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Common Core opponents say state changes don’t go far enough

LI Opt Out leader Jeanette Deutermann addresses community

LI Opt Out leader Jeanette Deutermann addresses community members during an Opt Out movement meeting in Coram on Tuesday, March 2, 2016. Credit: Johnny Milano

Critics of state Common Core tests on Wednesday discussed ways to free pupils and teachers from a system they still view as draconian despite concessions they already have won.

Jeanette Deutermann of North Bellmore, a parent and former teacher who founded Long Island Opt Out, a grass-roots network, dismissed the modifications made by the state — from fewer questions and unlimited time to take the exams to a moratorium on a link to teacher evaluations — as “tweaks.”

Parents and teachers must keep supporting the opt-out movement until children once again enjoy learning, she said. “There’s no meeting halfway when it comes to kids. When we see real changes in the classroom, then we will opt back in,” Deutermann said.

Held at the old Coram Fire Department and attended by about 120 people, this was the second of 13 such forums planned around Long Island and Westchester, according to a schedule posted on Facebook.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo softened his stand on the testing and evaluation regimen after it drew fierce opposition, especially on Long Island.

Last spring, more than 60,000 Long Island students in third through eighth grades joined about 140,000 other pupils around the state to opt out of the exams in the biggest such U.S. boycott.

The boycotts could cost Long Island’s public schools more than $200 million in federal and state financial aid if Washington imposes penalties for low student test-participation rates, key superintendents in Nassau and Suffolk counties said in a January letter to acting U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr.

Both Deutermann and Michael Hynes, superintendent of Patchogue-Medford school district, dismissed that possibility as unrealistic. Deutermann said the federal government would have to take action to do so, a prospect Hynes said was unlikely in an election year.

Hynes, who said he would never subject his 3-year-old with Down syndrome to the alternative assessment after reviewing it, said the education system must swing back to the more holistic approach seen in the 1970s and 1980s.

His remedies included more emphasis on recess, returning play to the classroom, offering some form of yoga or meditation to help children cope with stress and “authentic assessments.”

One flashpoint is a state law enacted last spring that requires as much as 50 percent of teachers’ ratings to be based on formulaic results of student testing. Opponents said the system puts too much stress on students and teachers alike.

In December, the 17-member Regents board, with only one dissent by Chancellor Merryl Tisch of Manhattan, approved a four-year moratorium on using state test scores in a way that might jeopardize teachers’ careers.

The action followed a recommendation from a Cuomo-appointed advisory panel. The new education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, who served on the panel, has said the Regents had pushed the envelope in its action.

A spokesman for Elia had no immediate comment before Wednesday’s meeting.

Critics, including Deutermann, have said the Regents’ action doesn’t go far enough.

During the moratorium, principals and teachers still will receive annual job-rating scores, but on an advisory basis, they note.

Wednesday’s meeting followed the kickoff of the forum series, which was held Monday in Massapequa, and featured some of the same speakers.

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