Tag Archive | "Common Core"

New York State Regents Delay Full Implementation of the Common Core Until 2022

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State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles at a forum on the Common Core in December.

State Education Commissioner Dr. John J. King, Jr., Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles at a forum on the Common Core in December. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Following criticism from Governor Andrew Cuomo, on Tuesday the New York Board of Regents delayed the requirement that schools fully implement Common Core learning standards until 2022.

The regents also reversed their stance on a measure that would have allowed teachers to defend themselves should they face termination due to students’ low test scores.

On Monday, the state regents proposed 19 measures to address issues with the Common Core, a set of educational learning standards mandated by the state. Governor Cuomo issued a statement on Tuesday saying the action was “yet another in a long series of roadblocks” in the implementation of new statewide educational standards. On Wednesday, the board tabled its recommendation to delay teacher evaluations until April, although the other 18 measures were passed.

As it stands, teachers who receive a rating (calculated by a formula largely dependent on students’ test scores) of “ineffective” or worse for two consecutive years can face termination, even if they have tenure. The measure would have allowed teachers to defend their jobs on the basis of the poor implementation of the Common Core.

Education Commissioner John J. King, Jr. and the regents have faced harsh criticism for the Common Core rollout, which opponents said was haphazardly implemented without proper training, instructional materials and correlations between what is tested and what students actually know.

“We have listened to the concerns of parents and teachers,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch in a statement released Monday. “We’ve heard the concerns expressed at the hearings and forums, and we regret that the urgency of our work, and the unevenness of implementation, have caused frustration and anxiety for some of our educators, students and their families.”

The board delayed the requirement for high school students to pass Common Core-aligned English and math exams at the “college and career-ready” level in order to graduate. The full implementation will now be effective for the class of 2022, rather than the class of 2017 as originally planned.

The measures will also reduce local testing in a few ways, the board said, including the elimination of  local standardized tests in kindergarten through second grade.

The board also delayed the launch of data collection by inBloom, a third party data warehousing company hired by the state to house students’ scores and private information—an especially criticized aspect of the implementation.

“The implementation of the higher standards has been uneven,” admitted Commissioner King, “and these changes will help strengthen the important work happening in schools throughout the state.”

The board also asked the legislature to fund a three-year, $545 million Core Instructional Development Fund aimed at “providing increased professional development for Common Core implementation, and to provide increased funding to reduce field testing, allow for the release of more test items, and support the development of native language arts assessments for English Language Learners.”

Congressman Tim Bishop, State Senator John J. Flanagan, State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony H. Palumbo at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast Saturday, February 8.

Congressman Tim Bishop, State Senator John J. Flanagan, State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony H. Palumbo at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast Saturday, February 8. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Prior to the regents’ announcement, local legislators and school officials gathered at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast to discuss the state of education. Hosted by the Longwood Central School District and Eastern Suffolk BOCES, the discussion largely centered around the detrimental effects of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) on schools and how to eliminate it.

The GEA was created in 2010 to partially reduce a $10 billion deficit in the state budget. Pushing the burden from the state to public schools, a formula was devised to calculate an amount to be taken away from each district’s state aid.

During the 2011-2012 school year, the GEA was used to allocate an unprecedented $2.56 billion statewide cut in aid. Under the GEA, New York public schools have lost a total of $7.7 billion, or about $2,895 per student.

Centereach High School student president Sim Singh asked the officials what the legislature’s plan is to abolish the GEA and “to meet the state’s financial commitment to fund public education.”

“The battle with this will be with the governor and it will be in the assembly,” replied Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Regardless of party, all legislators in attendance expressed their commitment to lobbying for the complete elimination of the GEA.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, watches a presentation at the Regional Legislative Breakfast February 8.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, watches a presentation at the Regional Legislative Breakfast February 8. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

According to the legislators, Long Island is disproportionately affected by the GEA. Long Island enrolls 17 percent of the state’s students, but receives 12 percent of aid.

“I think,” said Senator Kenneth LaValle, “we’ve got to not only protect what we have, but we’ve got to push back on other regions of the state who may want a disproportionate share.”

