Akron, NY (Sloane Martin, special to WBEN) -- If Western New York parents aren’t angry about the state’s recently implemented Common Core exam then they’re at least concerned about how it affects their child’s education and future.
Parents falling into both groups attended a forum at Akron High School’s auditorium tonight hosted by the New York State Assembly Minority Conference with the aim of expressing reservations and engaging in meaningful discourse about education in New York State.
“It’s a really emotional issue,” Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R,C,I-Clarence) said. “People care so much about education, about their kids’ futures. I think what’s important is we want to talk about the nuts and bolts of it all. People will be very passionate I’m sure. They’ll feel very strongly in their views, but at the end of the day what matters are the decisions that we make regarding Common Core and education in general.”
Parents, teachers and administrators in a quarter-filled auditorium agreed that the tests needed to be developmentally- and age- appropriate while not inundating children and teens with too many standardized tests. They also agreed that the system needs to maintain individualization, devote more time to preparing and teaching students and more coordination with current curricula so students don’t get confused between what they should be learning for their grade level and what the tests say they should be learning.
Mike Cornell, Amherst Middle School Principal and a leader of New York’s Partnership for Smarter Schools, laid out in-depth solutions in his speech. He proposed pausing the program so there could be more two-way conversation.
“A moratorium gives us time and space to have a public conversation about how to make sure that curriculum instruction and assessments supports the learning of every child,” Cornell said. “We didn’t have a conversation about implementing the Common Core. We didn’t have a conversation about how we should effectively evaluate teachers. It was handed to us in exchange for $700 million.”
Some parents voiced concern that the rigorous test was affecting children’s mental well-being.
“Children are becoming defeated. Children are becoming depressed. Children are becoming more anxious. Children are losing their self-worth and children are being left behind,” a Lancaster mother who is also a nurse said. “These are the truths of the children that are overwhelmed by endless test prep and assessments.”
Common Core – which is present in 45 states – was adopted by New York in 2010 with the first test instituted in the 2012-2013 school year. Scores were expected to come back significantly lower in its first year, but for children in grades 3 through 8, just 31 percent showed proficiency in math and English compared to 65 and 55 percent for each subject, respectively, the previous school year. The numbers were even worse for rural and city district children across the state. State Education Commissioner John King called them a “baseline” for future years and said they would not count toward teacher evaluations.
This Education Forum will also be held in Rochester tomorrow. Western New York Republican Assembly members on the panel included Corwin, Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia), Raymond Walter (R,C,I-Amherst), David DiPietro (R,C-East Aurora). Two Education Committee members from Long Island (Ed Ra, and Al Graf) also attended.