“Thanks for the feedback!” NYSED to NYS Educators

Edited on November 23 to add the NYSAPE Common Core Survey. 

For years, likely since the first day the website went up, there has been a “Teacher Participation Opportunities” link on the New York State Education Department’s Office of State Assessment (OSA) website.

Following the link leads to a series of options available to NY teachers to participate in a variety of test design and assessment writing activities. These activities typically require sub coverage and travel to Albany, a 9-hour round trip and an overnight stay for those in the Southern Tier. Some are “once and done” work in which the teachers go to Albany, engage in a particular task, get a nice thank you letter, and not know what will become of their work until the test is published or the scores released. Some are extended projects in which teachers return multiple times to Albany or continue the work back at home. The biggest challenges of this approach to getting teacher feedback:
  •  teachers have to volunteer or be nominated,
  • SED can filter who they bring to do the work, and
  • the proceedings aren’t public.

This novel idea of involving NYS teachers in the design of the NYS tests and exams isn’t new. Teachers in 1891 were asked their opinion on the exams.

At least as early as 1891, blanks for suggestions and criticisms “relative to the character and scope of the examinations” were shipped with each set of examination papers. These comments are tabulated and studied carefully.

So basically, teachers have been involved in the writing of the NYS tests and exams since pretty much the beginning. Opinions about if it’s the *right* kind of feedback, if the *right* teachers are giving feedback, and what that feedback looks like in the modern era vary.
The feedback process around standards isn’t nearly as long. The formal presence of standards didn’t start until the 90’s. Any NYS teacher of a certain age remembers the booklets with the 1996 standards, printed on really thin paper with different colored covers. Inside the front cover of each book was a list of the teachers who participated in their construction and anchoring. This is from the LOTE standards, the only ones that haven’t been updated since 1996.
When the time came to update the standards following the change in NYS law in 2007, Albany came to the field. In April 2008, I was at the Western NY forum and used this new thing called Twitter to share out what was happening. It’s interesting to note that many of the things I tweeted, the things the teachers in the room were asking for, are a part of the Common Core design. But I digress.
Shortly after the forums concluded, the committee wrote up their findings and began working on what are now called the “lost” standards by some advocates. I prefer the moniker the “paused” standards as NY stopped that work in order to be a part of a new initiative to create multi-state standards. “Common” standards, as it were. NYSED provides a timeline of those decisions here. Opinions about why New York made that decision, if the “paused” standards are better or worse than the CCSS, and what it means to have 50 states with 50 sets of standards area vary.
Which brings us to 2015 and NYS is again seeking out teacher feedback.
  1. Want to comment on each specific Common Core Learning Standard? Commissioner Elia wants to know if the standard is acceptable, if it should be moved, changed, or re-worded.
  2. Want to comment on the CCLS, tests, or APPR in general? Governor Cuomo and his task force are all ears. (It remains to be seen, though, how discrepancies between Elia’s survey and Cuomo’s task force will be resolved.)
  3. Want to comment on the latest draft of the Science standards? The Science department at NYSED will open a survey on December 2. Draft standards are available now.
  4. Want to comment on the proposed changes to the NYS Social Studies Regents? The look, design, and structure of the exams are open for feedback.
  5. Want to be a part of writing NYS tests, assessments, and exams? The offer from them still stands. (Be sure to check dates though, some have closed for now.)
  6. NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) created their own survey which touches upon testing, APPR, and the CCLS standards. It’s unclear how these data will be used.
In addition, updates from SED frequently appear on the agenda for events like Middle-Level Liaisons, DATAG,  Social Studies conferences, etc. It’s a safe assumption that those SED personnel are talking to the teacher- and administrator-leaders of those organizations. So let it not be said NYSED in 2015 doesn’t want your opinion.
But as we know, that’s only step 1.

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