Critics of the way the state has rolled out new learning standards in schools got high-placed help from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this week when he called the implementation “flawed.”
Cuomo, in his budget address, made his most critical statements to date on the way the state has managed the new Common Core State Standards as he called for a panel of educators and lawmakers to examine the issue.
But some concerned about the impact of the state’s efforts to reform education say they don’t want a new panel to duplicate a series of forums and public hearings held over the last few months in which educators, parents and community leaders already aired their concerns.
“In some respects, it’s laudable that the governor is concerned about the implementation of Common Core and wants to bring folks together to take a look at that in New York State,” said Allison Duwe, a parent and School Board member in the Springville-Griffith Institute School District. “However, I think it ignores the work that’s been done over the last year.”
Cuomo’s criticism of the state’s handling of the Common Core rollout came after months of protests by parents and educators who are concerned that the state has rushed the new state-by-state learning standards into classrooms while instruction guides and other materials were still coming online.
In his budget address, the governor reiterated his support for the “Common Core agenda” but said he plans to assemble a panel of education experts and members of the Legislature to make “recommendations for corrective action” that could be passed by the Legislature before its session ends in June.
“The way the Common Core has been managed by the Board of Regents is flawed,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “There is too much uncertainty, confusion and anxiety. Parents, students and teachers need the best education reforms, which include Common Core and teacher evaluations, but they also need a rational system that is well-administered.”
Cuomo also called on the new panel to look at eliminating standardized testing for all students in kindergarten through second grade but fell short of saying that the panel would look at broader concerns about standardized tests in higher grades. The state currently does not require any standardized tests for students below third grade, although some local school districts use them to assess students.
State Sen. John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, called Cuomo’s comments on Common Core a “marked difference.”
“It was the first time I can recall him taking that strong a public position on Common Core standards,” Flanagan told The Buffalo News on Wednesday.
Flanagan’s committee last year held a series of public hearings on the state’s education reform efforts and crafted its own series of recommendations, including addressing missing or incomplete curriculum materials provided by the state and increasing funding for the professional development of teachers.
“There’s a wealth of good information out there right now that should be embraced,” Flanagan said. “You want to debate it, you want to negotiate it, but I don’t see any reason to wait until the end of the session. Parents, especially, and students expect that we’re going to do something right now.”
Flanagan’s committee also has put forward several bills, including one that would ban standardized tests for students in second grade or below and another that would require an independent evaluation of tests tied to the Common Core standards.
The state Department of Education in 2010 voted to adopt the Common Core standards, which are a set of nationwide guidelines for what students should learn in each grade level. State education officials say the new standards are aimed at better preparing students for college and careers, but critics worry that the state has implemented the standards and new state tests before school districts, teachers and students have had time to prepare.
Critics of the state’s efforts to reform education also have raised concern about the impact of standardized tests that are now tied to school funding and teacher evaluations.
The state Board of Regents in December set up its own working group to examine the implementation of the Common Core standards and to make recommendations following a series of hearings State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. held across the state. King on Wednesday told The News he and the Board of Regents will continue to make adjustments and will look forward to working with the governor and his panel.
But King said the Regents, a body that Cuomo criticized for overseeing a “flawed’’ process in rolling out the Common Core program, had recommended a number of suggestions to the governor for his budget plan, including $125 million for programs to train teachers and increase parental involvement. He noted Cuomo included no money for such an approach.
Asked about the governor’s critical rhetoric aimed at the Regents and Education Department, King said, “I think the most important message he stressed was his strong support for the Common Core standards. Implementing this program with 700 school districts in the state we knew was always going to require adjustments along the way.’’
While Cuomo took on new territory when he touched on the Common Core standards in his budget address, details about who would be appointed to the panel and how effective it would be in persuading the Board of Regents to implement its recommendations remain scarce.
“The question will be, No. 1, who’s going to be on the panel and, No. 2, will this panel have any kind of authority or will they be advisory in nature? There are not a lot of details right now,” Williamsville Superintendent Scott Martzloff said. “I would hope that the governor would consider having the panel consist largely of educators.”
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