It may not be one of the more noble holiday traditions but I guiltily admit that one of my favorite things to do at this time of year is to settle down on the couch next to the fireplace with a bag of cookies and my dog to watch the endless stream of Christmas movies
on TV. My wife and kids usually shun the endeavor and remind me that we’ve watched them, literally, dozens of times before. Yet this annual ritual gives me comfort, so I continue.
I’m going to get straight to the point. Superstorm Sandy slammed into the south shore of Long Island on Oct. 29, 2012. On that date, more than 400 days ago, millions were left without power, and tens of thousands were displaced.
Now I’m reading newspaper articles that are making my stomach turn. Apparently only four (that’s right, four) of the 4,178 Superstorm Sandy-ravaged Long Island homeowners who qualified for federal housing reconstruction aid have actually received a check. Let me elaborate. More than 10,000 homeowners asked for help. Thus far a few more than 4,000 have heard back and only four have actually received a check. We watched press conference after press conference at which eager politicians promised help and took credit for new funding and here we are more than a year later and only 4 people have received a check.
John Owens’ column reported the Board of Regents announced that on the upcoming April statewide tests, they’d take “10 minutes off the English exam.” Owens wrote, “Of course, in context, it’s not much. Our kids still can expect to sit through nearly three hours of testing.” He’s right, but I’d like to amend his “not much” to “too much: 10 minutes too much.” Because allowing kids to leave the testing room 10 minutes early will do more harm than good — and here’s why: I think the Board of Regents needs some Common
Core courses intended to improve both critical thinking and problem-solving, given their foolish plan which stipulates that “students in grades 5-8 will be allowed to leave testing areas 10 minutes earlier on one day ... if everyone in the class completes the exam in less than the time allowed.”
An ominous hush swept over the city of Geneva when five Western nations forged an agreement enabling Iran to take a giant step closer to developing the bomb. This interim accord is weaker than the several U.N. Resolutions (usually characterized by feebleness) that had mandated no sanction relief until Iran suspends all Uranium enrichment.
One does not need to possess Delphic insight into the metabolism of American foreign policy to wonder if our hopes are fluttering insubordinately before the sovereign of our higher faculties. The unilateral nature of the Geneva accord is such that one is compelled to ask if the negotiators are seeing the opposition as seraphic apparitions rather than fascist Mullahs. Instead of a hard-headed agreement safeguarding geo-political stability we get a spasmodic extravagance of runaway optimism predicated on the foundation of Iranian cooperation.
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.
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