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'Day of Action' planned by NY teachers, union

ALBANY -- A day of action to erase some Common Core standards.  Activists took to the Capitol demanding lawmakers to change their focus on public education.  They say quality learning has taken a back seat in a race to roll out a new curriculum.

Education activists want to put a three-year hold on standardized testing which has been the focus of so much angst and anger across the state.  Teachers, parents, and unions say if the Common Core is about getting students more globally competitive, the implementation is defeating its own purpose.
"The biggest issue is the overfixation on testing -- standardized testing," said NYSUT vice president Maria Neira.  "We're in a place where we know these is a place for data -- data cannot drive good instruction."

Some of the teachers and parents present for a Day of Action admit that the idea of the Common Core isn't a bad one.  But they believe too many tests make for a classroom more concerned with filling in answer sheets than enriching minds.  "If our students are not engaged, we're not going to get to be part of that global economy that everyone talks about," Neira said.

A Shenendehowa PTA member says she's heard horror stories she didn't think were on her kids' curriculum.

"The kids have anxiety, some of them to the point of throwing up, others to the point of wetting their pants in class," said Kerensa Rybak.  "They have spent every day all day working towards the test."

Critics say the tests place a greater emphasis on a student's eventual grade, and a teacher's measure of performance.  Protestors claim neither can keep up with the changes.  "They're comparing our students to students around the world and instead of trying to do a gradual change they were very quick to implement them and and instead of trying to work with the teachers to additional training -- it was just very sudden," Rybak said.

Education Commissioner John King has supported the common core standards, saying that it will take time for students and teachers to adjust and that time is now.  The governor has said we spend more on education than any other state but are thirty-fourth in results.

"It is not how the money is distributed throughout the state -- you have parts of the state that are not getting the resources that they need," Neira said.

This was one of several events all around the state today from Westchester County to the Southern Tier.  They're also asking for more money for full-day pre-K and banning all standardized testing from pre-k to second grade.

Seth Cohen is an Earth Science teacher in the Troy City School District.  He says his students are in the eye of a Common Core storm.  

"I understand we have a core standards that we want to do here but we need time for the students and teachers to catch up," Cohen said, who is also the president of the Troy Teachers Association.

Cohen says that testing becomes too much of a focus for students.  "It gets narrowed because districts are forced to pair down to what are the mandated things that we have to do and others have to get cut," Cohen said.

Instead of scaling back testing, some of these groups are arguing for more of something else -- money.

"75% of our school districts, we have 700 in the state, 75% of all school districts have less funding than they did 5 years ago before the recession," said Asm. Patricia Fahy (D-Albany)

On this Day of Action, also a call on the Capitol to deliver %1.9 billion in school aid.  However, the Governor has said we spend more on education than any other state.

When asked if $1.9 billion really going to solve some of these issues these schools are having, Fahy said,  "it will solve some of them. 1.9 billion is important to begin to close what they call the gap elimination that we have not closed from the beginning of the recession."

New york did increase aid to schools in the last budget. Governor Cuomo said in 2011 even with the state's spending, it is thirty-fourth in results.

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