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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Outcry over Common Core testing should give state pause

Teachers in Long Island classrooms, such as this

Teachers in Long Island classrooms, such as this one in a May 1, 2013 photo, are evaluated by a system using student test scores, classroom observations and factors such as contacts with parents. Credit: Heather Walsh


And take the time to assess whether New York State students are being overtested.

That's what the state Education Department ought to be doing in the wake of outcry over implementation of the Common Core curriculum.

During heated forums on Long Island and elsewhere, parents are saying that their children are stressed.

Teachers are saying that their students are taking too many tests. And that tests, too many and too long, are draining away teaching time.

Yes, there are teachers unions upset at the state of teacher evaluations tied to testing.

And, yes, unions, along with Parent Teacher Associations, are viewed as special interest groups by state education officials.

But that's no reason to cancel one series of hearings, replacing them with forums so tightly run that some parents complain of being denied opportunities to speak out.

Two hearings on Long Island last week were run in two totally different ways. The first, in East Setauket, turned into a rollicking, raucous evening -- which, frankly, for Long Island is not unusual.

In a region where the quality of schools feeds home values, and where student achievement feeds civic pride, parents tend to know what is going on.

And -- judging from the spread of "opt-out of testing" signs sprouting in neighborhoods across both counties -- there's a rebellion against testing going on.

If enough parents decide to join, there could come a point where the value of such tests diminishes, along with their usefulness in evaluating teachers.

Last month, in response to the brouhaha over too many tests, the state Education Department said it would consider cutting them back.

But parents -- and teachers -- want more to be done.

At one point during the East Setauket meeting on Tuesday, state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said, "We've been having a thoughtful phase-in of the Common Core" for national language and math curricula.

King was met with boos -- which indicated the crowd's perception of how thoughtful that phase-in has been.

On Wednesday, at a forum in Mineola, the crowd was less heated. But the concerns were the same.

Too many tests for students.

Too much teacher time away from teaching.

And too much of a rush implementing the Common Core curriculum.

None of the speakers at the two forums seemed to have much problem with the Common Core curriculum itself, only with how it was being implemented.

That's good, although it would be hard to imagine striving Long Island parents supporting dumbing down their students' work.

The region has a tradition of reaching high and expecting its children to do the same, which ought to put local parents, teachers and administrators on the same side as state educators.

The dissent indicates problems with the rollout, which should fuel a review of what's working and what is not.

That means both sides listening to each other. And the state Education Department moving forward with some changes.

So far, piecemeal does not appear to be working. Better to slow things down to get them right.

That means the department getting out in front on offense, rather than facing angry crowds and playing defense.

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