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Common-Core Delay Approved by N.Y. Assembly, Challenging Gov. Cuomo

The New York Assembly has approved a bill delaying the impact of the Common Core State Standards and its aligned tests on teacher evaluations and other aspects of public education. 

The vote in the lower chamber of the New York legislature wasn't close, coming in at 117-10 in favor, as Jessica Bakeman reported for Capital New York. If you read the beginning of Assembly Bill 8929, the primary sponsor of which is Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D), the chairwoman of the chamber's education committee, you can get a very clear sense of what it does:

• The test scores from common-core aligned tests can't factor into teachers' and principals' evaluation scores. If this provision requires the state education commissioner John King to apply for a federal waiver in order to make it effective, the bill says that King must do so. This ban would be in effect for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.

• Those same common-core tests also can't be the sole or primary factor in decisions affecting students' placement or promotion. In addition, those test score can't appear on student transcripts.

• The state education department can't offer any student data to third-party vendors that would send that data to "dashboards" until July 1, 2015. 

• King's office must also undertake a review of the effectiveness of the common core in educating special populations like English-language learners and students with disabilities.

The roots of the bill can be traced in part back to last year, when a new common-core aligned test caused a furor in the Empire State. An explanatory note attached to the bill reads, "The implementation of the common core has caused significant challenges that have strained our school districts, administrators, teachers, parents and, most importantly, students. An indicator of such challenges occurred in the spring of 2013 when student test scores dropped significantly after taking the new Common Core aligned assessments."

As Bakeman notes, however, there's no current sponsor in the state senate for this legislation. There is a bill in the New York Senate that would repeal the common core outright, sponsored by GOP Sen. Greg Ball [CORRECTION: I originally misidentified the sponsor of the Senate's anti-common-core bill], but so far it hasn't gotten political traction. Republicans in the Assembly attempted to attach an amendment to Nolan's bill that would gut the common standards altogether pending a review, but legislators in the lower chamber, which is controlled by Democrats, swatted it aside. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), meanwhile, has taken to the airwaves to defend his approach to common core. Essentially, he doesn't want students unfairly impacted by the transition to the new standards and tests, but there's no sign that he wants to dramatically alter educator evaluations in the way that Nolan's bill dictates. It looks as though this question of evaluations, not for the first time, could be a major area of conflict in New York state government. 

One more important thing to note: According to the bill's language, the section that would bar common-core test scores from evaluations for two school years "shall expire and be deemed repealed if any necessary federal approvals or waivers have been denied." So the U.S. Department of Education and promises the state made under its Race to the Top grant are very big factors in how this situation plays out. 

There's better news for the common core elsewhere. In Arizona, a bill to prohibit the use of the common core was voted down by the state senate. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed an executive order last year renaming the common core in Arizona and asserting the state's control over content standards, and according to reports Democrats along with a few Republicans in the upper chamber voted to nix the legislation. 

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