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Legislative leaders call for delay in Common Core standards

James F Clay

The leaders of the New York state legislature are urging the state Board of Regents to delay the effects of the new federal Common Core standards for at least another two years.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is asking the state Board of Regents and the state Education Department to slow down their rapid adoption of the Common Core standards. Currently, the results of student scores on the new high stakes testing will be used to evaluate teachers this year, but Silver says that should be delayed for another two years.

In the meantime, the speaker says, the state Education Department needs to work harder on its backlog of curriculum materials to help teachers adapt to the changes.  

“Common Core may be beneficial,” Silver said. “But you can’t thrust it upon students, upon faculty and administrators.”

The request, made by Silver and the chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, marks a change in the speaker’s position. Up until now, Silver had said he wanted to wait until the Regents issued its own report, at the end of February.

The Speaker says his members are hearing from their constituents about unease over the botched implementation of the Common Core .

“There is growing concern about it,” Silver said.   

The speaker’s actions are significant because Assembly Democrats essentially choose the state Board of Regents members. Regents are chosen by a majority vote of both houses of the legislature, and Assembly Democrats have the largest numerical faction. The Regents then pick the education commissioner.

Shortly after the Speaker’s announcement, the co-leaders of the state Senate also called for a moratorium of at least two years on the effects of the Common Core. Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos says the implementation of Common Core learning standards have been “poorly executed.” And he says if the Regents won’t act to put the brakes on, the Senate will.

“They should do a moratorium or we will then do what we have to do legislatively,” Skelos said.  

The Senate GOP leader says action could even be taken in the upcoming state budget.

And Skelos says Assembly Democrats are more to blame for the troubled roll out of Common Core because they have more power to choose the Regents members.

“The speaker has appointed all the Board of Regents over the years,” Skelos said. “So their mishandling it is his problem.”

Billy Easton, with the pro-education funding group Alliance for Quality Education, says the legislative leaders’ call for a slower approach is a good first step, but it would be better if the legislature followed through with a law to delay Common Core.

“The state education department has put the testing in front of the curriculum,” Easton said. “And that’s backwards.”  

In a statement, Regents Chancellor Merrill Tisch and Education Commissioner John King were noncommittal. They say a specially appointed Regents task force will report back on February 10, and present a series of possible options to make “thoughtful adjustments” to the Common Core implementation.  

Late in the day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in. The governor, in a statement, says he’s chosen a panel to look at the “flawed” Common Core implementation, and would rather wait for its results than to sign on to a moratorium.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.