Three years after politicians, education officials, teachers, parents and even students reached a shaky truce in the battle over the state’s Common Core learning standards, a new set of measures has been adopted by the Board of Regents. This time it looks like they may have gotten it right.
Since 2015, the state Education Department has been leading the process, enlisting the stakeholders in schools to examine what students will need to be successful in the 21st century. Their goal was to reset standards for all public school students, pre-K through grade 12. According to many early evaluations, the new requirements — to be called Next Generation Learning Standards — avoid many of the deficiencies of Common Core that made the implementation nothing short of a disaster.
The concept of setting new standards made good sense. It grew out of an effort by the nation’s governors to improve educational performance and better prepare students in the U.S. for the modern world. But New York did a rapid, top-down rollout that lacked necessary input from both educators and the public. The rapid pace, so New York could qualify for extra federal education aid, created an uproar. Had officials instead welcomed more input, some of the flaws of Common Core may have been identified and adjusted. For example, children with special needs and those with deficiencies in English language skills might have been better accommodated.
The botched rollout led to boisterous protests, a boycott by thousands of students (with their parents’ encouragement) of annual state tests and even the preposterous movement to reject state standards altogether, leaving curriculum and accountability up to local schools and teachers. Adding to the tension was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s insistence that schools evaluate their teachers based largely on the results of student tests covering the new Common Core curriculum.
That heated atmosphere has cooled significantly, thanks in no small part to the calm and inclusive approach taken in 2015 by the new state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia. Since then, the state Education Department has worked with representatives of the groups involved in public education to review and update the curriculum, while ensuring students still can explore new ideas without risk of failing. Gone are the requirements that they quickly master and pass tests on the new material.
Having learned the perils of a rapid- fire implementation, officials decided to roll out the Next Generation Learning Standards more slowly. Teachers won’t be using the new curriculum in classrooms until September 2020; tests will come later that school year.
It would be good for students if this settles any residual anger left by the mistakes of the past. At the least, the vocal leaders of the “opt out” movement should put protests on hold and join the process to ready our schools to prepare this generation of students for a bold 21st century.
— TIMES UNION