New York's top education officials on Wednesday proposed a series of revisions to the state's version of the Common Core in attempt to revamp the math and English language arts standards that have drawn the ire of parent activists.
The state Education Department released the proposed revisions late Wednesday morning, and they will remain open for public comment until Nov. 4.
The Education Department had been in the midst of a line-by-line review of the Common Core, which are more-stringent than the state's previous standards and are the basis for standardized exams issued to students in grades 3-8.
- Streamline Reading for Information and Reading for Literature Standards by merging them together, identifying the unique skills related to literature and informational text, and ensuring a healthy balance of both types of reading across all grades;
- Refocus on Prekindergarten-Grade 2 Standards with some grade-specific changes and additions to the ELA Standards, including a strong emphasis on the whole child and the importance of play as an instructional strategy. This includes the need for additional guidance for P-2 on how the standards are implemented in the classroom, including sample instructional strategies and activities, definitions and clear connections to teaching English language learners and students with disabilities;
- Create a New York State Early Learning Task Force to discuss concerns around the P-2 grades, including standards, program decisions, social emotional needs and how the content areas/domains work together in the early grades. This task force will be formed in the coming weeks;
- Re-organize Writing Standards so they are easier for educators to use for curriculum and instruction. In addition to regrouping the standards, grade-specific changes are recommended across the grades to clarify language and ensure writing expectations are clear;
- Use a Variety of Texts to balance literary and informational reading with clear guidance for teachers and to ensure students read both full-length texts and shorter pieces, as well as to encourage reading for pleasure; and
- Provide Guidance on Text Complexity for all standards in the introduction to underscore its importance.
- Clarify the Standards so that educators, students and parents clearly understand the expectation, without limiting instructional flexibility. For example, recommended modifications would help better define the progression of skills and the transition of some of the 18 shared standards between Algebra I and Algebra II;
- Strengthen Coherency of the Standards to allow for a stronger connection of learning within and across grade levels. For example, one additional standard at the Kindergarten level would help solidify pattern recognition and creation from Pre-K to Grade 2. In addition, standards regarding time and money would be added and current standards would be changed to smooth the transition of building these skills at the PreK-grade 3 level;
- Improve focus of major content and skills for each grade-level and course while providing more time for students to develop deep levels of understanding. For example, to remove the parabola/directrix/focus standard out of Algebra II and place it in the plus standards with the study of conics;
- Maintain the Rigor of the Standards by balancing the need for conceptual understanding, procedural skill and application. For example, clearly identify the fluency standards at the high school level; and
- Create a Glossary of Verbs associated with the mathematics standards. This glossary contains a list of verbs that appear throughout the revised standards recommendations.
The review began late last year, when the state solicited public comment from parents, teachers and students about the standards, garnering responses from more than 10,500 people.
At various points, state education officials have suggested the revisions may include a new name for the standards, a change several other states have made.
Todd Hathaway is an East Aurora teacher. He was also on the 2014 Common Core panel tasked with giving feedback to the state.
"To actually listen to parents, listen to educators. Most importantly to tell you what's going on. How is this impacting our classrooms and how to fix it? And it took three years to do that, and a lot of opt outs, to make that happen," says Hathaway.
The changes proposed Wednesday by the State Education Department would impact 60-percent of the English Language Arts and 55-percent of the Math learning standards for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Many of the changes focus on making sure standards are developmentally appropriate, especially for the youngest learners.
There are hundreds of standards. One of the current standards for pre-kindergarten students says they should be able to recognize that spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters. The recommended standard says they should recognize that spoken words are represented in written language, leaving out the part about specific sequences of letters, with the note that the current standard is not developmentally appropriate.
For pre-kindergarten math, one of the current standards is that students represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0 through 5, with 0 representing a count of no objects. The proposed standard clarifies that students do not need to write numbers and that they can select the corresponding number card and match it to the number or write the number.
The proposal also includes a greater focus on play and student interaction in the lower grades.
Plus, a directive for the state to help teachers develop clear communications to parents to explain the connection between the standards and assessments.
"The reason we have the standards are not just to pass a test, but how is what's being taught in the classroom going to help their children later on in life and grow as people. That's where the failure was, I feel, with the Common Core standards is that they seemed more geared towards passing tests than developing children," says Hathaway.
In February, the Education Department laid out a timeline for revising the standards with the hope of approving revisions by the end of the year.
The timeline called for starting to implement the changes in the summer of 2017, rolling out various tweaks over the next two years.
New York's standardized tests have been the subject of a parent-led protest over recent years, with 21 percent of eligible students refusing to take the grade 3-8 exams earlier this year.
To comment on the proposed changes, click here: http://www.nysed.gov/aimhighny