New York

Coalition of NY ed groups pledge Common Core support

A contingency of education groups representing a wide spectrum of interests that can sometimes be at odds with one another are uniting around helping the Common Core learning standards survive a bevy of criticism. 

In a press release sent out today, the coalition of groups representing teachers, parents, school boards, superintendents and business groups — dubbed the “Educational Conference Board” — outlined five ways to do just that. The “action plan” included calls for more funding and professional development for teachers, but the number one priority was to “build understanding and support” for the Common Core standards. 

It’s an apparent nod to the fierce push back New York education officials have received to its pace of implementation of the standards. New York became just the second state to tie its 3-8 math and English state assessments to the tougher standards, which were designed to offer a more genuine measure of college preparedness. As a result, about one in three students did well enough to earn a “proficient” or higher on the exams, a significant drop. 

The most vocal criticism had come from the state teachers union, which objected to evaluating teachers based on the new tests last year. Manytteachers complained that they were ill-prepared to teacher to the new standards because the state was unable to produce as much curriculum as it had originally promised.

But the union, New York State United Teachers, was among the groups that signed off on the plan. And so was the New York State Parent Teacher Association, representing another group — parents — that has been critical of how the new tests are affecting classroom instruction.

It’s the second time since the test results were released, on Aug. 7, that a coalition has come out to publicly pledge their support for the standards. A day after the results were released, 40 CEOs from the state business community signed off on a letter that urged officials to not slow down the pace of implementation.  

The coalition doesn’t include any groups representing charter schools. It’s made up of the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, the New York State Association of School Business Officials, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the New York State School Boards Association, and the School Administrators Association of New York State. 

A version of the press release, published by NYSCOSS is below. 

Five-point plan needed to keep the promise of Common Core

New York’s seven leading statewide education groups have come together to endorse a five-point plan to help all students and their schools meet the expectations of the new Common Core learning standards.

The Educational Conference Board (ECB), comprised of organizations that represent school boards, parents, superintendents, teachers, principals, business officials and other educators, has released a position paper entitled Common Ground on Common Core that outlines a plan to give students the support and resources they need to succeed under the state’s new Common Core learning standards.

Recent attention on student test scores, compliance with the new teacher and principal evaluation requirements, and recurring financial struggles has diverted resources and focus from student learning, the report states.

ECB Chair John Yagielski explained, “The Common Core learning standards are the right direction for our schools. These standards were designed to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live or what school they attend, are learning what they need to graduate from high school with the ability, not just to recite knowledge, but apply knowledge to real world challenges.”

Yagielski, a retired superintendent who previously led four upstate school districts, added, “The Common Core learning standards represent the most significant increase in student expectations that New York schools have ever faced. Therefore, to be effective, these standards must be properly implemented. Working together, the member organizations of ECB have identified actions that need to be taken to make these standards a reality in every classroom.”

The ECB’s five-point plan to put the focus on student learning and get the Common Core back on track calls for state policymakers to take the following actions:

  1. Institute a statewide campaign to build understanding and support for the importance and value of the Common Core Learning Standards.
  2. Invest in ongoing professional development to implement the Common Core. 
  3. Ensure adequate state and federal funding to give all classroom teachers the tools, instructional materials, and technology they need to help all students meet the standards, including extra help for students most at risk of falling short of the standards.
  4. Reassess the state’s approach to student testing and address the most pressing concerns that parents and educators have expressed about testing. 
  5. Establish an ongoing process for engaging key stakeholders in reviewing and refining implementation of the Common Core.

“Members of the New York State Educational Conference Board recognize that in order for education reform to effect positive and sustainable change, it is imperative that we examine both its merits and flaws.  This joint statement reflects that belief and identifies common ground from which all stake-holders can advocate with a unified voice,” said Lana Ajemian, president of the New York State PTA.

“Superintendents across our state overwhelmingly believe the Common Core Standards hold promise for improving the quality of education our students receive.  The actions in the five-point plan endorsed by all the state’s leading education organizations are essential to fulfilling the promise of the new standards,” said Robert J. Reidy, Jr., executive director, New York State Council of School Superintendents.

“The Big 5 school districts are moving forward with implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards as a part of their commitment to improve student achievement and ensure that every child is afforded a chance to succeed.  The investment of adequate State and federal resources is critical to these efforts,” said Georgia M. Asciutto, executive director, Conference of Big 5 School Districts.

“We must focus on providing students and teachers with the time, resources and professional support they need to properly implement a deeper and richer curriculum,” said Andy Pallotta, executive vice president, New York State United Teachers.

“The Common Core’s tougher standards help insure that taxpayer dollars are producing the results needed for our students to remain competitive in a global economy,” said Michael J. Borges, executive director, New York State Association of School Business Officials.

“If we truly aspire to improve student learning, we need to focus more on the development of common core curricula, quality instruction and professional development and less on a testing regime used for the purpose of assigning labels to teachers and principals,” said Kevin S. Casey, executive director of the School Administrators Association of New York State.

“The ECB organizations came together because they want the Common Core done right,” said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association.

New York adopted the Common Core Learning Standards to make sure students leave high school college- and career-ready.

View the report

 

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede