Panel faults Common Core education

A forum was held at the BayWay Arts Center in East Islip on Thursday for the public to express their frustrations over the Common Core curriculum to state officials, including Assemb. Al Graf, who has introduced an anti-Common Core bill. Videojournalist: Chuck Fadely (Dec. 12, 2013)

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The Common Core curriculum is a misdirected failure that is hurting schoolchildren said a panel of five experts and activists who on Thursday addressed about 100 Long Island residents who were mainly opposed to the plan.

"Any test that's designed for 70 percent of the children to fail . . . it's abusive," said Comsewogue School District Superintendent Joseph Rella at a forum at the BayWay Arts Center in East Islip. Common Core "will so shake confidence in public education that the only thing to do is to privatize."

State Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook) who has proposed legislation to detach New York State from Common Core and federal Race to the Top requirements, said he has held a number of forums around the state on the subject, including two on Long Island.

"If I can sum up what I've heard from parents, teachers, administrators, it is 'help us,' " he said.

The panelists focused on the tests rattling the confidence of their pupils and failing to take into account developmental differences and language barriers, among other things.

They urged the audience to contact their legislators to demand major reforms.

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One panelist said there is a risk that student data is insufficiently protected.

"Not only is it an intrusion on our children, it's an intrusion on your family," said Yvonne Gasperino, an activist from a group called Stop Common Core, who worried about how student data collected by private firms under the curriculum could be intercepted and used.

Mary Calamia, a clinical social worker, said testing was just one of many issues that are problematic under Common Core, but that the curriculum itself was the main problem.

"The testing is not the problem, [though] it is a problem," she said, adding, "the Common Core is the problem."

One member of the audience, a sixth-grade Queens teacher, said the curriculum is too rigid and doesn't account for the population she serves: a class of 30 students who speak 12 different languages.

She said she recently had to depart from the Common Core requirements during a lesson on writing a thesis because she wasn't reaching them and they lost interest.

"My kids need to learn how to speak English before they can write a thesis," said Bonnie Buckley of East Islip. "So I went unscripted, but the light was completely extinguished."

One panelist, Arnold Dodge, professor of education at LIU Post in Brookville, said Common Core was designed under the premise that American students fare poorly against students in countries such as China and Finland, but he said the matchup is as unfair as comparing apples to oranges.

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For example, he said, Finland is a homogeneous country and lacks the high levels of poverty of the United States, and is much smaller.

"I am disgusted," Dodge said. "I have never seen such a disregard for my profession by policymakers . . . It's an insult."

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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