The Education Commissioner Comes to White Plains, Impresses: Reports Questions, Answers, Answer Justifications of 2014 Assessments Will Be Issued to NY School Districts In August. Says Educators More Positive About 2014 Test Experience

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Education Commissioner John King, standing far right, passionately explaining how the SED is taking fresh initiatives to help NY’s teachers teach the Common Core effectively and make it work. The scene: 701 Westchester Avenue, the BNY Mellon Board Room, White Plains, NY, USA

WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS. By John F. Bailey. June 11, 2014:

Actual Questions with answers and justifications of the answers that appeared in the 2014 New York State Assessments will be delivered to School Districts in August, the State Commissioner of Education told WPCNR Wednesday.

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John King: proactive and passionate Wednesday morning about the need to sell the need for Common Core skills to the public.

Commissioner of Education for the State of New York John King delivered a request to the Business Council of Westchester Wednesday morning: He sought the business community help — for business leaders and community leaders to spread the word that the successful implementation of Common Core standards is needed to prepare NY children and turn out graduates with the skills the NY workplace needs.

He said districts needed to focus on what they are spending their budgets on to devote more funds they have to tuning Common Core teaching methods, commending  performances of school districts in Virginia and Maryland as  prudent spending models.

He spent a very cordial hour with the Business Council and experienced none of the rancor he received on his tours of school districts last year. He demonstrated a more involved and hands-on, “we’re going to fix this” attitude and expressed the confidence that as students become more familiar with Common Core-instilled skills, and the assessment test process the students  will improve test performance. He detailed one way the state is doing this:

He said the state is preparing videos of successful classrooms in action teaching the Common Core where school populations have been successful on the recent state tests and those videos will be sent to Principals to assist in preparing teachers to teach the Common Core standards successfully.

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Meeting the Press: Mr. King spent a good 30 minutes with the media covering his White Plains stop. That’s Jerry McKinstry at left, and Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of the Business Council with Commissioner King.

In a post-meeting session for the media, I  asked Mr. King when copies of partial questions appearing on this year’s state assessment tests recently completed (demanded by teachers and advocated by the state legislator two months ago with the passing of the budget. King said a representative portion of actual questions (complete with answers and justifications for the answers from the 2014 ELA and Math assessments) would be furnished school districts across the state in August with 2014 state assessment results.

I asked him if these questions would be in time for districts to make curriculum results. He said, that did not matter because if the district is teaching the Common Core standards effectively, the students should have no problem with this year’s new tests:

“More test preparation doesn’t really work. You have to raise instruction levels to better outcomes.”

He said drilling on test questions was just teaching to the test, and that the legislature has limited the amount of time teachers can spend on giving students sample tests in the coming year.

Asked if Pearson the worldwide education publisher that prepares the assessments, had been given new suggestions and objectives how to formulate the 2015 assessments based on the test analysis so far, King said the Department of Education has not completed its analysis of the test results or drawn conclusions about the quality, effectivess and difficult of the questions.

When the SED analyses of how students responded to questions  were complete the SED impressions of what presumably caused wrong answers would be shared with the Pearson assessment test creators to incorporate in design of  2015 assessment test preparation.

He did not say whether the Stated Education Department would be seeking direct comment from teachers and principals and curriculum coordinators and passing them on — but he did indicate to me the SED is paying attention to comments about the test.

King said strides have been made this year on the 2014  assessments.

The state eliminated two  reading booklets used  for testing passages on the English Language Arts exam , which teachers said lead to confusion and frustration and in 2014 students had only one book to refer to. King said the tests were shortened. He told me in the news conference that commentary from educators on the 2014 tests indicated students handled the exams better and were not as stressed out.

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John Ravitz, Executive Vice President and COO of the Business Council, explaining the skilled worker problem-solving gap the Westchester Business community has been experiencing the last 10 years.

John Ravitz, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Business Council of Westchester told WPCNR in the news session with reporters that “everywhere” he goes business about Westchester County are concerned that new entrants into the workforce do not have the technical and problem-solving skills to analyze and make linear progressions of reasoning to orchestrate a project to completion, what he called the ability to take an assignment from “A-to-B-to-C-to-D.”

He was supportive of the Common Core for its objective to incorporate reading, writing and technical understanding. Asked if today’s I-Phone, Facebook, Instagram, connected twenty-something’s weren’t technically business ready, Ravitz told me, “They are very proficient technically when they operate amusements, but they do not possess an ability  to create a functional process that creates an answer or answers to a problem.”

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