Board calls for reprieve on standardized tests

10/16/2013 12:29 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen and school board president Bill McGrath.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River superintendent Steven Cohen and school board president Bill McGrath.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board unanimously approved a pair of measures calling on state and federal officials to scale back their standardized testing requirements, joining a growing chorus of those in the education field saying the reins are too tight.

“I think the board wants the community, as well as the [State Education Department] and the governor, to know that it thinks the testing program, as part of the Race to the Top grant, is overkill and is counterproductive,” Superintendent Steven Cohen said.

The pushback comes after New York State officials implemented what is known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a new set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction and help “prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century,” state officials have said. The initiative’s principal requirements are that instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age.

But the reforms have met with much opposition, with many saying the tests are forcing teachers and administrators to “teach to the test” and don’t leave enough room for creativity in the classroom. Recently, both the Riverhead and Southold school boards passed resolutions similar to the one passed by the SWR school board on Oct. 8.

Mr. Cohen, an outspoken opponent of the Regents Reform Agenda, wrote an opinion column for the News-Review earlier this month detailing his frustrations with the measures and, in a phone call earlier this week, said the Shoreham-Wading River school board believes the SED “should back off from all this testing.”

“This part of the Reform Agenda basically undermines a lot of good curriculum and instruction,” he said.

The North Fork isn’t the only region in the state fighting the Common Core, prompting New York State Education Commissioner John King to schedule a series of public forums across the state to discuss the reforms with frustrated parents and educators.

But a forum scheduled for Oct. 15 in Garden City, the only one of its kind on Long Island, was postponed last weekend at the request of the commissioner’s office.

Mr. King said in a statement after the cancellation that “special interests” hijacked the first such forum. The first two forums were held in Poughkeepsie and Whitesboro, N.Y.

“Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum,” Mr. King stated.

It is not clear if the forums will be rescheduled.

ryoung@timesreview.com

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