Cuomo dives into debate on Common Core standards

On Board Online • January 27, 2014

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo used the unconventional forum of his annual budget presentation to wade into the debate over bumpy implementation of Common Core educational standards and related reforms.

“I support the Common Core agenda,” he said, “but the way that Common Core has been managed by the Board of Regents is flawed. There is too much uncertainty, confusion and anxiety.”

The governor promised to appoint a panel of education experts and state legislators to formulate “corrective actions” that could be passed before the legislative session ends in June.

“Let’s end the anxiety that the parents and teachers and students are feeling all across the state,” he said.

Channeling some of the concern he said he has heard from parents, Cuomo decried standardized testing of children in kindergarten and grades 1 and 2, though the state does not conduct such tests and the Regents have a longstanding policy against it.

“We need testing to measure performance in the classroom but too much testing can hurt not help,” Cuomo said. “There is no reason why a school district should make a five year old take standardized tests.”

Some school districts have implemented local testing of those youngest students in efforts to comply with requirements of the state’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) evaluation program for educators.

Yet, Cuomo affirmed his support for APPR, which relies in part on standardized test results for rating many teachers and principals. Cuomo helped broker the deal that established the APPR system. He also applied pressure that spurred local school districts to complete APPR agreements by linking delivery of state aid to approval of district evaluation plans.

Following the budget address, Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. and Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch issued a statement expressing agreement with the governor’s endorsement of Common Core. The statement noted that the Regents also have their own member task force at work examining implementation and is making some adjustments in testing practices linked to the standards.

“We are open to other thoughtful adjustments,” they said. “We remain fully committed to the Common Core, but we welcome constructive refinement to implementation to help meet that goal.”

Cuomo’s decision to talk about the Common Core was surprising, because he did not mention the issue during his State of the State speech, a more traditional forum for addressing policy issues. His decision to appoint a new panel examining Common Core implementation comes on  the heels of a report from the Education Commission he appointed two years ago, which declined to weigh in, citing a failure to reach consensus (see story).

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