hitting pause

State lawmakers unite to support two-year Common Core delay

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
Cuomo spoke to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last month before delivering his State of the State speech. Silver is among the many lawmakers calling for a pause on Common Core consequences.

ALBANY — State lawmakers today issued a bipartisan call for a two-year moratorium on consequences attached to the Common Core standards, potentially paving the way for revisions to the state’s teacher evaluation law.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan announced today that they support a two-year delay — “at a minimum” — on using tests aligned to the Common Core learning standards to evaluate teachers. Leaders in the Senate, including Republican Dean Skelos and Education Committee Chair John Flanagan, seconded the request this afternoon.

Such a moratorium, which the state teachers union has lobbied for, would not remove the Common Core as the standards in use in New York’s schools. In fact, all of the legislators said the State Education Department and local districts should continue to develop and implement curriculums aligned to the standards, which are meant to ensure that students are prepared for college.

But a moratorium would dramatically lower the stakes for districts and teachers to hold students to the standards, because Common Core test scores would not be used to evaluate teachers and principals.

Detaching test scores from teacher evaluations would require legislators to revise the evaluation law for the third time since it was first passed in 2010. State officials have so far resisted such a change, in part because they fear it could jeopardize $700 million in federal Race to the Top grants that New York won to install teacher evaluations that weigh student growth.

But lawmakers are under pressure now, given that teachers outside of New York City are being evaluated for the second time under the new system this year. The law allows districts to move to fire teachers who receive two consecutive “ineffective” ratings. (New York City is evaluating teachers under the new system this year.)

National and local teachers union leaders have been calling for a delay for nearly a year. NYSUT has called for a three-year moratorium, while Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for a national moratorium on Common Core stakes in a speech last April.

Any bipartisan proposal to change the evaluation law would put pressure on Cuomo, who praised the system in his State of the State speech last month. In a statement, Cuomo’s office suggested today that legislators had inappropriately conflated the teacher evaluation system with the new standards.

“The Governor believes there are two issues — Common Core and teacher evaluations — and they must be analyzed separately,” a spokeswoman said. She said Cuomo had determined that the State Education Department’s rollout of the Common Core had been “flawed, leading to too much uncertainty, confusion and anxiety among students and their parents.”

Parents and local educators protested the standards’ implementation in Albany and at heated public meetings with State Education Commissioner John King and with lawmakers last year. They charged that schools had not had time or support to adjust to the new standards before testing students on them.

The moratorium would also delay consequences for students’ scores on Common Core-aligned tests. Those scores are sometimes used to determine whether students are promoted to the next grade or accepted into specialized schools, but those decisions are made by districts, not the state.

Responding to the criticism, Cuomo — who is up for reelection this year — recently announced that he would form a panel to study the state’s implementation of the Common Core. “It would be premature to consider any moratorium before the panel is allowed to do its work,” he said today.

The call for a moratorium comes just days before a separate task force formed by the Board of Regents is expected to come up with its own proposals to change. State Education Commissioner John King, who is a part of that task force, has remained steadfast in his insistence that the state not slow down its pace of implementation.

A spokesman for the department said King and Tisch would have more to say after it releases recommendations next week.

As the legislative session got underway last month, lawmakers from across the state have talked about the possibility of a Common Core “delay.” Today’s announcement offers clarity about what that would look like. In addition, today revealed New York City legislators’ stance on the Common Core, which has drawn the most heated opposition in suburban districts.

Nolan and Silver, who are part of the Assembly’s Democratic leadership, have previously raised concerns about the standards, but had yet to indicate where they would come down on the issue. Martin Golden, a leading Republican senator from the city, also said today that he supported a delay.

“I think it needs to be delayed a little bit,” Golden said. “Probably about two to three years so that the educational system can get caught up to the Core curriculum.”

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.