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NYS Education Commissioner Discusses Common Core In Troy

Lucas Willard

NYS Commissioner of Education Dr. John King delivered his state of education address Thursday night in Troy, answering some questions about the controversial implementation of the Common Core. 

As part of the 4th Annual Esteves School Education Speaker Series at the Sage College, New York State Commissioner of Education Dr. John King spoke before a crowd of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.

The majority of the conversation focused on the implementation of the Common Core, the new set of curriculum standards being adopted by 45 other states and the District of Columbia. King himself has drawn harsh criticism from parents, teachers, and administrators on New York’s rollout of the new standards, especially concerning the standardized testing of 3rd and 8th grade students in 2013.

King defended the standards and explained how classrooms are oriented in ELA and mathematics under the new standards.

“In English Language Arts, a lot of it is about writing and making sure that students have the writing skills and communication skills that they’ll need to succeed,” said King. “It’s also making sure the students can do the kind of cricitcal reading that’s required for success in college or an entry level job  where you’re asked to read a technical-level manual and understand it. In mathematics the focus is on problem solving and students not just seeing math as a set of rules that you memorize but a set of tools that you apply to solve real-world problems.”

Speaking to reporters afterward, King said New York is committed to the standards, and expressed concern over any delay in their implementation.

“My view is that we’ve committed as a state to the Common Core, we have work to do improve implementation, and we look forward to doing that work along with the governor, the legislature, and our school districts,” said King.

Education issues have dominated much of the state budget negotiations underway in Albany. With the governor pushing for universal kindergarten, property tax freezes under the tax cap, and lawmakers making their own adjustments, school districts have worried about their ability to rollout new standards in a time where funding is tight.

Commissioner King said the Education Department has come up with the right amount of funding to implement the Common Core.

“We’ve put forward a $1.3 billion proposal for the increase in education spending. We think that’s the right amount to support our schools,” said King. “Obviously the budget process will play out over the next few weeks and we’ll see where the governor and the legislature end up. At the same time, school districts need to think carefully about how resources are allocated, and we see boards and superintendents grappling with these tough decisions.”

When asked by reporters about what he would do differently about the Common Core rollout if he could, King said he would like the public to take a closer look at the standards, and not to confuse them with other issues school districts are facing.

“As we’ve seen in the last few months the Common Core has at times gotten conflated with other concerns, whether its resource concerns or other concerns that folks may have – but the Common Core is about a common sense set of standards that will help our students be prepared for college careers in life,” said King.

As state leaders are set to come up with all their education budget recommendations in the next few days, citizens and advocates have been making themselves heard across the state.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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