Will the Newly Reconstituted Board of Regents Create a New Agenda? Can the Regents Convert Parent/Voter Anger into Support? Can the Regents Lead a National Revolution?

Appointment, actually “election” to the Board of Regents was an honorific, after decades of service you were selected to serve on the Board. Once a month you trekked to Albany, discussed policy issues, and with rare exception confirmed the decisions of the commissioner. Prior to last year no one can remember a Regent who was not reappointed after completing their five year term.

For years state test scores incrementally increased, all was well in the kingdom.

Newly appointed Commissioner Steiner had his doubts and commissioned a study.

In July, 2010 a report by Harvard professor Daniel Koretz found that the state tests, as suspected, were getting easier each year.

“It is very likely that some of the state’s progress was illusory,” said Daniel Koretz, the Harvard testing expert who led the research. “You can have exaggerated progress over all that creates very high pass rates. It doesn’t seem logical to call those kids proficient.”

Former Commissioner Miles retired, and no investigation took place: Were the Regents aware of the “easing” of the scores? Was Chancellor Bennett aware of the manipulations? No one seemed to care. Bennett continued on the board and was addressed with the encomium, “Chancellor Emeritus.”

The Common Core changed the landscape.

New Commissioner King turned aside suggestions to phase in the Common Core and testing: full steam ahead.

The criticism mounted, suggestions to slow down, to phase in, all ignored.

A year ago Regent Jackson was not reappointed and this year two of the senior Regent members, both had served for over twenty years and were actively seeking reappointment were bumped by local legislators.

Regents Bennett and Dawson, complained that “politics” had driven them out, and, of course the process is political (see Jessica Bakeman article here)

The public outcry over Common Core testing, in the summer of 2013 two-thirds of students failed the state grades 3-8 tests, had grown and grown. Too many members of the Regents were tone deaf, and Commissioner King went on the road to quell the rising parent rebellion. The first meeting was in Poughkeepsie was a disaster and, King responded that the meeting has been “co-oped.” He failed to understand the anger.

As a Social Studies teacher I did not object to the Common Core – for example see 9th grade standards below:

* Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

* Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

* Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

The standards were not revolutionary, in fact, they were not dramatically different from the last set of standards.

The difference is that the current standards are dogma with the rigidity of religious dogma. The failure to “teach” a Common Core lesson is apostasy, with serious consequences for the practitioner.

The standards were written in stone, not a word could be changed, works of fiction were discouraged, the math was obtuse, the whip was cracked in Washington and with Jesuitical enthusiasm the lowly priests, the classroom teachers were expected, no required, to chant the mantra..

Resistance grew: scores of U-Tubes railing against the Common Core, from Diane Ravitch to 53,000 views of a high school senior in Tennessee, the orthodoxy was challenged.

The elected were getting nervous, as anger grew they feared retribution at the polls.

The holy books, the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, are philosophical texts, over the centuries who would have thought that the Crusades, the religious wars that slaughtered millions of Catholics and Protestants, the Holocaust and the Sunni-Shiite genocides, all “justified” by the writings within the holy texts,

The seemingly benign Common Core State Standards have been imposed with fanatical vigor, flailing teachers who dare to challenge a comma, creating tests with dire consequences and dividing students and teachers into “highly effective” and “ineffective” categories based on the economic status of students.

.The reconstituted Board of Regents have a rare opportunity, the Regents and the Regents alone can restore confidence in education in New York State.

How about thr following agenda?

Challenge the Feds:

The Obama-Duncan education policies are widely discredited, the reauthorization of ESEA will smolder for months in Congress, many ideas, many conflicting ideas with the possibility of an Obama veto. Why not challenge two of the most outrageous edicts? English language learners must be tested after one year in the country and Students with Disabilities must be tested at their chronological age rather than their functional age; the feds denied an attempt to alter the requirements through the waiver process. Challenge the feds: No testing of ELLs for their first three years in the country and testing in years four and five will only be for diagnostic purposes, not for school or teacher accountability. Testing for SWD will be determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The SED folk will say we can’t violate federal edicts, why not?

Reconfigure the Cut Scores

The standards-setting process sets the cut scores, the cut scores determine the student achievement levels from 1 to 4, from lowest to highest. Commissioner King closely controlled the process. Calls to phase in the new cut scores were ignored. After the public relations catastrophe the SED decided to phase in the impact of the Common Core Regents exams over eights years as well as phasing in the TASC, the replacement for the GED..

