Common Core changes will do little to help teachers
The proposed Common Core revisions sound good, but they do not really change anything.
Limit the amount of time “teaching to the test,” when each teacher must have an exam given in that subject to be evaluated? Students have no responsibility for how they do, but those Common Core standards are part of these tests and our APPR [Annual Professional Performance Review].
I have heard a great deal of “reassurance” about this, with officials trying to say that the teacher evaluation exams are separate from the Common Core. No, they are not.
Schools must buy that exam — the teacher may not make the exam, or give it or correct it. The exams we were allowed to choose from in our school (and neighboring ones) must also reflect Common Core standards, including those in English and math for that grade level. Therefore, every teacher (including technology, health, art, phys ed, languages, health) will spend their class time trying to teach to the test, as 1) we don’t know what may be on the test; and 2) our jobs depend on it.
Our school gives them 90-minute exams in each subject that were made by our BOCES district (which the school must still buy).
All teachers’ APPRs [include] how well students do on the English and math exams, not just the ones in their subject. So we spend a great deal of time trying to figure out just what might be covered under Common Core and teaching the students top pass those exams.
Last spring, we counted the testing hours in our middle school. An average sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade student spent April and May taking 46 hours of state-mandated tests. This is before our contract-mandated finals in the middle of June.
Those new recommendations sound well, but they will not change the reality of the deadly combination of Common Core standards that are above the students’ ability levels, and the sheer number of tests. It does not change that our jobs are on the line if we don’t teach them enough to do well.
The writer is a middle school teacher.
Keep funding after-school programs
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady have made life so much better for me and my son. All children in New York should have the same opportunity, and I support the plan in this year’s state budget for $160 million in new after-school programs, starting in 2015-16.
I love my son’s after-school program because it helped my son find his confidence, which led to him discovering and developing talents he never knew he had. His talent as a ventriloquist has led to scholarships, popularity with his peers, training sessions with great ventriloquists such as Jeff Dunham and the ability to perform and earn pocket money.
In fact, I am proud to say he has had dozens of “gigs,” including being the master of ceremonies at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national conference two consecutive years in New Orleans and San Diego, where he performed in front of thousands of people.
To think, all of this started when my son was welcomed by Camp Lovejoy staff when he walked off the bus with a sock puppet on his hand!
It needs to be a state priority to fund these programs at appropriate levels so the work the kids are learning at school can be complemented by programs that help with confidence and competence.
As a working parent, I can attest to how difficult it is to keep your eye on all of your child’s continuous needs day in and day out. After-school programs keep our children safe and learning new things between the final school bell and the time I get home from work so we can stop worrying.
My son is thriving now as a direct result of this key programming.
Jews have long been targeted by comics
Re John Mishanec’s March 14 letter, where he says he “can’t wait for the Book of David”: He doesn’t have to wait — Jews have been making fun of themselves for generations.
The Jews who make a living from this practice are called comedians. To name just a few — Don Rickles, Groucho Marx, Rodney Dangerfield, George Burns, Joan Rivers, Henny Youngman, Milton Berle and Buddy Hackett. Have you seen The Frisco Kid (1979), with Gene Wilder?
Jews poking fun at Judaism and being Jewish. Very funny, indeed.
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