Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, citing a growing parent boycott of Common Core testing, called Thursday for a sweeping review of the state's academic standards and exams -- the second such reconsideration in less than two years.
The governor, in listing his concerns, noticeably omitted a highly controversial state policy that links students' test scores to evaluations of teachers and principals. Cuomo has been a strong proponent of such job ratings, while leaders of the test opt-out movement have urged their elimination.
Members of Cuomo's staff did not respond when asked if evaluations are on the table.
Cuomo said he would ask a group of academic experts, including the state's new education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, to make recommendations for policy changes in the coming months. He pledged to address the issue in his State of the State address in January.
"We must have standards for New York's students, but those standards will only work if people -- especially parents -- have faith in them and in their ability to educate our children," Cuomo said in a news release. "The current Common Core program does not do that. It must."
Many educational and political leaders welcomed the governor's call to rethink the state's current tests, which many consider too lengthy. But leaders of a statewide opt-out movement said that resistance is unlikely to abate until state leaders revisit the issue of job ratings, known as Annual Professional Performance Reviews, or APPRs, tied to test scores.
"I think his failure to mention APPR means he's missing the main problem," said Diane Ravitch, a New York University education historian and a senior adviser to the movement. "Common Core is not the problem. APPR is the core of the problem. The parents are angry, because the tests are invalid and unreliable."
Parent boycott leaders have contended that links between testing and job evaluations exert too much pressure on students and teachers alike.
"Governor Cuomo has been at the forefront of abusing and distorting the original intent of Common Core and testing," said Jeanette Deutermann, a North Bellmore parent and founder of the Long Island Opt Out network. "Parents have little faith that this same governor will in fact reverse his own laws of teacher accountability that he had so callously forced through. Our children have paid a very high price for these educationally unsound experiments that they have been subject to for the past four years."
Much of the review that the governor endorsed Thursday already is underway.
Elia, who took office July 1, is examining state academic standards in accordance with a law approved in June by the governor and state legislators. In addition, the commissioner is reviewing the state's teacher evaluation system at the direction of the state Board of Regents, to which Elia reports.
Thursday, Elia said she looks forward to receiving input from the governor's planned education commission. Cuomo said the group would include education experts, teachers, parents and legislators who served on a previous advisory group appointed in February 2014.
Elia, in a statement, noted she has met with educators and parents in recent weeks, and has stressed "the need for high standards for all students."
"I have also stressed the need to review the state's learning standards, not only because the law requires me to undertake such a review, but also because it's the right thing to do for our students," she said.
This past April, parents across the state pulled more than 200,000 students in grades three through eight out of testing in English language arts and mathematics. The revolt against Common Core tests, which drew its greatest support from families in Nassau and Suffolk counties, was the biggest in the nation.
In his statement, Cuomo blamed the state Education Department for a "deeply flawed" rollout of national Common Core standards and testing, which have been adopted by New York and most other states. He acknowledged that Elia has "inherited this problem."
Many education experts have agreed that the department rushed the standards into place too hurriedly in 2010 under pressure from federal authorities, who granted the state nearly $700 million to help with the effort. But those same experts have noted that Cuomo contributed to the controversy by insisting in 2012 and again this past spring that the state increase the role of standardized test results in teacher evaluations.
The governor's statement was seen by some as a signal that the test boycott movement finally had gotten its message across.
"The frustration that parents and educators have been feeling has manifested itself in a variety of ways -- rallies, education forums, protests, letter writing, petitions -- and there had been a real feeling these concerns are not being heard at the highest levels of government," said Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers, the state's largest teacher union. "And now it appears that people are starting to listen."
Hundreds of school districts on the Island and statewide now are rewriting local teacher evaluation plans, as mandated by a new law that Cuomo pushed through the legislature in April. The deadline for submitting those plans to the state Education Department for approval is Oct. 1. However, districts facing administrative "hardships" -- for example, difficulties in winning agreement to the plans by local teacher unions -- may request state waivers.
The New York State Council of School Superintendents, based in Albany, noted that this is the third time in five years that the state has ordered a major change in its evaluation system. Some school chiefs have urged a one-year moratorium on using test scores in evaluations.
"This is crazy," said Timothy Eagen, superintendent of Kings Park schools. "If the governor was truly the advocate for students that he has claimed to be, he would have employed this 'Educational Commission' prior to changing the evaluation system." With Michael R. Ebert