Pol Proposes Reforms to Ease Common Core Controversy

State Sen. John Flanagan
State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) proposed reforms to the controversial Common Core standards Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013.

A Long Island lawmaker is urging New York State Education Department to delay for a year a plan to store students’ information on cloud-based network linked to the controversial Common Core State Standards.

That is one of the nine proposed reforms—five policy recommendations and four bills—that State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) unveiled to address concerns with the roll out of the new state tests, privacy issues with planned data storage and implementation of the curriculum.

“We are listening and we get it,” Flanagan, chairman of the state Senate education committee, told the Press following a news conference announcing the proposed package of reforms Thursday. “The public is beyond frustrated.”

Flanagan proposed the measures after hearing more than 30 hours of testimony in five hearings and reviewing more than 1,000 pages of written testimony detailing problems with the roll out of the Common Core standards that were implemented this year.

Parents, teachers and administrators have been extremely vocal about the stress and anxiety this education reform has caused in educators and students alike. But, Flanagan said the problem lies with the overall implementation of the standards and not with the standards themselves.

“While there was certainly no consensus on Common Core itself, there was a consistent and coherent theme that Common Core standards are laudable and accomplish many positive things for our students,” he said.

Aside from delaying the Education Data Portal to ensure student data protection, his policy recommendations to the education department include: expediting federal waivers from mandates on various testing restrictions including those for children with learning disabilities and English language learners; producing missing modules—packets that guide teachers on the curriculum; aligning assessments proportionally to curriculum already implemented; and increasing funding for professional development so that teachers would be more prepared to teach the new curriculum.

Flanagan’s proposed legislation includes: a bill that would ban all standardized testing in children from preschool until second grade; an “Unnecessary Testing” bill that would require the state commissioner of education to expedite a review Annual Professional Performance Review plans to eliminate unnecessary assessments; a bill establishing civil and criminal penalties for privacy breaches to the student data portal; and a “Truth-in-Testing” bill that would require an audit and evaluate the testing program and require the state education commissioner to report the effectiveness on the Common Core state tests.

These measures are designed to streamline an overwhelmingly complicated system while reducing testing for the children and holding those in charge of implementing the tests accountable, according to Flanagan. But the proposals did not pacify critics.

“I was expecting a full meal and I got a Ritz cracker,” said a disappointed Dr. Joe Rella, superintendent of Comsewogue School District and fierce critic of the Regents Reform Agenda.

Assemb. Al Graf  (R-Holbrook), who proposed a bill that would completely withdraw the state from the national Common Core and Race to the Top programs, was similarly unimpressed.

“The ones we have are garbage,” Graf  said of Flanagan’s proposal to expedite the Common Core curriculum modules for teachers. “Why do we want more?”

Rella agreed that nothing short of pausing the education reform full stop to examine each problem and address it properly is acceptable.

“Stop it. Fix it,” he said. “And if it can’t be fixed, throw it out.”