Is Gov. Andrew Cuomo backing away from his support for the new Common Core curriculum in schools? In recent days, Cuomo seems to have cooled from his initial endorsement of the rapid transition to the adoption of the national education standards.
Everywhere Cuomo goes these days, he’s dogged by questions from reporters about what’s widely perceived as a rocky start up for New York state’s adoption of the new national Common Core standards for school children.
Cuomo was asked essentially the same question in recent days in stops from Buffalo to Lake Placid.
“Can you talk about the Common Core? A lot of people have issues with it." asked a Lake Placid reporter on November 20.
In his answers lately, Cuomo distances himself from the growing discontent that’s led to raucous meetings between state education officials and angry parents and teachers.
At an event on Staten Island, Cuomo called the implementation of the Common Core standards problematic. In Lake Placid, he acknowledged the unease.
“It’s been very controversial,” Cuomo said. “It’s very controversial here in the state.”
Just a month ago, Cuomo sounded much more supportive of the Common Core implementation, saying change can be hard even when it’s right.
“When you come in with a big change, there’s normally fits and starts and it’s a little jerky, so that’s to be expected," Cuomo said. “But Common Core curriculum, nationwide that’s where the country’s going. That’s the state of the art.”
Cuomo made the comments on October 23, just a few days after a raucous meeting in Poughkeepsie. Parents and teachers complained to state Education Commissioner John King that their children were taking too many tests, and teachers were not given adequate preparation to teach the new curriculum required to meet the standards. At one point, King was shouted down.
The Poughkeepsie forum was also Commissioner King’s first meeting with parents and teachers since the first set of exams were released after the Common Core was adopted. Those tests concluded that two-thirds of the state’s third through eight graders were not adequately prepared to be on track for college or careers in the 21st century.
Since then, unease about the adoption of the standards has only grown. It’s been the subject of two sometimes contentious legislative hearings, and at a recent forum on Long Island, things were not much calmer.
In New York state, the governor does not have direct control over education. Cuomo has no power to appoint the education commissioner. King was chosen by the state Board of Regents. The Regents members are picked by the legislature. Cuomo is quick to point that out.
“The governor is not in charge of the state Education Department,” Cuomo said.
A recent Siena Poll shows New Yorkers have become disenchanted with the Common Core. Nearly half hold doubts about its effectiveness.
Steve Greenberg, a spokesmen for Siena, says voters may not make the distinction of who has authority over the education department, and Cuomo will likely be held accountable - whether he’s actually in charge of it or not.
“Education is a key issue, and I think what this poll says is that all of those involved in education have to do a better job of informing the New York voters and citizens of what their efforts are, what their purpose is and how they’re going about doing it,” Greenberg said.
Cuomo has not been shy in speaking out about education matters in the past. He has referred to himself as the lobbyist for students, and in the past has railed against excessive school spending, saying more money is not the answer. Cuomo does have the power in the state budget, to partly determine who much money schools will receive. Cuomo also advocated for the state’s quick adoption of the new higher standards, as well as new, tougher teacher evaluations. New York is one of only two states to fast track the transition to Common Core.
While the governor can’t directly affect education policy, he and the legislature can pass legislation to slow down the implementation of the Common Core standards. Many groups, including teachers unions, have been calling for a moratorium. At each stop the governor has made in recent days, he has hinted that he might just try to do that.
“The state could pass a law that stops it, starts it, accelerates it, etcetera,” Cuomo said.
The governor says he’s going to be keeping an eye on the situation.