ALBANY—State education commissioner John King said Tuesday that a call from teachers' unions for a three-year moratorium on using state exam results for “high-stakes” decisions is a “distraction” from the goal of improving New York graduates' outcomes in college and careers.
The state's new system for evaluating teachers and principals was presented last school year, at the same time that elementary and middle-school students began testing based on more difficult curriculum standards, called the Common Core.
School districts' locally negotiated evaluation systems use state exam results as a component of rating teachers, and according to the law, two consecutive negative evaluations can be used to fire a teacher. On last year's assessments, only 31 percent of students scored proficient or higher in math and language arts.
“We all agreed to the evaluation system: the governor, the Legislature, NYSUT and the state Education Department," King said Tuesday, after visiting an elementary school in Troy, near Albany. "We committed to the evaluation system knowing that we were going to implement the evaluation system alongside a change in the standards through the work on the Common Core."
“[New York State United Teachers] has been very supportive of the Common Core and understands that the Common Core is critical to help students be better prepared for college and career readiness,” King continued. “So I think the key thing now is to move the work forward, to continue to provide the support and professional development, and I think revisiting the agreement that we all made is a distraction at this point.”
King said data from school districts on the teacher evaluations are due to the state by Friday, after which department officials will analyze the statewide results and release them to the public “later this fall." Teachers have received their composite scores, but King said he has not yet been able to review them.
“We'll wait until we have all the numbers in,” he said.
If the NYSUT and the UFT want a moratorium on the testing component part of the evaluations, they're going to have to get rid of John King first, then convince Regents Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo to go along.
I'm actually convinced the NYSUT and the UFT are just playing games with their evaluation moratorium calls, that they want to make it look like they're doing something for their members while they really do nothing.
If so, the call for the moratorium has worked wonders for their "Do Nothing While Looking Like You're Doing Something" strategy.
So far, nothing has come of it and it is doubtful anything will so long as John King is running SED, Merryl Tisch the Board of Regents and Sheriff Andy Cuomo the State of New York.
That said, I think John King has got some problems that may ultimately spell his end at SED.
With parents in the suburbs now up in arms over his agenda, King has a growing rebellion on his hands that, quite frankly, dwarfs any issues he has with the teachers unions.
As I posted earlier, King's ed deform pals have remained silent as the furor over his Poughkeepsie performance and his calling parents "special interests" has grown.
This is a pretty good sign that King isn't long for power at SED.
His usefulness to the powers that be is running out.
Which doesn't mean his agenda will go with him, however.
While I have stated previously that I don't think getting rid of King will change much about the state's reform agenda, I do want to note that Governor Cuomo will make a change in course when it becomes politically expedient to do so.
Case in point is this bit of news:
Gov. Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission has reversed itself and will now send subpoenas to the state Democratic party and other entities tied to the governor, the Daily News has learned.
The move comes after a series of Daily News stories detailing meddling by Cuomo’s office with the commission and the fact that various subpoenas had been prepared but not sent.
At a closed-door meeting Tuesday, the red-faced commission voted to send a number of subpoenas to political committees, including the Cuomo-controlled state Democratic party, sources said.
The News had reported that the panel’s three co-chairs had approved the Democratic party subpoena several weeks ago seeking information about a special "housekeeping" account that was used to raise millions of dollars to fund ads promoting Cuomo's agenda this year. "The subpoena was never served.
Asked about the subpoenas to the Democratic party and other political committees, commission co-chairs Kathleen Rice, Milton Williams Jr. and William Fitzpatrick said in a statement that the panel "has moved to look across the board at all housekeeping accounts."
"Everything is on the table. We are looking at everything," they said in the statement.
In addition to the state Democratic party, a source said subpoenas will be served on the Conservative and Working Families parties. The News recently reported that the Republican and Independence parties were served.
In addition, the housekeeping accounts of the Senate and Assembly Democratic and Republican committees will also be subpoenaed, the source said.
Other sources said that a subpoena would be going to an ad buying firm used by Cuomo and the Democratic party, sources said.
The commission members Tuesday were informed that a previously undisclosed subpoena to Washington-based Buying Time LLC had been served several weeks ago but immediately withdrawn, the sources said.
On Tuesday, the commission unanimously agreed to re-send the subpoena to Buying Time.
There was also discussion about a subpoena prepared but never sent to the Cuomo-friendly Real Estate Board of New York, a source said. The commissioners were told REBNY was cooperating voluntarily, but in slower-than-desired fashion. The commissioners urged that REBNY move more quickly or face a subpoena, one source said.
“The meeting was like turning over a new leaf, a fresh start,” the insider said.
Funny how that new leaf got turned over after Sheriff Andy was exposed in the press as a hypocrite and a crook for putting the kibbosh on subpoenas to his campaign donors.
Nothing like a little light on the situation to get a politician - even one as stubborn and intransigent as Andrew Cuomo - to reverse course.
The same can happen on the Common Core testing, the evaluations and the rest of the Cuomo/Tisch/King education reform agenda.
If parents continue to put pressure on their state representatives, if the clamor against the SED/Regents reform agenda continues to grow (especially in Cuomo's re-election year!), I guarantee you that Sheriff Andy will be prone to having a sudden epiphany on some of that agenda and make some mid-course corrections, just as he did with the donor subpoenas.
Let's keep up the pressure, keep up the fight.
The Battle of Poughkeepsie is just the first fight in what is going to be a very long war.
But it is a war that can be - and must be - won.