NEW YORK STATE — John King, the commissioner of education in New York State, spent the last months of 2013 facing hostile audiences across the state as he conducted 20 forums that drew angry and frustrated parents and educators.
The source of the frustration was the Common Core Learning Standards, which have been adopted so far by 46 states, and which are meant to raise teacher standards and student performance, and provide a system that can ensure that students across the country are learning what they should be learning by a certain grade level.
Criticisms include that Common Core was adopted too hastily, before all teachers had the training materials, and without transparency. One group, called No Common Sense Education, is fighting for repeal of Common Core, and accuses “corporate leaders and politicians of a hostile takeover of our schools.” It says Common Core will cost taxpayers $16 billion to implement nationally.
King penned a letter to education professionals on December 31 and defended Common Core. He wrote, “We know that moving forward with the Common Core is essential: study after study shows that our students lag behind in the knowledge and skills required for their future.”
He said that while criticism of the Common Core is getting the most attention, he is seeing the success of the system in action. He wrote, “Each week, I visit classrooms where educators—particularly in communities that began this work during the 2010-11 school year, when the standards were adopted by the Board of Regents—continue to refine their practice and challenge students with rigorous and exciting learning activities. Students in these Common Core-inspired classrooms benefit from meaningful and lasting learning.”
One common concern repeated often by teachers and parents is that Common Core relies too heavily on testing, so much so that students experience undue stress and that testing crowds out other educational experiences.
King wrote that people are misinformed about the number of tests, and said that all tests the state requires, with the exception of only two, are also required by the federal government. He wrote, “Although the state has not created any new tests as part of Common Core implementation, we recognize that a variety of pressures at the state and local level may have resulted in students being tested more than needed or rote standardized-test preparation crowding out quality instruction. We are committed to efforts aimed at reducing the amount of time students spend on tests and ensuring that tests are eliminated that do not inform instruction or improve student learning.”
This month, a new Board of Regents task force will begin reviewing the thousands of comments that were recorded at the 20 forums during the fall and formulate responses to them where appropriate.
Also, King will be working to explain Common Core to everyone involved. King wrote, “Our EngageNY.org website will be expanded to help increase understanding of the importance and value of the Common Core. Engag eNY receives over 20,000 unique visitors each day and provides district leaders, other educators and parents with resources to understand and implement the learning standards.”