Kara Kallinsee greatly contributed to this article
The failure of the Common Core testing and program implementation has been a colossal failure in New York, one of the first states to take the money provided by corporations and the Stimulus, Race to the Top funds.
Once New York took the money to implement a program sight-unseen, they set themselves up for an ill-conceived educational bureaucratic morass that ignored educational research and forgot to include teachers, but did remember to include corporate influence. It’s a conservative-liberal mess which has garnered bipartisan contempt.
The idea of common standards is a great idea really. Everything else about it has been a disaster from the age-inappropriate goals to foolish trainers promoting nonsensical materials to the enormous corporate invasion into privacy rights of families and children.
Commissioner John King Jr. was ill-prepared for the position he was given and is bringing down the respected New York State Education Department with him. It won’t make Governor Cuomo look good if it is allowed to continue.
New Yorkers upstate and on Long Island are fighting back. New York City appears to be in their usual stupor. They live on the same planet as those in Planet Washington who can’t lead.
A must-read article from the Washington Post by renowned educator, Carol Burris:
Thomas Sergiovanni was a renowned international scholar of educational leadership. In his book, Moral Leadership, he explains the differences between subordinates and followers. Sergiovanni argued that educational leaders need followers because followers are not led by coercion, but rather by commitment to beliefs, values and ideals. In a 1990 article for Educational Leadership he wrote:
When followership is established, bureaucratic authority and psychological authority are transcended by moral authority.
The New York State Education Department has lost its moral authority, as defined by Sergiovanni. That loss was clearly on display at a recent New York State PTA-sponsored hearing on the Common Core in Poughkeepsie, New York. By the last half hour of the evening, the audience was both boisterous and impassioned, angered because there was limited opportunity to speak. What little time remained for the audience was twice interrupted by Commissioner John King, who had held the floor for an hour and a half.
The miffed King then reacted by cancelling upcoming scheduled forums. In response to an inquiry about the cancellation by Long Island’s Newsday, King responded:
I was looking forward to engaging in a dialogue with parents across the state. I was eagerly anticipating answering questions from parents about the Common Core and other reforms we’re moving ahead with in New York State. Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to “dominate” the questions and manipulate the forum.”
The people in the audience at the Poughkeepsie forum were teachers and parents. The common “special interests” of both groups are children.
What occurred in Poughkeepsie is not surprising to those who have followed the course of reform in New York led by John King. John King was a teacher for only three years—teaching in Puerto Rico, in a private school and in a charter school in Boston. After his short career as a teacher, he became the co-director of Roxbury Prep, a charter school with fewer than 200 students during his tenure. Five years later, he became the managing director of Uncommon Charter Schools.
In 2000, John King entered the Inquiry Doctoral Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Each Inquiry cohort was small and intimate—about 25 students. I know the program well—I was a member of the 1999 cohort. A fellow member of John King’s cohort was the wife of billionaire Jim Tisch, Merryl Tisch, who was appointed to the New York State Board of Regents four years earlier. King and Tisch took classes together for two years. In April of 2009, Merryl became the Regents’ chancellor. In September 2009, John King was appointed deputy commissioner of education. Two years later, John King was appointed commissioner following the abrupt resignation of David Steiner. It was the meteoric rise of a man who became commissioner at 36 years of age.
King has surrounded himself with bright young people, most of whom like King, have limited or no experience in public education. They are called the Regents Fellows. Their positions are funded by donations, including a million-dollar gift from Chancellor Tisch herself, and nearly a million dollars from Bill Gates. At a recent gathering of Long Island school leaders, Tisch was asked about the Fellows. She chided the audience, telling them that they should be grateful for the private donations. The skeptical audience, however, well understood that there is nothing like a million dollar donation to ensure that ‘my will be done.’
‘My will be done’ has been the tone and the tenor of chaotic reform in New York. In its rush to implement teacher evaluations, the Common Core and new testing, the state leadership has likened it to building a plane in the air. Cut scores anchored to ridiculously high performance on the SAT caused proficiency scores to plummet. Students, often in tears, rushed to finish tests that were too difficult and too long. The Common Core Algebra modules are still not finished, even though teachers must teach the course to students now. Rushed APPR plans reviewed by law school students and supervised by a young, former Teach For America grad now Fellow, led to disastrous results such as those of Syracuse, where 40% of the teachers were rated below effective and no elementary or middle school teacher was found to be highly effective.
Syracuse is not alone—other districts have simply chosen to hide their disasters. The very APPR rating bands themselves produce illogical results, leaving one to wonder if the department can add three, two-digit numbers. The confusion continues. Just a few days ago, the department’s website directed those who wanted information about the parent portal to a telephone number of a sex chat line. From APPR, to the Common Core, to 3-8 testing, the plane being built in the air is falling apart.
