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Common Core causing uncommon controversy

Updated: 10/25/2013 12:14 AM
Created: 10/25/2013 12:04 AM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

ALBANY - Despite overwhelming opposition to the state's new Common Core curriculum Thursday night during an evening of "constructive dialogue" at Albany's Harriet Myers Middle School, New York State Education Commissioner John King told the visibly disappointed crowd he intends to stay the course.

It's a Common Core that is causing uncommon controversy throughout the state and across the country.

Of the 67 speakers who got two minutes each at the microphone, the overwhelming majority was dead set against implementing national education standards in English and math, known as the Common Core curriculum.

"Common Core has not been properly field tested and we do not want our children used as guinea pigs for one of Bill Gates newest whims," said Tim Farley, principal at Ichabod Crane Middle School in Valatie

Reeve Churchill is an 8th grade honors student at Harriet Myers Middle School, who says she's been frustrated lately because of Common Core.

"The new curriculum set up isn't engaging and I can't learn with it," Churchill asserted, "And it's definitely not helping my peers."

Many teachers, most of whom were also parents, also expressed their distain for the Common Core plan with a passion.

"I see students, parents, and teachers in tears," said Lisa Magrin, an area teacher.

"I see my own children taking test after test to the point of absurdity," said Kristin Bonds, the mother of three Albany school children, and a Schenectady teacher.

"(My teaching colleagues) are so stressed and overwhelmed with all these components of the reform agenda that it is reaching down to my students," said Amy Steward, a Guilderland parent, and teacher.

"I feel heartbroken at times because what we do is now paint by numbers," said Brendan Fix, an Albany school teacher.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a fifth grader reading on a second grade level is not going to pass a fifth grade test," said longtime special education teacher Kathy Neuffer, also the mother of two children.

At times, the comments became personal. One parent asked Commission King when he intends to resign. Others treated him like a Mexican pinata.

"I feel I need to tell you these things because there's a perception that you're disconnected from the realities of what our kids face every day," Kristin Bonds told King.

Common Core supporters were uncommon in Thursday's crowd, but there were a few. Bill Sherman, the director of operations at Troy Prep Charter School, says he hasn't heard any complaints from his students or parents about Common Core.

"Today I stand in support of the new Common Core standards and the increased rigor on the state's standardized tests," said Sherman, also a parent from Rotterdam.

"Let's aim high for all our kids," stated Randy Squier, superintendent of the Coxsackie-Athens School District, "Let's stay the course."

And again, despite the overwhelming opposition, Commissioner King told the crowd, "now is not the time to stop," fully intending to stay the course.

Albany

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