Category Archives: Common Core

The Next Teacher Preparation Crisis: New York State is Creating a Teacher Shortage (and a Talent Shortage), Another John King Disaster.

JOHN MERROW: Is this a good time to become a teacher? Salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, tenure is under attack, and standardized test scores are being used to fire teachers.

It was commonplace in the days of the old Soviet Union for the bureaucrats to erase from textbooks the names of those who had been purged by the communist leadership. For many in the upper echelons of New York State they wish they could do the same for John King.

Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post quotes King,

“In the first couple of years there will be what I characterize as process wins. You’ll see an evaluation system for teachers and principals, with student achievement built in as a meaningful component.…

As it turns out King’s tenure was a disaster, over 200,000 parents opting out of state tests, the Common Core being re-evaluated and the teacher evaluation process in disarray.

What has not gotten enough ink is the total chaos surrounding the King regulations intended to increase the proficiency of new teachers and the teacher training regulations that drive the over 200 teacher training programs in the state.

Regent Cashin, the co-chair of the Higher Education Committee of the Board of Regents held public hearings in Buffalo, New Paltz and New York City, hundreds of college professors attended and many testified, all sharply criticizing the impact of the King imposed regulations.

We all agree that we should seek the best candidates for the teaching profession, assure that college programs prepare prospective teachers adequately and have some sort of exit exam to assure competency.

In December, 2012 the American Federation of Teachers, the union representing over a million public school teachers issued a report,” Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession,” the report avers,

As in medical, law and other professions, all prospective teachers—whether they come to the profession by the traditional or an alternative route—should meet a universal and rigorous bar that gauges mastery of subject matter knowledge and demonstrates competency in how to teach it. Also, the primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the teaching profession’s standards and ensuring the cohesion of teacher preparation programs must reside with practicing teachers in K-12 and higher education.

And, the report makes three recommendations.

  • All stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that teacher preparation standards, programs and assessments are aligned with a well-grounded vision of effective teaching.
  • Teaching, like other respected professions, must have a universal assessment process for entry that includes rigorous preparation centered on clinical practice as well as theory, an in-depth test of subject and pedagogical knowledge, and a comprehensive teacher performance assessment.
  • Primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards of the profession and ensuring the quality and coherence of teacher preparation programs must reside with members of the profession—practicing professionals in K-12 and higher education.

Unfortunately in New York State the stakeholders were excluded from the King-driven process. “Practicing professionals” were cast aside as the former commissioner imposed a tangled web of requirements and turned schools of education into test prep mills.

Enrollment in teacher education programs around the state has dropped between 20% and 40%, students choose not to even take the exams and seek employment in non-public schools, charter schools or out of state, larger percentages of Afro-American and students whose native language is not English are failing the exams, and, the best candidates may be opting out of the teaching profession.

King decided to ignore what was going on nationwide.

Over a number of years an organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation, known by the acronym, CAEP, has been working to create a standard for all teacher education programs across the nation. While the accreditation of a program is not mandatory must states “strongly advise” teacher education programs to undergo the rigorous accreditation process.

Required Component.  The provider [the college] sets admissions requirements, including CAEP minimum criteria or the state’s minimum criteria, whichever are higher, and gathers data to monitor applicants and the selected pool of candidates. The provider ensures that the average grade point average of its accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds the CAEP minimum of 3.0, and the group average performance on nationally normed ability/achievement assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE:

  • is in the top 50 percent from 2016-2017;
  • is in  the top 40 percent of the distribution from 2018-2019; and
  • is in the top 33 percent of the distribution by 2020

Over time, a program may develop a reliable, valid model that uses admissions criteria other than those stated in this standard. In this case, the admitted cohort group mean on these criteria must meet or exceed the standard that has been shown to positively correlate with measures of P-12 student learning and development.

In other words, these are the admission standards; however, we recognize that states may create their own standards that are the equivalent or higher.

John King decided to ignore CAEP and set his own exit standards in addition to the CAEP standards.

New York State requires candidates to take four exit exams:

* edTPA,

A Stanford created exam that “is a student-centered multiple measure assessment of teaching. It is designed to be educative and predicting of effective teaching and student learning.” The student creates a video of a lesson they teach and completes a template assessing the lesson.

