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Tilles bashes Cuomo on schools, wants commish 'who listens'

Regent Roger Tilles was re-elected Wednesday, March 11,

Regent Roger Tilles was re-elected Wednesday, March 11, 2015 in Albany. On Feb. 3, 2015, he read poetry to a fourth-grade class at John H. West Elementary School in Plainedge. Credit: Howard Schnapp

ALBANY - Long Island’s representative to the state Board of Regents disagrees with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “whole approach” to education, thinks the state needs to de-link teacher evaluations and students’ performance on standardized tests and find an education commissioner that won’t alienate parents and school administrators.

“I have to say, I disagree with the whole approach of the governor on education,” Roger Tilles, a Westbury resident, told Newsday after he was re-elected to the education policymaking board Tuesday.

Tilles cited Cuomo’s “philosophy” of possibly closing underperforming schools and allowing the state or charter schools take them over “when we haven’t even tested the effectiveness of charters yet.”

“I don’t know where that idea is coming from, unless it’s totally political,” Tilles said, moments after the State Legislature elected him to a third five-year term as regent.

Tilles said he continues to support Common Core academic standards, but said the Education Department needs to further improve implementation and shouldn’t tie teacher evaluations to students’ results on Common Core exams.

“We have to change the dynamic to one that’s diagnostic and helpful instead of one that’s punitive,” Tilles said.

Cuomo has panned the credibility of the current teacher-evaluation system, in which about 98 percent of teachers were rated effective. He wants students’ test scores to account for 50 percent of a teacher’s assessment instead of the current 20 percent, and threatened to keep school spending relatively flat if legislators don’t agree.

Tilles said he thinks there should be no such link.

“That way, the pressure would be off. Teachers wouldn’t have to teach to the tests. Students wouldn’t have to spend so much time preparing for the tests,” Tilles said.

Tilles praised former state Education Commissioner John King for traveling the state extensively to implement Common Core – but said King wasn’t always effective.

“People felt alienated even though he was out there,” Tilles said. Regents currently are searching for King’s replacement.

“We need a commissioner who listens and communicates well,” Tilles said, adding the board is seeking someone who can “empathize with the people who are dealing with” the new curriculum.

Common Core controversy sparked a rare turnover within the board Tuesday, as state legislators elected four new members. Two regents who sought re-election were ousted – a rare power move by legislators. But lawmakers reappointed three, including Tilles, who was praised by Democrats and Republicans alike as “well-regarded.”

For more than a year, parents and teachers have protested rollout of the Common Core, although New York, unlike some states, hasn’t moved to junk the standards. Tilles said the state should continue to implement the new standards but has much to learn from its mistakes.

“We have a lot of credibility to gain back,” Tilles said, “because this was seen as rushed.”




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