Commack School Superintendent Donald James
recently spoke before the New York State Senate Standing Committee on
Education, expressing his frustration with newly implemented Common Core
James was the only Suffolk County superintendent invited to testify during the Sept. 17 meeting.
The superintendent explained that while he appreciates the merit of more a more rigorous curriculum, problems Commack and other high-performing districts face are loss of control in the classroom and what he sees to be ill-conceived testing.
“For me, the issues at hand are not the Common Core Learning Standards, or their value; clearly these standards were developed with a level of thought and expertise that resulted in some very valuable components. Rather, the primary issues and concern include the loss of control, the over emphasis on standardized tests and the ill-conceived manner in which said tests are administered and the results utilized,” he said.
The superintendent said that at schools such as Commack, where nearly every student goes to college, the standardized tests may even lead to a “dumbing down” of the current standards.
“Our record speaks for itself. It is clear; our program, and the program of many districts statewide, prepares all students for high levels of achievement. So why force the change?” he asked.
Among the superintendent’s concerns was the notion that the new assessments were implemented with insufficient time to make curricular adjustments and with little to no information related to the structure and scoring of the new assessments. In addition, the Common Core assessments were structured to allow for a significant decrease in the number of students scoring in Levels 3 and 4, which indicate proficiency in the English language arts and mathematics.
“What we struggle with are altered and not yet complete, mandated structures intended to force curricular changes that are funneled through very narrowly constructed assessments,” he said, adding that the tests “may actually produce lost opportunity.”
James concluded that the assessments do not support the district’s mission to provide a well-rounded education.