More fiction and a math glossary: NY proposes to overhaul Common Core standards

Sep 21, 2016 by

By Julie McMahon –

ALBANY, N.Y. — More fiction books and a glossary of mathematics terms.

Those are two major changes New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is proposing as part of an overhaul of the state’s Common Core standards. The state is proposing changes, small and large, to more than half of the existing standards.

Standards are the set of criteria for what a student should know at a given grade level. Teachers base their curriculum on them, and state tests are used to determine whether students are reaching them.

New York state adopted new “Common Core” learning standards in 2010. The Common Core refers to standards developed by a multi-state coalition, with the goal of increasing rigor for students across the country. The new standards were met with criticism once the standardized assessments were changed to reflect them.

The state set out to consider a revision to the standards in response to criticism and the high opt-out rate in New York state. About 20 percent of parents refused to allow their child to take the tests last year.

Over the last year, Elia convened 130 educators and parents to serve on committees that drafted changes. Elia said the proposed changes still emphasize rigor, a value she said was important to the parents and teachers she has spoken to during her 14 months as head of the education department.

The committees recommended changes to 60 percent of the English language arts standards and 55 percent of the mathematics standards.

Elia said the changes fall on a spectrum. Some are minor tweaks like using different language to provide clarification, or explain how the material in one grade relates to the next. Elia pointed to a new emphasis on balancing fiction and non-fiction texts as one of the larger changes, along with a couple of standards that were either dropped or added.

Here’s a breakdown of the proposed changes:

English language arts


  • More balance between fiction and non-fiction texts, short and long-form, with the idea of encouraging students to read for pleasure.


  • More developmentally appropriate standards for children in second grade or younger. The commissioner said she was also having an expert and a task force on early childhood learning review these standards that the committee came up with.


  • More consideration of English language learners and students with disabilities.


  • More organized writing standards, which in many cases means added new writing standards, or expanding them to additional grades. For example, students in 5th grade are now explicitly asked to use keyboard skills to produce their own writing, and show they know how to write a conclusion to a piece of opinion writing.




  • A new glossary of commonly-used math verbs for each grade.


  • More connections and continuity across grade levels, and better explanations for how one grade’s standards related to the next.


  • More focused, streamlined standards. For example, order of operations — knowing how to do multiplication and division first when solving a multi-step problem — is now introduced in 4th grade. It’s a skill used frequently thereafter.


The drafted standards are now up for public comment through Nov. 4. In a conference call with reporters, Elia encouraged parents, teachers and other stakeholders to comment on the proposal. Comments can be submitted online.

Simone Thornton, a teacher at the Onondaga Nation School who volunteered on the committee, said in a video release by the education department that now was the time for parents especially to have their voices heard.

“They need to review this. Because this is our opportunity,” she said. “Now it’s in the hands of the public to have their voice heard as well.”

The Board of Regents, made up of appointed officials from around the state, will vote on whether to adopt the new standards after the public comment period ends. New standards would not affect tests until the 2018-19 school year, but roll-out and training for teachers would start as early as next year.

Source: More fiction and a math glossary: NY proposes to overhaul Common Core standards |

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