Commissioner listens to concerns in Albany weeks after rowdy meeting suspends forums
After 3 hours of heartfelt entreaties –mostly to do away with the Common Core Learning Standards – State Education Commissioner John King’s message was clear: adapting to the more rigorous standards is difficult, but it’s a “shared challenge” he believes we can achieve.
King, who spoke for maybe 20 minutes the entire evening, said that he and the Board of Regents are listening to parents’ concerns and will adjust accordingly, but they’re committed to the standards.
“We fully believe in the Common Core standards,” he said toward the end of the night. “I know it’s difficult, as any change in education is, but getting there is our shared challenge.”
King was joined Thursday evening by local lawmakers at Harriet Myers Middle School in the Albany City School District to hear Common Core concerns, after an unruly meeting in Poughkeepsie on the subject two weeks ago caused the forums to be suspended.
The crowd in Albany was certainly passionate, and at times animated, but those looking for a repeat of Poughkeepsie were disappointed by what was a lively but constructive dialogue on Common Core.
Dorian Solot, the mother of an Albany kindergartner, was one of many parents in attendance who thinks the curriculum being taught to adhere to Common Core Learning Standards is far from age appropriate. When asked before the meeting what she’d like to hear from the commissioner, she said, “In my wildest dreams, I’d like to hear him say that we’re going back to the way things were, where we actually taught to our children’s needs and didn’t rely on over-testing.”
Solot said she was curious as to what’s really motivating the adoption of the standards. She referred to a letter sent to the Board of Regents by Assemblymembers Patricia Fahy, John McDonald, Phil Steck, Peter Lopez, Steve McLaughlin, James Tedisco, and Senators Neil Breslin and Cecelia Tkaczyk. In the letter, the lawmakers ask NYSED to “[p]lace a moratorium on the high stakes consequences of testing related to the Common Core Curriculum,” among other things.
“If we have all of these legislators concerned with Common Core, all of these teachers and principals concerned with Common Core, and all of these boards of education concerned with Common Core, then why isn’t the pendulum starting to swing the other way?” Solot asked. “Who is supporting it?”
Danielle Barrett, the mother of first- and third-graders in Troy, had questions not for King, but for the politicians who flanked him that evening.
“Why aren’t our legislators representing the overwhelming number of constituents who don’t support Common Core?” she asked. “When did we lose local control of our schools?”
Though they were few and far between, the evening was not without supporters of Common Core standards.
Marlon Anderson, a self-described community activist who has worked with six superintendents in the Albany City School District, said he thinks the opposition boils down to a fear of change.
“I think when parents here that their kids are going to do something different in school – something that may be harder for them – they immediately run to Facebook or Twitter and figure out how they’re going to oppose it,” he told Ed Speaks after the meeting. “They feed into the hysteria.”
During the meeting, Anderson’s words were even more direct:
“I’ve heard a lot of parents come up and say that Common Core is taking the fun out of school. You know what else isn’t fun? Being unemployed.”
His sentiments were echoed by Albany parent Samuel Carrera.
“I want opportunity for every child,” he said. “We need to be more competitive with other countries when it comes to education, and we need people to understand just how poorly our students have been doing.”
The conversation isn’t over. State Education Commissioner John King has 11 more forums scheduled in in Rochester, Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties as well as Schroon Lake, Binghamton, Amherst, Syracuse and Jamestown. There will also be forums at New York State Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS) that will include a studio audience. The PBS forums will be recorded for broadcast and will also be available on the web. Four PBS forums have been scheduled so far. The will be in Syracuse -WCNY (November 7), Plattsburgh-WCFE (November 20), Binghamton- WXXI (date tba) and Rochester- WXXI (December 3).
As always, we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section or tweet us @edspeaksNY.