The Regents can reconfigure the cut scores based on the 2012 score distributions and phase in the new scores over an extended period. It would be both highly controversial, attacked by the Post and the Daily News and applauded by parents and educators across the state.

Review the Common Core State Standards

The standards have not been chiseled on Mount Rushmore, at least not yet. The Regents can appoint a panel: university, superintendents and practititoners to examine the CCSS and recommend changes. “Participation reduces resistence.”

Measure School Progress Using a Risk Load Index

The November, 2014 Center for NYC Affairs report , A Better Picture of Poverty: What Chronic Absenteeism and Risk Load Reveal about NYS’s Lowest Income Elementary Schools,identified “risk factors,”

The report identifies 18 “risk factors” that are associated with chronic absenteeism, … Schools with a very high “risk load” are likely to suffer from poor attendance. Some of the school factors are: students in temporary housing; student suspensions; the perception of safety; and principal, teachers and student turnover. The neighborhood factors include: male unemployment, presence of public housing or a homeless shelter in a school’s attendance zone, adult levels of education, and involvement with the Administration for Children’s Services.

The Regents should begin the process of creating a student academic growth measurement utilizing the “risk load” factors and incorporate the index in the determination of student growth, comparing inner city. high poverty schools with well-resourced high wealth schools is both foolish and futile.

Begin a Discussion: Moving Away from a Property Tax-Based System

The New York State school funding system is deeply flawed; school funding is based upon wealth, the wealthier the school district the higher the per student funding. The state budget can ease the impact of the property tax system, not resolve the inequities. The state must begin to move away from property taxes, all funding should emanate from the state based upon a state-wide formula. This is a highly complex, highly political, in fact, explosive issue. The Regents can begin the discussion, ultimately the changes require changes in the law.

The new Board of Regents can begin to place education policy back on track, can begin to reflect communities, families and practitioners.

It wouldn’t be easy, the ed (de)formers will attack; editorials, the billionaires club, the Washington think tanks, all will attempt to dissuade the Regents.

The days of members of the Board of Regents whiling away days rubber stamping decisions of an all-powerful commissioner are gone. Regent members are in the forefront of change, if they remain on the sidelines, act meekly, the legislature may decide to change the role of the Regents,

A clock is ticking.


One response to “Will the Newly Reconstituted Board of Regents Create a New Agenda? Can the Regents Convert Parent/Voter Anger into Support? Can the Regents Lead a National Revolution?

  1. This is a BIG ask, especially with the Supreme Court having permitted unlimited election contributions, and the rich jumping into political contests apparently determined to cut public expenses-and therefore taxes.

    Any politician aiming to run for election and looking to run a successful campaign needs those monies, and kowtows for it.

    Cuomo staging a run for President, having built a fiscal war chest from these contributors, will be a likely opponent of this attempt to bring the sanity you describe to NYS.

    While all this plays out, a generation of students has already been victimized by the reduction of standards and teaching time due to the Bush inspired (and O’Bama fortified) attempt to magic wand every kid through a K-12 schooling experience. These kids were increasingly stuffed full of test prep designed to turn from experienced school faculties to 30 day wonders leaving after three years, and kids into test-taking-robots.

    Now what do we have? Kids robbed of a formerly great NYS education, schools staffed by inexperienced folk, and led by Principals still wet behind the ears who obediently do as they are told. ‘Graduates’ who can’t either get a job because they haven’t gotten a basic education and some job training, or can’t stay in college because they lack the skills and knowledge for higher education. A society conned into the belief that by 2014 No Child would be Left Behind. Our State providing poor school district kids with a Deep South style education, where pro football (basketball, baseball, etc) contracts or achieving rap star status are the shining goals.

    Where every little kid-be it a poor immigrant, a SWD, a child of illiterates, or a child of middle class parents, or of wealth-are all to be moved through a schooling experience at the same pace and homogenized to be knowledgeable by grade 12.

    Talk about needing a change? NCLB was a con, RTTT was icing on cow pies, and the current thing-BETT- (Better Education Though Testing) is just cruel and inhuman.

    I pray that you are correct. I hope that the Regents finds the nerve, and the Legislature finds the backbone to do what is correct for this current generation of kids. But with the governing process now being bought and paid for by wealthy and the corporations, only a mass of angry voters (or possibly another five Commandments from the heavens) will save our kids.


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