* Liberal Arts and Science Test (LAST)

80 multiple choice questions based on reading passages and one essay (all computer-based), the questions are divided into subareas: Scientific, Mathematics and Technical Process, Historical and Social Science Awareness, Artistic Expression and the Humanities, Communication and Research Skills  – Click on the link above and try the sample questions.

* Educating All Students Test (EAS)

A computer-based test, 40 multiple choice and three constructed responses (essays). } “The EAS test measures professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills necessary to teach all students effectively in New York State public schools. This test consists of selected-response items (multiple choice) and constructed-response items (essays). Each constructed response item will share scenario-based stimulus material with several selected-response items.”

* Content Specialty Test (CST)

The CST is required in each certification area – a math question on the Grades 1-6 test is below:

  1. A third-grade teacher is preparing to teach the following standard from the New York State P–12 Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics.

 Explain equivalence of fractions in special cases, and compare fractions by reasoning about their size.

Which strategy is likely to be most effective as part of an introductory lesson designed to meet this standard?

  1. teaching that  is equivalent to  by showing how they represent the same point on a number line
  2. teaching that  is equivalent to  because  according to the rules of fractions
  3. teaching that  is equivalent to  because 6 is the least common denominator of 2 and 3
  4. teaching that  is equivalent to  by showing cross multiplication of 1 x 6 = 2 x 

The cost of the four tests is $600 – with additional cost for re-taking failed sections – plus study guides and tutoring sessions the cost can escalate to $1,000.

The core question: are the tests “valid and reliable,” will they produce more effective teachers? The answer is the test makers have no idea. Another core question: in standardizing the test – who was the sample population?  In other words, are the tests biased? Since these are all Pearson tests none of that information is available.

The colleges are forced to decide: do we create entirely new course curricula to embed the test requirements? Do we provide cram courses to prepare students?

At the three forums held by Regent Cashin the college instructors were sharply critical. Students who were excellent in class, excellent in their student teaching, were failing the exams, the entire process was challenging the judgment of the instructors who work with student each and every day. King made it abundantly clear that down the road the state intended to track the effectiveness of teachers based on the teacher evaluation system and attribute the score to the college program, with a threat of negative consequences for the program if students did poorly on the state tests, regardless of the at-risk nature of the students.

A negative incentive to prepare students to teach the neediest populations.

In the first few years of the state-required test students of color are not faring well on the exams. At the same time across the nation there are calls to increase the diversity within the teaching corps.

The New York Times, in an article titled “Where Are the Teachers of Color” writes,

… researchers who have found similar academic effects say more than test scores are at stake. “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you,” said Thomas S. Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University.

The New York City Department of Education has set a goal of recruiting 1,000 black males teachers over the next two years, at the same time that the state appears to be reducing the pool.

At the Regents Meeting next week I expect that Regent Cashin and the other members of the Higher Education Committee will be putting forth a number of proposals to bring sanity to the mess created by King.

If the Common Core had been phased in, perhaps beginning with the early childhood grades, moving up one grade each year, if the state and local school districts had initiated  professional development programs to bring teachers up to speed, if the exams had flexible cut scores the current school wars would never have occurred.

If the state had begun to revise teacher education requirements by including the professionals, as recommended by the American Federation of Teacher report,

  • Primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards of the profession and ensuring the quality and coherence of teacher preparation programs must reside with members of the profession—practicing professionals in K-12 and higher education,

we would not find ourselves in the current abyss.

In the literature regarding organizational change the first principle is “Participation Reduces Resistance,” a lesson clearly not learned in the King led Department of Education.

I am optimistic that the new commissioner and newly revitalized Board of Regents can return the teacher preparation landscape to sanity.

About Face: New York State Reverses Test and Punish and Hopes Parents and Teachers Will Be Assuaged

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins,  all of them imaginary.

HL Mencken

Remember when you were driving down that road, lost, you kept on driving down the road hoping you would become “unlost”?

