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Educators: Cuomo's Common Core review doesn't go far enough

Eighth-grade students take the New York State 2015

Eighth-grade students take the New York State 2015 Common Core English Language Arts test at Pierson Middle School in Sag Harbor, April 16, 2015. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

It's about time, but it's also not enough.

Educators across Long Island voiced those sentiments after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday publicly acknowledged flaws in the state's Common Core curriculum and announced a full review of education standards.

Top administrators called on the governor to include superintendents on a commission he proposed that would issue recommendations before his State of the State address in January. Many superintendents and educators also strongly urged that Cuomo change the evaluation system for teachers and principals, which ties job ratings to students' performance on state exams.

"I am happy to hear that it will be reviewed by a varied group of constituents and look forward to hearing that superintendents will be part of that representation, since they are in the unique position of holding the ultimate responsibility for what is eventually legislated," said Charles Russo, superintendent of the East Moriches school district, who served on a governor's panel about the rollout of the Common Core curriculum.

The presidents of superintendent groups in Nassau and Suffolk counties said district chiefs must have a seat at the table.

"People who have to lead the implementation of any reform need to be engaged from the ground floor so we can help ensure it is practical, valid and doable and likely to produce the desired results," said Lorna Lewis, superintendent of the Plainview-Old Bethpage school district and president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.

Susan Schnebel, Islip superintendent and president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said the current system has eroded citizens' confidence in public education.

"The system must be revisited with the focus on what students need to learn, how they learn and how their knowledge is assessed," she said. "This information can then guide instructional practice and improve student achievement."

Educators, in their responses yesterday, agreed that higher standards, including the more rigorous Common Core, can benefit students and staff. But the state's rushed implementation of new curriculums and tests, combined with the linkage of principals' and teachers' evaluations to student test performance -- all of which has drawn growing derision, especially over the past two years -- is what the governor should address, several said.

The governor's news release made no mention of the highly controversial state law on evaluations.

"If there is general agreement that New York's Common Core program is 'broken,' why do we continue to use Common Core-aligned assessment in the teacher and principal evaluation process?" said Bill Heidenreich, superintendent of the Valley Stream Central High School District. "Using a broken system to evaluate teachers and principals is senseless. The time has come to take a step back and do it right."

Manhasset superintendent Charles Cardillo advocated for a one-year moratorium on using test scores in evaluations.

"It is ironic that the governor has continued to criticize the deeply flawed rollout of the Common Core standards and testing, yet has continued to promote the use of students' standardized test scores in teachers' annual evaluations.

"If the governor was truly sympathetic to the needs of our children, he would take the lead in advocating for -- at a minimum -- a one-year moratorium on the teacher evaluation system linked to the current grade 3-8 assessment results, beginning with the current school year," he said.

Some top school officials expressed hope that Cuomo's announcement marked a turning point in what has been years of turbulence.

"I am pleased to see that Governor Cuomo has listened to calls from multiple stakeholders to review his position on the reform agenda," said Kenneth R. Bossert, superintendent of the Port Jefferson school district. "I am encouraged at the prospect of educators and parents having greater input into what has been a largely political battle."

With Michael R. Ebert

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