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OpinionEditorial

High stakes for New York’s students and new chancellor

Regent Betty Rosa during a meeting last month

Regent Betty Rosa during a meeting last month at the state Education Department in Albany. Rosa was named chancellor of the state Board of Regents on Monday, March 21, 2016. Credit: Hans Pennink

There’s a lot to be hopeful about with the election of New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, and a lot to fear, too.

Rosa, a former special education teacher and district superintendent, knows teaching and policy. The Regent for the Bronx, she particularly understands the effect that poorly performing schools can have on students, and the challenges educators and children face.

The hope is that she and newly elected Vice Chancellor Andrew Brown of Rochester can help calm the extreme turbulence that has shaken education in the past few years. The rollout of Common Core was a disaster, teachers rebelled against an evaluation system linking student test scores to teacher performance, and the tests themselves were attacked. The conflict led 200,000 New York students, 70,000 of them on Long Island, to opt out of testing in spring 2015.

Unfortunately, in Rosa’s first news conference as chancellor on Monday, she threw gas on the fire rather than quelling it, saying of the tests, “If I was a parent and not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out at this time.” Later she said she wants to strengthen parent trust in a revamped testing system, which is a more hopeful and helpful tone.

The tests need to be meaningful, but they have to be taken. Teacher evaluations need to be as fair as possible, but they have to be based on how well students learn. Not doing so allows substandard teachers to continue on, often in our most challenged schools. The teacher evaluation system that includes test scores is in a four-year moratorium, but activists and legislators are fighting to get it struck down completely.

Rosa’s challenge is to restore peace while bringing all sides together to provide quality education for all students. That’s something everyone claims to want, but no one has been able to achieve.

— The editorial board

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