The Southold school board has made an official statement opposing “field tests” tied to the controversial Common Core mandates.
The Southold school board has made an official statement opposing “field tests” tied to the controversial Common Core mandates.
Speaking out against a recent push in state-mandated education testing just isn’t enough for some local superintendents. (more…)
State Senator Ken LaValle is calling on education department commissioner John King to “hit the delay button” with rolling out new, more rigorous curriculum in public schools through the Common Core.
Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) issued that statement Thursday after Mr. King’s meeting with the state Senate Education Committee, with the senator saying the state Department of Education “is not listening” to concerns brought up about the Common Core during numerous and contentious public meetings held throughout the state.
Mr. King visited Manorville last November in one of several forums held statewide. Parents and teachers in attendance largely blasted the education commissioner, with many holding signs stating: “We are all more than a score.”
“The rollout of Common Core has been flawed and children are being hurt,” Mr. LaValle said. “There is an immediate need for something to happen since the process has collapsed. I would like the commissioner to hit the delay button today.”
The Common Core State Standards initiative has been adopted by most states across the country. The initiative claims to better prepare students for college and careers by requiring instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.
After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans for teachers to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate that schools use these lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.
Earlier this year, and as part of Race to the Top requirements, the state did direct New York school districts to develop their own teacher evaluation systems, known as annual professional performance reviews plan (APPR), lest the districts risk losing additional available state aid.
The state Department of Education has been heavily criticized by school officials across New York for pushing the new mandates before districts were ready for them.
While many educators embraced Common Core when it was first introduced, they’ve since demanded that the state hold off on implementing the new student assessments based on Common Core and the APPR plan until the rigorous curriculum is properly implemented inside the classroom.
Fellow Republican state Senator John Flanagan of East Northport proposed several bills last month to reevaluate the state’s rollout of Common Core, including a one-year delay with using a controversial method of storing student data electronically, and a ban on standardized testing for students in pre-K through second grade.
The bills were approved this week in the state Senate education committee, which Mr. Flanagan chairs. They are in the process of going through the state Assembly education committee, and if they pass, will be voted on the respective house floors.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also called on banning standardized testing for students in pre-K through second grade during his budget address Tuesday. For the first time publicly, Mr. Cuomo acknowledged that the state’s rollout of Common Core hasn’t been handled properly. Specifically, he said “…the way that Common Core has been managed by the Board of Regents is flawed.”
“There is too much uncertainty, confusion and anxiety,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Parents, students and teachers need the best education reforms which include Common Core teacher evaluations, but they also need a rational system that is well administered.”
The governor also proposed creating a new panel of education experts and members of the Legislature to come up with a list of recommendations to correct the Common Core rollout by the end of this session.
Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch and Mr. King issued a joint press release shortly after Mr. Cuomo’s speech and said they have opposed standardized testing for young students and emphasized the state “has never tested K-2 students.”
They also pointed out how the education department has made recent adjustments to standardized testing, such as reducing the number of questions and testing time on state assessments for students in grades 3 through 8 this school year, and receiving a federal waiver to stop “double testing” in math for seventh and eighth graders through a combination of state and federal testing. In addition, they said the state is in the process of asking the U.S. Department of Education for another waiver to ease testing requirements for ESL students and students with disabilities.
Ms. Tisch and Mr. King said they believe Mr. Cuomo’s proposed panel, along with the Regents’ work group, will be able to “continue to strengthen Common Core implementation.”
“We remain fully committed to the Common Core, but we welcome constructive refinement to implementation to help meet that goal,” the joint statement reads. “We look forward to working with the governor to improve implementation while maintaining the higher standards we have set to ensure that New York’s students have every opportunity to succeed in life.”
The term Common Core has been used in these pages and elsewhere to describe the new policies and practices schools are being asked to adopt by the State Education Department. However, Common Core is just one portion of these reforms and, based on what I read in Michael White’s column and the overwhelming parent and teacher response at the education commissioner’s forums and on social media sites, folks are using Common Core as a catch-all term for the entire program. People are actually concerned about the new state assessments, the new teacher evaluation system (called Annual Professional Performance Review, or APPR) and potential profiteering by private corporate interests related to these reforms.
Common Core, on its own, is a relatively benign list of things that a student should know and be able to do by the end of a given school year in a given course. You can review the standards themselves at corestandards.org. These standards were authored by the National Governors’ Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the nonprofit Student Achievement Partners. Do these organizations have agendas? Of course they do. Every advocacy organization does. Are those agendas to steal money and autonomy from school districts? Hardly. Teachers will still be able to do good work in a Common Core classroom just like they were when the concept of standards was first introduced nationally in President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind reform initiative.
