A coalition group of parents and concerned citizens has called on New York State Education Commissioner John King to resign his position after he cancelled four upcoming forums on the state’s new Common Core standards.
King cancelled the Parent/Teacher forums after he was loudly criticized at one such forum in Poughkeepsie over his implementation of Common Core (CC).
A group called New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), formed in August, is opposed to excessive standardized testing and the release of children’s private, personal information in large databases without parental permission.
“After speaking uninterrupted for 1 hour and 40 minutes, Commissioner King allowed parents 20 minutes to speak,” NYSAPE writes on its website. “During this time, parents expressed concerns and attempted to share stories regarding the impact that the CC has already had on their children. Commissioner King repeatedly interrupted parents and refused to answer parent questions or address their concerns.”
According to Newsday, King defended his decision to immediately cancel forums near Buffalo, Utica, Albany, and on Long Island after receiving criticism at Spackenkill High School last Thursday. Parents and teachers expressed outrage at the state’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the standardized tests that are aligned with the new standards.
Regarding the Poughkeepsie forum, King said in a statement, “The disruptions caused by the ‘special interests’ have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments. Essentially, dialogue has been denied.”
While King’s spokesman, Dennis Tompkins, declined to identify the “special interests,” Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers, said, “Parents and teachers are not special interests.”
“The fact that thousands of parents have shown up about testing in different corners of the state suggests a great deal of frustration that testing has come in front of instruction, and the focus, the parents and teachers agree, should be on teaching and learning, not testing,” Korn said.
Port Jefferson, L.I. resident Ali Gordon, a trustee on the Comsewogue Board of Education, criticized King and argued he was ducking a town hall she and “many, many others” had planned to attend.
“It’s very disappointing to see the leader of our state Education Department essentially hide from parents and teachers who are so directly affected by the decisions that he makes and the rushed implementation of the Common Core in New York State,” Gordon said.
Education Department data released in August showed that over 60 percent of students in grades 3-8 in Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk Counties scored below proficiency on the Common Core-aligned tests, nearly double from the prior year.
Writing at the Washington Post, Carol Burris, New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year who has written extensively about the many problems with New York State’s test-driven education reform, says the state Education Department’s “loss of moral authority” was clearly on display at the forum in Poughkeepsie:
By the last half hour of the evening, the audience was both boisterous and impassioned, angered because there was limited opportunity to speak. What little time remained for the audience was twice interrupted by Commissioner John King, who had held the floor for an hour and a half.
The miffed King then reacted by cancelling upcoming scheduled forums.
Burris writes that she was not surprised at what occurred in Poughkeepsie given the course of education reform in New York led by King, who is 36. She noted that after only three years of teaching, King became co-director of a charter school and, five years later, became managing director of Uncommon Charter Schools.
In 2000, King entered the Inquiry Doctoral Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College in the same class as the wife of billionaire Jim Tisch, Merryl Tisch, who had been appointed to the New York State Board of Regents four years earlier. In April of 2009, Merryl Tisch became the Regents’ chancellor, and the following September, King was appointed deputy commissioner of education.
In 2011, after the abrupt resignation of David Steiner, King became Education Commissioner.
Burris describes the link between education elites and crony capitalists:
King has surrounded himself with bright young people, most of whom like King, have limited or no experience in public education. They are called the Regents Fellows. Their positions are funded by donations, including a million-dollar gift from Chancellor Tisch herself, and nearly a million dollars from Bill Gates. At a recent gathering of Long Island school leaders, Tisch was asked about the Fellows. She chided the audience, telling them that they should be grateful for the private donations. The skeptical audience, however, well understood that there is nothing like a million dollar donation to ensure that ‘my will be done.’
Recounting tales of poorly-thought out implementation of Common Core-aligned curricula, plummeting test scores, anxious students, Common-Core aligned textbooks that are yet to be completed, and observing the rise of the Opt Out movement regarding student data-mining, Burris writes that the “interest in the Common Core has turned to tepid support at best. What remains is compliance.”