McMullan Reports on Standard Review Committee

PJSTA member Melissa McMullan reports on her experience on the New York State Standard Review Committee…

The Cycle of Standards, Instruction and Assessment

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.” 

~Jonathon Kozol

Today was the second day of the New York State Standard Review Committee. In total, sixty-eight people responded to my survey. This feedback is combined with a letter Stronger Together Caucus (ST Caucus) sent to the Board of Regents and the New York State Department of Education regarding the need for clear concise standards that included assessment limits for students and teachers. Once again, I sat with this feedback before me, as my grade level band and sub-group looked at specific standards.

We have been asked to refrain from sharing specific details of our work because right now it is all a work in progress. Ultimately, our recommendations will be made public for comment before these recommendations are brought to the Board of Regents (BOR) for review.

There are big ideas that are swirling around in my mind. I am eager for feedback from parents and colleagues.

First, as a society, what do we want the standards to do? I am genuinely curious about what people think of standards. What do they mean to people? What do we expect standards to accomplish?

Second, how do we ensure that assessment of progress toward reaching those standards remains directly connected with instruction? Do we seek a narrowing of standards that will streamline assessment? Do we maintain more holistic standards that leave more room for instructional freedom?

Finally, and most importantly, how much do we trust the teachers in our children’s classrooms? If we agree that standards, instruction and assessment are parts of a continuous cycle through which all learning takes place, then who do we trust to craft and implement these pieces?

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4 Responses to McMullan Reports on Standard Review Committee

  1. Erica Rinear says:

    We are a mobile society and thus if there is to be a national education then it should be suggested that students do certain science in certain years, certain math in certain years- for example algebra in 9th, geometry 10th, trig 11th pre calculus 12th. Those in honors would start a year earlier in 8th and finish with calc. This is how it would go for all subjects. In elem topics would be decided for each grade level. Perhaps 4th grade could be state history etc. that is where I would start. This is more a uniformed topic plan. Then what students would have to do with this information is to consider the what if factors. What if this changed… What if you didn’t have… Etc. students would be expected to justify their thinking and present it in various ways throughout the year. We should NOT abandon handwriting for keyboarding. At the elementary level, schools should be able to focus on math, reading and writing. Reading should be literature heavy and nonfiction as supplements to the literature. That nonfiction would expose students to social studies topics and science. Technology should be deemphasized k-8. In the business work, companies train employees on the technology it uses. As far as college, for the most part college students use Microsoft office. And YES I trust teachers to decide how to assess the students. I could go on forever, but this is enough for now. If you would like to contact me, I would be happy to answer any of your questions.

    • Erica, thank you for your thoughts. A big topic of discussion has been the balancing act between fiction (and narrative writing) and non–fiction (informational writing). The Common Core Standards shifted this balance to non-fiction because the writers believe that in life, people encounter and write more non-fiction.

      I have spent significant amount of time reflecting on my own learning. I consider myself a proficient writer. I credit my writing skill with the incredible wealth of fiction and narrative writing I have done over my lifetime. My early school years were spent deeply entrenched in fictional text.

      Much of what you are saying speaks to what you value. My concern is that much of this was created by people who did not value what advocates of public education value. We have to keep thinking and speaking about what matters most for our children.

      Thank you so much.

  2. Debbie Dermady says:

    Refer to the 26 NYS Learning Standards we had. Yes, perhaps some tweaking is needed, but they were very open to all children according to one’s own ability. Common Core has all been one huge nightmare. Refer to Dr. Ravitch’s research and the research of so many others. Yes, we need standards, but standards should not be so rigid that we can’t adjust them for each individual child. To say “All students must…” is ridiculous, as we all know “all students” may not be able to achieve the same level.

    One thing I have noticed in my last six years with Common Core is the loss of individuality. We all must explore our own paths, whatever the path may be. Common Core has tried to make all children learn at the same rate and the same amount of information. In real life, tell me, who does this. Tell me, in real life, who wants to do so?

  3. Thank you Debbie. The old standards come up quite a bit. They were very straightforward. I also appreciated them because they are based upon Language Experience Approach (LEA) where we value the integration of reading, writing, listening and speaking as modes through which children develop powerful language skills. Most importantly, an LEA approach honors individuality. It requires that these experiences begin with the child and, spiral outward. And in life, we are each our own person, aren’t we?

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