Learning Matters Producer Cat McGrath met up with Commissioner King in June to talk about the new standards, why New York decided to test them this year and whether the “Common Core” is an act of federal intrusion.
[This interview was cited at the end of Tuesday's PBS News Hour piece on the Common Core State Standards. The interviewer asked about anxiety over Common Core's testing impact and growing opposition to the standards.
Breaking: Diane Ravitch, citing King's turgid and draconian teacher evaluation system and unapologetic prevailing over the Common Core test scores debacle, called on the Commissioner to resign.]
NYS Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, with her appointee, NYSED Commissioner John King, at the historic 8/7/13 NYS Common Core-based test score announcement. Note her straight face, despite the context of being close to people ensconced in the Education Commercialization Complex.*
JOHN KING:00:03:49:00 last year in New York, a majority of entering students in our twoyear community colleges were required to take remedial courses. // 00:30:28:00 … in New York City it’s 80%! Can you imagine walking onto a college campus looking at at your classmates in the freshman class and knowing that 80% of you will be taking high school courses?*Appointed by the New York State Board of Regents, whose chancellor is Merryl Tisch, Chairwoman of Thompson for Mayor and contributor to New York City Bill Thompson's mayoral campaign. A vote for Thompson is an endorsement of Tisch/King/Cuomo's Race to the Top application, with its Common Core compliance, value-added test-based evaluations and shared student data tracking system, inBloom.
JESS VO: THAT’S JOHN KING, THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION FOR THE STATE OF NEW YORK. LEARNING MATTERS’ PRODUCER CAT MCGRATH SPOKE WITH COMMISSIONER KING IN JUNE ABOUT COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS, TEACHING TO THE TEST, AND WHY HE THINKS THE TEA PARTY HAS IT WRONG.
JOHN KING 00:30:47:00 I think part of the challenge here is how do you help folks understand how urgent it is that we improve the alignment between what's happening in K12 and the expectations of college and careers. When I talk to employers around New York State, I hear again and again we have jobs available that we can't fill because we can't find the workforce that we need. And we've got to do a better job as a state, as a country, ensuring that when students graduate, they really are ready for the next level.
CAT: SO HOW WILL CHANGING THE STANDARDS DO THAT? HOW ARE THE NEW STANDARDS DIFFERENT?
JOHN KING: 00:45:44:00 in terms of mathematics the old standards you one could argue were mile wide and inch deep. The new standards focus on ensuring that students achieve deep conceptual understanding of key ideas at each grade level. 00:46:05:00 // So it's very clear that students needs to know their times tables, but they need to know their times tables so that they can apply that understanding to solve realworld problems. 00:46:46:00 In English language arts the old standards did not place as much emphasis on writing as the new standards do. The old standards did not place as much emphasis on academic vocabulary // oftentimes students were asked to read text that was not sufficiently challenging. And now we talk about a staircase to complexity, that if we want students to be ready to read challenging texts when they get to college and careers, we've got to make sure that at every grade level we're pushing students towards those aspirations. // So many shifts between the old standards and the new standards.
CAT: WHAT ABOUT TESTING THE NEW STANDARDS? WHY IS NEW YORK TESTING THIS YEAR, ALMOST 2 YEARS BEFORE MOST STATES?
JOHN KING: 00:07:07:00 Well you know, I think at at the end of the day people do what's measured. // And, honestly, it wouldn't have made a ton of sense to have new standards change instruction but keep using old tests that were based on old standards. // 00:08:34:00 You know, if you want teachers to spend time in their math classes having students tackle challenging, realworld problems where they have to apply their math skills, you want them to have confidence that that's the kind of thing students will be asked to do on the assessments.
CAT: THE TESTS WILL ALSO BE MEASURING THE PERFORMANCE OF TEACHERS, CORRECT?
KING: We are incorporating student assessment outcomes in how we evaluate teachers. 00:16:16:00 But I think // it's important to emphasize that it's student growth, it's not their absolute performance, it's how much growth did they make relative to other students // [and] it's a multiple measure system. 20 points state growth, 20 points based on a locally selected measure that's collectively bargained, and then 60 points based on other measures like the observation of the teacher by the principal. // So we see test scores not as the answer to evaluation, but as a an important component of evaluation.
