Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force released their recommendations Thursday and, at first glance, they were better than I was expecting. There was a lot to like on the surface, so let’s take a look at the highlights from the governor’s press release…
To ensure that the State moves forward with high quality education standards the Task Force made 21 recommendations including:
- Overhauling the Common Core and adopting locally-driven high quality New York education standards with input from local districts, educators, and parents through a transparent and open process that are age-appropriate and allow educators flexibility for Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners.
- Establishing a transparent and open process by which New York standards are periodically reviewed by educators and content area experts, since educators know their schools and students best.
- Providing educators and local school districts with the flexibility to develop and tailor curriculum to meet the needs of their individual students and requiring the State to create and release new and improved curriculum resources that educators can then adapt to meet the needs of their individual students.
- Engaging New York educators, not a private corporation, to drive the review and creation of State standards-aligned tests in an open and transparent manner.
- Minimizing student testing anxiety by reducing the number of test days and test questions and providing ongoing test transparency to parents, teachers and districts on test questions and student test scores.
- Ensuring that State tests account for different types of learners, including Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners.
Additionally a four-year moratorium was placed using on Common Core state tests to evaluate teachers. Predictably, NYSUT leadership and their Unity Caucus mouthpieces ran around proclaiming this to be a “momentous” victory.
The problem, however, is that this was not a momentous victory. Nor was it close to being one. These were, possibly, small steps in the right direction which will ultimately mean nothing if they are not followed up with much larger gains. Here are my primary concerns…
- There are a lot of things within the language of the recommendations that sound nice, but ultimately we don’t know what they mean. I hear lots of “overhauling” and “input from educator” types of lines, but as we have seen in the past, the state’s definition of these things tends to vary greatly from the definition that normal people might have. I have the sneaking suspicion that “overhauled” standards will look a lot like the current standards, just with a friendlier name and a few small changes.
- There is no mention of how cut scores on state tests will be determined, meaning it will likely be in the same way they always have been. The tests could end up being developmentally appropriate and not abusive in nature, however if the state is still arbitrarily deciding what is passing and what is failing, it will be just as simple to create the “Our schools are failing!!!!” narrative that the governor and his cronies like to claim.
- Schools will still be placed in receivership over poor test scores, which means all the teachers in those schools can have their contracts torn up and can be fired due to poor scores.
- The four-year moratorium on the APPR consequences is just that, a moratorium, not an elimination. That means in a few years they will be reinstated and state test scores will be 50% of teacher evaluations. This signifies the Task Force’s belief that high stakes testing should, when the “new” standards are implemented, be the centerpiece of public education in New York State.
- The moratorium is a clear sign that the Task Force believes in test based teacher evaluations and believes in firing teachers over test scores. In fact the press release stated that, “The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers.” In other words, they fully support the most damaging piece of public education legislation that has ever been passed.
While there are a few nice steps in here, that ultimately may be nothing more than nice language, there really is not much to be excited over. To me this simply seems to be an effort to quell the growing opt-out movement, get kids taking the tests in large numbers again, and then have the ability, without needing any legislative changes, to implement the rigged APPR system that has been thwarted by the opt-out movement. Enjoy whatever sense of “victory” this may give you, but proceed with caution and continue to opt-out of state testing!
Finally, be sure to give Peter Greene’s write up of this situation, “NY: Cuomo’s Common Core Nothing Sundae” a good read over at the Curmudgucation blog.