When it comes to the Common Core and PARCC, let’s follow New York’s lead

Published on Monday, March 3, 2014

Assembly Education Committee member Mila JaseyIt must have been music to their ears.

When the New York State Board of Regents announced last month that it was delaying the impact of Common Core-related state assessments, parents, students and teachers around the Empire State celebrated a return to common sense in the efforts to reform our schools.

Perhaps even more remarkable than what was done in New York was what was said.

We have listened to the concerns of parents and teachers," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. She also acknowledged regret for policies that “caused frustration and anxiety for some of our educators, students, and their families.”

Regents Board member Wade Norwood added that the Board’s actions were made to “protect teachers and students from unforeseen and unintended consequences” of the implementation process.

Among other things, New York has now extended the requirement for students to pass Common Core-based Regents exams, so that the class of 2022 will be the first to face the new higher graduation requirements. State officials have also approved several measures designed to reduce the number of standardized tests that students must take and limit the instructional time that can be used for local assessments to inform teacher evaluations.

As for the PARCC assessments, New York added another year of field testing. It also approved an emergency regulation to protect teachers and principals from unfair termination based on 2012-13 and 2013-14 assessment results in districts that did not properly implement the Common Core. And the board has asked the Legislature for additional funding to be put toward increased professional development on the new standards and resources relating to PARCC testing.

Because parents, students and teachers in New Jersey have also expressed concern over the Common Core and PARCC, the Assembly Education Committee held a hearing last month to gather information on the topic. And because NJEA has been demanding that New Jersey slow its implementation of these and other reforms, President Wendell Steinhauer was asked to testify.

Steinhauer reiterated the Association’s support for the Common Core, calling it “a smart, progressive approach to education.”

But he also questioned the implementation of the standards in New Jersey and the wisdom of tying them to “a poorly conceived student testing and teacher evaluation regimen that actually works against the fundamental goals of the Common Core.” Steinhauer compared the state’s rollout of the standards to buying a luxury car “but not putting any gas in the tank.”

Steinhauer explained that the new evaluation system actually discourages collaboration among teachers who must now focus on student test scores. He called student learning “far too complex and important to be boiled down to so-called student growth percentiles based on standardized tests, with the results assigned to individual teachers.

“You cannot have standards and a curriculum that make teaching and learning a shared responsibility succeed alongside an evaluation system that says the very opposite,” Steinhauer argued. “But that’s exactly what the Department of Education is trying to implement in New Jersey. It’s impossible for both things to succeed together, and it’s very likely that both will fail unless we rethink how we evaluate teachers.”

It’s time for this state to follow our neighbor’s lead. Let’s delay implementation of the Common Core and revisit our programs of testing and teacher evaluation. Perhaps then the parents, students and teachers of New Jersey can hear the sweet music of sensible education reform as well.

See for yourself

The press release announcing New York’s delay in implementing the Common Core can be found here.

Read NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer’s testimony before the Assembly Education Committee.

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