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Roger Tilles Addresses Common Core Issues

The recent adoption the Common Core Learning Standards, a rigorous series of teacher and student assessment testing, and the potential sharing of confidential student information with third parties have resulted in a radical change in the educational landscape in New York State—one that many parents have been concerned about.

To address these growing concerns, the Great Neck School District’s United Parent Teacher Council recently hosted a question and answer session at South High School with New York State Regent Roger Tilles, a Great Neck resident who has been outspoken with both his support of content the Common Core and his disapproval in how the new set of learning standards have been implemented.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas P. Dolan welcomed Tilles to the meeting, stating that while parents have had many questions regarding the Common Core standards, which the New York State Board of Regents had a major hand in approving and implementing, it is often difficult to get those questions answered by members of the very board.

“Here in Great Neck, how fortunate are we that a very important member of the Board of Regents is a phone call away?” Dolan said. “We were able to get Roger to agree to come here tonight. Roger was one of the very first people to say that there are issues with the Common Core and, more importantly, testing...He has voted ‘no’ on several testing propositions, and was one of the only people who raised a voice of dissent.”

Tilles addressed the main concerns that many parents have voiced about the Common Core, including time taken away from teaching in favor of test preparation and creativity in the classroom replaced by standardized lesson plans, which many claim has caused a great increase in the stress experienced by students.

“I happen to think that the Common Core, although it needs some tweaking here and there, is a pretty good set of standards,” Tilles said. “The testing that goes along with that has been rolled out terribly, and has caused lots and lots of problems that didn’t need to happen. At the same time, those tests are now connected to teacher evaluation, which has caused even more problems, and tremendous pressure on students, teachers, schools, and parents.

“I think it’s going to take a period of years before the Common Core really gets adjusted and acclimated...It’s not something that should have been rolled out in one year,” Tilles continued. “But because of the problems, I fear for the future of the Common Core, because it’s pretty good...many teachers and administrators I know support it, and it raises the standards for all the kids in the state, but the way it’s been implemented makes Obamacare look good.”

Another big issue for many parents is so-called ‘data mining,’ the practice of storing confidential student information for in on-line databases which could potentially be sold to third-party companies. This is a topic that Tilles said requires answers.

“There’s a lot of concern about the information about the kids that goes up into a cloud and can be used by third parties,” he said. “There is protection for the information that is there, but I think there are still unanswered questions as to how that information can ultimately can be used, who can use it...We know it can’t be used for profit, but can it be used to create programs for kids or teachers that ultimately cause profit? And will that information affect a student 20 years later when they’re applying for a job? Those questions need to be answered.”

Senator Jack M. Martins (R-Mineola) also spoke at the meeting, and took New York State to task for mandating schools to spend money on assessment testing that he deems highly ineffective and wasteful.

“Anywhere between 97 and 99 percent of our teachers were ‘qualified’ or ‘highly qualified’ before we went on this expedition,” he said. “After we went through the expense, spent tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, 97 percent of our teachers were found to be ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective.’ Each one of our school districts spent close to a quarter of a million dollars implementing a teacher evaluation system that told us exactly what we already knew. It doesn’t make sense.”

As for addressing the complaints that parents have with the Common Core and assessment testing, Tilles stated that changes are being made to smooth the transition...and more are yet to come.

“We’ve already decided last week that we’re going to reduce the time that some of the testing is taking, and reduce the number of questions on the tests,” he said. “Those tests are required by the Federal government...the State Education Department is a conduit for the No Child Left Behind Act, which is a Federal mandate. But the amount of testing is compounded by the test scores used for evaluation purposes...when that happens schools have to spend a tremendous amount of time on those tests.”

“As a result, teachers aren’t allowed to do what they’re best at- creative teaching,” Tilles added. “Rather, they’re having to teach for a specific test, because their job is on the line.”

Michelle Ahdoot, a Great Neck parent and a member of the United Parent-Teacher Council, said that events like the night's Q&A with Tilles are vital to keep the public educated on the many issues these changes to New York education are quickly creating.

“I think that all issues related to the Common Core, Regents, and standardized testing are important and of the moment, so I think the more parents, community members, administrators, and officials that we can get speaking about it, the better,” she said. “Personally, I go back and forth on it...I’m not against the Common Core because I think it perhaps makes out children strive to reach another level and makes parents more involved...I think that the Great Neck administration is doing their best to deal with it and help out kids.”