Written by Chris Boyle Thursday, 09 January 2014 00:00
Education certainly has changed a lot since the fabled days of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
New York classrooms are currently experiencing a major overhaul since the so-called Common Core Learning Standards were adopted via a New York State mandate, in conjunction with a regular series of rigorous assessment testing to gauge teacher effectiveness.
Many parents are expressing anger over what many are calling a loss of creative, individualized teaching in favor of inflexible, difficult, and standardized lesson plans designed more for test preparation than actual learning. Education has indeed changed in New
York, and many residents feel that it’s not for the better.
Marianne Adrian is Levittown born and raised; a graduate of Division Avenue High School, she is currently employed as an Advisor at Queensborough Community College. Adrian’s enjoyed a great deal of professional and personal success in her life thus far, and she attributes that to the education that she received.
“I had great teachers all through my time at Levittown, especially high school...they were engaging, they were able to go at a nice pace,” Adrian said. “I had teachers that pushed me, and I was able to take an Advanced Placement course and I graduated with a
Regents diploma. I really got a personalized education...we have great schools here in Levittown.”
Adrian currently has three children, ages 12, 10, and 4, and was looking forward to enrolling her own children in the school system that made her what she is today. Early on, she said, it appeared that the educational quality in Levittown continued matched her lofty memories.
“Levittown is a strong school district,” she said. “We’ve never had any problems...my children all have great teachers thus far, and the education that they’ve been getting has been phenomenal.”
Previously, Adrian said that her children were avid students and loved going to school; however, with the implementation of the Common Core and the subsequent increase in prep work for state assessment testing, she noticed an almost immediate change in their attitudes...and not for the better.
“Within the first three weeks of school, my third grader at the time would come home and be very upset...he didn’t want to go to school, he didn’t like school, he hated it,” she said. “And my sixth grader...they just weren’t the same. They were having behavioral issues and getting a lot of homework, up to two hours a night...it soon got to the point that, after the first day of assessment testing, my third grader came home and literally begged her not to go back.”
Adrian said that, initially, the Common Core was not really publicized or even explained to parents; she had to gather information about it on her own in order to understand what her kids were up against.
“I found out about it by taking the time to educate myself on what was going on when I started noticing changes in my children, last year, after the Common Core was first rolled out,” she said. “However, I didn’t know exactly what was going on until last March, when I went to a forum at Hofstra University...that’s when I learned more about the Common Core and data mining...that really just stopped me in my tracks.”
Data mining is another new development in the New York education landscape that has parents raising their eyebrows; it is the sharing of confidential student information with private corporations, and it’s something that Adrian said truly troubles her.
“They’re storing that information online in a Cloud system that they can’t guarantee is secure,” she said. “They changed the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act a couple of years ago, saying that they can share my children’s data with third-party vendors they have a contract with...to me, that really one of the more troubling points of all this.”
Adrian said that the main umbrage that she takes with the Common Core is its “once size fits all” approach to education, eschewing a creative, individualized approach; in addition she said that the constant test preparation work is not producing a well-rounded for students.
“They were really pushing the math and the English Language Arts [ELA] really hard, and they didn’t have much science, social studies, or even play time...it’s 90 percent ELA and math, and 10 percent everything else,” she said. “It’s very script-driven, very module-driven...there’s no freedom in the classroom for the teacher anymore, to make it their own. They have to go by what is given to them. They’re stuck.”
To affect change and help her children rediscover the joy of learning, Adrian has joined with other parents in advocacy groups such as Long Island Opt-Out—an organization that holds educational town hall meetings throughout Long Island to educate parents about the new problems now facing students statewide—to create a resolution against the high-stakes assessment testing, and to show their support of the teachers, the students, and the community, she said.
"When my 4 year-old gets to kindergarten next year, they’re going to try and give her all of these tests,” she said. “It’s just outrageous, and in first grade, she’s going to be learning about Mesopotamia.”
Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00
A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.
All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.
Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.
Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.
In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.
“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”
With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.
Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.
The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.
The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “
At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.
Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.
Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.
The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00
Last June, Nassau County passed legislation that allows for the deployment of a speed enforcement camera system in school zones for each of the 56 public school districts in the county.
The new systems will be implemented throughout the county on July 25, and will be operational on scheduled school days throughout the year.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.
In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.
Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games.