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Education

What education leaders want to hear in Cuomo's State of State message

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WBFO file photo by Eileen Buckley
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Some education leaders say it's time to hear Governor Cuomo on the troubled Common Core Learning Standards when he delivers his annual State-of-the-State message. WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley says the Governor's own Common Core Task Force issued 21-recommendations calling to stop linking the controversial assessments to teacher evaluations.   

"And we need to hear from our Governor because of course he started this process. We need to hear from him -- what he wants us to look at and how soon he wants us to finish the work," said Catherine Fisher Collins, Western New York Regent Representative.

In a WBFO News interview Collins said she will be 'upset' if Cuomo fails to address the standards in Wednesday's address.  It was the Governor Cuomo who pushed to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations. 

"There's probably a need to revisit the law and change the law. If not we are going to be right back in the evaluating teachers based on a curriculum that was not designed  same spot to evaluate teachers, but to give us some indication of the learning levels of our children," said Collins.

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Credit WBFO file photo by Eileen Buckley
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Common Core workbook.

Collins points out that the Board of Regents has a daunting task of reviewing all 1,500 standards and making new decisions for 2017. Collins says without a change they will be back to square one with the controversial standards.

"We want to make they're appropriate for each of the grade levels. We want to really take a look at the fact that a lot of the problems was based on the Common Core for evaluating our teachers, based on something that it was not designed for," explains Collins. 

In the Buffalo Public School District it's even more complicated.  Common Core assessments results were also tied to what schools were placed into receivership. Some educators said if the standards are flawed then the receivership should be reconsidered for the struggling city schools. 

"So this is why it becomes very, very complex when the Common Core Task Force says we need to put a moratorium on those tests and develop new tests," said Barbara Seals Nevergold, Buffalo School Board Member.

Nevergold tells WBFO it's difficult for the district because they're already in the year the struggling schools must show improvement or risk an outside receiver.

"They are a distinct disadvantage of showing any demonstrable improvement in this particular year," stated Nevergold.   

"I think it is time to return to kids being the focused of education -- and that's what I'm going to be listening for when I hear the Governor's speech," said Bret Apthrope, Frontier Central Schools Superintendent.

Apthrope said in his suburban district, located in Hamburg, they're 'not' engaging with the state on Common Core. Instead they're creating their own standards that will meet or exceed the current standards.       

"Focus on assessments that inform us how are students are progressing in reading, writing and math, versus the state model using tests punitively," Apthrope said.
       
Superintendent Aphtrope said there are many schools like Frontier schools in Western New York that actually have over 90-percent of its students graduating with regents diplomas. But he say there should be help to boost that number. "Shouldn't our onus be on getting 100-percent of those kids and focusing on that, and the state Ed, their policies are focused on geared toward schools that have like 40-percent graduation rates," noted Apthrope.    

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Credit WBFO file photo by Eileen Buckley
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Teacher works with students on Common Core math.

Frontier's Apthrope said it's time for the state to talk about how to improving student achievement and stop with the politics and conflicts.

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