Hypocrisy, thy name is King

As NYSED Commissioner King’s traveling Common Core forum circus makes its way around the Empire State we are seeing more and more hypocrisy from New York’s educational leader.

Example #1:  “Special Interests”

I have watched several of the forums, read about others, and attended one.  At the first forum in Poughkeepsie King called parents and educators who criticized his policies “special interests”.

October 12 quote from Commish King after canceling a series of PTA sponsored forums:

Special Interests

Special Interests

“I was looking forward to engaging in a dialogue with parents across the state. I was eagerly anticipating answering questions from parents about the Common Core and other reforms we’re moving ahead with in New York State. Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum”

Parents and educators spoke from the heart that evening in Poughkeepsie and those personal stories have continued with the rescheduled forums across the state.

Screen shot 2013-12-15 at 1.14.40 PM

Not special interests?

At a recent forum in New York City the speakers seemed to be completely the opposite from the rest of the state.  How could that be?  As first reported by The Epoch Times and detailed in WaPo’s Answer Sheet,  StudentsFirstNY brought in speakers with scripted talking points provided by the astroturf organization.

Despite the clear effort to control the meeting by StudentsFirstNY, King viewed the supportive audience in a different light. When Commish King was asked if a group of speakers was organized to dominate the forum in New York City, King stated it was:

“categorically different…  What would be the special interest there?.. “What are they organizing around?”

Example #2: Left out in the cold.

When the Commish rescheduled his forums, more were added to the tour, which excited advocates across the state as they would have the opportunity to address their concerns about the Regents Reform Agenda.

When announcing the new meetings, King stated:

“make sure parents understand the Common Core, and, just as important, we want to understand parents’ concerns”

Excluded parents & educators hold their own forum in a snow storm.

Excluded parents & educators hold their own forum in a snow storm

Virtually all the new forums were held in high school auditoriums allowing a large audience to attend.  When Commish King scheduled a last minute meeting in the Buffalo area, a hot-bed of high-stakes testing resistance, the forum was held at the PBS television station with limited seating.  Local school districts were given three tickets to distribute and a small number of seats were put up in a lottery for the public.   Did King want to avoid the very parents he claimed he wanted to “understand”?

In the hours before the Buffalo forum, a lake-effect snow storm moved into the city and snared traffic at rush hour.  As a result of poor weather, attendance at the forum was sparce, yet a dedicated group of advocates who were shut out of the meeting held their own rally, in numbers similar to those inside.

Screen shot 2013-12-15 at 1.11.27 PM

 

 

 

Example #3:  Montessori vs education reform

Much has been made about Commish King’s children attending private Montessori School as King tries to justify how his children’s school uses the Common Core and takes the state assessments.

Here is an email from leader of the Woodland Hills Montessori School:

Dear Parents,

Two weeks ago I attended the New York State Association of Independent School (NYSAIS) Heads of School conference. This conference featured Yong Zhao, an author and professor at the University of Seattle. Zhao’s message focused on the importance of developing an educational system and curriculum that cultivates key skills like creative and strategic thinking, digital learning and problem solving. He was a very funny speaker, with some serious messages. As a son of Chinese farmers, he said he was ‘a failure at being a peasant.’ He talked about how he has lived his life pursuing what we all pursue–“not failing.” He pointed out that he is not alone in that feeling; none of us like to fail, yet in U.S. schools, the focus is on student deficits rather than strengths. This in turn leads to student disengagement. He also described his goal for his daughter, age 15: not to live in his basement. This is accomplished by helping children discover and practice what they are good at, and help them to develop these skills and expertise.

He also talked about the strengths of the students in his homeland, China, and those of India. They are strong test takers. Students in the U.S. have not been strong test takers, even 50 years ago. The strength of the U.S. has to be in creativity and innovation. The U.S. has been concerned about the Chinese exceeding the U.S. in academic skills, and the Chinese have been concerned that their education system will not produce the next Steve Jobs or creative entrepreneurs until changes to the Chinese educational systems occur. That is already happening. In August, the Chinese Ministry of Education announced significant changes in primary school, releasing the Ten Regulations to Lessen Academic Burden for Primary School Students. In order to best prepare our children, Zhou said we need to help them develop entrepreneurial qualities, such as risk-taking, empathy, confidence, alertness to opportunity- soft skills that are extremely important. In U.S. schools we attempt to take curiosity, passion and creativity, multiple intelligences, cultural diversity and individual differences and squash them through a “sausage maker” school system, zapping these qualities into what we think will be an employable worker.

He asked the question, “What is the best way to kill curiosity in students?” Answer: “Give them all of the answers.” Cramming and covering vast quantities of information kills curiosity. He pointed to a study done years ago where children in first grade were asked, “Who in this class is an artist?” and everyone raises his/her hand. The same question was asked in a high school group, and only a few raised their hands.

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. – Albert Einstein

Zhou says that investing in testing will only create good test takers, and test scores are not valid predictors of success. If we invest our resources in tests, we will get good test takers; if we spend our time celebrating and encouraging our variety of abilities, creativity, and diverse thinking we will better help our students succeed. Testing should be a tool, not the focus. Test scores are a poor reflection of what our students could be learning and distract teachers from the real work of helping students to discover, be curious, work collaboratively and interact with each other in meaningful ways.

For more on Yong Zhao http://zhaolearning.com/

Have a wonderful weekend!

Susan Kambrich
Head of School
Woodland Hill Montessori School

We can certainly see why the Commish sends his children to this Montessori school just based on this one email alone.  I do not hear rigor, or “college and career” ready as a philosophy from this private school.

Follow Chris Cerrone on Twitter: @Stoptesting15

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Comments

  1. Sara bucki says:

    The emphasis on test scores is debilitating for even the highest achieves. Too much emphasis on test prep, not test subject learning, happening in our schools at the youngest, most critical levels. Montessori school is spot on on this issue. Create an atmosphere of learning, mastery of basic math, reading, skills and creativity. Children will soar. Young adults will be ready for the bigger challenges facing them in higher education and career choices.

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