Thank you for your recent article, “Locals Speak At Common Core Forum” (Nov. 20). There’s a lot being said and written about the Common Core State Standards these days, not all of it accurate. As a 35 year veteran educator here on Long Island, I feel compelled to participate in the ongoing conversation.
Reality demonstrates that the USA ranks 17th global education ranking. In addition, the Survey of Adult Skills by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that despite having higher than average levels of educational attainment, adults in the United States have below-average basic literacy and numeracy skills. The U.S. ranked 16th out of 23 countries in literacy proficiency, 21st in numeracy proficiency, and 14th in problem solving in technology-rich environments, according to the OECD survey. The U.S. scored below average in all three of the skills measured in a survey of 24 countries and sub-national regions.
The problem with common sense, a wit once venturesomely noted, is that it’s not common. So how does common sense square with Common Core, Washington’s new public-school curricula and its concomitant performance criteria that are now being implemented in 45 states, including New York, amid a growing chorus of naysayers?
There is ample reason to be concerned about the state of education in America. It was Plato, the father of the Western intellectual heritage, who said that educating the next generation is the most important task a society can be engaged in. I concur, for who can deny that the accumulated knowledge, traditions and values of a civilization is patrimony’s most precious heirloom. It’s also troubling that we are living in a world where students cannot effectively compete with students in other industrial countries. This disparity would be even more alarming if it were not for the fact that our universities and engineering firms are a magnet for gifted foreign students. The United States is importing a brain trust rather than creating one out of its own loins.
Things happen for a reason and if you look closely enough you may find signs that, no doubt, the universe is progressing as it should. There is a synergy to it, a cycle. I was reminded of this just recently by two seemingly unconnected events.
I’ll begin with Leonard Wurzel, the long-time (22-years, to be exact) mayor of Sands Point who recently passed away at 95. He supposedly retired from his office in 2011 but anyone who knew Mayor Wurzel also knew that was impossible for him. He loved his village and the people in it too much to simply walk away, even if it was much-deserved. I know that his passion and joy were wrapped up in his public service.
Recently a number of our parents, teachers and administrators attended a forum with the commissioner and the chancellor of the New York State Department of Education at Mineola High School to discuss issues such as the implementation of the Common Core, APPR, the testing requirements and student privacy. All who were selected to ask questions were passionate, articulate and professional. We still hope the department will take our concerns into consideration and work to improve the current status of the plan. In the meantime, the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District is committed to our clients, our students in continuing their education. Our district is fully committed to providing our students with the necessary inquiry skills, literacy and numeracy strategies and skills to navigate challenging text, both fiction and non-fiction, and to expose them to content area concepts so they can move forward to their secondary educational experience with an excellent foundation and strong background knowledge.
This is not about turf athletic fields. That is only 12 percent of the proposed referendum. This is about safety, upgrading, improving and modernizing our aging district high school buildings and facilities that are 50, 60, 80 years old.
It is about increasing the values of our school system, the educational experience of our children, our community, and our property.
You may recall that I recently called for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King. The initiatives he has undertaken in his brief tenure as Commissioner of the State Education Department, including his roll-out of the Common Core curriculum, testing, teacher evaluations, and gathering of student data, are shaping up to be among the most controversial issues I’ve ever dealt with as a public servant. It’s easy to see why. These changes have created confusion among parents, anxiety for our children, and put life-long educators at odds with the department of education in Albany. This was only exacerbated when he canceled town hall meetings on the issue.
Saint Paul had it right in Ecclesiastes: There is a season for everything. This timeless sentiment has nurtured and salted my objection to what appears to me an amalgamation of America’s most cherished festivals and holidays. I don’t want to sound peevish about this, cross or just touchy about things that bring people joy and happiness. But why is it that people can’t celebrate the holidays in their proper and sequential order?
Is it necessary for us to hear “Jingle Bells” two weeks or more before Thanksgiving? It is not that I don’t adore Christmas music; I just don’t want to listen to it when I’m at the beach on a hot, summer afternoon. Orson Welles, in another context, once pitched a commercial saying, in a way only Orson Welles could, “That we will sell no wine before its time.” The holiday season, just like good wine, should observe a timetable that will bring out the full flavor of its effervescence.
Not To Worry
We’re from the government and we’re here to help you. These ten most feared words in the English language viciously pound the eardrums in the wake of the egregious Obamacare rollout. Every step menaces with pitfalls and booby traps of higher premiums, higher deductibles, co-pays, penalties, mandates, hidden taxes and subsidies. It’s an awful mess with the Democrats hoping that a civil war for the soul of the Republican Party distracts public attention from this never ending boondoggle.
In a quiet suburb in Texas it had become customary for a group of housewives to share a cup of coffee along with their daily worries. One woman, Marina, was especially troubled since her husband Lee was again out of work. With two small daughters to care for and beleaguered by grocery bills and the rent, the future looked glum. This prompted another to mention that her brother who worked at the School Book Depository, a warehouse in downtown Dallas, was hiring. Marina excitedly relayed this news to Lee who applied and was hired.
If you’re a person who values common sense, then prepare yourself to be disgusted and angry. I’m about to tell you about a sensible piece of legislation that’s long overdue, but is being blocked by the New York State Assembly, which is shamelessly pandering to its constituents with your tax money. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that we even need this legislation at all, let alone that it’s being systematically stymied by some in Albany.
Currently, New York issues something called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to our welfare recipients. It works much like a debit card and it allows us to help our needy neighbors in an efficient yet dignified way. The system conveniently provides a Food Stamp and a Cash Assistance component all on one card. As it stands, strict regulations dictate what can be purchased with the Food Stamp allotment. Cash assistance, on the other hand, is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. To be clear, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the use of the Cash Assistance component. None. It’s doled out like cash.
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