Top state education officials, stung by rising public anger over testing, declared Monday that they will seek ways to relieve some pressures on students and will reach out to parents and teachers who have mobilized against the Department of Education's assessments.
Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., in a fresh move aimed at addressing educators' and parents' concerns, announced he will hold a dozen public forums to deal with questions and concerns over tests and related issues.
King suffered an embarrassing public setback earlier this month when he canceled four town-hall meetings sponsored by the state PTA -- one in Garden City -- after audience members at earlier forums in Poughkeepsie and Whitesboro became loud and confrontational. Many in Poughkeepsie complained that too little time was set aside for public questions and comments.
The commissioner acknowledged Monday that he needs to take a new tack, telling Regents, "We had one approach that did not work very well."
King's aides said each of the next forums will last two hours, with virtually all that time reserved for questions and comments. The meetings will be scheduled between Nov. 6 and Dec. 9; dates for the forums on Long Island were not set.
It doesn't matter how they format the meetings if they plan to ignore the criticism they hear from the public at those meetings, and that's just what the SED and Regents plan to do.
Yesterday at their meeting in Albany, John King and some of the Regents said they are getting the message that there is too much emphasis on testing in the state and they will look for ways to alleviate some of that.
But how do they do that when the state teacher evaluation system mandates tests in every grade in every subject simply to evaluate teachers?
The state ed people say the public is conflating the Common Core with the teacher evaluation agenda,that these are separate issues that must be dealt with differently.
Actually, they're the same issue because they are so inextricably linked and were instituted simultaneously.
Testing is a key component of the Common Core agenda, the reformers who developed the standards wanted new Common Core tests instituted at the same time as the new standards to ensure that teachers would teach to those standards and the Obama administration, via Race to the Top and the NCLB waiver process, ensured that teachers in almost every state in the nation are set to be evaluated based on these Common Core tests.
The fact is, the Common Core standards, the Common Core testing, the teacher evaluations tied to the tests and the data collection process are all connected and the boys and girls at SED and the Regents are loathe to water down any one of those components for fear they will wreck the potency of their reform agenda.
They're paying lip service to the public's concerns, they clearly see the mess King made back in Poughkeepsie and Whiteboro and know that his history of listening to parents or teachers isn't so hot, so they're making their best efforts to make it look like they're going to address concerns over testing and the Common Core.
But you can bet your last scantron that despite their public utterances about hearing the concerns and looking for ways to address the stress students and teachers feel over the testing and Common Core, they have no intention of making any meaningful changes to the reform agenda.
The only way this reform agenda will be meaningfully changed is when parents and teachers rise up en masse and force those changes by telling their elected officials in the State Assembly, the State Senate and the Governor's office that those changes MUST be made or those elected officials will be thrown out of office and replaced with officials who WILL do the will of the people in this matters.
That's the kind of demand that gets notice in an election year and that's the kind of demand that will send John King and the rest of his merry reformers back to their education foundation and text book publishing gigs.
But until that happens, there will be no meaningful change to the radical King/Tisch/Cuomo education reform agenda.
I'm going to adapt a Norm Scott dictum about the UFT and apply it to the SED and the Regents.
Don't bother listening to what these people say, watch what they do.