April Issue
March 31, 2014

NYSUT criticizes flawed panel report

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Todd Hathaway, a social studies teacher at East Aurora High School, got an up-close look at how government works as a member of the governor’s Common Core Panel. He issued a strong dissent to the panel’s final recommendations.
Caption: Todd Hathaway, a social studies teacher at East Aurora High School, got an up-close look at how government works as a member of the governor's Common Core Panel. He issued a strong dissent to the panel's final recommendations. Photo by Dennis Stierer.

Six-and-a-half hours. That's how much time the governor's Common Core Panel spent studying ways to fix the state's failed implementation plan — and that included five hours of testimony from expert presenters.

"We really only had 11/2 hours to actually discuss recommendations while we ate our lunch," said Todd Hathaway, a member of the East Aurora Faculty Association who served on the 11-member panel.

"The report — and the process that produced it — is incomplete," Hathaway said. "I wouldn't accept this kind of work from my students and I don't accept it here."

Hathaway, who complained the report was released suddenly, even as final comments were still being solicited, issued a dissent that was picked up by news outlets around the state.

He said the report failed to address two major issues: inappropriate state testing and the misuse of invalid testing results for teacher evaluations.

"The report seems to blame everybody else for the problems of the Common Core Learning Standards without adequately addressing the appropriateness of some of the standards and the testing that goes with it," Hathaway said.

"It should have discussed the lack of transparency in tests; the lack of diagnostic and prescriptive worth to teachers; the unacceptable delays in returning scores to school districts and the insanity of pretending there is validity to teacher ratings that are derived from student scores widely acknowledged to be invalid. You can't put students first if you put their teachers last."

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi applauded Hathaway's dissent and noted it was ludicrous for the report to recommend holding students harmless for the tougher exams, but not teachers.

"If the results are so unfair, so discredited and so unreliable that they can't count for students or schools, they also can't count for educators," Iannuzzi said.

NYSUT continues to push strenuously for a moratorium on the use of standardized test results for high-stakes decisions for students and teachers so SED and the Regents can make the course corrections to a failed implementation plan.

"The panel's line of reasoning is puzzling to say the least," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "Virtually all the education stakeholders agree it will take several more years for new standards, curriculum, instruction and professional development to be properly aligned."

Hathaway said a moratorium would allow:

  • SED, as well as school districts, to refine the tests and testing materials;
  • teachers to engage in the standards and develop a variety of lessons to meet them instead of just relying on modules;
  • parents to understand the role and utility of data in education; and
  • teachers to receive the necessary professional development.

"Implementing massive curriculum changes does not just happen overnight," Hathaway said. "It takes time."

Many of the other panel recommendations were already embraced by the Regents, contained in the Assembly's legislation or supported by the Senate Education Committee.

For example, the Regents have already prohibited standardized testing of K-2 students and are seeking waivers from the federal government for testing students with disabilities and English language learners.

The Common Core Panel — which includes two state lawmakers — said the state should keep Common Core-based tests in grades 3-8 from appearing on a student's transcript, while capping the amount of instructional time that can be spent on standardized tests.