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Teachers Cautiously Optimistic Over Cuomo's New Common Core Commission

Sep 29, 2015

Teachers say they hope Governor Cuomo’s newly appointed education commission will fix problems with the controversial Common Core learning standards. But they say a lot has to change, including the unpopular tests associated with the standards.  

Cuomo named his new panel in a web video.

The Task Force will include educators, teachers, parents, officials from the State Education Department and the teacher’s unions,” Cuomo said in the pre recorded message.

While it might not seem surprising that several teachers and their union representatives are on the panel, it’s significant because the governor has been feuding with teachers for months. He’s called them part of a broken education bureaucracy, and in exchange teachers have held large protests against Cuomo’s policies. The governor’s standing in the polls has slipped.

The Vice President of New York State United Teachers, Andy Pallotta says he’s “thrilled” that teachers are included on the commission. He says he hopes the panel  represents a “reset” on what many believe is a “broken” system.  Dissatisfaction with Common Core and its related  tests has led to one fifth of students boycotting the third through eighth grade math and English exams last spring.

“They feel that this Common Core roll out has been a disaster, and everything stemming from it has been a disaster,” said Pallotta, who said the union is encouraged by the development.

“We’re hopeful, but the proof is in the pudding ,” he said.

The governor in New York does not directly control education policy, but earlier this year Cuomo inserted into the state budget the requirement that new teacher evaluations be more dependent on standardized tests. The legislature reluctantly went along with the provision. That development in part helped fuel the test opt out movement.

Billy Easton, with the pro school funding group Alliance for Quality Education, says he doesn’t think the boycotts will end and the controversy will subside until the teacher reviews are less dependent on the tests.

“The reaction is against the quantity of testing, but also against how the tests are used in ways that pervert the educational process,” Easton said.

He says the commission should also look at changing a new requirement that 144 struggling schools in danger of state receivership be judged by their students’ test scores and whether or not they opt out of the tests.

Easton says the commission is an  opportunity for the governor to “change the course” .

The state education commissioner, Mary Ellen Elia, has also been named to the panel. Elia, in a statement, says she’s happy to work with the commission, but she says she and the State Board of Regents have already begun reviewing Common Core and will soon begin a statewide survey that will give teachers, and parents the opportunity to comment on what’s wrong with the standards and how to fix them. And she says she’s already taken steps to shorten the tests.   

Cuomo is hoping to have recommendations from the panel by the end of the year that that he can propose in the 2016 session.