The Role(s) of the State: Graduation Measures and/or Phonics-based Instruction?

The National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is a think tank and collects vast amounts of data, from over 150 teacher collective bargaining agreements to assessments of effectiveness of teacher preparation programs to state education policies.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is on a mission to ensure every child has effective teachers and every teacher has the opportunity to be effective.

Building on two decades of research and policy analysis, we have marshalled our resources behind two big bets for achieving an effective, diverse teacher workforce:

* Aligning the preparation of new elementary teachers to research-driven practices, imparting to them the knowledge and skills necessary for their students to flourish.

* Strengthening the policies and practices that will lead to the highest quality teacher workforce, specifically recruitment, assignment, evaluation, development, and compensation

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is referred to as the nation’s report card

. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), first administered in 1969, is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what our nation’s students know and can do in subjects such as mathematics, reading, science, and writing. Standard administration practices are implemented to provide a common measure of student achievement.

Teachers, principals, parents, policymakers, and researchers all use NAEP results to assess progress and develop ways to improve education in the United States. The results of NAEP are released as The Nation’s Report Card, and are available for the nation, states, and in some cases, urban districts.

NAEP is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).​

NCTQ is the teaching side and NAEP is the learning side. And I’ve always remind folks you can’t change the output without changing the input.

NCTQ grades college teacher preparation programs and NAEP grades states, NAEP uses sampling techniques to select schools and the tests are every third year. 46 states scored higher than NYS on the 2022 4th grade Math assessment, over the last twenty years NYS NAEP scores can best described as desultory. Curriculum in NYS is a school district responsibility; the state sets standards and the required grades 3-8 tests are based on the NYS standards.

The New York State Education Department is responsible for setting standard learning expectations (standards) for what all students should know and be able to do as a result of skilled instruction. Each local school district develops curricula based on these established standards.

A decade ago NYS received a federal Race to the Top grant, and, as part of the grant created EngageNY, a compendium of curriculum modules for virtually every topic and every grade, the site was open source.

Building on its efforts to communicate openly and collaborate with its stakeholders, New York State launched (EngageNY) in 2011, a flagship curriculum and professional development resource hub. The site was redesigned each year between 2011 – 2015 based on feedback from educators and has since become a national resource attracting 143 million page views, 32 million downloads and more than 10 million unique visitors worldwide. Across the country, educators and school leaders turn to EngageNY as a source for comprehensive classroom materials aligned to new college- and career-ready standards. NYSED is keeping the site running after RTTT has ended and envisions it being even more interactive and serving as a hub for educators to meet online and exchange ideas

Unfortunately the State no longer supports the site.

In 2019 the State embarked on a through review of high graduation requirements, called Graduation Measures, the initiative was halted during the COVID years and has resumed. A 69-member Blue Ribbon Commission, selected by the State Ed Department meets monthly, the State Education Department (SED) has held meetings across the state, in-person and remote, distributes monthly Thought Exchanges, and, has received a grant to explore performance tasks, aiming to replace the current Regents Examinations. As the meetings have dragged on, the Blue Ribbon Commission is scheduled to present a proposal to SED by the fall, cynics, and there are many, believe Regents Examinations will be discontinued or decoupled from graduation requirements.

A just released report exposes widespread chronic absenteeism in NYC high schools; in spite of the absenteeism 84% of NYC students received regents diplomas. 90% of students in NYC high schools received an “exemption” from one of more Regents Examinations. 

How many students who were chronically absent received regents exemptions and graduated?

SED does not compile such records.

For cynics, the Graduation Matters initiative is simply an attempt to continue to increase graduation percentages ignoring whether or not students have the requisite skills for the world of post secondary education and work.

Why has NYS seemingly ignored the desultory NAEP scores?

EdTrustNY, part of national advocacy organization, has just released a scathing report on NYS’s failure to address early literacy,

While New York struggles with an early education literacy crisis, the widespread use of non-evidence-based practices in teaching reading across the state is compounding the problem. Worse yet, the state’s earliest learners are being denied access to proven resources shown to boost reading skills, according to a report out today by The Education Trust–New York.

The report, A Call to Action: The State of Early Literacy in New York highlights a disjointed early literacy landscape in New York. The report elevates non-evidence-based practices in teaching of reading, and shares recommendations on how state and local leaders can address New York’s poor reading outcomes by anchoring reading and literacy instruction in the science of reading.

Earlier this year Chancellor Banks announced New York City would be phasing in a phonics-based curriculum in all schools.

Chancellor David Banks is calling for an overhaul of how children learn to read in the city’s public schools, saying the approach many schools use isn’t working. 

Banks said he wants to move toward what experts call “the science of reading” which focuses on the rigorous teaching of phonics. 

He also plans to replace a popular curriculum from Columbia University’s Teachers College that critics argue is not sufficiently based on evidence, fails to adequately teach phonics and can create bad habits by encouraging students to guess words by using pictures, patterns and memorization. 

“Far too many of our kids do not have a solid, foundational core in literacy,” Banks said. “We’ve got to do things differently than we’ve been doing them because we’re not getting the results that we need.” 

Would the UFT, the teachers union, be onboard?  The Chancellor is telling elementary school teachers they have been teaching incorrectly, we know that change is commonly perceived as punishment, without the full commitment of the union the attempt to dramatically change the teaching of reading is a heavy lift, a very heavy lift.

The principal union, the CSA, is resisting, questions of curriculum should left to principals. Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teacher union, the UFT, is supporting the changes, with some hesitancy; the UFT Teacher Centers will be at the core of the professional development.

The program, which will be phased in over two years, will offer superintendents the choice of three different phonics-based programs, but every school in the district will teach reading in the same way. There’s also a promise to provide teachers with specialized training. 

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said that will be key. 

“We said no more drive-by training. It has to be embedded, and it has to be throughout the entire year. Now that’s the plan. Again, I give the chancellor credit for saying ‘You know what? I’m tackling this,'” Mulgrew said. 

But while the teachers union is supporting the switch, the principals union is not. 

“We don’t agree that mandating a single curriculum across a given school district is how to reach this critical objective,” president Henry Rubio said in a statement.

In early June the National Council on Education Equity report will be released, with great fanfare; maybe a few days in the news and fade away; maybe State Ed and the Board of Regents announces a policy change, a curriculum role at the state and local level, perhaps the governor announces her concerns with the lack of engagement by the state education bureaucracy.

At the NYC level announcements pointing to the beginning of professional development in half of the school districts, and half next year, to train teachers in the phase in of phonics-based reading programs.

And maybe, just maybe, the last twist in the rubric cube of contract negotiations, the Mulgrew thumbs up on the phonics-based literacy and an Adams/Banks thumbs up on a contract agreement. Poltics makes for strange bedfellows.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s