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Senators to King: Delay Common Core or we will

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B.

New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King Jr. listens to a question from a member of the New York State Senate Education Committee at the Capitol in Albany. (Jan. 23, 2014) Credit: Philip Kamrass

New York's Senate Thursday threatened to take legislative action to delay the implementation of a Common Core curriculum in schools that has stressed students, angered parents and anguished teachers.

"Do not force this body . . . to come up with a legislative solution," Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) warned Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. at Thursday's education committee meeting.

"Hit the delay button!" said Sen. George Latimer (D-Port Chester), slamming the table as he sat next to King. "Hit it!"

King, however, said students need to adhere to higher standards of the Common Core demanded by employers and for America to compete against other countries. He said students can't afford a delay, although additional changes are planned to improve the implementation of Common Core, which has drawn angry parents to forums statewide.

"What matters to me is what I see happening in classrooms," King said after the two-hour meeting. "And what I see happening in classrooms is that because of the Common Core, students are writing more, students are doing more problem solving in math, students are reading more challenging texts -- that's going to help them prepare for college and career success.

"That, to me, is the measure of our work," King said. "Every day we hear from superintendents and principals and teachers abut the ways in which the Common Core is helping their students achieve at a higher level."

He said a majority of community college students now have to take remedial classes.

King said he and the Board of Regents can't delay or suspend most of the standardized tests because they are required by the federal government and tied to funding. He said only two standardized tests are required by the state in addition to the federally required exams.

The bulk of testing that teachers, students and parents complain about are set by local districts in union negotiations, which are required under the teacher and principal evaluation systems enacted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature. Only they can reduce or delay those tests, King said.

The Board of Regents plans to announce an "action plan" in its February meeting that is expected to address some of the outrage over the implementation of Common Core, King said. The board is an independent body that sets education policy. It is chosen by a joint session of the Legislature. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) supports King, but said the Regents should consider a slower implementation.

"That meeting in February will be the crossing of the Rubicon," said Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan (R-East Northport). "So they better come up with something."

Flanagan said many senators are ready to act now because of an outpouring of anger from parents and teachers at a level many senators said they have never seen before in their careers.

"Some of the letters we get from parents are just heart breaking," said Sen. Kenneth La Valle (R-Port Jefferson).

King had some support including Cuomo, although the governor has proposed his own panel to help improve the process. Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) said he has great confidence in King and applauded his service to students.

Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), said she was surprised when her constituents in a recent forum didn't lash out at King or the higher standards. They said when they entered college, they "were embarrassed because they had to take remedial courses. So they wanted a different experience for their own children. I was inspired by that."

Assemb. Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square) and Al Graf (R-Holbrook) released an Assembly Minority report yesterday based on statewide hearings. It calls for an end to the "rushed implementation" of the Common Core and reduced testing.

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