From the Desk: Changes needed in how Regents selected

State Assemblyman Ed Ra

If you’ve read or watched the news in the past few weeks, you’ve seen the mixed response to the changes in school curriculum and the discussion as to whether or not these changes are actually helping to prepare our children for the future. Despite a lack of true dialogue over how to best implement these new standards, they were implemented in a rushed manner, causing an abrupt change in the way our children are taught. 

This massive overhaul is happening despite the fact that there is no plan for gauging the efficacy of these changes or creating stronger accountability to ensure children are receiving the quality education they need.

Last week, I spoke on the Assembly floor in favor of Assembly bill 5048, which changes how the state’s Board of Regents, the body responsible for designing and implementing the curriculum for schools, is selected. 

If enacted, the selection process would allow for the public to vet the candidates being nominated, create greater transparency and allow for a discourse on whether the initiatives supported by these potential board members would result in new unfunded mandates. While many of our current Regents are highly qualified and experienced in education, public dialogue on nominations and discussion of the new initiatives the board proposes will ensure consideration commensurate with the gravity of their responsibilities.

One such initiative adopted by the Board of Regents was the Common Core curriculum, making the content taught by schools more uniform statewide. 

Along with this came a new round of standardized tests to assess the success of teachers and students. These new tests and standards have not come cheaply; they have proven to be costly to teachers, who have to teach to a test at the expense of innovation; students, who now have the added stress of their school successes pinned to their performance on an exam and to homeowners, who foot the bill for implementing these exams and standards through both their state and local tax dollars.

We’ve added all these new tests and standards, but not a process to gauge how these tests are being used or to see if our students are losing out on precious classroom resources due to how much these tests cost in time and money. In the meantime, our children are forced to cope with the thought that their performance on these tests will determine their entire academic future. 

This is unfair to our teachers, who have to completely overhaul their planning for the year, and unfair to our students, who feel discouraged if they perform poorly on an exam. 

That is why I am co-sponsoring Assembly bill 6593, which ensures that the results of the tests taken by kindergarteners through second graders are used for assessment and diagnostic purposes only, not as an item that determines whether or not they complete their grade level. 

I am also supporting Assembly bill 6594, calling for a statewide review of standardized testing to see whether or not these exams impinge upon our schools’ abilities to provide the resources and tools our children need to receive a quality education.

It is imperative that the money spent on education is used effectively and that our homeowners aren’t overburdened with expensive, ineffective tests and standards. 

While we work to raise achievement in lower-performing schools, we must also reward the ones meeting these high standards. For those schools, which include many of our local schools, we must provide them and their taxpayers relief from Albany’s exorbitantly high mandates and federal mandates like Race to the Top, which incentivized the adoption of the Common Core. 

We also must always remember that when it comes to the future of our schools, we cannot overburden our teachers with costly and unwieldy measures that stop them from doing what they do best: helping our children become the successful leaders of tomorrow.

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State Assemblyman Ed Ra

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