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Cuomo proposes bold changes to education
by Maisie McAdoo | January 17, 2013 New York Teacher issue
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious education agenda for 2013 includes full-day pre-kindergarten in the poorest areas, community schools such as those being piloted by the UFT this year, and a “barlike exam” to qualify future teachers that was first proposed by the AFT.
The goals, which the governor presented in his State of the State speech on Jan. 9, also include a program to award an extra $15,000 a year to “master” teachers who would mentor colleagues and 100-percent state funding for districts to extend their school day or year.
The governor’s agenda was based on the recommendations of a statewide commission that he convened last April to help him create “a new blueprint for education.” Cuomo has said repeatedly that New York State should have a more competitive education system.
His commission’s preliminary recommendations, released a week before the governor’s annual address, borrow from successful programs in many states and countries and reflect the thinking of education experts.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomed the commission’s proposals.
“We’re glad to see the governor’s panel making commonsense, research-based recommendations about improving our schools, particularly the community school model where students and parents have easy access to health, tutoring, counseling and social services,” he said. “This approach has been successful elsewhere, and the UFT is proud to have led the effort to create a pilot program to turn six New York City schools into such community hubs.”
Other recommendations call for more innovative high school programs such as early college and career and technical courses, a wider embrace of technology and a teacher career ladder.
The new education reform commission is chaired by Richard D. Parsons, the former chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner. Its 25 members, a who’s who of political and education leaders including AFT President Randi Weingarten, toured New York State through the fall, gathering testimony in 11 public meetings.
At a public meeting in New York City on Oct. 16, Mulgrew warned the commission that curricula to match the Common Core Learning Standards were not yet in place. He also called for new evaluations that are “true development tools” for teachers.
The commissioners came away from the meetings impressed by the educators they saw. “New York educators and stakeholders have shown remarkable flexibility, creativity and drive,” they wrote in their report.
But they found that though there are effective programs, the state lacks an integrated system of education.
In the coming months, the commission plans to examine teacher recruitment, preparation and evaluation, and study education funding with an eye to efficiency and cost savings.
The recommendations are to be finalized by September. They come as the state faces severe budget restrictions. The commission named special education and pupil transportation as two areas of potential savings and said they would review district-by-district returns on educational investment and productivity.