New York

Regents recommend broad changes to Common Core rollout, including delaying graduation standards

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
State Education Commissioner John King was on a committee that recommended changes to the state's Common Core rollout.

New York’s rollout of the new Common Core standards is experiencing a second setback in a week as education policy makers today recommend scaling back what high school students must do to graduate.

The Board of Regents subcommittee charged to review the state’s Common Core implementation is suggesting a five-year “extension” of plans to tie high school graduation to scores on tougher state Regents exams. High school students would still have to pass Common Core exams starting this year under the recommendation, but they wouldn’t have to hit a benchmark billed as signifying “college readiness” until 2022.

Officials said they hope the “extension” proposal would assuage concerns that the State Education Department, led by Commissioner John King since 2011, has moved too quickly in implementing the Common Core. The state formally adopted the standards in 2010 and began testing students in elementary and middle school on them last year. Lower test scores fueled dozens of contentious public forums across the state.

The recommendation follows a call last week from state legislators on both sides of the aisle to delay tying Common Core test scores to teacher evaluations for at least two years.

That push, which caused Gov. Andrew Cuomo to criticize the Regents’ Common Core implementation, is noticeably absent from the Regents’ recommendations. The six-member committee — which was made up of King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and four other Regents — is not calling for a delay, which would require a significant change to the state’s teacher evaluation law.

Instead, the committee is recommending a smaller change to regulations that guide the law, which members said would give teachers who are deemed ineffective two years in a row extra protection. If districts move to fire such teachers, as state law allows, the teachers could use the district’s handling of the Common Core implementation as evidence in their defense that they weren’t adequately prepared to help students meet the standards. That defense would apply only to the student growth portion of the evaluations, not to the subjective measures such as principal evaluations that make up 60 percent of each teacher’s annual rating.

The recommended change to the graduation standard wouldn’t require any legal tweaks. Instead, the education department would set multiple thresholds for high school state test scoring. The top level would demonstrate “mastery” of the content. Another level would demonstrate college preparation and a third level, similar to what is a 65 on the current Regents exams, would still be good enough for graduation.

There would also be a “safety net” level, similar to the 55 that students with disabilities are allowed to earn on current tests.

In all, the committee is recommending 19 changes, many of which have been floated before in recent months. They include limitations on what kinds of assessments can be used in early elementary grades, extra funding for professional development, and federal testing waivers for high-needs students.

In one key recommendation, the subcommittee suggests limiting the amount of time that students spend on testing for teacher evaluations to 1 percent of their classroom time in school. In another, it recommends prohibiting districts from using state test scores as the sole determinant of whether a student is promoted to the next grade — a practice that New York City has in place but is likely to drop under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has said he wants to diminish the role of testing in city schools.

The full Board of Regents will discuss the recommendations this week. The report from the subcommittee is below.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.