State Education Policy

New York Puts Finishing Touches on Remake of Learning Standards

New York is nearing the finish line in finalizing its makeover of the Common Core State Standards, a process begun in 2015 when Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a task force to examine the learning standards. The two-year review process, overseen by State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, has gone through a survey process, review committees and a public comment period that drew 4,100 comments on draft standards initially shared in September 2016.

Recently, the new standards for math and English language arts were submitted for approval by the Board of Regents. According to coverage on Chalkbeat, Elia asserted that "more than half the standards" had changed. As a "draft preface" to the standards lays out, revisions have addressed grade-level reading expectations for text complexity, the use of more "user-friendly" standards related to writing, reducing the number of "anchor" standards to eliminate repetitiveness, shifting math standards to different grade levels and clarification of math standards.

Common Core generated a firestorm of protests in New York during the early years of online assessment, when many families opted out of state testing. Much of the ire was tied to poor testing results and a policy tie between student outcomes and teacher evaluations.

The revisions haven't been universally acclaimed. While some organizations applauded the revisions process, others said it wasn't needed in the first place.

One proponent of the new standards was the teachers' union. "In relying on educators in an open, transparent process, the State Education Department is showing a commitment to getting it right," said New York State United Teachers in a prepared statement.

However, High Achievement New York, which supports the Common Core, suggested that the hard work had already been done with the previous set of standards and that the "opt-out movement" is "fading." "The initial revised standards and this draft keep intact six years of work implementing and improving rigorous and high academic standards across New York State," the organization said. "That's smart: because the hard work of educators, parents, students and communities is paying off — with scores and graduation rates on the rise and deeper learning in classrooms." A recent examination of statewide testing by High Achievement found that opt-outs have decreased in four out of five major regions around the state and participation rates have increased statewide in the latest testing cycle.

The new standards are expected to be approved by the regents in June.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.