COMMON SENSE FOR COMMON CORE
I am pleased that one of the 2014 end-of-session highlights is a common-sense reform of how the controversial Common Core learning standards will be applied in evaluating New York State’s teachers and principals. Passage of this legislation means that the students, parents, teachers and administrators in my district who have repeatedly expressed concerns about this issue have been heard loud and clear.
Teaching is a rewarding, yet hard job and good teachers should not have to be concerned that their evaluation will include the questionable implementation of the Common Core standards. Overall, I believe this legislation is an important step forward in achieving what we all want in the end: the best possible education for our children and the best possible teachers and administrators in our schools.
In light of continuing difficulties with the haphazard and uneven implementation of the standards – which have caused great distress for children, families and educators alike – we took action in the State Budget to make sure that Common Core test results aren’t used in determining overall grades for students in grades three through eight for two years. Now, certain teachers and principals will also be held harmless from being evaluated on Common Core exam scores during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, although they will still be reviewed on the basis of other factors not related to the new learning standards.
This new two-year system will apply to teachers and principals who were rated as ‘ineffective’ or ‘developing’ on any initial evaluations which included Common Core test results. They will be given two scores, both of which parents will see: one which includes the Common Core exam results, and a second “safety net” score that is based only on local student performance and other factors apart from the new learning standards. This is only fair, since many teachers and principals have been ill prepared – through no fault of their own and lacking needed training and resources – to properly go forward with the new instructional standards.
WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO CURB HEROIN USE
The state government took a positive step in addressing the serious and growing epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse and related deaths. This comprehensive package of legislation will provide better treatment for addicts, crack down on drug dealers, ensure the proper use of anti-overdose medications and raise public awareness of the dangers of heroin and opioid use.
Heroin abuse has been growing at a staggering rate in recent years and does not discriminate. Many families in my district have witnessed loss of life and heartbreak to this terrifying epidemic. Tens of thousands of our state’s residents, and especially those in the 18-to-24 year age range, have fallen prey to heroin and far too many are not living to tell the tale. This legislative package, which will soon be approved by Governor Cuomo, will help us fight this fight on a variety of equally important fronts.
To highlight the severity of the epidemic, consider that there were 89,269 cases of heroin and prescription opiate treatment admissions in New York State in 2013 alone, an increase from 63,793 in 2004. Across the nation, an estimated 467,000 people were reportedly using heroin or suffering from dependence on the drug in 2012.
In March, police seized a stash of heroin with an estimated street value of $150,000 from a home in Flushing, and last May, a drug house containing an estimated $2 million in heroin and crystal meth was raided and shut down in Corona. We can’t deny the fact that the heroin epidemic is affecting us right here in our backyard and that we all need to work together to help addicts, punish drug dealers – including crooked health care professionals – and otherwise keep others from falling prey to drug abuse.