Since the start of the GEA, Suffolk County alone has lost $185 million in state aid, or $734 per pupil. Sag Harbor has lost $934,584 and Bridgehampton has lost $308,874.

On Long Island, a total of 3,908 school positions have been eliminated during the three years of the GEA. Long Island schools are receiving less state aid this school year than they received in 2008-2009 ($2.54 billion vs. $2.62 billion).

Suffolk County Demands Action from State Education Commissioner at Common Core Forum

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State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles listen to speakers at the forum November 26.

State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles listen to speakers at the forum November 26.

By Tessa Raebeck

Tests with a sole purpose to judge teachers; educators of 40 years who must submit lesson plans to the state; children crying to their parents every night that they are “stupid”— this is the picture of New York’s public education system painted by the students, teachers, administrators, parents and even public officials who attended a forum with New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King on November 26.

Dr. King sat on stage overlooking the auditorium at Eastport South Manor Junior-Senior High School — filled to capacity at 1,000 — with Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Roger Tilles, a regent who represents Long Island.

During the forum, Long Islanders questioned and even heckled the state officials who appeared at times to be distressed, annoyed or un-phased.

A sign held by many read, “We Are All More Than a Score” on one side and “Parents, Teachers, Students, Principals — United” on the reverse.

One man had a poster with photos of his children and the words, “These are my special interests.”

Gary Karlson, a parent, third grade teacher and union vice president in the Riverhead school district, held a sign saying, “If you want to wage war on public education, keep my children out of it.”

When asked why he was there, Karlson said, “I don’t like feeling like a substitute teacher every day.”

Rocky Point High School students question state education officials.

Rocky Point High School students question state education officials.

Questions were submitted prior to the forum and about 30 speakers were permitted to address the commissioner directly from podiums below the state officials. All but two of the speakers were overtly critical about the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards, the testing of students, the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) teacher evaluation system, the use of a for-profit data warehousing company to store information on students and alleged corruption in the state’s decision to use educational publishing giant Pearson in implementing Common Core.

Sag Harbor’s interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and Bridgehampton superintendent/principal Dr. Lois Favre have expressed their support of a letter drafted by Suffolk County superintendents asking the state to stop over-testing and slow down Common Core implementation.

“The relevance and developmental significance of the new curriculum for our more accomplished students is questionable,” said Jan Achilich, director of special education in the Remsenburg-Speonk School District, “and that concern is amplified tenfold for our students with cognitive and developmental challenges and our English language learners.”

Several speakers asked the commissioner why he refused to admit the flaws of the implementation, which educators across the state have said was haphazard and harmful to children because they were assessed on things they had not yet learned proficiently. Although many admitted benefits in the educational philosophy of the Common Core, critics have maintained these were eradicated by the mismanaged rollout.

Dr. King replied the state has asked the US Department of Education for permission to curb some of the testing by allowing accelerated eighth grade math students to opt out of the state test in favor of the regents exam and to allow for two percent of students to take tests at their instructional level, as opposed to the one percent currently permitted.

“Get the feds out of it!” a heckler yelled. Another said that by no longer accepting federal Race to the Top funding, “we could do what New York does well for New York.”

Bill McGrath, a Shoreham Wading River trustee and president of the district’s school board, quoted Dr. King’s position on how the state is unable to slow down implementation and the importance of the new curriculum.

“If all this is true,” McGrath asked, “how can it be that you — as well as every regent but one — send his or her children to private schools? If these reforms are so vital to every student’s future, why shouldn’t the regents and the commissioner want their own children to experience them?”

Westhampton Beach school superintendent Mike Radday said it is misguided to believe a student who has always learned under the old standards should be given an exam aligned to the new standards immediately.

“It is even more misguided,” said Radday, “to then take the results of those exams and tie them to a teacher’s evaluation.”

Less than a third of students statewide met the new standards in the tests administered last spring.

Connor Sick, a senior at Rocky Point High School, asked the commissioner, “If you have anything to say about why failure is being used as a weapon to motivate these students?”

The NYS United Teachers Union has asked for a three-year moratorium on the use of students’ test scores in

Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) President Jim Kinnear returns to a supportive crowd after addressing state education officials.

Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) President Jim Kinnear returns to a supportive crowd after addressing state education officials.

teacher and principal evaluations.

Jim Kinnear, president of the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor, asked the commissioner if he would commit to having three teachers, two principals and one superintendent on the body that makes decisions on educational curriculum.

“Of those that are on the board that are making these decisions, including the commissioner, none have teaching experience,” Sag Harbor school board vice president Chris Tice, who also spoke at the forum, said at Monday’s school board meeting. “My impression was that very little was heard and very little constructive feedback was provided back, unfortunately.”

During the forum with Dr. King, Tice and others questioned the use of a third party data warehousing company, In Bloom, to house students’ scores and private information. Of the nine states that originally hired for-profit data companies, New York is the only one that does not offer parents the ability to opt out.

“New York has usurped my parental authority,” said Mount Sinai’s Candice Donin. “These are my children, not property of the state.”

A group of New York principals sent the state a letter of concern regarding APPR regulations, which has been signed by over 8,000 New Yorkers.

Chris Tice, vice president of the Sag Harbor Board of Education, addresses the commissioner.

Chris Tice, vice president of the Sag Harbor Board of Education, addresses the commissioner.

In addition to outlining extensive educational research showing student test scores are not a strong predictor of quality teaching, the letter says vital tax dollars are being redirected from schools to testing companies, trainers (the state recommends administrators undergo up to 17 days of training, with sessions typically costing $120 per day per person) and other vendors.

Michael Friscia, president of the Rocky Point Teachers Association, said corruptness is at the core of the new curriculum’s existence.

“Besiege our last hope — our lawmakers — to force the change necessary to save public education,” said Brian Snow of the Port Jefferson Teachers Association, calling the regents’ reforms “the privatization of education for their own profit.”

Cyndi McNamara, a mother of two children at East Quogue Elementary School, pointed to substantial teacher layoffs and program cuts across Long Island.

“We didn’t need it, we didn’t ask for it, but we’re going to pay for it,” McNamara said of the reforms. “We don’t need more testing … we simply need you to return the programs, teachers and supplies that have been taken from our schools and let our teachers teach.”

At the forum, some residents also criticized the state’s relationship with Pearson Publishing.

As the world’s largest for-profit education business and the largest educational publisher in the country, Pearson sells tests, curriculums, textbooks, training and other programs. New York State signed a five-year $32 million contract with Pearson to produce standardized tests in 2011.

That same year, Pearson reported North American education was its largest business, with sales of nearly $4.3 billion and an operating profit of about $800 million.

Following several allegations that Pearson financed lavish international trips for education commissioners whose states do business with the company, in December 2011 New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued subpoenas to the Manhattan offices of Pearson Education and the Pearson Foundation, the corporation’s nonprofit arm.

New York’s $32 million contract with Pearson was awarded after former state education commissioner David Steiner attended a conference in London in June 2010 underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.

The inquiry is ongoing.

“I can’t say calm down because I agree with you,” Regent Tilles told the riled up crowd at the forum. “But I can say you might be more effective if you work within the system, work with your legislators, work with the government.”

Dr. King said the department has made some adjustments and will continue to make others, adding, “Disagreeing isn’t the same as not listening.”

“I hope,” State Senator Kenneth LaValle told the commissioner, “that within a very short period of time you can reinstate the hope and faith that people have in our government system – that their input counts and that they can make a difference.”

Looking to Spend $827,000 in Capital Reserve Funds, Bridgehampton School District Will Hold Special Vote January 14

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Bridgehampton School administrators and members of the school board at the November 20 meeting.

Bridgehampton School administrators and members of the school board at the November 20 meeting.

By Tessa Raebeck

In need of new fire escapes and other major repairs, the Bridgehampton School District will host a special meeting January 14 for the community to vote on spending $827,000 in capital reserve funds.

Last March, Bridgehampton voters approved the establishment of a five-year capital plan to fund major improvements and repairs throughout the school. The board of education (BOE) funded the capital plan with $827,000 in June. Now district voters must voice their support of actually spending that reserve money.

At the school board meeting November 20, Robert Hauser, Bridgehampton’s school business administrator, said district architects have detailed about $790,000 in spending on items “they feel are a priority that need to be done.”

