Queens Regent Judith Chin talks Common Core challenges

By Madina Toure

In what educators described as a fireside chat-style discussion, Queens Regent Judith Chin said the Common Core launch was flawed but the Board of Regents was heading in the right direction.

At a March 11 meeting hosted by state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) at her district office on Union Turnpike, Chin fielded questions from principals, educators and superintendents from School Districts 25 and 26 as well as representatives from unions and parents.

Chin began her three-year term in March 2015. Her election to the Board of Regents by the state Legislature made her the first Asian-American member in the board’s 231-year history.

Before joining the state Board of Regents, she served as the Regional Superintendent Chief Education Officer for School Districts 25 and 26.

Chin shot down rumors that the Common Core curriculum is going to be dropped, although she acknowledged that certain states have eliminated it.

The Common Core State Standards are a set of academic standards indicating what K-12 students should know in math and English language arts/literacy.

But she criticized the way in which the Common Core was rolled out, saying there were not enough professional development and resources to support the teachers, placing the blame on the state Education Department.

“It was forced down folks’ throats without much understanding of what these standards were supposed to be intended for,” Chin said.

She also commended the parents who participated in the opt-out movement, noting that about 200,000 students across the state refused to take the Common Core tests. Chin predicted the opt-outs will continue even with major changes, such as a smaller number of questions and passages as well as the elmination of timed testing.

“I applaud the parents for finally speaking out about it,” she continued. “This is not going to happen to my child.”

Chin said there has been a shift in the board’s leadership with both Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar stepping down.

She said a new member is joining the board, which makes three board members – all being some form of educators, including superintendents and school board members.

“There is a minority group right now and unfortunately, we’ve been named the Gang of Six (of the board) and we’ve been considered renegades … because we go against the system,” Chin said.

She also said she is encouraged by the fact that state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is a “lifelong career educator,” unlike her predecessor, new U.S. Education Secretary John King . She said King’s tenure “may be very short-lived” given that there will be a new U.S. president next year.

Rozic said she is thrilled to have Chin representing her district in Albany and that the Assembly put out its listing of their priorities, which includes $25.4 billion just for education.

She also said schools in her district are owed around $43 million.

“She’s so accessible and today is just a small fraction of that,” she said about Chin. “I’ve been in office four years and I’ve had more interaction with Judy than any other regent before.”

Attendees asked questions about the quality of teacher certification programs, the cost of hiring testing coordinators for exams, teachers discouraging others from entering the field and questions from parents about too much of the school year being devoted to test preparation.

Ben Sherman, principal of the East-West School of International Studies in Flushing, asked for assistance for James Savino, a student in his late 20s who aged out as a super senior a couple years ago who has not received his high school diploma because he could not pass the Algebra Regents exam.

David Marmor, principal of Francis Lewis HS in Fresh Meadows, said teachers were resistant to the Common Core and that with the poor launch of the standards, , now they feel they were right to challenge it.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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