Focus on Education
9:50 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Focus on Education: The future of Common Core

The debate over the Common Core learning standards has recently sparked a great deal controversy with many giving input on what’s best for students. The final installment discusses what the future holds for Common Core.

The hallway of a Buffalo School.
Credit WBFO News file photo

“We need to get this right for students, parents, teachers and principals. We cannot walk away from the basic tenancies of this reform and anything that is done to water this down quite frankly stands the real risk of denying students in this state the opportunity that we are all fighting for them to have,” said Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

NYS Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch
Credit Courtesy of New York State Board of Regents

Tisch talked about the importance of education reform on ‘The Capitol Press Room.’ Tisch says everyone must work together in order to offer students the best education possible. But, in order to move forward with Common Core many say changes must be made.

“For the state to give standardized tests, which many people think are developmentally inappropriate, put all sorts of pressure on kids, don’t measure creativity, critical thinking, and all the things we think are important. The problem is the testing of our kids, not so much the evaluation,” said Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore.

Rumore says the State Education Department must make changes to their standardized tests before moving forward. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin of Clarence agrees with the union leader.

“One of the biggest promotions we have in this report is taking a good hard look at all the testing that all students are having and making sure we’re not over testing them,” said Corwin.

BTF President Phil Rumore
Credit WBFO News file photo

Corwin says republican assembly members recently issued a report that comes up with solutions to issues with Common Core. The findings are titled ‘At The Educational Crossroads – A Report On Education Reform Efforts In NYS.’ Corwin says their changes include restoring school funding, involving teachers in curriculum development, and giving parents a choice when it comes to data sharing.

“Allowing parents the ability to make the decision whether or not their student’s data would be made available to a third party. There are a lot of concerns with Common Core with all of the data collection. It’s all being filtered up to the federal level that some of that student data is being used inappropriately. So, we want to make sure parents have the ability to make the decision not to do that,” said Corwin.

Minority Assemblymembers join Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.
Credit Chris Caya

Amherst Central Schools Superintendent Laura Chabe suggests the state invest in professional development for educators. Chabe says it will help ease the Common Core implementation process.

“I think that the fact that State Education Department has come out and recognized that is wonderful. So now I’m hopeful that perhaps our legislators and our governmental agencies will recognize that not only does that take time, but it’s costly,” said Chabe.

Chabe says she hopes the state introduces the Common Core science and social studies curriculum soon. She says teachers in the district would like to start preparing students for the state assessments in those subjects. 

“We’re a school district where our kids have been relatively successful on those exams, so they’re a little bit anxious. So, I guess when we met with the state I would encourage them to make sure those are going to be available to get those rolled out,” said Chabe.

Amherst Central Schools Superintendent Laura Chabe
Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News

“I think it’s fair to say about Common Core that we all agree that we need real standards for our students, a meaningful teacher evaluation system. I support the common core agenda, but the way the Common Core has been managed by the board of regents is flawed. There’s too much uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo says parents, teachers, and students deserve the best education reform that includes Common Core and teacher evaluations. But they also need a rational, well administered system. He plans to have a panel of education experts, business people, and lawmakers investigate the rollout of the learning standards.

“Let’s get recommendations for corrective action by the end of this session. Let’s pass a package of corrective actions by the end of this session and let’s end the anxiety that the parents, teachers, and students are feeling all across this state,” said Cuomo.

Regent’s Chancellor Merryl Tisch says a subcommittee of the state Board of Regents will continue to come up with ways to help with the implementation of the learning standards. She believes the information the subcommittee provides will help the governor’s panel.

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Credit WBFO News file photo

“I don’t see the Regent’s subcommittee or the governor’s panel as competing entities. I see the Regent’s subcommittee’s report as a tool which will help the governor and the legislature find a productive and purposeful path for moving forward,” said Tisch.

However, Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins feels a solution to the “rushed” rollout of Common Core is delaying implementation of the standards for two years.

“I think the delay that’s being sought is justified, because you can’t implement a comprehensive reform without being prepared to do it as effectively and as efficiently as possible toward achieving the objective. All you have now is parents that are frustrated, students that are frustrated and teachers that are frustrated,” said Higgins.

Congressman Brian Higgins
Credit Eileen Buckley / WBFO News

But, New York State Education Commissioner John King says a delay would stop progress many districts are experiencing with Common Core. He says there may be disagreements about implementation and the teacher evaluation law, but the Common Core standards themselves are beneficial to students.

“So there are adjustments that we’re making and well continue to make those adjustments, but we’re committed to the Common Core, because we know that it’s a path to having more of our students prepared for college and career success. Frankly, all the education stakeholders across the country and New York remain committed to the Common Core,” said King.

Regent’s Chancellor Emeritus Robert Bennett echoed King saying the state will continue to tweak the standards as necessary and advise the legislature about changes to the teacher evaluation law.

“As long as we can have a civil discussion and debate, and say that ‘what’s out ultimate goal here.’ I hope that we have consensus on the ultimate goal is a high school graduate in New York State that’s prepared for a career and or college,” said Bennett.

NYSED Commissioner John King & Regent Robert Bennett
Credit Eileen Koteras-Elibol / WNED

But, Republican Congressman Chris Collins says he feels the state needs to admit Common Core is a failure. Collins want the Common Core ended immediately.

“I think we need to just go back and take the federal government out of mandates telling teachers how to educate our kids. I frankly don’t think the state should play much of a roll, but under states rights them more so than the federal government. We should go back to teachers and school boards making the decision on how best to educate the kids in that particular school district and they’ll always do what’s best for the kids,” said Collins.

As for what the future really holds for the Common Core learning standards everyone will have to wait and see.

Parent and Teacher Todd Hathaway
Credit Courtesy of NYSUT

East Aurora High School history teacher and parent Todd Hathaway has been outspoken against Common Core. But Hathaway was selected to serve on the Governor’s review panel. Hathaway says the bottom line is the state needs to “fix” Common Core.

“We need to look at what’s good and keep that and enhance that and we have to look at things that are not working in the classrooms and find ways to fix that, to remediate it and approve it,” said Hathaway.