Teachers, administrators and parents from all over Western New York made their way Tuesday night to Akron High School to discuss the rollout of the controversial Common Core standards.
New York is one of 45 states to enact the Common Core standards, which ostensibly look to better prepare students for college and job placements through testing and developing critical thinking skills through rigorous workloads. Critics of the standards say it puts undue pressure on students to pass numerous assessments, and forces teachers to teach to a test, instead of implementing a creative learning environment, among other issues.
The forum was hosted by the New York State Assembly Minority Conference, with Republican Assemblywoman Jane Corwin leading the proceedings. Assemblymen Al Graf and Edward Ra, Republicans from Long Island, also attended the forum. Graf and Ra serve on the Assembly’s Education Committee and have attended forums across the state.
Michael Cornell, principal at Amherst Middle School, was the first to speak and said the standards were rolled out too quickly, leading to unrealistic expectations being placed on students, and teachers scrambling to be prepared. He would like to see implementation postponed for two years.
“This allows us to implement parts of the plan where there is consensus,” he said. “Stopping is not the final answer. We need to move forward to something in a thoughtful way. A moratorium gives us the time and space to have a public conversation on how to make sure the curriculum, assessments and instruction support the learning of every child.”
Susan Dubill, a teacher from Clarence, opened her remarks with the lyrics to “Help!” by the Beatles.
“I need a few minutes of your time to listen, not just to me, but to all the students, parents, administrators and teachers crying for help,” she said, “just like in the lyrics of the Beatles song I just quoted.”
Common Core standards put extra stress on students, teachers and parents, Dubill said.
“The process leads to a rise in anxiety for everyone involved,” she said.
Dubill urged the assembly members to pass legislation putting the decisions on how children should be schooled “back in the hands of the parents and professionals.”
Several parents also spoke at the forum, often growing emotional while describing the problems their children have had with the new standards. Kari Richenberg said her son, in second grade, was learning things she didn’t know until she was in high school. Richenberg said her son has always tested at the top of his class, but now struggles with the workload.
Williamsville School Superintendent Scott Martzloff urged the legislators to “please slow these initiatives down.”
“The implementation is just too fast,” he said.