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Gary Stern: With King out, Cuomo muscles in on school reform

The following article was written by Gary Stern and published on lohud.  The article describes the situation of Education “Reform” now that John King has resigned to take a position with the US Department of Education.

Diane Ravitch offered these words on her website as an analysis of the article:

Governor Cuomo is in an unusual position, vis-a-vis education. He has nothing to do with it, except for his power over the budget. He does not appoint the state Board of Regents (the State Assembly does). He does not appoint the State Commissioner of Education (the Board of Regents does). He is out of the loop. But in recent months, he has convinced himself that he is the state’s foremost expert on education. He thinks he knows how to “fix” education. He loves charter schools, as are his friends and contributors on Wall Street. He disdains public schools and is convinced that the state has a failing school system, not recognizing that academic results are closely correlated with the socioeconomics of each district. He loves standardized testing and especially high-stakes testing, where teachers and principals quake with fear when their evaluations are tied to test scores. Cuomo has made clear that the new evaluation system has not been tough enough; he wants one that identifies more “failing” teachers. He has promised to “break” the public-school “monopoly,” which others think of as an essential public service.-  Diane Ravitch

Here is the article by Stern….

With King out, Cuomo muscles in on school reform
by Gary Stern

It wasn’t that long ago that “local control” of schools was considered a good thing. But it’s an idea that now feels rather quaint, as the folks in Albany become increasingly comfortable telling school districts what to do.

New York state Education Commissioner John King has led the charge in recent years, insisting that the Common Core, new testing and other “reforms” are absolutely necessary, essentially beyond debate, if schools are to avoid failing their students.

Many educators in the Lower Hudson Valley have objected at every turn, but haven’t figured out a way to get King or Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to pay attention.

Now King is leaving for Washington, where he will assist Education Secretary Arne Duncan in preparing the rest of the country for top-down changes people may not want. Their mantra: Just do it. Trust us.

Some New Yorkers may have hoped for a reprieve, a chance for our education system to catch its collective breath. Forget it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now muscling in, promising to save New York’s deficient school system from an “educational bureaucracy” that doesn’t like kids as much as he does.

Happy new year, Principal Smith. You stink!

Everybody at once

When reformers and politicians talk about our failing schools, they are really talking about New York’s big-city school systems. And, yes, the results are grim. In New York City, Yonkers and elsewhere, too many students drop out and too many who make it to graduation are not prepared for college work.

Most of these students come from poverty and start kindergarten with language, health and other deficiencies.

But our leaders in Albany seldom distinguish between, say, Rochester and the hundreds of non-urban districts out there.

New York’s many “rural” districts face different challenges, starting with a lack of money. Most have small, diminishing tax bases and were starved by declining state aid in the post-recession years.

Suburban districts, meanwhile, do quite well, based on the success of their graduates. They’re not perfect, but most push and inspire their students, offering the kind of opportunities that demanding parents and money make possible.

Oddly, King has been unwilling to acknowledge that districts have different strengths, weaknesses and needs. He’s repeatedly said that New York’s public schools are not doing the job. Period. Sign on to the reform agenda. Don’t question or criticize. If you complain, you’re not part of the solution.

During his recent farewell address, King said solemnly: “It’s all about students and what they need.” It’s true, of course. But teachers, parents, school board members and others who disagree with King about New York’s educational direction also care about students. Many are now alienated, distrustful of Albany’s leadership.

Here comes Cuomo

As the Board of Regents searches for King’s replacement, Cuomo is promising to fill the power vacuum. Or blow it up.

A Dec. 18 letter from a Cuomo aide to Tisch promised an “aggressive legislative package” to improve public education. It also raised questions about very familiar subjects — everything from merit pay for teachers to school district mergers to the use of technology — as if they were being asked for the first time. A bad sign.

The letter, of course, insists on….

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