Senators Ritchie, Griffo, have different ideas from Assemblywoman Russell on handling Common Core
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 11:27 am

State Sens. Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) and Joe Griffo (R-Rome) and Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D-Theresa) agree that the state’s rollout of the federal Common Core education standards has been inadequate, but their stances announced today indicate they disagree on what to do next.

Griffo is criticizing the state Assembly for not voting to approve a new slate of education “regents” that he believes would improve the state's performance in implementing the Common Core in New York.

He and Sen. Ritchie voted to oust current members of the Board of Regents, citing the flawed rollout of the state's new Common Core programs.

Meanwhile Assemblywoman Russell is criticizing the Republican-dominated Senate for not taking up an Assembly proposal to delay aspects of the Common Core standards’ implementation.

“The Board of Regents has failed our students, our parents and our teachers in its handling of the implementation of the Common Core curriculum," said Griffo, whose 47th senate District includes the St. Lawrence County towns of Massena, Brasher, Norfolk, Stockholm, Potsdam, Pierrepont, Russell, Clifton, Fine, and Pitcairn, in addition to Lewis County and his home territory in Oneida County.

Griffo said he voted in the Senate Tuesday to follow through on a promise: “I said last week that I would stand with my constituents and not vote for any incumbent seeking election to the Board of Regents. Today, I made good on that promise.

“Unfortunately, a majority of members in the New York State Assembly have voted to accept the status quo and keep those responsible for this disastrous roll out in power. This decision underscores why it’s important to permanently change the way Regents are selected. I have advocated for voters to pick Regents during school budget referendums. I want those most affected by these policy changes to have a say in who is deciding how our children should learn,” Griffo said in a news release.

Ritchie announced she was backing two Regents reform bills, and would work with colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to identify additional ways to reform the state’s education system.

The first bill would allow the public to choose members of the Board of Regents. Ritchie has signed on as cosponsor of the bill. Right now, Regents are selected by the Legislature through a "secretive and outdated process that is controlled entirely by Assembly Democrats, leaving no role for lawmakers who represent nearly half the state’s population, including vast swaths of rural and Upstate New York," Ritchie said in a news release.

She is drafting a second bill to require the Board of Regents to hold at least one meeting a year in each region of the state. The Regents currently meet 11 times a year.

Ritchie's Senate district includes northern St. Lawrence County including Ogdensburg, Canton, Gouverneur, Oswegatchie, Waddington, Lisbon, Madrid, Louisville, DeKalb, DePeyster, Hermon, Edwards, Fowler, Rossie, Macomb, Morristown, and Hammond, plus Jefferson and Oswego counties.

Meanwhile Assemblywoman Russell issued a press release Tuesday calling on the state Senate to pass the Assembly’s legislation delaying the effects of Common Core before the next round of testing begins on April 1.

Russell, whose district includes all St. Lawrence County towns along Seaway (Massena, Ogdensburg, Louisville, Waddington, Lisbon, Oswegatchie, Morristown, and Hammond) plus the towns of Canton, Potsdam, Rossie, Macomb, and DePeyster, and northern Jefferson County not including Watertown, said the Assembly bill currently does not have a companion version in the Senate.

“The disastrous implementation of Common Core has caused nothing but outrage and anxiety for our students, parents and educators,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “It is now time for the Senate to pass this legislation and spare our kids from another round of high stakes tests for which they have not been adequately prepared.”

The Assembly’s legislation, which passed 121-10, prevents the use of Common Core test scores from third to eighth grade as the sole or primary factor in determining student promotion or placement decisions, Russell said. And those exam results would be barred from being included on a student’s official transcript or permanent record. The state Education Department commissioner would also be required to reduce the number of field tests administered in those grade years, noted Russell. Through an accelerated review of teacher evaluation system plans, some unnecessary testing would be eliminated, enabling students to spend more time learning rather than taking tests, according to the assemblywoman.

The bill would also delay the sharing of sensitive student data until July 2015 and give parents and students the ability to opt out of disclosing sensitive information to certain third-party vendors. It would also require vendors to have a plan in place to resolve any data breaches and immediately notify schools or the state Education Department of any suspected or actual threat to data security.

“The Assembly heard the concerns of communities across the state and passed a responsible bill that protects our kids without risking billions in education dollars that our schools cannot afford to lose,” Russell said. “This has gone on long enough; it is time for the Senate to act.”