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 the phrase “Common Core” at some point over the last several years. The learning standards and their implementation have been deeply criticized over the past few years, and for good reason. I have worked to address many of the concerns raised, however, there is still work left to be done and you can help.
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 was extremely flawed and a significant subject of controversy and criticism for parents, teachers and administrators.
In 2013, I joined my colleagues on the senate education committee in holding the first official public hearings to allow stakeholders to express their concerns and offer recommendations for making improvements. Then in 2014, a number of actions were taken including:
No standardized tests for students in pre-kindergarten through grade two;
State assessment scores for grades three through eight will not be part of a student’s permanent record;
School districts cannot make student promotion of placement decisions solely on the state-administered assessment tests for grades three through eight;
Limits are placed on the instructional hours devoted to state assessment tests, locally developed standardized tests, and test preparation;
New privacy protections regarding personally identifiable information;
Outreach materials for parents and families will be developed;
Enhanced training programs for teachers and principals.
These modifications helped address some concerns, but still left us far from correcting the many problems created by Common Core. So in 2015, I helped advance additional changes through the state budget and legislation. Those changes helped fortify local control of schools, reduced standardized testing, and required the State Education Department to review the effectives and appropriateness of Common Core standards. The review has been ongoing with input from school administrators, teachers, and parents and now, new draft standards and recommended changes have been released.
One of the major problems with Common Core’s implementation in New York was the State Education Department’s failure to include teachers and parents in the process – that mistake was not repeated during this most recent review. The State Education Department took a full year to compile these recommended changes with the help of two committees made up of over 100 parents and educators. The review committees discussed all of the English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards and, overall, recommended changes to 60 percent of the ELA standards and 55 percent of the math standards.
Also, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia (who was not at the helm when Common Core was first instituted) spent a great deal of time traveling the state and meeting with education stakeholders. She even joined me for a tour of a small rural school in my district and met with area school officials to better understand the problems Common Core has created.
Still, the new draft standards and recommendations are not set in stone. Public comments are now being accepted and the State Education Department will review the submissions and use them to make final revisions which will be presented to the Board of Regents in early 2017.
The new draft learning standards, along with instructions on how to offer additional comments, can be found online at www.nysed.gov/aimhighny. I would invite you to review the recommendations and add your voice to improve our schools and our future.