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N.Y. Regents: Common Core Needs More State Aid, Periodic Adjustments

UPDATED

A Feb. 10 report from the New York Board of Regents has laid out options for improving implementation of the Common Core State Standards in the Empire State, including advocating for periodic review and updating of the math and English-language arts standards, additional state funding totaling $525 million over the next three budget years to provide "equitable" aid to districts, and clarifying that the state doesn't encourage assessments aligned to the common core to be used in decisions about students' promotion and placement. 

UPDATE: The proposals in the report were adopted by the Board of Regents on Feb. 10. In a subsequent conference call with reporters, state Commissioner of Education John King said he was disappointed about one other significant change that I didn't touch on (and should have touched on) in the original post: Delaying the requirement that students demonstrate college- and career-readiness on common-core aligned exams in order to graduate high school from the Class of 2017 until the Class of 2022. 

King said that 2022 seems like "a very significant time away" and added that for every class graduating between 2017 and 2022, "That's another generation of students who will leave high school underprepared." 

However, the commissioner said that the state will continue to report student performance on these exams to the Board of Regents even though those performance data won't have high stakes for students seeking to graduate high school until the Class of 2022. The Class of 2017 will take common-core aligned exams in high school, but they'll have a lower performance threshold to meet. 

Asked if he thought these adopted recommendations were a concession to critics that common core had been rolled out too quickly in New York, King responded he thinks the changes mean that common core had been implemented unevenly across the state, but that the importance to students of implementing common core the right way hasn't changed. 

The board's report was the result of a "work group" convened last December to examine ways to improve implementation of the common core in New York, which has been the subject of rigorous debate as well as resistance in recent months. The report offered up a total of 19 options to alter how the standards have been implemented in New York. The options cover the standards themselves, as well as professional development, state and local assessments, educator evaluation, and curriculum. 

It's important to point out that this work group and its recommendations are separate from the common-core implementation task force announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Feb. 7. 

In addition to the options the board lays out for funding and reducing high stakes linked to common-core assessments, the report includes the proposal that if a district seeks to fire a teacher for students' relatively poor performance on common-core aligned assessments in the 2012-13 or 2013-14 school years, "he or she may raise as a defense an alleged failure by the board of education to timely implement the common core by providing adequate professional development, guidance on curriculum, or other necessary supports to the educator during those school years."

It's unclear how many teachers would be affected by this move, either from the most recently completed school year or the current school year. But it doesn't go as far as the proposal from the New York State United Teachers, the state teachers' union, which called for a three-year moratorium on high stakes for educators tied to the common core back in September 2013. 

CORRECTION: It turns out that the state board held its official vote on the recommendations in the report one day after they were released, on Feb. 11. (The Feb. 10 vote I referenced yesterday was a preliminary one.) In that official vote, the Regents voted to adopt all but one of the recommendations from the work group—the one that would have provided teachers facing dismissal with the defense that they were inadequately prepared for common core. Between the preliminary and actual vote, both the New York State United Teachers and Cuomo criticized the Regents' report. NYSUT claimed that this supposedly new defense was already a protection afforded to teachers, while Cuomo argued that the Regents were inappropriately delaying the teacher-evaluation system. My colleague Stephen Sawchuk at Teacher Beat has more on these evaluation reactions.  

Other recommendations are more technical in nature, but at least nominally address the objections from NYSUT and others that the state has dropped the ball on providing enough classroom resources aligned to the common core. Among them: "Develop an online tool to allow educators from around the state to share curricular resources, including adaptations of modules."

In addition, the options push for "smarter" testing options for English-language learner and special-education students, dealing mostly with waivers from current federal testing requirements. 

On the subject of whether additional state money to help with common core, the report is very clear.

"The implementation of the common core and teacher and principal evaluation during a time of limited resources has come with significant challenges," the report states. "School districts need additional financial resources to implement these rigorous reforms."

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