NY State Education Commissioner John King on the Overlooked Issues in Public Education

Encore: April 23, 2014

New York State Education Commissioner John King talks about public education issues beyond Common Core, Race to the Top and the state’s role in expanding universal pre-k in New York City with MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman.

On the April 17 edition of MetroFocus, New York State Commissioner of Education John King spoke about the need for the Common Core despite recent criticism. “Some of the controversy is based on misinformation, some of it is real because it’s hard to raise standards,” King told MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman. “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.”

In part two of his interview, King addresses the issues that may be getting lost in the mix. What aren’t we talking about in public education?

“We’re not spending enough time, I think, talking about teaching and learning. What’s the professional development that teachers need? What should be happening in the classroom so that students develop better problem solving skills, better critical thinking skills?” King said.

“If you look at the performance of our English language learners in the state, our students with disabilities, our students of color, our students in poverty, you see real, huge achievement gaps,” he added. “Any time we’re spending talking about the politics rather than how we help those students is time not well spent.”

But Commissioner King also believes there are good things about New York’s public education system that people are missing, such as schools which have increased their graduation rates and have more students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. “I hope in the months ahead we can turn the conversation away from politics towards what’s working and then how we bring what’s working to more places around the state,” he said.

At the beginning of April, the New York State Legislature also approved $300 million in state funding for universal pre-k expansion in New York City out of the total $340 million allocated for the entire state. According to Commissioner King, the state’s role will be to establish the standards by which the city will evaluate applicants to run the pre-k programs. 

“Now the task for the city is to ensure that it’s not just about access, it’s also about quality,” King told Pi Roman. “We need to grow the number of seats but they need to be good seats and students need to be getting the right, not only academic preparation, but socio-emotional support in early childhood education.”

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