Sunday, October 4, 2015

Duncan is out. John King is in. This is not an improvement.

If you don't have time for anything else, let the title suffice.

First, in the spirit of full disclosure:
That was at January's National School Board's Advocacy Institute. My question to him was (in brief) how he could advocate for the policies he did, when they were shown disproportionately to hurt my (that is, Worcester's, but more largely, urban) kids. He essentially took issue with my premise.

King's being bumped up from senior advisor in US DoE. Previously, he was the New York Commissioner of public schools. I've seen several descriptions of his time there; "rocky," and "turbulent" seem to be among the most kind. New York was of course among the states that adopted Race to the Top and its accompanying policies, so for my Massachusetts readers, that means they've had the same wave of more charters, new teacher evaluation, new student testing, move to Common Core, and new data analysis, all at the same time. Dare I say King handled it more poorly than Massachusetts did (and I say that as a fan of not much of it)? The second of the above links brings you to the Chalkface in summing up his time in New York.
If I could point at one thing that is an issue with King, it's that he doesn't seem to listen to much of anyone. Wikipedia's review of his history is instructive; he's just turned 40. He came out of Harvard with a degree in government, got a degree from Columbia and taught for three years. He was then among the founders of Roxbury Prep, which, per the last full records we have, has the second highest out-of-school suspension rate in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, at 44.6%. During his time as director there, he's the one who wrote their rules, including no talking in the hallways.  From there, he moved to Uncommon Schools, which runs 24 (similar) charter schools in New York.
Teachers, parents, and principals, all rebelled under his tenure as Commissioner in New York, and for various reasons: New York has seen a wave of parental opt-outs on standardized testing, as the switch to the new test happened with little preparation and with high cut scores (and thus low pass rates). Student test scores are now worth 50% of teacher and principal evaluations in New York, which we all know is just silly. It's also really concerning that he put this sort of school finance nonsense in front of New York's Board of Regents.
And he doesn't listen.

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