In the latest sign of political and policy difficulties for the Common Core State Standards in New York, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has publicly stated that "the case has been made for a common core delay" in the Empire State.
Silver, a Democrat representing Manhattan, told Capital New York that he has grown increasingly concerned that the standards in English/language arts and mathematics were "suddenly put upon" teachers and administrators in the state without adequate support and professional development. New York Newsday puts Silver's remarks in the context of recent letters from school districts urging education Commissioner John King to slow implementation of assessments tied to the standards, and questioning how the implementation has proceeded so far. Those districts expressed their concerns to King back in November, but they say they're trying again to try to get a different, more sympathetic response from King.
Silver noted that Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch last month appointed a committee to review common-core implementation in New York, and that this committee is working on a "small timeline." I've written before about the drop in proficiency rates on New York state assessments last year that were newly aligned to the common core, and the fact that those scores caused a backlash about the nature of the test and their potential impact on students, teachers, and schools. And King faced a tough time later in the year when he began to hold, then cancelled, then restarted public forums about the standards, in the face of some unfriendly audiences at these forums.
You may not be surprised to learn that Silver isn't the only prominent legislator in New York giving the standards an unfriendly eye. As I noted in my preview of state legislatures in 2014, state Sen. John Flanagan, a Republican who is chairman of the upper chamber's education committee, is pushing back on issues related to common core, such as testing and student data, after holding public hearings on policies related to the standards last year.
Last month, for example, Flanagan proposed that New York's common-core aligned assessments to be audited through a "Truth-in-Testing" bill to measure "the effectiveness of these standards." He's also calling for the state to release "missing" modules for curriculum, a common-core complaint that United Federation of Teachers (the teachers' union for New York City) President Michael Mulgrew has been making for some time.
On Dec. 16, Flanagan gave a presentation on the common-core issues he highlighted in his legislative proposals, which you can watch below. At one point, Flanagan said, "Even where things are going well, and there's not a lot of places where they are going well, it's still a challenge because there's so much coming at once." It's worth noting that Flanagan followed up that statement, however, by saying there is a general consensus that, "Common core is a good thing."
It's unclear where these diverse forms of common-core pushback, or more precisely pushback to policies directly tied to the common core, are ultimately heading and whether they will converge. Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who's due to make his 2014 State of the State speech today, be swayed by any, some, or all of these concerns? Will the state's arrangement with inBloom, a nonprofit organization that partners with schools to store and access student data for educational services, continue to be a target for criticism? Will the state teachers' union's call for a three-year moratorium on any high stakes related to testing results get more traction?