RCP: New York Is 'Ground Zero' in Common Core Debate

RCP: New York Is 'Ground Zero' in Common Core Debate

Real Clear Politics (RCP) has referred to New York State as “Ground Zero” in the national debate about Common Core, and it is an apt title given the vociferous battles among all the key players–the governor, the State Board of Regents, the state education commissioner, the teachers’ unions, the rank-and-file teachers, and the parents.

As Emmeline Zhao at RCP wrote Sunday, while the Board of Regents approved a set of recommendations that included a five-year delay of a provision that required high school students to pass more difficult exams for graduation, its decision to postpone until April a proposed change to teacher evaluations has created the latest firestorm.

Under the evaluation proposal, teachers at risk for termination could appeal their dismissal by blaming the “implementation” of the Common Core standards.

At the heart of this proposal is a political attempt on the part of Common Core supporters, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), John King, the state’s education commissioner, and the teachers’ unions, to publicly separate the Common Core “standards” from their “implementation.” Many states, both Republican and Democrat-led, state boards of education, and teachers’ unions support the Common Core “standards,” but are trying to either “rebrand” them by giving them a name with more local and appealing flavor, or repeating the narrative that only Common Core’s “implementation” has been problematic, while the standards themselves are worthwhile.

In the case of the Regents’ teacher evaluation proposal, critics have said the idea is superficial because New York State law already allows teachers to appeal a dismissal if the district failed to properly implement an existing teacher evaluation system. Others argue that the proposal would create a vague new standard that would render the new evaluation policy meaningless.

As reported by Breitbart News on February 11, the Regents’ original proposal delayed the impact of the Common Core assessments until 2022 on both students and teachers. The Board received harsh criticism from Cuomo, however, regarding yet another delay to the state’s teacher evaluation system.

As RCP notes, Cuomo, a potential presidential candidate, believes his state’s new teacher evaluation system to be a signature reform. Slowing the new system down, or allowing teachers to use the Common Core standards as a defense against a poor performance rating, is not consistent with the Governor’s goals.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has commissioned his own panel to make recommendations for improving the plan’s implementation. However, as RCP observes, “Insiders say the commission is both an attempt to generate ideas as well as a strategy to buy time and defuse the situation until the state teachers union holds its internal leadership election.”

New York State Allies For Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of parent and educator groups, says about the Regents’ proposal, “The report is quite clear that the Regents continue to ignore the deep flaws in the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS), excessive high stakes state testing and student data sharing.”