State lawmakers engage in Common Core dialogue

Educators, administrators and parents had a chance to voice their concerns and offer suggestions about Common Core standards before a panel of five state assembleymembers in Baldwinsville tonight. Unlike past forums on the controversial topic, those in attendance felt that this was a rare opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with policymakers. "I've been to a recent forum with our Commissioner of Education," said Lafayette Central schools special education teacher Jim Graham. "There was no follow up. There was no engagement. Lines we repeated, people were talked over. Tonight, this was engagement. It wasn't a monologue: it was a dialogue." "It definitely was different from WCNY," said Baldwinsville teacher Beth Chetney, referring to the Common Core forum that Education Commissioner John King held in Syracuse earlier this month. "It was very controlled, as controlled as the Common Core." Assembleymembers Will Barclay, Gary Finch, Robert Oaks, and Education Committee members Ed Ra and Al Graf engaged with, and at times challenged, their audience in order to get to the root of the controversy over Common Core and to attempt to find solutions. "They seemed like they were listening. I saw a lot of them taking notes," said Chetney, who teaches 9th grade English. "They asked some challenging and difficult questions of some people that seemingly had more confidence in the Common Core. I definitely thought that this was a good opportunity and I felt we were heard today. The proof will be in the pudding." On the veritable laundry list of concerns raised with Common Core tonight are teacher evaluations, a lack of training and resources, inappropriate material and the creation of a one-size-fits-all education plan. "Education and inspiration should be a beautiful process and it's become mechanical and austere," said Graham. Parents and educators are also concerned with the amount of testing that students of all grade levels are subjected to under Common Core. One panelist pointed out that the testing period for elementary schoolers is actually longer than high school students taking SATs and prospective lawyers taking the bar exam. Lawmakers on the panel insisted that they are listening and will genuinely consider the feedback offered at tonight's forum. "I came into this hearing with my mind wide open on this thing," said Assembleyman Will Barclay. "Whether the best thing is to repeal the common core, I guess some states are considering that, or is there some way that we can make changes to it so that it isn't so onerous and can be successful for everyone?" Those in attendance are hoping for more genuine opportunities for the type dialogue that took place at Charles W. Baker High School tonight. "Sometimes it feels like we're the whipping boys," said Chetney. "And that's very difficult because teachers go into this profession because they love kids and they want to help kids learn. We want the love and support of our parents because we love and support their kids." "I didn't think I'd ever be in this type of situation fighting this type of fight," said Graham, whose daughter attends public school. "I pictured myself coaching little league basketball at this time of night and not being at a forum to create change within government. But you so what you have to do." Ed. Commissioner King will hold his next Common Core forum in Syracuse on December 3.