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John B. King, other state education officials, tackle Common Core questions on LI Tuesday

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B.

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King, Jr. (Oct.15, 2013) Credit: Barry Sloan

State education officials will once again field questions about the rollout of tough, new academic standards when they visit Eastport-South Manor Junior Senior High School Tuesday night.

The Manorville event marks the third of four scheduled discussions on Long Island about the Common Core education initiative, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. The standards were created in part to help students develop critical thinking skills, but some parents and educators say they were implemented too quickly and place an outsized emphasis on testing.

The school's auditorium can accommodate 1,000 people, but an overflow crowd can watch via closed circuit television, according to State Sen. Kenneth LaValle, who will live stream the discussion on his website.

LaValle, a Port Jefferson Republican, asked officials from the 30 school districts in his district to select a speaker/questioner on: Common Core curriculum, student assessments, principal and teacher evaluations, and student privacy. Questions will be screened, he said.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., who was booed at a similar forum held at Ward Melville High School on Nov. 12, will answer questions at Tuesday's discussion along with Merryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the state board of education.

Regent Roger Tilles, who will also be there, said the forums have allowed legislators and other decision-makers to hear the complaints he's fielded from the public for years.

Tilles said he supports the Common Core, but takes issue with related educational measures such as the controversial teacher evaluation system, which links educator ratings to student performance for the first time. Such a setup has made educators focus too much on high-stakes exams, he said.

"Because of the pressures tied to the evaluation, school districts are putting much more time and resources into these tests," he said. And when budgets are tight, schools are more likely to eliminate programs not subject to testing, such as art and music, he said.

Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, has been an outspoken critic of both King and the Common Core. She said the public's message to state education officials is clear: "Slow down. . . . Pull back on testing and allow there to be a complete discussion on the direction of education in New York."

She's skeptical about their response. "They say they're listening, but they're not bending," she said. "They're staying right on course and making just a couple of little modifications that don't address the concerns."

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