PPI Series: Making Sense of the Controversy Over Raising New York’s Education Standards: Let’s Review

PPI Common Core: Here to Stay?

Part nine of an ongoing series on higher standards in New York State

In the wake of the 2015 opt-out testing boycott, Governor Cuomo convened a Common Core Task Force to study the standards and tests, and the New York State Education Department launched a survey to solicit input on the standards, particularly from parents and teachers. One benefit of such reviews is that they force would-be critics to actually read and become familiar with the standards.  According to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank that specializes in analyzing education standards, most states that have conducted reviews have found that the Common Core standards are consistent with the research on what skills and knowledge students need to be college- and career-ready, and have therefore ended up making only relatively minor changes to the standards.

The Task Force’s report devotes much attention to describing stakeholders’ frustration surrounding the swift adoption and implementation of the standards, confusion over whether the EngageNY curriculum resources were mandatory (they were not), and complaints about the grades 3-8 ELA and math tests.  Congress’s December 2015 reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act retains the requirement for states to test students annually in ELA and math in grades 3-8, so the tests themselves will remain in place.  But in a significant move, the Board of Regents has adopted the Task Force’s recommendation to remove any consequences for teachers’ and principals’ evaluations related to the grades 3-8 ELA and math tests until the 2019-2020 school year.

As for the standards themselves, the majority of responses to NYSED’s survey (more than 70 percent) were positive.  Moreover, the Task Force explicitly affirmed that New York must maintain high educational standards” and “build upon the foundation established by the Common Core standards.”  The aspects of the standards that received the most criticism from survey respondents had to do with the early grades.  The Task Force report recommended that NYSED seek input from child development experts to ensure that the standards for the early grades are developmentally appropriate.  NYSED is launching a process whereby committees of educators, parents, students, and–notably–business representatives will recommend revisions to the standards, to be implemented in 2017-18.  The Department has pledged to “use this feedback … to help us identify where and what changes are needed to make New York’s Common Core ELA and Math Learning Standards stronger.”  Indeed,  the best possible outcome of this scrutiny and fine-tuning at the state level would be if it were ultimately to strengthen the Common Core standards and improve their implementation.

Please click here to read part eight in this ongoing series.

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