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Surprising Liberal Governor Is Taking Another Look at Common Core

Sen. Angela Burks Hill calls for the legislature to end Mississippi's participation in Common Core, the State Standards Initiative that established a single set of educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Opponents of Common Core hope to convince legislators into ending the initiative. Lawmakers return to the Capitol Tuesday for a three-month session this year. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Facing critics from both the left and the right, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo named a panel to try to fix the implementation of Common Core in the state.

An anti-Common Core demonstration in Jackson, Miss., Jan. 7, 2014. (AP/Rogelio V. Solis)

Cuomo's action comes after New York State United Teachers, the largest teachers union for the Empire State, joined the chorus of critics and called for a moratorium on the standards, saying there is too great a focus on testing.

New York is one of 45 states that has adopted the K-12 standards for math and English developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core is touted by the Obama administration and national teacher unions as a way to prepare kids for the future, while critics say it is tantamount to national standards because the U.S. Department of Education incentivize states to adopt the standards to get federal dollars.

Last week, nine Republican senators introduced a resolution to prevent the Department of Education from making adoption of Common Core standards a requirement to receive federal school grants. But the bulk of opposition has come from Republicans in red states.

New York is among the bluest of Democratic-leaning states in the country. Yet, Cuomo – a Democrat and supporter of the standards – is being pushed to consider changes.

“The Common Core standards are a critical part of transforming New York’s schools, and the failure to effectively implement them has led to confusion and frustration among students and their families,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I urge the members of this panel to work speedily in bringing forward a set of actionable recommendations to improve the implementation of the Common Core.”

The 11-member Common Core panel includes national experts, New York state legislators, parents, educators, business and nonprofit leaders, according to the governor's office.

The panel could have benefited from more teacher and parent representation, said Richard Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers, who added that the panel must “work swiftly to respond to parents, teachers and school leaders who are committed to high standards and accountability but are frustrated and angry."

"The state's over-reliance on standardized testing and data — and rush to test students before teachers had a chance to deliver instruction, and before all the appropriate curriculum materials were provided — undermines whatever potential new standards may have to improve student achievement," Iannuzzi said.

"A moratorium on the high-stakes consequences for students and teachers from standardized testing will provide time needed for the board of regents, state Education Department and school districts to make the necessary course corrections and provide additional support to students and educators to get us back to teaching and learning, and not testing and more testing."

Republican state Assemblyman Al Graf has reportedly been the leading opponent in the legislature against Common Core standards. He submitted a bill to withdraw the state from both Common Core and the Race to the Top federal grant program, Capitol New York reported.

Meanwhile, even a Democratic supporter of Common Core, state Sen. David Valesky told the Syracuse Post-Standard he supports blocking the standards.

"While I support the Common Core standards, I believe the rollout of those standards has been seriously flawed," Valesky said. "As such, I support the call from legislative leaders in both houses to consider a moratorium on the use of testing results until the process can be improved."

Follow Fred Lucas (@FredVLucas3) on Twitter.

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