At Hearing, Regents Chancellor Defends Pace of Ed Reforms

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 04:57 PM

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, at a state senate hearing in 2013 (Beth Fertig/WNYC)

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch acknowledged the roll-out of New York's tough new Common Core standards have "created a lot upheaval and displacement." But at a state Senate hearing in Manhattan, she defended the changes as necessary in preparing children for 21st-century jobs, while assuring parents and teachers that steps are being taken so they "can be part of this conversation."

That conversation has been boiling over ever since August, when the state reported nearly 70 percent of third through eighth graders failed this year's new math and reading tests. This month, State Education Commissioner John King canceled some community forums on the Common Core standards after parents booed him in Poughkeepsie. They have since been rescheduled, and Tisch said at least three more meetings will take place in New York City - possibly as soon as December.

At Tuesday's hearing before the state Senate's Standing Committee on Education, city teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said he supports the goals of the Common Core, which emphasize more critical thinking and writing.

"But the roll-out has been horrible," he said, referring to what he called a lack of curriculum materials and teacher preparation. Mulgrew said the state should have created a curriculum before the new tests were introduced this year. He also said the state should wait at least another year before evaluating teachers with these new exams.

Under the new teacher evaluation system, which has befuddled teachers, student performance on state exams counts for 20 percent of a teacher's rating. But because the exams don't start until third grade, and Mulgrew said some elementary schools have had to create brand-new "bubble test" assessments for their youngest students.

"A lot of children in kindergarten can't hold a number two pencil so I don't know how they're going to do on that test," he said.

In a rare moment of unity, the city's Chief Academic Officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, agreed that these assessments for young children are not "developmentally appropriate." He said 36 early childhood schools have had to use them because they don't have older children, whose test scores can be used to evaluate the K-2 teachers. He called on the state to provide districts with more flexibility.

But state officials said the city could have chosen "performance assessments" that can involve observing children write letters or numbers, for example. A state spokesman said both Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King do not think bubble tests are appropriate for young children.

Suransky also revealed that roughly 5-6 percent of sixth and seventh graders did not have time to complete the second day of this year's English Language Arts exams, triple the rate of previous years. Several parents complained that their children weren't able to finish the tests. He emphasized that this is still a very small number.

The hearing was joined by members of the group Time Out From Testing, who spoke out against the use of high-stakes exams. But representatives from the group Students First New York brought statements from parents praising Common Core's emphasis on reading books such as "Charlotte's Web" at an earlier age.


Comments [5]

Ron from New Jersey

21st century learning requires the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic. That's all. Why is this so hard to

Oct. 30 2013 03:17 PM
Mistie Eltrich from Westchester County, NY

I wish someone from the city and state would chime in with school psychologists and teachers to help explain commom core. New York Association for School Paychologists just held a conference this past week. We had one speaker Kristen Munger from OSWEGO who was excellent in describing the Common Core. First and foremost staff meetings should be held prior to parent meetings as I find even staff are unclear. My understanding of common core is to allow children at different stages - say 3rd grade to all be on same level (naturally all people develop differently, so I question how common core can address developmental and learning needs). I also understand common cure goals to prepare kids for college and careers- I'd like clarification or understanding of what that means- who is choosing career goals for kids today. I firmly believe in high expectations, but also realistic ones like not every kid will go to college nor does every career require college.
Finally, it should be made more clear that teachers have freedom to teach the way their local districts see fit as long as the common core goals are met. The curriculums provided are guidelines at best. And yes, more should be made available but helping teachers, districts and parents know that these do not need to be followed verbatim in order for kids to succeed (I do recognize website describes this- but many don't get it. I also feel we should be careful how we assess our teachers based on variances and differences in environments and learners.

Oct. 30 2013 02:34 PM
Toni from Westchester, NY

I would love it if the chancellor Tish and Commisioner King would come over and try to explain by son's 2nd grade math to me. I use to teach math and can't even help my son. Now instead of getting 100's on math test he can't answer 1 question correctly. As i was calculating my check book today i was wondering how our children will ever be able to do this since it is adding in columns! The system may have some good ideas but execution is more than horrible.

Oct. 30 2013 02:03 PM
Carin from NYC

Not unlike the ACA, the roll out is imperfect, but we must keep plugging. What our children have endured due to our lousy curriculum is professional failure when they get to college or the workplace. Nothing wrong with failure on the way to successs. It worked for Abraham Lincoln and gets Silicon Valley's blood pumping every day.

Oct. 30 2013 08:48 AM

Student's First New York is not a parent group. Student's First was created by Michelle Rhee as a legislative lobby group to push for her reforms.

Oct. 29 2013 07:47 PM

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