Five years ago the education community began driving down the teacher evaluation road, losing their way, and driving further and further down the road. Finally, deep in the woods, with the wolves howling, they decided to turn around.

How did the education seers get so lost?

The New Teacher Project in 2010 published a report, The Widget Effect, which resonated across the reform-y community.

Effective teachers are the key to student success, yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives

* Less than 1 percent of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, making it impossible to identify truly exceptional teachers

* Half of the districts studied have not dismissed a single tenured teacher for poor performance in the past five years.

Value-add measures (VAM), growth models, psychometricians, statisticians and the data-wonks believed that teaching could be reduced to a numerical score. Teachers across an entire state regardless of the ability of the students were plugged into a dense algorithm, the teacher eval guys and gals sped along not realizing how lost they had become.

At the May, 2015 Learning Summit on Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) (Watch video of the presentation here) held  by the Board of Regents a panel consisting of scholars debated the use of value-added measurement (VAM). The scholars criticized VAM; among a number of criticisms, the most serious, the errors of measurement were too large, the results were neither valid nor reliable.

The Opt Out parents continued skewering the governor and the legislature, the teacher union pounded away, an angry cohort of parents, not tied to a party, the reformers were driving deeper and deeper into the woods.

The governor had a subitism  (Love the word: see definition here)

In the world of politics deniability, is important: claiming credit for successes and blaming others for your failures. The governor appointed a task force to craft a path to get back on the road, without admitting any culpability,  for the years of barreling down the wrong road.

The task force members had a deadline, to complete their work before the December meeting of the Board of Regents, the last date to adopt a new path before the legislature convenes in January.

The governor, the assembly, the senate, state education and the task force members engaged in increasingly intense negotiations. With a ticking clock the task force released its finding  last Thursday afternoon.

Read the Report here  and read my blog about the report here .

On Monday the members of the Board of Regents convened to discuss and vote on elements of the Report…

What did the Report do?

* created a moratorium, oh, sorry, I can’t use that word, a transition to the new, yet to be crafted teacher evaluation plan to impact in the 2019 – 2020 school year. You may have noticed that the transition, or, what the hell, the moratorium, runs through the next gubernatorial election cycle.

* a re-writing, a through editing, another draft, of the Common Core State Standards.

* an admission that the SED Curriculum Modules were being used as scripts; curriculum should be a local responsibility, not imposed from Albany.

* teachers really are smart and highly capable; state ed will create a teacher portal so that teachers can post curriculum and other education tools on the Engage NY site.

* teachers will be actively engaged in test creation, a review of the standards and new test creation.

and, of course, create an interim teacher evaluation schema for the transition years; let’s call it teacher evaluation 5.0

See the power point, entitled,  Alternate Scores for Teachers and Principals: Implementing a Transition to Higher Standards:

and view the power point on the results of the teacher evaluation process over the last three years:

Under the law school districts and teacher unions have until March 15 to negotiate new teacher evaluation plans based on the task force changes adopted by the regents.

The hope from the governor and the legislature is that the de-escalation, the moratorium, provides a cooling off period. Without the stress of high stakes testing and a rating sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of teachers and principals we can get back to the job at hand: teaching.

If we’re not using the state grades 3 – 8 test scores how will student growth be measured? Remember student learning objectives (SLOs) and Measures of Student Learning (MOSLs)?

The governor and the legislature believe the anger will abate, other issues will arise, and the pols have learned a lesson: don’t intervene in education, allow the regents to make policy – claim credit for victories and blame the regents for the failures.

A  video of an explanation that is as clear as the new teacher evaluation law.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

Groucho Marx


The Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind Moves Forward in Congress: How Will It Impact New York State?

If you’ve had the stamina to watch the presidential debates which topic has not been discussed: that’s right – education. No Common Core, no testing, no teacher evaluation – nada.

Education has become a toxic topic, both ends of the education spectrum are passionate, the middle, to be perfectly honest, doesn’t understand and doesn’t care.

The Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) strongly support charter schools and test-score based teacher evaluation, the far right of the Republican Party wants to abolish the US Department of Education, including Title 1 funding.

Candidates are sticking with issues that mobilize their core supporters.

