Is Common Core Really Gone in New York?

The Albany Times Union bid the Common Core State Standards good bye as the New York State Board of Regents officially adopted the Next Generation Learning Standards on Monday, but are they really gone? The standards had been up for public review and comment throughout May.

New York State Education Department started the review process in 2015 and began to revise the standards. The department claims the standards were revised through a collaborative effort with teachers, parents, and other stake holders. How much that was really done I don’t know. I know I trust educrats about as far as I can throw them.

“The standards we adopted today continue to be rigorous, to challenge New York’s students to do more and to prepare them for life in the 21st century,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said in a released statement. “Throughout the entire process, we worked collaboratively and transparently, receiving valuable input from educators and parents, as well as experts in teaching English language learners, students with disabilities and our youngest learners. And we will continue to listen as the standards are implemented. We are committed to getting this right for our kids and evolving the standards over time as necessary to do that.”

“We have developed an implementation plan that gives teachers and students the time they’ll need to adjust to the revised learning standards,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia stated. “Our implementation timetable allows for professional development and curriculum development to occur before any student takes a State assessment based on the new standards. That’s the fair and smart thing to do for our teachers and our students.”

We noted some of the changes New York said they made to the standards here. How different are they really?

J.R. Wilson, a math teacher and advocate here at Truth in American Education, said New York’s math standards did not change much. He did a side-by-side review of the 2nd-grade math standards, as well as, a spot check of specific math standards in grades 4, 5, and 6.

“A side by side of the NY standards and CCSS-M for second grade shows they are basically identical to the CCSS0-M.  Grade 2 shows some minor word changes, apparently for clarification, but no substantial changes. NY’s 4.NBT.B.4 reads, Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using a standard algorithm. This is not the same as the CCSS 4.NBT.4 standard, which says, “using the standard algorithm.” The same thing is done with standard 5.NBT.B.5 for multiplication and standard 6.NS.B.2 for division.   This seemingly minor word change has major implications and may have significantly different interpretations by different practitioners and may result in considerably different classroom instruction,” he said.

“The NY Standards for Mathematical Practice and corresponding narratives are identical to the CCSS-M,” he added.

Essentially, as far as math is concerned, they just changed the name and didn’t address the problems with the Common Core Math Standards.

Taking a quick look at New York’s new ELA standards the Reading Anchor Standards 1-7 were taken verbatim from Common Core. Anchor Standard 8 was shortened, and Anchor Standard 9 was rewritten.  They eliminated CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 which reads, “Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.”

There is more change with the writing anchor standards. The first three writing standards are practically identical to Common Core. Anchor Standard 4 and 5 were completely rewritten. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 was eliminated, it reads, “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.”

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 was simplified. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 was moved to become Standard 5 under “Type Texts and Purposes” in the New York Standards instead of falling under research. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 was eliminated.

The Speaking and Listening Anchor Standards kept Common Core language verbatim. The Language anchor standards are exactly the same as well.

New York adds prior to their list of standards a “guidance and support” section, they discuss the range of student reading experiences that includes examples of the types of literature and informational text each grade will read. They discuss the text complicity expectations for each grade, as well as, sections addressing English Language Learners/Multilingual Learners and Students with Disabilities.

Looking at the Kindergarten Literature Standards they have mainly been tweaked from Common Core. Here is one example:

New York KR1: Develop and answer questions about a text. (RI&RL)

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.1: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Here is a complete rewrite:

New York KR4: Identify specific words that express feelings and senses. (RI&RL)

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.4: Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

Ultimately, the revision of New York’s ELA standards does not eliminate the chief problem inherent in Common Core and that is the emphasis on informational text.

In a nutshell, this effort amounts to nothing more than a rebranding of Common Core.

New York Plans to Test on Revised Standards By 2018-2019 School Year

New York State Flag

It appears that New York may be repeating the mistake made with Common Core – a rush to test what was hastily implemented. The New York Board of Regents announced a timeline for the review, drafting, implementation and testing of revised educational standards.

This comes after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced recommendations made by the task force that he assembled.

