Research & Commentary: New York Common Core Task Force

Published November 5, 2015

The New York state Common Core Task Force, commissioned in September of 2015 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to “overhaul” the state’s Common Core State Standards (CCSS) system, met for the first time in mid-October 2015. The 15-member commission (with one student ambassador) is charged with “performing a comprehensive review of the State’s learning standards, instructional guidance and curricula, and tests in order to improve the system’s implementation and reduce test anxiety” and then reporting a set of recommendations back to Cuomo in time to be included as policy proposals in his State of the State Address next year.

The review, according to task force chairman Richard Parsons, a senior advisor for Providence Equity Partners, “will help us fix and strengthen the state’s learning standards and ensure that every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential.” The commission is planning on having a dozen public sessions across the state to “engage New Yorkers and generate feedback.”

This is the third Common Core panel, commission, or task force named by Cuomo since 2012, and Parsons and four other members served on the last commission, in 2014, which was tasked with smoothing out implementation of the standards but never issued a final report.

The first meeting of the new task force offered “a preliminary discussion … on the history and timeline of Common Core standards development and implementation in New York state, as well as the development of related assessments, and problems that have arisen as a result of that implementation.” Not much is known about what the task force has planned subsequently, but critics are not optimistic about the chances for any real reform.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R) was quoted as saying the task force seems to be more focused on “generating content for a speech, rather than generating new answers for students, parents, teachers, and school districts. … Our schools don’t need another time-consuming, ineffective, public relations exercise of a task force. They need immediate help.” Kolb wants all Common Core testing stopped until reforms are implemented.

The Common Core standards have become less and less popular each year. In New York, the unpopularity of Common Core led 20 percent of all eighth-grade students to opt out of standardized testing this year. Although a full repeal of Common Core in the Empire State would be ideal, it is clear the Common Core Task Force will not issue such a recommendation.

State lawmakers should implement as much meaningful education reform as possible. A policy that has bipartisan support nationally, and could be implemented quickly, is a reduction in time students spend on standardized testing each year. Such a proposal has already been put forward by the New York Assembly’s Minority Conference. Lawmakers also should consider implementing mastery-based education, where students advance according to the knowledge they have acquired as demonstrated by progressively more difficult tests, over seat-based education, where students move to the next grade level not by what they have learned but by how many academic hours they have accumulated over the past school year.

The follow documents offer more information about the Common Core State Standards.

Federal Overreach and Common Core
In this paper for the Pioneer Institute, Bill Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, examines Common Core, tests aligned to Common Core standards, Race to the Top, and No Child Left Behind waivers and provides a social, historical, and legal look at big government’s intrusion into America’s educational landscape.

The Common Core: A Poor Choice for States
In this Heartland Institute Policy Brief, Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann reveals some major weaknesses of the Common Core. The program represents a major centralization of control over curriculum, contrary to the American tradition of decentralized control and funding. Instead of being “world class,” the standards represent a significant step back from what experts say are the standards America really needs.

Replacing Common Core with Proven Standards of Excellence
David Anderson of Asora Education Enterprises argues the Common Core standards have already fallen short of expectations. He summarizes some of the many failings of Common Core, including incompleteness, low standards, lack of a research basis, and invasions of privacy. He recounts how Common Core was “captured” by Washington, DC and laws were broken along the way. Finally, he proposes using the ACT as an alternative to Common Core tests.

Tip Sheet: Common Core Standards
As they have learned how Common Core will affect curricula, teaching, and testing, state lawmakers and citizens have objected strenuously. The main concerns include Common Core’s questionable academic quality, nontransparent creation and quick adoption, federal government involvement, links to a vast expansion of student data-mining, and further erosion of state and local control. Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann argues states should replace Common Core with higher-quality, state-controlled academic standards and tests not funded by the federal government. They should secure student data privacy and ensure national testing mandates do not affect instruction in private and home schools.

Study: Common Core Violates Federal Law
This research paper from the Pioneer Institute charges Common Core standards and two testing consortia responsible for administering tests aligned with the standards violate federal laws. The authors cite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the General Education Provisions Act of 1970, and the Department of Education Organization Act of 1970 as forbidding federal control over curriculum and instruction. The authors argue federal laws forbid the national government from favoring a particular set of curriculum-content standards.

Arkansas Replacing Common Core Tests with ACTs
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has directed the state Board of Education to replace the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Common Core aligned tests with ACT and ACT-Aspire tests. The change was recommended by the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review. The council stated it recommended moving from PARCC to ACT because of the latter’s “comparability between states; the minimal time spent testing relative to PARCC; and the ACT’s relevance to students.”

Common Core Diminishes Teaching of Classic Literature
Vivian Hughbanks argues the Common Core K–12 standards for English language arts focus excessively on text comprehension and communication techniques and deemphasize reading of imaginative literature such as fiction by Dostoevsky, Austen, and Homer. Common Core supporters tout the standards’ inclusion of a requirement to teach one Shakespeare play and one American literary work, but there is no way to be certain the underlying themes and meanings of those texts will be taught or gauged.

Bruno Behrend: Common Core
Heartland Institute Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend joins the Dave Elswick Show to discuss Common Core. Behrend and Elswick talk about the popular perceptions of Common Core and public education and why the new standards will not solve our educational problems. Elswick compares the standards to the “new math” program in the past, which caused more problems than it fixed, and Behrend explains the controversy over Common Core is a symptom of a larger problem.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News website at, The Heartland Institute’s website at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

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