As a result, there is no followership—no commitment among parents, teachers and principals to the values and ideals of reform. The interest in the Common Core has turned to tepid support at best. What remains is compliance. Even that compliance, however, is waning, as evidenced by the Poughkeepsie hearings, the Buffalo forum on testing that drew 2500, and the Opt Out movement that is growing exponentially around the state. The moral leadership that is needed to navigate through the seas of sweeping change is not there. The source of authority is at best, bureaucratic.
In the authoritarian world of the Uncommon Charter Schools as described so well by scholar Pedro Noguera here, the rule is “thy will be done.” In the real and messy world of democracy it is different. Leaders must listen deeply, learn and respond. They must be willing to consider alternative courses, and even in loud crowds, hear truth. In teaching, we attempt to perfect the skill known as “monitor and adjust.” You can only master that skill by truly engaging learners.
In many ways, it is a sad tale. One might imagine that if John King had first been a principal of a New York City public school, or the superintendent of a district, he would have become skilled in dealing with emotional and boisterous groups. In doing small-scale reforms in a district, he could have practiced effective pacing. John King would know, as Sergiovanni taught, that the heart of good leadership is the development of followership. Without followership, no reform has a chance.
Satirical photo of the King John King
Are you aware that your child’s records can be shared with private concerns? The law was changed to allow it. Do you know that these private corporations can make money from it and can get hold of your child’s records? This is an unprecedented level of invasion into your child’s privacy. This corporate alliance includes some very strange bedfellows from ultra-conservative Rupert Murdoch to uber-liberal Bill Gates.
Read about it at the American Thinker:
There seems to be little recognition yet that Common Core gives schools and third parties unprecedented access to students’ personal information. The federal government is acquiring a massive amount of data that can be sold to the highest bidders. This is an invasion of student and family privacy and a violation of our 4th Amendment rights.
The education technology buzzards are circling overhead and, having smelled the strong scent of money, are salivating at the thought of making billions from this new goldmine. Reuters reported that in 2012 technology startups for the K-12 market attracted more than $425 million in venture capital. Rupert Murdoch, owner of Amplify Education, one of the country’s largest education technology companies, estimates that K-12 education is a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone.
In 2011the U.S. Department of Education reinterpreted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to permit a student’s academic record to be shared with virtually anyone including non-governmental organizations without prior written parental consent!
Education technology companies can use the information to develop software for students, teachers, and administrators.
Under Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, there is an unprecedented level of opportunity for private influence on education. Thus public-private partnerships are flourishing…Read the entire article at American Thinker. It’s a great article.
Two New York legislators are fighting Common Core for the parents and teachers of Long Island. Assemblyman Bill Graf has introduced Bill AO and State Senator Lee Zeldin is preparing another bill. Keep up-to-date at Fix NY Schools.
Some school districts and parents are fighting back.
King got a beat down at a Town Hall meeting in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County on 10/10/13! King says ‘special interests’ hijacked the Poughkeepsie forum on the Common Core.
New York Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has canceled Long Island’s only town hall meeting on state testing and the new Common Core curriculum because the forum in Poughkeepsie went so badly. In fact, he canceled all of them. He is brave when it comes to dictating to parents and teachers. Listen to it on this link or watch it below. It is worth the time and gets better as it goes along. The parents say it all so much better than we can here at the Sentinel. They have it exactly right!
Amazingly, the parents weren’t arrested as one was in Maryland recently.
The moral of this story is DON’T MESS WITH THE MAMA BEARS! You know Commissioner King, the ‘SPECIAL INTERESTS.’
The Superintendent of Comsewogue School District, also on Long Island has set up a website and has rallied against the testing. Middle Country Schools has joined him. Check it out on this link
One parent, representing the PTA, in the Rocky Point School District on Long Island, recently presented a resolution to the Board of Education for an end to the standardized testing:
Commissioner King has been urged to slow down Common Core but there is so much damage already, it might be too late. It needs major fixing first. It needs to be pulled back entirely and revamped.
Because I am leaning-Conservative, I have been accused of being a conspiracy nut, a liar, a fool, and so much worse. However, I have joined with liberals in this fight. One of my friends uses a Commie fist as her symbol. You know that once, not so long ago, there was no red or blue, we were Americans. No matter my political views, I am an American first! I am a Teacher first! I am a parent first! You can ridicule me but you won’t be able to hide the truth.
For me, it’s not about the idea of having a common set of standards, it’s about the testing, the testing which will nationalize education and take control of education from the hands of parents and teachers. It is about the age-inappropriate and ill-conceived goals which are hurting our children!
Check out this website which is accumulating sites and information about parents fighting Common Core. They’ve issued their own Executive Order.
This is your Common Core Terminology Guide: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/dh0iqmr1ps4t9nx/Terminology%20Guide.pdf?token_hash=AAHOFXnK3rMkFESQzvISpS99fnOqvmjLGQ76hKrQoSrs0g&dl=1