JESS: IN AUGUST, NEW YORK RELEASED TEST SCORES FOR THE STATE’S FIRST ASSESSMENT ALIGNED TO THE COMMON CORE. STATEWIDE, SCORES DROPPED 24 PERCENTILE POINTS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS AND ALMOST 34 PERCENTILE POINTS IN MATHEMATICS. COMMISSIONER KING ANTICIPATED THE DROP BACK IN JUNE.
JOHN KING 00:01:55:00 So we do expect a drop a significant drop. That gap is probably somewhere between 20 and 30 points depending on the grade level and the and the test.
CAT: WILL A DROP IN SCORES MAKE PEOPLE NERVOUS? WANT TO JUMP SHIP?
JOHN KING 00:02:51:00 I think it'll be critical for the public, elected officials, state education departments to maintain their resolve about the goal of college and career readiness.
CAT: ARE STATES ALREADY FEELING PUSHBACK?
JOHN KING 00:12:27:00 I think across the country, certainly, there has been pushback to some extent from Tea Party and and others seeing this as a federal imposition. // 00:10:05:00 And we have to keep reminding folks // that, no, this isn't a federal initiative. 00:10:24:00 This is states coming together to identify what skills and knowledge are needed for success in college and careers and 00:12:51:00 And then to ensure together that our that our standards and our assessments reflect those expectations.
CAT: WHAT COULD DERAIL THE COMMON CORE?
JOHN KING 00:36:02:00 At the end of the day, I think the biggest risk to the Common Core initiative as a whole is the challenge of changing instructional practice. There have been many efforts at education reform over many decades that have taken place around the classroom, but not actually affected what happens inside of the classroom. // 00:50:00:00 It's very easy particularly in a large system like ours in New York for everyone to say to themselves, "This is a passing fad and I'll wait it out and there'll be some other fad later." As opposed to asking: What is it students really need for college and career success?
JESS: WHETHER OR NOT COMMON CORE STANDARDS BECOME JUST ANOTHER FAD OR A SEA CHANGE IN EDUCATION IS YET TO BE SEEN. FOR MORE ON TEACHING AND TESTING THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS GO TO WWW. LEARNINGMATTERS.TV
I’m Jessica Windt, this report was made possible by The Grade Level Reading Fund of theTides Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The Wallace Foundation
For more on Drs. Tisch and King, see "Who Is Destroying Public Education in New York State?"
Superb comment at Diane Ravitch's blog who earlier in the day called on NYSED Commissioner King to resign:
Robert Rendo says: August 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm
I’m thinking of a much more befitting consequence for Dr. John King:
Step 1: Remove him from office and replace him with a career educator who has taught in the classroom for at least 20 years, has moved on up the ladder and who thinks outside the Rhee-styled reform box.
Step 2: Offer King back his position conditioned upon the following (see following steps).
Step 3. Mandate that King teach in a testing grade for two full years in a row in a high needs, low income, high density ELL public school, and place him IN THE CLASSROOM to teach and behaviorally manage.
Step 4: Limit King’s budget to that of an average public school in New York.
Step 5: Evaluate King and his students by comparing “baselines” under the very system he has designed and enforced.
Step 6: If King does not make the grade, place him on a TIP, per RttT’s APPR (teacher improvement plan).
Step 7: If King does not improve his scores, allow the LEA (local educational agency, aka “school district”) to decide whether or not he should continue his employment.
Step 8: If King’s scores make the grade exactly according to the APPR system approved in NY State, then allow him to continue teaching or resume his post as Commissioner of Education for New York State. Remember that at least 89% of his students will ahve to achieve passing grades on the standardized tests.
Step 9: If King’s scores do not make the grade, then do not allow him to resume his post as Commissioner, but decide if you want him to keep his teaching job. If no to the latter, send Dr. King off into joblessness, where I’m sure he’ll be snapped up by Students First or the Broad Foundation or a mob of very angry, frustratede citizenry who would love to have him in their presence for a chat.
Step 10: Gather all of King’s teacher/student data and publish them in as many mainstream and non-mainstream venues that exist.
Step 11: Let the general public decide upon the merits of Dr. John King . . .
Removal from his post is simply not enough.