2015-03-30 / Opinion

Guest Commentary

Assemblyman Clifford Crouch

CrouchCrouchEven before Common Core’s implementation, I advocated for changes in education policy in New York state. A recent report in the Times Union discussed the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) president’s approval of a commission of ‘stakeholders’ – teachers, school superintendents, school board members, and possibly regents – to look into Gov. Cuomo’s proposed changes to the teacher evaluation system. I support this sort of commission, and believe it is a good idea for our state.

For starters, while Common Core has its positives, it also had a negative impact because the implementation was extremely flawed and carelessly rushed. Common Core does not allow our teachers to be teachers; instead they are forced to teach to a test, not children, and follow a cookie-cutter approach to their education. Every child is different and some schools have not had a problem with it. While I agree with higher education standards, Common Core must be redone. Due to its hurried implementation, we now have to make a series of changes to adjust and make it palatable for students and teachers. Implementing Common Core without correct modules in place, like an accurate teacher evaluation system, was bound to fail without feedback. If this curriculum was carefully thought out from the start, rather than quickly put in place to secure federal funding, we would not be in this predicament.

Last year, the governor proposed a teacher evaluation system that was passed by both houses of the Legislature and presented to him to sign into law. Surprisingly, the governor decided to veto his own legislation. The governor then decided to incorporate teacher evaluations and other questionable education policies into the state budget and withhold valuable school aid information from legislators and school districts, effectively throwing budget negotiations and school budget processes into turmoil. In February, I held a press conference in Albany with Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, our Assembly conference colleagues, and other education advocates and professionals calling on the governor to release this information to school districts and for more equitable education funding for upstate school districts. The governor ignored us.

I join NYSUT’s call to have stakeholders at the table; it is essential for any good policy. Ultimately, that was the issue with Common Core. The governor cannot and should not demand his desired reforms. We all should sit down together to have an insightful dialogue about how we can make education policy better for everyone, especially for our children. Right now, there are too many tests being taken by our students, causing unnecessary stress, and we are failing because we are not effectively communicating. So far, the governor’s approach is like playing Russian roulette with our children’s educational futures and the careers of our teachers. I will always advocate for positive policy that will better the education for our children and teachers in New York state, and I believe this commission is the right first step.

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