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Revised NY learning standards weaker in reading, writing, groups say

New York State’s recent attempts to revise academic standards for elementary and secondary education appear to weaken or muddy major requirements in reading and writing, according to pro-standards groups at the national and state levels.

Achieve, based in Washington, D.C., and High Achievement New York, based in New York City, separately reiterated support of the state’s overall standards on Monday while expressing concern about specific changes. The draft requirements, formerly known as Common Core standards, were renamed the Next Generation Learning Standards by the state Board of Regents last month.

In Albany, meanwhile, state Education Department officials said the Regents’ final vote on the standards, originally scheduled for next week, has been postponed. A new date has not been set, one department staffer said, adding that the delay would allow time to review the many public comments submitted to the agency.

A major concern of pro-standards forces is the department’s decision, revealed last month, to eliminate or merge so-called “anchor” standards in English Language Arts. Such guidelines set broad expectations for students as they move toward graduation from high school.

The changes introduced in May reduced the number of anchor standards from 34 to 28.

One reading standard chopped from the list had required students to “read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.” Another guideline that originally required students to compare at least two different texts covering similar themes was changed to simply require analysis and evaluation of texts, without setting a specific number of texts to be studied.

“We are especially concerned with how the anchor standards can maintain their rigor despite the elimination of some standards and several changes to language that appears to weaken the intent,” High Achievement New York representatives said in a statement Monday.

The nonprofit advocacy organization is supported by chambers of commerce and other business groups, along with some civil rights, parent and civic groups.

Achieve officials zeroed in on the state’s decision to drop the expectation that students draw on at least two different texts in preparing an analysis.

“The new wording is too broad; it is unclear what students are expected to do,” the national group wrote in a four-page statement submitted to the state Education Department. Newsday obtained a copy.

Achieve, a nonprofit that is supported by foundations, works closely with the National Governors Association, which released the original Common Core standards in 2010. Forty-two states adopted those academic benchmarks for use in their public schools, but a growing number, including New York and New Jersey, recently made revisions.

Both Achieve and High Achievement New York commended the state for insisting that students read challenging texts. State education officials picked up on that theme Monday, saying the revised standards continue to make clear the high quality of texts required at each grade level.

“These new standards recognize the importance of preparing New York’s children for success in life and provide the foundation needed to get there,” Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in a statement.

Elia’s agency, in the public comments received on the Next Generation guidelines, has taken a battering from both proponents and opponents of Common Core standards.

Jeanette Deutermann, a North Bellmore parent and organizer of the regional movement for boycotts of state standardized tests, said Monday that many parents remain convinced the standards, as revised, require too much academic work of children in the earliest grades.

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