The Albany Times-Union reports:

Once they have a draft set of standards in place for all grade levels, a public comment period will be held from July through October. Feedback will be collected through an online survey and outreach to groups like the New York State Parent Teacher Association, business councils, and ELA and math professional organizations, among others. The state Education Department will also create a mailbox for ongoing feedback and comments throughout the revision process.

Once feedback is in, the standards review committees will make final tweaks to the standards and submit a final set to the Board of Regents for consideration at its November 2016 meeting and adoption as early as its December 2016 meeting.

Starting in 2017, local districts will begin adjusting curriculum to reflect the changes. This phase will rely on each district’s teachers to develop curriculum materials, but also will include guidance and help from the state Education Department.

By summer 2017, teachers should start receiving training and professional development around the new standards and curriculum so they can be ready to start teaching the new standards in the fall of 2017. This would allow students to have a full year of instruction based on the new standards and curriculum by the time assessments are given in the 2018-19 school year.

Essentially, according to the article referenced above, the key to the drafting the standards drafting is that they are using the Common Core State Standards as a starting point, revising from there and “any questionable standards would be scrapped or revised to better reflect the will of New York educators and stakeholders.”

This is just a drawn out rebrand. There is adequate time given for public comment on the first draft, but unfortunately it looks like it will be online feedback only. No forums? It looks like they plan specific outreach to special interest groups, but not parents – the ones who have been pushing this reform. Reaching out to the state PTA doesn’t cut it. Also there will be no public feedback on the standards after the “tweaks” are made.

This reminds me too much of how the Common Core was drafted.  Then after a year of implementation we’re back to high-stakes testing on rebranded standards.

NY Regents Vote to Delay Common Core-Associated Teacher Evaluations

New York State FlagThe New York Board of Regents voted this week to delay teacher evaluations that are associated with the Common Core State Standards. This was just one of the 21 recommendations made by the the New York Common Core Task Force that Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week.

North Country Public Radio reports:

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, at her request, the Regents voted to rescind the policy that links standardized test results with teacher performance reviews. This will reverse a policy put in place by Governor Cuomo and the state legislature less than a year ago. Elia called it a “transition period,” until other issues associated with Common Core can be more thoroughly worked out.

All of the Regents voted in favor of the change except the board’s Chancellor, Meryl Tisch, who voted no. Tisch championed fast-track adoption of the Common Core. She is not seeking re-election to her seat when her term expires early in 2016.

The vote came just days after a task force appointed by Governor Cuomo quietly issued a report that also recommended a reversal of the new teacher evaluation policy. The advice represents a major shift from earlier in the year when Governor Cuomo forcefully pushed new performance reviews for teachers, slated to begin this school year, that would depend more heavily on standardized test results.

Now will they act on the other recommendations and will they just offer a shoddy rebrand?  Also instead of just delaying linking teacher evaluations the New York Regents should respect local control and allow schools evaluate teachers in a way that makes sense for them.  At the very least they should give up the notion of linking the evaluations to assessments because all they will ensure then is that teachers will help their students be great test-takers.  That doesn’t ensure a quality education.

HUGE Numbers of Students Opt-Out in New York

New York State FlagIt is being reported this that the number of kids refusing to take Common Core-aligned assessments in New York this spring will far surpass the significant number of students who did so last year.

From the New York Post:

The number of students statewide who balked at taking Tuesday’s English exam for third- to eighth- graders will likely surpass last year’s 60,000.

At the Institute for Collaborative Education on the Lower East Side, 85 percent of the students opted out, according to parents.

At PS 321 in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, parents said 35 percent of the students refused, up from 30 percent last year.

The Business Insider reports:

An anti-Common Core Facebook group called “Long Island Opt Out” has a spreadsheet containing district opt-out numbers. It has calculated many districts at over 50%, with the highest coming in at 82%.

The Journal News reports:

Several districts in the Lower Hudson Valley reported that at least 25 percent of students had refused to take the tests. In at least two districts, that number rose to 50 percent. At least eight districts saw more than 30 percent of the student body refuse to take the tests. Another 14 districts reported a rate of refusal higher than 15 percent.

