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Yonkers Teacher Among Those Airing Out Common Core Concerns

A Harrison parent yells at New York Education Commissioner John King about the Common Core at a public forum held in Port Chester Monday.
A Harrison parent yells at New York Education Commissioner John King about the Common Core at a public forum held in Port Chester Monday. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
Yonkers teacher Kevin Clifford speaks about how the Common Core hurts schools.
Yonkers teacher Kevin Clifford speaks about how the Common Core hurts schools. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
John Del Vecchio of Yorktown talks about his experiences under the Common Core and how it has increased his stress as his mother Linda looks on.
John Del Vecchio of Yorktown talks about his experiences under the Common Core and how it has increased his stress as his mother Linda looks on. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
New York Education Commissioner John King addresses criticism of the Common Core at the forum held in Port Chester Monday.
New York Education Commissioner John King addresses criticism of the Common Core at the forum held in Port Chester Monday. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- Hundreds of Westchester County parents and educators expressed concern and outrage to New York Education Commissioner John King over the implementation of the Common Core at a public forum held before a packed house at Port Chester Middle School on Monday night.

Many felt that the Common Core standards have been implemented too quickly and that not enough due diligence has been performed on their effectiveness. Others said that there was an over-reliance on testing, and that the standards reduce teacher and administrative control over what children are taught in the classroom.

Administrators and school board members complained that the Common Core and teacher assessments are placing a heavy burden on district budgets.

"At Yonkers, we've had cuts for guidance counselors, our psychologist, our social workers, our peer support, art, music, library, everything has been decimated," said Kevin Clifford, a Dobbs Ferry parent and teacher in Yonkers Public Schools. "Yet you want our students to meet the same standards as everyone else. I tell you, that is not fair. That is not right. That is not just."

Lou Wool, the superintendent of Harrison Schools, said that superintendents tried to warn King and the Board of Regents about the issues raised by the Common Core. He said that the curriculum has hurt the people in poverty it was partly designed to help.

"I spent 18 years in a district that is predominantly a district ravaged by poverty and I can tell you this reform agenda has not only not helped, it has damaged them," he said. "And all of this could have been accomplished quite differently.

"There's not a single superintendent in this room that's not opposed to teacher accountability. There's not a superintendent that's opposed to reasonable use of test data. What we were opposed to was the medical malpractice that's been perpetrated on the teachers and the children of this state."

Some said that King should resign, while others called for a repeal or a vote on the Common Core. There were some who accused King and members of the Board of Regents of having personal financial incentive for implementing the curriculum.

Those who crowded into the auditorium enthusiastically applauded those who spoke against the Common Core. Nobody spoke in favor of the initiative.

The only student who spoke was John Del Vecchio, a 10-year-old from Yorktown who was joined by his mother, Linda. He talked about how much work the Common Core standards have created for him.

"There is so much pressure to pass all these tests, me and my classmates have to stay in during recess to cover material for the test," he said. "I've always done well in school, but this work has become so confusing I often want to give up."

King said that he has seen the Common Core in action and that he has seen its success in school's he's visited. He said that work will continue to be done on the curriculum and implementation to make it more successful.

"We will make adjustments, but I don't want to leave any confusion about our commitment to our work on the Common Core moving forward, ensuring that we work with government and legislators to make sure the resources are there for all districts to reach those higher expectations, and to work on teacher and principal evaluations."