An infuriating admission

New York State Education Commissioner John King, (Mike Groll/AP File Photo)
New York State Education Commissioner John King, (Mike Groll/AP File Photo)

What’s going on here?

Last September, Bill Gates admitted that he doesn’t know if the school reform initiatives that he is massively funding will work. To be precise, he said during an interview at Harvard University:

“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

And shortly after that, he said pretty much the same thing a Clinton Global Initiative event.

That was pretty stunning, given the fact that Gates has plowed so much money to his idea of school reform — including the bad idea of evaluating teachers based on student test scores — and that he keeps talking about initiatives, such as the Common Core State Standards, as if he knows for sure they will improve public education.

Now, John King, commissioner of education in New York, has, perhaps inadvertently, done the same thing.

King has been unwavering in his push to implement controversial standardized test-based reforms in New York, and on Thursday, he gave a speech, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan in attendance,  in which he spoke about how vitriolic the education reform debate has become and why the state must carry on with the reform program he has sent in motion.

Despite the botched Common Core implementation in the state, and despite the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the state legislature criticized the way the Core was implemented and took some steps to change it, King insisted on continuing down the road he is on:

 “We’re not going backwards. We’re not retreating.”

But he said something that you could say is a rather incredible — and infuriating — admission:

Time will tell whether the current mix of measures – from state tests and Regents exams to graduation rates and student portfolios – provide the best indicators of college and career readiness. But the idea that we don’t really need accountability is unacceptable. It’s an abdication of responsibility. We’ve been hired to educate the children of New York – all the children of New York – no matter how poor or how challenged or how difficult their home life. Every single child deserves an effective education and the parents and taxpayers who hired us have a right to know whether we are getting the job done. And — if New York is not getting it done – then I am accountable. We are all accountable. That’s the bargain at the heart of public education.

Time will tell?

Time will tell whether the current mix of measures provide the best indicators of college and career readiness?

He isn’t sure that what he is putting forth is the best “mix of measures”  but he remains insistent on implementing a wildly expensive reform program that has serious opposition in his state. In fact, just Friday morning, dozens of principals marched with parents, teachers, students, administrators and staff in New York City to express dissatisfaction with the Common Core-aligned tests that students took recently.

In his Thursday speech, King said that the reform process has been open and transparent and that everyone has had a voice — but the demonstrators wouldn’t agree with any of that.

King went on to suggest that there are some people — presumably people who disagree with his approach — who think that “we don’t really need accountability.” His critics don’t think anything of the sort; they just don’t believe what King is doing is the right approach.

As for who might actually not believe in the same accountability for everybody, just take a look at Florida lawmakers who don’t want to force schools that accept voucher students to have to take the same standardized tests — for accountability purposes — as public school students.

If someone made this all up, you wouldn’t believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | April 11