Parents looking for reasons to get fired up about how education reforms are negatively affecting education found plenty of them Tuesday night in West Seneca.
During a forum at West Seneca East High School sponsored by the District Parent Council, several hundred parents heard 11 educators speak against Common Core Learning Standards and other components of the federal Race to the Top program, under which millions of dollars in grants were made available to states willing to implement those reforms.
Even before the forum began, news from Albany suggested that state lawmakers were feeling the heat from parents and educators, who have been vocal in their opposition for the better part of a year.
“There’s movement on the governor’s part, and there’s great movement in the Legislature,” announced Mark J. Crawford, superintendent of the West Seneca School District.
Earlier Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called for a two-year delay before test results from Common Core can be used to evaluate students, teachers and principals. Last month, he called on the state Education Department to suspend a plan to share student information with inBloom, a private high-tech corporation.
That’s in addition to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo saying he believed that management of Common Core by the state Board of Regents has been “flawed.”
“It’s nice to see there’s action being taken in Albany,” Crawford said.
But Crawford didn’t have anything nice to say about the mandates of the federal Race to the Top program, when asked about which have been most difficult to implement.
“Certainly, Common Core has been challenging; APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) has been challenging and the testing has been challenging,” Crawford responded. As for student data collection, “We’re concerned about all the breaches we are seeing in systems now,” he said.
Marge Borchert, principal of Allendale Elementary School, was asked how she feels about Common Core.
She noted that Common Core is being touted as a cure for what ails public education, “yet it has not been field tested.”
Instead of leveling the playing field in education, Borchert said, she sees it as erosion. “Erosion of the joy of learning,” she said.
An oft-cited complaint from teachers about new testing requirements is having to “teach to the test” instead of helping students develop critical thinking skills.
Ray Ball, a teacher at East Middle School, was asked about the challenges he faces in relation to student assessments, which begin in third grade.
“I get to see what happens after a few years of it,” Ball said. “Educating a child is more than putting facts in their head ... It’s about making them a better human being. This is making learning an obstacle – not a goal.”