JTA President Supports Potential Changes

The Jamestown Teachers Association president is supportive of a Board of Regents bid to right the wrongs of the Common Core Learning Standards.

Last month, a panel of Board of Regents education policy makers submitted a report containing recommendations for changing the way in which the new curricula and its modules has been implemented in state schools.

The six-member panel work group, appointed by state Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, was established to find ways to make improvements to the functionality of the Common Core in its current state.

Thus far, the panel’s recommendations have included granting teachers the ability to defend themselves against poor student performance on state assessments on the grounds of an inadequate provision of materials, preparation time and training. It was also recommended that the phase-in of Regents exams based on the standards be extended so that the class of 2022 – rather than the class of 2017 – would be the first group of students required to pass the more rigorous English and math exams to graduate.

Chris Reilly, JTA president, said these recommendations are an acknowledgement by the Board of Regents that the status quo is not working.

“I applaud the efforts of the Board of Regents panel, and their recognition of the fact that the implementation of the Common Core in New York has been flawed,” Reilly said. “Teachers have not had adequate time to be trained in and adapt to the Common Core, and the modules designed to assist with the implementation are riddled with errors; and many question the age appropriateness of many of the lessons.”

Since the curriculum modules of the Common Core were first introduced in classrooms during the 2012-13 school year, prior to their full implementation this year, criticism of the standards has been rampant across New York state. A series of statewide public forums last year underscored high anxiety levels among parents, students and teachers because of the uneven way the standards have been introduced across districts, as well as their negative impact on student assessments and teacher performance ratings.

The panel’s work group report, entitled “The Path Forward,” addressed these concerns directly.

“We regret that the urgency of our work, and the unevenness of implementation, have caused frustration and anxiety for some of our educators, students and their families,” the report said. “Any endeavor of this magnitude is certain to require adjustments along the way.”

Additionally, New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union, has been calling for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing and its corresponding consequences. Reilly also expressed his support for such a moratorium, saying teaching positions should not be endangered due to the performance of students on state tests.

“No teacher’s job should ever be in jeopardy because of a test score, and certainly not now,” Reilly said. “In addition, the JTA fully supports NYSUT’s call for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing. No one questions or argues with the desire to raise standards but, as I’ve said before, this (Common Core implementation) was rushed. Everyone needs to take a few steps back, evaluate what has already taken place and determine how to right the ship.”

By law, 20 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation score under the new Annual Professional Performance Review plan must be based on state assessments, while 60 percent is based on classroom observation or surveys, and 20 percent is based on a locally chosen measure of student achievement – which for some districts constitutes local testing.

The report also recommended that school districts scale back the use of their own tests in teacher evaluations and stop standardized testing altogether for students in kindergarten through second grade. The report said that, beginning with the next school year, the state should throw out any teacher evaluation plans that rely on K-2 testing.

Also in the report, the state Education Department announced plans to postpone creation of a statewide student database until concerns about privacy and security have been addressed.

The state had planned to transfer students’ grades, test scores and attendance records to Atlanta-based service provider InBloom this year, but opponents ranging from parents to state legislative leaders raised concerns about storing personal student data on servers in the so-called cloud, accessed through the Internet.