01/23/14 1:11pm
01/23/2014 1:11 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle at a previous Calverton Business Incubator event.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | State Senator Ken LaValle wants New York to delay Common Core rollout.

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.

John Flanagan

State Senator John Flanagan

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.

Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Governor Andrew Cuomo

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.”

[email protected]

John-King1

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Education commissioner John King, left, and Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch.

12/13/13 3:30pm
12/13/2013 3:30 PM
COURTESY PHOTO | State Senator John Flanagan during his press conference in Brentwood on Thursday.

COURTESY PHOTO | State Senator John Flanagan during his press conference in Brentwood on Thursday.

State Senator John Flanagan is calling on the state Department of Education to delay using a controversial method of storing student data electronically for one year and proposing legislation to ban standardized testing for students in pre-K through 2nd grade.

Mr. Flanagan (R-East Northport), who chairs the senate’s Standing Committee on Education, is also sponsoring legislation to create independent oversight, as well as establishing civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized disclosure of personal information stored on the state’s student data portal received from public schools.

The actions are based on his committee’s report, “The Regents Reform Agenda: ‘Assessing’ Our Progress,” which Mr. Flanagan unveiled Thursday during a press conference in Brentwood.

[Scroll down to view the complete report]

In the report, privacy experts and school administrators raised concerns about the ability of unauthorized third-parties to access personally identifiable information, or PII, of students, teachers and principals that are collected on the state portal.

Many parents and educators have protested an agreement the state has made with inBloom, Inc. to store student data because they fear personal records could be compromised.

Strengthening public school privacy protections is one part of a series of legislative actions Mr. Flanagan is proposing.

The report includes testimony given during five public hearings Mr. Flanagan has held in recent months that sought public feedback on the state’s implementation of Common Core.

Merryl Tisch, the Board of Regents chancellor, issued a statement Friday in response to Mr. Flanagan’s report.

“While we have concerns about some aspects of the report, it’s clear that Senator Flanagan has put together some strong recommendations that we look forward to working collaboratively to address,” Ms. Tisch said in a press release.

The Common Core State Standards has been nationally recognized and adopted by most states across the country that 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 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.

Some of the concerns raised in Mr. Flanagan’s report include: over-testing of students, inadequate professional development funding for teacher training, incomplete and missing modules and the use of test questions that were neither age-level nor developmentally appropriate.

Mr. Flanagan’s committee also heard testimony from parents about their “children experiencing severe stress, anxiety and frustrations as they struggled to understand the new curriculum, while also trying to learn in a whole new way.” The committee also hear about teachers’ “exasperation over the lack of time and resources given to professional development training in order to adequately prepare lesson plans before teaching and testing their students,” according to a press release issued by his office Thursday.

As a result of the testimony given, the report recommends the state Department of Education immediately address several concerns, such as expediting waivers from the U.S. Department of Education “to relax onerous and rigid testing restrictions placed on certain students,” especially with English as a Second Language students and students with disabilities; producing all missing or incomplete curriculum modules; aligning assessments proportionally to curriculum actually implemented; and increasing funding for the professional development of teachers.

As for the state Legislature, Mr. Flanagan is proposing several bills for approval, including requiring state Department of Education commissioner John King to review APPR plans and eliminate unnecessary student assessments. If approved, Mr. King will also be required to report on the effectiveness of Common Core tests and programing with an independent audit.

Mr. Flanagan described the recommendations contained within the report as “a good first step in addressing the concerns heard by the committee, which overwhelmingly revolved around the issue of over-testing.”

“Setting rigorous academic standards to ensure that all students are college and career ready should always be an important goal to attain,” he said. “However, it must balanced by a fair and even implementation of those new standards to allow our children to adjust and adapt appropriately.”

The report will be submitted to the Board of Regents, Mr. King and Governor Andrew Cuomo, officials said.

