Common Core pressure to intensify on Board of Regents
ALBANY—A subcomittee of the state's Board of Regents will present a report on Monday that includes recommendations for how to address problems associated with the state's tougher new curriculum guidelines.
The board's action comes shortly after the legislature set its own course for the new standards.
In a rare show of unity on a controversial issue, leaders of both the State Senate and Assembly last week advocated a two-year moratorium that would decouple Common Core-aligned test scores with teacher evaluations and student-placement decisions. Lawmakers are “chomping at the bit” to address their constituents' outrage and anxiety over the standards, and the Regents are caught in the crossfire.
Members of the Senate and Assembly, Democrats and Republicans, packed an interview room in the state Capitol last week to interview potential Regents, grilling applicants for four contested seats about their positions on the Common Core, testing, evaluations and other contentious education issues. Incumbent Regents likely won't have the easy re-election they're accustomed to, a political reality that raises the stakes for the group's report due Monday.
“We have been remarkably clear that there will be some mid-course corrections,” Senate Education Committee chair John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, said Wednesday after his conference released a statement on the proposed moratorium. “Implementation has been woeful and replete with mistakes. I said it very clearly on a number of different [occasions]: If they didn't act, and act aggressively, we would act on their behalf. Today we tightened the belt a little bit more and reiterated: Do your job, or we're going to end up doing it for you.”
Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch and education commissioner John King have opposed delaying implementation of the standards, but King has said one change state officials are considering is pushing back when students would need to pass Common Core-aligned Regents exam for graduation. Under the state's current plan, the graduating class of 2017 would be the first to risk not graduating if they don't succeed on the tougher exams.
“We're still committed to ensuring that we move forward in implementing the standards,” King said Thursday after testifying at a higher education budget hearing. “One of the things the Regents work group is looking at is, are there adjustments we might make to the phase-in of our graduation requirements? And the tension is, you want to strike a balance between a thoughtful pace of implementation and the very real reality that there are students today sitting in remedial courses because their preparation at the high school level was inadequate.”
There are a variety of proposals for how to delay implementation on the standards, which is not as simple as it sounds. Schools have already begun teaching, and students testing, based on the tougher material, and the test scores are being used to evaluate teachers and principals.
It's the evaluation system, as well as processes used for determining student placement and promotion, that lawmakers are targeting. And while the decision for New York to adopt the Common Core, like 44 other states, belonged to the Regents, the change in the evaluation law is up to lawmakers—if they get approval from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
But that's unlikely. Cuomo championed the evaluation system and often touts it as an example of his administration's ability to get results where progress has long been stalled by bureaucracy and politics. He faces a tough dilemma in an election year: Blocking lawmakers' push for a moratorium would be unpopular, but allowing them to move forward would take the teeth out of a law that he has presented as one of his crowning achievements.
Cuomo stayed out of the Common Core fight for as long as he could, but pledged during his budget address last month that he would form his own panel to examine implementation problems. Reacting to lawmakers, he called the moratorium push “premature” and quickly assembled his committee, which will be chaired by IBM executive and P-TECH creator Stanley Litow.
The group will follow the Regents and lawmakers in outlining an action plan to fix implementation, with an end-of-session deadline. Some lawmakers have said that's too late.
In a statement Friday announcing the members of his panel, Cuomo urged them to work “speedily.”