Common Core: PTA Council Joint Statement
10 Apr, 2014
By Loop Contributor
The Mamaroneck- Larchmont Council of PTAs has weighed in on the Common Core Curriculum in a letter to parents:
As you may be aware, because of recent changes to the New York State Education Law and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, there has been spirited public debate on both the state and local level regarding the impact, efficacy and implementation of these new standards.
As a district we have complied with state guidelines and worked tirelessly to comply with the new regulations in the most effective and child-centered manner possible. At the start of the school year, we began to hear from parents about their thoughts on the new curriculum and the New York State Common Core Standards as put into practice in the classrooms.
As a result, through our PTA Units, and through one-on-one conversation with teachers and administrators, our parents came forward with thoughtful questions, comments and concerns, which we address in the Joint Statement below.
STANDARDS, TESTING AND TEACHER EVALUATION
A Joint Statement from The Mamaroneck UFSD, PTA Council, Administration and MTA
Mamaroneck parents, teachers, and administrators have long partnered to support children’s learning and growth. These groups collaborate now to articulate shared beliefs about curriculum and assessment and to challenge certain educational policies recently imposed by the New York State Department of Education. Specifically, the rapid alignment of standardized tests to new rigorous learning standards; coupled with a new teacher evaluation process; has caused unproductive stress and anxiety among educators and families in our district.
WE SUPPORT HIGH STANDARDS FOR ALL LEARNERS–
including the Common Core State Standards that New York adopted in 2010. While we question some individual elements and omissions from the CCSS, we recognize the value of having clearly defined learning outcomes; furthermore, the nation-wide adoption of the standards provides common ground for Mamaroneck educators with colleagues in other states via professional organizations and networks.
WE SUPPORT CONSISTENT AND VIBRANT CURRICULUM–
developed by educators who know our students’ learning needs and interests. Teacher leaders including literacy and math coaches, department chairs, and curriculum coordinators collaborate with colleagues and administrators to develop and maintain robust, challenging, age-appropriate curriculum aligned with standards. We recognize that district-wide curriculum consistency is important; at the same time, we value instructional decision-making at the classroom, department, and building levels. We prize the breadth of our programs, recognizing that students develop passions in studios, labs, and fields in addition to classrooms.
WE SUPPORT ONGOING, ROBUST ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT PROGRESS.
Teachers at all levels use a range of diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments to inform instruction, monitor student learning, provide timely feedback to students, and report progress to parents. We recognize that standardized tests have a place in a comprehensive assessment framework to support systemic program review and goal-setting. The district collects useful assessment data from local assessments and NYS tests and supports teachers in analyzing and using that information to guide instruction.
WE SUPPORT RESPONSIBLE LEADERSHIP, SUPERVISION AND EVALUATION OF TEACHERS.
The district has high expectations for teachers and provides many forms of support. From the hiring process, orientation, and mentoring program to ongoing opportunities for professional development, the district seeks to support dedicated, passionate educators’ continuous growth. Recently, a committee of teachers and administrators developed an Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) process that calls for administrators to make frequent, unannounced visits to classrooms; converse afterwards with teachers, and provide written feedback. This thorough process ensures that teachers are well known and that their year-end evaluations are based on ample evidence discussed over time.
WE THEREFORE OPPOSE THE RAPID ALIGNMENT OF THE NEW YORK STATE TESTS TO THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS.
The accelerated timetable required districts across the state either to revise English Language Arts and mathematics curriculum hastily with no additional funds or to subject students to high-stakes tests on material they hadn’t been taught. In Mamaroneck, we have taken the former path, tapping coaches and department chairs and using all available forums to digest the new standards, identify misalignments, review published CCSS-aligned curriculum, make decisions to develop materials in-house or purchase them, update curriculum maps, and, most importantly, keep teachers abreast of curriculum changes and provide coaching and support. Well-resourced relative to many other districts, we were able to prepare students for the first round of CCSS-aligned tests; however, we criticize the unnecessary and unproductive strain on the system caused by the state’s timeline.
WE FURTHER OPPOSE THE NEW NYS TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM WHERE 40% OF A TEACHER’S RATING IS DERIVED FROM STUDENTS’ PERFORMANCE ON HIGH-STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS.
Even without questioning the accuracy of “value-added” calculations made behind closed doors in Albany or locally with small sample sizes, there are many reasons to challenge this practice. First, NYS tests are an incomplete measure of student learning; they do not assess all that is valued. The more weight given to students’ scores, the more pressure there is on teachers to narrow the curriculum and focus on elements that will be tested. Additionally, the system does not foster collaboration; teachers seeking to enhance their growth scores may be less willing to share resources. Finally, the system influences teachers’ willingness to teach particular courses and, most alarmingly, particular students.
IN SUMMARY, WE SUPPORT THE FOLLOWING:
- High standards for all students
- Consistent, broad, and vibrant curriculum
- Ongoing, robust assessments
- Responsible teacher evaluation
Expansion of the NYS standardized testing program beyond what is developmentally appropriate
- Tests assessing new learning standards without adequate time for thorough curriculum alignment
- Teacher evaluation that translates students’ scores on high-stakes standardized tests into numerical teacher effectiveness ratings
Dr. Robert Shaps, Superintendent of Schools
Annie Ward, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction
Dr. Seth Weitzman, Co-President, Mamaroneck Administrators Association
Jennifer Monaco, Co-President, Mamaroneck Administrators Association
Ann Borsellino, President, Mamaroneck Teachers Association
Sherri Rozansky, Co-President, Mamaroneck-Larchmont PTA Council
Jayne Lipman, Co-President, Mamaroneck-Larchmont PTA Council