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The Regents Reform Agenda: ‘Assessing’ Our Progress,

07/27/13 12:00pm
07/27/2013 12:00 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Senator John Flanagan, left, and Senator Ken LaValle at the annual Longwood Regional Legislative Breakfast in February. Mr. Flanagan announced Friday he will hold a series of hearing throughout Long Island to review the effectiveness of recent state education reforms.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Senator John Flanagan, left, and Senator Ken LaValle at the annual Longwood Regional Legislative Breakfast in February. Mr. Flanagan announced Thursday he will hold a series of hearings to review recent state education reforms.

State Senator John Flanagan announced Thursday he will host a series of public hearings throughout the state to review the effectiveness of recent state education reforms.

Mr. Flanagan (R-East Northport), who chairs the senate’s Standing Committee on Education, said the first hearing will take place on Long Island in September. His office said Friday dates and locations of the hearings are being finalized.

This past school year, English and math state assessments included elements of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The common core standards are a new set of national benchmarks to help public school students master language arts and mathematics. It requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

The results of the new assessments are also tied to the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR. The 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 school districts to qualify for part of the grant, the state required them each to implement their own APPR program this year.

While the state Department of Education has claimed implementation of common core aims to better prepare students for college and careers, many parents and educators have criticized the move because they believe teachers are being forced to abandon true learning for “teaching to the test.”

In addition to discussing state assessments and common core standards, the hearings will also focus on reforms implemented by the New York State Board of Regents. In 2010, the Board of Regents released policies designed to prepare students for college and 21st century careers, close the achievement gap and instill a lifelong love of learning in children Regents Reform Agenda, according to a press release issued by Mr. Flanagan’s office.

“As these reforms are implemented by the Board of Regents, questions and concerns continue to be raised about the impact these changes will have on students throughout the state,” the press release states. “While the reforms were initiated by the Board of Regents, it is critical to Senator Flanagan and the Education Committee that the state review the new policies and maintain an open dialogue about the future of state education policy.”

Mr. Flanagan said in a press release the hearings will focus on finding out “which policies are working well and which ones may need improving.”

“These hearings will provide the public with a thorough examination of current state education policies and the impact on our students,” he said. “This timely discussion will give parents the information they need and deserve and move the state education system forward in a positive direction for the benefit of our students.”

[email protected]

03/28/13 6:00am
03/28/2013 6:00 AM
COURTESY PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro in November 2011.

COURTESY PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro in November 2011.

To the editor:

The absence of a state assemblyman representing our district is a very poor reflection on the state of New York government.

Former assemblyman Dan Losquadro, who was elected in good faith to represent us in Albany, abdicated his post after only 2 1/2 years to run for a totally unrelated position, that of Brookhaven Town highway superintendent, leaving a vacancy that may be filled by a special election.

I find it disturbing that Mr. Losquadro did not even serve out his term, a reflection of either lack of interest in his constituents, or personal ambitions fulfilled by becoming highway chief for an adjoining town that is, for the most part, out of the Assembly district in which he served. At the very least, one has to be cynical about his motives.

Now Phil Cardinale, a former Democratic supervisor in Riverhead, says he has to assess whether or not he has “enough interest” to run for the position vacated by Mr. Losquadro, balancing his desire to maintain an enjoyable retirement with the responsibility of being a public servant.

While his candor is commendable, this isn’t a position approached with wishy-washy indecision.

The North Fork needs an assemblyman with the passion and commitment of Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor or Senator John Flanagan of Smithtown, a person who will represent his constituency with all the energy he or she can muster.

In particular, someone has to step to the plate and be a voice for our senior citizens, business people, property owners and taxpayers who are underrepresented in state government. After all, those already in the public sector have strong unions and the government behind them. But the rest of us out here have no voice or authority, especially with the abdication of our assemblyman.

Harry Katz, Southold

To read more letters to the editor, pick up a copy of this week’s Suffolk Times or click on the E-Paper.