Left-Leaning New York Backing Away From Common Core 'Disaster'

Monday, 17 Feb 2014 06:53 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Educators in New York, a liberal state that was quick to champion Common Core learning standards, are starting to back away from the program, with some calling it a "disaster."

"We see kids, they don't want to go to school anymore," Long Island high school principal Carol Burris told The New York Times.

Education professionals and lawmakers in right-leaning states have protested the Common Core standards for some time, but liberals are starting to push back as well. Leaders from both sides of the aisle in the New York legislature are now saying they want to rethink how the state is using the federal standards and the state teachers' union withdrew its support last month until "major course corrections" take place.

Further, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become a critic, calling the state's execution of Common Core "flawed" and appointing a panel to recommend changes.

But while New Yorkers are joining right-leaning states in complaining about the Common Core standards, few are actually calling to abandon them. State officials have not backed out of a national consortium to base exams on the rules, like their counterparts in other states have.

Most educators are complaining that the state has decided not to wait for new Common Core examinations, which are actually not to make their debut until 2015. However, students started testing on the new standards last year, and teachers said they had not been fully trained or received new textbooks and teaching materials. The test scores also plummeted, with less than a third of the state's students passing them.

The Common Core test scores are used in teacher evaluations and in decisions about students' passing grades or being admitted to schools.

Lawmakers are calling for a two-year hold on using the test scores while the state teachers' union wants a three-year moratorium. The New York Board of Regents has enacted a five-year delay on requiring that graduates pass tougher state exams.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. admits there was an "uneven" rollout of the standards and admits the state "could have prioritized parent engagement, helping parents understand what the Common Core is, and is not.”

However, he continues to defend the program, which was pushed by the Obama administration as part of the Race to the Top grant competition. It's not a federal mandate, but highly pushed, following concerns that the 2001 No Child Left Behind law lowered expectations on what children should be learning.

But parents complain that the curriculum can be too demanding for younger students becasue of its emphasis on early lessons in history, civics, science, and literature.

Homework takes longer and is frustrating parents, teachers in New York City said, and pupils who are already struggling are facing greater challenges, especially children who speak limited English.

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