Protests planned to get governor’s attention on education reform - The Buffalo News

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Protests planned to get governor’s attention on education reform

Opponents of the Common Core federal learning standards will be out on the picket line Monday to remind residents that the controversy hasn’t been resolved with last week’s elimination of a duplicate math exam.

Public protests and pickets, scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. outside approximately a dozen television stations statewide, are timed to precede Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s annual State of the State Address, which will be delivered Wednesday. Locally, the protest will be outside WGRZ-TV, Channel 2, on Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo.

“It’s a protest of Cuomo and his absence of leadership on ... education reform,” said Deborah Lang of No Common Sense Education, one of several grass-roots education reform groups active in the state.

“We’re taking it to the media,” said Lang, who added that protests will occur at media outlets that have been “friendly” to the message of No Common Sense Education.

Also Monday, Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, R-Niagara Falls, is hosting a public meeting at 6 p.m. at Niagara County Community College to seek opinions on the impact of Common Core, which was developed as a uniform guide to the skills a student should have at each grade level.

Ceretto has co-sponsored legislation to repeal those school curriculum standards.

Speakers will include Walter Polka, retired Lewiston-Porter school superintendent; John McKenna, principal of Fletcher Elementary School in the City of Tonawanda; and Lew-Port special-education teacher Ashli Skura-Dreher, the reigning state teacher of the year.

Lang said a synopsis previewing the governor’s State of the State Address contains only a couple of sentences about education reform and presents a rosy picture.

“We want to have him address the mess,” she said.

While state officials maintain that the Common Core standards adopted by 46 states have not increased the number of statewide assessments, many districts are testing students more as part of a separate state mandate for annual teacher evaluations.

By law, 20 percent of the evaluations must be based on the statewide assessments, 60 percent on classroom observation and 20 percent on a district-negotiated measure of student growth, which for many districts has meant pre- and post-lesson testing.

“The thing that started this all was the insane testing,” Lang said.

There is concern, Lang said, that the federal waiver on math tests, secured last week by state Education Commissioner John King Jr., would lead the public to believe that the “state’s listening.”

On Thursday, King secured a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that will spare nearly 60,000 advanced seventh- and eighth-grade students who are taking the math Regents exam this spring from also having to take a grade-level math assessment.

Currently, those students take the state math test that’s required by federal law, as well as the Regents math exam. The state will now be able to use the Regents exam to fulfill the federal testing requirement for those students.

The waiver, King said, is proof that he and the state Board of Regents are committed to doing away with unproductive testing.

Lang sees it differently.

“Nothing else changed, but that was the big bone that they threw,” she said. “That’s a deck chair off the Titanic.”


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