The Nolan-Flanagan Bill: Are We Seeing the Revision of the Common Core and Testing in New York State?

In the current legislative session, over the next two years about 15,000 bills will be introduced in the Assembly. 95% will languish in committee or pass in the Assembly and die without a Senate partner.

It is highly unusual for the Democratic chair in the Assembly and the Republican chair in the Senate to introduce the same bill; it usually means that the leadership in both houses and the governor has agreed upon the substance of the bill.

Assembly Education chair Nolan and Senate Education chair Flanagan introduced the same bill entitled,

Relates to performance reviews of classroom teachers and building principals and the comprehensive review of education standards administered by the state department of education.

This bill would make amendments to the Education law:

• to provide a longer public comment period associated with APPR regulations,
• extend the period within which school districts must have an approved APPR plan,
• require SED to release test questions annually,
• require SED to take student characteristics into consideration when calculating teacher growth scores under 3012-d of the education law,
• establish a standardized test content review committee,
• reform the way in which the State Board of regents are selected and
• require the Commissioner to review the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).


Under current law the Commissioner of Education is required to submit and the Board of Regents adopt changes made to APPR by June 30th, 2015. This bill provides that the draft regulations shall be submitted prior to June 30th, 2015 and that a forty-five day public comment period shall immediately follow. No later than August 14th, 2015 the State Board of Regents are required to adopt the new regulations associated with 3012-d of the Education law. This will provide more opportunity for the public to weigh in on the actual draft regulations. Consistent with this proposal section two of the bill extends to December fifteenth, 2015 when school Districts are required to have in place an approved Annual Professional Performance Review Plan (APPR).

Section three of this bill intends to improve the learning process by requiring SED to release by June first each year test questions and corresponding correct answers from the most recent ELA and Math exams in grades three through eight back to the teachers in their respective classrooms. In addition, $8.4 million is appropriated to allow SED to create more exams so that in the future more test questions can be returned to teachers.

Section four provides funds for SED to release more standardized exam questions back to the classroom teachers to improve the overall learning process.

Section five of the bill places in education law, consistent with the Commissioner’s regulations, a requirement that SED ensure that specific student characteristics are factors in the calculation of teachers student growth scores. Under the Commissioner’s current regulations teachers receive adjustments for students that are English language learners, students in poverty status, students prior academic history, and students with disabilities.

Section six and seven requires SED to establish a content review committee to review standardized test items and/or selected passages for use on state exams in grades three through eight to ensure the tests are age appropriate and time appropriate. The content review committee shall include teachers and educational experts.

Section eight reforms the way in which the State Board of regents are selected.

Section nine requires the Commissioner to review the common core learning standards (CCLS). The review shall examine the implementation of the stands and the reasons for adopting such standards. In addition the Commissioner is directed to make recommendation on how to improve the standards if deemed necessary.

Parts of the bill clarifies issues in the budget, assuring a 45-day comment period simply alleviates possible legal action challenging the statute.

The section requiring the SED to release “the most recent ELA and Math exams … to teachers in their respective classrooms,” is clearly an attempt to pacify the bubbling revolt among parents and teachers. Whether the opt-out parents and the teacher union fades away or continue the assault is to be decided. The seething anger among parents is concentrated in the higher income school districts in the suburbs, in many districts the majority of parents opted out: can the opt-out movement be converted into an election movement? I doubt it: posting on a Facebook page is far from running a political campaign. New York State election law requires registering in a party or changing party registration a year prior to the primary: Are opt-out parents organized and politically sophisticated enough to convince thousands of opt-outs to register in the Republican or Democratic party and run a candidate in the primary?

Opting out challenges the state and interferes with calculations that impact school, school district and state accountability. I am unsure how it impacts teachers.

The section requiring “the Commissioner to review the common core learning standards” might be the first step to backing away from the chiseled in stone common core standards. Many critics have claimed the early grade standards are “developmentally inappropriate;” others challenge the substantial differences in the new CCSS Math standards. Superintendents, principals and teachers have sharply criticized the current exams; they are based on “standards,” not on a curriculum. How can you hold students and teachers accountable for topics that have not been taught because they’re not in the curriculum?

For teachers a vital section of the law requires, “specific student characteristics are factors in the calculation of teachers’ student growth scores.” The current algorithm has resulted in teachers of high poverty, students with disabilities and English language learners receiving lower HEDI grades than teachers of high income student – are teachers of high income students better teachers? Or, are the algorithms flawed? The new law appears to require a change in the formula.

The new Content Review Committee requires “teachers and educational experts” to serve on the committee.

The bill does change the method of selection of new Regents. The current law placed the selection solely in the hands of the Democratic members of the Assembly, the bill involves the Senate in the process.

Why did the dems and the repubs agree? Who are the winners?

The big winner is Senate Ed committee chair John Flanagan.

As soon as Senate majority leader Skelos was arrested the Republican conference convened and swore undying fealty to the Lord of the Manor, and began sharpening their knives. At the end of the session in June Skelos will step down and for the intervening six weeks or so John de Francisco, Catherine Young and John Flanagan, quietly, very quietly, will be seeking the votes among the 33 Republican members of the Senate.

A very narrow constituency.

For years the Senate Republicans have boycotted the Regents elections, they now have a voice as a result of the Flanagan bill.

The union is not unhappy, although they would liked more than one month extension in the law to complete the local plans, the other issues are quite favorable: new calculation in the APPR law, teachers on the Content Review Committee, another look at the CCSS.

You could see a revision of the Common Core resulting in sharp increases in student test scores, or, sturm und drang signifying nothing.


3 responses to “The Nolan-Flanagan Bill: Are We Seeing the Revision of the Common Core and Testing in New York State?

  1. The number of items to be released is likely to be small. It is not likely to be helpful to teachers because most items will not be released. Will teachers even get their kids responses to the items that are released? Without that, they are even less useful. By releasing only a portion of items, those that are not released may be a flawed and stupid as pineapples that talk, but who will know (unless students or teachers engage in civil disobedience and talk about them). The people of NY deserve better.

    And the bill does little to stop the madness of judging teachers by student scores. Yes, if that destructive action is taken, then taking account of ‘characteristics’ should be done. But studies of places where that has been done shows that existing procedures are inadequate and fail to meet the challenge, leaving teachers of many categories of students at greater risk of being driven out of the profession.


  2. PAKT (Parents and Kitchen Tables) party. Join.

    1) More equitable funding processes (and as a result, opportunities) in all public schools in the state
    2) Tax credits and deferments to businesses that hire and pay-not just move in and build
    3) Testing corporations answer to parents and teachers, are fully transparent- while the privacy of families, students and schools is protected
    4) Assessment remains in the hands of the professionals. Outside evaluations are based on how well districts foster collaboration and professional activity…
    and more



  3. Peter:

    Let’s get one thing straight. The parent anger was concentrated in solidly middle income neighborhoods throughout the State not the upper middle income areas..

    Look at Long Island and see my blog where I listed the “opt out” percentages in various school districts.


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