In case those in Washington, D.C., and Albany missed it, people have questions about the Common Core State Standards.
They have a lot of questions.
It should surprise no one, then, that there was a full complement of criticisms of Common Core at a recent town hall meeting at Spackenkill High School. Common Core standards are an attempt to bring state curricula into alignment. Many argue the Common Core places too much focus on compulsory testing, overemphasize rote learning and uniformity at the expense of creativity and have been implemented so fast teachers haven't had adequate time with the new curriculum or texts.
Why, then, is New York state canceling public meetings where the new standards were to be addressed by John King, state education commissioner?
According to King's office, the meetings have been cancelled because of "disruptions caused by the special interests." You see, in addition to the criticism of the curriculum, there are a whole separate batch of criticisms relating to how the Common Core were approved. The laundry list of issues includes privacy concerns relating to who has access to information gathered from students and an argument that Common Core violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, violates a federal law that prohibits federal control of education, is in violation of the New York state constitution and violates state education law.
"I was looking forward to engaging in a dialogue with parents across the state. I was eagerly anticipating answering questions from parents about the Common Core and other reforms we're moving ahead with in New York state. Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to 'dominate' the questions and manipulate the forum," King wrote in a statement posted on the state Education Department website.
Unfortunately for King, both sets of questions deserve a public airing. Both sets of questioning taxpayers and concerned citizens deserve to have some answers. Quelling debate and discussion moves New York no further toward its end goal of providing the best education possible for all of its children. Yes, speakers should be more civil than they were at Spackenkill, but King must realize it's time to listen to the very real questions and concerns many parents have regarding Common Core.
Not only should King resume the scheduled PTA town hall meetings - which included an Oct. 24 visit in Williamsville - he should hold more meetings throughout the state at any locale willing to host them.
However, those "special interest" groups so interested in shouting at King at Spackenkill need to restrain themselves and let the state answer the questions of concern so we can all have the facts in order to make an educated decision on whether or not the Common Core is a workable solution to provide the best education possible.