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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On Petition To Fire NYSED Commissioner John King

Advocacy groups have posted a petition on calling for the removal of John King as state commissioner.

Parents and educators reject King’s blind faith in high-stakes testing and his determination to evaluate educators based on test scores, despite the absence of evidence for this approach and the certain negative consequences.
(references substantiating each charge available
John King has served as New York State Commissioner of Education since 2011. During his tenure, the quality of education in NY has continued to decline; particularly in poor and rural districts.1 The Commissioner’s solutions rely upon blindly accepting NCLB, RTTT and Common Core policies and implementing more high-stakes, standardized testing for evaluation of students and teachers,2 implementation of an untested national curriculum,3 undemocratic corporate management strategies for operating schools,4 more privatization of schools5 and insistence that poverty-related conditions are not an excuse for low student achievement.6 
Furthermore, Commissioner King: 
· Refuses to lend credibility to staff and community-voiced concerns that much of Common Core curriculum and testing is developmentally inappropriate for students, and that NYS teachers received no significant training for the implementation of Common Core,7 
· Refuses to allow meaningful dialogue about Common Core tests by imposing a “gag order” on teachers and administrators, preventing them from discussing test questions among themselves or with students,8 
· Supports policy to allow private corporate vendors to have access to personal student data, without parental consent, for the purpose of marketing educational services,9 and 
· Remains silent on the stress-related suffering by many students taking recent Common Core tests,10 
· Promotes the reduction of the reading of fiction in favor of an increase in informational texts (50% informational texts in elementary school, and 70% for 12th grade readings by 2014)11 with the generally predicted impact of a further reduction in the joy of reading and learning for all students especially those with learning challenges,12 

.Continues to advocate more high-stakes, standardized testing, despite research concluding that it is ineffective for motivating students and increasing their learning,13 and 
· Continues to ignore positive research results for the use of performance-based assessment, such as portfolios, performances, presentations and exhibitions, by more NYS schools,14 
· Advocates for more closings and privatization of low-performing schools,15 despite research indicating that charter schools are generally less effective than public schools,16 and promote more racial and class-based segregation,17 and create negative impact on community morale, motivation and development,18 
· Advocates the use of poorly designed, ineffective corporate strategies, such as APPR, which de-professionalize teaching,19 
We, the undersigned, strongly believe that New York State’s education reform agenda is fundamentally flawed and must be re-directed in a humanistic, research-based manner; directly counter to the direction Commissioner King has taken. New York State children, parents and teachers need an education commissioner who passionately supports and actively works for: 
· De-concentrating the impact of poverty in classrooms and schools, 
· Institutionalizing performance-based assessments, 
· Ending the obsessive use of high-stakes, standardized testing, 
· Developing creative, alternative curriculum, assessments and schools, 
· Assisting poverty-stricken, low-performing schools through collaboration with teachers, parents community members and students, rather than through closures and privatization, 
· Ending corporate reform, 
· Using school practitioners and constructivist-oriented consultants for developing and implementing curriculum & assessments, 
· Implementing a moratorium on the Common Core Curriculum, 
· Transforming the NYSED to serve as helpful consultants to schools and school districts, rather than enforcers of top-down policies that are disrespectful to teachers and harmful to students.
Therefore, we, the undersigned respectfully urge the NYS Board of Regents to terminate the employment of John King as NYS Education Commissioner, and immediately search for, and hire a candidate who strongly reflects the characteristics described above.

New York State Board of Regents, Same as above 
Terminate the employment of State Education Commissioner, John King 
[Your name]

