On Wednesday, September 21, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released a draft of its new state education standards. Despite claims to the contrary by NYSED Commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, the “new” standards present little to no changes to the current state standards or the Common Core curriculum that has concerned parents and educators in recent years.
Since the implementation of Common Core, many educators and parents have protested against the curriculum. Opponents have cited many issues with Common Core. These issues include math strategies that are overly complicated - some would say, deliberately so - a high emphasis on informational text that stifles creative thought and discourages divergent points of view, and general benchmarks for student performance that far exceeded goals considered to be age appropriate by experts in child development.
Last Spring, in what appeared to be an effort to make significant changes to Common Core, NYSED reached out to all stakeholders in education for their input.
Amongst the thousands who volunteered, NYSED chose 138 educators and parents to serve on committees to evaluate and revise state standards and curriculum. However, almost as soon as the revision process began, stories emerged regarding NYSED’s actions to restrict the ability of committee members to make substantial changes.
In the end all that has resulted from the several months of work undertaken by these committees are minor changes to some of the language used and a few tweaks to the description and layout of some of the state standards.
In other words, nothing has changed.
Albany County first grade teacher, Peter Rawitsch was a member of NYSED’s Common Core Pre-School to 2nd Grade standards review committee. In an interview published by the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), Rawitsch offered his view on the standards review process.
"Our work this summer was a missed opportunity,” Rawitsch said. “Instead of having the critical discussions about what is best for young children, we were directed to review the current standards.” “We were never given the opportunity to debate the appropriateness of having standards, the absence of play, and the disregard of the whole child.”
Rawtisch goes on to freely and openly rebuke the work of his own committee.
“The draft standards do not represent our best thinking for Prekindergarten – 2nd grade (P-2) learners,” he said. “Educators and parents should demand a moratorium on the P-2 standards until the needs of our children are addressed."
The fact that so little was achieved by NYSED’s committees to address the flaws with Common Core and the tests created in accordance with the curriculum, have further emboldened the tens of thousands of parents across the state who choose to opt their children out of high stakes state tests.
Long Island Opt-Out founder, Jeanette Deutermann, posted scathing remarks on her Facebook page in response to the publication of NYSED’s so-called revised state standards.
“Parents and educators have made themselves perfectly clear; the only acceptable changes to our children's curriculum is a complete overhaul.” “While SED continues to play games to placate corporate reformers, we will continue to refuse participation in this system.”
In addition to calling NYSED’s state standard revisions a farce, NYSAPE and Long Island Opt-Out are now demanding that NYSED release all information available about the process that was undertaken in the committees to revise the standards. They are also asking that NYSED make public those suggestions made by committee members that did not become part of the draft standards.
It is clear to everyone, except, apparently, Commissioner Elia and others in charge at NYSED, that minor tweaks and language changes to state standards will not mollify many of the stakeholders in public education who seek meaningful change.
Indeed, it may be the case that by attempting to call their work reform without actually reforming anything, NYSED may have further emboldened the efforts of those determined to see Common Core extinguished from state education curriculum.