The Important Announcement that the Regents Didn't Make Yesterday

Published: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Yesterday, the New York State Board of Regents announced that the controversial standardized tests in English and math would be reduced from three days each to two. But what was perhaps more important was the announcement that the Board didn’t make.

The hint was buried among the many documents related to the Board’s June monthly meeting was an update on public feedback on the Next Generation Learning Standards, the proposed revisions to the controversial Common Core standards for English and math. The last bullet point of the last page of the report given to the Board contains the following seemingly innocuous statement: “We plan on bringing the Next Generation Standards to the Regents in July.”

This statement contradicts the state’s original timeline for the standards review process. Up until recently, the state had been staying fairly close to this timeline. The process featured a state committee of parents and educators (of whom I was one) that met last August to draft proposed revisions to the standards. After several rounds of revision and public comment, the new standards were supposed to have been presented to the Board of Regents for approval by now.

So why have the Regents delayed the standards? I found out firsthand last week when I attended a meeting of the United Federation of Teachers’s Educator Task Force on Learning Standards, which has been organized by the union to give teachers a collective voice for suggesting changes to the standards. Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Regents Kathleen Cashin, Judith Chin, and Louis Reyes attended the meeting in person, while Regent Judith Johnson also attended via phone.

During the UFT Task Force meeting, Chancellor Rosa told us that they had heard many people around the state echo our concerns about the new standards, especially those for the early grades. The Regents’ willingness to listen impressed but didn’t surprise me – after all, the Regents who attended are former public school teachers or superintendents. However, it was refreshing to hear Chancellor Rosa and other Regents insist not just that educators should be heard but that their ideas should be incorporated into the revised standards, even if it means delaying their implementation. The Regents agreed with many Task Force members that the standards should only be released with supporting documents, especially to help English Language Learner and special education students. The Regents also said that we needed further discussion about how the standards for the early grades can be improved.

Right now, we have a unique opportunity to improve standards, curricula, and assessment in New York – a chance to “get it right,” as Chancellor Rosa said last week. We currently have a federal Department of Education that appears unwilling to impose learning standards on states. We have a Board of Regents and a Chancellor that is genuinely eager to listen to parents and educators. We also have a governor may want to face another backlash from teachers and parents as he considers a run for another public office.

Let’s make sure that we continue to share our concerns about the standards with the Board of Regents. Let’s pressure the State Legislature to provide adequate funds to allow the Regents and the state Education Department to make standards, curricula, and assessments fairer and more accessible. Let’s encourage educators to share materials and write supporting documents for the standards. By doing all of this, we can ensure that the Next Generation Learning Standards can be a model for the rest of the nation – not just for what good standards look like but how they can be written collaboratively.

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