Anti-Common Core rally in Hauppauge draws politicians, parents, teachers

Long Island teachers and educators challenging Common Core participated in a rally supporting Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s for the party’s nomination, Sept. 4, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

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More than 100 people -- parents, students, educators, activists and political hopefuls -- rallied in Hauppauge Thursday, decrying course work and testing associated with the Common Core academic standards, now entering their third year of implementation in New York schools.

Among the speakers was Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham University law professor who faces off against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the Democratic primary Tuesday. She's anti-Common Core and said children thrive when their teachers are trusted and they are taught based on their own needs.

"Children aren't just little bubble-sheet machines," she said, referring to the answer forms used for standardized tests.

A call to Cuomo's campaign was not immediately returned.

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre school district, said Common Core is not developmentally appropriate; the standards are too advanced for many students, leaving them discouraged, she said.

She said people are "now looking to our political leaders for solutions since they are not coming out of the Department of Education."

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The standards have been adopted by more than 40 states since 2010; federal monies were tied to its implementation.

During the past two years, as course work aligned with the standards has been rolled out, the Common Core has become highly politicized, with some states trying to back out entirely.

Rob Walsh, a Bellmore-Merrick High School math teacher with 16 years of experience, said he has switched to four different curricula during his tenure, each promising to be the best.

He has no problem learning new methodologies or passing along better information to his students, he said. But the Common Core hasn't been proven.

"No one has shown me that this works," he said.

Many parents say Common Core-related tests place undue stress on students, and that too much of the school year is spent preparing for and taking the exams.

So strong was local opposition to the tests that thousands of Long Island children refused to take state tests in the past couple of years, mirroring a national trend.

A Newsday survey of more than half of Long Island's 124 public school districts showed that 10,765 children in responding districts "opted out" of the math exam in May. A similar survey regarding the language arts exam, given in April, found that 9,000 sat out that test; only half of the districts responded to that query, too.

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State officials, in data released in August, said more than 50,000 students statewide, or 5 percent, did not take the tests.

Gina Rennard, 37, a mother of three from Port Jefferson Station, was part of the "opt-out" movement. She called the Common Core standards a "waste of time," saying the new methodologies used to teach math, for example, are impractical.

Her daughter, Emma, 11 and in the sixth grade, took just one such exam when she was in the third grade. "It was way too hard for me," she said.

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