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Northport schools to NYS: Slow down Common Core

School board pens letter to state education commissioner

From left, school board members Tammie Topel, Andrew Rapiejko and Julia Binger. File photo by Susan Risoli

November 21, 2013 | 10:01 AM
Audience members applauded Northport-East Northport school board members on Monday after President Stephen Waldenburg read a letter the board unanimously approved sending that urges state Education Commissioner John B. King to take a harder look ways to better implement statewide Common Core Learning Standards.

The letter asks for "multiple years" to bring what students are being taught into compliance with the new standards. It also calls for more professional development to help teachers implement the new curricula and suggests that parents receive ongoing updates about the Common Core and its progress.

In the letter, school officials also suggest reducing the portion of a teacher's Annual Professional Performance Review that is directly tied to his or her students' academic performance — from 40 points to 10 points. It also recommends that teachers and principals be mostly evaluated "on what occurs each day in their classrooms and schools versus the students' summative grades on one- or two-day annual state assessments."

The Northport-East Northport school district is not alone in wanting changes to Common Core. Across Long Island, parents, teachers and school officials have overwhelmingly criticized the Common Core, saying the curriculum was hastily rolled out.

Antoinette Blanck, president of the district's teachers union United Teachers of Northport, said in a phone interview on Tuesday that the letter is intended to convey to state education officials that the school district "wants to be able to have a conversation, to express what our concerns are and how they could be fixed."

Blanck said the Common Core requirements were "rolled out last year in mid-October, right after Hurricane Sandy. Schools were closed and that complicated things." Curricula at the different grade levels had to be "aligned with the Common Core [Learning] Standards without proper advance notification, without proper training, without proper resources," Blanck said.

"We were thrown into this and had to fend for ourselves," she said.

Students were tested in April, May and June to see how well they were learning the new lessons. Blanck said school districts are not convinced that the tests "are valid tools to measure the growth and proficiency of our students" and that using students' test results to gauge teacher effectiveness "is not a fair evaluation of students or teachers."

Trustee Lori McCue said in a phone interview on Tuesday that the board wanted the letter to be sent to King because "there's so much upheaval with the Common Core." She said the letter will "acknowledge that there are problems, but supports the transition and be part of the solution."

The letter was signed by Waldenburg; Superintendent Marylou McDermott; Irene McLaughlin, Northport High School's principal; Blanck; Lori Basel, president of the district's Parent Teacher Association Council; and Allison Noonan, president of the district's Special Education Parent Teacher Association.

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