I can't believe it's not common core

New York heads toward finish line on Common Core replacement

PHOTO: Monica Disare
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia at the School of Diplomacy in the Bronx.

New York took a sizable step toward replacing the controversial Common Core learning standards on Tuesday, releasing a revised set of standards that officials hope will be formally approved in June.

These revisions build on a draft set of standards released in September and include practices to improve reading and writing habits along with moving standards to different grade levels in statistics, probability and Algebra. (The full set of standards are available here.)

Despite the lengthy revision process, which included collecting more than 4,000 comments on the draft standards, state officials said these standards are not quite finalized. This most recent draft will appear before the Board of Regents next week and officials said they expect a final vote in June.

“These standards continue to be rigorous” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia on a call with reporters. “They challenge New York students to do more.”

Replacing the standards, which spell out the knowledge and skills students should be able to demonstrate at each grade level, is the first step in revamping the state’s entire education infrastructure — including tests and teacher evaluations.

Common Core became unpopular in New York in recent years as part of a firestorm of criticism about broader education policy. Critics objected to some of the standards themselves, but also to an overemphasis on testing and the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations.

Dissatisfaction with these policies led one in five New York state families to opt out of state tests last year and the year before. In response, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for New York to join many states across the country in revising the standards.

Still, the question remains whether these revisions will lead to substantial differences in classrooms or whether they will be simply be a repackaged version of Common Core under a new name.

High Achievement New York, a group that supports the learning standards, sent a statement suggesting these revisions do not mark a major departure from the Common Core.

“The initial revised standards and this draft keep intact six years of work implementing and improving rigorous and high academic standards across New York State,” the statement read.

In most other states that have revised the Common Core, changes have been fairly minimal.

But Elia said in September that New York had changed more than half the standards and promised it was not just “tinkering around the edges.” On Tuesday, Elia said the state had not yet done a similar analysis of these new revisions.

Teachers have voiced opposition to specific standards, often in elementary school reading or higher-level math. The state took a first crack at fixing those problems in September. For instance, in the early grades, officials switched language from read “grade-level text” to reading “a variety of text levels.” Also, standards that were too vague for geometry teachers, like “prove theorems about triangles,” were clarified.

It appears officials again took a look at these puzzle pieces. Officials convened an early learning task force to continue making recommendations on how to best serve the state’s youngest readers. They also moved higher-level math standards to more appropriate grade levels, state officials said.

In response to an inquiry about English language learners, Elia said teachers who work with these students were intimately involved in the process of drafting the standards and the state is working on ways to help implement them.

That was an issue for New York City teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, who criticized the draft standards in September, particularly as they related to English learners and early grade levels.

The UFT had not sent a statement as of early Tuesday afternoon, but the state teachers union praised the process.

“New York educators played a central role in crafting these new, New York standards — an important change,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said in a statement. “In relying on educators in an open, transparent process, the State Education Department is showing a commitment to getting it right.”

There is also support, generally, for the substance of the Common Core standards. As part of the review process, the state surveyed teachers, parents and others, and found most respondents viewed the standards themselves favorably.

As for the name of the new standards, Elia said she will leave that up to the Regents to decide.

money money money

New York City teachers get news they’ve been waiting for: how much money they’ll receive for classroom supplies

New York City teachers will each get $250 this year to spend on classroom supplies — more than they’ve ever gotten through the city’s reimbursement program before.

The city’s 2017-18 budget dramatically ramped up spending for the Teacher’s Choice program, a 30-year-old collaboration between the City Council and the United Federation of Teachers. More than $20 million will go the program this year.

On Thursday, the union texted its members with details about how the city’s budget will translate to their wallets. General education teachers will each get $250, reimbursable against expenses. (Educators who work in other areas get slightly less; teachers tell the union they spend far more.)

Money given to New York City teachers for classroom supplies, measured in dozens of tissue boxes.

