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.”