May 2016 Issue
April 22, 2016

Regents leadership sets new course

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Chancellor Betty Rosa and Regent Judith Johnson.
Caption: Chancellor Betty Rosa (l) and Regent Judith Johnson.

It's back to the drawing board for state standards, curriculum, assessments and a whole new evaluation system — and this time, the Regents new leadership says they will move methodically, consider the research and phase in changes with plenty of input from practitioners.

In her first act as head of the Board of Regents, Chancellor Betty Rosa announced the creation of a new research workgroup led by Regent Judith Johnson, a retired Hudson Valley superintendent and consistent critic of state testing and evaluation procedures.

The workgroup is to begin its review of state testing and evaluations starting in May. Johnson said the work will take several months to complete and the goal is to come up with recommendations for the full Regents board and state lawmakers early next year.

"We as a board want to make sure our work is grounded in research," Rosa said. "We must make the (research) connection as it relates to practice and policy."

In another encouraging sign, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia offered a multi-phase timeline for fixing the problems with the standards, curriculum, assessments and evaluations. The timeline starts with standards review and revision, then curriculum development and professional development. The new teacher evaluation system would begin in the 2019–20 school year.

NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said the new direction is promising. "The process of fixing this broken system is underway," Magee said. "The Regents have laid out a sensible timeline and committed to a research-based study that includes experts, practitioners and parents. I think they're using the moratorium and the time they have to get it right this time."

NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, the union's liaison to the Regents, said the timeline respects the 21 recommendations from the governor's Common Core Task Force.

Fortino, who served on the governor's task force, said NYSUT will continue pressing for reduced testing, respecting local autonomy and using authentic assessments that present a longer view of student work such as portfolios and in-depth projects. NYSUT expects all of the task force recommendations to be fully implemented.

Regent Johnson, who served as superintendent of Peekskill and Mount Vernon, said the workgroup will look at lessons learned from implementation of Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) and what other states are doing.

The workgroup will address the validity of the teacher evaluations and whether they should be tied to student test scores. Johnson said the board could then present recommendations to the Legislature to amend existing law.

On a positive note, Elia reported a great deal of interest from teachers in serving on SED's upcoming standards review committees.

There were more than 1,000 applicants for ELA and nearly 750 for math. She said invitation letters would be sent out by late April.

The committees, which also include national experts and parent representatives, will convene later in the spring with new standards slated to go to the Regents by year's end.

Curriculum development and professional development would take place in the summer and fall of 2017 and continue through the 2018–19 school year before new tests are piloted.

For teacher evaluation, the transition regulations (which ban the use of grades 3–8 ELA and math assessments and any state-provided growth scores) will last through the 2018–19 school year.

Beginning spring 2017, SED will create committees of practitioners, stakeholders and other experts in the field to provide recommendations on assessments and evaluations that could be used for evaluations in the future.

In fall 2017, SED will present recommendations to the Regents board and seek feedback on the next steps.

A proposal for a new evaluation system is scheduled to go to the Regents in spring 2018, with implementation beginning in the 2019–20 school year.

Before implementation, SED will develop resources, conduct webinars and provide direct outreach to districts and BOCES across the state starting in spring 2018.

Elia said the slower phase-in will help build trust with educators and parents. "We believe doing it on this timeline will allow us to move through various components thoroughly."