Spin Cycle

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ALBANY -- Legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are struggling to minimize the impact of the Common Core’s tougher standards as used to evaluate teachers without losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Wednesday.

“The rollout of the Common Core was, what should I say? Wasn’t appropriate,” Silver said with two days left in the legislative session. He said leaders are trying to deal with the consequences now.

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“We dealt with them for students, how do you deal with them for teachers, who are supposed to be evaluated based on student performance which, now, student performance doesn’t count?” Silver said.

The state has already postponed the scores under Common Core testing so that students won’t be hurt by failures. The Legislature agreed not to include those scores for transcripts of students in grade 3 through 8 through 2018. Schools can't use the scores as the sole way to determine student placement.

But 20 percent of a teacher’s job evaluation -- which can lead to merit pay, better assignments or dismissal -- may be based on student performance under the Common Core. The state’s introduction of the tougher, national standards into public schools was met with outrage by some parents and teachers who saw even good students failed.

That protest prompted quick political action in Albany, but now is hampered by what could be the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid. The aid was part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competitive program to entice states into making education reforms to improve instruction, accountability and make students more competitive with counterparts in other countries.

“That’s part of it,” Silver said, “how we stay within federal guidelines, continue to keep federal money, and yet deal with the reality that the roll out of Common Core was flawed.”

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The issue is one of the thorniest for legislative leaders and Cuomo now negotiating the final pieces of legislation in the 2014 session, which is scheduled to end Thursday.

“It would be illogical to say I see the inaccuracy for students and the potential harm, but not for teachers,” Cuomo said in a recent interview on public radio’s “Capitol Pressroom. “