A small crowd attended the North Country Alliance for Public Education forum at AuSable Valley Central School this past June.
A group of concerned citizens are coming together Nov. 14 to discuss the “Race to the Top” school initiative and it’s “Common Core Curriculum” standard, and hope to be able to impact the dialog of this growingly fractious issue.
“We’re getting together to share experiences and think about what we can do on behalf of the kids, because it’s the kids...we’re concerned about what’s happening for the kids in the schools,” said Doug Selwyn, a SUNY Plattsburgh professor and one of the organizers of the event. “We don’t want it to be just an “ain’t it awful” session…forthem to air some of that, but the focus is also going to be on what can we do, why is this happening, try to understand what’s happening.”
Race to the Top is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education initiative which incentivises states to participate, and requires schools to satisfy certain educational landmarks, such as performance-based standards for teachers and principals, complying with Common Core standards, turning around the lowest-performing schools and building data systems.
In the first wave of testing under the Common Core standards, released this past fall, New York schools state-wide performed much worse than they had on previous standardized tests.
“Race to the Top was sold to us as a way to get more money to schools and districts that desperately need funds. As it turns out, the requirements of Race to the Top cost way more than the schools are receiving, so they are actually losing money at a time when they are already receiving less from the states. They are having to end programs and lay off people so that they can do more testing,” said Selwyn.
The Common Core, according to Selwyn, was created under the auspices of the National Governors’ Association, and was financed primarily by Bill Gates, other billionaires and publishing companies; people, he cites, who do not have a background in education.
The standardized testing of Race to the Top is one component which has drawn the most fire from critics, as was true of its predecessor, No Child Left Behind. Teachers often bristle at standardized testing, and point to research that shows that standardized tests are not good determinants of future success.
For Selwyn, one of the most important things that can come from this meeting, the third of its kind since summer, is an opening up of dialog about Race to the Top.
“One of the things that makes it very frustrating, very difficult during these times is that teachers and administrators are basically ordered not to say anything; not to talk about this, which makes it really difficult to have a clear picture of what’s happening. So you don’t hear anything from teachers about what they’re feeling, because if they speak out they’re disciplined,” he said.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey will give the keynote speech at the Alliance’s forum. It will be held at Yokum Hall, room 200, on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
The Alliance’s meeting will precede a visit to the North Country by New York State Education Commissioner John King. King will be speaking at a panel discussion at Mountain Lake PBS Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss Common Core.
According to Tim Butler, a fifth grade teacher and co-organizer of the North Country Alliance for Public Education, King was supposed to speak across the state at public forums, but the first forum he spoke at became so heated that it was decided he would instead speak in more controlled settings.
In a news release King said that he wants “a more respectful, direct and constructive dialog with parents. More and smaller discussions will make sure there is a real opportunity for parents to be heard.”
Those who wish to attend the forum are asked to contact www.mountainlake.org/forum to attempt to secure a seat.