New York Parents, Teachers Protest Common Core

Published August 23, 2013

LONG ISLAND, NY—More than 2,000 people gathered for a rally at New York’s Comsewogue High School on August 17 to protest national Common Core standards and tests. Superintendent Joseph Rella robo-called parents to the rally upon learning the 2013 Common Core test results for his school district’s third through eighth graders.

“Implementation and the testing associated with the Common Core is hurting our children,” Rella explained. “I don’t know how I could possibly tell our kids 70 percent of you are failures.… 70 percent of you are not college material.”

“If it can be fixed, fix it,” he said. “If it can’t, throw it out, scrap it. Stop it, fix it, or scrap it.”

Yvonne Gasperino, president of Stop the Common Core in New York State (SCCNYS), attended the rally. The mother of two says Common Core “attacks the public schools, attacks the homeschoolers, attacks the private schools, and attacks the Catholic schools.” She is concerned about the lack of provisions being made for special needs students, who she says are “being thrown under the bus.”

Common Core is a set of national goals and tests for K-12 in math and English created by several nonprofits. In 2010, 45 states joined the initiative. As it enters schools, parents and teachers across the country are reacting with concern.

Three Concerns
SCCNYS has volunteers in 36 of New York’s 62 counties “informing, educating, and spreading awareness” about Common Core, Gasperino said. Their main concerns include excessive testing, data mining, and “untested education reform that has an unknown price tag.”

Common Core “is going to address every facet of education if this is not stopped,” says Gasperino. In education, “parents should have the choice—that is a private family matter, and no decision is right or wrong.”

The third-party involvement especially troubles her. To see actual test results can require an open records request.

“The data mining is incredible,” she says. “I don’t know what worries me more: the loss of local control; the loss of accountability; that teachers are losing their creative ability to teach children; the loss of parental participation—who are we parents going to go to?”

Legislative Matters
Assemblyman Al Graf (R-District 5) has sponsored Assembly Bill 7944 petitioning Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to withdraw New York from Common Core and Race to the Top, a federal grant program that pushed Common Core. Twenty-five Republicans currently cosponsor the bill.

Graf wants “to return to what has worked in previous years,” he said. “Government should not be tinkering with the education experience of our children, while ignoring the voices of the professionals in the classroom.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, has asked to testify at Sen. John Flanagan’s education hearings on Common Core, which run from September 17 to October 29. Class Size Matters targets data mining and privacy issues.

“We are most focused on organizing parent resistance in New York—which is now the only inBloom client to be sharing the personal student data for all students in the state—and we are actively working to ensure that the legislation passes this year,” she said. inBloom aggregates student information such as hobbies, Social Security Numbers, classes, and test scores.

‘Set Up to Fail’
“Our schools and students are being set up to fail” when “teachers are being deemed ineffective using the results of Common Core tests, and schools are at risk of being closed or taken over by corporate-run charter schools,” said Kris Nielsen, a former teacher and author of Children of the Core.

Nielsen is optimistic opponents from boths sides of the political aisle can end Common Core.

“Now that we’re becoming more successful at untangling the web of power and wealth and seeing the connections, it’s becoming more apparent that we’re fighting government and corporations from taking our children down paths we think are dangerous for them and our country,” Nielsen said. “It’s becoming more important for us to fight together.”

Flanagan’s office has not listed who will be invited to testify.

“We’re hoping it’s not going to be lopsided,” Gasperino says.


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Image by Asterio Tecson.