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Conceding that “evidence of failure is everywhere”, Governor Cuomo recently announced his fifteen member 2015 Common Core Commission convened to “review and reform” the common core.

Welcome to the 2015 season featuring Cuomo’s Triple C: Common Core Commission. This year’s reality TV episode of public education policy theater stars:

Responding to fears due to the growing opt out movement in New York State, the Triple C was convened with the Governor calling for a “total reboot” and making promises to “revamp”, “overhaul” and review the common core standards from the bottom up.

The new 15-member panel is led by Richard Parsons, a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners and former Citigroup board chair who chaired the governor’s education reform commission in 2012.

But, who the heck is the man leading the 2015 Triple C anyway?

The plot thickens. In stunning irony, Richard Parsons, the man set to lead the education process and tasked with implementing sound education poicy and college and career readiness, is a HIGH SCHOOL dropt out who opted to earn his GED instead of finishing school.

According to Daily Banter:

“Dick Parsons’ biography can be summed up in two phases of his life: before meeting Nelson Rockefeller, and after meeting Nelson Rockefeller.

Before meeting Nelson Rockefeller, Dick Parsons was a self confessed clown from a middle-class African-American family in Brooklyn. “Left to my own devices, I don’t feel any compulsion to strive,” he told to the New York Times. Race was never an issue with Parsons either: ”I don’t have any experience in my life where someone rejected me for race or any other reason.’

So Parsons dropped out of high school with a “C” average, earning a GED certificate. He enrolled in the University of Hawaii for reasons he could never really explain, joined a frat, and became their social chairman. As one of Parsons’ frat brohs recalled to journalist Nina Munk, “Here’s this guy who’s at the bar sixty-seven days in a row and, as you can imagine, he did very poorly in school.”

Parsons did worse than poorly: He flunked out of U. Hawaii. Without earning a degree.

And then slacker Dick Parsons met oligarch Nelson Rockefeller, and from here on out, Parsons lived out a Cinderella fairytale for the One Percenters. As luck would have it, Dick Parsons’ grandfather was once a favorite groundskeeper at the famous Rockefeller Compound in Pocantico Hills and lived in a hut on in the shadow of the oligarchs’ mansion. Soon, Dick Parsons and his wife would move into one of those same groundskeepers huts under Nelson Rockefeller’s patronage.

As Parsons later admitted, “The old-boy network lives…I didn’t grow up with any of the old boys. I didn’t go to school with any of the old boys. But by becoming a part of that Rockefeller entourage, that created for me a group of people who’ve looked out for me ever since.”

And so, magically, despite failing out of Hawaii without a degree, Dick Parsons was accepted into the Albany University Law School program. Nelson Rockefeller happened to be in Albany too at the time, serving as governor of the state of New York. Dick Parsons was chosen to be an intern for Rockefeller.

Whereas before, when Parsons didn’t study he failed out, now, after meeting Nelson Rockefeller, by some magical twist of fate, he was the law school’s valedictorian. Sandy Stevenson, a fellow law school classmate of Parsons’ who became a professor at Albany Law, recalled: “He didn’t study hard. He played a lot of bridge. He was so smart he didn’t have to study, and he was in the cafeteria playing bridge a lot.”

Parsons took the New York state bar exam, and scored the highest in the state, beating out all the high-achieving Ivy Leaguers that year. It may have been a complete coincidence, but Nelson Rockefeller’s right-hand man, Harry Albright, was in charge of both the law school internship program with the governor, and in charge of scoring the New York state bar exams.

Well, color me amused.

Here is another interesting tid bit about the heavy hitting business mogul and Cuomo Common Core Commission leader Richard Parsons.

According to this Bloomberg article, Richard Parsons never bothered to complete his college education and does not even have a college degree.

From the article:

“The son of an electrical technician and a homemaker, Parsons grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn and didn’t do much schoolwork as a youngster. It apparently didn’t hurt him. He skipped a grade in elementary school and another in high school. “I TEST WELL,” he says by way of explanation.” (my emphasis)

“He went to the University of Hawaii, where he partied more than he studied. After four years, he still needed six credits to get his diploma, but he discovered that if he aced his pre-law exams he could get into law school in New York state without a college degree. He did well on the test and was accepted to Albany Law School, where he graduated at the top of his class.

The articles above also raise eyebrows as to the integrity of Parsons bar exam score and paints Parsons out to be more of a talented “schmoozer” than a shrewd businessman.

Is it just me, or is this all just a tad ironic that the man charged with leading education panel in New York State doesnt even have a basic education yet he is making imoprtant decisions that will affect the lives and futures of New York State public school children?

The Governor’s reaction to the strength of opt out speaks volumes. Cuomo attempts to diffuse the situation by making grandiose promises to the public and appointing a man who clearly is not qualified to serve, but this just illustrates that the Governor is running scared. He has not staffed the panel by using sound judgment but is just attempting to appease parents in order to gain control over a growing protest movement that has exceeded all expectations.

