Jeff Laffel, who has taught literature and film study at Elmont Memorial High School, said he believes that teachers must adjust to new, more rigid standards. “In order to become an intelligent person, one must be taught how to think, to interpret and to understand,” Laffel said. “When I taught literature, it was never about the story, but rather, what lay beneath. Symbolism, metaphor, simile: These are things to make kids think. Teaching for a test removes all chance of learning, and of humanism. We will become a country of automatons, non-thinking and easily led without dissent.”
Elmont resident Patrick Nicolosi, whose children grew up in Elmont and attended its schools, echoed Laffel’s sentiments. He said that teaching has become far removed from what it used to be.
“Teaching is now having kids take tests — that’s not teaching,” Nicolosi said. “We need to teach to make students well-rounded. Everything is tests, tests, tests. There are great test-takers and not-so-good test-takers. It’s not a good system, because [the government is] trying to weed out children. Common Core is ridiculous. This is going down the wrong direction.”
Another parent, an Elmont resident who declined to be identified, told the Herald that the root of the problem may be the design of the tests, which may not fairly reflect students’ ability. “As a parent, I need to know who designed the tests,” the resident said. “Are these our teachers? If not, did we spend money to pay some company to design these questions for our kids? If there’s a huge drop in scores, it’s not necessarily the kids. We need to review how the questions are designed.”
“This is a watershed moment in the history of the public schools in New York state,” said Joel Klein, the former New York City school chancellor who now leads a private educational initiative for Rupert Murdoch. “For the first time, students across the state were assessed on the new, more rigorous Common Core standards. For years, states around the country dummied down standards to make it look as if students were more prepared for success after graduation than they actually were. This may have made many politicians look good, but it has been a disservice to our students.”