common Core curriculum.  One mother stated that her fifth-grader used to love school but now comes home every day bored.  A father of three school-aged children was concerned about a curriculum that appears to be “dominated by frantic test preparation,” and several residents expressed concern about the negative effects on special education students and English language learners.

 

However, the majority of the questions from the audience were directly related to opting-out:  What if my child just stays home that day? If my child refuses the test, will the teachers try to coax him to take it anyway? If a child refuses a test, will they automatically get placed in AIS? If my fifth-grader doesn’t take the tests will it negatively affect her placement in classes in middle school?

 

Deutermann explained that while no one can make an individual child take the tests, districts as a whole cannot decide to “opt-out.”  Each district will handle the situation differently, but since districts are forced to comply, parents who choose to have their child opt-out should be prepared for a possible backlash.  It is not the schools’ fault.  Their hands are tied.

 

Superintendent Rianna assured the Glen Cove parents in the audience that no child will be penalized for opting out.  “We will be as supportive as necessary,” stated Rianna, who added that she and Dr. Israel, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and technology,  are currently working together to determine appropriate procedures for any students who do opt out.

 

There may be some relief on the horizon.  Although educational policy is set by the Board of Regents and not the State Legislature, Assemblyman Lavine noted that the regents are appointed by the legislature; there are currently four regents up for appointment.

Legislators have been listening to what parents and educators have been saying and Common Core reform is the one area that has substantial bi-partisan support.  A change in the composition of the Board of Regents may, hopefully, lead to some common sense reform. 

 

But in closing, Dr. Dodge emphasized that it is the parents who will have the biggest influence on change.  “We are at a crossroads now,” he said, “it is up to you to make your voices heard.”  


News

In order to meet the necessary budget requirements, the Glen Cove School District will reduce school staff members, starting in the 2014-15 school year. One administrative staff member and nine instructional staff members will be let go, according to Superintendent

Maria Rianna’s report at the Monday night school board meeting. Staff reductions will also be made to teaching assistants, school monitors, substitute teachers and custodial and maintenance workers. The total savings for the district is $1,227,669.

 

As of March 31, revenues for the district total $79,281,428. The revenues include the tax levy ($64,780,719),  P.I.L.O.T.s ($1,908,060), tax on consumer utility bills ($1,250,000)n use of reserves ($1,250,000), State Aid ($8,751,799), all other revenues ($635,850) and appropriation of unassigned fund balance ($750,000).

 

The total appropriations for the district are $80,509,097 and revenues are $79,281,428 with a budget gap of $1,227,669.

 It has been five years since a particularly heavy rainfall closed all the beaches in Glen Cove including Crescent Beach. As per Nassau County Department of Health standards, beaches are ordered closed after heavy rainfall because of storm water runoff that adversely affects bacteria levels at local beaches. Typically, bacteria levels subside within a day or so, allowing for the beaches to be reopened. This was not the way it went with one popular beach after the June 2009 rain storm.

 

“Unfortunately, this was not the case with Crescent Beach,” said Glen Cove Parks & Recreation Director, Darcy Belyea, at last Wednesday night’s public forum at Glen Cove City Hall. “Elevated levels of microbiological contamination continued to be found in the bathing water months after the heavy rain and recent samples show they are still elevated today.”

 

Belyea was one of a number of panelists at the public forum, which included Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello, City Attorney Charles McQuair, Director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee Eric Swenson and representatives from the Nassau County Department of Health. 


Sports

 

Glen Cove High School players, from left, Tajah Garner, Dejon Taylor, Manny Sican, and Ralik Jackson, after the Long Island Colts u18’s team vs. St. Anthony’s at Robert Finley Middle School last week. Touchdown ‘tries’ by Garner, Taylor and Sican.


The third- and fourth-grade Knights took to the road last weekend as they faced off against Jericho early Sunday morning, April 6.  Jericho’s teamwork and hustle brought down the Knights by a final score of 5 – 0.  The early game may have been a factor as the boys started to play better and more like a team as the game went on.  Once again, goalie Tyler Shea played outstanding in goal and was relieved by Christian Maiorano, who did just as well in the second half.  Andrew Guster played solid defense in the loss.


Calendar

Eggstravaganza - April 16

Live Music - April 16

Community Easter Egg Hunt - April 19


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com