Mahopac’s interim schools superintendent, Brian Monahan, said 55 percent of the district’s middle school students and 45 percent of its elementary school students had refused the tests. In North Rockland, 63 percent of the district’s middle school students refused the tests, with the overall district refusal rate coming in at 49 percent. Half of Ramapo Central’s middle school students skipped the tests.

The Buffalo News reports:

Thousands of students have refused to take state standardized tests Tuesday in the Buffalo Niagara region, the first day of English Language Arts tests given to third through eighth graders across New York State this week.

The number of students refusing to participate is expected to grow significantly over the 60,000 statewide who refused to take the tests last year.

The rate reached 70 percent Tuesday in the West Seneca School District, where 2,074 of 2,976 eligible students refused testing. Rates at individual schools ranged from 50 percent at Northwood Elementary School to 83 percent at Allendale Elementary.

Last year, the district-wide refusal rate in West Seneca was approximately 30 percent.

I think New York parents are sending a clear message.  The numbers this year will likely empower even more parents to refuse the tests next year.

Judge State Education Leaders By Student Test Scores?

New York Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch

New York Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch

Probably the fastest way to end the high-stakes testing culture would be if state education leaders were held accountable and judged by them as well.

Carol Burris is definitely on to something (not that she actually wants this per se, but hypothetically).  If you judged New York Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch by student test scores she’s a definite failure.

In describing her rollout of Common Core testing, Tisch said, “we jump into the deep end,” using the royal “we” to obscure the fact that kids were taking the jump. She also rejected the notion that school and educator ratings be put on hold during the rollout, stating that “we cannot have the implementation of Common Core that is isolated from an accountability system.”

Despite the repeated use of “we,” Tisch has excluded herself, her state commissioner of education and her Board of Regents from the ratings. Accountability is for students, educators and schools, who have little to no input into the commanded change.

Although I do not suggest we subject Tisch to the silly number ratings given to teachers and principals, I do think it is fair to review New York student growth under her leadership. Tisch was selected as chancellor in the spring of 2009. Since 2010, New York’s graduation rate increased only 1.5 percent, which includes two years of no growth at all. In looking at graduation data, one will note that prior to 2010, state graduation rates were climbing, even as graduation standards (meaning the required passing of Regents exams), were increasing. In addition, the earning of the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation, a consistent bar with no change in standards, has been flat since she became chancellor.

In 2009, the average New York SAT scores were 485 (reading), 502 (math), and 478 (writing). In 2014, they were nearly identical—488, 502, 478 —no improvement there to show.

Tisch “raised the bar” for Grade 3-8 proficiency in 2010, and in 2011 and 2012, there was little or no growth in student achievement. In 2013, the Common Core tests were given and proficiency rates dramatically dropped. Though the chancellor promised that scores would improve the second year of the Common Core tests, there were no improvements in English Language Arts scores and minimal improvement in math.

If teachers and principals are to be judged by score growth, what growth has the chancellor created after nearly six years at the helm?


NY Ed Commissioner King Tone Deaf to Common Core Concerns


New York Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. admitted to those attending a public forum in Jamestown, NY that the public forums he is holding is just for show.

Buffalo News reports:

King assured the audience that he is listening to their concerns but said state education officials are “unwavering” in their commitment to implementing Common Core. Earlier in the evening, while speaking to reporters, King said he feared that the state’s approach has actually been too slow. He pointed to the number of students entering the state’s university system who need remedial course work.

“We may not always agree on every issue as a community, but I hope that we will have a constructive discourse,” King told the audience. “And I want you to know that we are listening.”

A local principal noticed this as well.

But Andrew Ludwig, a parent and principal who spoke at the event Wednesday, questioned whether state officials plan to make changes based on what they learn at the forums.

“You nod your heads, sometimes you smile, but I’m not sure you’re really listening,” he told King and (Board of Regents Chancellor Emeritus) Bennett.

What exactly can New York residents expect from Commissioner King?  Can you really say you are listening if you don’t do anything in response?