Controversy over Common Core in Northern NY - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Controversy over Common Core in Northern NY

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With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of end-of-year exams in schools. But this year something unusual is taking place. Some students are refusing to take the tests and educators are saying OK.

"We've had a record number of parents choose to refuse to have their students take the tests," said James Short, the superintendent of the Plattsburgh City School District.

Specifically, the Common Core exams. These are exams almost every state in nation recently introduced to schools.

"High school graduating seniors today across the country are not well prepared for post-secondary education, including college, but other kinds of post-secondary education as well, that lead to careers," said James Dawson of the New York State Board of Regents.

The tests are intended to keep every student in the U.S. on an even playing field at a higher standard.

"Our entire goal is for our young people to be successful in their pre- through 12 education and onward," Dawson said.

The tests are designed to measure how students are adjusting to the new Common Core Curriculum. According to the New York State Department of Education, the exams will not be required for graduation until 2022. So students do not legally have to take the tests until then.

In the Plattsburgh City school district in grades 3-8, 47 percent of the students are not taking the Common Core exams this spring.

"Nearly half. Less numbers in the lower elementary grades, third and fourth-- about 30 percent. But by the time you get to eighth grade it's well into the 60 percent of parents saying they don't want their students tested," Short said.

Since the days of the little red schoolhouse the classroom has been a place of learning and participating. But since parents have started refusing to have their students take the Common Core tests, the classroom in many cases has been a place of protest.

Many parents in New York, like Margarita Garcia-Notario of the North Country Alliance for Public Education, think the Common Core focuses too heavily on test taking.

"The only ones who are suffering are the children, who are over-tested. Over, over, overtested," Garcia-Notario said.

In some schools, the response to students not participating in the tests has been to have them just sit and stare at it.

"But some people have had a very strong reaction to that and they want to say no, that's not abuse. Yes, that is abuse because who can have a child sitting in front of a table for an hour and a half," Garcia-Notario said.

Instead of having students sit and stare at a blank test paper, educators at Plattsburgh City Schools thought of a better use of the students' time.

"Read quietly," Short said. "We figured an educational setting-- reading is not a bad alternative to testing. So they are just quietly reading for about two hours, the length of time the test could take."

Parents like Garcia-Notario appreciate schools like Plattsburgh which did not implement the sit and stare policy.

"We're at least designing an educational atmosphere that works for parents, works for kids, and still we were able to uphold the state regulations and have a quality testing environment for those being tested," Short said.

Dawson believes the dust will settle over time. Parents have until 2022 to adjust to the new standard when Common Core standards will go into full effect in New York.

Dawson says no one likes change at first.

Protesters say the solution is to give the power back to the local communities and let them decide what to teach and what to test.

"You are part of a community; you know your children, you know your priorities," Garcia-Notario said.

Whether that will happen remains to be seen. For now it seems the Common Core is here to stay in New York.

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