Frustration at New York State’s newly required Common Core Learning Standards is growing among dozens of Wantagh parents.
Lori Valdez, who has a daughter in fourth grade at Wantagh Elementary School, said during the public comments portion of the Oct. 17 school board meeting that in just one week she received signatures from 96 district parents protesting the Common Core, which began last spring and consists of assessments for grades 3-8 in English and math. A town-hall style meeting on the Common Core curriculum scheduled to be held in Garden City on Oct. 15 was abruptly cancelled by New York State Education Commissioner John King after an Oct. 10 forum in Poughkeepsie featured loud outbursts from enraged parents.
“They are asking our children to think in ways they are not developmentally ready for,” said Valdez in her remarks at Thursday night's meeting held inside the Wantagh High School Auditorium. “The overemphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in our schools including narrowing the curriculum teaching to this test, reducing a love of learning, creating anxiety in our students and undermining the school climate.”
In addition to measuring student progress, the new tests are also aimed at monitoring district accountability and evaluating teachers. Many parents last spring joined a movement to opt their children out of the testing because of objections to the exams not being appropriate for their age.
Valdez urged the Wantagh school board to adopt a resolution opposing the standardized testing resulting from Common Core, a move already done by 80 school boards in New York State including nearby districts of Rockville Centre, Hewlett-Woodmere and Great Neck. Valdez acknowledged that Wantagh does not have the ability to avoid the mandated assessments but that joining other school boards in objecting to the increased amount of high-staked testing in schools could send a powerful message to Albany.
Michael Soethout, president of the Wantagh school board, said during Thursday’s meeting a resolution emphasizing concern about the increased emphasis on standardized testing is being considered by the trustees.
“We want a full body education and experience for the children,” said Soethout, who was first elected school board president in July and is in his third year as trustee. “We are not trying to change what we have done successfully through the years.”
Wantagh Elementary School parent Robert Beck also spoke out against the Common Core curriculum during the Oct. 17 meeting, calling the tests “ridiculous.”
Wantagh Superintendent Maureen Goldberg issued a statement a day after the Oct. 17 meeting emphasizing that while the Common Core Learning Standards are now a requirement for all districts in New York State, they are still speaking up about its implementation.
“Along with my colleagues on Long Island and the rest of the state, we have complied with this mandate, but have voiced our deep concerns to the Commissioner of Education John B. King regarding the impact of prematurely introducing this new more rigorous curriculum and the associated assessments,” said Goldberg, who was previously a longtime principal of Forest Lake Elementary School. “Our number one priority in Wantagh is to ensure that all students receive a high quality education in a supportive and nurturing environment. This continues to be our priority while remaining in compliance with all state mandates.”