For months parents and education advocates have been calling for the resignation of New York State Education Commissioner John King. They got their wish. King is leaving his job and moving to Washington, to manage the U.S. Education Department’s operations as a senior adviser to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, according to a spokesman in the state education office.
The spokesman didn’t say why King decided to leave now. But earlier this year Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) expressed his unhappiness with King over the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, saying in a letter to top education officials in the state that “Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start.”
King’s implementation of New York’s teacher evaluation system as well as the Core have come under withering attack by critics who said he did not give teachers enough time to develop lessons, and forced students to take new Pearson-designed standardized tests that themselves were attacked for including unfair questions and bad scoring. King’s testing policies led to the creation of an opt-out movement in New York in which thousands of parents refused to allow their children to take the Common Core tests.
Duncan announced late Wednesday that King, who became education commissioner in New York in 2011, will join the department in early 2015. A statement issued by the U.S. Education Department quoted Duncan as saying:
“John is an extraordinary leader who has dedicated his life to improving the opportunities of our young people, as a teacher, a school leader, and a leader of school systems. His passion, his fierce intelligence, and his clear understanding of the difficult but vital work of education change will be an enormous benefit to this Department and to the nation.”
The statement said that King “will be delegated the roles and responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary, which includes managing the Department’s operations and overseeing implementation of major initiatives.”
The department’s description of King’s record in New York State conflicts significantly with that of his detractors, a reflection of the wide breach between the standardized test-based and pro-choice school reform movement and its opponents.
The U.S. Education Department said:
As a leader of ambitious education change in New York State, King brings a lifelong record of commitment to improving education for all students, and especially for the most vulnerable.
Last January, the board of directors of the New York State United Teachers, a union with more than 600,000 members, passed a resolution declaring “no confidence” in King’s policies after thousands of New York principals teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens signed a letter written by New York principals attacking his new teacher evaluation system, which is known as APPR and uses student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. It said in part:
As building principals, we recognize that change is an essential component of school improvement. We continually examine best practices and pursue the most promising research-based school improvement strategies. We are very concerned, however, that at the state level change is being imposed in a rapid manner and without high-quality evidentiary support.
Carol Burris, who was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, had a different reaction. Burris, who has been chronicling the botched implementation of APPR, as well as the Common Core State Standards and aligned testing, said:
“It is the best early Christmas present I could have hoped for. Hopefully the Board of Regents will take their time and find a commissioner who is able to engage the field and help bring education in New York forward.”