Group ‘Fails’ Cuomo, NY Ed Department On School Improvement Efforts

In a press conference earlier this week, the Alliance for Quality Education – a labor-supported non-profit – criticized New York State's efforts to improve academic outcomes for the state's students. Jessica Makeman of WGRZ reports that at the press conference, which was streamed live, the group gave out "report cards" to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Education Department on their efforts to improve academics in the state by adopting Common Core Curriculum, introducing more standardized testing and pushing for an objective teacher evaluation system. According to the group, lawmakers have fallen well short of the goal and the approach they've adopted is wrong-headed and will, they say, only bring harm to New York's children.

Although many of the education policies adopted by the state received negative marks, Billy Easton, AQE's executive director, did praise the push to expand pre-K access to all students, as well as efforts to create more community schools. While acknowledging that state education funding increased by $1 billion this year, Easton still called for more money for education, pointing out that New York schools endured a number of years under severe budget cuts prior to 2012.

But the advocates knocked the state for how it has distributed school funding. Plans to implement other reforms won't go far enough, Easton said, reaching only a small percentage of kids.

Then state reported last month that graduation rates are steady at 74 percent, while lower in urban areas. Achievement among minority students, those with disabilities and non-native English speakers is dramatically lower statewide.

Jonathan Burman, the spokesman for the state Education Department, responded by saying that it will take time and effort to overcome all obstacles facing the state's education system. He also pointed out that it's too early to judge if the policies adopted by NYSED are paying dividends, or if they should be discarded as failures.

He reaffirmed the department's commitment to seeing students reach their full potential during their academic careers and graduate high school ready for college.

Cuomo outlined his plans for several education reforms in his State of the State address in January, including allocating $25 million to fund full-day pre-K and $15 million for community schools in the state's neediest districts. The money will be awarded through competitive grants. Cuomo also included $20 million in the budget for schools to extend either the school day or year. The group said this money will only benefit 13,000 students, or 0.5 percent of the state's student body.

Easton, however, said that this wasn't even enough to offset cuts made to summer and extracurricular programs, and at best allowed schools to regain a small period of learning time they have lost as a result of tight budgets.

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