Forty CEOs from across New York signed on to a letter arguing that the state should not slow down its implementation of the Common Core learning standards, which includes testing students and evaluating teachers based in part on student performance. The new standards are necessary if state high schools are to produce graduates ready to work, they said.
“As business executives, we understand how challenging it can be for organizations to operate in a changing environment,” reads the letter, which is posted on a new website created for the campaign, NYSucceeds.org. “Yet the need to raise college- and career-readiness in K-12 education is urgent — which is why moving forward with Common Core is crucial.”
It’s a message the state has tried to deliver as well. In its presentation about the test scores on Wednesday, the State Education Department highlighted a study that found $17 billion in economic dividends for a 1 percent gain in college readiness rates.
The business leaders — who come from large and small companies in New York City and beyond — were recruited by Education Reform Now, the nonprofit advocacy branch of the political action committee Democrats for Education Reform. New York is one of 14 states where ERN operates.
Former schools chancellor Joel Klein, who as the CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify signed the letter, was briefly ERN’s board chair back in 2011, just after he left the Department of Education. At the time, the group was lobbying legislators to do away with “last in, first out” seniority layoff rules. The group formed as a coalition of charter school supporters in 2010 when legislators were locked in fierce debate about whether to allow more of the publicly funded and privately managed schools.
In both of those campaigns, ERN lobbied against the teachers union and the battles were pitched. But now, even though the UFT has criticized the city and state for not supplying a curriculum tied to the Common Core, the policy frontier is less clear. The Common Core has already been adopted in New York State and legislators have not indicated an intention to take on the issue. Plus, even critics of the city’s and state’s implementation largely say they support the standards, which aim to get students thinking critically and solving real problems.
Elizabeth Ling, ERN’s state director, said opposition to the Common Core is sharper outside of New York City. “I think in some other parts of the state there is a strong anti-testing crowd,” she said.
But Ling said she could not predict whether the low scores, which state education officials had warned about because of the new standards, would fuel opposition to the Common Core, which has come under attack from Republican lawmakers in other states.
“We’ll just have to see,” she said. “We can’t assume anything really.”
Ling unveiled the letter today at an event about linking business and education at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Manhattan, which State Education Commissioner John King and Chancellor Dennis Walcott also attended.