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Buffalo parent advocate Radford named to Common Core review panel

A task force created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to review the state’s controversial Common Core standards will include a Buffalo parent advocate who was an early supporter of the learning benchmarks.

Samuel Radford III is one of 15 people who will serve on the new panel, Cuomo announced Monday. The committee includes a wide range of community and school leaders from across the state, including Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, two teachers, state lawmakers, school administrators and top union leaders.

Radford said he sees an opportunity for the state to fix flaws in the way the learning standards were rolled out in schools during the last five years.

“Any time you do dramatic change like that, the process is very important,” said Radford, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo. “The process in this case turned out to be not something that was effective.”

Cuomo has asked the task force to deliver a report by the end of the year that includes a review and potential reforms of the learning standards, as well as materials and resources the state provides to districts to help guide their development of curriculum. The task force will also look at several issues related to testing in schools, including whether tests align with the learning standards and how to reduce the quantity and duration of student tests.

“The agenda of the task force is straightforward and clear: to overhaul the Common Core system – to do a total reboot,” Cuomo said in a video describing his goals for the committee.

The task force, however, is not directly charged with reviewing the use of state standardized tests in teacher evaluations – one of the most controversial aspects of a package of education reforms the state has pushed through in recent years. Cuomo and the state Legislature earlier this year approved an overhaul to the teacher evaluation system that did little to satisfy its critics.

Some parents remain skeptical that Cuomo’s new task force will address concerns raised by thousands of parents who directed their children not to take state standardized tests aligned with the Common Core last spring. More than 200,000 elementary and middle school students across the state refused to take the math and English tests.

“For the governor to really fix it, he’s got to detach the teacher evaluations from testing,” said Eric Mihelbergel, a Tonawanda parent who helped found Western New Yorkers for Public Education, which has helped organize the testing boycott. “And I really don’t think he’s willing to do that.”

Cuomo’s decision to name a task force to review the Common Core standards comes as the learning benchmarks have become increasingly unpopular in New York State. A Siena College poll released last week found 64 percent of New Yorkers think the implementation of the Common Core has either “worsened public education in New York” or has “had no meaningful effect.”

New York State, which adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, was one of dozens of states across the country that agreed to use the learning benchmarks. The standards set out what students should learn in math, reading and writing at each grade level. But teachers and parents across the state have criticized the New York Department of Education for pushing the Common Core standards into schools and testing students on them too quickly at a time when other education reforms, including the teacher evaluation system, were being rolled out.

Radford said he intends to meet with many local stakeholders to hear their concerns as he attends the task force meetings.

“I think the governor, just doing a system reboot and saying, ‘Let’s bring all the stakeholders to the table, and let’s come up with the best possible implementation strategy for New York State,’ I think that’s great leadership,” Radford said.