ALBANY—At the top of the agenda for Andrew Cuomo's expert panel on Common Core standards was the question of how to improve public opinion.
Led at its opening meeting on Wednesday by chair Stanley Litow, an IBM executive and former deputy chancellor of New York City schools, the panel interviewed several representatives from advocacy and education stakeholder groups regarding their proposals for how to improve Common Core implementation.
The expert presenters stressed during the two-and-a-half hour meeting that the success of the standards relies heavily on support from parents and the general public.
Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, said it was “refreshing” to participate in a positive discussion about the Common Core standards. Most presenters at the panel's meeting spoke in support of the standards and went easy on the state regarding implementation problems. When a panelist asked the presenters to rate the state's rollout of the standards, some offered a six or seven out of 10, which represented a near-perfect implementation.
“I believe personally that many of the people who live in these communities have been misled,” Kremer said, responding to a question about school board members' outlook on implementation of the standards. “There are so many political moving parts out there that are trying to blame each other. Some of the detractors of Common Core and education reform have won the battle in the court of public opinion."
Kevin Kelly from Stop Common Core responded in the comments section of the Capital NY article on the Common Core panel meeting:
Is this an investigatory panel or aa ad agency? How about instead of cheerleading the CCLS, study how they stack up against the standards we had before? How about having early learning professionals look into how inappropriate the standards are? How about investigating the privacy issues raised by the longitudinal data bases collecting P-20 on our children?
Another commenter writes:
What a joke. This commission that Cuomo has set up is more akin to a kangaroo court than an impartial panel. A week and a half ago, the Board of Regents finally budged under the weight of public opinion, reason, and common sense. I don't think they did it out of some idealistic notion of what is best for our schools-- in my humble opinion, they were simply tired of taking heat for what Cuomo helped to usher in. Heads are going to roll anyway (John King's, for starters), so what's the sense of continuing on a state tour taking one black eye after another? Approaching an election year, Cuomo has tried to hide behind the State Ed. Dept. and to distance himself from this mess (remember when he rushed the implementation of APPR, CCSS, etc., only to later say that "State Ed. doesn't answer to the governor" when pressed for comment?).
At least this "commission" has one thing right: in terms of public relations and 'selling' the CCSS, there has been no involvement by New York's executive branch. That might mean that our Governor might actually have to sit down and examine the Common Core. He might have to listen to teachers, administrators, parents and students. He might be expected to generate an informed opinion rather than playing the Fed's hand maiden and passing the buck of responsibility, implementation, and accountability to others. Let it be known that this is Cuomo's M.O.: ride the polls and capitalize on those hot button issues that are relatively safe bets in a liberal leaning state (same sex marriage, gun control, etc.). But when the noise gets loud (Common Core, hydrofracking,etc.), Cuomo hides behind curtains.
I think that's exactly right - this Common Core panel convened by Governor Cuomo, stacked with Common Core supporters and proponents (as demonstrated here) is meant to keep the Common Core status quo moving forward but give Governor Cuomo some political cover and distance from that status quo.
The first meeting of the panel shows just how rigged the process is - the takeaway from the meeting was "Common Core is great, messaging around Common Core not so great!"
And so, they decided that the p.r. around the Common Core has to get better, that they have to "sell it" more effectively to the public, specifically parents.
This isn't the first time that we've heard this complaint around messaging - NYSED Commissioner John King complained last spring that the news media wasn't adequately explaining the "complexities" of Common Core to the public.
But the truth is, this has nothing to do with the "messaging" or the media - this has to do with the Core itself.
As more and more parents become familiar with the Common Core, see their kids struggle with the homework and fail the age-inappropriate tests, see the quality of the Common Core lesson plans or modules, they're turning against Common Core.
The same is happening for teachers all across the country, a message echoed by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel to Politico yesterday.
The Cuomo Common Core panel has already decided that the Common Core is swell, it's just the propaganda selling it that needs to be improved.
In short, they're shilling for the Common Core (which is pretty much what I expected we would get from this panel), but they're going to be surprised (as will the governor) when they discover that no amount of improved messaging or heavy doses of propaganda can sell the Common Core to the public.
You see, you can't sell garbage as gold when people see their kids living with the garbage every day in school and at home while they're doing their homework.
And therein lies the problem for the Common Core proponents and ed reformers - Common Core and the testing/data collection/teacher evaluation reforms that go along with it are half-baked at best and everybody who comes in contact with them can see that for themselves.
Maybe if the reformers had fully developed curricula around CCSS, maybe if they had delayed the CCSS tests or the high stakes for students, teachers and schools, they could have sold the CCSS to the public.
But they chose to go "all-in" and push all the reforms at once and as even Andrew Cuomo noted in his statement about Common Core yesterday, it has caused major problems:
“I think the way they have implemented Common Core has failed utterly,” he said. “There is massive confusion, massive anxiety and massive chaos all across the state. It may have been a good idea, but it has to be a good idea that is done properly. And this was not done properly.”
You won't see me write this too often, but Governor Cuomo is absolutely right in part - there has been massive chaos, confusion and anxiety all across the state as a result of the CCSS and the state's education reform agenda.
The SED and the Regents have no idea how to fix any of this, so they pretty much tinker at the edges and pay lip service to critics and opponents.
Given that the deformers who pushed this agenda through have no idea how to fix the mess, how to clean up the confusion and alleviate the anxiety, I don't think all the improved messaging in the world is going to work to sell the CCSS to the public.
But as usually happens in 21st century America, our political elites figure they can sell garbage as gold if they just go heavier with the propaganda.