State education commissioner, in first speech, emphasizes collaboration
New York state’s new education commissioner, in her first address since beginning the job just over one week ago, told the rural schools association meeting in Cooperstown, that she intends to be more inclusive to teachers.
Mary Ellen Elia, a western New York native and former teacher who most recently oversaw a large school district in Florida, steps into the education commissioner role at a time when teachers are angry over new evaluations that rely more heavily on standardized tests and with parents are disillusioned over the new Common Core standards and the related exams that their children have to take.
Elia says her style will be “collaborative,” and she says she will work with the teachers and their union to seek their input designing the tests. The tests will be administered by a new company, Questar, after the state severed its ties with another company after criticism about the process .
“I’m going to work very hard to have teachers be part of the agenda to support students,” Elia says. “That will go a long way for teachers to feel like they have a voice in what’s happening.”
Elia also says schools may be granted waivers to delay new teacher evaluations for another year if they demonstrate that they are working with their teachers unions towards designing new reviews. The Board of Regents gave schools an out to begin the new evaluations in 2016 after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in the state budget, successfully sought new teacher reviews to begin this fall.
“If they show that there is good progress being made or that there’s strong attempt to make progress then they’ll be in a strong position to access a waiver,” Elia said.
Cuomo has said he hopes the waivers are granted as exceptions and not the rule.