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Fayetteville Common Core meeting draws more concern for students, teachers

Ellen Abbott
Those attending the Common Core meeting brought signs showing disapproval with the nationwide curriculum.

Almost three dozen speakers fired questions at state Education Commissioner John King and other state officials in Fayetteville Tuesday, during the latest central New York forum on the new Common Core curriculum. Most of the complaints about the more rigorous curriculum have been heard before, but the bigger question now is if anything can be changed.

The debate over common core ranges from timing...

"Why were the assessments not phased in, in a more deliberate manner?"

To the impact of poverty on education...

"When will the officials realize that the socioeconomic issue is the issue that needs to be fought?”

New York is one of 48 states adopting the more rigorous curriculum, and King has embarked on a listening tour to hear concerns about too much testing, and the effects of new teacher evaluation standards on schools today. Many at Tuesday's Fayetteville session noted that poverty is at the root of many educational problems; like Donna Oppedisano of Jamesville Dewitt.

"Why then do we blame teachers when students are ill-nourished, transient, exposed to violence, don’t speak English and are not successful on standardized tests," Oppedisano said. "I am a teacher, and by definition I can fix a lot of things for kids. But I can’t fix poverty.”

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
State Education Commissioner John King listens to concerns from teachers and parents regarding Common Core.

Others worry about the effect the troubled rollout of the Common Core will have on attracting top college graduates to the teaching profession. F-M teacher Mark McGuigan noted that pay and retirement benefits for teachers are stagnant.

"If you can’t give them more money, and you can’t pay them at the end, you have to give them a really good environment," McWiggen said. "And the environment is horrible. We don’t feel trusted. Collaboration is decreasing, competition is increasing, which by the way hurts education.”

Continued complaints about the number of standardized tests and their connections to teacher evaluation, the privacy of student information, and the quality of state materials that are meant to help teachers teach the new curriculum, dominate the discussion. But the ultimate question to King, a member of the Board of Regents, and several state lawmakers was...

“What are you doing to change the problems you’ve been hearing about?”

King told the crowd that the state is committed to these new more rigorous academic standards, but there can be adjustments after hearing complaints.

"We still want to take seriously people's concerns about the length of the tests, and we’ve adjusted that by reducing the number of items and the testing time.”

King also says the series of forums are yielding action.  

"There’s no question that we’re committed to the common Core. But there are adjustments we can make and some we’ve already started to make.”

The State Education Department is also cutting back on the number of certain eighth grade math tests and is asking the Federal government to allow students with disabilities to take tests at their instructional level rather than their chronological age. Despite those comments, some in the crowd remained skeptical.

"We’re afraid our comments are falling on deaf ears.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.