By Kevin Matyi and Jager Robinson
All 21 recommendations proposed by the Common Core Task Force were accepted by Governor Cuomo on Jan. 13, and now State Legislatures will begin working to amend the law for New York schools.
Common Core is an executive order made by President Obama in 2010 to standardize education across the country. The program gives optional testing to students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.
The Task Force, a 15-member group whose purpose was to find ways to improve the Common Core curriculum by reviewing testing practices, was assembled in December of 2015.
In the final report, the task force found a total of ten problems, with the curriculum being “too one-size-fits-all” as number seven on the list.
“[Common Core] provides a standard for basically all students to be learning the same thing,” Amy Lam, a 19-year-old Psychology student said. “But at the same time, it’s not going to fit every student, because every student is different.”
“I believe that test-based learning isn’t the best way to learn stuff, because it means that instead of learning the material, you’re learning to pass a test,” Elliot Baron, a 20-year-old Electrical Engineering major, said.
In New York State alone, 240,000 students, or 20 percent of all students, opted out of Common Core testing, with 70,000 students being on Long Island.
As a result of the widespread discontent with Common Core testing, New York State has become the 11th state to change the Common Core law.
Jennifer DiSiena, Communications Director for U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, representative for New York State’s first district, said that Zeldin passed an amendment to Common Core which would allow New York State to withdraw from the program entirely without fear of federal punishment.
“Improving our nation’s education system, and restoring local control and flexibility to Long Island parents and educators remains one of [Zeldin’s] top priorities in Congress,” DiSiena said. “Our office has heard from thousands of concerned parents, educators and students. It is mostly always in opposition to the standards.”
“We want standards that are created by educators, we want we want standards that are research-based, not standards that are designed by guys that have never even taught before,” Jeanette Deutermann, leader of Long Island Opt-Out Movement, said. The movement, which encourages parents to opt their kids out of Common Core testing, has nearly 24,000 members on Facebook.
In an open letter to education officials on Long Island, Deutermann’s liaisons voiced their concerns Common Core testing changes for 2016. They said that MaryEllen Elia, Commissioner of Education for New York State, “has promised that next year’s test will be constructed with teacher input. For this year… nothing has changed.”
Elia had previously posted an Assessments Toolkit. “[The toolkit will] help superintendents communicate with parents and educators in their districts about the value and importance of the annual Grades 3-8 English Language Arts and Math Tests.”
Opt-Out Movement representatives said that the Toolkit had carried misinformation and thought that it tried to put Common Core testing in a forced positive light.
The movement’s letter ended with a warning; “[Never] poke a bear…especially not a Mama bear…expect to see 500,000 Opt Outs this year.”
Last year, the Three Villages Central School District saw a 49 percent opt out rate of its tests.
“While the district does recognize and appreciate a parent’s right to request their child not take these tests, the district is bound by educational law to comply with the administration of the exams,” a Three Villages Central School District spokeswoman said. “If schools do not receive the required 95 percent participation rate, the federal government could withhold the Title I, Part A funds.”
Title I, Part A is designed to help keep students in school by providing financial assistance to districts with a high number of children from low-income families.
With the concerns of parents and educators in mind, Cuomo has said he will now work toward passing an amendment restructuring the New York State Common Core law.