On October 28, 2013, Dr. John King, Commissioner of Education in New York State, along with his entourage, held a public forum to hear comments and questions about the Common Core and its related issues. There was very little notice to the public about this event, but the auditorium at the Port Chester Middle School was filled. The forum began at 4:00pm and went until about 7:15.  On the dais were Dr. King, Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Regent Harry Phillips, and a sampling of Westchester state legislators.
About 95% of the evening was devoted to commentary by members of the public. The lineup consisted of several Westchester district superintendents, BOE presidents and members, teacher's union officials, and a smattering of plain ole' teachers and parents. One mom brought her child, a young man who appeared to be about eleven years old. Everyone spoke from notes, some of which were written on paper, others direct from their hand-helds. About 70 people were heard from, all of them having negative comments for Dr. King.
Here were the themes:
1. Unfunded mandates from NYSED, which are particularly burdensome for low-income districts in the county.
2. Too many tests. Too much instructional and evaluative emphasis placed on testing. The recent Common Core-based tests in grades 3-8 were too hard and lengthy. Data about how specific students performed on these tests--strengths and weaknesses--have not been released, and so schools cannot address needed areas.
3. Local control increasingly shrinks, overtaken by NYSED, with their unfunded mandates, including APPR.
4. The practice of third party (aka corporate) managers of data about students, including discipline, attendance, grades, and disabilities, is a concern. The concern arises out of a fear of non-confidentiality and a suspicion of sweetheart-dealing, particularly by Dr. Tisch, who has close ties to Michael Bloomberg and other corporate entities.
5. Were are the special ed kids in all this? Are the tests too hard for them ever to pass? Are funds for them sucked into the Great Maw of Bureauocracy? Is personal data about their disability going to be released to parties that would use it against them after they graduate?
6. The Common Core "curriculum" (NB: It isn't a curriculum. It is a set of standards around which educators will choose appropriate materials and craft meaningful lessons) is unappealing to students, entails too much (hard) homework, and crowds out the arts. There were a lot of melodramatic words like "broken-hearted" and "broken spirit" that I think the evening could have done without.
7. Many appeals to wait, defer, back up, slow down. (No one mentioned that the CC made its debut in 2010.)
The theme of the evening was what I'll call the kudzu syndrome, with NYSED being the kudzu whose vines are strangling the life out of local districts. One Yonkers teacher and parent put it this way: "Instead of selling our children's data to your corporate friends, why don't you fix our ceilings that are leaking?"
Dr. King said little, but what he did say is worth noting:
1. According to federal regs, only 1% of students are permitted to take alternative assessments. Dr. King said he is working on easing up on the  testing burdens for students with special needs.
2. Districts have to get used to the fact that "in ten years, the State won't be sending shrink-wrapped bundles of paper exams" to individual schools. This was in response to concerns that we are not ready for all online testing.
3. High quality instruction is not antithetical to high standards of learning.