Billed as an opportunity to cure an “implementation” problem, parents across the Hudson Valley are not buying the  Governor’s plan nor the illusion of good faith that the Governor is trying to sell.

Despite his attempts to quell and appease public school parents, failure of the experimental Common Core Learning Standards comes as no surprise. Over 220,000 public school children chose to refuse NYS Common Core tests in the spring of 2015 to protest while  complaints and concerns over the quality of Pearson tests aligned to the common core prompted the Department to oust Pearson from its payroll.

While state education officials claim that the appointment of new test maker, Questar resolves parent concerns, the opposite is true. Many questions still persist.

Putting a panel together for show will not resolve the problem. Until New York State takes action to scrap the Common Core Learning Standards and halts the invalid use of discriminatory test scores to evaluate schools and teachers, parents like myself will encourage opt out to grow.

In fact, this is not the first time Cuomo has convened a statewide commission in response to parent outrage.  In January 2014 New York State Education Reform Commission issued a 92-page “action plan”  while a separate Common Core Implementation Panel hand picked by Chancellor Tisch issued yet another report in March 2014. Each has proven unsucessful.

Additionally, the State Education Department is also reviewing Common Core standards Commissioner Elia has promised to deliver a report by year’s end so that Cuomo can tack on the Department’s reccommendations in his State of the State address if he so chooses.

So, how many “do overs” does Governor Cuomo get to get things right?

The instant Triple C, like each one before it,  is unlikely to make a difference. Indeed, while the Governor casually tosses around promises like “revamp”, “reboot” and overhaul,” those promises are disingenuous New York State public school children will likely get the same standards basically with a name change.

Truth be told, as the Governor’s advisory body, the Triple C does not have the power or authority to actually change the CCSS, for one thing, the standards are copywritten. Only 15% is subject to modification and that 15% is what is ignored because they’re not tested. The ONLY way to substantially change them is dump them completely.

Another caveat that has gone unsaid, is that the Governor does not have the authority to craft education policy, that power belongs to the Regents. The Regents do not have financing authority, that power belongs to the Governor and legislature. Therefore, the Governor’s plan to “overhaul” education policy in New York State is disingenuous.

So, what power does the Triple C panel members really have? Well, none really and that can illustrated by looking closely at the commitee’s charge.

With that in mind, the Governor has charged the Task Force to:

“Review and reform the Common Core State Standards;
Review New York State’s curriculum guidance and resources;
Develop a process to ensure tests fit curricula and standards;
Examine the impact of the current moratorium on recording Common Core test scores on student records, and make a recommendation as to whether it should be extended;
Examine how the State and local districts can reduce both the quantity and duration of student tests, and develop a plan whereby districts include parents in reviewing local tests being administered to analyze those tests’ purpose and usefulness; and
Review the quality of the tests to ensure competence and professionalism from the private company creating and supplying the tests.

The Governor has directed the Task Force to conduct its process as transparently as possible and to solicit and consider input from regional advisory councils comprised of parents, teachers and educators across the state.
The Task Force’s report will be issued publicly by the end of the year so that it can be reviewed by all and changes can be implemented quickly and effectively.”
Lastly, the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers hold the copyright on the Common Core State Standards.

While the Governor claims that the Commission will “review and reform” and he has stated in the press that the panel will “reboot” common core, the reality is likely to be much different. At best, I am fairly confident we can expect the panel will do nothing more than “tweak” Common Core.

This is where they purport the opt out leaders input comes in. Task Force members may hold meetings, Town halls or such to “solicit and consider” advice and reccommendations from the public. We know this is a farce as these public input sessions are typically pro forma but do not yield results because the panel already has their charge in mind.

Cuomo’s Common Core Commission is a bit confused.

The Governor charged the panel  to basically tweak common core withIN the confines of the existing scommon core state standards adopted by New York State and so he staffed it with the people he could count on to do just that.

This charge is important because if a panel member were say to challenge the common core and reccommend or push for a repeal, for example, Commission leadership ie: Dick Parsons could quickly object and redirect the panel  back to the task at hand by offering the argument that such a reccommendation strays from the Governor’s charge and they cant do that, the Triple C are bound to follow the charge.

So what better way to maintain status quo then to stack the panel with common core proponents who are not likely willing to stray from the charge at the outset.

Lets face it, most opt out leaders  would likely be considered a thorn in the Governor’s side. So, why bother dealing with people who offer dissent? The Governor does not have the time to deal with such nonsense, he chose to just exclude opt out leaders and parents from the Commission altogether.

The panel is all smoke and mirrors.

While NYS can only add 15 percent to the common core that was adopted verbatim, there are also licensing and use requirements as part of that adoption.

