New York Schools Mandated to Teach Mental Health

A new law went into effect this summer that impacts elementary, middle, and high schools in New York State this fall.

Specifically the law states:

All schools under the jurisdiction of the department shall ensure that their health education programs recognize the multiple dimensions of health by including mental health and the relation of physical and mental health so as to enhance student understanding, attitudes and behaviors that promote health, well-being and human dignity.

NBC News reports:

The law gives the latitude to individual districts, schools and classrooms to decide, as long as they meet some broad parameters, how to design curricula and lesson plans that cover mental health (as is the case for all subjects — including alcohol, drug and tobacco abuse and the prevention and detection of certain cancers, the only two other topics included in the education law that are required to be taught as part of health education in the state of New York).

But New York schools aren’t exactly being left on their own to figure out how to add mental health education to their teaching agendas.

After the changes to the law were passed in 2016, the New York State Education Department, along with the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Mental Health Association of New York State, Inc. (MHANYS), established the New York State Mental Health Education Advisory Council in August 2017 to provide guidance to schools on how to add mental health to the curricula.

The New York State Education Department in July released a comprehensive guide for schools

In that framework included the state’s framework for mental health instruction for schools to use as they develop their curriculum. You can read below:

Having worked with high-risk children and youth for a better part of two decades I understand, probably more than most, mental health issues that exist among children and adolescents. 

I can also see this going wrong any number of ways that include an erosion of parental rights and consent.

Schools are academic institutions, not mental health resource centers.

Are you a parent in New York State? Have you seen the impact of this law in your child’s school? 

Newsday: New York Parents Must Have Students Take Assessments

New York State Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Newsday, a newspaper and news site in New York State, declared the war over various education reforms over in an editorial this week.

They wrote:

The war over Common Core standards that had gotten so heated it spawned a statewide political party actually ended fairly well by 2017. As students, teachers and parents got used to the new curricula and learning methods that had initially been enacted too fast and with too little training, the state replaced the name Common Core with “Next Generation English Language Arts and Mathematics Learning Standards.” It also allowed public comment on the standards, tweaking them but leaving them largely intact.

The fight to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations, though, is now dead. State law says the scores have to be part of the evaluations, but there is a moratorium on enforcing that rule which will almost certainly be extended until the law connecting student scores to teacher evaluations is repealed.

And any forceful attempt to make school districts push kids to sit for those tests appears to be dead, too. The state Board of Regents this week retreated on its plan to divert a portion of schools’ federal funds toward encouraging test participation at high opt-out schools, and to make those schools craft plans to reduce those rates.

Regarding the war over Common Core, unfortunately, I think too many, including members of the media, have bought into the rebrand. And that is what it is, a rebrand. Those who speak out against the standards will have to point out the specific problems within New York’s academic standards such as the standards of mathematical practice remain the same, and New York’s ELA standards still have an undue emphasis on informational text.

As for the other changes they mention, those are positive developments, and I hope they stay in place. That said, how Newsday finished the editorial irked me.

It’s good news that the state has managed to keep a set of rigorous standards to ensure students are ready for work or college when they graduate high school. But the unions and Regents who claim teachers can be properly and rigorously evaluated without tests scores must craft a plan to do so. And parents and teachers, having won the battle to decouple standardized tests and teacher evaluations, must have the kids take the tests. 

They buy into the same talking points that education reformers have foisted. No, New York’s standards are not rigorous. No, they will not ensure students are ready for work or college. That is propaganda. New York’s tweaked standards and Common Core does not have any data that backs up those claims.

Then the statement that parents “must have kids take the tests.” Must? No, the point is that parents, not the state, not the school district, and indeed not the editorial board of Newsday, decides what is best for their student. 

What hubris.

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 State Education Department Releases Draft Standards

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY. Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA)

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The New York State Education Department has released its draft standards. The New York State School Boards Association warned this summer that New Yorkers could end up with standards that closely resemble the Common Core that the state is supposedly moving away from.

There were already plans in the works to use Common Core as the starting point for changes which is why they were able to release the draft standards so quickly. The question is how different will they be and will it mean an improvement?

Chalk Beat reports that more than half of the standards were changed in some way.