Charter Founder Is Named Education Commissioner

John King was unanimously elected New York State's
education commissioner by the Board of Regents on Monday.
John B. King Jr., who credits teachers for helping him surmount an isolated childhood as an orphan in Brooklyn and who ran celebrated charter schools in New York and Massachusetts, was named Monday as the state’s next education commissioner, with a unanimous vote of the Board of Regents.
Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
John King with his daughters Amina and Mireya on Monday, before his election.
At 36, Dr. King, who previously served as deputy commissioner, will be among the nation’s youngest educational leaders, though he had been the clear front-runner since the current commissioner, David M. Steiner, announced in April that he would resign.
After losing both of his parents to illness by age 12, Dr. King earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale and a doctorate in education from Columbia. In between, he co-founded Roxbury Prep, a top charter middle school in Massachusetts; led Uncommon Schools, a network of charters based in New York; and married and had two daughters.
His drive, he said in an interview on Sunday, comes from a sense of urgency to create for other children the  refuge he  found as a fourth grader at Public School 276 in Canarsie, the year his mother died of heart failure. His teacher that year, Alan Osterweil, was dynamic and creative, encouraging him to read Shakespeare and memorize the leaders and capital of every country in the world. Later, Celestine DeSaussure, a social studies teacher whom the children called Miss D, made him the sportscaster in a fake Aztec newscast.
 “Having gone to New York City public schools, that quite literally saved my life,” he said, “I feel an incredible devotion to make that possible for more kids.”
Dr. King, who will be New York’s first African-American and first Puerto Rican education commissioner, was part of a circle of idealistic charter-school founders in Boston who experimented with longer school days, strict rules to guide student behavior and ways to hold teachers accountable for student performance. They raised expectations for poor students, and sought to form close relationships with children while reshaping teaching into a more quantifiable science.
Since joining the state Education Department in 2009, Dr. King worked with Dr. Steiner on an ambitious agenda that shares some of those goals, and he takes the helm at a critical moment. The state is on a tight timeline to implement data-driven teacher evaluations, create computer systems to track student progress, toughen curricular standards and open more charter schools. Dr. King helped broker a fragile peace with the state’s main teachers’ union to begin those changes last year, but continuing disputes, particularly over the state’s proposed use of standardized tests to rate teachers, periodically disrupt it.
If Dr. Steiner, a mild-mannered classics professor who will be returning to his post as dean of the education school at Hunter College this summer, was the intellectual driver of the plan, Dr. King was the details person, preferring to sit in a room eating takeout and crunching numbers rather than dipping into Albany politics, which he found frustrating and divisive.
“There is a tremendous amount of work in turning the big ideas into real change,” he said in the interview.
Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of the statewide teachers’ union, expressed some concern about Dr. King’s background and perspective on hot-button issues like school choice and teacher evaluation systems. “My hope will be that he remembers that in his new role, he represents all of public education and not exclusively an interest that he’s been aligned to in the past,” Mr. Iannuzzi said.
Dr. King was born in 1975 in Flatlands, Brooklyn. His father, John B. King Sr., was a 66-year-old retired public school teacher and administrator, who had been the first African-American principal in Brooklyn and later, the city’s executive deputy superintendent of schools. His mother, Adalinda King, was a guidance counselor born in Puerto Rico, who met her future spouse when he taught her in a graduate program.
Dr. King’s mother was working at a middle school when she had a fatal heart attack at 48; Dr. King was 8. His father soon afterward began to show signs of advancing Alzheimer’s, leaving young John to cook, shop and more or less fend for himself until age 12, when Mr. King also died, at 79.
Dr. King went to live with his 24-year-old half brother on Long Island, then briefly attended Phillips Andover, an elite New England boarding school, where he rebelled against the strict curfews and cut class. He was expelled as a junior.
“I sort of resented adult authority,” he said. “At the time I felt like adults had let me down in my life.”
An uncle and aunt in Cherry Hill, N.J., took him in. When it came time to apply to college, Dr. King poured his heart out explaining his circumstances in his Harvard essay, and was accepted.
“Hollywood used to make movies about people like John King,” said Wade S. Norwood, a Regents member, who formally nominated Dr. King for the new job on Monday.
One of Dr. King’s most vivid memories of Harvard is of standing on the bridge over the Charles River, surrounded by the glinting, reflecting spires of the college.
“I would go to the bridge and just think, how could they possibly let me in here,” he said. “There must have been some kind of mistake.”
Dr. King decided he wanted to become a social studies teacher, and earned his master’s from Teachers College at Columbia University. After three years of teaching, two in a charter school in Boston, he was asked to help start Roxbury Prep.
 Dr. King spent five years there as co-director, putting in 12-hour days designing the curriculum and the structure — students may not talk in the hallways between classes, for example — within which teachers and students can improvise. He then moved to New York to help startUncommon Schools, which now has 24 charters.
He now lives in Slingerlands, outside of Albany, with his wife, Melissa, a researcher for Scholastic Inc., whom he met on a blind date while both were teachers in Boston. Their two children, Amina, 7, and Mareya, 4, attend a Montessori school.
Over the past two years, he has been courted for several prominent education leadership positions, including the superintendent’s seat in Newark, by Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook executive who has pledged $100 million to that city’s troubled schools.
But Dr. King said he wanted to stay in New York because of his personal ties and his desire to finish what he started with Dr. Steiner. His salary will be $212,500, up from the $186,500 he earned as deputy, but, at his request, less than the $250,000 given to Dr. Steiner.
Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting from Albany.

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