Assembly approves a Common Core delay

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Steven McLaughlin: "The Titanic had a better rollout than the Common Core." (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—After five hours of debate, the State Assembly passed its bill to delay some aspects of Common Core on Wednesday night by a vote of 117-10, after first defeating a Republican amendment that would have withdrawn New York from the standards altogether.

Among other provisions, the bill removes Common Core-aligned test scores from teacher and principal evaluations for two years and prohibits the state Education Department from sharing student information with third-party vendors for one year.

Assembly Education Committee chair Catherine Nolan, a Queens Democrat, defended the bill against criticisms that the data-privacy measure would affect districts' ability to collect and use routine data, like for bus schedules.

Nolan said the bill is only intended to keep the education department from uploading student information into a statewide cloud, and she said department officials reached out to school leaders to "spook" them with fears that the legislation would do otherwise.

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"The state education department is not shy about having their counsel weigh in on legislation," Nolan said. "It was particularly shocking to me that they would choose to not share that with us during the gestation process, and when I walked into that superintendent meeting yesterday, a lot of people had been spooked.

"If we need to do an amendment to clarify even further to reassure people, I'm happy to put that chapter amendment on the floor," Nolan added.

Department leaders did not respond to a request for comment. Education commissioner John King and Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch released a statement on Monday that argued the bill would "jeopardize day-to-day operations" at schools.

Nolan's Democratic conference also beat back a proposed amendment from Republican assemblymembers, who "pleaded" with their colleagues in the majority to consider withdrawing from using the Common Core standards at least until there has been time to review them.

"We stop it for now, we fix it," said Assemblyman Al Graf, a Long Island Republican who has been outspoken against the Common Core and related testing. "If we can't fix it, we scrap it."

Arguing for the amendment, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, a Republican from the Capital Region, said: "The Titanic had a better rollout than the Common Core."

The amendment was defeated 43-80.

The bill does not have a Senate sponsor. Senator John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who chairs that chamber's education committee, said his conference would not support the bill as is, but there will likely be a compromise on several of the bill's components.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, though, has denounced changes to the teacher- and principal-evaluation system, which he championed.

Cuomo has formed his own panel to examine implementation of the tougher math and English standards. The group, which met for the second time Wednesday, is set to provide recommendations by the end of the legislative session.

But lawmakers don't want to wait.

The state's rollout of the Common Core has become one of the dominating issues of the session, prompted mainly by angry parents and teachers. In an election year, leaders are listening and pushing for improvements.

Many lawmakers who spoke on the bill said they disagreed with some aspects of it but would vote for it anyway.

"It doesn't cover everything, but at least it gets us in a direction toward some reform,” said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat from Buffalo.