The State Board of Regents convened in Albany on December 14 and 15 – it was a busy meeting and included a review of, and action on, the 21 recommendations issued by the governor’s Common Core Taskforce. A summary of important discussions and actions follows:
1. Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force – On December 10, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force issued its final report and recommendations. In announcing the release of the report, Governor Cuomo said “…the task force has made important recommendations that include overhauling the Common Core, adopting new locally-designed high quality New York standards, and greatly reducing testing and testing anxiety for students.” The governor also said, “The Common Core was supposed to ensure all of our children had the education they needed to be college and career ready – but it actually caused confusion and anxiety. That ends now.”
Richard Parsons, who was the chairperson of the 15-member task force, reported that information was received from more than 2,100 students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other education stakeholders. On behalf of the task force he said,”While adoption of the Common Core was extremely well intentioned, its implementation has caused confusion and upheaval in classrooms across New York State. We believe that these recommendations, once acted on, provide a means to put things back on the right track and ensure high quality standards to meet the needs of New York’s kids.”
At the Regents meeting, Commissioner Elia reviewed each of the 21 recommendations issued by the task force, along with a description of the actions already taken or planned by the department as follows:
Recommendation 1 – Adopt high quality New York education standards with input from local districts, educators, and parents through an open and transparent process.
- SED launched the AimHighNY survey in October. (More information regarding the survey and survey results is presented below, in part 3 of this article.)
Recommendation 2 – Modify early grade standards so they are age appropriate.
- SED will create a committee of New York stakeholders to develop guidance and provide recommended revisions based on the AimHighNY feedback. The committee will include educators, school and district administration, and representatives of New York State institutions of higher education.
Recommendation 3 – Ensure that standards accommodate flexibility that allows educators to meet the needs of unique student populations, including students with disabilities and English language learners.
- SED will provide guidance to reiterate that the standards are not intended to be rigid or one-size-fits-all but rather serve as goals of instruction.
- SED will create a committee of stakeholders (including educators of special education, English as a new language, and bilingual education) to develop guidance and provide recommended revisions.
- SED has and will continue to identify opportunities to provide resources and professional development to assist teachers of students with disabilities and English language learners with the delivery of instruction.
Recommendation 4 – Ensure that standards do not lead to the narrowing of curriculum or diminish the love of reading and joy of learning.
- SED will provide guidance to reiterate that the standards are not intended to be rigid or one-size-fits-all but rather serve as goals of instruction.
- SED has issued and will re-issue guidance to the field regarding the appropriate use and enhancement of the optional curriculum modules developed by the department.
- SED has issued and will re-issue guidance to remind the field that rote test prep instruction is not an effective way to provide instruction. Rather, educators should focus on rich, engaging curriculum.
Recommendation 5 – Establish a transparent and open process by which New York standards are periodically reviewed by educators and content area specialists.
- In November, Commissioner Elia recommended that the “Department should commit to conducting comprehensive reviews of the state’s learning standards every five years, including a robust public engagement strategy.”
Recommendation 6 – Ensure educators and local school districts have the flexibility to develop and tailor curriculum to the new standards.
- This recommendation is consistent with long-standing SED practice and custom that the state establishes standards, but decisions regarding curriculum, have been, are, and should always be determined at the local level.
Recommendation 7 – Release updated and improved sample curriculum resources.
- SED has provided a significant number of curricular resources on EngageNY.org, which will be expanded to include additional optional curriculum modules and video exemplars of excellent teaching.
- In November 2015, Commissioner Elia recommended the Board of Regents “work with the field to provide new, optional curricular resources” integrating new state social studies frameworks and new state science standards that are currently in development.
Recommendation 8 – Launch a digital platform that enables teachers, including pre-service teachers and teacher educators, to share resources with other teachers across the state.
- In November, Commissioner Elia recommended: “Create a teacher portal to provide educators from around the state an online tool to share curricular resources, including adaptations of modules.”
- In 2016, the department will pilot EngageNY Communities, a secure on-line space for educators to communicate, collaborate, and share resources and knowledge.
Recommendation 9 – Create ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers, teacher educators, and administrators on the revised state standards.
- The Regents and SED have consistently recommended that the state make meaningful and significant investments to provide high-quality professional development opportunities.
- SED will submit a request to the governor and state legislature for a $45 million investment in professional development in 2016-17.
- It is critical that the governor and state legislature follow through on this recommendation in the upcoming state budget.
Recommendation 10 – Involve educators, parents, and other education stakeholders in the creation and periodic review of all state standards-aligned examinations and other state assessments.
- SED recently contracted with a new vendor to develop the grade 3-8 English language arts and mathematics tests. As part of this new contract, with Questar, the vendor will be required to engage hundreds of educators throughout the test development process.
- The commencement-level Regents exams are fully developed by educators.
Recommendation 11 – Gather student feedback on the quality of the new tests.
- SED is interested in hearing recommendations from parents and stakeholders about how to best gather feedback from students, particularly how to address the challenge of receiving feedback from students in the lowest grades of test administration (i.e., grades 3 and 4).
