New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, once a staunch supporter of rigorous teacher evaluations based on the results of students’s Common Core State Standards testing, questioned—in public on April 1—“whether school districts should evaluate their teachers through tough new standards known as the Common Core,” according to an April 2 web article on the New York Post.
Following his signing of the new $138 billion New York State (NYS) budget in Albany on April 1, the governor is quoted as saying:
“If you said Common Core testing was premature for students and you just halted the grades on the transcript, then what is your opinion about the impact of Common Core testing on teachers’ evaluations and what should be done? We need to address it…”
The governor has been a strong supporter of education reform, in particular reforms related to teacher’s evaluations. His recent change in heart is possibly tied to the enormous backlash of parental, teacher, administrator, and student protests following the first week of NYS Common Core statewide testing—in the English Language Arts—approximately two weeks ago.
However, a month ago—on February 16—Governor Cuomo publicly declared, along with New York State Education Commissioner John King Jr. and United Teachers Union President Richard Iannuzzi, a “groundbreaking agreement on a new statewide evaluation system that will make New York State a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement.”
The agreement puts into policy the new statewide teacher evaluation system based on “multiple measures of performance including student achievement and rigorous classroom observations.” The agreement also allows the state to hold onto the $700 million grant from President Obama’s Race to the Top program that requires tougher teacher evaluations with student testing taken into account. (Prior to the agreement, a lawsuit filed by the teachers union against the State Education Department had blocked the teacher evaluations, causing the state to be in peril of losing the $700 million grant.)
However, to speed the implementation of teachers evaluations reform—and keep the $700 million federal grant—Cuomo “gave the State Education Department and teachers unions 30 days to agree on a new effective teacher evaluation system, or the Governor would propose an evaluation system in the 30-day budget amendments,” according to the governor’s NY Students First website.
With Common Core losing traction and with massive pushback following the rollout of the first week of Common Core exams, the governor is definitely reconsidering his prior position on teacher’s evaluations that tied the evaluation to student performance on Common Core exams, and with significant reason. (The results of the Common Core exams won’t be counted in student assessments for the next two years.)
Cuomo’s public reconsideration of his prior stance on teacher evaluation reform makes the NYS Education Chief John King Jr., a policy implementer of CCSS and rigorous teacher’s evaluations, an easy scapegoat. “Delegates from the state’s largest teachers union targeted King with a ‘no confidence’ vote,” the first weekend of April, according to an April 11 article from the Associated Press (AP).
(The teachers union referred to is United Teachers, the very same union whose president had declared public unity regarding the agreement over the new statewide teacher evaluation system with King and Cuomo less than a month prior to the vote.)
The AP article goes on to say:
“The delegates, from the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers, also withdrew support for Common Core standards as applied in the state and said they supported parents pulling their children from related testing.”
So far, nationwide, the numbers are stacked on Common Core’s side—along with rigorous teacher’s evaluations based on student exam performance. Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, four territories (Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website.
U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, is standing by Common Core and the NYS education chief, saying the latter is a “remarkable leader” at a New York University (NYU) event April 10, almost a week following the union’s anti-King vote.
At the NYU event, Duncan also said according to a Newsday article:
“Any time you challenge the status quo, any time you raise the bar, [there is] lots of pushback. Change is scary.”