Some parents and teachers in Poughkeepsie apparently aren’t familiar with the concept of a town hall meeting, which allows a free exchange of often-controverisal ideas. That’s exactly what didn’t happen when many of them disrupted a meeting with State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. over what they believe is the overtesting of their children.
The newly implemented Common Core standards have been widely criticized by teachers and parents who argue that it places too much focus on compulsory testing and too much emphasis on rote learning and uniformity and not enough on creativity.
Fine. But disrupting a public information meeting with shouts and personal attacks isn’t the way to get that message across.
Common Core has raised questions that need to be answered by the state. So King scheduled a series of five town hall meetings across the state to promote Common Core and answer questions.
That dialog was drowned out by shouts and insults, leading to King’s decision to “suspend” the four upcoming PTA-sponsored events, including one at Williamsville North High School on Oct. 24. Unfortunate but understandable.
Some in the audience at last week’s meeting at Spackenkill High School shouted down the commissioner rather than listen to what he had to say because they didn’t want to hear it; their minds have been made up.
Parents who had planned to attend the Williamsville meeting were upset about the cancellation, possibly because they were planning their own ambush.
Schools have to be able to measure student progress and the effectiveness of teachers and principals, but testing is just a part of the measuring. And the Common Core standards, which were developed by teachers, principals, businesses, superintendents and college boards, provide the basis for a sound education.
If children are being overstressed by testing, the answer shouldn’t be to stop the testing. Teachers and parents should find a way to ratchet down the pressure on the kids.
The forum was ugly, inappropriate and quite nasty. The anger was visceral and disappointingly personal. But the goal of the forum was admirable: explain the need for Common Core, listen to complaints and be prepared to make changes. The sessions should be resumed, with some changes.
Much more time should be devoted to the critics so they don’t feel they are being ignored. And the critics themselves should tone down the nastiness and act like adults.