At great risk to her job, Beth Domino becomes the first Long Island teacher to publicly announce that she is refusing to administer state standardized tests this April. The following article was written by Jaime Franchi published in the Long Island Press.
Beth Dimino, an eighth-grade science teacher in the Comsewogue School District and president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, will be the first Long Island teacher to “opt-out” of administering mandated state standardized tests this April.
An outspoken opponent of the Obama administration’s controversial Common Core education reforms—new academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) rolled out nationwide last year that have sparked protests among countless students, parents and teachers across Long Island and the country—Dimino was just one of several local school officials, elected officials, parents, and nonprofit leaders who railed out against the program at a rally last March at Comsewogue High School attended by hundreds of “Opt-Out” supporters.
More than 20,000 LI school children refused to take the state tests last April. No local teacher, however, has gone so far as Dimino to publicly voice his/her intention to refuse to even proctor the exams. She tells the Press her unprecedented decision is simply a matter of conscience, and spelled out as much in a recent letter to Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella, who’s also gone on record as a staunch Common Core dissident.
“I find myself at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education,” she writes, adapting her language from a template of a letter sent to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farino by city schoolteachers/education advocates Colin Schumacher, Emmy Matias and Jia Lee—co-founders of a movement aimed at inspiring others to refuse administering the exams. “I can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children.
“I will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking,” continues her letter. “I can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a state-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. I have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.”
Dimino hopes other local educators will follow her lead and oppose subjecting their students to the tests by refusing to administer them.
“The next logical step has to be the movement of conscientious objectors,” she tells the Press. “I believe, and I said this to [New York State Education Commissioner John] King and [state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl] Tisch and [state] Senator [John] Flanagan at the Three Village Rally [in November 2013], that this is child abuse. I believe that it is child abuse. I believe that giving these tests to my students makes me culpable in the abuse of children and I can no longer do that.”
Dr. Rella supports and respects her decision.
“I have known Beth for over 20 years,” he says. “This was not something she has done lightly. There was a lot of soul searching that went on and she said to me, as a matter of conscience, she cannot participate. She cannot proctor this test. And I support that.”
Dimino and Rella harbor a host of reasons why they’re so opposed to Common Core, ranging from what they deem as a lack of focus and an erroneous substitution for actual hands-on, in-the-classroom, traditional teaching, to myriad issues with the actual exams themselves, which utilize problem-solving and reason-centric approaches to not only answering but understanding subject material questions.
“These tests are meaningless,” Dimino blasts. “They do not show us anything that a test is supposed to show us. Tests are supposed to show us how children are doing, how proficient children are in the work we’re teaching them. So now we can either modify our pedagogy and review it and do it again because the children didn’t get it, or understand that the children got it and move on to the next piece of the puzzle, which is teaching that particular piece of curriculum. These tests do not inform on that level at all.”
A major gripe of Dimino and other Common Core critics is…