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In second meeting, Cuomo’s Common Core panel tackles new ed policies

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 11-member panel met in Albany for a second time on Wednesday, discussing a variety of education issues that drifted away from its central mission, to advise the governor on how New York State can improve its implementation of Common Core learning standards.

Instead of exclusively tackling Common Core policies, the panel heard about student privacy, teacher preparation and ways to reduce teacher evaluation-related tests. It was departure from the panel’s first meeting on Feb. 19, which discussed best practices from other places around the country that have not encountered as much opposition in their Common Core implementation.

The panel was attended by about a dozen people and took place at State University Plaza in Albany. A few hours later, the Assembly passed a bill that would, among other things, delay tying high-stakes to teacher evaluations using new tests aligned to the Common Core.

New York State adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and began aligning the standards to new state tests last year. And unlike some of the states touted in the panel’s first meeting — Tennessee, Kentucky and Arizona — New York is the only state that has fully aligned new teacher evaluations to Common Core tests. It implemented both policies simultaneously last year, a timeline that created unrelenting push back from parents, teachers and principals.

Cuomo entered the debate late, convening the panel on Feb. 7. It came after the Board of Regents and Sen. John Flanagan held a series of hearings and public forums about the Common Core, teacher evaluations and other controversial education policies last year. Both the Regents and Flanagan have addressed many of the concerns through a combination of policy changes and proposed legislative action.

Cuomo said he won’t decide what kinds of changes to make, if any, he’ll support until after the panel sends him its recommendation. The panel is chaired by IBM executive and former New York City Department of Education official Stan Litow and is made up of teachers, researchers, policy makers and parents.

On Wednesday, Alice Johnson Cain, vice president for policy at Teach Plus, a national network that connects students to policymakers, said she thought New York State should press forward with its planned implementation of new learning standards. She added that New York needed “to be clear that accountability won’t go away.”

Johnson Cain was one of two experts invited to speak about testing policies, one of three policy areas on the agenda. Both offered recommendations to reduce the role of some types of students tests, proposals that are already being addressed by the Regents and legislature.

Another panel tackled the use of student data by school districts. Charles Dedrick, a superintendent of 24 schools districts in the Albany area, repeatedly said that heightened concerns around new plans by the state to collect and share different types of student data were fueled by “myths”. Parents have sued the state to stop the data-sharing plan over concerns that student privacy wouldn’t be protected. A proposed Assembly bill would require districts to allow parents to opt out of sharing their child’s data, which Dedrick said “is a very bad idea” because he worried that it could prevent schools from providing basic transportation and lunch services.

A final panel  was centered around teacher preparation and professional development. Susan Neuman, an education professor and researcher at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, argued that districts waste millions of dollars a year on professional development programs of poor quality. She recommended creating a statewide standardized professional system that all programs had to adhere to in order to received public funding.

A third meeting has not yet been scheduled for the panel. Cuomo has charged the panel to move “speedily” but there is no definitive deadline.