By Marissa Collado
After declaring that the country is in the midst of “an education revolution,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a new task force which will undertake the reevaluation of common core standards across the state.
The 15-member panel will be led by former Time Warner and Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons and includes American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten as well as a group of parents, teachers, education officials and state legislators.
“The evidence of failure is everywhere,” Cuomo said in a video statement released Tuesday. “It is time to overhaul the common core program and also the way we test our students. As a parent I believe our education system tests our students too often and for too long, and we should relieve the unnecessary pressure on our children that detracts from the time spent learning.”
Common core has been controversial. Some don’t like that it standardizes learning practices, while others think it is too complicated and strict.
“I think that it should be a little less rigid and that we should have more of a creative spin to the common core where students are aesthetically engaged with the curriculum,” said Woroud Shuaib, a seventh grade teacher in Jackson Heights. For Shuaib the opportunity to liven up her lesson plans can encourage her students to more effectively remember the skills being taught and to help them become more motivated.
The diversity of the task force will represent “every corner of the State of New York,” said Cuomo. The agenda of the group is to do a “total reboot” of the current standards. The overhaul will include a review and reform where deemed necessary of the common core standards but also the State’s curriculum. The website for the task force, ny.gov/programs/common-core-task-force, encourages New Yorkers to share their common core stories and ideas and tips.
“The pressure has proven to take away value from a true education and has put many teachers on their toes in regards to being evaluated not by their effectiveness of having their students surpass individual goals within the classroom but by the scores they bring forth overall,” said Lauren Leverett who works as a student teacher in an eighth grade classroom in Ridgewood.
In addition to curriculum review the panel will consider how the number of tests and duration of testing can be reduced. The group will go through all state and local tests with parents to determine the purpose and usefulness of tests to reduce to “total test burden” on students, said the Governor.
“You cannot measure a student’s growth on the basis of one high stakes exam.” said Leverett echoing Cuomo’s thoughts.
Dilip Nath, a member of the community education council for District 26 in Northeast Queens and president of the parent-teacher association at MS 216 in Fresh Meadows, welcomed Cuomo’s announcement.
Education is the most important gift we can provide our children and that is why it is so important that parents have faith in the learning standards to which their children are taught,” Nath said in a statement. “Recent events regarding the Common Core implementation have shaken their confidence, but New York is now taking action that will strengthen and improve the implementation of those learning standards, help calm the fears of parents and teachers, and bring a renewed trust in our children’s schooling.”
The New York State United Teachers also described the need for state testing changes. “Without question, tests and evaluations must not be a punitive system of ‘gotcha.’ Clearly, an overhaul is needed. We welcome the opportunity to continue to work to resolve these issues through the governor’s task force,” said the NYSUT.
Borough President Melinda Katz believes the common core standards are more of a common problem for students across the country“Many parents — certainly from every neighborhood in Queens — agree that we need standards. That is not the issue. As a parent who does homework with my second grader every day, the curriculum and implementation are clearly flawed. I am pleased the Governor is addressing the concerns of parents and is committed to swift and comprehensive reforms,” said Katz in a press release.