A Teachable Moment for Andrew Cuomo: Lead the State, Not Just the Loud

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Poor Andrew Cuomo: he just can’t get it right. First he signed the Education Transformation Act of 2015 that, in part, ties teacher evaluations to student outcomes and was toasted by those who believe that we can do a better job of ensuring that effective teachers are in New York State classrooms.

Then teacher union leaders fomented a boycott of Common Core-aligned tests by rich suburban white folk, who happen to be a key part of the Governor’s constituency. So, in what his advisors must have believed was a necessary political pander, Cuomo reversed himself and ordered a Task Force to review the state’s standards and assessments program.

From the New York Post:

‘The single best thing that I can do,” Gov. Cuomo said last year, is “break what is in essence one of the only ¬remaining public monopolies”: the teachers union. 

Oops: Looks like the union broke him.

Indeed. UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote to his members,

Later this afternoon, Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force issued its report. In essence, the task force report urges a fundamental reset of education policy in New York State, including a four-year ban on the use of state growth scores to evaluate both teachers and students… 

While we still have hard work ahead of us, we are poised to change the testing obsession that has done so much harm to our schools and our profession. I can’t thank you enough for your perseverance as we fought for this day.

Uh oh.  Bad optics. Time to backtrack:

From the Governor’s Office:

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers.

Nice move, Andy! Staying strong! But then Carol Burris, a Diane Ravitch acolyte (Chris Stewart aptly describes Ravitch as “a neoconservative paragon of latter day unionist theology”) wrote this week that the Task Force called for only “minimal change”: “it is as though the committee never heard a complaint on how evaluating teachers by test scores increased both anxiety and test prep.”

And then the head of the NYS Allies for Public Education (its slogan is “Refuse the Test”) wrote on (of course) Diane Ravitch’s blog that

Until there is a halt of the Common Core standards, repeal of the Education Transformation Act, major changes to the state tests, a reduction of unnecessary testing, protection of data privacy, and local control restored, parents will continue to Opt Out in large numbers.

The floggings will continue until morale improves. What’s a beleaguered governor to do?

Some unsolicited advice because, after all, this is a teachable moment. Wimping out, Governor, makes you look weak. There’s nothing wrong with taking a year or two to transition to data-driven teacher evaluations and nothing wrong with raising the comfort level of stakeholders with the Common Core.

But don’t back down from your fervent promise to raise standards, accountability, and equity in the most segregated state school system in the country. 

Remember that you don’t just represent Dobbs Ferry (all white; median household income of $106,989; 20% opt-out rate, and Port Washington(almost all white; median household income of  $122,646; 26% opt-out rate).

You represent the Bronx too (half black, half Hispanic;  median household income of $34,388; opt-out rate of 1.4%).

Be progressive. Be bold. Lead the state, not the loud.

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