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State Assembly Members Call For Core Curriculum Reform In Schools

Many parents and teachers in Westchester County have complained about the new core curriculum.
Many parents and teachers in Westchester County have complained about the new core curriculum. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user biologycorner

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Three New York State Assembly members have sent a letter to the state Board of Regents calling on the board to slow down the implementation of the new Common Core Learning Standards in schools.

Amy Paulin (D-88th District), Thomas J. Abinanti (D-92nd) and David Buchwald (D-93rd) sent the letter to Chancellor Merryl Tisch, asking the board to discontinue the current Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) and math assessments that are taken by students in grades three through five.

Paulin said that they believe the tests are currently doing more harm than good for students and teachers alike, claiming they are not a good measure of college or career readiness. They are requesting a pilot assessment program that would improve the quality of teaching and education in schools.

The more difficult tests have led to harsher assessments of both students and teachers, which the letter says “is demoralizing and not a reliable indicator of performance.”

“We’re concerned that the students are getting very upset and that they’re getting upset over a test that doesn’t even reflect their ability,” Paulin said. “The tests don’t seem to measure what they claim to measure. Within my districts, we’ve done poorly on tests, but have a lifetime of success. Children are being put through emotional trauma for something that’s inaccurate.”

Inquiries to the Board of Regents were not immediately returned to The Daily Voice.

According to the state’s assessment, 41 percent of Westchester County students were at grade level in English Language Arts and 40 percent of county students were at grade level in math, a decline from students’ scores two years ago, before the new curriculum was released.

The decrease in scores was expected, and state Education Commissioner John. B. King Jr. warned parents and school districts after the results were released that this is simply a jumping off point.

"I understand these scores are sobering for parents, teachers, and principals. It's frustrating to see our children struggle,” King said in a news release accompanying the results, when they were released earlier this year.  “But we can't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity. The results we've announced today are not a critique of past efforts; they're a new starting point on a roadmap to future success.”

Testing has become a financial burden on districts, according to Paulin and the letter. Administering the tests costs as much as $2.5 million, which is difficult for smaller districts that are already struggling to stay within the state-mandated cap on the property tax levy. Paulin added that this creates a wider schism between districts with substantial resources and those without.

According to the letter, the shift in curriculum has led to longer, more difficult tests with questions teachers have called “too vague.” Strained school budgets have also forced districts to limit academic intervention services, which formerly used to be provided to any students that scored below proficiency. Due to the more difficult tests, schools have struggled and ultimately have been forced to provide such services to scores below a determined “threshold.”

“No one is opposes the re-design of the curriculum. The common core isn’t being questioned,” Paulin said. “It’s just moving too fast. We need to slow down and get our feet back under us.”

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