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New York’s Common Core review begins with a survey and a new name

A new day in the court of public opinion awaits New York’s Common Core standards.

New Yorkers wishing to register their complaints or praise for the Common Core can now do so through an online survey launched on Wednesday. The 2,000-question form allows respondents to weigh in on every one of the Common Core’s math and English standards, spanning pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade.

The survey’s launch marks the start of a long-awaited review, which is required by a new state law. It also comes after years of criticism about how the standards, meant to make teaching more rigorous, were introduced into classrooms across the state.

“This is a chance for anyone interested in our students’ education, especially those who are closest to our schools, to give real, substantive feedback on the standards,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in a statement.

The structure of the survey makes clear that the state is not looking to collect broad critiques of the Common Core. Participants have to pick if they want to keep, eliminate or change a specific standard for each question, and may explain their vote in an open-ended comment box. Even the name of the review process, “AIMHighNY,” seems designed to underscore officials’ desire to keep the standards from being watered down.

The survey will end Nov. 30 and the results will be analyzed by a group of educators that will be chosen by the State Education Department. Officials said final recommendations will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose office is planning its own review.

New York is one of nearly 20 states that has begun some type of review since adopting the Common Core in 2011. Along with 45 other states and the District of Columbia, New York backed the national movement in response to the vast gap between the number of students graduating from high school and the number of students unprepared to succeed at college coursework.

Criticism of the standards has ranged from conservative concerns about a government overreach to liberal concerns about how the changes will affect students and teachers in low-income schools. A unifying gripe is that the standards contributed to an overemphasis on standardized testing, a complaint bolstered by the state’s introduction of the new standards, new state tests, and new teacher evaluations in quick succession.

Elia, who started as commissioner in July, has vowed to be more open to feedback from teachers and parents than her predecessor John King. The survey is a first step, she said Wednesday.

“I firmly support high learning standards for all students, but I realize that our current set of standards isn’t perfect,” Elia said. “Together we can make them stronger.”

The survey is designed so that respondents don’t have to opine on every standard. They can search for a specific standard or browse based on grade or subject.

Once a standard is selected, respondents are presented with five choices. They can “agree” with how the standard has been written or respond that it should be discarded, rewritten, moved to a different grade level, or broken up into multiple standards. There is also a box for open-ended feedback.

Similar types of surveys administered in other states have yielded mixed feedback and resulted in some small changes.

In Tennessee, more than 2,000 people logged 130,000 reviews of specific standards during its review process, with just over half endorsing no changes. A subsequent committee opted to keep most of the English standards, but has recommended adding or rephrasing to offer better clarity and guidance to teachers.

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