Panel Recommends Student Testing Shifts in NY

Critics say New York rushed the rollout of the Common Core curriculum

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    New York education officials are planning to give high school students more time to meet the new Common Core learning standards. Andrew Siff has more.

    New York education officials on Monday recommended giving students additional time to meet more rigorous graduation requirements and offered a temporary defense for teachers whose jobs may be at risk because of low student test scores.

    The class of 2022, not the class of 2017, would be the first group required to pass Common Core-aligned English and math exams at what are considered "college- and career-ready levels" to graduate, under a proposal expected to be approved by the Board of Regents Tuesday.

    Current freshmen would still take Common Core Regents exams as they are phased in over the next few years but would be able to pass with a lower score.

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    The change is one of several proposed in a report delivered Monday by a Regents work group that was tasked with finding ways to improve the way that New York is implementing the new standards.

    The K-12 educational benchmarks have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia to improve student readiness for college and careers. But a series of statewide public forums last year underscored high anxiety levels among parents, students and teachers who said the rollout has been rushed and patchy.

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    Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders have since joined in the criticism and Cuomo last week appointed his own panel to recommend changes.

    "Any major shift — especially one involving 700 school districts, more than 4,500 schools and millions of students — is going to require adjustments and course corrections along the way," Education Commissioner John King Jr. said Monday. "The implementation of the higher standards has been uneven, and these changes will help strengthen the important work happening in schools across the state."

    Teachers in many districts have said they were not given sufficient materials and guidance to teach to the new standards, and that last spring's Common Core-aligned grade 3-through-8 state assessments forced them to test students on material they had not yet learned, resulting in a dismal passing rate.

    The state's teacher evaluation law, which Cuomo championed, requires districts to use student performance on the assessments as a factor in teacher and principal hiring and firing decisions.

    The governor criticized the Regents panel's recommendation that educators whose jobs are at risk because of this year's and last year's test results should be able to offer as a defense that their district didn't provide enough training and curriculum support.

    "There is a difference between remedying the system for students and parents and using this situation as yet another excuse to stop the teacher evaluation process," Cuomo said in a statement. "Today's recommendations are another in a series of missteps by the Board of Regents that suggests the time has come to seriously re-examine its capacity and performance."

    The state's largest teachers union has been demanding a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences related to the statewide assessments. "It really demonstrates that they're not hearing what people are saying," said Richard Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers.

    Lisa Rudley, an Ossining parent, said the recommendations did nothing to address what she called the "obsessive appetite" for state testing, nor the underlying question of whether the Common Core standards are even effective or appropriate.

    "People are disappointed," said Rudley, a founding member of NYS Allies for Public Education, a coalition of parent and educator groups.

    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. While the state does not mandate testing of the youngest students, some districts adopted testing as part of their teacher-evaluation formulas.

    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 and cap at 1 percent the instructional time districts can use for local assessments in other grades.

    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.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Josefa Velasquez in Albany contributed to this report.

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