New York City Common Core Listening Session

Photo credit: Katie Lapham

Photo credit: Katie Lapham

Yesterday, November 6th, members of Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force held five simultaneous regional “listening sessions” around the state; five more will follow. The NYC event was held in Long Island City at Laguardia Community College from 4-6 pm on a Friday. Minimal advance notice and inconvenient scheduling no doubt suppressed turnout among NYC parents and teachers.

Here are some highlights from yesterday’s event.

  • Task Force members: Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Brooklyn 3rd grade teacher Kishayna Hazelwood were the task force members presiding over the NYC session. I thought they asked good questions, particularly of Common Core (CC) supporters and those who thought the testing program simply needs to be tweaked. Nolan — who credited Carol Burris (former Long Island high school principal and now Executive Director of the Network for Public Education Fund) with helping her understand the “sort and rank” function of high-stakes testing as well as how the cut scores have been politically manipulated — asked CC and testing supporters what they thought of those practices. Nolan also asked a lot of questions about how testing should be modified for students who are English language learners and those with disabilities.
  • Attendance and audience: There were probably over 100 people in attendance at the beginning of the session with quite a few people standing in the back. Bizarrely, after just a few people had spoken (all against CC and high-stakes testing, including City Council member Danny Dromm), there was a mass exodus. According to Katie Lapham’s excellent account of the event, those who departed were mostly parents and organizers from Students First NY. One person remarked to Katie, “This isn’t for us. We support Common Core.” But there were others who left fairly early on as well; I’m not sure why.
  • Speakers: About 25 of us spoke — sadly, only 3 spoke as parents. About half the speakers supported CC with what has now become the new prevailing narrative among corporate “reformers”: the standards are good but could use a few tweaks, particularly around developmental inappropriateness; implementation has been problematic; and we need shorter and higher-quality tests. Interestingly, a lot of the CC supporters were highly critical of the Engage NY modules and other materials. In the face of the massive push back from opt out, they’ve clearly modified their stance to become a bit more critical. But most of the supporters were hired guns: Steve Sigmund, CEO of High Achievement NY; Evan Stone, co-CEO of Educators for Excellence and several E4E teachers; and Arva Rice, CEO of the NY Urban League.

The only parents who testified besides me (you can read my testimony here) were two young parents who have just started to speak out about CC and high-stakes testing. They gave the most powerful testimony of the evening, by far! These two brave women were clearly motivated to come and speak because of the negative impact of CC and high-stakes testing on their children, but both also stated clearly that they felt compelled to speak out for all the parents who could not, and particularly for those who don’t know or understand what is happening to their children. They also acknowledged the language barriers that make it difficult for some parents to engage with these issues.

The rest of us who spoke out against CC and high-stakes testing have been speaking out on these issues for a while. But alas, none of us get paid to do so.