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Regent: NY making progress on fixing Common Core problems

Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island on the

Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island on the state Board of Regents, speaks on educational issues at Elwood Middle School in Elwood on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

A veteran Long Island policymaker said Thursday that the state is making progress in its efforts to fix educational problems revolving around Common Core academic standards and testing, including the administration of controversial new high school math exams in algebra and geometry.

Roger Tilles of Great Neck, now in his 12th year representing the region on the state Board of Regents, told Elwood teachers that he would press for review of the Common Core math exams at the board’s Sept. 12-13 meeting.

Local school representatives have questioned the validity of a “scaled” scoring system that adjusts students’ marks on math exams and other assessments from year to year, depending on the difficulty level of questions.

Under that system, students who took an algebra exam in August, for example, only needed to correctly answer 27 test items out of a total of 86 to earn a passing score of 65.

Some educators have pointed to these numbers as evidence that revamped test questions based on national Common Core standards, rather than older state standards, are either too difficult or structurally flawed.

“So we need to address that problem, and I believe we will address it in the next two weeks,” Tilles told about 300 teachers, administrators and other staffers meeting at Elwood Middle School.

The Elwood educators were among many across Long Island attending local “Superintendent’s Conference Day” training sessions.

A spokesman for the state Education Department, Jonathan Burman, later declined to confirm that the math-exam issue would be addressed during this month’s Regents conference.

“The agenda for September’s board meeting has not been finalized,” Burman said.

In Elwood, school employees applauded Tilles several times as he ticked off steps recently taken by the state in an effort to ease public concern over Common Core standards and testing.

The biggest step was taken in December when the Regents, encouraged by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his advisers, voted to delay until 2019-20 a requirement that teachers’ job performance be evaluated each year, based largely on student test scores.

The moratorium was prompted by massive test boycotts by parents, many of whom said the evaluation system put too much pressure on students and teachers alike.

Joseph Pushee, president of Elwood’s 200-member teacher union, said Thursday that his constituents heartily approved of the state’s decision to “take a step back.”

Tilles also noted that state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is due by next month to announce revisions in the Common Core standards — changes the Long Island Regent referred to as “tweaks.”

A parent boycott leader, Jeanette Deutermann of North Bellmore, said later that members of that movement would not be impressed by minor changes in the standards.

“We keep hearing ‘Tweak, tweak, tweak”, but everything we hear from the experts is that tweaks aren’t going to do the job,” Deutermann said. “We need to see substantial changes before parents start acting differently toward the assessments.”

Deutermann is a founder of Long Island Opt Out and New York State Allies for Public Education, a statewide umbrella group.

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