The increase means that Teacher’s Choice has more than recovered from the recent recession. In 2007, teachers were getting $220 a year, but that number fell until the union and Council zeroed out the program in 2011 as part of a budget deal aimed at avoiding teacher layoffs. (Some teachers turned to crowdsourcing to buy classroom supplies.) As the city’s financial picture has improved, and as the union lobbied heavily for the program, the amount inched upwards annually.

“With this increase in funding for Teacher’s Choice, the City Council has sent us a clear message that they believe in our educators and support the work they are doing,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “At a time where we see public education under attack on a national level, Council members came through for our teachers and our students.”

student says

Here’s what New York City students told top state officials about school segregation

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Students discussed attending racially isolated schools at the Board of Regents meeting.

New York state’s top policymakers are wading into a heated debate about how to integrate the state’s schools. But before they pick a course of action, they wanted to hear from their main constituents: students.

At last week’s Board of Regents meeting, policymakers invited students from Epic Theatre Ensemble, who performed a short play, and from IntegrateNYC4Me, a youth activist group, to explain what it’s like to attend racially isolated schools. New York’s drive to integrate schools is, in part, a response to a widely reported study that named the state’s schools — including those in New York City — as the most segregated in the country.

The Board of Regents has expressed interest in using the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to address this issue and released a draft diversity statement in June.

Here’s what graduating seniors told the Board about what it’s like to attend school in a segregated school system. These stories have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

“I have never, ever had a white classmate.”

Throughout my years of schooling and going to school, I have never, ever had a white classmate. It’s something that now that I’m getting ready to go to college, it’s something to really think about, and I don’t think that we’re moving in the right direction. I went to the accepted student day at my college — I’m going to SUNY Purchase. I went there, and I’m being introduced into this whole new world that I never was exposed to.

It’s really a problem. I know I’m not the only one because I have family members and I spoke to some of my brothers and I’m like, “I have never encountered a white classmate in my whole life.” Just to show you how important [it is] to integrate the schools. Just so future kids don’t have to deal with that.

It wasn’t in my power for me to be able to have different classmates. I think in our school, we had one Asian girl, freshman year. She was there for literally like two days and she left so I have been limited in my school years to just African-Americans and Latinos.

So now that I’m getting ready to step out there, this is something I’ve never had to deal with. So the issue is something that’s really deep and near to my heart and now that I’m going to college I have to, you know, adapt. I’m sure it’s a whole different ball game.

— Dantae Duwhite, 18, attended the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts, going to SUNY Purchase in the fall

***

“I saw how much of a community that school had.”

I first became involved in IntegrateNYC4me my junior year when we were having a school exchange between my school in Brooklyn [Leon M. Goldstein] and Bronx Academy of Letters.

When I went into the [school] exchange, I was really excited to see how different the other school would be. But when I got there, I saw how much of a community that school had and personally, I didn’t feel that in my school. My school is majority white and it’s just very segregated within the school, so [I liked] coming into [a different] school and seeing how much community they had and how friendly they are. They just say hi to each other in the hallways and everybody knows each other and even us. We went in and we’re like strangers and they were so welcoming to us and I know they didn’t have the same experience at our school. That really interested me and that’s how I got into the work.

If it weren’t so segregated, it could be so easy for all of us to have a welcoming community like the Bronx Letters students did.

— Julisa Perez, 18, attended Leon M. Goldstein, a screened high school in Brooklyn and will attend Brooklyn college in the fall

***

“They’re expected to take the same Regents, yet they’re not given the same lab equipment.” 

I also went on the exchange my junior and senior year. The first time I did it was my junior year and when I went to Bronx Letters, the first thing I noticed was how resources were allocated unfairly between our schools.

Because, at my school, we have three lab rooms:, a science lab, a chemistry lab and a physics lab. And at Bronx Letters, they never even had a lab room, they just had lab equipment. And I think it’s important to see that all New York City students are expected to meet the same state requirements. They’re expected to take the same Regents, yet they’re not given the same lab equipment and they’re not given the same resources. So I think it’s unfair to expect the same of students when they’re not given equitable resources. That is what I took away from it.

— Aneth Naranjo, 18, attended Leon M. Goldstein, will attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the fall