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Students in math class. Photo: woodleywonderworks, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.
Students in math class. Photo: woodleywonderworks, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Lawmakers differ over Common Core fix

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There's continued dissatisfaction over the state's implementation of the new Common Core standards, which parents, students and teachers have complained has led to too much testing. And legislators disagree on how to fix it.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent
The fast tracking of the new national Common Core standards set off a near rebellion last fall as parents, teachers and students voiced their concerns at often raucous meetings with state education officials. They complained that teachers had not had enough time or support to prepare adequately. They also said the rapid adoption of a new teacher evaluation system led to excessive testing of students.
Some, including the teachers union, are looking to the legislature to provide a fix.
New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi says lawmakers should approve a moratorium that would allow three more years for schools to fully adopt the Common Core standards and the accompanying tests.   
“We have been attempting to deal with the implementation process and have been unsuccessful,” Iannuzzi said.  He added that the moratorium would give educators a chance to  “step back and really get it right.”
The teachers union has won some support in the State Senate. At least two Senate Republicans, who rule the Senate in a coalition government, support delaying the impact of Common Core for another three years. The Senate Education Chair John Flanagan has proposed several bills, including a ban of testing of children in the second grade and younger, and a reduction of testing used to evaluate teachers. Those bills advanced in the Senate Education committee during the first days of the session.         
In the Assembly, Speaker Sheldon Silver agrees that the Common core is going too fast.
“I think there needs to be a slower implementation,” said Silver said, who said teachers need more training.
But Silver says he prefers to leave it to the state Board of Regents and the Education Chancellor Meryl Tisch to resolve the problems. Chancellor Tisch has formed a Regents subcommittee that will report back at the end of February.
“I await their determination,” said Silver. “I think it’s something that belongs in the purview of the Regents.”
The State Board of Regents sets policy for schools and chooses the education commissioner. The Regents are selected in a vote by both houses of the legislature each year. But since Assembly Democrats have the largest numerical faction, they have the most influence on Regents appointments. Silver is also a close ally of Chancellor Tisch.
The Speaker says he’ll consider legislation after the Regents issue their report if the Regents believe it’s necessary.
Governor Cuomo, who has no direct influence over the state education department, initially supported fast-tracking Common Core. More recently he’s said legislation might be needed. Cuomo gave only passing reference to the issue in his State of the State message and a commission that he appointed on education policy issued a report that stayed off the subject altogether.
Tensions have risen so high that the teacher’s union plans to hold a vote of no confidence in the Regent’s chosen education commissioner, John King. NYSUT President Iannuzzi says King has not taken the concerns seriously enough.
“You get to the point where you have no confidence in his ability to lead us in the right direction,” Iannuzzi said.
But so far, no one else has been willing to take that tact. Speaker Silver, saying he has “confidence” in Commissioner King, adds that it’s “not about unions, this is about the children.”

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