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New York News

NY: Mixed Reaction Over John King Appointment

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When John King, New York's top-ranking education official, left his post for a federal position, many New Yorkers breathed a sigh of a relief. That relief is short-lived, now that King is succeeding U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

King, known for his leadership in the charter-school movement,  was appointed New York State Education Commissioner in May 2011.  During his reign, King came to oversee two controversial initiatives: implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards and New York's move to require annual teacher evaluations based in part on student performance on Common Core-aligned standardized tests.

King conducted a series of town halls. He was heavily booed during one held in Poughkeepsie in October of 2013.  "We're not going to go on until I speak." [crowd Boos]

King's rocky reign in New York came to an end in December 2014 when he was tapped to serve in the Obama administration as deputy to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  At the time, pro-Common Core education group StudentsFirstNY lauded King, saying the beleaguered commissioner left an "extraordinary legacy," and that "It's no wonder he's been tapped for a national post."

New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch agreed. He issued a statement proclaiming "John King was an extraordinary leader and an incredible partner in his four and a half years as New York's Commissioner.  With vision and courage he led the transition to higher standards, a stronger curriculum, and critical reforms in teacher preparation."

But, before King left, he was "called on the carpet" in a letter from the Cuomo Administration. The Governor demanded King's candid thoughts on how to significantly change education policy. Cuomo wanted answers as to why teacher evaluations showed 99 percent of teachers ranked highly, but two-thirds of third through eighth graders failed the new Common Core related tests in math and English.  Cuomo remarked  "I believe it is incredible to believe that is an accurate reflection of the state of education in New York."

New York State United Teachers is not pleased with King's recent promotion. Just last year, union members delivered a vote of no confidence against him and called for his resignation. Carl Korn is spokesman for the 600,000 member strong union.  "You know, NYSUT considers John King an idealog, and one who we have disagreed with sharply on many issues over the years. We can only hope that he has learned from the many missteps he took in New York State, and help return public education to what's most important, and that's teaching and learning, not testing, testing and more testing."

NYSUT is urging its members to call the White House switchboard—as well as a special White House telephone line dedicated to public comments—to express their displeasure in John King’s appointment.

Wendy Liberatore with the Alliance For Quality education says King's highest achievement was to inspire "opt-out," and his insensitivity to parents created quite the problem in New York.  "Hopefully he's learned something and he won't pursue this overstandardized testing, which basically leads to teaching to the test. We at the Alliance For Quality Education would like students to be in the classroom learning as opposed to learning how to pass tests."

A few days ago, King commented on his twitter account :

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Students, educators and families now await whatever happens next.

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