In a dramatic turnaround, New York State will abandon using high-stakes testing to evaluate students, as well as teachers until the 2019-2020 school year, will move to overhaul the Common Core system and restore some measure of local control over how new standards and curriculum are implemented. It is a repudiation of the “one-size fits all” framework which emerged out of the No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top Accountability Movement that had been driving education.
The new policy emerges out of the final report and recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, consisting of a diverse group of educators, parents, education officials and state representatives, which was charged with comprehensively reviewing and making recommendations on reforming the current Common Core system and the way students are taught and tested.
The Task Force recommended “overhauling the current Common Core system and adopting new, locally-driven New York State standards in a transparent and open process to make sure all students are prepared to succeed in an increasingly competitive 21st century economy,” the Governor’s office stated. “The new standards, curriculum and tests and must uniquely developed for New York students with sufficient local input.” The Task Force also recommended that current Common Core aligned tests should not count for students or teachers until the start of 2019-2020 school year to ensure the system is implemented completely and properly to avoid the errors caused by the prior flawed implementation.
“After listening to thousands of parents, educators and students, the Task Force has made important recommendations that include overhauling the Common Core, adopting new locally-designed high quality New York standards, and greatly reducing testing and testing anxiety for our students,” Governor Cuomo stated. “The Common Core was supposed to ensure all of our children had the education they needed to be college and career-ready – but it actually caused confusion and anxiety. That ends now. Today, we will begin to transform our system into one that empowers parents, teachers and local districts and ensures high standards for all students. I thank the Task Force members for their thorough work. Together we will ensure that New York’s schools provide the world-class education that our children deserve.”
The Task Force was chaired by Richard Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners, LLC and former Chairman of Citigroup.
“While adoption of the Common Core was extremely well intentioned, its implementation has caused confusion and upheaval in classrooms across New York State,” stated the Task Force chairman Richard Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners, LLC and former Chairman of Citigroup. “We believe that these recommendations, once acted on, provide a means to put things back on the right track and ensure high quality standards that meet the needs of New York’s kids. The recommendations will provide the foundation to restore public trust in the education system in New York and build on the long history of excellence that preceded this period.”
The Task Force heard from more than 2,100 students, parents, teachers, administrators and other education stakeholders through public forums held across the state, thousands of pages of testimony and outreach to educators.
The Task Force affirmed the importance of maintaining the highest quality standards and performance measures in education. However, the Task Force found that over the past decade there has been rapid change in education, including the 2009 federal Race to the Top and Common Core which has created confusion and disruption in states across the nation, including New York. Moreover, the original process to adopt and implement the Common Core standards, curriculum and tests in New York had implementation issues and failed to include sufficient input from educators, parents and local districts and was not open and transparent.
The Task Force made 20 recommendations, including:
1: Adopt high quality New York education standards with input from local districts, educators, and parents through an open and transparent process.
2: Modify early grade standards so they are age-appropriate.
3: Ensure that standards accommodate flexibility that allows educators to meet the needs of unique student populations, including Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners.
4: Ensure standards do not lead to the narrowing of curriculum or diminish the love of reading and joy of learning.
5: Establish a transparent and open process by which New York standards are periodically reviewed by educators and content area experts. Develop Better Curriculum Guidance and Resources
6: Ensure educators and local school districts have the flexibility to develop and tailor curriculum to the new standards.
7: Release updated and improved sample curriculum resources.
8: Launch a digital platform that enables teachers, including pre-service teachers, and teacher educators, to share resources with other teachers across the state.
9: Create ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers, teacher educators, and administrators on the revised State standards. Significantly Reduce Testing Time and Preparation and Ensure Tests Fit Curriculum and Standards
10: Involve educators, parents, and other education stakeholders in the creation and periodic review of all State standards-aligned exams and other State assessments.
11: Gather student feedback on the quality of the new tests.
12: Provide ongoing transparency to parents, educators, and local districts on the quality and content of all tests, including, but not limited to publishing the test questions.
13: Reduce the number of days and shorten the duration for standards-aligned State standardized tests.
14: Provide teachers with the flexibility and support to use authentic formative assessments to measure student learning.
15: Undertake a formal review to determine whether to transition to untimed tests for existing and new State standardized tests aligned to the standards.
16: Provide flexibility for assessments of Students with Disabilities.
17: Protect and enforce testing accommodations for Students with Disabilities.
18: Explore alternative options to assess the most severely disabled students.
19: Prevent students from being mandated into Academic Intervention Services based on a single test.
20: Eliminate double testing for English Language Learners.
The Task Force found that to implement the new system would require significant work including a comprehensive review of the current Common Core Standards in order to adopt new New York State Standards and create new curriculum and assessments in an open and transparent manner for the nearly 700 school districts, 5,000 schools, 200,000 plus teachers and 2.65 million students. Therefore, the Task Force believes that in order to finally get the system right there must be adequate time to implement the system. Given all of the work and time required to review and adopt new standards, improve and adapt curriculum, and create new assessments, any current Common Core aligned tests should not count for students or teachers until the start of 2019-2020 school year when the new statewide standards developed through this process will be put into place.
“The Task Force has adopted many if not most of the Board of Regents’ recommendations for improving the implementation of the higher standards we’ve set for our students,” stated New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. “The most important message in the Task Force report is the renewed commitment to adopting and maintaining higher standards. We cannot turn our backs on our students at a time when the world is demanding more from them – more skills, more knowledge, more problem-solving.”
New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, “In my first few months as commissioner, I’ve traveled across the state and heard a large cross section of New Yorkers — our teachers, parents and educators –share their deep concern for improving the education of our children. And as a member of the Common Core Task Force, I’ve heard those same stakeholders express those same concerns. Likewise, the Department’s AimHighNY survey unfolded the same passionate call for clear learning standards to serve as guideposts to future success for our children. Now it’s time to move forward and deliver on the promise we’ve made to our students and give them the best schools possible.”
The comprehensive report provides the history and context of learning standards and specifically, a review of the Common Core Standards in New York; a summary of testimony and stakeholder feedback across several categories and specific Task Force responses; and a full description of Task Force Recommendations.
The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers.
The Governor’s office pointed to his longstanding commitment to education reform, including the recent laws banning standardized testing for students in pre-kindergarten through 2nd grade, capping test preparation to two percent of learning time, not counting the Common Core scores against students and requiring the State Education Department to help districts eliminate unnecessary standardized tests for all other students.