Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tim Farley - Synopsis and Commentary on New York S5124 and A7303


On May 2, 2015, New York Senator John Flanagan introduced a Bill (S5124) that relates to the evaluation of teachers, includes a review of the NYS Common Core Standards and the tests associated with the standards.  On May 4, New York Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan introduced a “same as” bill in the Assembly (A7303).  What is noteworthy is that these bills are sponsored by the Education Committee Chairpersons in both houses that are in the majority (Republican Senator John Flanagan and Democrat Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan).  I will provide a synopsis of the bills and add my own commentary as both an educator of more than 23 years and as a critic of the Regents Reform Agenda.



S5124/A7303 Highlights:

·        Provide for a 45-day public comment period after the Commissioner publishes in the State register the draft regulations associated with 3012-d (APPR)
·        Extends to December 15, 2015 the deadline for schools to submit their new APPR plans
·        Requires SED to release state test questions and the corresponding correct answers by June 1 for the most recent 3-8 ELA and math tests
·        Provides $8.4 million to allow SED to create more versions of the state tests
·        Require SED to ensure considerations are made for student growth scores for teachers who have ELL students, students who are economically disadvantaged, students’ prior academic history, and students with disabilities
·        Require SED to establish a content review committee to review state test items (questions and passages) on the 3-8 tests
·        Reform the process in which Regents are selected
·        Require the Commissioner to review the Common Core Learning Standards

The following is my reaction to each section of this bill:

·        Currently (due to the budget bill that was passed), the Commissioner and the Regents are required to submit changes to the APPR plan by June 30, 2015.  This bill requires SED and the Regents to do the same, but as a draft.  After the 45-day public comment period, SED and the Regents must adopt the new regulations (August 14, 2015).

·        The December 15, 2015 deadline for schools to submit their new APPR plans only pushes back the current November 15 deadline.  The delay of the deadline by one month is not much of a delay at all considering the last time districts had to negotiate APPR plans, it took many months and was very costly for districts.

·        This bill’s requirement to release state test questions for the 3-8 tests to teachers does not stipulate the percentage.  In fact, the bill states, “THE NUMBER OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS RELEASED SHALL NOT BE SO SIGNIFICANT AS TO HINDER OR IMPAIR THE VALIDITY AND/OR RELIABLITY OF FUTURE EXAMINATIONS BUT SHALL PROVIDE ENOUGH OF AN OVERVIEW OF EACH EXAMINATION SO THAT TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS, PRINCIPALS, PARENTS AND STUDENTS CAN BE PROVIDED WITH SUFFICIENT FEEDBACK ON THE TYPES OF QUESTIONS ADMINISTERED AND GENERAL STUDENT SUCCESS RATE IN ANSWERING SUCH QUESTIONS CORRECTLY.”
Without releasing 100% of the test questions and the answers, there is little formative data to be gained.

·        Currently, only four versions of the 3-8 tests can be printed.  This increase of $8.4 million should allow for the reduction (or elimination) of stand-alone field tests but does not require it.  It should be stipulated that there will be no more stand-alone field tests.

·        What exactly does it mean to “require SED to make considerations for…”?  Can the Commissioner “consider changes” then not implement them?  What if the new Commissioner believes that measuring teacher effectiveness using student test scores is valid and reliable, even though the overwhelming majority of education researchers know this to be false?

·        Having the Commissioner establish a content review committee to review the state test items and passages to ensure they are age and grade appropriate is a step in the right direction.

·        The changes to the Regents selection process seem minor to me.

·        Specifically, the bill stipulates that the Commissioner’s “…review shall examine aspects of the learning standards adopted by the board of regents in 2011 including but not limited to: whether curriculum is aligned to standards, age and grade appropriateness of such standards, and current progress of the implementation of such standards.  The review shall also contain recommendations on how to improve the standards, if deemed necessary. This review shall be completed on or before June 30, 2016. Upon completion of the review the board of regents shall consider the findings of the review and vote to accept or reject any recommendations made by the commissioner within 60 days.”

In my humble opinion, this legislation does not do enough to fix the damage that has been done.  Last week, on May 7, the Board of Regents hosted the Learning Summit.  There were five stakeholders groups and a panel of national experts who presented to the Regents the research and/or their feedback on the current APPR and the Governor’s proposed APPR.  The stakeholders groups included: New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS), School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS), Empire State School Administrators Association (ESSAA), New York State Federation of School Administrators (NYSFSA), New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), United Federation of Teachers (UFT), New York State Parent Teacher Association (NYSPTA), and New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA). 

The feedback from these organizations that represent parents, teachers, and administrators, was overwhelmingly consistent that the current APPR and the new APPR as currently proposed are highly flawed.  Furthermore, there was unanimous consensus that the deadline for approving/implementing new APPR agreements with nearly 700 school districts by November 15, 2015 is not at all feasible, and many groups recommended pushing back the deadline for a couple of years.

In addition to these stakeholders groups, there was a panel of education experts who presented on the validity of using students’ state test scores and using them to evaluate teacher effectiveness.  The experts included: Catherine Brown (Vice President of Education Policy at American Progress), Stephen Caldas (Manhattanville College), Lesley Guggenheim (Vice President of TNTP), Sandi Jacobs (Vice President and Managing Director for State Policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality), Thomas Kane (Harvard Graduate School of Education), Aaron Pallass (Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University), and Jesse Rothstein (Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of California, Berkeley). Although there was not complete agreement on the value of using student growth scores and/or results of students’ state test scores to evaluate teacher effectiveness, it was clear that there are major concerns with the reliability and validity of doing so.

Since both Flanagan and Nolan’s bills were introduced BEFORE the Learning Summit, I am hopeful that they will amend the bills to include the recommendations by all groups.  Moreover, I hope that they also amend the bills to include a substantial reduction in the amount and time of testing in grades 3-8.  This spring over 200,000 parents in New York made their voices heard loud and clear by refusing to be a part of the testing mania.  If the legislators do not get this right, perhaps all 1.1 million students in grades 3-8 will opt out of next year’s tests.

Tim Farley
NYSAPE Member

You can follow Tim on twitter @tfarley1969
You can follow NYSAPE on twitter @NYSAPE
You can learn more about NYSAPE by going here http://www.nysape.org/

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