Claims that major publishing corporations like Pearson Inc. “wrote the standards” have no merit outside the fantasyland of sites like Breitbart.com and its ilk. Any publisher worth its salt is aligning old materials and developing new materials to the Core, much as they did when the NCLB standards came out in the early 2000s, but they still must compete for district dollars to purchase those resources. New standards, same old publishing business. If you are interested in seeing a change in where schools spend their money, fighting Common Core is not where I’d spend your time or energy.
Ironically, the Common Core era, combined with the increased availability of inexpensive computer hardware like Chromebooks and tablets, has made it possible for teachers to implement inexpensive or free digital instructional resources, such as Khan Academy, Learnzillion and Brainpop. This movement has publishers like Pearson scrambling to hold on to their textbook and instructional materials revenues, as textbooks become dinosaurs and teachers are easily able to analyze results of a class quiz online and assign individualized activities to each student using a variety of free and open-source instructional programs.
Standards — Common Core or the old state standards — are goals, and teachers plan the path for getting students to the goals. If parents and teachers were only being asked to contemplate Common Core without the rest of the pieces that have come with it, we’d not have a rebellion on our hands. But, as they say, the horses are already out of the barn. Teachers are being given letter grades based on student test scores over which they may or may not have any control. Good teachers are getting disappointing grades and being told they must do better but, in some cases, doing better means magically removing a student’s learning disability, changing a student’s general motivation to take a multiple-choice test, or increasing the amount of exposure to literature and informational texts in a student’s home and family life. The APPR system has few defenders statewide, even in Albany. APPR can easily be removed or revised without disrupting the state department’s other initiatives, including Common Core.
The New York State Testing Program has been much maligned since it added the grades 3-8 assessments during the NCLB era. Pearson has the state testing contract, and there have been all sorts of problems and complications over the years, but Pearson has been making money by selling tests to districts and state departments since the invention of the test and will probably continue to do so throughout the next 100 years of rides on the educational reform roller coaster. In my work, I travel the country visiting with district leaders and educators and I can tell you pretty confidently that no state’s assessment contractor is respected or loved. Swap Pearson for CTB or Riverside Publishing and we’re probably having the same conversation here.
The movement against these reforms would be stronger if it divides and conquers. The State Education Department is not going to abandon its entire agenda, but it is conceivable to see them backing off from some of its components, particularly with such vocal and unanimous resistance across the state. Ask yourself: Would you be OK with a new set of learning goals for your children if the state department eased up on all the testing and if your child’s teacher didn’t feel as if she/he were under attack by the APPR system? Encourage your representatives in Albany to pick one component of the reform agenda and start there.
And give Common Core a second look. Without APPR and the new tests, it’s just a suggested list of things to teach in a given grade level and subject area, not the diabolical evil force it’s been depicted to be.
Doug Roberts is a consultant and entrepreneur in the educational technology sector who describes his work as standards- and publisher-agnostic. He lives in Greenport.
When Southold parent Amy Burns comes across a math problem, she knows how to solve it.
But when confronted with math questions in her child’s homework — crafted under the new Common Core standards — she said she’s “afraid to touch it,” lest she teach her daughter the wrong way.
And she’s not alone.
The Southold School District hosted a public meeting Wednesday to discuss how the district is working under the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The new set of standards requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age to better prepare them for college and careers after high school.
Ms. Burns was among about 50 people seeking answers from the Southold school board and district administration about how Common Core is being implemented.
“As a parent, I’m a little in the dark and I want to help,” Ms. Burns said about the new curriculum. “[When I try to help my child], I get, ‘No! That’s not how [the teacher] showed me!’ And I’m like OK. I have to step away.”
After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans for teachers to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate schools to use these specific lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.
Southold Elementary School principal Ellen Waldron-O’Neill said many of her teachers are using the state’s lesson plans this year for the first time. The school is starting to put together a K-6 parent packet that will show parents how students are working out math problems.
A “math night” at which parents would learn how to undertake math problems in a classroom setting, is also in the works.
Other parents praised the latest direction in their child’s education.
Southold parent Angelo Tondo said she’s noticed her daughter is more engaged with her studies because of the new curriculum.
“She loves coming to school,” Ms. Tondo said. “They have fun. They dance. They sing. They’re in the garden and in the sandbox. I know there are bad parts, but we’ve got to remember that there are a lot of good parts and the teachers are doing the best that they can.”
