Education leaders speak out against Common Core

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The state Board of Regents' decision to delay some education initiatives isn't nearly enough to appease critics, who say the new system puts unneeded pressure on students and teachers -- with questionable results.

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, said Monday she was disappointed by the proposals -- they came in the form of 19 recommendations adopted by the Regents Monday -- because they don't go far enough.

Among the changes, the Regents pushed back a requirement that would have forced high school students to meet higher standards for graduation and will allow some teachers to appeal low ratings.

Many critics want to stall or stop the implementation of Common Core altogether.

Burris was one of four speakers at a forum on education held last night at Lawrence Woodmere Academy in Woodmere. The others included Joseph Rella, superintendent of the Comsewogue schools; Jeanette Deutermann, who helped spearhead Long Island's opt-out movement and Lisa Rudley, co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, an advocacy group.

Rella said the new system brings with it high-stakes tests that demoralize teachers and children. Students who don't pass the exams associated with Common Core -- scores plummeted with the new exams -- are labeled failures, he said.

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"That's intolerable," he said, adding that children with special needs and those who speak English as a second language are particularly vulnerable.

Deutermann said the new teacher-evaluation system, which ties educator ratings to student performance for the first time, forces children to spend months on test preparation, stifling creativity.

And students, she said, are spending too much time taking exams. "Some of these kids sit for three hours at a time," which can be particularly tough for children with special needs, she said.

Burris said the Regents shifted the review of the Common Core standards -- adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia -- to the National Governors Association, rather than take on the responsibility themselves.

"At nearly every turn they 'advocate,' or 'encourage' others to take action, rather than earnestly respond to what they heard," she said.

Maria Elefante, who has a 12-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter in the Hewlett-Woodmere district, said she's concerned about tests taking over the entire school year, despite her district's effort to keep that from happening. Her older child, she said, has received an excellent education, with most of her schooling taking place before the changes.

"But my son," she said, "he might be more affected by this."

Parents, students and educators have been speaking out against the Common Core and other education initiatives for months. State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. was repeatedly told in heated town-hall style meetings that the standards were implemented too quickly and at too great an emotional cost for children.Burris said the "tinkering with dates and semantics about college ready scores at the high school level provides no relief for our K-8 students from testing or in the implementation of flawed curriculum."

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