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Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. Photo: <a href="">ChalkbeatNY</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. Photo: ChalkbeatNY, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Lots of cooks in the Common Core kitchen

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Controversy continues over implementation of the new federal Common Core standards in New York.

Last week the Democrat-led state Assembly passed a bill that would delay parts of the Common Core standards, including using Common Core testing to evaluate teachers and pass or fail students. The Assembly defeated a proposed amendment from Republicans that would have suspended Common Core entirely in the state.

Meanwhile, a special subcommittee of the state Board of Regents is working on ways to help schools with the standards' implementation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed a panel to review the rollout of the standards, and he's released a new ad saying Common Core "is heading in the right direction," but that basing testing on it is premature.

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Reported by

Ashley Hirtzel
Reporter, The Innovation Trail

“We need to get this right for students, parents, teachers and principals. We cannot walk away from the basic tenancy of this reform and anything that is done to water this down quite frankly stands the real risk of denying students in this state the opportunity that we are all fighting for them to have,” said Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, talking about the importance of education reform on the public radio program The Capitol Pressroom.

Tisch says everyone must work together in order to offer students the best education possible. But, in order to move forward with Common Core many say changes must be made.

“For the state to give standardized tests, which many people think are developmentally inappropriate, put all sorts of pressure on kids, don’t measure creativity, critical thinking, and all the things we think are important. That’s what the problem is; the problem is the testing of our kids, not so much the evaluation.”

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore says the State Education Department must make changes to their standardized tests before moving forward. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin of Clarence agrees with the union leader, saying, “One of the biggest promotions we have in this report is taking a good hard look at all the testing that all students are having and making sure we’re not over testing them,”

Corwin says Republican Assembly members recently issued a report that comes up with solutions to issues with Common Core. The findings are titled "At the Educational Crossroads – A Report on Education Reform Efforts in NYS." Corwin says their changes include restoring school funding, involving teachers in curriculum development and giving parents a choice when it comes to data sharing.

“…allowing parents the ability to make the decision whether or not their student’s data would be made available to a third party. There are a lot of concerns with Common Core with all of the data collection, Corwin says. "It’s all being filtered up to the federal level that some of that student data is being used inappropriately. So, we want to make sure parents have the ability to make the decision not to do that,”

Amherst Central Schools Superintendent Laura Chabe suggests the state invest in professional development for educators. She thinks it will help ease the Common Core implementation process, and says, “I think that the face that State Education Department has come out and recognized, that is wonderful. So now I’m hopeful that perhaps our legislators and our governmental agencies will recognize that not only does that take time, but it’s costly,”

Governor Andrew Cuomo says parents, teachers and students deserve the best education reform that includes Common Core and teacher evaluations, but they also need a rational, well administered system. He’s appointed a panel of education experts, businesspeople, and lawmakers to investigate the rollout of the learning standards.

The governor says, “Let’s get recommendations for corrective action by the end of this session. Let’s pass a package of corrective actions by the end of this session and let’s end the anxiety that the parents, teachers, and students are feeling all across this state,”

Regent’s Chancellor Merryl Tisch says a subcommittee of the state Board of Regents will continue to come up with ways to help with the implementation of the learning standards. She believes the information the subcommittee provides will help the governor’s panel.

“I don’t see the Regent’s subcommittee or the governor’s panel as competing entities," Tisch says. "I see the Regent’s subcommittee’s report as a tool which will help the governor and the legislature find a productive and purposeful path for moving forward,”

However, Congressman Brian Higgins feels a solution to the “rushed” rollout of Common Core is delaying implementation of the standards for two years.

“I think the delay that’s being sought is justified," Higgins says, "because you can’t implement a comprehensive reform without being prepared to do it as effectively and as efficiently as possible toward achieving the objective. All you have now is parents that are frustrated, students that are frustrated, and teachers that are frustrated as well.”

But, New York State Education Commissioner John King says a delay would stop progress districts are experiencing with Common Core. He says there may be disagreements about implementation and the teacher evaluation law, but the Common Core standards themselves are beneficial to students.

“So there are adjustments that we’re making," King says, "and we'll continue to make those adjustments, but we’re committed to the Common Core, because we know that it’s a path to having more of our students prepared for college and career success. Frankly, all the education stakeholders across the country and New York remain committed to the Common Core,”

But, Republican Congressman Chris Collins says he feels the state needs to admit Common Core is a failure.

“I think we need to just go back and take the federal government out of mandates telling teachers how to educate our kids," Collins says. "I frankly don’t think the state should play much of a role, but under states rights, them more so than the federal government. We should go back to teachers and school boards making the decision on how best to educate the kids in that particular school district, and they’ll always do what’s best for the kids,”

Collins wants the Common Core ended immediately.

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