Charles L. Robbins, vice provost for undergraduate education and co-chair of the Self-Study Committee.
Charles L. Robbins, vice provost for undergraduate education and co-chair of the Self-Study Committee. (NINA LIN / THE STATESMAN)

A panel of education experts and Long Island superintendents condemned the reform agenda of the New York State Board of Regents—the body responsible for supervising state education—at an event held at Stony Brook’s Wang Center on March 13, reflecting widespread criticism of the board’s initiatives.

“There’s just so much controversy over what is happening in our schools today,” Charles L. Robbins, the vice provost for undergraduate education at Stony Brook, said. “But at the same time, there is little more that is important than ensuring that every child receive the highest quality education as possible.”

Central to the panel’s critique was that Regents Reform Agenda focuses too much on technical measures, like implementing higher testing standards and data analysis, rather than investing in the professional development of teachers.

Two of the panel members, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves, co-wrote the book “Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School,” which champions teaching as a technically demanding profession that requires collaboration and insightful decision-making.

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To many administrators and teachers, this idea runs contrary to recent reforms in New York schools, which required schools to meet Common Core standards by 2017 and would incorporate those standards into teacher evaluations.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a set of benchmarks for college and workforce readiness sponsored by the National Governors Association.

The standards, developed in 2009, are used in more than 40 states and are more rigorous than most prior standards.

However, a New York Senate Education Committee report released last December revealed serious concerns from parents, teachers and administrators that the standards were being implemented too quickly and without the proper preparation.

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In February, the Regents Board pushed requiring progress on the standards back five years. Though Governor Andrew Cuomo opposed the change, it received widespread support from legislators and educators.

Still, many think raising testing standards is a fundamentally flawed approach.

“It seems logical that having rigorous standards would lead to better performance, but there is no evidence to show that,” Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School and a member of the panel that spoke a the Wang Center, said.

In 2012, the United States ranked 26th in math, 21st in science and 17th in reading in the Program for International Student Assessment, which compares the test scores of 15-year-old students in 65 countries.

The results are complex, and enviromental factors like disparities in socio-economic status play into the rankings.

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Despite national efforts such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, U.S. performance has remained relatively constant over the past 10 years.

No one has a definitive answer to improve U.S. education, but it remains a priority for state and national policy makers.

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