The New York Education Reform Commission brought together by Governor Andrew Cuomo has returned its suggestions for changes that the state's education system needs to make to improve outcomes for its students. Among the suggestions is a call for a bar-like exam for aspiring teachers, a complete overhaul of the academic calendar and the consolidation of smaller school districts into larger ones.
New York leads the nation in the amount of money it spends on educating its 2.7 million students, yet all this funding has not done very much to improve graduation rates in many parts of the state. To change that, the Commission – chaired by Richard D. Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner – released a 92-page action plan which it claims will do much to improve the quality of education in New York schools.
Many expect that at least some of the recommendations will form the backbone of Cuomo's education legislative agenda for the following year, although not every proposal made in the report was greeted with enthusiasm — especially the parts that would require lots of additional spending.
He will use the panel's preliminary report to construct an educational agenda he will deliver in his State of the State address, on Wednesday, his aides said. That, in turn, will be an opening salvo in Albany's annual legislative and budgetary process where education is a third-rail issue because of the vast amount of money tied to it.
Much of what the commission has proposed will be expensive. Several observers said that the commission's ideas came at a time when the state owed roughly $5 billion in aid to poor school districts, under a 2007 agreement that followed a lawsuit and a Court of Appeals ruling.
The New York Times expects that among recommendations that will meet the most resistance include the one calling for combining smaller local school districts into larger ones to allow them to operate more efficiently. This will run afoul of the views of parents and school staff in small towns that consider their local school systems to be a strong selling point for their communities.
Another suggestion which will likely fall by the wayside will be the provision of strong academic universal pre-K programs in areas with underperforming schools, low-income families and low graduation rates.
The idea for a bar-exam-style test for teachers has the support of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who also was a member of the commission. She said she advanced the idea, to "replace today's patchwork of pre-service tests" and ensure that teachers were better prepared for the classroom.
Mr. Parsons, the chairman, said that many other states and countries had begun to extend students' learning time, and that New York "must do the same."