King: State to adjust, not delay, Common Core
Updated 9:23 p.m.
This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: The school Sherry Tomasky's oldest child attends was misidentified. Her child attends Pashley Elementary School in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District.
ALBANY – State Education Commissioner John King said he would make adjustments to the state’s controversial Common Core standards, but would not delay the program’s implementation.
King addressed a long list of state senators’ concerns about Common Core during a Senate Education Committee meeting in Albany on Thursday.
“The Common Core, as a set of standards, is something that is widely agreed upon,” King said. “Good things are happening in terms of Common Core instruction.”
Common Core is a set of testing standards for kindergarten through 12th grade students. The standards work to ensure high school graduates are prepared to enter college and the workforce.
Senators argued Common Core involves a large amount of rigorous testing and that it’s unfair to evaluate teachers based on student performance because many school districts don’t have the resources to provide a curriculum to meet those standards.
King and the state Education Department have faced widespread criticism from parents and educators statewide on the implementation of Common Core. The standards will kick in for students graduating in 2017, King said.
Tricia Kaiser Farmer, who has a fifth-grader and a ninth-grader in Burnt Hills schools and is a member of BH-BL and Capital District Parents Concerned Over Common Core, said both of her sons did well on last year’s standardized test. She said she isn’t concerned about the scores, but with the rollout of the standards.
“What worries me is that everybody has been discussing the implementation of the standards as a disaster,” Farmer said, “and it has been. We know that. Some school districts will struggle with this, and that should not happen.”
Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, said schools are frustrated about Common Core because the state has been underfunding education for years, forcing districts to cut programs.
“We all agree on the goal that we want kids ready for college and careers,” Tkaczyk said. “But how do we get them there? People are saying they don’t have the time or resources to implement this effectively.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014-15 state budget proposes an $807 million increase in education aid for the 2014-15 school year. That’s 3.8 percent more compared to the current budget. But the Board of Regents recommended a $1.3 billion increase, and education advocates called for $1.9 billion.
King agreed high-needs school districts need more funding from the state.
“We have to get more support to schools, because it has been uneven,” he said.
During the meeting, senators also said teachers need more time to adjust their curriculums for the standards and argued teacher evaluations based on Common Core should be delayed.
“Hit that pause button so that we can take the time to get it right,” said state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford. “There is a lot of work to be done, which is why I think we do need to step back and take the time.”
New York State United Teachers, a union with more than 600,000 members, is calling for a three-year moratorium on Common Core. NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi said adjustments should not be made as the standards continue to move forward.
“Parents and educators are saying that the implementation was so flawed that we need to stop and we need to look at everything to find out if there is a way to do it right,” Iannuzzi said.
Sherry Tomasky, whose oldest child is in second grade at Pashley Elementary School in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District, said she doesn’t disapprove of Common Core and believes her children could benefit from the testing standards.
“I don’t disagree with any of the goals or the methods in which they arrived with the Common Core standards,” Tomasky said. “My daughter started school with the rollout of the Common Core, so I believe she will adapt well to it because it is all she knows. But I can’t say the same for other parents with older children.”
King stressed the standards are separate from testing. He said the relationship between student performance and teacher evaluation is just a part of multiple measures in the evaluation system.
“To the extent that what folks are asking for is to delay evaluation of educators, I think that would be a mistake,” King said.
The meeting comes two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget address, where he said he plans to create a panel that would recommend changes to the Common Core.
“Common Core is an issue which has had a lot of dialogue, and I think we all agree that we need real standards for our students,” Cuomo said during the address. “I support the Common Core agenda, but the way it has been managed by the Board of Regents has been flawed.”
Iannuzzi said he believes Cuomo’s panel is a step in the right direction, but delaying implementation of Common Core is the only way to fix it.
“There is a stronger argument to be made that the potential to do the Common Core right could occur quicker if we paused it than if we try to make minor adjustments,” he said.
King said the Education Department has already made some adjustments and would work with Cuomo to “get it right.”