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Education

New state education commissioner visits former school district

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Eileen Buckley
/
WBFO News File Photo
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia meets with parents in western New York.

New York Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia has only been on the job for four days and she’s already visiting her old stomping grounds.

Elia visited the Sweet Home School District in Amherst in western New York Thursday morning. Elia taught social studies there for 16 years  in the 1970s and 198os.

Elia spoke with the school board, teachers, administrators, parents and reporters about public education.

"Common Core is something that should be reviewed. We will do that in the state of New York," said NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. "We have to make sure those assessments are appropriate and used to support students and teachers."

Elia is already talking about how she hopes to tackle some of the key issues facing state education, including the annual teacher evaluations, opt-outs and testing. She said she wants to gather more information about the state’s testing.

“And do an analysis," Elia said. “How many assessments are given and who’s mandating those assessments and do they have to be given that way and can they be embedded in instruction? Which is really the more productive way to really find if kids are moving forward.”

Elia said the Common Core Learning Standards must be reviewed to create effectiveness for students and teachers. Elia noted that she is in favor in higher standards. 

"Common Core is something that should be reviewed. We will do that in the state of New York," said Elia. "We have to make sure those assessments are appropriate and used to support students and teachers."

Other issues facing state education stem from testing, including the state’s high opt-out rates last spring, something that Elia hopes to solve.

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Credit Eileen Buckley / WBFO News
New York state Education Commissioner Elia has been on the job for just four days.

“The opt-out issue has been very problematic. It isn’t a good thing for anybody,” Elia said. “I think we have to figure out how to change that whole dynamic.”

The commissioner was pressed about what her plans are for dealing with the many issues, but Elia admitted it is only her fourth day on the job and she hasn't met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo yet.  

Elia stressed the importance of parent engagement -- saying parents can be very powerful.   But Elia promises to be a voice for education matters across the state.

Along with teaching at Sweet Home, Elia has western New York roots, having attended Daemen College, the University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State. She is the first woman to lead the state's Education Department.