Wednesday, 25 December 2013 00:00
The Garden City Public School District knows that Garden City parents and residents have questions about the implementation of the new Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) and other recent State mandates. To help explain this initiative, the school district continues its “Question of the Week” feature. The complete listing of the questions and answers will be posted on the district website at http://www.gardencity.k12.ny.us, under “Common Core FAQs.”
The next question has several parts:
Q: Explain the components of the Board of Regents Reform Agenda and how the reforms impact our school district.
A: The Regents Reform Agenda was adopted by the board of regents and is aimed at raising student achievement across New York State by promoting higher levels of student proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics. Advocates for the Reform Agenda believe that it will improve the performance of all students by helping them reach international benchmarks of achievement and will provide a framework for improving the lowest-achieving school districts.
The Board of Regents Reform Agenda includes three general components:
1. Implement instructional changes to raise rigor and accountability (Common Core Learning Standards and the attendant mandated state assessments);
2. Implement a system for supporting highly effective teachers and principals (Annual Professional Performance Review or APPR); and
3. Create a data depository to measure student success and provide feedback on program effectiveness.
Q: Does GC need to comply with these mandates?
A: As a public school district in New York State, Garden City must comply with any regulations established by the state. Garden City has no choice in these matters—there is no option to “opt out.” It is important to note that the reform Agenda in some ways actually reaffirmed what Garden City had previously been doing. For example, the rubric used to assess teacher performance in the classroom and in professional responsibilities, the Danielson Framework for Teaching¸ had been adopted well before the regents adopted their initiatives, and it has been used quite successfully in our school district to provide meaningful feedback to teachers and promote the use of best practices in the classroom. Similarly, teachers and administrators have been quite comfortable with using data to determine how students are performing and to assess the impact of initiatives. However, those analyses were never confined just to reviewing test results.
Q: Why can’t we opt out since we receive very little aid from New York State?
A: School districts that do not follow mandates can lose state aid, and might have district officials and board of education members removed and replaced with state officials. Garden City receives approximately 5 percent or $5.4 million of its budget from state aid. Even if the district could opt out, the loss would dramatically increase the burden on taxpayers.
Q: What has been the cost of implementation to our district?
A: While CCLS costs have been spread over several years, it is important to note that Garden City has used considerable funds for staff training and the purchase of materials in support of the new standards. It has also incurred charges for purchasing and scoring state exams (even though the District was not allowed to retain the tests) and been burdened with the cost of substitute teachers needed to cover teachers and principals during mandated training and scoring sessions. The loss of time devoted to implementing the Reform Agenda is more difficult to quantify. It is clear that the funds and time devoted to implementing the Agenda could have been well spent on other initiatives relevant to our school district’s particular needs and interests including differentiated instruction, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), social-emotional student growth, etc.
Q: What components of this agenda are beneficial to a district like ours?
A: The agenda reinforced the district’s commitment to improving instruction at the classroom level. The Common Core Standards seek to address the “mile wide and an inch deep” problem associated with previous standards. In order to promote critical thinking and problem solving, fewer topics are being taught, but taught more deeply. As mentioned in the prior “Question,” the new math standards devote more attention to developing understandings of place value, fractions and algebraic concepts, thereby providing a stronger foundation and skill-set for students as they prepare for post-secondary education. In English language arts, the CCLS encourage students to expand their reading horizons and includes a greater emphasis on non-fiction and close reading of texts. In writing, students are expected to provide deeper levels of analysis and use sources effectively to support their points.
On the other hand, the hasty roll out of the Reform Agenda has led to many concerns and questions about the impact of implementing all these changes at one time. Piloting portions of the Reform Agenda to identify unanticipated consequences and practical implementation issues would have allowed the state time for the needed modifications and adjustments that now are being considered retroactively.
The school district remains committed to continuous improvement. While it must observe New York State mandates, it seeks to align them to the greatest possible extent with our tradition of achievement, our local needs, and our expectations.
Submitted by the Garden City Public School District