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NY state gathers public input on new educational standards plan

Ellen Abbott
NY State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia at a recent forum in Syracuse.

New York state is in the midst of getting public input for its version of the Every Student Succeeds Act. That federal legislation, also known as ESSA, is what is following the No Child Left Behind law. The state is conducting 13 public hearings to get feedback on a proposal that lets states have more leeway as they develop education priorities.

Among other things, New York’s draft ESSA plan takes some of the emphasis on math and English language arts and spreads it to science and social studies. That makes social studies teachers kuje Nick Stamoulacatos happy.

"It’s a field that’s often too marginalized across not only New York state, but across the United States as a whole. We do have a crisis in our nation. It’s known as the civic achievement gap, and it needs to be addressed,” Stamoulacatos said.

At a recent hearing in Syracuse, Stamoulacatos said high school graduates often lack of knowledge regarding civics and citizenship, and this emphasis on social studies can change that.

Also testifying at the Syracuse hearing, advocates for school librarians. Barbara Stripling, president of the New York Library Association, believes every school should a certified librarian. She says it’s important now more than ever that children have the tools to discern information.

"Kids will become victims of information of what they read, and they think it’s true. Unless someone is teaching them how do you making meaning from that information and is this authentic,” Stripling said.

The New York State Education Department will take all oral and written comments into account through June 16 before crafting a final document. And State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says officials want to know what parents teachers and administrators think about the plan.

“It won’t be sitting on a shelf. It’ll actually be used as we say whether schools are moving forward, are doing things they’re supposed to be doing to support our students. And this is an opportunity to look at the ways we determine whether schools are successful or not, and give us feedback on it,” Elia said.

The state’s final plan will be presented to the federal government in September.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.