How will we ever undo the damage done by King and Tisch?

by , under Local Activism, Professional Issues

Valerie Strauss:  What Arne Duncan’s new senior adviser did to N.Y. schools

The following article written by Carol Burris was posted by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post, The Answer Sheet.  Below is only an excerpt of the entire article.

By Carol Burris

“Just like 60,000 children in NY, John King has opted-out.” So tweeted Kevin Glynn, the quick witted, co-founder of Lace to the Top. Glynn, like many New York parents and teachers, was pleased by the news of Commissioner King’s resignation. Leonie Haimson, the director of Class Size Matters, referred to John King as “the most unpopular commissioner in the history of NY State.”

One of the strongest critiques of King, however, came from the editorial board of The Journal News of the Lower Hudson Valley. Their op-ed entitled, “Commissioner King’s Tone Deaf Legacy” describes the commissioner’s pattern of disregard for the opinions of those with whom he disagreed.

Others praised John King. Fans included Chancellor Merryl Tisch, Regent Bennett and representatives of so-called reform groups, such as the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). In an email to The New York Times, DFER Executive Director Joe Williams complimented King by saying that “even white suburbanites would thank him [King] someday”[1], thus continuing the stereotyping of Common Core critics, which began with Arne Duncan’s “white suburban mom” remark in 2013.

There have been rumors for months that King was selectively applying to positions, as well as rumors that he was being pressured by Andrew Cuomo to leave. He is, as Andy Smarick notes, one of an ever growing number of “reform” chief state officers who are exiting the stage. What matters for New York students, however, is not why John King is leaving, but rather the legacy he leaves behind.

John King was the third commissioner to work for Merryl Tisch since she became chancellor in 2009. He replaced David Steiner, who made a hasty, surprise exit after less than two years in office. Deputy Commissioner King was quickly appointed to the position without a search.

John King was optimistic that great things would happen under his watch. In an Education Next article, which gives a fairy tale account of Steiner’s tenure, King talks about what he believed would happen next:

“In the first couple of years there will be what I characterize as process wins. You’ll see an evaluation system for teachers and principals, with student achievement built in as a meaningful component.… You’ll see the rollout of a statewide data system that will give a lot more useful information to teachers and principals about student performance and a lot more useful data for policymakers.… Three and four years out you’ll see real change in the percentage of kids achieving college-ready standards. You’ll see more students enrolling in college, fewer students in remedial courses, more students staying in college all the way through to graduation.”

King’s optimism, however, proved to be unfounded. Let’s reflect on the predictions one by one.

“You’ll see an evaluation system for teachers and principals, with student achievement built in as a meaningful component.…

The teacher evaluation system quickly came under fire from an unlikely group—principals—who recognized the negative consequences for students that would result if their teachers were evaluated by test scores. Their concerns were explained in a letter, which was eventually signed by over 1/3 of all of the principals in New York State, along with thousands of parents, teachers and administrators. That action, which was characterized in The New York Times as the principals’ rebellion, began the pushback against the new evaluation system known as APPR.

It was also the first test of the new commissioner. He failed it. He did not engage with the principals, but simply dug into a defense of APPR—a defense that would continue even when the flawed metrics of the system were exposed. Meanwhile, savvy superintendents who realized the flaws, created evaluation plans designed to shield teachers from inequities. Those who took the plan seriously, created disparate and embarrassing evaluation results, some of which are now being contested in court.

The disastrous rollout of the Common Core and its tests pushed the legislature to pass a moratorium on consequences for teachers resulting from the test score component of APPR—a moratorium opposed by John King. The legislature plans to reform APPR this session, although whether the system can be improved without a radical restructuring remains to be seen.

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