The state Board of Regents discusses regulations during a meeting...

The state Board of Regents discusses regulations during a meeting at the Education Department in Albany on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. Credit: Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Two hefty state blueprints spelling out what public school students on Long Island and statewide should learn in the future and how districts can help them succeed won unanimous consent Monday from the state Board of Regents.

The twin packages cover a range of issues vital to teachers, students and parents in Nassau and Suffolk counties, including the rigor of classroom lessons, student test participation and high school graduation rates.

Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia stressed three points about the guidelines: The state will be flexible in enforcing and revising new standards; districts will be given ample time to prepare; and direction of the twin initiatives will be largely decentralized.

“It needs to be driven by the local,” Elia told the policymaking panel, to which she reports.

One 200-page set of guidelines, approved by the full 17-member board, details how New York State will carry out provisions of a new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. The measure replaces the No Child Left Behind law and provides more flexibility to states.

Among scores of other provisions, the law requires states to develop steps to ensure that at least 95 percent of students in each district and school participate in state tests. That’s a particular challenge for the Island, where tens of thousands of students in grades three through eight have boycotted the English Language Arts and math exams in recent years.

The Regents-approved plan would require any district where student test participation falls below 95 percent to draft a plan aimed at raising those numbers. Local districts failing to meet those goals could face intervention by regional BOCES superintendents, acting as representatives of the state Education Department.

Robert Dillon, superintendent of Nassau BOCES, who attended the Regents meeting, stressed that such efforts would be largely local. Two other BOCES districts serve Suffolk County.

“I believe the opt-out issue is a local matter that needs to be addressed at that level,” Dillon said.

He added that his agency could serve as a resource by providing information on state exams to districts and parents, training for teachers and analysis of test results.

The state’s ESSA plan now goes to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the federal Education Department for final approval. Such action is expected early next year after federal officials have a chance to review the plan and possibly order revisions.

Sixteen states already have submitted plans to Washington. Connecticut and New Jersey are among states with plans approved. Thirty-four states, including New York, must send in their plans by a deadline next Monday.

Another package the Regents adopted unanimously Monday comprises the Next Generation Learning Standards — a set of approximately 1,040 learning guidelines in English and another 450 in math. These serve as broad outlines for classroom lessons from preschool through 12th grade.

The revised standards are due to take effect in the 2020-21 school year.

Technically, Monday’s vote on standards was by a Regents committee. However, that committee includes all 17 board members, so final approval by the full panel on Tuesday is a formality.

The Next Generation guidelines represent a revised version of Common Core academic standards, which were released by the National Governors Association in 2010 and subsequently adopted by most states, including New York.

The Common Core standards, though widely respected by academic and business leaders, were rapidly incorporated into tests and teacher job evaluations that grew increasingly unpopular with parents. Parent leaders of the test-boycott movement on the Island — the largest of its type in the nation — recently declared that they remain dissatisfied with the revamped standards and will continue pulling children out of state tests until Elia and her staff in the state Education Department make further changes.

One parent leader, Lisa Rudley, who lives in Westchester County, said late Monday that her group is reviewing the state’s latest changes in standards for children in the earliest grades, which have been a particular point of controversy.

“They do seem to be improvements, but they need further analysis,” she said.

She is a founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of parents and educators critical of state policies.

New York initiatives to meet federal education law

  • Take specific steps to encourage more student participation on state tests.
  • Boost high school graduation rates.
  • Promote high school students’ access to Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and other college-level studies.
  • Heighten effort to rate schools using criteria that go beyond percentages of students scoring at proficiency on state tests. This would include student absentee/attendance and improvement or “growth” in tests, whether or not students reach proficiency.

— John Hildebrand

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