New York Makes Tweaks to Common Core State Standards

Published November 14, 2016

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) released a draft of its proposed changes for the state’s Common Core State Standards and asked the public to review and comment on the plan. reports most of the changes seem “relatively small.”

“In some cases wording was tweaked; in others, an existing standard was made more specific,” reports

Two committees constituting a total of approximately 130 parents and educators prepared the draft recommendations over the course of a year. NYSED released the proposed changes in September and gave the public until November 4 to provide feedback. Newsday reported in September the changes “are largely a response to massive test boycotts statewide that have included more than half of all Long Island students in grades three through eight eligible to take the exams.

“Parent leaders of the testing opt-out movement—which set national records, with about 20 percent of students statewide in grades three through eight refusing to take state exams—voiced skepticism that the department’s proposed changes would have much effect in softening opposition to standardized testing,” Newsday reported.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia told reporters during the release of the proposed changes the draft revisions would affect 60 percent of the state’s English language arts standards and 55 percent of the math standards. Elia also suggested the standards would be renamed.

NYSED reportedly will consider the changes to the standards in early 2017, implement them, if approved, during the 2017–18 school year, and test students with new assessments based on the changes to the standards beginning in the 2018–19 school year. 

Tests ‘Distract’ from Standards

Yvonne Gasperino, cofounder of Stop Common Core in New York State, says NYSED is using the testing opt-out issue as a red herring.

“Focusing on the tests diverts the attention away from the standards themselves,” Gasperino said. “Long Island may be ground zero for test refusals, but parents statewide have been sounding the alarm about these standards since they were brought in during a stealth-like black-ops tactic several years ago by NYSED, [the Education Committee], and the [NYSED Board of Regents], along with the union heads backing up the efforts.”

‘Change the Toxic Name’

Kyle Olson, founder and CEO of Education Action Group, a nonprofit organization that promotes education reform, says NYSED is trying to trick people with its proposed changes.

“Let’s be clear: Changing the name and ‘tweaks’ in wording are just changing the lipstick color on the pig,” Olson said. “The cynical bureaucrats know if they just change the toxic name, they can go out and say ‘Common Core’ doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a combination of cynical bureaucrats and a large majority of parents not being tuned in to these issues to understand what the bureaucracy is doing.”

Glenn Dalgleish, another cofounder of Stop Common Core in New York State, says NYSED is trying to wear down the opposition.

“Renaming the standards is their first step in their plan to try and deceive New York State parents yet again,” Dalgleish said. “Refusing tests will very soon be dated, and parents will grow weary after years of refusing with not a lot to show for it. NYSED is hoping that this token effort of wordsmithing, rather than making meaningful changes, will quickly slow down the Stop Common Core movement.”

Business Groups ‘Motivated’

Gasperino and Olson say the influence of organized labor and business organizations in education, such as High Achievement New York, a group that has run ads in favor of Common Core and composed primarily of business leaders based in Manhattan, goes a long way toward keeping the standards in place.

“The eyes of parents throughout New York State have been wide open for a long time about these untested standards, but we don’t have big business and union money to back us up while fighting this,” Gasperino said. “Big business has partnered with federal and state governments for selfish reasons, currying favors with them, and in return they get a tailor-made workforce.”

“Kids knowing Plato or Socrates doesn’t do much for businesses seeking computer techs,” said Olson. “Just as unions are motivated to minimize accountability for their members, business groups have their own motivations too. It’s important to understand that as policy is being made.”

Olson says it important also to understand when the government directs education, it will favor entities other than parents and students.

“This gets back to the fundamental questions: Who should be in charge of education, and what is its purpose?” Olson said. “When the government is calling the shots, it will make decisions in the best interest of the collective, the bureaucracy, donors, and any combination thereof.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.