Monday, December 14, 2015


Since Thursday's release of Governor Andrew Cuomo's Task Force Report on Common Core, there has been plenty of analysis done. Some of it has been excellent.  Nobody seems to trust that the Task Force Report is a great document that will surely move education in New York State forward except for the UFT and NYSUT. Two more thoughtful pieces have come out.  One is from the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association and the other is from the Lower Hudson Newspapers.

Our friends at PJSTA applaud some of the good points of the Task Force Report before getting to their reservations.  They put in six positive bullet points applauding the overhaul of Common Core, the transparent process for the new standard, engaging educators instead of corporations to review state standards, flexibility on curriculum, fewer testing days, and different tests for different types of learners.  They then add in a seventh pro-report argument when they talk about the moratorium on using the state tests to evaluate teachers.

PJSTA then gets to theirj significant reservations.  Here there are only five bullet points but they pretty much negate much of the praise. First, they criticize the lack of specificity in the positive points and conclude with "the sneaking suspicion that 'overhauled' standards will look a lot like the current standards, just with a friendlier name and a few small changes."

They then talk about how the cut scores on the tests can easily be set to show our schools are failing which will lead to receivership based on poor test scores.  Receivership can result in negating collective bargaining agreements based on poor test scores.  PJSTA continues by noting that the moratorium is not an elimination of teachers being rated on Common Core Test results so testing is still the "centerpiece of public education in New York State."

PJSTA concludes by citing the governor's press release saying there does not need to be new legislation passed to fix the damage done by the 2015 education law passed by Albany.  In criticizing the Task Force, they state:  "In other words, they fully support the most damaging piece of public education legislation that has ever been passed."

That's not good.

As for Lo Hud (Lower Hudson) newspapers, they praise the Task Force Report and rightfully credit the parent uprising and opt-out from testing movements for moving the governor.  However, they follow it with a section on teacher evaluations that shows real caution.


Interestingly, the report does not explore the merits and failings of New York's teacher-evaluation system, which is perhaps the most controversial for grading teachers, in part, on student test scores.  Instead, the task force recommends that test scores not be used to evaluate teachers or students until 2019-2020.  (State law already bans including the test scores on student transcripts or using them to make student placement decisions through 2018.)

This rather vague recommendation leaves the teacher-evaluation system in place, and would likely require school districts to replace test scores with another measure for the next several years.

The task force did not take the next, necessary step of declaring the evaluation system a failure and calling for the development of a new system that would not only hold teachers accountable but give them the information they need to improve their performance and student achievement.  But the panel covered a lot of ground in a few short weeks, and it should not be up to its 16 people to solve all of New York's problems.

Should Cuomo and the state Legislature move ahead with the development of new standards and testing, a new evaluation system would have to be next.  Otherwise, the education wars will continue.

This blog cannot argue with that conclusion.

Carrol Burris did a fantastic piece in the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog on the Cuomo Task Force report. Burris is a retired award winning principal from Long Island.  She concludes, as many of us already have, that not much has changed even if the report's recommendations are fully implemented.

She writes:

The report is timid. There is no courage in recounting well-documented mistakes. Parents understand the problems that resulted from goofy modules, mixed up math and horrible tests. There would be courage, however, in charting a bold course forward that provides immediate relief for the students and teachers of New York. Such bravery, sadly, is noticeably absent.

She concludes that it is up to the Legislature to fix this mess.  We concur.

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