Diane Ravitch calls for Common Core boycott, refusal to give tests

Diane Ravitch, an educational policy analyst and author, Diane Ravitch, an educational policy analyst and author, signs a copy of her book after addressing Long Island School superintendents and educators at a morning breakfast meeting in Hauppauge. (Nov. 19, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Diane Ravitch, the outspoken education historian, policy analyst and author, called on educators across Long Island Tuesday to boycott Common Core-related curricula and refuse to administer state tests as an act of defiance against the state and federal governments.

"Your community is your boss, and you do what's best for children," said Ravitch, speaking at a Hauppauge meeting that drew about 175 school superintendents and administrators from Suffolk and Nassau counties.

"Do not take the Common Core tests. Stop the testing," said Ravitch, of Southold, who wrote the critically acclaimed "Reign of Error," which defends the American education system and criticizes privatization moves as a drain on public schools. "Neither teachers or students are prepared for these tests. Stand together and there will be no punishment."

School officials did not commit to a boycott, but said they will keep pressure on the state regarding the reforms.

"I don't know if it would fly here, but there are appropriate moments for civil disobedience," said Roberta Gerold, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and superintendent of the Middle Country school district. "I would really have to think about it. I would love us to have the courage."

The meeting, hosted by the Suffolk superintendents group, was the latest outcry against the more rigorous Common Core academic standards and the tougher testing associated with them. Parents and educators blasted the curricula and testing at community forums last week in East Setauket and Mineola with state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. and Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents.

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A third forum is set Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Eastport-South Manor High School in Manorville. A fourth is planned Dec. 9 in Nassau County; details on location and time have not been announced.

State Education Department officials Tuesday repeated their view that adherence to Common Core standards, which have been adopted in almost all states, is the best way to prepare students for college and careers.

Spokesman Jonathan Burman pointed to recent scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the "nation's report card," as showing that stronger standards are needed. New York's scores remained largely flat, with a gap for minority students. He said scores rose in states that have adopted the stronger reforms.

"The Board of Regents and department will continue to make changes as needed to the implementation of the Common Core, but we cannot change our course," Burman said. "Our students are counting on us."

But Ravitch, a former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education, said the curriculum and assessments do not measure student success. They are costly and poorly designed, she said, and set up students to fail.

"Standardized testing has its place, but it is being misused," Ravitch said, adding that poverty is the greatest challenge facing students.

Michael J. Mensch, chief operating officer of Western Suffolk BOCES, said he believes a boycott could occur -- but only if educators had full support of school boards and their communities.

David Feller, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents and superintendent of North Merrick schools, said he doesn't think superintendents would defy the state commissioner of education.

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"However, parents are certainly getting angrier, and their voices are being heard," Feller said.

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