The largest priority items are replacing the gymnasium floor and skylights and installing new fire escapes; smaller capital projects would also be covered by the $827,000. If the spending is approved by majority vote, the district hopes to complete the projects over the summer so as not to interfere with school instruction.

Also at the November 20 meeting, Hauser updated the board on the progress of upgrading school security. New interior doors for the front entrance were installed Wednesday. When a visitor comes through the original exterior doors, they enter into a vestibule, where the new interior doors are now locked.

The school plans to install a camera and intercom system, so front desk personnel can buzz visitors into the building upon identification. Bridgehampton School staff members have been issued ID cards and students in grades six through 12 will receive cards in the next two weeks.

School districts nationwide are increasing security standards following the fatal school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last December. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law in January requiring schools to submit school safety plans.

“With all the new changes in the regulations,” said Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent/principal, “everybody in the school needs to get certain kinds of training.”

Also at the meeting, Hauser cautioned the board about the tax cap for this year’s budget, which he estimates will be 1.54 percent. In June 2011, Governor Cuomo mandated school districts and local municipalities limit the annual increase in property taxes to two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. With increasing security standards and decreasing funds, school districts like Bridgehampton are wary of drafting their budgets.

“We’re only allowed to collect 1.54 percent of the last year’s levy,” said Hauser. “So it’s not on what we’re going to spend, it’s what we actually collected — and that’s about $160,000. $160,000 is not a lot to work with.”

Employee benefits for district staff and retirees are projected to go up by about seven percent, Hauser said.

“We’ve come once again to the realization that some significant cuts will have to be made to be able to stay within the two percent tax cap levy limits,” said Dr. Favre. “Like everywhere else in New York State, we’ll be scrambling once again to try to come up with a budget that’s viable for the district and meets the taxpayers’ approval.”

Dr. Favre attended talks by educational experts Bill Mathis and Diane Ravitch on the prevalence of standardized testing and the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) in New York, which has sparked controversy across the state. Many educators are finding more issue with the implementation of CCLS in New York State and the “rush to test,” as Ravitch calls it, rather than the curriculum itself.

Dr. Favre said looking to increase technology and fostering pedagogy that is “not so much worried about the test scores as we’re worried about our kids,” aligned with the experts’ recommendations.

While addressing Long Island superintendents and board members in Hauppauge last week, Ravitch called for superintendents to boycott Common Core testing altogether.

“In my contract,” the superintendent said, “it says I need to follow the rules and regulations of the Commissioner of the State of New York.”

“We do advocate for our students,” she continued, adding that superintendents from Western Suffolk and Suffolk County have sent statements regarding CCLS to Commissioner John King.

“We here at Bridgehampton School are looking at Common Core very seriously,” said Dr. Favre. “We see some of the value in it. We know we need to move our kids, but you can’t just shove this down kids’ throat.”

Concerned Sag Harbor Parents Crowd Pierson Library for Math Curriculum Workshop

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Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols presents a workshop on the Math Curriculum in front of concerned parents at Monday evening.

Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols presents a workshop on the Math Curriculum in front of district administrators, the Board of Education and concerned parents Monday evening.

By Tessa Raebeck

Parents told stories of children bursting into tears, berating themselves for being “idiots” and spending hours agonizing over homework at the Sag Harbor School District’s math curriculum workshop Monday night, voicing concern over the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).

“The first thing we say to her is get out your math homework,” said Christa Schleicher of her daughter, who is in seventh grade at Pierson Middle/High School.

Concerned parents, mostly of seventh graders, filled the Pierson Library to hear a presentation led by Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols, with assistance from their math teachers.

Developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core is a set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that states voluntarily adopt. CCLS has been adopted by 45 states. New York State (NYS) adopted CCLS in July 2010, but it is being phased in over several years.

Every seat in the library was filled as parents showed up to express their discontent with the Common Core program, which many believe was rolled out haphazardly without clear direction from the state and to the detriment of students.

“It’s not specific or indigenous to Sag Harbor,” said Nichols, who has three children in the Southampton Intermediate School. “Everybody is struggling with these same issues.”