Mayor Bloomberg was the self-proclaimed education mayor; in his last term, as his fights with the teacher union accelerated his favorability rating dived,

Sol Stern, in the fall, 2013 City Journal reported,

…. New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

Across New York State 220,000 students, one in five students, opted out of the federally required grades 3-8 English and Math exams and polling clearly blames the governor for what parents see as excessive and punitive testing.

Hillary Clinton, at an AFT-sponsored forum mildly jibbed at charter schools  (They “cherry pick” students), she immediately was sharply criticized by the pro-charter crowd  – from both sides of the aisle.

Considering the acrimonious nature of the education debate it is encouraging that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind is moving forward in both houses of Congress.

This morning I watched the Senate vote overwhelmingly to move the Senate bill to conference. A year ago both houses passed reauthorization bills; however, the bills were so different that no attempt was made to reconcile the bills.

Over the next few days House and Senate conference members will hammer out a bill incorporating the bills from both houses.

The path has been long and complex – the committee chairs in both houses and both parties have to craft bills that address the needs/philosophies/criticisms of a majority of the 435 members of the House and 60 members in the Senate. (Senate rules require 60 votes to advance a vote on the underlying bill).

The House is ruled by the majority, the Republican side. The Republicans control the agenda, the flow of bills. The complexity in the House is not the opposing party, the Democrats; the problem is within the Republican Party; the original House bill only passed by five votes. The Freedom Caucus, previously known as the Tea Party, has frequently opposed their own leadership, paring away enough votes to prevent the passage of leadership bills.  A reauthorization bill must satisfy the objections of the Freedom Caucus, A Republican leader who reaches across the aisle for Democratic votes could not survive as leader.

On the Senate side there are 54 Republicans and Senate rules require 60 votes for any bill to move to the floor, bipartisan bills are required. Senators Alexander (R) and Murray (D) have worked for months to create a bill that can garner the required 60 votes in the Senate.

The leadership in both houses and on both sides of the aisle appoints members to serve on the conference committee. Over the next few days the committee will probably agree on a bill that will come to the floor of both houses in early December – of course, there are still bumps along the road.

And, of course, the President must sign the bill.

The proposal (Read detailed description here) would keep some of the NCLB law’s most-important transparency measures in place, like continued annual testing in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. And it includes some protections for perennially foundering schools and those where poor and minority kids, or students in special education, and those just learning English, are struggling.

But otherwise, states would be handed the car keys when it comes to almost everything else, including: how much tests should figure in when it comes to rating schools vs. other factors like school climate; how to fix perennially foundering schools; and how to assist schools that are doing well overall, but still struggling to help certain groups of students (like English-language learners) … [the proposal]  prohibit[s] the U.S. Secretary of Education from interfering with state prerogatives on teacher evaluation, testing, standards, school turnarounds, and more.

Bloggers and teachers have railed against any reauthorization that continues annual testing; their problem is that civil rights organizations and advocates (NAACP, Urban League, La Raza and disability organizations) all vigorously support annual testing; organizations that traditionally have worked closely with teacher organizations. They argue that annual testing presents irrefutable evidence of achievement gaps, to do away with annual tests will remove the spotlight, a spotlight that is essential to advocate for their constituencies.

The proposed law would make Race to the Top and NCLB Waivers impermissible.

Arne Duncan would be replaced by Andrew Cuomo. Or, Mary Ellen Elia.

In most states the governor appoints the state board of education. The New York State constitution vests the authority to set education policy with the Board of Regents, who are elected by the state legislature – in reality selected by the Speaker of the Assembly.  Governor Cuomo has eroded the authority of the Regents. Decision after decision emanates from the office of the governor.  An example is the appointment of the Common Core Task Force. The governor appointed a fifteen-member Task Force, scheduled “listening sessions” around the state and set a first week in December date for a preliminary report. The commissioner has released her own description of the process along with a list of possible policy changes: shorter tests, the release of more test questions, a speeder release of the scores, promises of more teacher involvement in future state tests and a move to more adaptive and online testing.

See commissioner’s report here. (The report does not comment on teacher evaluation)

The governor can ignore the recommendations of the commissioner and the commissioner can ignore the recommendations of the task force; of course, the governor can convert his recommendations to legislation.

