In her recent visit to Buffalo, Long Island Principal, Carol Burris, a retired Long Island principal and education activist recently visited the Buffalo area to speak out against Common Core state testing. Burris, a former teacher, has considerable experience with the state testing and teacher assessment regimes. She is well respected in the field, having won awards as Educator of the Year in 2010 and New York State Principal of the Year in 2013. She is currently an Executive Director of the Network for Public Education.
According to Burris, “Testing is the rock on which the policies that are destroying our local public schools are built.” Her presentations at West Seneca and Niagara Falls High Schools addressed this, while emphasizing that parents, students and teachers have a role to play in stopping the testing and fighting for public education.
She asked participants if they thought they had the right and duty to guide the education of their children. “YES”! was the response. Did they think teachers should decide how best to assess the growth and needs of their students — YES! She spoke to the social responsibility of all to reject government efforts to punish students and teachers and close or privatize public schools. She voiced her opposition to the state takeover of 25 Buffalo schools, using receivership.
Burris brought out that Common Core testing is being used to paint the schools as failing so that people lose faith in their public school system. The aim is to impose a business model that eliminates all-round curriculum, with music, art, social studies, sports — and children that are creative and thoughtful. She brought out how irrational the state demands are, asking who in their right mind would consider closing schools the way to improve them?
The Island Principle spoke of the fact that state takeovers have been tried — and failed — in other places, including Philadelphia and Memphis. She opposed Cuomo’s “sham” task force for Common Core, saying it will not address the serious problems, including its harm to students and education.
She also spoke to her own experience, as a principal of the increased funding needed to meet the needs of all the students. She said it is irrational to provide less funding to students in greater need, such as those in Buffalo, where poverty is high and there are many immigrants and refugees. She said other countries spend more on students with greater needs while the U.S. does the opposite. Many more guidance counselors, teacher and attendance aides, fully staffed libraries, specialists, are needed, yet schools with the greatest need have fewer.
Burris concluded saying we do not have the money those pushing Common Core testing have, but we have the voice and ability to organize and win in the court of public opinion. She urged all to join in refusing the tests, saying there were 220,000 students statewide last year and this year there will be many more. This is a battle that unites parents and teachers statewide and one that needs everyone. As the hosts of the event, Western New Yorkers for Public Education put it, we need to remove the weapon of state testing from our schools.