Cuomo to Advocate, Bring Education Commission to New York

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is set to appoint an education commission as part of his grand plan for 2012, stating that he will be “the lobbyist for the students,” writes Anna M. Phillips at the New York Times.

In his State of the State address, the governor outlined how the commission will work with the State Legislature in recommending the most effective changes to how teachers are evaluated and how schools’ spending and performance are managed.

The current system in the state has led to an expensive and disappointing 38th place ranking on graduation rates, with education “driven by the business of public education,” rather than performance.

But now, with this commission, he is looking at how that can be changed. Mr. Cuomo is yet to reveal who would be appointed on to the bipartisan commission or whether he would look to outside education groups rather than state agencies, but commission members would be jointly appointed by himself and the Legislature, writes Kenneth Lovett at the New York Daily News.

A source close to Cuomo said:

“The failure to pass the teacher evaluation system is an example that not only is the system broken, but the ability to monitor the system and come up with a method to ensure kids are educated properly is broken.

“What are the performance indicators? How do you judge performance in the education system? How are the services being provided? No one has really looked at it without a particular perspective on what’s going on in education.”

Mr. Cuomo criticized Race to the Top, the federal grant competition New York State won last year, remarking that the Legislature requires a new teacher evaluation system to be in place to comply with the grant application — and that it “just didn’t work.”

Officials were unable to reach agreements with the teachers union on precisely how to implement the law that looks to rates teachers in one of four categories: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.

Talks between the city’s Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers recently broke downputting a federal school improvement grant in jeopardy.

“Two years and it hasn’t even started yet,” Mr. Cuomo said.

“Our children deserve better than that, and hopefully they will get it this year.”

Zakiyah Ansari, a Brooklyn parent activist and the advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education, believes that if Mr. Cuomo wants to see results, he needs to increase funding to schools.

“What our children need Governor Cuomo to do is to listen to what parents and students are saying by restoring funding for lost after-school programs, art, music and college prep courses, especially for our neediest schools and students,” Ms. Ansari said.

Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, was pleased to see that the commission signals Cuomo’s intention to bring more attention to education, but cautioned that its focus should not be just to raise test scores, writes Winnie Hu at the New York Times.

“The question is: what do we mean by performance? Often it is a code word for test scores,” Mr. Easton said.

“What we found is the emphasis on test scores under No Child Left Behind has narrowed the curriculum, increased teaching to the test, and has not been successful in preparing students for college and careers.”

In a version of the speech released to reporters before the address, Cuomo remarked:

I learned my most important lesson in my first year as Governor in the area of public education. I learned that everyone in public education has his or her own lobbyist.

Superintendents have lobbyists.

Principals have lobbyists.

Teachers have lobbyists.

School boards have lobbyists.

Maintenance personnel have lobbyists.

Bus drivers have lobbyists.

The only group without a lobbyist?

The students.

Well, I learned my lesson. This year, I will take a second job — consider me the lobbyist for the students. I will wage a campaign to put students first, and to remind us that the purpose of public education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy.