Next Generation Learning Standards to Soon Replace Common Core in N.Y.
On Monday, the New York State Board of Regents approved a replacement for the common-core learning standards after two years of development, and it seems to be mostly popular with educators and administrators.
“As a parent of a 4-year-old who will be educated under these standards, I’m excited,” said Stephen J. Todd, district superintendent for Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Education standards are the expectation the state has for children from pre-kindergarten to graduation. While the curriculum taught in classrooms is locally developed, it is supposed to prepare students to meet these statewide standards.
Many teachers felt that the common-core standards, developed in California, did not set standards that were useful or realistic for children.
Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and her staff tried to erase these concerns in the new standards by inviting feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders. The Next Generation Learning Standards were developed in New York with input from teachers, parents, and other stakeholders.
“These new standards ... represent the will of the people,” said Mr. Todd.
There was a particular focus on changing standards for young children in particular, with a focus on play as learning. The Education Department describes the new standards for young children as “an intentional effort to remain within developmentally appropriate parameters that do not pit play against ‘academic’ learning.”
Unlike common core, which took effect immediately, there will be a three year delay for teachers to learn about the standards before the state begins issuing tests based on them. The new Next Generation Standards are scheduled to be fully implemented in September 2020, with student testing beginning in spring 2021.
Commissioner Elia said the timetable “gives teachers and students the time they’ll need to adjust to the revised learning standards,” and “allows for professional and curriculum development to occur before any student takes a state assessment based on the new standards.” She called it “the fair and smart thing to do for our teachers and our students.”
“NYSUT teachers want high academic standards,” said Carl D. Korn, a spokesperson for the New York State United Teachers. “These new standards were developed by teachers in New York with an eye towards that. That’s in stark contrast to common core.”
But Next Generation is not a total departure from common core.
“About half of the original common core was changed,” said Thomas R. Burns, district superintendent for St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.
Specific changes include making writing standards more “user-friendly” for teachers, merging some reading standards, and fostering standards for students to build lifelong reading and writing skills.
While making sure English standards are age-appropriate, the new standards also aim to “balance literary and informational reading and to ensure students read both full-length texts and shorter pieces, as well as to encourage reading for pleasure,” and emphasize the “importance of reading different types of texts with varying levels of difficulty,” according to the Education Department website.
The changes to the math standards also focused on making sure content is age appropriate. The SED website also said that the changes would “provide more time for students to develop deep levels of understanding of grade-level appropriate content,” and move standards to different grade levels.
The department also created “an Early Learning Standards Introduction that provides greater guidance on how the standards can be implemented in Pre-K through grade 2,” saying that “The standards adopted by the Board of Regents seek to protect developmentally appropriate expectations and practices for all children.”
The Next Generation Math Standards will also introduce the concept of exploring standards, which is different from mastery. Exploring a standard “recognizes the importance of building a foundation toward mastering the concept in subsequent grades” without requiring total mastery at the same grade level in which the concept is introduced.
Like the English standards, the new math standards will include some clarification and consolidation of some goals.
Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, whose district covers the north country, said her board is “committed to getting this right for our kids and evolving the standards over time as necessary to do that.”
All the administrators and educators interviewed felt that the new standards would be an improvement to some extent.
“They made a great effort to be transparent and inclusive,” said Patrick H. Brady, superintendent of Massena Central School.
This locally developed curriculum will hopefully give educators more freedom in their curriculum development, Mr. Todd said.
“There’s a recognition that one size does not fit all,” he said. “We can have high standards ... without standardization.”
Some Have Questions
But there are those who feel the Next Generation has not gone far enough.
“They redid some of the standards, and they look somewhat decent,” said Marla M. Kilfoyle, a high school history teacher on Long Island and executive director of the Badass Teachers Association, an organization opposed to bureaucratic imposed standards for teachers. “It’s still lipstick on a pig.”
Ms. Kilfoyle said she is still concerned that the standards are being written by lobbyists and people who are not teachers.
“It’s still super concerning that we have standards for young kids that are still grossly inappropriate,” she said. “When you write early childhood curriculum ... you don’t bring in college professors who have never set foot in a room with a 5 year old.”
The concern about the standards for young children is shared by teachers beyond the Badass Teachers Association.
“Many educators are concerned that early childhood standards are still not developmentally appropriate,” said Mr. Korn, although he did add that standards are a “living, breathing document” and may be developed further.
He also said that removing common core is one of several steps that may bring young people back to teaching.
“The way common core was implemented in New York, plus attacks on teachers, demoralized teachers,” he said. “The result is, since 2009, there has been a 50 percent drop in SUNY teacher education programs.”
Next Generation Standards are not enough to bring back teachers on their own, but it may be one of several interlocking pieces, said Mr. Korn.
Overall, though, educators seem hopeful about the home grown standards.
“I think we’re moving in a very good direction,” said Joann M. Chambers, superintendent of Potsdam Central School District.
The state is also currently working on raising awareness and development assessment frameworks for its new science standards, and there is “ongoing work” on the social studies standards framework.
The full text of the new math standards can be viewed on the State Education Department website or at wdt.me/new-math.
The new English standards are also available on SED’s website or at wdt.me/new-ela.