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LI opt-out leader on changes: ‘We’ll believe it when we actually see it’

Parents, teachers and administrators respond to comments at

Parents, teachers and administrators respond to comments at a public forum held by local members of the governor's appointed Common Core Task Force on Nov. 6, 2015, at Stony Brook University. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Parent leaders on Long Island who waged a protracted campaign against Common Core testing welcomed — with qualifications — a state advisory panel’s call Thursday for a four-year moratorium on using those exams to evaluate students and teachers.

“We’ll believe it when we actually see it,” said Jeanette Deutermann, a North Bellmore parent and former teacher who is chief organizer of the test boycott movement called Long Island Opt-Out. “The first reaction we have is that, if in fact they follow through with all these recommendations made here, it’s a huge step in the right direction. Thank God all the work we put into this over the last three years wasn’t for naught.”

She and others said their struggle will go on until Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers actually rescind a sweeping school law adopted last April. That measure ultimately would require school districts to base as much as half of teachers’ job ratings on students’ standardized test scores, which opponents consider statistically unreliable.

Cuomo administration officials, who pushed hard for the law covering tests and teacher evaluations, held Thursday to their long-held position that no legislative amendments are needed. The administration insists that recommendations of its 15-member Common Core Task Force for a moratorium, shorter tests and other changes can all be accomplished through regulation changes approved either by State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia or the policymaking Board of Regents.

Deutermann and other parent advocates, however, say the law itself must be changed to ensure that teacher evaluations based largely on test scores are not imposed as soon as the recommended moratorium expires in the 2019-20 school year.

Elia and Regents board members are expected to discuss revisions in teacher ratings Monday when the board holds its monthly meeting in Albany.

Senior lawmakers such as State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Oyster Bay), chairman of that chamber’s Education Committee, who served on the task force, have signaled a willingness to propose legislation in coming months.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) praised Marcellino’s contributions to the panel’s report and described its recommendations as another step toward building an educational system that is “both student-centric and parent-centric.”

In a background briefing Thursday, Cuomo aides pledged that the state will continue efforts to promote high academic standards in the state’s nearly 700 school districts and 5,000 schools. Aides acknowledged, however, that the latest recommendations for change were prompted largely by a drumbeat of public opposition that had grown louder and louder.

In April, Nassau and Suffolk counties emerged as the epicenter of a statewide test boycott involving more than 200,000 students in grades three through eight. It constituted the biggest test-opposition movement in the nation.

Some conservative groups that have promoted tougher teacher evaluations endorsed the task force’s idea of a four-year moratorium. Those groups insisted, though, that the state continue a long-range push for improved teacher performance.

“The old system that found virtually every educator effective when most students are below grade level did a disservice to children,” said Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.

The Manhattan-based group strongly backs charter schools, which have wider latitude than traditional public schools in setting work conditions for teachers.

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