NYSED Botched the Common Core Standards Revision. Again.

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On May 2nd, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia announced that NYSED’s final revisions to the Common Core standards will be submitted to the Board of Regents on May 9th and that NYSED will be accepting public comment until June 2nd.

When the draft revised standards were released in September of 2016, parents and teachers noted that despite the Commissioner’s false claims of substantive change,the majority of changes consisted of minor tweaks to verbiage and placement. There were very few content changes and the Common Core anchor standards remained largely intact. You can read an analysis of the draft revised standards by the New Paltz Board of Education here. The Commissioner’s mischaracterization of these draft revisions further eroded the trust of parents and educators in the NYS Education Department’s willingness to seriously consider the concerns of the public.

Once again, Commissioner Elia has missed an opportunity to deliver developmentally appropriate learning standards that align with educational research. The final revised standards include some changes to the original draft revisions. However, these changes appear to be largely language simplifications which, in many cases, render the standard more confusing and vague. In other cases, the final revisions contradict the committee’s original content changes that were made out of concern for developmental appropriateness and the final revised standards actually increase the “rigor” and difficulty level of the standards.

Take, for example, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.2.c:

“Blend and segment onsets and rimes of single-syllable spoken words”

The draft revised standards released in September recommended no change to this standard. However, in the final revised standards, RF.2.C is revised to read as follows:

“Count, blend, and segment individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken one syllable words”

This is a much more difficult skill that the Common Core actually places in 1st grade (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.1.2.d). This also contradicts the committee’s previous justification for changes to CCLS RF.K.2.d which stated that “isolating the medial sound is an inappropriate skill for kindergarten.” In order to isolate the medial sound, a student must be able to segment ALL of the individual sounds in a CVC word as a prerequisite to identifying the medial sound.

Many of the changes in the final revised standards are inexplicable. Consider CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.2.d:

“Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds in three-phoneme words”

In the draft revised standards this standard was changed to indicate that kindergarten students should only be expected to isolate and pronounce the initial and final sounds in CVC words. The committee justified this rare content change by stating that “Isolating the medial sounds is not an appropriate kindergarten skill.” However, in the final revised standards, the committee replaced the draft revised standard with a poorly worded version of CCLS RF.K.2.E:

“Create new words by manipulating the phonemes orally in one syllable words”

This is odd considering that in September, the very same committee had moved this standard to first grade, commenting that they “felt this complex standard was more appropriate for this grade (1st grade) level.” Even more inexplicable is the fact that this same standard is also included in the first grade final revised standards not once, but twice (redundancy is not uncommon in the final revised standards).

It should also be noted that isolating and identifying beginning and final sounds in CVC words is an important foundational literacy skill. Rather than revising the original kindergarten Common Core standard as was earlier suggested in the draft standard revisions, this kindergarten standard has been scrapped altogether and replaced with a first grade standard that just months ago was deemed developmentally inappropriate.

Almost all of the primary grade standards remove the words “with guidance and support,” significantly increasing the expectations for the standard. The standard specifically cited by Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force Report as being of concern to early childhood experts due the developmentally inappropriate expectation that all kindergarteners “read emergent texts with purpose and understanding” remains unchanged.

Most concerning is the guidance provided for grade level reading benchmarks and text complexity. According to the guidance provided in the standards, kindergarten and first grade students should read books “that specifically correlate to their reading level and word knowledge” during instruction. However, these words do not appear in the guidance for subsequent grades. In grade 2, the only guidance given is that by the end of the year students should read books at or above grade level. In other words, after first grade children are no longer given the benefit of a developmental learning curve and will continue to be held to standardized, one-size-fits-all expectations.

The third grade draft standard indicating that students should be able to choose books of interest to them and read independently for pleasure was scrapped and, across the elementary standards, terms such as diversity, mythology, and poetry, have largely been deleted. The standards smell even more like test prep than they did before.

It feels as if some standards were revised simply for the sake of revision when in reality, the original Common Core standard was actually superior or least made sense. The final revised standards are reminiscent of replacing Lucky Charms with Marshmallow Mateys, or replacing Dr.Pepper with Dr.Bob….it’s the same unhealthy product, only sub-standard and slightly worse for you.

While I applaud the intention of the educators who took the time to take part in the standards revision process, their efforts were clearly constrained and are being used to justify yet another botched revision. The standards revision process has been an enormous waste of time and energy due to Commissioner Elia’s refusal to move away from the Common Core and to allow educators and parents to reimagine New York Standards that are developmentally appropriate and research based. They feel rushed, haphazard, and out of touch with what many parents and educators believe our children need. You can read more of my ongoing notes on some of the final revised ELA standards, here.

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