Graduation Measures: What is the Blue Ribbon Commission and How Will It Impact Education in New York State?

In the fall of 2019 I attended a regional conference as part of the statewide review of high school graduation requirements called Education Measures. The regional meetings moved from in-person to online during the COVID plague and many, many hundreds of New Yorkers attended and voiced their opinions. (See my recent blog post here).

The next stage is a year long examination by a so-called Blue Ribbon Commission (See here), about 40 stakeholders, selected by the State Education Department from applicants, described as diverse and inclusive

“… will undertake a thoughtful and inclusive process to explore what a New York State high school diploma means and what it should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for all New York State children” and “will meet approximately every other month. Members will include educators, administrators, researchers, school counselors, professionals from business and higher education, parents, and students.”

The role of the commission is described as,

“Recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission will be developed through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and consider those requirements that will drive improved instructional practice and curricular selections aligned to the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework (See Frameworks here) and the New York State Learning Standards  (See NYS Learning Standards here) in all areas for all student populations.”

See the structure of the Commission below,

I’m confused, as I understand an unelected body, the Blue Ribbon Commission, will meet “every other month,” maybe five or six times, and create a draft of a document that will impact every student in the state.

Legislators hold hearings serve on committees and write laws, the Board of Regents, with the assistance of two highly qualified moderators, (Scott Marion and Linda Darling-Hammond) and State Ed staff wrote the extremely complex Every School Succeeds Act, due to the Open Meeting Law, I sat through most of the meeting; I’m confident that the members of the Regents are fully capable of assessing and composing Graduation Measures.

What is the role of the Board of Regents in the Blue Ribbon Commission process? 

Sounds like the Regents will have no role and at the end of a year the Commission presents the Board of Regents with a document, a proposed plan.

The Regents, with assistance of SED staff and Linda and Scott wrote the ESSA plan: aren’t members of the Board of Regents capable of writing the current plan? Aren’t Regents closer to their constituents than the Commission? Aren’t many of the Regents career educators?

I’m also confused by some terminology: what are the differences between standards, frameworks and curriculum? They appear to be used interchangeably. Is culturally relevant sustaining education a curriculum? If so, is it voluntary for school districts to adopt or not?  Is NYSED going to use culturally relevant sustaining education scorecards to assess school and school district curricula?  See scorecards here.

New York State has adopted Next Generation Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics (Read here) and the April/May grades 3-8 federally required standardized tests will reflect the Next Generation Standards, is the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission working within the parameters of the Next Gen Standards

Let’s step back and look at New York State, according to NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), called the “gold standard” we’re mired way down the state list (Read here ), our neighboring states, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey are far ahead.

Will the Education Measures initiative positively impact teaching and learning across the state?

David Steiner, a former NYS Commissioner of Education, in 2020 wrote,

A student’s academic achievements have a thousand causes: nurture, nature, society, zip code, luck – and that’s before she even enters school. But the highly effective teaching of excellent material – over successive years of education – can mitigate much that fate has otherwise predestined.

The under-teaching of our most underprivileged students – so often those of color – has done the reverse. Our least prepared, youngest teachers try to curate their own materials, materials that they believe are “appropriate” to their less-affluent students, to the point where these children rarely encounter grade-level texts or math problems. Such well-meaning pedagogical practices viciously multiply the preexisting disadvantages of students. Those who start behind, stay behind.

State Ed avers the new Education Measures, through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion will drive improved instructional practice and curricular selections aligned to the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework

For me the key question: will the Education Measures initiative move the state towards the implementation of a “high-quality” curriculum, aligned to rigorous state standards?

Much of the discussion over the last two years has centered on the future of the Regents Examinations and Safety Nets, actions that will increase graduation rate: will the actions increase the knowledge and skills of New York State high school graduates?

David Steiner wrote, Research confirms what effective educators and policymakers know from practice: The implementation of a “high-quality” curriculum, aligned to rigorous state standards, leads to notable student learning gains. Yet less than half of teachers report they are using curricula that are “high-quality and well aligned to learning standards.”

Steiner suggests we must meld the curriculum with classroom practice and offers a practical pathway,

  • Focus on leaders first.

  • Create time, structures, and formal roles for ongoing, school-based collaborative professional learning.

  • Adopt a research-based, instructional rubric to guide conversations about teaching and learning with the curriculum.

  • Anchor coaching and feedback in the curriculum.

  • Recognize the stages of curriculum implementation and what teachers need to progress to higher stages.

  • Ensure that districts work closely with schools to plan for, communicate, and implement school-based professional learning that blends support for curriculum and instructional practice.

Steiner’s recommendations make more sense than the vague platitudes in the Graduation Measure/Blue Ribbon Commission process.

Should we be considering more Safety Nets or more instructional models?

The current safety nets for Students with Disabilities and English as a New Language are not adequate, we should explore more effective instructional models

The Blue Ribbon Commission will undertake, “a thoughtful and inclusive process to explore what a New York State high school diploma means and what it should signify to ensure educational excellence and equity for all New York State children’ and “recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission will be developed through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and consider those requirements that will drive improved instructional practice and curricular selections aligned to the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education.”

We seem to be jumping off the diving board without checking on whether there is water in the pool.

Perhaps it’s too early, perhaps I’m too negative, I fear at the end of the process we may have moved in the wrong direction.

One response to “Graduation Measures: What is the Blue Ribbon Commission and How Will It Impact Education in New York State?

  1. Yes! Keep pushing high quality curriculum!

    Scott F. Marion (he/him/his)
    Executive Director | Center for Assessment
    31 Mount Vernon St. | Dover, NH 03820
    smarion@nciea.orgsmarion@nciea.org | @ScottFMarion
    603-516-7900 | 303-818-1145 (cell)

    Like

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