New York Is Taking Ownership of Its Learning Goals and Keeping the Bar High for Students


Writing for the Albany Times Union, columnist Fred LeBrun argues that New York’s Common Core Standards “are not the only high standards possible by a long shot,” and assessments aligned to the standards need “serious study and discussion.”

LeBrun claims that the state needs “new New York made tests, used in a sensible teaching manner, matched to curricula based on high standards designed by New York educators for New York students. Standards that may or may not align with Common Core.”

In fact, New York is already delivering state-specific learning goals tailored to student needs. State officials have proposed significant changes to New York’s standards. High Achievement New York (HANY) noted that state leaders “made the necessary and right decision by keeping its commitment to high standards.” The organization adds that officials must “resist calls from opponents whose goal has always been to end these standards, and who have made it clear they will never take yes for an answer.”

A separate HANY study finds that parents favor making changes to improve the standards over replacing them by a margin of 2-1 – which corroborates national polling that finds parents overwhelmingly support high, comparable education standards, regardless of what label is attached.

“New York’s commitment to high learning standards is the best way to ensure our children are college and career ready,” explains Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State. “The state Board of Regents should take the necessary steps to improve the standards, while ensuring that the hard work already done by educators, parents and students does not go to waste.”

States, including New York, are now seeing the impact of setting high academic expectations for students. In the second year of administering assessments aligned to high standards a majority of states made significant improvements in student proficiency in math and English language arts. Notably, some of the biggest gains were made by third-grade students, who have spent most of the education learning to meet higher standards.

“While there are numerous factors that affect student scores, and it is still too early to make definitive declarations, the 2016 assessments suggest that the promise of higher academic standards—whatever they may be called—is working,” Jim Cowen explains. To turn back on that work now would be a mistake and likely undo many of the hard-won gains.

By the same measure, New York officials have made significant changes to improve testing policies, including shortening the length of tests, giving students more time and putting a moratorium on using scores in teacher evaluations. Statewide, a growing consensus has emerged urging parents to “opt in” to good tests. The Honesty Gap analysis identifies New York as a “Top Truth Teller,” indicating parents and teachers are getting accurate information about their kids’ academic growth.

On the other hand, states that have “gone it alone” by pursuing independent or state-specific tests have experienced disruptions and significant costs, and will likely end up with weaker exams.

A Chalkbeat article notes: “The process of leaving consortia that was meant to pacify local protests against Common Core-aligned tests has actually led to chaos and confusion in the classroom, not to mention extra costs to those same states to develop replacement exams.”

To consider walking back the hard work New York educators and families have made, as LeBrun suggests, would be a mistake. Schools are now holding students to levels that reflect the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in college and careers. Parents and teachers are getting accurate information to support their kids, a critical first step to improve outcomes. And state leaders continue to make adjustments to ensure their students’ needs are met. That is a huge success that state leaders should refuse to concede.