Board of Regents reacts to criticisms of Common Core while maintaining program’s vital goals - The Buffalo News
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Board of Regents reacts to criticisms of Common Core while maintaining program’s vital goals

It’s no surprise that the rollout of the Common Core standards has been uneven, in New York and elsewhere. A program as vast as the Common Core, which affects millions of students and their families, is certain to have birthing pains and lead to unintended consequences.

It’s little surprise, either, that the Board of Regents is moving to respond to legitimate criticism.

What is surprising, and has been for months, is the overreaction by many parents who are demanding not simply some course corrections, but abandonment of the entire program. Those parents, we presume, are not actually intending to sabotage their children’s future, but that would be a possible result if the state were to act on their rash demands.

American students are already at a disadvantage with students from countries that insist upon high standards. As the world continues to shrink and competition increasingly comes from abroad as well as around the corner, that disadvantage will only deepen.

The fact is that the Common Core is working where schools and teachers are making an effort. You don’t have to look far to find those success stories, as News staff writer Tiffany Lankes documented Tuesday. In schools as diverse as Buffalo’s School 19 and Jamestown’s Fletcher Elementary School, teachers are using their creativity to engage students and help them learn at the higher level demanded by the Common Core. At Smallwood Elementary School in Snyder, teachers have been working for two years to develop new educational strategies.

This can be done, but in too many places, it’s not. Some of the fears have to do with New York’s linking teacher evaluations to the higher standards demanded under the Common Core. The teachers unions will take every step they can to undermine those necessary evaluations. But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is insisting, correctly, that teacher evaluations for which he fought hard not be delayed because of the controversy over implementation of the new standards.

Still, given the unevenness of the rollout and the predictable difficulties of implementing what amounts to a vast new bureaucracy, it would not be unfair to phase in the consequences of the evaluations, particularly where they can cost teachers their jobs. At some point, and before long, those consequences will have to take effect; no one but the teachers unions have a stake in protecting teachers who cannot or will not do the job. The price for students is too high. But to start, it is worth providing a short grace period while the wrinkles are ironed out of the system. The Board of Regents has proposed such a delay.

The Regents have also proposed moving the goalposts so that today’s fourth-graders would be the first required to meet higher graduation requirements linked to the Common Core standards. It’s not an unreasonable approach.

Cuomo blasted the proposal on evaluations, but no one is talking about dropping them, only phasing in their consequences in some schools.

Many lawmakers, meanwhile – quaking in their election-year boots – offered only faint praise for the changes. The Buffalo Teachers Federation said the Regents didn’t go far enough – no surprise there – and the parents who want the state to drop the Common Core couldn’t have been satisfied.

Nor will they be, if Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has his way. “We are absolutely committed to the Common Core, absolutely committed to its successful implementation,” he said Monday. “And absolutely committed to moving forward in a way that balances the concerns we’ve heard with a sense of urgency about the needs of our students.”

No one who cares about those students could argue with that approach.

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