Listening to Those on the Front Lines of Education
[The flowing is my input to a survey conducted by The Common Core Task Force which is a group of education officials, teachers, parents, and state representatives convened by New York Governor Cuomo to perform a comprehensive review of learning standards, instructional guidance and curricula, and tests to improve implementation and reduce testing anxiety.]
I support the concept of national standards, goals, expectations or some type of national education framework. Let’s be clear, these are expectations in which we would hope all students would achieve, but in all honesty some will not and others will exceed due to excellent teachers and local school districts setting even higher expectations.
In my opinion the U.S. has somewhat rushed into developing these standards and New York has definitely hurried their implementation. These standards are a paradigm shift and one that I believe will better serve public education in the long run. Most teachers, not all, that I have spoken with approve of the new standards and have seen benefits in their teaching and student outcomes. I am confident that the standards will continue to improve over time during the vetting the annual review process.
I have spent the past ten years working in my local school district on committees, as a school board member, and now as an advisory member for a State Senator with ten other dedicated and passionate advocates for students and education. I applaud this effort to gather feedback from the public but honestly I am skeptical about the Governor’s Office and State Education Department’s intention to actually listen and implement the suggestions from this initiative because in my experience I have witnessed very little evidence of those in the Administration to listen to those who serve on the front lines of education. I hope I am wrong this time. As a former Naval Officer, I know the value of listening to those who work on the deck plates because they understand the issues, not those who sit behind a desk.
Testing is controversial both nationally and in New
York. I do believe it is important to obtain relevant data in order to measure the performance of any organization. However, testing or a test should be able to provide feedback and be used as a learning tool for students, teachers and parents. The current condition of State testing does not meet this criteria and should be a focus of the State Education Department.
While I understand the need and want for teacher accountability I do not think the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) should be discussed or negotiated until we get the standards right or on track. At that point a separate dialogue can be had on how best to develop and effective performance review system, one that works. Standards and performance review systems are two completely different processes. If that means we need to start over on the APPR then so be it. These issues are just too important to keep screwing up.
In short, I recommend truly listening to and acting upon the comments received from your surveys, developing realistic timetables for implementation, separating the issue of APPR and learning standards and improving the state of testing in New York.