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Students Talk Common Core: 'We're Starting Almost Not to Learn'

Students share their feelings on the Common Core during a workshop at Copper Beach in Yorktown Tuesday.
Students share their feelings on the Common Core during a workshop at Copper Beach in Yorktown Tuesday.
For Jackie and Phoebe, fifth-graders at Washington Irving in Tarrytown, the Common Core standards have made for a "lack of creativity" in the classroom, and a curriculum that is "kind of boring."

"I have a lot of feelings about the Common Core," Phoebe said Tuesday night at a Common Core workshop in Yorktown.

Whether she looks forward to school depends on the day, and whether she will get a chance to participate in extracurriculars like band or play rehearsal. She called the frequent testing "more hardcore" and described what she learns in the classroom as "just kind of plain." 

"There's more to education than that I think," she said as she jotted down her feelings on worksheets. The worksheets asked students a slew of questions about favorite subjects and difficult subjects, the way they feel when they do not understand a test question or a homework assignment, whether they feel like they have enough time to learn new concepts, and more. "I want more creativity in class."

"And different ways to learn," Jackie added.

About 25 students in grades three through nine attended the event at Lakeland's Copper Beech Middle School in Yorktown Heights. It was hosted by State Sen. Greg Ball (R, C, I, — Patterson) and Parents for a Common Cause. 

Denise Kness, one of the organization's co-founders and a Lakeland mother of two, encouraged students to tell Ball "what's good and what's bad." Lakeland Superintendent Dr. George Stone said organizers wanted to hear "first-hand" from the students about what is working and what is not. 

Ball's office has been "inundated with phone calls, emails, letters and faxes from parents, teachers, students and community members that are very concerned with this new program."

"If you look where the governor has gone and where the legislature has gone, people are listening and your government is listening," he told attendees at Tuesday's meeting. 

Ball is pushing a bill that calls for an immediate three-year moratorium on the Common Core.

"We must be committed to providing our students with the best possible education available," he said in a statement. "However, education is not about teaching to the test and it should never become a one size fits all endeavor, sinking to the lowest common denominator.”

As students shared their concerns with Ball, parents looked on and chatted amongst themselves.

Larry Tobacco of Yorktown Heights came with his daughter, a Copper Beech student who is part of the student council. He said she has "always been a great student" so it is hard to say how much she has been affected by the Common Core. A lot of her friends have been struggling though, Tobacco said.

"You want them to learn as much as possible," he told Patch, adding that he is pleased his daughter is spending a good portion of her time in school working on writing skills. "I think it's a lot better than when I was a kid."

Liz Doell of Shrub Oak said her sixth-grade daughter wanted to attend because a teacher encouraged the students to do so. Doell and her husband, a former math teacher, have noticed a big difference in math. She worries about the stress on her daughter, who gets frustrated with her homework. 

"Sometimes we are baffled by the way the questions are asked ... It seems like the concepts are being taught in a way that's hard for us to grasp," she said, noting that the problem is the curriculum, not the teachers.

John Ferebee, a Scarsdale resident whose children are 19, 21 and 25, attended to learn more about the Common Core. He is still educating himself on the standards, but he is questioning the appropriateness, legality and effectiveness of the initiative, especially because he has heard about the frustrations and losses of confidence some students are experiencing.

"I think that the amount of testing has increased, as well as homework," said Stephanie Hurwitz, a Lakeland ninth-grader. "Everything's just really sped up and gotten a lot more challenging."

Another Lakeland student, eighth-grader Anuk DeSilva, said his homework sometimes takes two to four hours to complete, and that the situation is similar for seventh and sixth-graders. The work is so challenging that it limits after-school time for things like sports and music. 

DeSilva does not look forward to school each day. One thing that would help, he said, is a longer lunch—he spends part of it in Earth Science, and by the time he goes to his locker and buys a meal, the break is only about 10 minutes.

"We have to learn to remember so much," DeSilva said, "we're starting almost not to learn."

Common Core creators say the standards will better prepare students for the future—college, the workforce and competition on a global scale. It is being implemented across the country. State leaders decided this week to delay portions of the program tied to testing and teacher evaluations.
CowDung February 13, 2014 at 01:04 PM
"It seems like the concepts are being taught in a way that's hard for us to grasp," she said, noting that the problem is the curriculum, not the teachers." If the issue is the way that a concept is being taught, how can that be the fault of the curriculum instead of the teacher?
eatingdogfood February 13, 2014 at 03:39 PM
School is supposed to be challenging and difficult. A good teacher knows strategies to help a child understand.
David February 13, 2014 at 06:54 PM
If there's more there than most students can learn, it means all students are being challenged and every student, with some emotional support, will learn all he or she can. I am more concerned about the comments that what is learned in school is "sort of plain". I don't know what this means, it could mean that students are not being distracted with irrelevant fun activities which would be good, or it could mean that teaching is limited to what the slowest student can understand, which would not be good. Common Core is not a curriculum but a set of standards. Then schools and other organization define curriculum to teach to the standards. If the curriculum is wrong, it's a matter of that implementation, not CC itself.
Harold1968 March 03, 2014 at 04:57 PM
Teachers don't want to be held accountable for the teaching, or lack of teaching, they provide. They're getting parents all riled up so CC is delayed and eventually killed. The teachers I know personally don't care about their students. They became teachers to work nine months of the year, get six figure salaries with two annual raises, retire in their 50's with $100,000+ annual pensions and free healthcare for life. Wake up taxpayers! We pay higher and higher taxes for teacher compensation while our kids fail miserably compared to the rest of the world. Bad teachers need to be fired without years of litigation, teachers need to teach our children at least 210 days each year, they need to retire at 67 like we do, they need to be switched to 401K plans like the rest of us, they need to pay for their own healthcare and get one annual raise based on inflation. Wake up New York, you're getting ripped off by the teachers union and the politicians they own.
NYCLU LHV March 19, 2014 at 03:44 PM
We will be holding a free public forum on our students' right to learn. Among the topics to be discussed will be about the Common Core. Please join us at the Greenburgh Public Library on March 25 at 6:30 PM. Thank you, lowerhudsonvalley@nyclu.org
Aidan March 21, 2014 at 09:29 PM
Harold, I think you made a bad decision long ago.
Guarags30 March 31, 2014 at 02:07 PM
This Common Core is a way for the government to control the education system like it wants to control health care. Check the constitution, Education is a reserved power of the state not delegated to the central government. State leaders (like Cuomo) get $$$$$ for taking part in this type of program. It isn't mandatory. Maybe if all the people who are complaining about this voted the right way in the first place we wouldnt have this problem, not to mention the teachers unions that help endorse Cuomo during his election. Bunch of hypocrites, the "chickens have come home to roost". You Lefties finally see the mistakes in your ways. (BTW im not a conservative) so dont get ready to make a "blame Bush" response to this email. Just think about who is pushing this CC agenda???

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