While a recent report from a task force charged with reviewing New York’s education standards recommended major changes to education policy last week, local education leaders plan to stay the course as those changes shake out.
Recommendations to review New York’s Common Core standards, remake the state’s annual assessments and “decouple” test scores and teacher evaluations may portend major changes in state education policy.
But superintendents of three Capital Region school districts — Johnstown, Scotia-Glenville and Schenectady — say the report won’t cause any immediate changes in the classrooms they oversee.
“What will be different on Monday?” Scotia-Glenville Superintendent Susan Swartz said Friday. “I can tell you, nothing, because we have set a course and are moving forward.”
The superintendents offered varied interpretations of how far the task force suggested the state should go in a review of the Common Core standards as education officials look to adopt “New York-specific standards.”
Swartz said the Scotia-Glenville Central School District has invested a lot of money and time into training teachers around Common Core-aligned curriculum and purchasing material to support teaching those standards — $250,000 for literacy materials this year alone.
It would be a shame if an about-face from state officials on the standards made those investments moot, Swartz said. Moreover, she said, by continually changing standards and assessments, educators will fail to collect consistent data that can help fine-tune teaching over time.
“This to me is very typical of the pendulum that swings in education,” she said.
“We go off in one direction and — sometimes before we give that direction time to see if it will bear fruit — we go in another direction.”
Schenectady Superintendent Larry Spring said he viewed the recommendations for testing and teacher evaluations as far more significant than those for standards.
While he interprets the recommendations on standards as first-order changes — adjustments within the existing structure — he reads the testing proposals as second-order changes — a fundamental shift.
He said the task force proposals would not “negatively impede progress the district is making” in strengthening its curriculum around a higher set of learning standards.
“The way I read [the recommendations] is not ‘let’s scrap everything and start from scratch,’ ” Spring said.
Johnstown Superintendent Robert DeLilli said the task force report was a “step in the right direction” and he was especially pleased with a call for greater educator input and flexibility at the district level.
“It should not be one-size-fits-all and everyone has to be the same,” he said.
“That model infringes on the creativity of educators and students.”
The three superintendents all recognized that the task force recommendations are just a starting point in a long process that will likely include policy shifts from the Board of Regents and possibly new legislation. In its report, the task force envisioned finalizing changes to the standards by the 2019-2020 school year.
Until then, the report recommends, the state should move to shorter annual assessments over fewer days and adopt a moratorium on using student assessment scores in teacher evaluations.
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