Editor's Note: This report was written and the pictures were taken by Patch Editor Alfred Branch.
Dozens of angry Westchester and Rockland County parents and educators Monday vented their frustrations over the rollout of New York’s Common Core Curriculum, and urged state Education Commissioner John King, Jr. to delay the program until it is improved.
In one of several public hearings on the initiative’s implementation, more than 60 speakers Monday railed against various aspects of the curriculum, the new testing and accountability standards and the collection of private student data by third party providers.
Not one speaker supported the effort’s rollout, though some at the packed Monday evening meeting in the auditorium at Port Chester Middle School said that they at least accepted the theory of a common core curriculum. Just not having it “forced down our throats,” as one educator said.
The initiative has been years in the making and more than a year in the initial implementation, but to hear area parents and educators speak about it, the effort has been fraught with problems.
“I applaud setting high goals, but the way you’re going about this is completely wrong,” said Dobbs Ferry parent Kevin Clifford, who is also a teacher in the Yonkers school system. “You’re not giving districts adequate resources to implement the mandates.”
And like many of the other speakers, Clifford had choice words over the collection of personal student data, which many parents said they were unaware was being gathered.
“Giving private data to a third-party company is unconscionable,” he said to loud applause.
Parent after parent said that the new testing requirements were turning off their children to school and adding undue pressure and frustration to their everyday lives. Children, particularly special needs children or children from impoverished backgrounds, learn at different paces and levels, which the new standardized tests do not take into account, they said.
“There are too many exams, especially in the early grades,” said Port Chester parent, teacher and Board of Education member Bob Johnson. “As a teacher and a parent, I understand the importance of high standards and regular examinations. Standards yes; but not ‘standardization’ by way of expensive testing.”
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, whose district covers portions of Scarsdale and Bronxville, said she and other Assembly members want to see further review of how the curriculum is being implemented.
“It’s time to slow down, the tests are excessive,” said Paulin. “And the new tests are inadequate.”
King said he and state’s Board of Regents were listening to the concerns, but he remained committed to the new curriculum overall. He also said that protecting student data was of “paramount importance” and that information was not being sold or used improperly.
He did not address questions about delaying the ongoing rollout of the initiative.
“We are listening and will continue to make adjustments,” said King. “But we remain dedicated and committed to a common core curriculum.”
Of the 12 such forums currently scheduled, none are planned for Rockland County, sosome of those concerned made the trip from Rockland to Port Chester Monday.
Many of the complaints raised at Monday's forum mirror those brought up in districts across the state. The Pearl River, Nanuet and Nyack School Districts are among those who have held presentations to help parents better understand the Common Core Learning Standards and the related state assessments. The Clarkstown Central School District has one planned for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night in the main conference room at the Chestnut Grove District Office on Old Middletown Road in New City.
Pear River School District Superintendent Dr. John Morgano sent King a letter relaying concerns of parents in his district late last week.