Southold School Superintendent David Gamberg said although teacher’s aren’t simply teaching to the state-created plans directly, they he was “heartened” to see they are incorporating some of the materials in their own lessons.
“They have every intention to use their professional judgement, and where it’s appropriate, to incorporate examples that come from those modules that may be helpful,” he said, “and resist and reject those things that are not.”
While Mr. Gamberg and the school board have agreed there are some good elements to Common Core, they’ve also been one of the more outspoken school districts on the North Fork to oppose the state’s mandate that ties teacher evaluations to state assessment scores.
In August, the school board approved a resolution calling on state and federal officials to overhaul the current method of standardized testing, and New York’s teacher evaluation system called the annual professional performance review, or APPR.
Most notably, Southold denied it’s total portion of Race to the Top funds in protest of the mandates.
Mr. Gamberg described the district’s share as “minimal, at best.”
“It would have been $11,000 spread over four years on a $25 million budget,” he said. “By agreeing to that money, which we did not agree to, we actually would have had more requirements and thus more costs … Many, many districts are exploring ways to return that money.”
As for questions about students opting out of state assessments, Mr. Gamberg said the matter is “still under investigation.” He said he believes all of the details will be ironed out prior to the tests.
At the start of Mr. Gamberg’s presentation, he held up a piece of paper he said he’s carried around for the past few years.
It was a letter written on May 25, 2010 by education expert and local author Diane Ravitch and lists her top ten reasons why states and local school districts should not participate in Race to the Top.
“By raising the stakes for tests even higher, Race to the Top will predictably produce more teaching to bad tests, more narrowing of the curriculum, more cheating, and more gaming the system,” Ms. Ravitch wrote. “If scores rise, it will be the illusion of progress, rather than better education.”
Mr. Gamberg said he believed much of the doom Ms. Ravitch predicted nearly three years ago is already coming true.
“This is all I needed to have for me to say as superintendent, ‘No, we’re not signing for Race to the Top,’” Mr. Gamberg said. “I’m not sure defecting Common Core is the answer, but the way to explore this deeply is to really build forums like this for us to continue to contact lawmakers.
“I think that’s the way to go.”
Overall results from the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR, were released by the education department last week.
Evaluations for some teachers depended in part on how students performed on new, tougher English Language Arts and math assessments under the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
In the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District, nearly 66 percent of the 137 teachers evaluated received a “highly effective” rating and 34 percent received an “effective” rating.
In the Southold School District, 71 percent of 83 teachers received a “highly effective” rating and 29 percent received an “effective” rating.
Over in the Greenport School District, 33 percent of the 56 teachers were rated “highly effective,” 64 percent were rated “effective” and 3 percent were rated “developing.”
And in the Oysterponds Elementary School District, 39 percent of the 13 teachers received a “highly effective” rating and 61 percent received an “effective” rating.
No Southold Town school district reported an “ineffective” rating, the lowest on the scale.
The tiny New Suffolk’s school district often does not see its numbers made public, due to privacy concerns.
Oysterponds Superintendent Richard Malone said although he likes the Common Core standards, he believes the state gave schools too little time to implement Common Core and the new assessments, as well as an APPR plan. It was “too quick and contributed to the lack of positive reaction and acceptance,” he said.
As for APPR’s effectiveness, Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said he believes the system is based on a “faulty premise of mistrust and will not produce the desired results of improving student learning.
“Look at educational systems throughout the country and the world that are effective,” he said. “None tie student test results to improvement, and virtually all have a culture that is respectful.”
Last school year, students in grades 3 through 8 took English Language Arts and math assessments that included elements of the Common Core for the first time, and the results showed a significant drop in test scores compared to the 2011-12 school year.
The state did not release district-by-district results of the teacher evaluations. The local numbers were supplied to The Suffolk Times by the superintendents.
The Common Core initiative, which primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age, is a set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction. It’s also designed to help prepare students for college and careers upon graduating from high school.
Earlier this year, New York school districts were mandated to develop their own APPR plans or risk losing additional state aid for noncompliance.
For the most part, APPR evaluation systems rely on a combination of classroom observations, “locally bargained, locally determined objective measures” and state test scores, according to state officials.
Statewide, 91.5 percent of teachers were rated “highly effective” (49.7 percent) or “effective” (41.8 percent). About 4.4 percent were rated “developing,” and 1 percent was rated “ineffective.”
Greenport Elementary School principal Joseph Tsaveras said although the APPR plan is helpful in showing the community how the district is performing, he believes the system needs to include funding for professional development to promote progress.
