New York State Department of Education

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

New York state’s education commissioner said Tuesday that new state-specific learning standards will offer several improvements over the controversial Common Core standards.

Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia’s report came on a day when large numbers of students in some parts of the state were expected to once again boycott the required third- through eighth-grade math tests.

Elia said the timing was pure coincidence.

“This is about standards,” said Elia. “This is not about opt-out.”

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Three-quarters of school districts in the state have applied for waivers from the new teacher evaluation rules set out by Gov.Andrew Cuomo and the legislature in March. The news comes amidst lots of changes, including the leadership of the state Board of Regents.

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Testing giant Pearson will no longer develop New York’s standardized tests for elementary and middle school students. The state is turning instead to Questar Assessment. That could signal a broader shift on education after heated controversy.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO/file photo

The state’s education commissioner testified at a legislative budget hearing, where he once again heard complaints from concerned lawmakers regarding the fast track adoption of the new national Common Core standards.

Lawmakers, calling the roll out of Common Core a nightmare and a mistake, grilled state Education Commissioner John King and asked for more time to adopt the new federal standards.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

In 2013, public education took center stage in New York state. A new, more rigorous curriculum was put in place in public schools in 2012 and the impacts of that exploded in classrooms across the state this past year.

The New York Times editorial board called the Common Core a once in a generation opportunity; U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says the new curriculum may prove to be "the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education."

So why all the controversy? To find out, we have to go back a couple years.