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Student testing, Common Core focus of state hearing in Brentwood

Sen. John J. Flanagan fields a question from

Sen. John J. Flanagan fields a question from an audience of educators and administrators during Longwood Central School District's 9th Regional Legislative Breakfast at Longwood Middle School in Middle Island. (Feb. 23, 2013) Credit: Daniel Brennan

State lawmakers Tuesday will launch their first regional inquiry into controversial new student testing policies and related issues, when representatives of school boards, teachers and other education groups testify at a public hearing in Brentwood.

The state Senate Education Committee, headed by its chairman, John J. Flanagan (R-East Northport), has scheduled the four-hour session at Suffolk County Community College's Brentwood campus. Testimony is by invitation only, but the hearing is open to the public and written statements will be accepted.

The meeting, which begins at 10 a.m., will be in the campus' Health, Sports and Education Center at 1001 Crooked Hill Rd. It is the first of four such hearings across the state.

Flanagan has pledged that the committee will take an evenhanded approach in determining "which policies are working well and which ones may need improving."

One focus of the session will be new Common Core academic standards, now being phased in by New York and 44 other states. Educators and business leaders on the Island generally view the national standards in English and math as more academically rigorous than state standards used in the past.

Some lawmakers on the political right contend that the standards erode local control of schools. Many union representatives and parents protest, meanwhile, that the state has rushed to incorporate the standards into tougher student tests and teacher job evaluations without giving schools adequate time to prepare.

"I think it's good that the senators have decided to help sort this out, and hope they'll come up with something that will help preserve Common Core," said Roger Tilles of Great Neck, who is the Island's representative to the policymaking state Board of Regents.

Tilles, who is among those scheduled to testify, was referring to issues surrounding tests and teacher evaluations.

Another question before the Senate committee is whether the new testing system adequately protects students' privacy. Some parents have voiced concerns about a state plan to provide student data to companies that are producing teaching materials for schools, though state officials say such information would not go to firms that sell children's products.

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