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State Ed. Comm. John King Jr.

Common Core Forum: Education Commish Comes To WNY

(WBEN/AP)  After cancelling a series of statewide meetings on Common Core standards, the State Education Commissioner is coming to Western New York today to hear parent concerns on the curriculum changes and the intensity of standardized testing they bring.
Commissioner John King will host a public forum at Jamestown High School, Wednesday evening from 5- 7.  The forum follows a contentious meeting last month down state that triggered the cancelation of forums set for Williamsville and other locations across New York.

The Common Core State Standards are academic benchmarks that outline the skills a student should have at each level.

For instance, third-graders should know how to find the perimeter of a figure. A fifth-grader should be able to compare and contrast two characters from a story.

The standards were created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to improve academic achievement and increase accountability. President Barack Obama and his administration embraced them.

That led critics, including Republican members of Congress, to call the standards a national curriculum, or "Obamacore." The standards are not a curriculum, despite the opponents' claims. Each state, school or even teacher can determine how to help students reach those standards.

Alaska, Texas, Nebraska and Virginia decided not to adopt them. Minnesota has adopted only the English standards.

In Western New York, over 4,000 attended a public meeting to speak out against the curriculum and standardized testing in November.

At the core of the standards is a reduced emphasis on memorization. Students now have to connect the dots and apply critical thinking. It's what experts call higher-order thinking. Teachers say it's preparing students for life after high school.

That has made classrooms much more of a hands-on proposition.

Back in Western New York, Assemblyman Sean Ryan and State Senator Tim Kennedy have called on King to host forums in Erie County, where it would be accessible to parents in the Buffalo district. State regent Bob Bennett told WBEN that a meeting would be held in Buffalo before the end of the year.

BELOW: Read Sen Kennedy's letter to King

Dear Commissioner King:
I write to follow-up on a letter I wrote to you over two weeks ago, dated November 15. In the letter, I requested that you schedule a community forum in the City of Buffalo. I am still awaiting your response.
As you know, the only community forum scheduled in Western New York will be held December 4 in Jamestown, which is about 70 miles – or more than an hour-and-a-half drive – away from Buffalo. Many local families will miss out on the chance to meet directly with you. Soon after I wrote my letter, your spokesman told The Buffalo News that you “will definitely be holding a forum in Erie County before the end of the year.” The end of the year is fast-approaching, and a Buffalo forum has yet to be scheduled.
As a state, we need to pursue solutions to the challenges our schools face. The second largest city in the state, home to thousands of children and far too many struggling schools, should not be excluded from these critically important conversations.  I urge you to find a time and date to come to Buffalo to speak with parents about the Common Core changes coming to New York State. At the very least, you must hold an event much closer than 70 miles away from Buffalo.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. If you have any questions, please contact me in my district office at 716.826.2683. I have enclosed a copy of my original letter.
Timothy M. Kennedy
New York State Senator, 63rd District 


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