When there are no answers, don’t show up


Where there are no answers — when you are even afraid of the questions — don’t show up.

That’s apparently the plan drafted by New York’s education commissioner, who cancelled a Long Island town hall meeting to address parent concerns about the Common Core rather than face what he termed “special interests” who had “hijacked” previous meetings in other communities.

The meeting had been scheduled for Oct. 8 in Garden City and was the only such town hall meeting scheduled for Long Island.

Commissioner John B. King said in a prepared statement, “The disruptions caused by the special interests have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments. Essentially, dialogue has been curtailed.”

Hundreds of people attended two previous forums earlier in the month in Poughkeepsie and Utica, upstate. The two meetings were, by all accounts, “boisterous and adversarial,” and King often had trouble responding to questions without being booed and drowned out by chants.

What King did not say in his statement was that the “special interests” who disrupted his meetings were not special interests at all. They were parents who are angry at the way the state has rolled out the Common Core curriculum and the draconian testing program that comes along with the classroom curriculum changes. And, they are teachers who see the testing program and the way the test scores will be used to rank both students and teachers as detrimental to actual learning.

Parents are angry. Witness the most recent school board meeting in Oceanside earlier this week, where parents stood up one after another to tell the board and Superintendent Phyllis Harrington that they are not going to take it for much longer.

Witness the growing movement of parents who are opting out of the testing program, allowing their children to sit quietly in the testing room while other students are struggling with a test for which they were never taught the requisite material or skills necessary to succeed.

One school board member from Suffolk County, who had planned on attending the meeting, told Newsday that he was disappointed in the commissioner.

“It’s very disappointing to see the leader of our state’s education department essentially hide from parents and teachers, who are so directly affected by the decisions that he makes and the rushed implementation of the Common Core,” he said.

Many parents would agree. A number of local parents, who are busy forming a group to push back against not the core standards, but the testing program and the implementation schedule, say that the state’s increased emphasis on testing has resulted in less education because more classroom time is devoted to test prep — from how to fill in bubbles to how to determine the answer to a multiple choice question. In addition, they say, the number of practice tests mandated by the state has increased rapidly, not only taking up time, but often leaving students nervous and physically ill over the prospect of failing the high stakes tests.

They ask that the common core testing be pushed off two or three years, until the skills and information necessary for success have been taught in the classroom for awhile.

Meanwhile, state officials look for another way to meet with parents about common core, presumably one that will keep special interests such as parents and teachers out of the room.