Parents and community members will have a chance to share their opinions on New York’s Common Core standards tonight. Binghamton University is hosting one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s regional public forums.
The forum is the first presence in the Southern Tier for Cuomo’s Common Core task force. Cuomo created the task force in September, following a massive spring boycott of state tests. It launched just after State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia started her own effort to review the standards. Elia is also serving on the governor’s panel.
Number two pencils may soon be a thing of the past for New York students. The state is moving toward giving annual standardized tests online instead of on paper, and they want schools to try online testing on a limited basis this year to work out the kinks. You might think middle school students would have no trouble with online tests, with all the time we spend online these days. But Chenango Valley technology director Sarah Latimer says it’s always a challenge to navigate a new piece of software. “Some of the math software questions might have a drag and drop component that students need to be able to use in order to be able to build an equation or write out their answer,” she says.
The standardized testing process is a little mysterious. Third through eighth graders take New York state exams every spring. But once they’re done, everybody goes on summer break. Where do the results go? Last week schools around the state received those results.
Results are out from year three of New York’s Common Core tests. Students showed some progress in math, but not much change in English. The state hailed these results as progress, but in the Southern Tier the outlook is a little more complicated. Statewide Gains
State Education officials admit there’s plenty of room for improvement on the Common Core-related tests, but they praised a seven percent increase in math scores since 2013. The percentage of students passing the English exams remains stuck at around 31 percent.
It’s 85 degrees and lunchtime at Binghamton High School. Here, students can leave school for lunch. Some head to nearby fast food restaurants, and everyone’s out enjoying the beautiful day. Well, not everyone. Tayshaun Williams sits inside with his tutor, Ali Wasserman.
New Yorkers voted on school budgets yesterday. In Broome and Tioga counties, most budgets passed, but the Tioga Central School District got tripped up on taxes. Tioga Central schools superintendent Scot Taylor says his district relies too heavily on money held in reserve. “The only other resource you have as a district is your tax levy,” he says. So this year, the district tried raise its tax income by 30 percent.
When New York legislators vote on seven new Board of Regents members on March 10, they’ll act out a vision that dates back to 1784. That’s when the state formed its Board of Regents, which supervises almost every facet of school instruction. New York chose an unusual method for selecting new Regents: a vote by both houses of the legislature, with no input from the governor. “We have a whole history in this country of being afraid of executive power,” says SUNY Cortland political science professor Mary McGuire. She says when New York was setting up the process, “The concern here was that this was a policy area that was of great interest to the public.” A vote by the legislature, the thinking went, would make it more democratic.
New York’s Education Commissioner John King is leaving Albany to take a job at the U.S. Department of Education. King had a controversial tenure, overseeing the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards and new teacher evaluations. But although King is leaving, the Regents say the policies he championed are here to stay. During his three-and-a-half-year term, King stood up for New York’s Common Core Learning Standards and new teacher evaluations. He took intense criticism from parents, teachers and legislators who opposed both initiatives.
Charter school advocates are pushing to raise New York’s cap on the number of charters it grants. Their focus is on New York City, which has almost reached its limit. While there are more than 100 unused charters in New York, New York City has 25 left. But, during an appearance on The Capitol Pressroom, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said those unused charters outside the city could solve the problem without raising the cap. “I would like to say that I see an easy pattern here for taking the unused charters and moving them to districts like New York City which want to use those charters,” said Tisch.