Common Core opponents predict 'tsunami' of test opt-outs
Common Core opponents predicted at a state-sponsored forum Friday in Stony Brook that 500,000 students statewide in grades three through eight would boycott spring tests unless Albany pulls back from unpopular new exams and teacher evaluations tied to students' scores.
A standing-room-only crowd of parents and educators cheered and applauded as Jeanette Deutermann of North Bellmore, leader of Long Island's testing opt-out movement, warned that boycott numbers could more than double in April from more than 200,000 recorded last spring.
Other forum speakers followed suit.
"You are going to see a tsunami of test refusals," said Beth Dimino, president of the teachers union in the Comsewogue school district.
The 2 1/2-hour session, organized by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office, was held in a small auditorium of Stony Brook University's Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology. It was one of five simultaneous "listening sessions" across the state attended by members of the governor's appointed Common Core Task Force.
State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a senior member of that chamber's Republican majority, told reporters that at least some changes sought by parents and teachers could be on the way.
"We'll produce whatever laws we need to produce, we'll try to change whatever needs to be changed to make this work," he said. Marcellino and Valley Stream 13 district superintendent Constance Evelyn are Long Island's members on the task force.
Cuomo appointed the 15-member panel in September to conduct a review of Common Core academic standards, curriculum and exams. The governor has directed the group to submit recommendations in December that he could choose to include in his 2016 legislative agenda.
Several teachers and superintendents at the hearing called for a two-year moratorium on education reforms.
"What we have is a culture of standardization," said Patchogue-Medford schools chief Michael Hynes, a vocal opponent of overtesting and the linking of student scores to teachers' and principals' performance evaluations. He called for separating student scores from job ratings and "getting rid" of the Common Core.
For the most part, the forum was an orderly affair, in contrast to a raucous session held two years ago at Ward Melville High School, less than six miles away. At the earlier public hearing, then-Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. was at times shouted down as he tried to defend state education policies before an emotional crowd of 1,500 parents and educators.
Friday's session drew more than 150 parents, educators and others, and speakers were limited to three minutes each. Those who voiced criticism of the Common Core standards, curriculums and tests -- implemented in districts across the state largely over the last three school years -- were clearly the large majority. The national guidelines were adopted by New York in 2010.
"Common Core is destroying the dignity of the learning process," said Dan Campbell, a fifth-grade teacher in the South Huntington school district. He said one parent told him that his 10-year-old son cries at the bus stop because he doesn't understand the math curriculum.
Campbell said he wanted to tell the parent, "Your son is being bullied by the state."
"I'm here to say loud and clear -- we want our schools back," Campbell said.
A rare exception to the opponents was Preston Tucci, an eighth-grade math teacher in the Middle Country district, who was jeered by some audience members when he described how his students are enthused by a Common Core algebra curriculum.
"Your time's up!" several shouted as an electronic stopwatch that was used to limit speakers' time wound down. "Very disappointing!" another hissed.Some participants began lining up more than an hour in advance for the "listening session," which began at 4 p.m., with people allowed to speak on a first-come, first-served basis. Check-in for the event started at 3:30 p.m., and all 45 speaking slots were filled shortly after the meeting began.
Dawn Wylie of North Babylon, who has pulled her two children out of state standardized tests for the past two years and plans to do so again in the spring, was among those in attendance.
"This is the most important thing happening right now," she said. "Our children are suffering -- collateral damage."
Before the hearing, Tucci told Newsday that he had come to speak in favor of new math standards that emphasize "real-world" problem solving.
"In a 15-year career, last year was the first year I haven't had a kid ask me, 'When will I ever use this?' " he said.
Dimino, of Rocky Point, who teaches eighth-grade science in Comsewogue schools, said she had testified last year against the standards and the state's teacher evaluation system. A vocal critic of Common Core, she said she has refused to administer the exams even if it means she is given an "ineffective" job rating.
Before the forum began, she said she was disappointed by both the timing of the event and the size of the meeting room. Organizers should have held it later in the day and in a larger space, she said.
"I am hoping this is not a nonsensical tour," Dimino said. "I am hoping this is a hearing tour."
Earlier this week, parents and educators complained that state officials had not given enough advance notice of the hearing, and that the time and location would make it difficult for many to attend.
Over the past three years, implementation of curriculums and tests aligned with the Common Core standards has spurred a growing test-boycott movement in states across the nation, with parents pulling children out of standardized tests.
Last spring, the revolt in New York was the largest in the country. More than 200,000 students in grades three through eight opted out of state tests in English language arts and mathematics in April, with about 70,000 of those students in school districts on Long Island.