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In report, AQE cites progress in Albany — and room for growth

The state should be applauded for its recent investments in prekindergarten and community schools, according to an Alliance for Quality Education report released today.

But the lobbying group said New York still has a lot of work to do when it comes to issues such as expanded learning time, reducing school suspensions, and offering high-quality training for teachers.

In a “college and career readiness report card,” AQE also dinged the state for not reducing the per-pupil funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts, a pet issue for the lobbying group, which frequently partners with the state teachers union.

“Unless there is a substantial change in education policy, these negatives will keep being negatives,” said AQE Executive Director Billy Easton.

AQE also gave the state an “incomplete” for “providing quality teaching initiatives.” It cites the state’s new teacher evaluation rules as an improvement because they require help for teachers who are struggling but noted that the evaluations rely heavily on test scores and could do more to promote teacher improvement.

“Nobody knows yet how the new teacher evaluation system will pan out,” Easton said.

Although community schools are also in an experimental phase, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo only beginning to offer competitive grants to support the model, that initiative earned a plus since it is a “research proven strategy,” he said.

Jonathan Burman, spokesman for the State Education Department, said to answer the AQE report’s question “Are we there yet?” the answer is of course not. But he said the state has made significant progress.

“We just completed the first year of an effort to transform an enormous system. There are many obstacles to changing the status quo,” Burman said. “But we are well on our way and this is not the time to slow down or turn back. Every year that goes by increases the urgency to improve our schools. The full impact of the reforms will take time, but we’re moving forward, and we’re in this for the long haul.”

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for New York City’s Department of Education, highlighted the city’s increased graduation rates, narrowed achievement gap, and strong curriculum in response to the report. “As always, we have more work to do, but we’ve taken what was once a broken school system and turned it into a national model for reform,” he said.

Easton said that AQE plans to get reactions and feedback from teachers, parents, and administrators about the report and then hold an education summit in the fall when it will develop an education agenda for the state to implement.

The report is embedded below.