hitting pause

State lawmakers unite to support two-year Common Core delay

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
Cuomo spoke to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last month before delivering his State of the State speech. Silver is among the many lawmakers calling for a pause on Common Core consequences.

ALBANY — State lawmakers today issued a bipartisan call for a two-year moratorium on consequences attached to the Common Core standards, potentially paving the way for revisions to the state’s teacher evaluation law.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan announced today that they support a two-year delay — “at a minimum” — on using tests aligned to the Common Core learning standards to evaluate teachers. Leaders in the Senate, including Republican Dean Skelos and Education Committee Chair John Flanagan, seconded the request this afternoon.

Such a moratorium, which the state teachers union has lobbied for, would not remove the Common Core as the standards in use in New York’s schools. In fact, all of the legislators said the State Education Department and local districts should continue to develop and implement curriculums aligned to the standards, which are meant to ensure that students are prepared for college.

But a moratorium would dramatically lower the stakes for districts and teachers to hold students to the standards, because Common Core test scores would not be used to evaluate teachers and principals.

Detaching test scores from teacher evaluations would require legislators to revise the evaluation law for the third time since it was first passed in 2010. State officials have so far resisted such a change, in part because they fear it could jeopardize $700 million in federal Race to the Top grants that New York won to install teacher evaluations that weigh student growth.

But lawmakers are under pressure now, given that teachers outside of New York City are being evaluated for the second time under the new system this year. The law allows districts to move to fire teachers who receive two consecutive “ineffective” ratings. (New York City is evaluating teachers under the new system this year.)

National and local teachers union leaders have been calling for a delay for nearly a year. NYSUT has called for a three-year moratorium, while Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for a national moratorium on Common Core stakes in a speech last April.

Any bipartisan proposal to change the evaluation law would put pressure on Cuomo, who praised the system in his State of the State speech last month. In a statement, Cuomo’s office suggested today that legislators had inappropriately conflated the teacher evaluation system with the new standards.

“The Governor believes there are two issues — Common Core and teacher evaluations — and they must be analyzed separately,” a spokeswoman said. She said Cuomo had determined that the State Education Department’s rollout of the Common Core had been “flawed, leading to too much uncertainty, confusion and anxiety among students and their parents.”

Parents and local educators protested the standards’ implementation in Albany and at heated public meetings with State Education Commissioner John King and with lawmakers last year. They charged that schools had not had time or support to adjust to the new standards before testing students on them.

The moratorium would also delay consequences for students’ scores on Common Core-aligned tests. Those scores are sometimes used to determine whether students are promoted to the next grade or accepted into specialized schools, but those decisions are made by districts, not the state.

Responding to the criticism, Cuomo — who is up for reelection this year — recently announced that he would form a panel to study the state’s implementation of the Common Core. “It would be premature to consider any moratorium before the panel is allowed to do its work,” he said today.

The call for a moratorium comes just days before a separate task force formed by the Board of Regents is expected to come up with its own proposals to change. State Education Commissioner John King, who is a part of that task force, has remained steadfast in his insistence that the state not slow down its pace of implementation.

A spokesman for the department said King and Tisch would have more to say after it releases recommendations next week.

As the legislative session got underway last month, lawmakers from across the state have talked about the possibility of a Common Core “delay.” Today’s announcement offers clarity about what that would look like. In addition, today revealed New York City legislators’ stance on the Common Core, which has drawn the most heated opposition in suburban districts.

Nolan and Silver, who are part of the Assembly’s Democratic leadership, have previously raised concerns about the standards, but had yet to indicate where they would come down on the issue. Martin Golden, a leading Republican senator from the city, also said today that he supported a delay.

“I think it needs to be delayed a little bit,” Golden said. “Probably about two to three years so that the educational system can get caught up to the Core curriculum.”

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”