Monthly Archives: August 2016

PPI Series: The Most Important Reason that Higher Standards Are Here to Stay … is YOU! You Can Join in Supporting College and Career Readiness in Your Community

PPI Common Core: Here to Stay?

New York’s business community is making strategic investments in education.  Businesses can send an important signal about their priorities by supporting the Common Core standards.  Employers in every industry sector and every region across the state are showing their support for college and career readiness.  In the coming weeks, the Business Council of New York State and the Public Policy Institute of New York State will launch an occasional blog series, “Spotlight on Employer Support for College and Career Readiness,” showcasing our members’ work in their own communities.  Are businesses and employers in your region working with educational institutions to increase student achievement and preparedness?

We’d love to hear about it. Please contact our director of communications at zack.hutchins@bcnys.org.

Please click here to read part fourteen.

Hard to find logic in DFS move

Much has been made recently about Howard Zemsky, the chief executive of Empire State Development, and his recent defense of Start-Up New York’s advertising campaign, which he said was “…paying dividends to New Yorkers in more intangible ways, including reversing…the state’s decades-old reputation as a place unfriendly to businesses.” Millions of dollars in advertising notwithstanding, we are very concerned with communications from other members of the administration, whose recent activities send a very chilling message to employers in New York.

In a recent letter regarding Anthem’s proposed acquisition of Cigna, Superintendent of Financial Services (DFS), Maria T. Vullo, took some unprecedented steps that highlighted the department’s inconsistent philosophies regarding the cost of healthcare in New York. Moreover, the letter sends a very strong and negative message to employers desiring to expand operations in New York, which is especially disconcerting given the significant longstanding economic presence these businesses already have in the state. Such actions should concern any of us trying to do business in New York.

As a representative of New York’s employers, I find it especially troubling that DFS dedicated much of their professed concern discussing the future market share of the commercial self-insured market. These are companies that opt to insure their employees out-of-pocket, rather than purchase insurance. Such insurance arrangements are typically entered into by sophisticated businesses in a very competitive and price sensitive market, and this is a market already regulated by the federal government through ERISA. While tensions between the state and the federal government over ERISA plans are not new, this letter signals a new attempt by a state agency to regulate employers in matters that fall far out of its jurisdiction.

Also deeply concerning is the DFS’ confusing logic on controlling the costs of healthcare for consumers in the state.  DFS simply assumes that a carrier’s increased market share will somehow have a negative impact on the value-based payment model being promoted by the state, leading to higher costs for consumers, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support such an assumption.

This logic is flawed in several ways. The letter says that competition in the health insurance industry is needed so that providers (doctors, hospitals, etc.) can negotiate with various insurers to maximize their income. Perversely, this will naturally lead to an increase in health care premiums, an issue to which the DFS should be particularly sensitive. The fact that increasing the income of healthcare providers is not part of the mission of the Department of Financial Services aside, this statement simply misses the point. While the verdict on the cost-savings of the value-based payment model is not yet in, such a model never envisioned a marketplace where healthcare providers are given endless leverage to negotiate universally higher fees.

Further, the letter fully ignores the reality of healthcare provider mergers and acquisitions in the state. Last year alone there were 940 healthcare service transactions in New York, up from about 480 in 2010. This increase is at an unprecedented pace in New York; one which is likely to only accelerate. Numerous recent studies show that such mergers create upward pressure on healthcare costs. If the Department of Financial Services is concerned with the cost implications of diminished competition, why isn’t this side of the equation being considered?

Employers in New York are saddled with some of the very highest costs of doing business in the nation. Everything from property taxes to workers’ compensation costs to the price of health coverage. In order to change New York’s poor business reputation, we need more than advertisements; we need policies that work to lower these costs for employers. We need consistency in policy across the state’s many regulatory agencies and we need regulators that stay within the jurisdictional limits set by law. It’s time that all of New York’s regulating agencies get on board to building a better economy for all of us.

PPI Series: The Common Core Standards Have Created Powerful Efficiencies in the Market for Educational Materials

PPI Common Core: Here to Stay?

