Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he dumped plans calling for tough consequences for failing school districts in part because of the controversies surrounding the statewide implementation of Common Core education standards.
“Common Core sort of overwhelmed everything this year,” the governor said Monday in a meeting with the Buffalo News Editorial Board. “Common Core is sort of consuming a lot of oxygen in the education space, more than you might think because it’s what the legislators are hearing about back home.”
Back in August, Cuomo had said chronically underperforming school districts like Buffalo should face some sort of “death penalty” because “we can’t allow these failing schools to continue.” But in his State of the State address, he switched gears, focusing instead on teacher evaluations and the expansion of pre-kindergarten services.
Despite problems with the Common Core rollout, Cuomo stressed the need to push ahead with teacher evaluations partially based on student performance on standardized tests based on Common Core.
The governor said at a media briefing Monday that he still supports the adoption of national Common Core standards but understands the implementation was “traumatic” for many.
“Children who would get grades in the 90s now would come home with grades that were in the 60s,” he said. “The parents weren’t properly briefed; the students weren’t properly briefed. The consequences of what those lower grades might mean wasn’t adequately handled.”
Even so, Cuomo told The News Editorial Board that he strongly disagrees with the notion that a slowdown in implementing Common Core should also mean a slowdown in teacher evaluations.
Last year was the first year that teachers across the state were subject to evaluations, with 20 percent of most teachers’ scores based on student performance on state standardized tests. Those tests measured learning of the Common Core standards, which many teachers argued they weren’t adequately prepared to teach.
Cuomo said it was no secret that the standardized tests would be framed on the Common Core standards.
“This year, the teacher’s union says, ‘Whoa, the Common Core has been a problem,’ ” he said.
In response to complaints about the curriculum rollout, Cuomo convened a special panel earlier this month to make recommendations about how to correct the “flawed” implementation of the standards.
High school students were originally supposed to meet higher Common Core graduation requirements by 2017, but the state Board of Regents recently agreed to delay the implementation of those higher standards to 2022. Cuomo said he’s interested to hear what the new panel thinks of this five-year delay.
“Is that the right amount of time, and what happens to teacher evaluations in the meantime?” he said. “I have no opinion on this until the panel reports because truly, I do not understand it. It gets very complicated very fast.”
He acknowledged, however, that he would be upset if teacher evaluations do not continue to move forward as originally planned. He has already criticized the Board of Regents for considering a two-year proposal that would allow teachers facing the loss of their jobs because of poor evaluations to argue that they were not adequately equipped to teach Common Core.
He called any attempts to weaken or slow statewide teacher evaluation requirements “a real tragedy.”
“The teacher evaluations are probably the main education reform in a situation like you have in Buffalo,” he said. “What have you accomplished in the last three years? What? Where’s the progress? At least if you put in a teacher evaluation system, you’d have some metric of something.”