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Letter: Common Core and rigid testing

I strongly believe in using high-quality assessments, including

I strongly believe in using high-quality assessments, including annual tests, as one (but only one) part of how adults improve instruction and hold themselves responsible for students' progress. Credit: iStock

The tenets of the Common Core standards make sense at the most basic level, yet they are flawed in their implementation ["Test boycott urged," News, March 31].

The program's approach to student learning and achievement, which is based on growth in comprehension, collaboration, writing, problem solving and abstract reasoning, provides tools students desperately need for success in the 21st century.

However, the divide between the intent of the standards and their implementation is restricting teachers' ability to teach and students' ability to reach their potential.

Rigid guidelines and assessments have begun to drive the classroom curricula, diminishing student-centered learning. If teachers were allowed to create lesson plans that meet the needs of students and follow the tenets of the Common Core, students would embrace the dynamic classroom curricula and become more engaged, confident and compelled to succeed.

John Cissel, St. James

Editor's note: The writer is the head of Harbor Country Day School, a private school that refers to but does not use Common Core standards.


Apprentices must be able to graduate


This is a rebuttal to "Limiting pool of bidders will cost" [Letters, March 27]. Suffolk County's apprenticeship law has been in place since 2002. The only change in a recent revision was the requirement to show a graduation rate.

I believe contractors who don't want to see apprentices graduate could use the program for self gain. They would keep apprentices at the lowest pay rate possible, but bid for county contracts showing a higher rate of pay. This would unfairly enable contractors to keep more money.

At the same time, a contractor who doesn't invest in training does not enable apprentices to move toward graduation. This is not fair. I believe the state Department of Labor should take a closer look at apprenticeship programs to make sure they are not abused. These programs keep our kids on Long Island, allow them to become solid citizens and contribute to our economy. Suffolk apprentices deserve the chance to work on projects their tax dollars pay for.

Pete Zarcone, Holtsville

Editor's note: The writer is an executive board member of the General Building Laborers Local 66.


Bury power lines to avoid toxic chemical


PSEG Long Island is creating a new trail of ugly, tall brown poles that will course through all of Long Island ["Tall order: PSEG set to install bigger, tougher power poles with millions in federal money," News, March 30].

The trail is poisoned with "penta," short for pentachlorophenol, a highly toxic chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency says is a probable carcinogen. It's poisonous to inhale. It's banned in 33 countries, but not here.

Penta leaches into the soil and threatens the aquifer, our only source of drinking water! Drive along almost any South Fork or Great Neck road and you will see these new poles. PSEG plans to erect similar poles in Southold, Huntington and Garden City.

There is an alternative. Buried power lines are not wrecked by storms, trees are not sacrificed to produce poles at tremendous cost to ratepayers, and ugly poles and wires don't mar the aesthetics of quiet residential streets.

Rebecca Singer and Larry Penny, East Hampton

Editor's note: The writers are the co-chairwoman of Long Island Businesses for Responsible Energy and the former director of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection for East Hampton Town.


Public doesn't understand pensions


The letter "Teacher pension math 'disingenuous' " [March 31] shows how little the public knows. The pension system has six levels. At one time, there was a single level, and salaries were very low. When I started teaching in 1956, truck drivers working for my father-in-law earned four times as much as an entry-level teacher with a master's degree. To attract teachers, New York City and New York State promised reasonable pensions. Years later, with the advent of teachers unions, salaries rose, and pensions as a percentage of salary fell.

In addition, teacher contributions to the pension system went up. New teachers are expected to pay more into the system and work longer to collect their pensions. These details are often unreported. As a result, the public does not get a true picture.

Joseph Marcal, Commack


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