On February 10 and 11 the State Board of Regents met in Albany. Clearly, the matter garnering the greatest interest at this meeting was an action item including the report, The Path Forward: Common Core Learning Standards, Assessments, and Teacher & Principal Evaluation in New York State. The report is based upon the first three and a half years of Common Core implementation, and sets forth “Adjustment Options” to improve statewide implementation. The report was issued by a Regents Work Group comprised of Regents Robert Bennett, from Tonawanda; James Dawson, from Plattsburgh; James Tallon, from Binghamton; Roger Tilles, from Great Neck; Kathleen Cashin, from Brooklyn; and Wade Norwood, from Rochester, who served as chairperson.
The Regents report includes 19 Adjustment Options. Some of the Adjustment Options were in progress under other initiatives, before the report was issued. Option 6, allow students with severe disabilities to be assessed based on instructional level rather than chronological age; and Option 7, allow English language learners to be assessed via the language acquisition tests (NYSESLAT) rather the English language arts exam for two years are included in the department’s ESEA Waiver Application.
For some of the Adjustment Options, the Board of Regents place the responsibility for implementation in the hands of other entities.
- Three Options are contingent upon additional funding by the Governor and state legislature: Option 2 – Equitable funding for common core implementation, including funding for professional development; Option 5 – Reduce field testing and provide increased access to test questions; and Option 8 – develop a native language arts assessments for Spanish-speaking English language learners.
- Two Options, 6 and 7 (discussed above), are dependent upon approval of the department’s ESEA Waiver Application by the US Department of Education.
Some of the Adjustment Options may be expected to have significant impact, and others are expected to have little or no impact.
- Option 1 – Periodically review and update the Common Core learning standards, calls upon New York and other states to engage stakeholders in order to periodically review and update the Common Core standards. The impact of this option will be dependent upon the willingness of the State Education Department to “listen” to the stakeholders in identifying systemic needs and opportunities for improvement. Although NYSED has demonstrated a willingness to meet, it has generally demonstrated a “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” response to any recommendations for implementation or schedule revisions.
- Option 11 – Conduct expedited review of Annual Professional Performance Review plans for district/BOCES requests that would reduce testing. SAANYS has raised this issue repeatedly with SED – to no avail. We are glad that the department now plans to take such action, in a manner consistent with legislative bills drafted by the Senate and Assembly.
- Option 17, will result in the development of a “Teacher Portal” to facilitate and promote teacher-to-teacher sharing of curricular resources, including adaptations of modules. Although educational data and technology issues were beyond the scope of the Work Group’s charge, the department will delay the launch of the EngageNY Portal in order to work with the State Legislature to address concerns related to 3rd party vendors, including inBloom.
- Option 14 may be expected to somewhat reduce local testing time by extending APPR flexibility in allowing schoolwide measures for teachers middle school social studies (grades 6-8) and science (grades 6-7).
- Options 16, 18 and 19 will provide needed curricular support for students with disabilities and English language learners. Option 16 entails the development of additional companion materials to the common core modules focused on differentiated instructional practices and supports. Option 18 calls for the development of guidelines to be used by Committees on Special Education (CSEs) to ensure that the individualized education programs (IEPs) of students with disabilities are common core-aligned. Option 19 will result in the development of “guiding questions” for use by parents at CSE meetings and at parent-teacher meetings so as to be better informed as to how their children will be supported to progress in common core curricula.
- Option 15 is intended to safeguard teachers and principals from negative APPR consequences by allowing those who are undergoing a 3020-a termination hearing due to ineffective ratings in the 2012-13 and /or 2013-14 school years to raise as a defense an alleged failure of the board of education to timely implement the common core with adequate professional development and guidance. This option is expected to have no impact, as any principal or teacher undergoing such a procedure may raise such a deficiency regardless of the department’s permission to do so; and there is no assurance that teachers and principals will not be negatively impacted by a lower APPR evaluation due to the flawed roll-out of the Common Core. However, due to many comments received by the department in connection with this option (including Governor Cuomo), the Regents have directed that this option be posted for public comment, with action to be taken at their April meeting.
Moreover, up to the present time, the State Education Department has been adamant that APPRs must be a significant factor in employment decisions. Now, the Regents item states that the department advises districts “…to be judicious in considering data when making employment decisions during the (common core) transition period.”
Some of the Adjustment Options raise other questions.
- Option 3 will extend the phase-in for Common Core-aligned Regents examination required for graduation from the class of 2017 to the class of 2022 – an option supported by SAANYS. However, the extent of the transition is unclear. Will students be required to “pass” at a 65 level of proficiency in 2021, and at a 75/80 level of English language arts and math proficiency in 2022?
- Option 4 is intended to reduce (but does not prohibit) high stakes consequences such as promotion and retention decisions for students in grades 3 through 8, based on the common core-aligned tests. The item states that school districts “should” base such decision upon multiple measures.
- Option 9 is intended to “clarify” that level 2 performance on the common core-aligned grade 3-8 tests in aligns with “On Track for Regents Exam Passing for Graduation,” constituting what some would describe as a Low Pass Score. At the March and July meetings of the Board of Regents, action was taken to change the description of level 2 performance from “meets basic standards” to “below proficient,” but was not equated to a 65 on a Regents examination.
- Option 10 would extend through 2014-15 the “hold harmless” provision for the provision of Academic Intervention Services. Although such action reflects sensitivity to fiscal challenges faced by many school districts, the provision of additional resources to provide additional academic services to students is an option that many school districts would prefer.
- Options 12 and 13 over time eliminate the administration of commercially developed standardized tests to students in kindergarten through grade two. Beginning in 2014-15, Option 12 will result in such tests being removed from the SED list of approved locally-selected assessments and the disapproval of district and BOCES APPR plans that include such tests. Option 13 further limits APPR testing by establishing a 1 percent cap on the administration of locally-selected standardized tests for APPR purposes. These measures will require many school districts and BOCES to renegotiate administrator and teacher collective bargaining agreements prior to their expiration. Will SED provide additional guidance in this regard?
Several Regents members expressed frustration that they did not have sufficient time to carefully read the item prior to the meeting due to the late release of the item Sunday night. In fact, Regent Rosa reported that some Regents did not have the opportunity to read the report at all prior to the meeting. The item was passed, despite Regents Rosa, Cashin and Cea voting in opposition.
For more information regarding the Board of Regents’ adjustments to Common Core implementation, contact James Viola, Director of Government Relations, at JViola@saanys.org.
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