Despite criticism from parents and teachers, New York State Education Commissioner John King is staying the course on the Common Core State Standards.
“We are not retreating. New York is moving forward with a common belief in the power of great teachers to transform students’ lives,” he said, speaking to a large group of students, faculty and education officials at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service on April 10.
Some of the controversy is based on misinformation, Commissioner King explained to MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman. “There are folks who believe the Common Core is a curriculum that tells teachers what they need to do in the classroom every day. It’s not. It’s a set of standards, it’s a set of expectations.”
But he believes some of the controversy “is real because it’s hard to raise standards. We’re simultaneously raising standards in 45 states, 700 districts here in New York, and that’s going to be challenging. It’s always going to require adjustments along the way.”
As part of those adjustments, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this month that Common Core-aligned tests wouldn’t be included on students’ permanent transcripts through 2018, although the tests would still count as part of teacher evaluations.
“What the tests are being used for is not to look at absolute performance but at growth,” Commissioner King said. “Some people say, well we should just wait. We should do that part of the evaluation two or three years from now. But that fourth grader is in fourth grade today. And it matters whether or not that fourth grader is making growth today.”
On April 5, the New York State United Teachers representative assembly called for Commissioner King to resign in a “no confidence” vote over what they believe was a poor handling of Common Core implementation.
“I think it’s important to separate union leadership from union membership. There are a lot of teachers in New York State who are feeling very good about the work on the Common Core,” the commissioner said in response.
“I’ve been in 60 or more schools since September and in classroom after classroom, I’m seeing the Common Core have good impact on instruction; I’m hearing teachers talk about how much they appreciate the way the Common Core has allowed them to focus more on writing, on problem solving, on critical thinking.”
The next round of New York’s Common Core exams are scheduled from April 30 to May 2.
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