ALBANY—Outgoing state education commissioner John King hopes to help school leaders in other states navigate the difficult transition to the Common Core standards and related standardized testing in his new position as the second-highest ranking official in the U.S. Department of Education.
Two years ago, under King’s leadership, New York became the second state to begin testing students on material aligned to the more difficult math and English language arts standards. New York launched the new assessments years ahead of most other states, which will begin administering the tougher exams this spring.
“In some ways, the hardest part of the transition is when you’ve given that first set of assessments that reflect higher standards and the state has to confront lower scores and the reality that there’s such a large gap between where we are and where we need to be,” King said during an exclusive interview with Capital. “I’ve encouraged my colleagues to do the best they can to prepare parents, communities, the public for those lower scores. We certainly tried to do that in New York and most importantly pointed to what it means: It isn’t to say that students learned less during that school year but rather to say that this is a realistic picture of where we are relative to college and career readiness.
“It is a place where I hope that I can be helpful, certainly to my colleagues around the country,” he said.
Oh, yeah, John, you'll be extremely helpful to your colleagues around the country as they see what NOT to do as they rollout out Common Core and the attendant tests that come with the standards.
It was Governor Cuomo who characterized the implementation of Common Core by John King's NYSED as "massive confusion, massive anxiety and massive chaos all across the state."
Parents and teachers across the state criticized King and his NYSED, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and her Board of Regents, over the mess that is Common Core and the Common Core tests in New York.
King refused to accept any of the criticism and responded with his own passive aggressive hostility, first canceling future town halls with parents, then sitting stone-faced through rescheduled ones after Regents Chancellor Tisch forced him to attend them.
The LoHud editorial board described King's engagement with parents and teachers at these forums:
For many in the Lower Hudson Valley, a lasting image of outgoing Education Commissioner John King will be of him sitting impassively at Port Chester Middle School in late 2013. The school auditorium was packed with hundreds of parents, teachers and others. Speaker after speaker stood up to decry the rapid rollout of the Common Core standards and new state tests. King appeared to listen, but said little and gave no ground. Most importantly, he didn't show a pinch of interest in connecting with parents, acknowledging their concerns or even making them feel as if they had been heard.
The Port Chester forum came shortly after King had canceled another series of statewide forums, claiming they had been co-opted by "special interests." To John King, anyone who questions or criticizes the state's top-down education "reform" agenda is an outsider who is not committed to seeing kids learn. Parents and educators who find flaws in sweeping curriculum and teacher evaluation changes are portrayed as lazy, excuse-making haters.
This isn't the case, of course. Many parents and educators in this region have offered reasonable, passionate and often convincing arguments against the growing state focus on testing, data-crunching, and evaluating teachers with a formula that is easily picked apart. But King has not been willing to engage his critics. This position has enraged many and created a bizarre stare-down between the state Education Department and many school districts that are supposed to be part of the same team.
Given his track record of failure here in New York State as education commissioner, the only "help" King can provide other education leaders around the state is as a symbol of hubris, overreach and incompetence.
That is, unless the rest of the country wants the "massive confusion, massive anxiety and massive chaos all across the state" that King brought here to New York.
And that's pro-Common Core, pro-testing Andrew Cuomo characterizing King's CCSS implementation that way, not some member of the opt-out movement or other critic of education reform policy.