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

Common Core critics sometimes argue that common standards are “one-size-fits-all,” to the detriment of our children, who are each unique and learn differently.  In the case of the Common Core, however, standardization is leading to greater variety in the educational materials available to teachers and students.

Before the Common Core standards, each state had its own set of learning standards and its own definitions of “proficiency” at each grade level.  These variations posed challenges for teachers, schools of education, test developers, and textbook companies when they were deciding what material to cover, and for students when they moved from one state to another.  Rather than custom-develop materials for each state, publishers of tests and textbooks sought to save on development costs and increase profits by developing generic materials that covered the common elements of multiple states’ standards.   In an attempt to cover multiple states’ standards in a single volume, textbooks often contained more material than could be taught in a single year.  Through a series of mergers, the educational publishing industry became increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small number of companies.

The Common Core standards have transformed the market for educational materials.  With the adoption of common ELA and math standards in more than 40 states, all the major publishers are competing to create Common-Core-aligned textbooks and tests, and newer/smaller developers are entering the marketplace as well.  Groups of states have formed consortia to share the costs of developing standardized tests aligned to the Common Core.  During the initial years of implementation, most teachers and districts have struggled to find good materials aligned to the standards, but over time, the Common Core standards are leading to a greater variety of innovative, high-quality materials at lower prices.  Entities such as the New York State Education Department and the non-profit Khan Academy are developing and disseminating free Common Core curriculum materials online, and individual teachers can develop and share their own Common Core-aligned resources with one another via the American Federation of Teachers’ Share My Lesson portal.  To aid districts and teachers in choosing among the many options, there are a variety of tools to vet Common Core-aligned curriculum materials, including an organization that provides online Consumer Reports-style reviews.

Thus, with publishers now benefiting from a larger market for each product they develop, and consumers benefiting from a larger selection of better-aligned materials at lower prices, there is tremendous economic momentum behind the Common Core standards.

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

PPI Series: Common Core Opposition Is Largely Based on Misconceptions and Testing Worries; Public Support for High Standards Is Strong

PPI Common Core: Here to Stay?

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

Common Core polls are in and out of the news, and some reporters say that a majority of the public opposes the Common Core.  But a closer look at the polls tells a different story.  Whether Americans say they oppose the Common Core depends not only on how the questions are worded, but also on how well respondents understand what the standards are and what they are used for.  Polls that describe various attributes of the standards without using the name “Common Core” find high levels of support:

  • Seventy-nine percent of voters believe we should create high-quality academic standards or goals in English and math, and allow community to develop their own curricula. (Center for American Progress)
  • Ninety percent agree that the nation should raise academic standards to compete with other countries. (Center for American Progress)
  • The majority of Americans support adoption of “a set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • Only 16 percent oppose the following statement: “States have been deciding whether or not to use standards … that are the same across states” and that “will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance.” (Education Next)

Nationally, most of those who say they are opposed turn out to have misconceptions about the Common Core.  According to multiple polls, large percentages of the public mistakenly believe:

  • that the Common Core standards were federally mandated;
  • that they were developed by the U.S. Department of Education; and
  • that they prescribe a national curriculum or limit what local teachers are allowed to teach.

At the state level, the New York Common Core Task Force found that “even vocal opponents of the Common Core have noted that although they may not support the implementation of and assessments related to the Common Core, they are in favor of high standards for students and accountability for schools and districts.”  So next time someone tells you he or she is against the Common Core, it might be worth asking a slightly different question.

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

PPI Series: Are you Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Sample Question from the New York State Grade 5 English Language Arts Assessment

PPI Common Core: Here to Stay?

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

To help educators and the public understand how the annual English language arts tests have changed in accordance with what the state’s new, higher standards demand, the Education Department has released a sample of test questions on EngageNY.org.  The example in today’s post is an article taken directly from NASA’s website, written by an expert in the history of spaceflight.  On the 5th grade English language arts assessment, six multiple choice questions were based on this passage, to measure various skills including students’ ability to find the main idea, explain how an author uses reasoning and evidence to support particular points, and draw inferences based on specific information in the text.

Figure 6: Sample question from New York State Grade 5 English Language Arts Assessment
PPI-sample-question-english-language2

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