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N.Y.C. Teachers' Group Proposes Fixes for Common-Core Implementation

A group of New York City teachers associated with the teacher-advocacy organization Educators 4 Excellence released a report this week laying out ideas for smoothing the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in their state, including giving teachers the option—supported by added compensation—of returning to school a week early at the end of the summer for specialized professional development.

The common standards have been a source of rancorous debate in New York, particularly after common-core-aligned assessments triggered a sharp decline in student test scores last spring. That in turn led to concerns about the pace of implementation and the potential effects of the shift on student grade-promotion decisions and teacher evaluation ratings.

There is now widespread speculation that state lawmakers will delay full implementation of the standards and related assessments.

The Educators 4 Excellence report was written by eight current teachers who make up the "Teacher Action Team" on the common core for the New York City chapter of the organization. Educators 4 Excellence, a nonprofit that seeks to increase teachers' influence on education policy, has received considerable funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been a key backer of the common core.

In their report, the Educators 4 Excellence teachers voice support for the new standards, saying they "create clear, aspirational goals that all students ... should strive for." One of the teachers involved in the report is quoted in a sidebar as saying that a delay in the use of the standards "could create chaos and probably would be the end of the common core."

Nevertheless, the teachers acknowledge that implementation of the framework in New York (as elsewhere) has been "rocky," particularly in the areas of curriculum alignment and professional development. Drawing on their own experiences and what they've "heard from" other educators, they offer a number of recommendations for state policymakers intended to address ongoing challenges. The proposals include the following:

  • Allotting teachers extra compensation and time for professional development and ongoing collaboration around the common standards, including a voluntary one-week training program at the end of summer.
  • Giving teachers access to "quickly digestible" classroom resources by, for example, developing an online clearinghouse that "links each standard to a set of high-quality lesson plans" gathered from carefully vetted sources.
  • Ensuring that any new curriculum materials are independently audited for common-core alignment.
  • Clarifying the expected impact of students' scores on common-core-aligned tests on teacher evaluation ratings (which the group believes will be considerably less than is commonly feared).
  • Ensuring that common-core-aligned assessments are independently audited for quality and that "fully disaggregated data" from the exams are released in a timely matter so that the information can use for instruction.
  • Taking steps to reduce additional tests and "teaching to the test" practices in schools and districts.

The teachers' report comes shortly after a panel convened by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released its own preliminary recommendations on improving common-core implementation. These included modifying some assessment provisions tied to the common core and strengthening teacher professional development, in part through the identification of "model" schools and educators.

A survey of 20,000 K-12 public school teachers conducted last July—and sponsored jointly by Gates Foundation and Scholastic—found that 57 percent of educators in common-core states thought the standards would have a positive impact on students. In schools where implementation had begun, 62 percent of core-subject teachers said it is "going well."

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