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."For Jackie and Phoebe, fifth-graders at
"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.