March 2016 Issue - Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards
March 06, 2016

SED unveils 'flexible' timeline for new learning standards

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

In response to NYSUT's activism with parents, Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia offered a flexible timeline for the state to revise the new ELA and math standards and testing — and vowed that, this time, SED will phase in changes and get plenty of feedback from teachers along the way.

NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino said the union will be monitoring progress on this timeline to ensure that testing on the new standards is not rushed as it was last time. Before testing begins, Fortino said, standards must be adopted, curriculum must be developed and implemented, and professional development must be provided.

At the Regents meeting in February, Elia noted her plan is in sync with recommendations from the governor's Common Core task force which called for a "total reboot" and found the state's ill-fated standards, curriculum and testing program failed because it was rushed through.

"This has to be a fluid schedule because it would not pay for us to push something through if, in fact, we felt we were putting people in positions where they could not possibly handle it," Elia said. "We don't want this to be so fast that we lose people."

Aside from the task force's recommended overhaul, Elia was directed under law to begin a comprehensive review of the standards during the 2015–16 school year. She said more than 10,500 respondents provided feedback on New York's AIMHighNY online survey, with the largest percentage of feedback coming from classroom teachers.

Many of the comments focused on the content and appropriateness of the standards; the level of reading complexity and suggestions to move standards to different grade levels. Elia also convened Content Advisory Panels for both ELA and math, which included classroom teachers, curriculum specialists and higher education representatives.

Fortino said it is crucial for educators to be directly involved every step of the way — unlike last time. SED will seek educators, administrators, parents, students and community leaders from all regions of the state to serve on two standards review committees. Recruitment will be done through the AIMHighNY website in March. The committees will meet virtually in spring 2016 and in person during the summer to recommend revisions based on the survey results and the Content Advisory Panel feedback.

A public comment period is slated for July through October, with draft standards presented to the Regents at the November 2016 meeting and slated for approval in December.

Beginning January 2017, both SED and local districts would begin revising curricular materials to reflect the new standards. By summer 2017, teachers should begin receiving professional development. Under the timeline, students would take grades 3–8 ELA and math assessments that measure the revised standards no sooner than spring 2019.

NYSUT will continue to advocate for shorter tests and the proper use of the tests, Fortino noted.

Regents expressed concern that the governor's budget plan included no funding for SED to revise the standards, develop new curriculum or train staff.

In fact, Elia's presentation had an important asterisk on the timeline: "Note that this timeline is incumbent on receiving funding to support this revision and implementation."