“When we first heard the preliminary results, we were excited to see that we were above the state percentage of highly effective and effective teachers,” he said. “Our staff has always looked to advance their skills so that they can support our students [and] works extremely hard for our students every day.”
State education officials have come under fire from districts across New York for rolling out the more rigorous state assessments last year under the Common Core without allowing the time or providing the resources needed to implement a matching curriculum.
As for the teacher evaluation systems, Mr. McKenna said each district developed its own APPR plan with little guidance from the state. He said he believes the APPR needs to be streamlined because the amount of time and labor needed to calculate scores is “enormous.”
In addition, he described APPR as the “epitome of an unfunded mandate” because implementing it cost the district more than $75,000 during the 2012-13 school year and the district anticipates receiving only $14,500 in Race to the Top funding over three years.
Mr. McKenna also questioned the equity in evaluating students and teachers based on Common Core assessments when the state is still introducing lesson plans.
“The analogy of flying an airplane while the plane is being built is an accurate one when applied to this aspect of the APPR plan,” he said. “How valid can these state assessment scores be?”
State officials say the APPR will provide the additional data needed to more effectively analyze teachers’ performance relative to Common Core requirements.
New York education department commissioner John King said in a statement released last week that he believes the latest APPR results prove the new Common Core assessments “did not negatively affect teacher ratings.”
“It’s clear that teachers are rising to the challenge of teaching the Common Core,” he said. “It’s also clear that it’s time to put aside talk about a moratorium on the use of state assessments in educator evaluations and focus on ensuring all students receive the rigorous and engaging instruction that will help them to prepare for college and careers.”
The Southold school board approved a resolution Wednesday night calling on state and federal officials to overhaul the current method of standardized testing tied to teacher evaluations.
The resolution is addressed to key officials responsible for the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Education Department Commissioner John King, as well as the state legislature and Board of Regents. The school board is asking the state to “reexamine” the APPR plan and create a system “based on multiple forms of assessment” as opposed to “extensive standardized testing,” according to the resolution.
The school board is also calling on Congress to “overhaul” the No Child Left Behind Act, legislation created under former President George W. Bush’s administration that mandates public schools to measure “adequate yearly progress” through the use of student test scores.
“Our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools,” the school board’s resolution states. “The Southold Board of Education supports educational accountability in public schools, but believes that the current over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in our schools, including reducing instructional time, narrowing the curriculum, increasing student stress, reducing love of learning and teaching, and driving excellent teachers out of the profession.”
The school board voted 3-0 to approve the resolution, which Superintendent David Gamberg plans to send a copy to state and federal officials. Scott DeSimone and Scott Latham were absent from the meeting.
In June, the Riverhead school board passed a similar resolution encouraging state and federal regulators to cut back on the overreliance of standardized testing.
Mr. Gamberg described the action as a method to inform policy makers that the district believes “the current trend of overtesting” is having a negative impact on schools.
“At bare minimum, it’s on the record,” he said about the adopted resolution. “If anyone were to do an investigation of how many Boards of Education are saying this, they would find Southold.”
The Southold school board’s action comes a few weeks after the state released the 2012-13 school year’s math and English Language Arts assessments students in grades 3 through 8 took in April. The results showed a significant drop in test scores compared to the previous school year.
For the first time, the math and ELA assessments included elements of what’s known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Common Core is a new set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction and help “prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century,” state officials say. The initiative primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age.
In Southold, 65.2 percent of students failed to meet the state’s math proficiency standard and 64.4 percent failed to meet the ELA standard. Statistics statewide for New York schools in which students took the assessments showed 69 percent failed to meet proficiency levels in math and 68.9 percent in ELA. School districts in Suffolk County generally fared better than the state overall, with 66.8 percent failing math and 63.7 percent failing ELA.
The results of the new assessments, which are significantly lower compared to the previous school year, are also expected to be tied to the APPR plan. This teacher evaluation requirement originated in 2010 after New York was awarded a grant of nearly $700 million under the federal Race to the Top program. For individual school districts to qualify for part of the grant, the state required each to implement its own APPR program this year.
“This won’t stop of us from doing the good work that we have been doing and we will continue to do for students,” Mr. Gamberg said about the state mandates.
Mr. Gamberg also said he doesn’t believe any New York school district is against accountability and coming up with new ways to make sure students are career and college ready upon graduation.
“Everyone wants that,” he said. “How you get there is another story.”
Scroll down to read the resolution.