More than half of the standards, which specify what skills and knowledge students should be able to demonstrate in each grade, were changed. That could mean anything from wording tweaks to replacing a standard altogether, said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. Some of the most significant changes involve early-grade English standards and a clarified set of expectations for Algebra I and II.

These standards are only a draft, but they offer the first glimpse into what will likely become the basis for a New York state education.

“It isn’t just tinkering around the edges and doing small, little things,” Elia said. “We had a very dedicated committee that met multiple times… [to] make sure that while they were still rigorous standards, that they were more clearly defined for our teachers across the state.”

We’ll have to see.

Recommended changes for the ELA standards include to:

  • Streamline Reading for Information and Reading for Literature Standards by merging them together, identifying the unique skills related to literature and informational text, and ensuring a healthy balance of both types of reading across all grades;
  • Refocus on Prekindergarten-Grade 2 Standards with some grade-specific changes and additions to the ELA Standards, including a strong emphasis on the whole child and the importance of play as an instructional strategy. This includes the need for additional guidance for P-2 on how the standards are implemented in the classroom, including sample instructional strategies and activities, definitions and clear connections to teaching English language learners and students with disabilities;
  • Create a New York State Early Learning Task Force to discuss concerns around the P-2 grades, including standards, program decisions, social emotional needs and how the content areas/domains work together in the early grades. This task force will be formed in the coming weeks;
  • Re-organize Writing Standards so they are easier for educators to use for curriculum and instruction. In addition to regrouping the standards, grade-specific changes are recommended across the grades to clarify language and ensure writing expectations are clear;
  • Use a Variety of Texts to balance literary and informational reading with clear guidance for teachers and to ensure students read both full-length texts and shorter pieces, as well as to encourage reading for pleasure; and
  • Provide Guidance on Text Complexity for all standards in the introduction to underscore its importance.

You can review and comment on the draft ELA standards here.

Recommended changes for the math standards include to:

  • Clarify the Standards so that educators, students and parents clearly understand the expectation, without limiting instructional flexibility. For example, recommended modifications would help better define the progression of skills and the transition of some of the 18 shared standards between Algebra I and Algebra II;
  • Strengthen Coherency of the Standards to allow for a stronger connection of learning within and across grade levels. For example, one additional standard at the Kindergarten level would help solidify pattern recognition and creation from Pre-K to Grade 2. In addition, standards regarding time and money would be added and current standards would be changed to smooth the transition of building these skills at the PreK-grade 3 level;
  • Improve focus of major content and skills for each grade-level and course while providing more time for students to develop deep levels of understanding. For example, to remove the parabola/directrix/focus standard out of Algebra II and place it in the plus standards with the study of conics;
  • Maintain the Rigor of the Standards by balancing the need for conceptual understanding, procedural skill and application. For example, clearly identify the fluency standards at the high school level; and
  • Create a Glossary of Verbs associated with the mathematics standards. This glossary contains a list of verbs that appear throughout the revised standards recommendations.

You can review and comment on the draft math standards here.

New York Releases Assessment Questions

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY. Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA)

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

The New York State Education Department released 75% of the questions used on their Common Core Assessments for 3rd through 8th graders in math and English language arts.

You can read the questions here.

MaryEllen Elia, the New York State Commissioner of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter to accompany questions.

She made the following points:

  •  75 percent of the questions from the 2016 Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Tests that counted toward student scores are now posted online at
  • 100 percent of the constructed-response questions have also been released, and teachers and parents will for the first time have the opportunity to review their students’ constructed-response answers.
  • Instructional reports will be available to schools and districts by the end of the week.

Read the entire letter below:

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.

New York Education Commissioner King Moving On to USDED

John-B.-KingNew York Education Commissioner John King says he’s leaving his post for a position with the Obama administration.

King, 39, will become the No. 2 official at the U.S. Department of Education, where he will work closely with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the chance to work with President Obama and Secretary Duncan,” King said in a statement. “Their extraordinary leadership is helping students all across the nation get better prepared for college and careers. I’m excited to become part of that team.”

Only among Common Core advocates would one receive a promotion after dodging parents angry about Common Core by canceling town hall meetings, experience a disastrous implementation of Common Core that has led to bipartisan opposition, and has seen test scores plummet.

