By Andrew Wroblewski
In calling last week for the second review in less than two years of New York’s implementation of the Common Core program, the president of the Half Hollow Hills Teacher Association said Friday he believes Gov. Andrew Cuomo is “leaving public education in a sense of constant turbulence.”
“The governor can keep calling for review, after review, after review, and we’ll continue to go through this chaos,” Richard Haase, president of the association, which maintains more than 1,200 members, said Friday. “But, at this point, we already know where we should be going. The governor is just reluctant to admit that.”
Haase sensed that reluctance when, in a statement released Sept. 3, Cuomo maintained his support for the “goal” of Common Core standards, but also admitted implementation by the state Education Department has been “deeply flawed.”
In an attempt to remedy that, Cuomo said a “comprehensive” review of the state’s implementation will be conducted by a panel consisting of the new state Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, education experts, teachers, parents and legislative representatives in time for the governor’s State of the State Address in January.
The call is similar to that of one Cuomo made in his 2014-15 budget presentation, released Jan. 21, 2014, where he cited Common Core implementation as flawed and called for a review by a panel of legislators and education experts.
“We must have standards for New York’s students, but those standards will only work if people – especially parents – have faith in them and in their ability to educate our children,” the governor said the Sept. 3 release. “The current Common Core program does not do that. It must.”
Haase agreed that the program isn’t accomplishing what it’s set out to do and, instead, said it’s putting a stress on students by forcing them to sit “in a room for six hours at a time, for an assessment that has no benefits and never gives useful data.”
“No one can possibly say that’s good for the students,” he said. “We need to take a serious look at the length and usefulness of these assessments.”
In examining figures provided by the Half Hollow Hills School District earlier this year, it appears parents across the district agree with Haase. During the 2014-15 school year, Half Hollow Hills saw 1,689 students, or about 45 percent, refuse state ELA testing and 1,814, or 48 percent, refuse state math testing. According to documentation on the district’s website, as of June, the district enrolled 3,780 students in grades 3-8, the grades eligible for state testing.
Haase suggested that altering the tests might help ease concerns.
“We can have rigorous, shorter assessments that still give meaningful feedback and provide useable data,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has a problem with that.”
Another fix, Haase suggested, is to decrease or remove the link between high-stakes testing and teacher evaluations, a comment on a policy that’s expected to be implemented in New York later this year.
Cuomo did not touch upon that policy in his statement.
“At this point, even a reduction would be a step in the right direction,” Haase said. “That will help to start restoring trust with public schools, administrators and parents so that we can continue to work together for the needs of the students.”