Pledging a Do-Over on Common Core, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo Announces New Task Force

By Andrew Ujifusa — September 29, 2015 3 min read
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In his latest attempt to calm the political storm over the Common Core State Standards in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a new task force will recommend ways to “overhaul” the way the standards work in the state.

Cuomo, a Democrat, announced the Common Core Task Force on Sept. 28. It will study the standards and aligned exams and make those recommendations by the end of 2015.

The task force will be led by Richard Parsons, the former chairman of the board for Citigroup. If his name sounds familiar, it might be because he also led the governor’s blue-ribbon task force to overhaul education policy in 2013. That group stressed the importance of changes to teacher preparation and to learning time.

Here are the task force’s specific duties:

  • Review and reform the Common Core State Standards;
  • Review New York State’s curriculum guidance and resources;
  • Develop a process to ensure tests fit curricula and standards;
  • Examine the impact of the ongoing moratorium on recording common core test scores on student records, and make a recommendation as to whether it should be extended;
  • Examine how the state and local districts can reduce both the quantity and duration of student tests, and develop a plan for districts to include parents in reviewing the purpose and usefulness of local tests; and
  • Review the quality of the tests to ensure competence and professionalism from the private company creating and supplying the tests.

The governor’s decision to change the way common core works comes after bitter political fights over education policy in New York, and word from the state education department last month that one out of five students in New York opted out of exams aligned to the common core.

“Now, I believe the goal is the right one: high standards in education. We all want that. But the way it was instituted failed,” Cuomo says in a portion of a 14-minute video accompanying his announcement that you can watch in full below:

This isn’t the first time Cuomo has blasted the way the common core has unfolded in the Empire State, even though most of the state’s implementation of the standards and the roll-out of the new tests took place on his watch. (Cuomo does not appoint the New York Board of Regents, which oversees the state education department.)

During his re-election campaign last year, for example, Cuomo claimed that he “had nothing to do with common core,” even though previously he had touted the standards as an important and positive shift for schools. (He reiterates this charge in the Sept. 28 announcement, blaming the state department for common-core woes.) And during his 2014 re-election campaign, the governor put out a TV ad that emphasized his desire to remove common core’s immediate impact on students. Watch that ad below:

New York State United Teachers, which has vigorously opposed Cuomo and urged parents to opt their students out of taking common-core tests last spring, received news of Cuomo’s latest task force positively, albeit tepidly. In a statement, the union called the group’s mission “fundamental to moving forward” and to address the “botched” implementation of the common core, and added: “Is this a breakthrough? That will only be determined when meaningful reforms are made to this broken system.”

At least common-core supporter, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Robert Pondiscio, attributed Cuomo’s latest shift to politics:

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Photo: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol last March in Albany, N.Y. Mike Groll/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.