Failure reaps rewards evidently.  This could be good news for New York and bad news for the rest of us.

Siena Poll: One Half of New Yorkers Support Two Year Delay of Common Core

new-york-state-flagInteresting poll from Siena College.

Voters continue to be divided by the New York State Education Department’s implementation of the Common Core, with 36 percent saying they are too demanding, 24 percent saying they’re not demanding enough and 23 percent saying they are about right (34-27-23 percent in November). And division continues on confidence in Common Core standards better preparing students to be college or career ready upon graduation, with 46 percent saying they are confident and 47 percent saying they are not (45-49 percent in November). By a 50-38 percent margin, voters want implementation of Common Core standards delayed for two years.

Again to combat the view that it is just conservatives who opposed Common Core, that is not the case.

For instance among Democrats polled 35% said the Common Core was too demanding, 26% said they were not demanding enough and 23% said they were just right.  Among Republicans 36% said they were too demanding, 24% said they were not demanding enough and 26% said they were just right.  Among Independents and others 36% said they were too demanding, 23% said they were not demanding enough, and 23% said they were just right.

A clear minority believes the standards are “just right.”

Among Democrats 41% said they should be implemented as quickly as possible and 47% believe they should be delayed for two years.  Republicans had a wider margin with only 32% wanting continued implementation with 60% wanting a delay.  With Independents 39% wanted continued implementation and 50% wanted a delay.

They asked whether people are confident that implementing the Common Core in New York’s schools will make students more “college or career ready” upon graduation?

Among Democrats 49% were confident (only 16% were confident) and 41% were not confident.  With Republicans only 36% were confident with 59% who were not confident.  Among independents 46% were confident and 48% were not confident.

The poll was conducted February 16-20, 2014 to 802 registered New York State voters.  It has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

The Story of Matthew, the Bravest Little Guy in New York.

By Michael Bohr

There is a very brave young man in NY by the name of Matthew. He is 12 years old and has some serious learning challenges that he was in control of and learning to excel beyond them.That was until the middle of the 5th grade when the Common Core arrived two years ago.

During the last 2 years as the school continued to implement the Common Core, Matt’s IEP was increasingly ignored due to the demands of the NYSED and the Common Core. The longer it went on, the harder things became for this young man, until this year when enough was enough… he just couldn’t take what the Common Core was doing to him. He refused to go to school.

Such was the pressure placed upon Matt that at the age of 12, he knew he had to take a stand, even though doing so was extremely traumatic for himself and his parents. He continues to stand his ground despite even more pressure being placed on him to go back, but as his mom was telling me today, it is taking it toll on him.

Being a dad of two middle schoolers who are facing the onslaught of the Common Core as well as the uncle of two beautiful young ladies who themselves have IEP’s and are finding themselves left further and further behind by a system that ignores their individuality and forces them to contend with more than they can handle, I was inspired to write some words that came rushing into my mind. I posted them to his mom because I wanted her and her son to know that they are not alone… that he is not alone. That people everywhere are fighting for him as he fights for himself. That we are amazed, inspired and in awe of the strength that he has shown by saying, "No more!".

Matt and his mom have asked that I share those words with everyone, everywhere in the hope that his story might help some other family, some other child lost in shuffle know that they are not alone and that all it takes to change the world is one kid taking a stand when the world says don’t. The video below was sent to me by Matthew to share with everyone so that they too might understand his plight and how he feels.

We hear you, Matt! We understand and are all very proud of you! We will do everything we can to help you and every other kid who feels the same way.

So, here are my words to him and his words to all of us.

Don’t worry Matthew, don’t fret a thing We’ve heard your cries and would rather you sing. You made a decision to avoid school and we know why, it’s ’cause you’re no fool!

You’re not alone, there are many like you who can see what’s been done to the place you call school. So your Mom and her friends have all joined as one, to fix up your school so you can have fun.

We know you love learning and want to enjoy, the things that are fun for any young boy! Don’t listen to those that don’t understand because the decision you made just made you a man!

We are all very proud of you, Matthew! Stay strong, young man… we’ve got your back!