State Assembly Passes Bill for Partial Common Core Moratorium; Senate Weighing All Options

BY CHERYL SLAVIN

url-1On March 5 the New York State Assembly passed a bill by a vote of 121 to 10 to slow down certain aspects of Common Core implementation and delay the sharing of student data with outside third parties. Rockland Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee were among the bill’s co-sponsors with Assembly Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan. A Republican amendment to consider withdrawing from using Common Core standards at all until after a full review was defeated 43-80.

The bill (A.8929) calls for a two year moratorium on the use of Common Core aligned high stakes testing to evaluate teacher and principal performance, as well as prohibits the tests from being used as the primary factor in deciding promotion or placement for students in grades 3-8. The bill also mandates that the commissioner of Education consult with educators and develop “tools, resources and materials” for school districts to use for Common Core staff training. The commissioner would further be required to reduce the number of assessment tests overall, and eliminate any state wide assessment tests for grades K-2. Finally, the bill imposes a one year moratorium on student data sharing with outside third party vendors and provides for an “opt-out” alternative to data sharing.

“During this moratorium the State Department of Education must develop an appropriate curriculum in conjunction with local school districts that is successful for teachers, parents, and most importantly, students,” Zebrowski asserted in a released statement. Jaffee stated: “A moratorium is essential and the SED should continue to develop Common Core curricula working collaboratively with educators and school districts. We need to refocus Common Core on student learning and instruction.”

For some, however, the bill does not go far enough. In February Senator Lee Zeldin had proposed legislation, sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Al Graf, which would impose a three year moratorium not just on the high stakes testing, but on all aspects of Common Core implementation. Following the introduction of A.8929, Graf and several supporters unsuccessfully attempted to introduce an amendment that would have required considering doing away completely with Common Core.

So far, there has been no Senate sponsor for the bill. Senate Education Committee Chair John Flanagan has said that his conference would not support the bill as is, but that he would likely consider it with some compromises. He had introduced several bills, co-sponsored by local Senator William Larkin, that went farther than the Assembly bill and would have required a complete overhaul of Common Core to “ensure its validity…that the assessments and their vendors are appropriate for students…and that the SED would be required to conduct an annual report on the status of Common Core and an independent audit of those results be submitted for review by the Legislature.”

Concurrent with this spate of proposed legislation, the Board of Regents has also taken steps to slow down the Common Core roll out. As previously reported by the Rockland County Times, these reforms include a five year extension before the mandatory common core based graduation requirements; greater teacher supports, training, and funding for training so that educators are adequately prepared to teach to the higher standards; a two year delay of the link to high stakes testing for teacher evaluations; and the delayed launch of the data dashboards related to inBloom.

Yet, most legislators continue to push for the passage of Common Core reform bills. Many feel that at the very least more is needed to ensure that the Board really follow through; others believe that the Board reforms don’t go far enough, and that a full review of the entire Common Core must be conducted. Patrick Schraa, spokesman for Senator Larkin, notes that the Senate is being very deliberate in its consideration of the next steps, looking at all the proposals, including the Regents Panel reforms, before bringing any bill to the floor. Mike Grubiak, spokesman for Rockland Senator David Carlucci, stated that Carlucci is currently reviewing all of the proposed bills and supports any legislation that imposes a moratorium and brings teachers and parents into the conversation.

Notably, this issue has influenced the recent Board of Regents elections. Regent James Jackson, the most outspoken supporter of Common Core, withdrew his name from consideration. A March 11 press release from Zebrowski’s office states that the Regent elected in his place, Josephine Finn, is much more willing to listen to the concerns of educators and parents. It continues, “This replacement, along with the legislation recently passed by the Assembly that institutes a moratorium and protects student data, continues our quest to implement meaningful reforms to the common core.”