John King Jr. was a miserable failure as Commissioner of Education in New York. He waylaid his failure in New York into the assistant’s job in the US Department of Education. He will be the new Secretary of Education.
King came to New York as an extremely well-educated egghead with little educational experience and none in public schools. He implemented Common Core in a bizarre manner and blamed the horrendous results on New York’s “ignorant” children. Even though New York’s standards were the highest in the nation, he claimed the students were not used to high standards.
He tied teacher evaluations to the standardized testing, exams which weren’t even properly evaluating children. Teacher evaluations were in some cases based on other teachers’ student scores. Tech, art, music teachers are still being evaluated by language arts or math student scores because there aren’t any exams for them.
When New York school districts began administering Common Core-aligned standardized tests, there were dramatic drops in scores when the results were released in August. Not even one-third of students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded the standards in math or English.
King said then the sharp drop in scores was a result of the rigor of the new standards and that the decline was expected.
“These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness in the 21st century,” King said when the scores were released. “I understand theses scores are sobering for parents, teachers, and principals. It’s frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity.”
In October, principals from around the state sent an open letter to parents, claiming state testing had increased by 128 percent since 2010, and that children had “reacted viscerally” to the tests.
“We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up,” the principals wrote. “One teacher reported that a student kept banging his head on the desk, and wrote, ‘This is too hard,’ and ‘I can’t do this,’ throughout his test booklet.”
But the group of principals, much like the NYSUT, have said these behaviors are not a result of the Common Core standards themselves, but rather the “unwise decision to implement high-stakes testing before proper capacity had been developed.”
The unions don’t like the way the teachers are being evaluated but many parents see local control of education going to D.C. and they hate it.
Many have concerns over privacy. The program requires another massive database on children that will follow them through life.
In October 2013 King launched a listening tour across the state to respond to concerns about the way the Core was being implemented. After a forum near Poughkeepsie, where he was drowned out by the crowd, he canceled several other planned forums, then rescheduled them.
He tried to silence the opposition and at first said parents would not be allowed to speak or ask questions. The meetings he finally held were not open forums and questions were approved in advance.
King was called on to resign by several parent groups. In November 2014, the state teachers’ union called for his resignation.
Thomas Sergiovanni was a renowned international scholar of educational leadership, famed educator Carol Burris reminded us at the time. 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.
New York lost its moral authority and now the nation can too though it was already well on the path with Arne Duncan.