Whether you have a child or grandchild attending a New York State public school, are a teacher, or are simply a concerned citizen, you have no doubt heard of the controversy surrounding the implementation of new learning standards known as Common Core.
My office has been flooded with correspondence on this matter, and I have spent a great deal of time attending various public forums devoted to this issue. The senate education committee, of which I am a member, also conducted five hearings across the state, gathering extensive testimony from a broad cross-section of educational stakeholders. Now, a new report, with recommendations for change has been released.
First, some background. Common Core Learning Standards were adopted in New York by the Board of Regents in 2010. In the 2012-13 academic year, the State Education Department began aligning curriculum and assessments to the implementation of these new learning standards in all grades, Pre-K through 12. The implementation has been flawed and a significant subject of controversy and criticism for parents, teachers and administrators.
The senate education committee was the first official body to hold public hearings to allow stakeholders to express their concerns and offer recommendations for making improvements. The five hearings produced over thirty hours of testimony, 115 witnesses and close to 1000 pages of written testimony which were all included as part of the official record.
The committee heard a variety of concerns from witnesses that included the over-testing of students, inadequate professional development funding for teacher training, incomplete and missing modules (i.e., curriculum), the use of test questions that were neither age-level nor developmentally appropriate, and the security of student, teacher and principal data that will be stored on the statewide Education Data Portal (EDP).
The newly released report from the senate education committee includes an overview of the testimony and strong recommendations of administrative action that can be taken immediately by the State Education Department (SED) to address concerns regarding the department's flawed implementation of Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). Those administrative actions include:
Expediting waivers from the federal government (US Department of Education) to relax onerous and rigid testing restrictions placed on certain students, such as students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELL);
Producing all missing or incomplete curriculum modules immediately;
Aligning assessments proportionally to curriculum actually implemented;
Delaying operation of the Education Data Portal (EDP) for one year; and
Increasing funding for the professional development of teachers.
The report also includes action that the state legislature can take on several pieces of legislation, including:
“P-2 Bill” – which would ban standardized testing on students in Pre-K through 2nd grade;
“Unnecessary Testing” Bill – which would require the Commissioner of Education to expedite a review of APPR plans solely to eliminate unnecessary student assessments;
Privacy Bill – which would strengthen protections of personal information stored on the state-wide data portal, establish significant civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized disclosure of personal information and create independent oversight within SED on matters related to privacy; and
Truth-In-Testing Bill – would require the Commissioner of Education to report on the effectiveness of common core tests and require an independent audit to review and evaluate the common core testing program.
Teachers and parents need to be an integral part of the process moving forward. Had State Education Commissioner King and his fellow bureaucrats at SED not sidestepped these key groups, students wouldn’t be suffering unnecessarily through the failed rollout of the new standards.
We need to hit the pause button and get it right. Greater professional involvement through staff development and community participation - keeping parents up to speed, are steps that must be taken if we are to make certain students are receiving the education they need and deserve.
If you would like more information, the complete report from the New York State Senate Education Committee is available on my website, www.senatorjimseward.com.