Astorino opts his children out of Common Core tests

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino announced Monday morning that his three children will not take part in Common Core testing.

Astorino, the Westchester County executive, chose to run against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in early March.

“Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of New York children from third to fifth grade will arrive at school and be asked to serve as guinea pigs in one of the most untested education experiments in history,” Astorino said. “After speaking at length with my wife Sheila, who’s a special education teacher, my children will join with thousands of other school kids statewide in refusing to take the Cuomo Common Core test.”

The tests began today for New York students in third through eighth grades. The length of the test sessions depend on grade, but generally the length is around 70 to 90 minutes per day. Last year, student’s test scores in math and English were below what many state officials expected.

Tests taken this year will not be used as the sole means of determining student placement.

Some parents in New York and nationwide have chosen to opt out of the testing.

New York was an early adopter of Common Core in 2010 and teacher evaluations based on student test scores, allowing the state to take advantage of federal Race to the Top funds. Cuomo wasn’t governor at the time but cheered the process on.

Since then there has been criticism against young children below 3rd grade taking standardized tests. Saturday, Cuomo announced in his budget deal that he plans to ban this practice.

Cuomo’s office wrote in a press release that alterations to Common Core would “protect students from high stakes testing based on unfair results, ensuring instructional time is used for teaching and learning and not over-testing, and protecting the privacy of students.”

Privacy concerns were raised against the P-20 program, which would track student data from preschool to college and then be shared with state agencies, colleges and the data storage non-profit corporation inBloom, USA Today reported in January.

Department of Education officials said the data would allow them to better understand students’ success and failure.

A panel on Common Core’s implementation, assembled by Cuomo, reccommended that the P-20 programs ties to inBloom be cut in March.

“The Common Core standards are a critical part of transforming New York’s schools, and the failure to effectively implement them has led to confusion and frustration among students and their families,” Cuomo said on Feb. 7 when he announced the panel. “I urge the members of this panel to work speedily in bringing forward a set of actionable recommendations to improve the implementation of the Common Core.”

The 11-member panel is chaired by Stanley S. Litow, the vice president of IBM’s corporate citizenship and corporate affairs. It also made up of state legislators, parents, teachers and school superintendents.

Astorino criticized the way the program was developed, saying New York teachers lacked a voice in the process.

“Surely it was tested on a wide scale somewhere, you ask – right?” Astorino said. “Nope. This is the test. Our kids are the test, yours and mine.”

He claimed the nationwide education standards mean New York parents were losing control over classrooms with “schools essentially become centralized organs of the federal government.”

Nationally, Common Core has been approved by 45 states, including Indiana which was the first state to pull out from the national standards. Last week, Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation undoing the state’s support for Common Core.

Astorino also criticized Bill Gates, saying his support of Common Core is purely speculative. Gates is the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been bankrolling Common Core nationwide. The foundation spent $20 million in 2013 to implement the standards, according to Washington Post.

“You know where Cuomo’s Common Core came from?” Astorino said. “It came from Bill Gates – the computer guy – who is theorizing on what’s best for our country’s future.”