The New York State Education Department has confirmed it approved the Oysterponds Elementary School District’s teacher evaluation plan on Tuesday — 12 days after the district missed a state-imposed deadline.
Although the district’s annual professional performance review plan, known as APPR, has been approved, state officials said Oysterponds will still be penalized for filing late.
It remains unclear how much Oysterponds is in danger of losing. State officials have declined to specify an amount and have said a school district’s annual change in state aid can vary throughout the year based on claims they’ve submitted and individual districts will have more information on what their total claims will be at the end of the year.
Oysterponds Superintendent Dick Malone said Tuesday that although he couldn’t confirm how much the district will lose for missing the Jan. 17 deadline, he described the amount as “no significant loss” because the district was never “entitled to that portion” anyway.
“It was my understanding it was some additional state aid that we did not qualify for,” he said. “There was a rumor that we were losing our regular state aid, but that isn’t true. We’ve gotten our major state aid payments already and there’s no reason to believe we’re not going to get the balance.”
The Oysterponds school district in Orient, one of the smallest schools in the state, is the only district on Long Island that failed to submit teacher evaluation plans on time. The other six school districts across New York slated to lose state aid for missing the deadline include New York City, Harrison, Hamburg, Pine Plains and Fallsburg.
As of September, the district has about 85 students enrolled in its pre-kindergarten through grade six program and sends 88 secondary students to Greenport.
Oysterponds school board president Dorothy-Dean Thomas confirmed Saturday that a technical glitch caused the district to miss a state-imposed deadline to have its teacher evaluation plan approved.
Superintendent Dick Malone reportedly told Newsday on Friday that he “obviously pushed the wrong button and the charts didn’t go through” as he submitted the district’s annual professional performance reviews plan, known as APPR, shortly before midnight on Thursday.
He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
Ms. Thomas said Mr. Malone did submit the plan before the deadline, but a chart that accompanied the report failed to go through electronically.
When asked if she was confident the state will ultimately approve the district’s APPR plan, Ms. Thomas said “completely.”
“I have 100 percent confidence in [Mr. Malone] and believe it will all be rectified,” she said. “He’s been working on this with the state all week and through the weekend.”
The Oysterponds school district in Orient, one of the smallest schools in the state, is the only district on Long Island that failed to have its teacher evaluation plan approved by Thursday’s deadline and is expected to lose some state aid as a result of not having an approved-plan in place.
As of September, the district has about 85 students enrolled in its pre-kindergarten through sixth grade program and sends its 88 secondary students to Greenport.
Three out of the remaining 54 school districts that haven’t received final approval from the state on their new teacher and principal evaluation plans are located on the North Fork, according to state officials.
Although New Suffolk and Oysterponds elementary school districts have already submitted their annual professional performance reviews plan, known as APPR, state officials said they’ve failed to resubmit them for final approval as of Friday afternoon.
School districts stand to lose state aid if they fail to have their APPR plans approved by Jan. 17.
State Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said staffers are “available around the clock to review submissions.”
“We will review any plans we receive between now and Jan. 17 as expeditiously as possible, but we will not sacrifice quality for speed,” Mr. Burman said.
New Suffolk school superintendent Michael Comanda said the district had first submitted its evaluation plan this summer. After the state asked New Suffolk to revise the document in August, Mr. Comanda said the final APPR plan was sent this Wednesday.
Oysterponds school superintendent Dick Malone said the district had sent the state the district’s APPR plan, but hasn’t been able to resubmit it for final approval.
“[The state] knows we’re still in contract negotiations with our teachers,” he said. “The plan has to be part of the new contract for the teachers.”
The Oysterponds school board has been ironing out a new teacher’s contract to replace the agreement that expired during the 2010-2011 school year. Since the school board and teacher’s union have reached an impasse, officials said the matter is being mediated through the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, known as PERB.
PERB is also mediating contract negotiations between the Shoreham-Wading River school district and its administrators union.
The SWR school district originally submitted the APPR plan on July 1, with only the signatures of the board and the head of the teachers union, after a general counsel for the state education department informed the district it could still have its plan reviewed without signatures from all the bargaining units.
On Dec. 28, the state reversed that policy, stating all APPR plans across the state that would be reviewed needed to have all the proper signatures, SWR school board president Bill McGrath said Tuesday.
Other East End school districts that haven’t received final approval from the state include Fishers Island and Montauk.
When asked if there’s any leeway for school districts currently in contract negotiations with their unions, Mr. Burman said there will be “no exceptions.”
“The law doesn’t provide for that,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”