Achieves Chad Colby concedes, that “states can make subtractions and changes but they do so at their own peril”, “as assessments aligned to common core are nationally normed” the tests are based on the 85% of the common core adopted nation wide, and does not include the 15% that is unique to New York State.

At a time where what gest tested is what gets taught, it easy to see why adding much more the common core is virtually pointless.

So although these folks were convened and charged with “reforming” common core, please recall, since the common core standards are copy written and NYS can only personalize 15% of the standards,  compounded by the fact that the Governor does not have the power to make education policy under the New York State Constitution, its pretty clear that the Tiple C does not have alot of wiggle room to adjust and maneauver the common core at the outset and will likely be making some minor esthetic changes rather than “overhaul” the same.
Unlike prior processes and standard writing that permitted states to add and subtract, this is not the case. If states  make subtractions and changes to this copyrighted set of standards, they do so at their own peril as common assessments are aligned to the common core as it’s written. Practically speaking, if it is not tested, will any state changes really matter?

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Basically, the governor’s “commission” to revamp common core is a farce. More likely, the panel has been implemented not to revamp common core but to change when a standard is taught and how its taught in the classroom. Thats about it.
Colby explains, for example, a third grader that had already mastered all of the Common Core’s grade-level expectations could begin learning fourth grade content.
In other words, shifting standards a grade earlier presents no problems. However, delaying the teaching of a standard to a later grade (for example if the standard is developmentally inappropriate and is being taught too early which is the case with the common core in many cases) could hurt the student’s progression towards college- and career-readiness because it deviates from the benchmark that the student is required to know by such and such date and time and undermines the pace at which the lesson is requried to be taught by the teacher in the classroom in order for that teacher to meet her targets as well.

That’s why most states, and New York State have not been able to change the problems that are happening in our classrooms in our school. NYS can only only add to the Common Core and this can only be done after the standards were adopted verbatim we cannot logically remove aspects of common core that are troubling or developmentally inappropriate for young learners.

So, when all the smoke clears in the fog is lifted the Governors contention that the panel intends to “revamp” common core is misleading.

If the governor is truly interested in “reviewing”, “conducting a reboot” and “overhauling” the common core standards to make them unique and developmentally appropriate for New York, then perhaps the commission should team up with the Regents and SED to simply replace the crappy common core standards authored by David Coleman, Susan Pimental et al, and replace the ELA/ESL piece with the homemade, developmentally appropriate, rigorous lost standards developed by a panel of teachers, child development specialists and our very own New York State Regents led by Regent Saul Cohen years ago.

You see in 2009, New York needed to write new educational standards, and Regent Cohen had agreed to lead the project.

Officially known as the “Regents Standards Review and Revision Initiative”, the project addressed and resolved many of the concerns that drove Common Core’s primary goals. They crafted the ELA/ESL piece and started the rest.

Regent Cohen brought in veteran educator Walter Sullivan and they put together a team of New York State public-school teachers and child development experts Who worked with the regents on this project.

Over two years, Cohen and Sullivan led the team of New York educators who created what may have been the country’s best standards for English/language arts and English as a second language.

When all of a sudden, on a pitch by David Coleman, architect of common core, who was eager to sell his defective product to NYS and to advance investment interests, Chancellor Tisch set up a meeting and the rest is history.

All of the hard work conducted by Regent Cohen and his panel was scrapped and replaced by the common core in one fell swoop.

Regent Cohen was understandably distressed, angry because , as he asserts, the common core was simply not as good as the standards.

According to Cohen, they were well underway in developing the nation’s best standards when, according to Cohen, the state “grabbed the (federal) money” and “tossed out all of the work we had done.” He adds, “I was very upset, because the national standards weren’t as good. Now we have this mess.”
The “lost standards” were infinitely better than Common Core. They relied on multiple methods of measuring student progress — not just standardized testing. And many educational decisions were left to local school districts.

Three commissions before it have already attempted to revive the common core standards, it is time that they are dumped once and for all. The Governor and the commission has the Power to work with the Regents/Education Department  to correct the common core  blight which is a repeating and reoccurring problem. Think about how much money, time and effort officials and your state tax payers are putting towards trying to “fix” what is clearly a defective product. It’s time to recall this defective product and replace it with something better.
The Lost Standard for ELA/ELS is the model the Governors commission should pursue, its a step in the right direction.


Click to access HB5078testimony.pdf

Please review these standards here:

Anna Shah is a parent & public education advocate who moonlights as a member of the bar. She blogs at Schools of thought Hudson Valley New York and is a co-founding member of  Hudson Valley Alliance for Public EducationFollow Anna @SOTHVNY  

HV Alliance for Public education, is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of parents and public school children against harmful testing practices in the Hudson Valley. To join the Alliance or to learn more, please visit us here: