A panel convened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to review and propose changes to the state’s controversial Common Core education standards released its long-awaited report on Thursday with 21 recommendations for overhauling the standards, including a temporary end to linking test results to teacher performance reviews.

The report comes after Cuomo has started to publicly distance himself from the linking of Common Core-based test results to how teachers and other educators are evaluated.

Among the panel’s key recommendations includes a moratorium on using Common Core-based test results when evaluating teachers, saying they will instead “only be advisory and not
be used to evaluate the performance of individual teachers or students.”

If adopted, the uncoupling would be a reversal, albeit a temporary one through 2020, from a major education policy fight Cuomo won earlier in the year, and a victory for the state’s teacher unions.

In March, Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to an evaluation system that links test results and in-classroom observation to evaluations, while making it harder for teachers to obtain and keep tenure.

The proposal was swiftly praised by the New York State United Teachers union.

“Today we celebrate momentous developments at the state and national level that open the door for a much needed transformation in public education,” the union said in a statement. “The recommendations of the state task force signal a commitment to restore the joy of teaching and learning in our classrooms.”

Cuomo has been previously critical of how the state Department of Education rolled out the standards, which began before he took office.

But Cuomo during his time as governor has pushed for greater accountability from public schools, embraced charter schools and feuded with the state’s teachers unions.

The formation of the task force came after an active movement from parents and Common Core critics has led to approximately 20 percent of students opting out of the April round of Common Core-based tests in math and English-Language Arts.

In a statement, Cuomo pledged a sweeping overhaul of how the standards work, with an emphasis placed on local control.

“After listening to thousands of parents, educators and students, the Task Force has made important recommendations that include overhauling the Common Core, adopting new locally-designed high quality New York standards, and greatly reducing testing and testing anxiety for our students,” Cuomo said. “The Common Core was supposed to ensure all of our children had the education they needed to be college and career-ready – but it actually caused confusion and anxiety. That ends now.”

The recommendations from the education panel include the adoption of “locally-driven” education standards derived from teachers and parents that provides flexibility for students with disabilities and those learning English.

At the same time, the panel is calling reducing the number of days spent testing students and improving curriculum resources for teachers, who would also be given the flexibility in tailoring standards to individual students.

The panel’s recommendations were due to be released before Cuomo delivers his State of the State and budget address, scheduled for Jan. 13.

Making changes to the state’s Common Core program would be a likely relief for state lawmakers, who face re-election this year. Lawmakers have previously indicated it’s unlikely they will take up the changes legislatively.

The Department of Education is due to have its report on Common Core recommendations by June, to e released by a separate panel.

Today’s report was praised by the legislative leaders.

“These reforms will build on what we have already done to ease the anxiety that exists in many classrooms across the state while reinforcing the importance of high standards,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a former chairman of the Education Committee.

Added Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: “While there is still much work left to be done, this report is a good first step in our efforts to improve New York’s educational standards and overhaul Common Core.”

Business groups, meanwhile, took a wait-and-see approach.

“While we have yet to fully digest today’s report from the Common Core Task Force, we are hopeful that these proposed changes will once again allow us to put our childrens’ education first,” said Heather C. Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “Whether you agree with the Common Core or not, it is clear that our students are not receiving the education they need and higher standards must not be rolled back.

New_York_Common_Core_Task_Force_Final_Report.pdf by Nick Reisman