Recommendation 12 – Provide ongoing transparency to parents, educators, and local districts on the quality and content of all tests, included but not limited to publishing the test questions.
- In June 2015, SED received an $8.4 million state allocation to reduce field testing. This is a necessary component of SED’s ongoing plans to eventually release all the test questions that contribute to students’ scores in some future year.
- Even without requested state funding, SED has over the past few years released 50 percent of the questions from the grades 3-8 tests.
Recommendation 13 – Reduce the number of days and shorten the duration for standards-aligned state standardized tests.
- Commissioner Elia has announced that the department will decrease the number of test questions on the grades 3-8 English language arts and mathematics tests.
- SED will explore whether reducing the number of days spent testing (in addition to shortening the duration of the tests) is feasible.
Recommendation 14 – Provide teachers with the flexibility and support to use authentic formative assessments to measure student learning.
- In November 2015, Commissioner Elia recommended that the Board of Regents “convene a Next Generation Assessments Commissioner’s Advisory Council to advise and provide recommendations on implementation of adaptive testing and embedded performance-based tasks.”
Recommendation 15 – Undertake a formal review to determine whether to transition to untimed tests for existing and new state standardized tests aligned to the standards.
- In November 2015, Commissioner Elia recommended at the Board of Regents meeting: “Gather input from the field regarding whether to allow students who are meaningfully engaged in the task to continue working on the ELA and mathematics tests as long as they need beyond the standard administration window.”
Recommendation 16 – Provide flexibility for assessments of students with disabilities.
- The Board of Regents and SED have submitted multiple waiver requests to the US Department of Education for flexibility from federal testing requirements for students with disabilities. The flexibility waiver requests have been denied.
- With the recent enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act, SED will review new provisions which may extend new assessment options for students with disabilities.
Recommendation 17 – Protect and enforce testing accommodations for students with disabilities.
- SED will work with the field to identify cases where testing accommodations have not been enforced and will issue guidance as necessary to ensure school districts and educators are properly enforcing these accommodations.
Recommendation 18 – Explore alternative options to assess the most severely disabled students.
- In October 2015, the Board of Regents adopted a $2.9 million budget request to improve the assessment of students with disabilities.
- It is critical that the governor and state legislature follow through with this recommendation and provide necessary funding in the 2016-17 state budget so that advancements in assessments for students with disabilities are not jeopardized.
Recommendation 19 – Prevent students from being mandated into Academic Intervention Services based on a single test.
- In September 2015, SED advanced a regulation to not require a district to significantly increase the number of students to whom they would be required to provide AIS as a consequence of the implementation of the more rigorous higher learning standards.
- SED will establish a committee during the 2015-16 school year to examine the effectiveness of AIS and to recommend revisions to AIS regulations for 2016-17.
Recommendation 20 – Eliminate double testing for English language learners.
- The Board of Regents and SED have been “fighting for flexibility” from federal testing requirements for English language learners, but such flexibility waiver requests have been denied.
- With the recent enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act, SED will review new provisions that may permit new conditions related to assessments for English language learners.
Recommendation 21 – Until the new system is fully phased in (or until the start of the 2019-2020 school year), the results from assessments aligned to the current Common Core Standards, as well as the updated standards, shall only be advisory and not be used to evaluate the performance of individual teachers and students.
- The commissioner presented proposed emergency regulations related to “Transition Ratings for Teachers and Principals” at the December 2015 Board of Regents meeting. (This item is described below, in part 2 of this article.)
2. Governor’s Common Core Task Force Recommendation 21, Annual Professional Performance Evaluations – Transition Ratings – Consistent with recommendation 21 of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force, the State Education Department presented an Emergency Action Item to amend regulations by adding two new sections: §30-2.14 and §30-3.17. The new regulations relate to the annual professional performance reviews (APPRs) of teachers and principals and are effective this year, 2015-16.
It should be noted that the regulations require SED to develop guidance in connection with the new requirements. SAANYS will continue to confer with the State Education Department to further clarify transition procedures to be included in forthcoming guidance from SED and from SAANYS, and to identify necessary revisions to the regulations, which are now posted for public comment. The item will be presented to the Board of Regents again in March for adoption or revision. The following information is based on SAANYS’ initial review of the regulations in their current form.
The presentation and discussion at the Regents meeting gave many the misimpression that the new regulations pertain only to student performance on the grade 3-8 English language arts and mathematics tests. This is NOT the case. The transition provisions pertain to teachers and principals at the elementary, middle and high school levels whose APPRs are based in whole or in part on student performance on the grade 3 to 8 English language arts and mathematics assessments AND/OR on state-provided growth scores on Regents exams – regardless of whether their school district or BOCES is operating pursuant to §3012-c or §3012-d. The transition will result in two sets of APPR scores, one subcomponent/category scores that will continue to incorporate state-provided growth scores “for advisory purposes” (and therefore will entail no “consequences”) and composite scores; and a second, with subcomponent/category scores and composite scores and ratings that are adjusted to exclude restricted state assessment components.
The transition procedures, however, are somewhat different for school districts and BOCES operating under §3012-c than for those operating under §3012-d.
- 30-2.14 — for school districts an BOCES operating under §3012-c, is in effect for the current school year only. The following transition procedures are applicable:
- For subcomponent 1 (Student Growth), omit the state-provided growth score that is based on 4-8 assessments or on Regents exams.
- For subcomponent 1 (Student Growth), if back-up Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) have been developed, omit any SLO that includes 3-8 assessments. However, a back-up SLO that does include Regents exams must be used for the subcomponent and composite calculations. There is no requirement for schools districts or BOCES to repeat SLO-development procedures in order to develop back-up SLOs that do not include the restricted SED assessments and measures. In fact, based on information subsequently received from the State Education Department, “…different assessments cannot be used as an alternative for §3012-c since districts must still implement their §3012-c APPR plan as it has been approved by the department and the deadline for submitting a material change was March 1, 2015.”
- It is possible that the transition procedure will result in no subcomponent 1 score. In such case, the composite score will be based on subcomponents 2 and 3 only, consistent with forthcoming SED guidance.
- For subcomponent 2 (Locally Selected Measures of Student Achievement), omit any measure that includes 3-8 assessments or is based on the Regents exam state-provided growth score. If two measures are included in subcomponent 2, one that includes a 3-8 assessment or measure based on the Regents exam state-provided growth score and one that does not include such a measure, the former measure should be omitted from the subcomponent calculation and the latter should receive full weighting for the subcomponent calculation, consistent with forthcoming SED guidance.
- It is possible that the transition procedure will result in no subcomponent 2 score. In such case, the composite score will be based on subcomponent 1 (if there is a usable SLO) and subcomponent 3. Therefore, it is possible that the APPR composite score and rating will be based completely on subcomponent 3 (Observation and Other Measures for Teachers and Principals), consistent with forthcoming SED guidance.
- 30-3.17, for school districts and BOCES operating under §3012-d, is in effect for a four-year period, from 2015-16 through 2018-19. The following transition procedures are applicable:
- For category 1 (Student Performance), omit the state-provided growth score that is based on 4-8 assessments or on Regents exams.
- For category 1 (Student Performance), if an optional second subcomponent has been collectively bargained that is not a 3-8 state assessment or does not use a state-provided growth score based on Regents examinations, such assessment must be used in determining the category HEDI rating.
- For category 1 (Student Performance), omit any Student Learning Objective that includes 3-8 assessments or includes a state-provided growth score based on Regents exams. However, in instances where no scores/ratings can be generated, a back-up SLO must be developed using assessments that are approved by the department that are not state assessments.
- A category 1 (Student Performance) rating must be generated for all teachers and principals and be used for the determination of the final composite rating.
For all school districts and BOCES, a teacher’s or principal’s transition composite results (not the original composite score/rating) must be reflected in the teacher’s/principal’s employment records and must be used for tenure and other employment decisions, for teacher or principal improvement plans, and for proceedings pursuant to §3020-a/§3020-b. For purposes of public reporting of aggregate data and disclosure to parents, the original (unadjusted) composite score and rating must be reported with the transition scores and ratings and an explanation of the transition composite score and rating.
The Regents item was unanimously supported by all board members, except for Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who expressed concern that the regulatory amendments would result in less “differentiation” across the HEDI ratings.
Though SAANYS supports the above regulatory amendments, we take issue with the contention that statutory revisions are unnecessary. It is our position that statutory revisions are necessary not only in regard to the above new regulations, but to revise other provisions of §3012-d, such as the weighting of the Student Performance Category in the determination of the overall composite rating. It is our intention to vigorously engage the governor’s office, legislators, and the State Education Department for appropriate statutory amendments of the state APPR system.
3. Annual Professional Performance Evaluation for 2014-2015 – The following statistical Information was presented regarding annual professional performance reviews completed during the last school year, based on §3012-c.
4. State Education Department Common Core Standards Survey – Commissioner Elia presented information regarding SED’s AIMHighNY Common Core Standards survey that was open from October 21 to November 30. The survey site was visited by 64,142 people, with 45,654 entering demographic information and 10,532 submitting at least one piece of feedback on the standards. The major takeaway from survey feedback is that approximately 71 percent of responses are supportive of the standards. Of the 29 percent of responses that did not indicate support of the Common Core Standards, most were focused on ELA and mathematics at the early grade levels. In a corresponding manner, the top five grades receiving feedback in mathematics were kindergarten, and grades 1, 2, 3, and 4; and in English language arts the top five grades were pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades 1, 2, and 3. Most who participated in the survey were teachers (48.9 percent), followed by parents (32.8 percent), administrators (5.1 percent), and others (13.2 percent). The commissioner explained that in the coming weeks, SED will share the survey results with the English Language Arts and Math Content Advisory Panels, which are made up of educators from across the state.
The report of Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, SAANYS Testimony to the Governor’s Common Core Task Force, and the Regents item containing the proposed APPR transition regulations are posted on the SAANYS website. For additional information regarding the December meeting of the State Board of Regents, contact James Viola, director of government relations at JViola@ saanys.org.