For NYS Schools, April May Be The Cruelest Month

The “April showers” are going to come down hard if New York does not get its education system in check. That was never more apparent than this week, when hundreds of teachers and education advocates descended on Albany to voice their opposition to what’s taking place in state budget discussions. In 15 years in the state Assembly, I have never seen more confusion within New York’s education system.
 
A prime example of the confusion is found right here at home. The Geneva City School District has been doing incredible work preparing students for graduation, college admission, and entering the workforce. For its efforts, Geneva was recently recognized nationally by District Administration Magazine as a “District of Distinction.” But despite its national honor, according to today’s complicated education standards Geneva is inexplicably labeled as a struggling school district. 
 
REFUSING TO ADDRESS THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
 
What is most alarming about our education challenges is that the majority of the problems are self-inflicted. The implementation of the Common Core tests has adversely impacted all aspects of education: student performance, teacher evaluations, and available funding for school districts. Just this week it was revealed that questions on some Common Core exams were discounted because too many children simply could not provide an answer. 
 
In approximately two weeks New York’s students will once again be taking Common Core tests. The Assembly Minority has proposed legislation to delay testing until the program is fixed. A moratorium would allow us to establish better tests and protocols, craft a fair teacher evaluation system, and restore order to the most important institutions in our communities – our schools. We can no longer continue to use this broken program as the barometer for measuring achievement from students, teachers and school districts.
 
WRONG APPROACH ONLY ADDS MORE CONFUSION
 
The professionals who have dedicated their lives to teaching our children deserved more from the governor than a heavy-handed and counter-productive approach to education policy. Last year, the governor helped craft a bill on teacher evaluations which was widely supported by the education community. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature, but instead of moving forward, the governor vetoed his own bill. He inserted his own punitive mandates for teachers into the budget, refused to give districts school aid estimates essential for financial planning, and threatened to withhold state funding from those districts that do not adhere to his edict.   
 
In contrast, the Assembly Minority held forums around the state where we listened to the concerns of students, teachers, parents, district administrators and other education professionals. We have fought tirelessly to enact reforms that would fix the flawed implementation of Common Core and the broken education system. For example:

  • Suspending the Common Core curriculum until the 2016-17 school year;
  • Creating a Blue Ribbon Commission on 21st Century Testing and Curriculum to review every aspect of the Common Core standards and make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on testing standards by January 31, 2016;
  • Reforming the Board of Regents and the State Education Department to make both more accountable to students, teachers and the public;
  • Providing increased funding for professional development;
  • Eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA);
  • Reducing the over-reliance on student testing; and
  • Reasserting that an Individualized Education Program is the supreme document for the education of a child with special needs.

Gov. Cuomo proposes to use teacher evaluations as a way to measure students’ performances on standardized testing and to have the state take over the schools that are not up to par. These policy proposals show his profound lack of understanding of the educational needs of New York’s children.
 
There is much more we can do with the resources we have to push for real reform. With another round of high-stakes testing approaching as well as the state budget deadline, now is the time to put politics aside and our children’s needs first. It is my sincere hope that we can get serious about fixing our flawed education system.
 
What do you think?  I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

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