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Common Core Supporters Speak Out

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 09:39 PM

StudentsFirst organized Common Core supporters in December, and is now part of Higher Achievement NY to support the standards (Yasmeen Khan/WNYC)

State education commissioner John King faced a highly supportive audience Tuesday night at his first forum on the Common Core learning standards in New York City.

Dozens of parents, organized by the advocacy group StudentsFirstNY, held signs in support of the learning standards and spoke of the Common Core's role in equalizing educational opportunities for students in poorer neighborhoods by raising expectations for its teachers and students.

"I'm here to dispel the myth that children in low-income neighborhoods cannot learn," said Darlene Boston, a parent of a child who recently graduated from high school. "Common Core is another way to bridge the gap of inequality that exists in New York City public schools."

Some of the parents who spoke were also affiliated with charter schools and the group Families for Excellent Schools, another advocacy organization that, like StudentsFirst, promotes school choice, charter schools, merit pay for teachers and other policies aligned to the "education reform" movement.

Tuesday's event was held at Medgar Evers College. Another forum, attended by Merryl Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of Regents, was simultaneously held in the Bronx.

Parents at the Brooklyn forum spoke emotionally about the need for improved instruction and at times recalled their own stories of performing well in high school, only to get to college to need remedial classes or tutoring.

Jacqueline Green Parks, who has four children at Leadership Prep Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said her children were ready and willing to meet higher expectations, even if it meant that they struggled. 

"It is okay for kids to feel challenged," said Parks. "It is even okay to fail, because most times this is what helps you to grow."

Several educators praised the Common Core standards as well, including Anthony Lombardi, principal of P.S. 49 Dorothy Bonawit Kole in Middle Village, Queens who said he "fundamentally" disagreed with a parent quoted in SchoolBook previewing the forum, who suggested that the Common Core would help drive instruction toward more test prep. 

On the contrary, he said, "I fundamentally believe that the Common Core is going to force schools to be creative, innovative and flesh out lessons and units of study that are going to propel student learning."  

But where some supporters of the new learning standards diverged from others was over the rollout of the Common Core and how well -- or poorly -- education officials had prepared educators to implement the new standards. Some expressed dismay that criticizing the Common Core came at the risk of appearing in opposition to higher learning standards.  

Kathleen Daniel, a member of the Community Education Council for District 16, said the Common Core is a "very good model."

"However, the Common Core was deployed by a bureaucracy that has not changed since the year of the flood," said Daniel. "So I'm very concerned that a great model perhaps isn't getting the support that it could because we have a poor deployment and implementation coming from a bureaucracy." 

She also implored King to include parents in implementation of the Common Core. "We need to be participants," she said.

Heather Lawrence, principal of P.S. 181 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, said the "execution" of the Common Core required more expertise and professional development. She said that teachers have worked to piece together instructional materials through the state's Common Core website, EngageNY, and new curricular materials.

"As we think about the execution of this we must think about the culture of which this system -- this new system -- was planted, and everybody's not ready," said Lawrence. "The fact that there's information does not imply that behavior change is coming," she said.

King put the responsibility of preparing educators in New York City's hands, saying professional development around the Common Core must be the focus of the next mayoral administration and schools chancellor. 

"This issue of ensuring that every teacher has the preparation and support to implement these high standards well, that has got to be a top priority for the leadership of this district going forward," he said.

King will hold another forum Wednesday night in Manhattan. 

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Comments [4]

Sylvia from NYC

@ Jack Covey:
Your assumption that the people holding signs "… have no clue as to the issues at hand, and the true intent" is insulting at best.

Dec. 16 2013 11:31 AM

"It is even okay to fail, because most times this is what helps you to grow."

Same siren song that has been employed to protect the tenure of a failing educational bureaucracy dedicated to its mission of self aggrandizement and self preservation.

Having determined that some children are "advantaged" over others by virtue of the financial and educational achievements of their parents, the progressive "equalizers" have devised a curriculum that is inaccessible to parental assistance; binding students to the values and opinions of their school teachers and alienating them from their parents who are perceived as unable to assist.

If you want your children, you're going to have to fight for them. They'll love you for it.

Dec. 11 2013 11:06 AM
Leonie Haimson from NYC

The entire event was a set-up. Officials at Medgar Evers college were told to reserve a room inside the building for parents who were being bussed in early by StudentsFirst. Though NYSED had announced that the doors would open at 6 PM, by 5:15 PM all the slots were taken. When asked why parents had been allowed to sign up early, the officials in charge said that they had been mobbed by parents already inside the building and felt they had no choice. StudentsFirst was founded to provide the shock troops for corporate reform, and clearly with the help of insiders at either State Ed or DOE did their job in Brooklyn last night.

Dec. 11 2013 11:06 AM
Jack Covey

These people are all astroturf dupes. How come the signs all look identical.... the circle with the diagonal slash through it over the words "low expectations"? That's because these signe mass produced, then passed out to these clueless folks, but made to look like they were handmade by "grass roots" parents. In lieu of tuition/coerced donations, charter school parents are allowed to offer "service hours". Now you would think that would be say... working as unpaid lunchroom monitors, or unpaid aides or crossing guards, or whatever... Well, they can also fulfill their "service hours" obligation by participating in rent-a-mobs like the one pictured above. They have no clue as to the issues at hand, and the true intent. Common Core sets the traditional public schools up for failure by making impossible standards.

Once the schools fail, the corporate privatizers will use that alleged "failure" as justification for charterizing and privatizing the remaining traditional public schools. True grassroots parents have caught onto this.

If Common Core is so great, they how come Commissioner John King is spending tens of thousands of dollars (of money paid to him by corporate reformers, btw) to make sure that his own children are figuratively as far away from Common Core as they possibly can be—in a Montessori school with curriculum and minimal testing that is diametrically opposed to Common Core—while at the same time, telling the millions of parents (of New York, and nationwide) that these parents and their children are going to have to accept Common Core even if King and his fellow “corporate reformers” have to forcefully shove it down their throats…. and no matter how much they protest at these sham public hearings, these parents have no power to change this.

This hypocrisy of his should be the end of the debate as to King’s lack of character.

Dec. 11 2013 09:07 AM

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