Commissioner Elia comes to Ulster County

Parent meeting with Commissioner Elia

Commissioner Elia came to Ulster County on Tuesday December 8, 2015 and I was one of the three parents from the Kingston City School District invited to attend the parent meeting with her.  The meeting was arranged through BOCES and I know there were parents from both Ulster and Dutchess counties.  Not sure if Orange county was represented or not.

Commissioner Elia seemed to be a very nice lady and was definitely more successful at creating rapport with the parents than our previous commissioner, John King. Commissioner Elia spoke for more than half of the hour scheduled for our meeting with her and we didn’t actually start at 1:15pm so only 5 parents had opportunity to ask any questions.  I wasn’t one of those who asked a question this time around (I did get to address Commissioner King when he visited Spackenkill back in 2013).
Commissioner Elia took time to introduce herself and give her background in education.  She then gave a history of Common Core and explained how a lot of people categorize everything as “Common Core”.  She said that when talking about Common Core, we should just be talking about the standards and that there are four “buckets” of things people have issues with:
  • standards
  • curriculum
  • assessments
  • evaluation system

She also noted that we have had standards since 1647 and that the evaluation system has been changed four (4) times since Common Core was introduced.

Commissioner Elia is right that all of the above items/issues get lumped under “Common Core”.  In fact she missed including excessive data collection.  However I disagree with her that the standards are the only part that should be appropriately referred to as “Common Core”.  Each piece of this package is intricately woven together and can not function/succeed without the other pieces so it is indeed appropriate to refer to the package in its entirety as Common Core.

Commissioner Elia talked about the state department of education AimHighNY survey on the Common Core State Standards and reported that 71% of the 10,500 respondents were supportive of the standards.  I thought it was interesting though that she then proceeded to state that comments included statements that someone liked a standard but it should be in a different grade, for example it should be in grade 1 but it is in kindergarten.  My question is: how can the standard be liked/considered good if it is in the wrong grade?  The standard identifies what the children are supposed to know at the particular grade so if the standard is in the wrong grade then the standard is wrong/bad.  This is how some people defend the developmentally inappropriate Common Core State Standards – “they are okay if you just do them a little differently”.  The standards were written so that all states across the country would be teaching students the same things in the same grades and therefore students could move from state to state without missing out on pieces of their education.  If states can just move standards from one grade to another, we no longer have COMMON Core.
Commissioner Elia didn’t talk about it but I want to make sure everyone knows about another important survey.   New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) conducted a survey on the Common Core State Standards for one week and received about 12,000 responses.  You can click to read full details about the survey but the key points are:
  • 70 percent oppose the Common Core standards
  • Over 80 percent of respondents indicated that they believe ELA and Math standards in grades K-3 are developmentally inappropriate for many students
  • 91 percent say that the Common Core exams in grades 3-8 are flawed
  • 54 percent indicated that high schools should use the previous NYS Regents exams rather than new exams aligned to the Common Core standards
  • 96 percent say that test scores should not be linked to principal or teacher evaluations
  • 86.5 percent say that the state should abandon the Common Core standards and return to the New York’s former standards until educators can create better ones
The first parent/teacher who spoke was from Ellenville and felt that students spend too many days taking the state tests.  One of the parent’s comments was that perhaps a fixed 90 minute testing time is not appropriate and that perhaps students who were engaged in taking the test should be allowed to finish their test if they desired to do so, even if it took longer than the ‘allowed’ testing period.  I interpreted the comment to be a suggestion that the testing time should not be so regimented.  Apparently Commissioner Elia interpreted it differently because she asked the audience to raise hands if we thought students should be allowed to take longer than 90 minutes to finish their test.
Dr. Robin Jacobowitz, parent and board of education member from Kingston, was in attendance at the parent meeting with me and shared the “Time on Test” report in response to the suggestion to allow children to spend even more time on the standardized tests. Her concern was that even more than the current 4 days of lost instruction time could be lost but Dr. Jacobowitz’s comment was after the hand vote was taken by Commissioner Elia.
I was surprised when Rev. Childs reported at the KCSD Board of Education meeting on December 9 that Commissioner Elia said the department was considering allowing students to take longer than 90 minutes on their tests because Commissioner Elia didn’t tell us the idea was already under consideration when the idea was proposed in the parent meeting.
Concerns regarding testing and special education were mentioned by most if not all of the parents who spoke.
This quote from a parent, who I believe was from Red Hook, summed up the parent comments pretty well – “Someone owes these kids an apology for what they have been through.  It’s really not fair.”

One thought on “Parent meeting with Commissioner Elia”

Comments are closed.