Now that New York’s public schools have sent students – and report cards — home for the summer, New York education reformers have issued the state a "report card" of their own... with two plusses, four minuses and an "incomplete."
The Alliance for Quality Education’s "College & Career Readiness Report Card" released this week found that the state was moving in the right direction in the areas of “Providing Quality Pre-K” and “Creating Community Schools.” Billy Easton is Executive Director of the Alliance for Quality Education. “We agree with the Governor, the state should be investing in full-day pre-K, high quality curriculum, teacher mentoring, more time for student learning, and improving low-performing schools by creating community schools.”
The state got bad marks in the areas of curriculum, learning time, reducing student suspensions and the spending gap between wealthy and poor school districts. The report card gave the state an “incomplete” in the contentious area of teacher evaluation and its use of student testing. Easton says there's "too much teaching to the test."
“People are angry,” said Willie White, Executive Director of AVillage, an organization whose mission is to bring services and resources to the residents of Albany's South End neighborhood. “They are angry that 35,000 teachers have been taken out of classrooms. They are angry that opportunities like art, music, drama and sports are on the chopping block. They are angry that the students who need our help the most are the ones suffering the worst fate with these budget cuts. This report card shows that New York is failing in its commitment to students.”
“For too many years now, AQE has worked to try to stop the bleeding,” said Easton. “But, Band-Aids won’t heal deep wounds. We are in an education crisis. The state needs to change course and focus on improving schools, otherwise the damage may be irreparable.”
Patrick Michel, district superintendent of Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery County BOCES, says he’d like to see an improved “grade” in extending school time. Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education agrees New York's public education system is divided.
AQE's report card includes recommendations for improvements in all seven areas graded... the New York State Education Department responded to a request for comment via email:
Here's a statement from Jonathan Burman, Spokesman for the NYS Education Department, in response to AQE's report, "Are We There Yet?" Following the statement is a list of Common Core resources. "When the Department announced the state's graduation rates last month, Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King were very clear about a few points. They said that New York did the right thing raising standards and that our teachers and students are meeting the challenge of those higher standards and tougher graduation requirements. "But they also said that far too few students are graduating high school prepared for college and careers. That's why the Department is moving ahead with such urgency on the Regents reform agenda and working so hard to get implementation right. It's why New York is leading the nation in providing Common Core implementation resources for educators. And it's why we've gone to great lengths to account for the increased difficulty of this year's assessments in teachers' growth scores -- part of the multiple measures evaluation system the statewide teachers' union helped to craft -- so that teachers are not penalized. In fact, we expect roughly the same percentage of teachers to be identified in each performance category (Ineffective, Developing, Effective, Highly Effective) this year as last year. We have asked districts to be thoughtful in their use of the data from this first year of Common Core assessments when evaluating teacher performance and we have every confidence that they will be. Further, no new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority Schools based on 2012-13 assessment results.
"Our goal is to build an accurate measure of where students are on the ladder to career and college readiness and to focus instruction to help them climb that ladder. Our students are already accountable for the Common Core, but too many of our high school graduates don't find this out until they are forced to take remedial classes in college. They're forced to take high school classes at college prices or they enter the job market without marketable skills.
"To answer AQE's question, "Are we there yet?" -- no, of course we're not there yet. We just completed the first year of an effort to transform an enormous system. There are many obstacles to changing the status quo. But we are well on our way and this is not the time to slow down or turn back. Every year that goes by increases the urgency to improve our schools. The full impact of the reforms will take time, but we’re moving forward, and we’re in this for the long-haul."