Thiele: Hold Board of Regents Accountable for Common Core

Fred Thiele
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

One of the most serious conflicts in New York State government in recent years has been the ongoing controversy involving the implementation of the nationwide Common Core standards in our state education system. This matter impacts the future of millions of children in our state. It is imperative that it be done right.

Everyone supports the goal of higher standards and higher achieving schools. That goal is inherent in every education policy that is enacted. However, just as important as the goal is effective implementation. as is abundantly clear to all, the implementation of the Common Core by the board of regents in the State of New York has been an unmitigated disaster. The use of a “top down” method of implementation that ignored important stakeholders like teachers, parents, and admnistrators has caused unnecessary confusion and anxiety in our communities. As one of my Assembly colleagues said this week, “the Titanic had a better rollout.” The first order of business when you are in a hole is to stop digging. This past week in Albany there were two separate proposals designed to have the Board of Regents “stop digging.”

A.8929 would press the pause button on the use of Common Core assessments for teacher evaluations and student promotions. The legislation provides schools and teachers with the resources they need to be successful. These resources would be developed for every mandatory subject and grade level for which the Common Core has been adopted.

School districts would have the option to implement a Common Core training program for teachers and principals using these resources.

The measure also prohibits, until July 1, 2015, providing student data to any third-party vendor that collects, stores, and organizes student data for use by certain third-party vendors. Additionally, parents or students over the age of 18 may opt-out of disclosing the student’s personally identifiable information and/or biometric record to any third-party vendor.

The legislation also requires the state education commissioner to evaluate and provide a report on the effectiveness of the implementation of Common Core on the education of students with disabilities, english language learners, and students with limited english proficiency. a.8844 was also offered as an amendment to supplement a.8929. The amendment would establish a blue ribbon commission on 21st century testing and curriculum. The commission would be charged with the responsibility of making recommendations to the legislature and the governor regarding education policy and best practices for p-12 education. The report would be due January 31, 2016. The bill also requires a suspension of the Common Core curriculum and testing based off of common core standards through the 2016-2017 school year. Upon the conclusion of the work of the commission, they would vote on whether or not the Common Core curriculum should be reinstated. The results of that vote would be included in the final report of the committee. The bill requires the state Education Department to apply for a flexibility waiver from the U.S. Department of Education pertaining to the state’s Race to the Top obligations.

I sponsored and voted in favor of both initiatives. They are both better than the status quo. Only A.8929 passed. However, a bill does not become law without the agreement of the senate and governor. I am hopeful that all can immediately come together to implement the best features of these proposals into law.

Finally, those who created this mess must be held accountable: the Board of Regents and the commissioner of education. They have failed the children of this state. This week, 4 regents will be considered for re-election by the state legislature. I am carefully looking at the roles of all four incumbents in the implementation of the Common Core. It is imperative that changes be made. We demand accountability from our local educators for high quality education. That is why teacher evaluations have been implemented. We can require no less accountability from the Board of Regents.

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