The state Assembly Minority Education Forum in Baldwinsville on Monday night brought out parents and educators who are concerned about the controversial new Common Core educational standards enforced in New York state classrooms. This was the fifth of a series of hearings by the Assembly lawmakers about what has become a hotly debated topic.
"Please, please, tell me that there is someone out there listening to our concerns,” said Baldwinsville school teacher Shawn Redmore, pleading with lawmakers to take her concerns about Common Core back to Albany. One of her worries is the six school days it takes to administer standardized English and math tests in lower grades.
“Our students in grades three through eight sit longer in testing situations than college bound hopefuls sit for the SAT,” Redmore said.
Baldwinsville teachers union representative Beth Chetney says it doesn’t help that new teacher evaluation standards, based on Common Core test scores, started the same year as the new curriculum.
"When we get evaluated by our bosses, we get nervous," Chetney said. "It’s hard. It’s scary. But then to have on top of that the pressure; the fact that I have a student who’s truant, isn’t coming to my room and is going to get a zero and that’s going to be counted against me. And I’ve done what I can to engage him or engage her."
Red Creek Superintendent David Sholes capsulated the general feeling of school administrators at the hearing.
"I’m a believer, I think that all of us at this table are," Sholes said. "High expectations are relevant and very important, and the Common Core provides that. I guess what we’re saying now is it’s too much, too fast.”
Sholes says the rollout was difficult, especially in a year when new teacher evaluations also went into effect.
“Requiring implementation of full-scale Common Core and APPR (annual professional performance review) in the same year was simply way too much for schools to handle," Sholes said. "It would have been a lot better to get the instructional piece off the ground, and then start evaluating APPR, so we could evaluate people on how they were delivering the new Common Core.”
Superintendents also noted that the Common Core came at a time when the state cut aid for schools, which made extra teacher training in the new standards difficult.
So do lawmakers have an answer? Assemblyman Will Barclay isn't sure yet.
"I don’t know," Barclay said. "Can you delay the implementation of it? We certainly can supply schools with more money to help implement it. That’s probably the easiest solution we can do. But I don’t know, I’m open minded on the thing about what we can do legislatively, if anything.”
But Barclay hopes lawmakers can help somehow.
"What I want to get out of this is, really, to see what we can do legislatively to either improve the implementation of it, or the actual curriculum," Barclay said. "Is there something we to have a better experience with what’s going on with the Common Core? So that’s the first thing. If that’s not possible, there’s been talk of repealing the Common Core.”
A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would repeal the controversial curriculum.
This is one of several Assembly hearings across the state. The Senate and New York State Education Department have also been on the road getting an earful about the hotly debated issue.