“We really want to commend the effort of all the instructors in our district who are working through this new initiative,” said Malone. “There’s a lot of challenges and in a way we’ve all kind of been thrown into it.”

At the end of the 2012/2013 school year, NYS math assessments for students in third through eighth grade measured CCLS. Nichols said state assessments assume kids going into the seventh grade curriculum had Common Core instruction since kindergarten, when in reality, mathematics instruction was not fully aligned with CCLS until the 2012/2013 school year for students in grades three through eight and the 2013/2014 school year for high school students.

“That assumption is a big assumption to me,” Nichols said Monday evening, adding that the pacing of the modules is also inaccurate. “They say a lesson will take 40 minutes…reality is it’s not 40 minutes, it’s 60 or 70 minutes.”

“As a school,” he continued, “what we struggle with and what I’m struggling with is to what extent do we let mathematics dominate the landscape?”

Nichols said about an hour and a half of math homework each night is on pace with the modules, a time requirement many parents said is overwhelming for their kids.

“It’s a lot more rigorous,” said Diana Kolhoff, a Sag Harbor resident and math consultant. “So some of the historical traditions that these schools have had are running into trouble with the Common Core. Things that had worked in the past are no longer working.”

“This is probably the most exciting part but also the most challenging part,” said Malone. “This is the part where you wrestle with, ‘are we presenting things in the best way to kids?’ Because it’s really challenging and it’s causing kids to have to work a lot harder than they had to before.”

“I get it all and I get that they’re reprogramming,” said Schleicher. “My struggle and our struggle at home is the amount of it. My daughter, she’s beginning to despise math because it’s so much…she’s getting it, she’s getting better at it, but it’s just taking too long.”

“I’m dealing with the same thing with my children,” Nichols said, calling it a “juggling act” because by diminishing homework, the students fall behind the state’s expected pace in the classroom. He said they are trying to gauge how fast teachers can go without turning kids off math.

“If we have to tweak our workload and at the end of the day where our students are at, we’ll do so,” said Nichols, who has already implemented a few modifications.

To increase instructional time and hopefully minimize time spent on math at home, Pierson added a lab period designed to reinforce the CCLS lesson for students in seventh grade and algebra classes.

Middle School Assistant Principal Brittany Miaritis said lab time provides the students with far more one-on-one learning instruction than available in the classroom setting. Teacher Richard Terry said it has been “very helpful” for his seventh grade students. Additionally, several senior math teachers were moved from the high school to the middle school two years ago, due to their comprehension of what would be required of those students later on.

Although they recognized its challenges, the teachers in attendance appeared to be proponents of the CCLS methodology. Fifth grade teachers George Kneeland and JoAnn Kelly shared a CCLS fluency activity, a fast-paced drill that is supposed to be a fun way to measure a student’s personal best. Kelly said her students love sprints, asking for them almost every day.

Kneeland then introduced an application problem, or “problem of the day,” which is designed to be strategically linked to previous lessons and concepts.

“We were just taught a methodology for doing it and we did it,” he said of his grade school experience. “The Common Core philosophy is taking a step deeper and looking at things so we get a pictorial understanding and more concrete understanding and then transition to what’s called the standard algorithm.”

Janice Arbia, who has four children in the school district, asked, “When they’re actually grading these tests, does it matter how they do it?”

The intent, Malone said, is for students to grasp what they were asked to do, so they can choose the way of solving the problem that works best for them. Energy is devoted to the concepts instead of the calculations.

“One of the big shifts now,” added Terry, “is rather than have a teacher standing in front of the students doing all of this work, the students are becoming an active participant in the lesson.”

“My students coming up this year in geometry are significantly stronger than they’ve been in the past and I expect that trend to continue,” said high school teacher Chase Malia. “I really think my students are much better prepared than they’ve been in the past.”

The administrators said their model of approach relies on feedback from teachers, parents and students. Nichols said that while some parents say their children are overwhelmed, others say they like the rigor and their kids are thriving. He plans to administer a survey to hear students’ opinions on how much they can handle.

“We do have an obligation to make sure that we safeguard kids’ emotional well being,” said Nichols. “And if in fact we’re asking too much of them in terms of the amount of homework, this survey will be able to generate some data related to that.”