New York State Exposed Education: Common Core and private schools

Updated: 08/28/2014 6:08 PM
Created: 08/28/2014 8:07 AM WHEC.com
By: Rebecca Leclair

Next week, about 110,000 children in Monroe County public schools will once again get back to learning under the Common Core. The backlash over the new national standards is still raging in many circles. In our report, we’ll show you that as the complaints have increased, so has enrollment at area private schools.

As long as a private school doesn't accept federal funding, it does not need to follow the Common Core which was adopted by New York in 2010.

Right from the start, the education department planned on taking 12 years to fully implement the new standards but many families aren't willing to wait, so they are simply walking away from public education.

Lynn Howlett decided to take her younger kids out of Penfield schools mid-year last year because they were having meltdowns over the Common Core curriculum. She even told the teachers there was too much focus on tests and not enough on learning. “I said my daughter is very stressed and she said, so are we as teachers, we are so stressed right now and I think she was feeling that.”

Howlett enrolled them in the independent Catholic school in East Rochester. St. John Bosco has a classical curriculum based in faith and history.

Headmaster Colleen Richards says the selling point is they don’t have to abide by the Common Core. “Many people are surprised when they call and they ask and I say, ‘No we don't’...we don't have to, even New York State doesn't have to.”

But New York State did, signing on in 2010. Since then, private school enrollment in Monroe County is up. Every school we contacted shows increases, especially in the past two years.

Our Lady of Mercy is up eight-percent since last year. The highest enrollment ever at the Harley School was last year. This year, students are wait-listed in the higher grades because classes are full. McQuaid Jesuit’s total enrollment is steady with around 900 boys but since adding a sixth grade in 2012, the class size has gone from 53 to 77. Hillel, the Jewish day school, still is pretty small but it has seen a 20-percent increase. St. John Bosco is up 37-percent from last year.

Allendale Columbia School has radio ads and posters boasting it's the "cure for Common Core" but what about families which can't afford to leave the public system?

Is Albany doing enough to counter the protests over testing kids on new material, while teachers are still learning the curriculum?

We contacted the state education department and the city school district and Rochester-area BOCES just received grants worth $800,000. This is for developing ways to eliminate the testing and pre-assessments that start right when school starts and continue year round.

“Whenever we are implementing something new, it takes time.” Tamara Lipke is helping districts around the state, implement the standards. “I think every parent has to make the best decision for their child and they do know their child best but I do think whenever we are in a time of change that things are not instantaneous.”

Howlett isn't waiting for the state to work out the kinks, jumping from public to private was the right answer for her family. “I found when I transferred the children and when they went into a different kind of curriculum, I would pick them up form school and they would say ‘amazing’.”

The good news for parents in the public system is that their complaints and suggestions have really forced the state to make changes. If you have ideas, send them to the state education department.

Contact the New York State Department of Education

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