ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Common Core panel on Thursday recommended a four-year moratorium on tying teachers’ evaluations to students’ scores on standardized tests, a potential major policy switch for the state.
The linking of any students’ test scores to teachers’ evaluations would be delayed until the 2019-2020 academic year.
The panel also recommended fewer and shorter standardized exams, along with more flexibility to assess students’ progress. It also proposed creating a new set of state academic standards, built with input from parents, teachers and others, and allowing local school districts flexibility to tailor curriculum to the new standards.
Cuomo, a Democrat who had backed Common Core standards but criticized its rollout, said the recommendations will “transform” the state’s education system.
“After listening to thousands of parents, educators and students, the task force has made important recommendations that include overhauling the Common Core, adopting new locally designed high quality New York standards, and greatly reducing testing and testing anxiety for our students,” the governor said in a statement.
The state’s largest teachers’ union called the rollback “momentous.”
“These changes are essential to end the high-stakes pressure that has eroded the joy of teaching and learning and narrowed the curriculum,” the New York State United Teachers said in a statement.
Battling the teachers over evaluations has been common in Cuomo’s five years in office. Twice, he fought to increase the weight that students’ test scores would have on evaluations — earlier this year, he sought to increase it to 50 percent. He denounced the current system as “baloney” after 95 percent of teachers statewide were rated effective or highly effective. In turn, teachers’ unions picketed at a number of Cuomo campaign events during last year’s elections and encouraged parents to boycott testing.
The shift on teacher evaluations doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
Also Thursday, President Barack Obama signed a new education law that eliminated a federal requirement that tied teacher evaluations to student performance on the statewide tests. Without the threat of losing federal education aid hanging over their heads, states now were free to decouple tests and evaluations.
It also comes just days ahead of a meeting of the state Board of Regents, the state’s education policymaking board, which has launched its own Common Core review. The board, not appointed by the governor, meets Monday and Tuesday in Albany.
The board could adopt, adjust or reject any of the governor’s recommendations. Cuomo’s office said no legislation would be needed to enact the panel’s suggestions, leaving them to be implemented by the Regents.
The dramatic shift followed growing boycotts of standardized tests.
In April, parents statewide pulled more than 200,000 students in grades three through eight out of testing in English Language Arts and mathematics. Long Island has been a center of the boycott movement.
The head of the New York State School Boards Association welcomed the rollback on tests and evaluations.
“The task force heard clear and convincing evidence that the state needs to step back, review the standards for their age-appropriateness, and engage local stakeholders,” School Boards Executive Director Timothy Kremer said in a statement. “While this process plays out, we should remove any negative consequences tied to Common Core-aligned tests for students and educators.”