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

 

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.