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Small rally against the Common Core airs big issues in Albany

ALBANY — In New York, supporters of the Common Core are quick to point out that criticism of the new learning standards has focused on implementation.

But the people who showed up at the State Education Department’s steps in Albany this afternoon made it clear their opposition is to the standards themselves. They echoed critiques that have been leveled across the country, that the standards are a federal overreach and developmentally inappropriate for children.

Hoisting signs that likened the Common Core to “child abuse” and Communism and chanting “No more Common Core,” about 40 parents and students from around the state attended the rally.

The rally took place on a day that critics of the Common Core, led by an upstate mother and Tea Party activist, had designated on Facebook as “National Don’t Send Your Child To School Day.

The rising protests across the country have provoked a testy response from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who said over the weekend that the resistance to the new standards was driven by “white suburban moms” who are being told for the first time that their children are not high-achievers.

In Albany, one parent, Deirdre Entrup of Hudson, said that Duncan’s comments would upset more than just white suburban moms. She said that their husbands would be upset because they were left out of the generalization, as well as other parents who have reservations about the Common Core and do not fit the description. “Keep doing it, Arne,” Entrup said. “Keep talking.”

The protest gave rise to widespread concerns and more extreme views — sometimes from the same person.

“They’re trying to have everybody the same,” said Germantown’s Catherine Lnu, who helped organize the protest on Facebook. “They’re Communists. We’re not Communists.”

Lnu said she became involved less than two months ago after hearing about rising unrest across the state from parents. She said that once she looked into the standards, she became alarmed that the standards were the same for every student in every state that has adopted them.

“It needs to be fixed at the local level,” Lnu said about education. “I don’t need it to be fixed by the federal government.”

New York is one of 45 states that agreed to adopt the Common Core standards as part of a nationwide push to establish a set of skills that students must know to be ready for college and compete professionally in an international economy. The standards require students to think critically, write more, and apply their learning to real-world situations in math.

New York was one of the first states to align its tests to the new standards, prompting pushback from teachers and teachers unions who said educators had not been fully prepared to teach to the new standards in their classrooms. The unions and other critics say they support the standards but want New York State to slow its pace of implementation.

A Siena poll released today found that about half of New Yorkers are not confident that the Common Core will lead schools to get all students ready for college and careers. Half of New Yorkers also said the state requires too much testing.

Bob Reilly, a parent from Pawling in Dutchess County, said he is encouraging his sixth- and eighth-grade daughters to refuse the tests at the end of the year — a proposition that eighth-grader Meghan said she would eagerly accept.

“It was stupid,” she said of last year’s test. “I didn’t find it too hard, but it was more like they were teaching us to take the test rather than for our future.”

Reilly said he was particularly alarmed that the state’s online resource for parents, EngageNY, highlighted a lesson about a book that refers to animals’ excretory systems as being Common Core-aligned.

Lnu said she did not suggest holding the protest on Monday not necessarily because state education officials were inside discussing education policies during their monthly meeting. Rather, Nov. 18 is Revolution Day in Mexico, which marks a 1910 public uprising that eventually overturned the nation’s establishment government.

“Today is Revolution Day,” Lnu said. “What better day for a revolution?”

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