State ed chief urged to slow Common Core

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. was on Long Island on Wednesday and talked about why he canceled a local meeting on the Common Core Curriculum. He said he hoped to continue the meetings. Videojournalist: Ed Betz (Oct. 16, 2013)

Frustrated superintendents and parents urged New York's education commissioner at a meeting in Oyster Bay on Tuesday to slow implementation of the controversial Common Core curriculum.

"My daughter is not a '1,' " John Castronova of Oyster Bay told Commissioner John B. King Jr., who was joined by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles.

Castronova, referring to the lowest test score under the new curriculum, said he fears Common Core's high cost will imperil programs for children with learning disabilities, such as his daughter.


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Other parents expressed similar concerns about the impact on programs for gifted and talented students, and English as a second language learners, and warned that low-performing schools could fall further behind.

King attended the invitation-only afternoon forum at Oyster Bay High School, but canceled a Garden City meeting open to the public that had been also scheduled for Tuesday after shouting matches erupted at recent upstate forums.

Three other Town Hall-style meetings across the state also were called off by King on Saturday.

State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), citing anger and frustration over the new academic standards, demanded in a statement Tuesday that King reschedule the meetings or "immediately resign."

Those thoughts were echoed by Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of NYSUT, the state teachers union, which is seeking a three-year moratorium on Common Core.

"If Commissioner King doesn't understand that NYSUT's call for a moratorium is not a distraction but rather a genuine call for a course correction, then we need someone who does," Iannuzzi said.

The Oyster Bay event was organized by State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), with district superintendents inviting many of the roughly 100 attendees.

Before the meeting, King said his experience as a Massachusetts educator when that state underwent a similarly wrenching process taught him to stay the course. "People said the tests were going to be too hard. . . . The state remained resolute," he said.

But Toni Labbate, a North Shore School District board member and parent, told the state officials that students are under too much pressure.

"You now ask New York State public students to shoulder the weight of their school district's reputation, their community's property values and now their teacher's evaluation," she said.

Labbate urged officials to allow high-performing schools to partner with low-performing schools.

Cold Spring Harbor superintendent Judith Wilansky said Common Core should be slowed because it has "eroded students' confidence."

King told the audience Common Core "holds tremendous potential," but conceded that it's been "conflated" with teacher evaluations.

He pledged to hold more forums -- if the dialogue is constructive -- and to be "responsive to the concerns we hear."

Locust Valley superintendent Anna Hunderfund warned of the "destructive impact" of the state's greater emphasis on high-stakes testing.

"The level of stress it is putting on students, parents and faculty, the frustration and hostility, will continue to increase," she said.

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