If the reauthorization bill becomes law: how will it impact on policy in New York State?

Stay tuned …

UPDATE: The conference committee has approved a bill – see Education Week discussion here – full text will be available in a few days.

The Board of Regents Convene With a Contentious Agenda and the Ominous Shadow of the Governor

Wednesday morning the seventeen members of the Board of Regents and the newly selected commissioner will convene in the ornate Regents Room to begin the 15-16 school year. Oddly the agenda, to a large extent, has been set “across the street,” on the second floor of the Capital building, the executive offices of the governor.

Education policy for two centuries was set by the members of the regents with significant input from the commissioner. Commissioners worked their way up the ladder, from teacher to principal to superintendent to commissioner; all that changed in the last few years. David Steiner came from the university and John King had no public school experience, in fact, only limited experience in the world of charter schools. The newly selected commissioner returns us to the world of experienced educators.

In the current convoluted landscape of education the governor has effectively replaced the regents: adoption of the Common Core State Standards, a massive labyrinthine principal/teacher evaluation system, the receivership of struggling schools have been set in legislation by the governor with the regents being asked to set regulations in place.

The unpaid, un-staffed members of the regents are “elected” by a joint meeting of the NYS legislature. In reality the democrats select the members; there are far more democrats than republicans in the combined houses. In the last session the legislature dumped two of the most senior members of the regents and selected four new members (three incumbents were re-elected, there were two vacancies and two regents replaced); three former school superintendents and one nurse educator (the State Education Department is in charge of all schools, pre-k through college, all museums and libraries and the professions).

The four new members and two second-term regents members have formed a caucus to oppose the approval of the governor’s new matrix principal/teacher evaluation plan (3012-d); the debate will be lively.

The regents will approve regulations for the completely untried receivership law; if low performing schools fail to make progress, as defined in the regulations, the school may be removed from the district and placed under the supervision of a receiver who has sweeping power. (See Regents agenda here).

Not only has the governor seized control of the education agenda the feds have been the agenda-setter for all of the states. The feds require that after being in the country for one year all English Language Learners in Grades 3-8 must be tested regardless of their English language skills. The feds denied the NYS waiver request and the regents and the commissioner are asking the feds to reconsider.

The regents are forming a working group to discuss the pass/fail rates on the new Common Core Regents exams; we are currently in year three of the eight year phase-in of Common Core Regents; the grades are currently scaled to keep pass-fail rates at the same level as before the Common Core: are students making adequate progress in passing the new Regents, and, if not, how should the regents members respond?

Regent Cashin is highlighting the new testing regimen for prospective teachers who are required to pass four exams at a cost of about $1,000; the exams are timed and computer-based: are the exams accurate predictors of success? Are the high failure rates the result of selecting the wrong candidates, faulty college curriculum or simply poorly crafted exams? In an era of sharply declining enrollments in college teacher education programs the poorly designed Pearson-created exams should not be an unnecessary impediment.

While the funding of schools is the responsibility of the governor and the legislature the 2% property tax cap is resulting in drastic cuts in services in low wealth districts, of which there are several hundred located in rural districts with declining revenues. The regents can highlight and recommend changes to the “other side of the street.”

How will the regents address the large numbers of Students with Disabilities who are unable to “pass” grades 3-8 tests and unable to achieve the safety net requirements on the Regents exams? Should the regents create alternative pathways to graduation? Portfolios?

In some schools English Language learners are making progress similar to all other students while in others the majority of students are graduating at extremely low rates: Why? Higher or lower levels of instruction? Better professional development? Better designed instructional models?

Educational decisions, as the state constitution intended, should be made by the Board of Regents. Hopefully the governor will move away from his senseless policies that have antagonized parents and teachers across the state.

Far reaching education policies crafted behind closed doors by invisible staffers is not a fruitful path to better education. The two hundred thousand op-outers will grow and grow; the angry electorate will continue to grow.

Hopefully the governor will rethink his ideas and the legislature will continue to select regent members willing to challenge the governor as well as collaboratively develop approaches to address the core issues confronting children and families across the state.