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Praising 'consensus' report, Cuomo hints at education agenda

By Geoff Decker

(From GothamSchools, January 3rd, 2013)

Embracing recommendations by a commission that he convened, Governor Cuomo yesterday offered a first glimpse of what his education agenda might look like when he rolls it out in his State of the State address next week.

His comments suggested that, unlike in previous years, in 2013 he will avoid taking a stand on some of the more divisive education issues, including teacher tenure and charter schools.

Cuomo formed the education reform commission last year as the engine to drive his promise to shake up the state’s school system, which, in his 2012 State of the State address, he painted as excessively expensive, under-performing, and driven by interest groups.

Exactly a year later, the commission’s first set of recommendations struck a less acerbic tone, endorsing policies that won the approval of a diverse set of groups — and a much more tepid reaction from the most aggressive reformers.

The headline recommendations included consolidating small school districts; strengthening teacher and principal preparation, including creating a bar-like exam for teachers; rewarding teachers for good performance, without clearly defining what that looks like; extending the school day and year; and creating community schools offering nonacademic services to low-income students.

“I think that, by and large, this was a consensus document,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a member of the commission. Weingarten said she would have liked if the report focused more on state education funding, but added, “There’s no one who dissented from it.”

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