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Cuomo names members to Common Core panel

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a news

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a news conference at his Manhattan office on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. Credit: Charles Eckert

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo named members to a Common Core review panel and called for fewer standardized exams Monday, but gave no sign of rolling back his controversial initiative to tie test scores to school closings and teacher evaluations.

Amid growing boycotts of standardized tests, Cuomo said the Common Core task force -- the second he has created in less than two years -- would conduct a "top to bottom review" of the state's academic standards, curriculum and exams. He said he wanted to make sure evaluations were fair to teachers. The governor tapped Richard Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner Inc., to lead the review.

Cuomo said, "There's no doubt that tests or assessments have a role in education -- I understand that -- but I think the number of tests should be reduced, including the number of local tests."

Cuomo's move came as the state Board of Regents, which is not appointed by the governor, launched its own review. It also occurred as public opinion polls show distrust in Common Core.

Education groups cautiously praised the formation of the governor's panel, but generally took a wait-and-see stance.

Andrew Pallotta, executive vice president of New York State United Teachers, said Cuomo was reacting to a "revolution" -- meaning the test boycotts -- that "reached such a point that the governor has decided to start a task force to address it." While wondering if this was "the breakthrough we've been waiting for," Pallotta also said "a 180 has to be done by the task force to get this right," meaning a complete turnaround.

One critic said the governor's program would do little to slow the "opt out" movement unless the Democrat de-emphasized the use of student test scores to evaluate schools and teachers.

"This task force is supposed to be his answer to a political problem," said Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education, which has criticized the governor's education policies. "As long as tests are linked to closing schools and teachers losing jobs, you're going to see the same backlash from parents."

Constance Evelyn, superintendent of the Valley Stream 13 school district and a member of the panel, said the large number of students who opted out of state testing in April "sends us a strong message that we need to take a look" at issues such as Common Core and the length and difficulty of state testing. She expects the task force to report back to the governor in late December or early January.

In April, parents statewide pulled more than 200,000 students in grades three through eight out of testing in English Language Arts and mathematics. With John Hildebrand

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