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Despite History, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo Says: 'I Have Nothing to Do With Common Core'

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is leading his main opponent for re-election, GOP candidate Rob Astorino, by a huge margin, but apparently Cuomo still felt the need to dramatically distance himself from the Common Core State Standards in an Oct. 22 debate, telling the audience: "I have nothing to do with common core."

Cuomo added that it was the state's Board of Regents, the equivalent of a state school board, that wielded the power to adopt the standards, according to New York Newsday. He did take credit, though, for sharply curbing the impact of common-core assessments on students by preventing them from impacting their ability to be promoted.

In a TV ad released earlier this month, the incumbent Empire State governor made it clear what his election strategy would be with respect to common core: He pointed out that he decided "not to use common core scores for at least five years, and then only if our children are ready," a reference to the student-promotion policy I mentioned in the previous paragraph. But New York state will still use its common-core aligned tests in the 2014-15 school year. 

Dave Weigel, a columnist at Bloomberg Politics, wrote this ad means that Cuomo "concedes defeat" regarding common core. That could be true in a political sense, although the standards will remain on the books in New York, and (after a two-year moratorium) teachers are still due to be evaluated using scores from tests based on those standards. 

Still, it represents a significant rhetorical shift for Cuomo. He wasn't in office when the Board of Regents adopted common core, but he has—until recently—vigorously supported its implementation and preached its virtues.

To cite just one example, last February, when he announced the formation of a state panel to review implementation of the common core, he called the standards "a critical part of transforming New York schools." That same month, he harshly criticized a plan from the Board of Regents to soften the impact of the common core on teacher evaluations—a few months before he seemed to acknowledge the board's argument by proposing the aforementioned two-year moratorium.

Following the release of the first test scores aligned to the common core last year, the New York State United Teachers (the state teachers' union) strenuously objected to the state's plan for introducing common core in schools. And Cuomo's Democratic primary challenger, Zephyr Teachout, said part of her motivation for running was to stop the standards.

It's not clear that Cuomo has much to fear in terms of his re-election bid. But he has been mentioned as a 2016 presidential contender, and his statements on common core could have been made with an eye to bigger things. 

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