Clearing up the Common Core

By Matt Porter
By Alicia Nieves

November 25, 2013 Updated Nov 25, 2013 at 7:52 PM EST

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Common Core has become the lightning rod of parental anger and teacher frustration.

The Common Core is a set of higher standards for schools created by states and enacted on a national scale to improve student performance, but the transition to the new standard has been difficult for cash-strapped districts across the state.

Monday a panel of education officials, including New York Education Commissioner John King, answered questions and concerns from local educators and parents.

King recognized that the system is not perfect, but he asked parents, teachers, and administrators to think of the project in a wider view.

"This is not a one year project, this is a long term effort to bring our students to these new standards," King said.

Parents were concerned that poor test results are stressing their children, and are not fair assessments.

Teachers expressed frustration that they haven't had enough time or resources to properly prepare students.

Through most of his responses Commissioner King stated, "Anytime the districts change their curricula [like math], there are going to be challenges," but he stressed the Common Core standards have been successful in other states, like Massachusetts.

King said the state needs to do more to help prepare districts, teachers, and parents on how to understand the new standards.

He said districts have the responsibility of being the central hub for communication.

"I think it's key that parents, teachers, and principals in the local school districts are in constant communication about what's happening in the classroom," he said.

The commission visited several local schools, and cited Windsor and Maine-Endwell as two districts who have programs supporting this kind of communication.

The state has provided a number of online resources for districts who are looking for help.

King admitted somethings need to change including who should get tested and how often.

He said that he will ask the US Department of Education to limit testing in the middle school grades and also increase the percentage of people with developmental disabilities get special testing.

For students with disabilities, he wants to allow some students take tests at their educational level instead of age level to ease pressure on students who need extra help.

King said the state can not abandon the Common Core because keeping lower standards would result in the United States falling behind.

"They [the world] have a common set of standards, in fact it's unusual the US does not have a common set of standards," he said.

James Tallon, a member of the regents board and a panelist, said many students got the wrong message this year when they saw their results.

"Those students who were progressing, got labeled a failure," Tallon said. "That isn't in our law, isn't in our standards."

All three panelists agreed students need to be challenged, but not be made to feel a failure for testing lower than they used to.

For King, performing well in the Common Core is not just an educational goal, but an economic reality.

"There are many empty jobs unfilled jobs because employers can't find a workforce with the skills they need," King said.