March 04, 2014

Food for Thought: Core Curriculum / Politically Speaking

Source: NYSUT Retiree Services

A "double header" from the Western N.Y News & Views newsletter for Food for Thought: Retiree Leaders Speak Out:  "Core Curriculum" by Rosemary Donohue and "Politically Speaking" by Ann Kennedy further down the page.

Core Curriculum

Guest Editorial By Rosemary Donohue, Retiree #1 Council Pres.

I’ve been attending meetings addressing questions about the implementation of the Core Curriculum Standards and how they affected the testing of students in N.Y.S. (2013). Detailed explanations of Core Curriculum Standards are available at http://www.engageny.org. The Standards have rigorous expectations for all grade levels. I agree with Commissioner King and Board of Regents Member, Robert Bennett, that implementing the Standards will improve the quality of education for all students. 

Many teachers, administrators, parents and I are concerned, not with the Standards, but with their implementation. Unfortunately, Commissioner King, Robert Bennett, and the N.Y.S. Education Department do not comprehend this. Do they truly not understand, or do they not care what many parents, teachers and administrators are trying to explain to them? Many feel that Commissioner King and the N.Y.S. Education Department implemented the Standards and tested them too quickly. Issues that need to be addressed are the cost of implementation and the emotional stress on students, their families, and educators. 

Throughout the discussions and presentations about Standards, I have heard how students are frustrated with the tests. I have heard about students not wanting to attend school because of the need to pass multiple tests and about teachers needing to spend more time record-keeping than teaching. I have heard that a classroom that develops love of learning has become obsolete. Teaching time is being spent on preparing students to pass tests and documenting their lessons and progress. 

At these meetings, many parents, teachers and administrators are asking for a moratorium on testing until the Standards can be implemented more effectively with less frustration and stress for everyone. This year students were tested on curriculum not taught in the lower grades. Allowances were not made for students with English as a second language (ESL). The NYS Education Department was recently granted a variance from the U.S. Education Department to test ESL students in their language. 

Most retired teachers continue to care about the education of students. We care because we love children and have grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends’ children being educated. We want what is best for them. Has implementing the Core Curriculum Standards been best for students? 

Another issue concerning all taxpayers is the cost of implementing the Standards. School Districts across N.Y. State have found it difficult to fund the training of educators, and to purchase textbooks and materials. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and other large city schools find the costs overwhelming. The tax cap makes funding very difficult. N.Y. State is exploring ways to help these Districts. This means increased local, state and federal taxes. Can we afford these increases? Other states have slowly implemented the Core Curriculum Standards. Why did N.Y. State not do the same? 


Politically Speaking

By Ann Kennedy

2014 is upon us and promises to be an active one at both the state and federal levels. 

In New York State we will hold elections for a governor, who will serve a four year term, and for all members of both the NYS Assembly and Senate, who will each serve a two year term. 

In addition, there are several critical educational issues to be resolved. Current funding for K – 12 in NYS is equal to that provided five years ago for the 2008-09 school year. Higher education in the state remains woefully underfunded. And while Governor Cuomo spoke favorably about pre-kindergarten in his recent State of the State address, he also promised $2 billion in tax cuts. 

Furthermore, parents, educators, administrators, students and community members are speaking out about the immediate implementation of the Common Core and an over-reliance on standardized testing. Instead they are advocating that educators focus on teaching and learning, and that time be allotted for curriculum development, alignment of the assessments and instruction, and adequate preparation of teachers prior to rolling out the Common Core. 

At the national level we will be electing one third of the Senators and all of the members of Congress. Many see this election as a litmus test for the next presidential contest. Extension of unemployment insurance, an increase in the minimum wage, healthcare, federal budget negotiations and immigration reform are just some of the issues that will be up for consideration in this, the second year of the 113th Congress. 

Keep informed on the issues. Become vocal about those that resonate with you. One way to express your opinion is to join NYSUT’s Member Action Center. Be sure to prepare yourself to vote on November 4. 

For more information on the NYSUT Member Action Center (MAC) go to mac.nysut.org