Betty Rosa, critic of state exams, voted Board of Regents chancellor

Monday, March 21, 2016

This article first appeared in The NY Daily News, written by Ben Chapman

Just say no — to state exams tied to Common Core.

State education officials voted test-bashing educator Betty Rosa to the chancellor’s seat at a Monday morning meeting of the Board of Regents in Albany.

Rosa, a former Bronx schools superintendent, has been a vocal critic of controversial state exams who said she would not let her own kids take the tests if they were in school today.

“If I was a parent and I was not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out at this time,” Rosa told reporters Monday, just minutes after she was elected chancellor.

Rosa, 64, a former city teacher, has often criticized the tests as being a poor measure of student achievement and has said in the past that she would opt out. Opting out is an act of parental choice that is permitted by state law.

The tests, which are tied to Common Core academic standards, have long been targeted by critics who say they are too difficult and have an outsize role in schools.

But Rosa refused Monday to say whether she thinks other parents should encourage their children to take the tests or sit them out.

“I want us to get to a place where we can comfortably take and examine the current tests, and move forward,” said Rosa, who will start the three-year, volunteer assignment April 1.

As chancellor, Rosa will help create the state’s education policies, including any changes to state exams. Her election marks a shift away from policies championed by her predecessor Merryl Tisch, such as tougher tests.

Opposition to the tests hit a high point last year, when one in five New York State students boycotted the exams; those numbers were higher on Long Island and upstate.

This year, because of the pushback, the tests will have fewer questions and no time limits. They will still be used in decisions to promote students, but they will no longer be used to rate teachers.

Students in third through eighth grades will take the math and reading tests starting April 5.

Rosa, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard and is widely credited with improving the schools in her local Bronx district, has served on the Board of Regents since 2008.

Opponents of state exams cheered her promotion.

“It makes me very hopeful for what we can achieve, now that we have a chancellor like her in place,” said Megan Devir, a spokeswoman for the anti-testing group NYC Opt Out.

But supporters of tougher state tests were less enthusiastic.

“We are very concerned that Chancellor-elect Rosa was endorsed by a single-issue group whose sole aim is to take New York State back to a failed system where millions of children fell through the cracks,” said Stephen Sigmund, director of the advocacy group High Achievement New York.

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