The name itself had become toxic. It was only a matter of time before New York followed the lead of other states, like Florida, and rebranded the educational standards with a fresh name.
Welcome to “Next Generation Learning Standards.” It doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like Common Core, and doesn’t fit on a posterboard as easily, which is probably how state officials prefer it.
The state education department announced the new name early last month and the change will be officially voted on this month by the Board of Regents.
The initial rollout of Common Core, which dates back to 2010, was undeniably flawed — and parents rightfully did not hold back their disdain. Opt-out numbers, indicating how many students refused to sit for the state-mandated tests, have remained steady, especially on the Island, where the averages are higher compared to the rest of Long Island.
But the program’s initial rushed rollout is no longer an excuse. The state has taken steps in the past two years to revise the standards and the controversial practice of using test scores as a component of teacher evaluations is currently under a moratorium.
In an interview, State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) told Times Review: “The fact is that people would like to see, not that it’s just pushed off, but that the component is eliminated entirely.”
A timeline posted on the state education department website documents the two-year process of reviewing the learning standards and touts the more than 45,000 miles Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia traveled to engage with parents, teachers and the public across the state. The question now is: In all that time, did the state do enough to sway the public’s perception of the learning standards? Will parents who back the opt-out movement take an honest look at the revised and renamed standards?
In 2016, 46 percent of Shelter Island students opted out of the English language arts tests as compared with 39.3 percent this year. Numbers opting out of the mathematics test also declined from 42.3 percent last year to 38.7 percent this year.
There could be several factors at play in the numbers differential, according to School Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik. But one thing he’s certain about, he told the Reporter, is that “my teachers know better than the state what our kids need. We concentrate on our kids learning” and the result is improved test scores.
Retiring Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney expressed optimism to our sister paper, the News Review, about some of the changes now under discussion, saying, “I’m hopeful, as I always am, that it’s going to go forward in a better direction.”
Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendent Anne Smith told the Suffolk Times that the state-mandated tests and assessments had become a political issue for families. She’s right — and that doesn’t belong in schools. The focus needs to be on improving education for our children.
Whether Next Generation Learning Standards can achieve that goal remains to be seen.