Fast and Furious – Keeping Up with Changes at NYSED

The New York State Education Department (NYSED), like many other states educational agencies, is undergoing massive restructuring due to the Race to the Top (RTTT) funding initiative. There are many arguments to be made about whether the RTTT program is worth it or just another national political toy. It does not matter which side one falls on – the reality is that there are many changes that are coming down to New York schools beginning this fall.

The amount of information, and the resulting changes, are coming out incredibly fast from NYSED. Law passed last year require NYSED to implement many new programs this fall, including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and a new evaluation program for teachers and principals. As I have been trying to maintain a handle on what is going on, my personal recommendation for those trying to get their heads around what is going on in NYSED boils down to 2 items:

  1. Take approximately 2 hours to watch the presentation, “Bringing the Common Core to Life,” by David Coleman, a chief architect of the Common Core State Standards.
  2. Read the news updates from NYSED Race to the Top page. You can subscribe to the news updates via a listserv or RSS feed if you like.

Two hours to watch a presentation? Yes that is a long time to recommend you take, but it is worth it. David Coleman is a key player in the CCSS. He is a compelling speaker, and when you listen to him, he really does bring the standards to life. He gives examples of what the CCSS will do differently and better. He takes time to provide one specific example in ELA (Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail) and and one in Mathematics (6th grade fractions). He then extrapolates those specific examples to demonstrate how the CCSS promote deeper learning on less topics, which is a different direction than current New York State Standards.

What watching his presentation has done for me is provide a framework for understanding the CCSS, and how they complement, and then improve on, what we already do. He acknowledges that New York does great work already, but that by shifting the focus, and depth, we can do better. He very eloquently describes how all subjects (Science, History, Technical Subjects the Arts, etc.) play a key role in the CCSS. His presentation is very motivational in investigating the CCSS more deeply.

The news updates that come from the NYSED RTTT page are an easy way to keep up with decisions and issues the State is dealing with right now. For example, a memo from John King, Senior Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education, was released last week. In it he includes the updated time line for implementation of the CCSS, and asks for model lessons from teachers, with guidelines for submission that are correlated to the new standards. Reading this memo alone, and the accompanying documents, shed a lot of light on where the State is at in terms of the RTTT implementation. The time line for implementation is aggressive. NYSED appears to be pushing for all teachers to introduce CCSS lessons next year, and not just grade 4-8 teachers of ELA and Mathematics.

As I read the news updates, I find it prompting me to keep up with what is going on with the state education governing body, the Board of Regents. Each month, the Board meets for 2 days to govern education policy. Each meeting covers an incredible amount of topics with far reaching scope. The meeting this month on May 16th and 17th deal with multiple topics related to the RTTT initiative (also known as the Regents Reform Agenda) and consideration for revising graduation requirements for high school students.

It is hard to feel the impact of actions at NYSED and the Board of Regents in day-to-day work, but what is going on now at the state level is going to be felt directly by everyone in the very near future.