Changes to the Common Core Still Needed

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
The implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards was easily the most talked about issue in K-12 education this year. The Common Core is an initiative adopted by most states, including New York, that, in theory, is supposed to set new educational standards that will ensure all students are on track for college and career readiness.

While on paper this seems like a good idea, the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards in New York has been anything but ideal.

From the start, parents, teachers and school administrators have expressed strong concern: (i) over the way the new learning standards are being implemented; (ii) the content of the common core standards; and (iii) the expectations put on teachers and students to teach and to learn these new standards.

In light of the outcry, several hearings were held around the state in 2013 by various groups including the State Senate, the Assembly Republicans and the State Board of Regents.  I participated in a number of these hearings and, after hearing testimony, became convinced that a moratorium should be placed on the implementation of Common Core until a comprehensive review is completed by an independent commission.

Indeed, I cosponsored legislation to do just this but unfortunately when it came to a vote, the Democratic majority in the Assembly blocked this effort.

Nevertheless, public outrage over the Common Core has grown so large that even strong proponents of the Common Core like Governor Cuomo and State Education Commissioner John King have supported some pull back on its implementation.

Some of the pull back has been done by the Board of Regents and some has been done through the legislative process.

One of the most noteworthy actions was the Board of Regents voting to delay the requirement that students pass Common Core-aligned Regents examinations until the Class of 2022.  As a result,  today’s fourth graders will be the first class to be required to pass these exams at the higher levels.

Another noteworthy action was, as part of this year’s budget, the legislature and the Governor agreed to pull out of inBloom, the controversial data-storing technology billed as a way to make things easier for school districts.

Specifically, the legislature prohibited the State Education Department from distributing any personally identifiable student information to third-party data dashboards.

There were too many questions as to how this data would be used and how it might violate student privacy.  I supported this initiative and after New York pulled out, inBloom announced it was shutting down in April.

Also in this year’s budget, the legislature and the Governor agreed to further chip away at Common Core by agreeing to:

• Prohibit standardized testing for students in pre-K through second grade;

• Prohibit English language arts and math state assessment scores from being placed on a student’s transcript;

• Provide alternative testing for special education students, subject to the receipt of a federal waiver; and

• Further enhance protections for personally identifiable student information and create penalties for breach of student and teacher data.

Finally, during the last week of session, one last change was made to the Common Core.

Legislation that I cosponsored passed both the Assembly and the Senate that would, in a number of cases, delay tying student performance to teacher evaluations.  While we want accountability, it is also unfair to judge teachers on their effectiveness on teaching new standards that have had such a flawed roll out.

Unfortunately, this legislation has not become law yet because the legislation has yet to be delivered to or signed by the Governor.

More work needs to be done in regard to Common Core.

I think all policymakers and those involve in education support higher standards for our students.

However, trying to provide a “one size fits all” education system has proved challenging.

Simply put, more time is needed to evaluate: the Common Core standards themselves, our teachers’ effectiveness teaching the Common Core, and, most importantly, our children’s ability to learn what they need to learn in order to lead successful and fulfilling lives.

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