Wednesday, December 11, 2013

John King Goes One Round With the Straw Man -And Wins!!

I'd like to congratulate NYSED Commissioner John King on finally winning one! He's been getting bruised so bad by New York suburban parents and educators for so long that I was starting to feel sorry for him! Last night's forum in Brooklyn, where he was applauded by people who support the Common Core, must have made him feel much better.
In fact, the supporters who turned out in favor of the Common Core helped King look like he is the champion of equal rights in New York! Now supporting him means supporting the Common Core and with it, equal rights for education in New York. But if you oppose him (like parents all across New York's urban and suburban areas have been for months now), then you must be opposing the Common Core -and that means you oppose equal rights and you oppose equal opportunity. Shame on you.

 King has now juxtaposed himself between angry "white" parents in the suburbs and accepting "black" parents in the city as the official guy who cares and is willing to 'take it on the chin' for what he knows is right. It is the most brilliant political move -and slick playing of the race card- that I can remember seeing in a very long time.

Thing is, is a false argument. Parents in the suburbs never were angry over the Common Core. They were angry over the rollout of the Common Core and of the high stakes tests that King is fast becoming associated with.

You see, the rollout of the Common Core has lead to hastily drafted curricula that do not serve students very well in their present form. Those curricula will need to be improved.  The rollout had also lead to an assumption that students of all grades can just snap their fingers and be CC ready with no phase-in from the school system at all. That's bogus. The standards are phased in so that you cannot easily be successful in grade 5 unless you have been able to demonstrate CC understanding in grades k-4.   Finally, supporters have demonstrated no interest in tweeking or improving the standards at all -even though they don't, in their current form, work for every subject and for every grade. This rigid embrace has lead to some zealous interpretations of the standards that dismisses the notions that they can be improved.

And yet, Mr. King would like to test students along the standards anyway. Although no student currently attending school has had an opportunity to interact with the standards for more than a year, Mr. King has insisted that student promotion (by proxy) and teacher and principal evaluation scores (by statute) be linked to new tests that are based on the Common Core (and which assume the students who take them had been learning at the Common Core level the whole while). These super-charged high stakes tests have united parents from across New York State in protest to Mr. King and his policies. People are angry -so angry that they have decided that their only recourse is to take to the streets.
Yet they're not actually protesting the Common Core themselves. Listen carefully to the activists and you'll hear a clear message: Poor implementation  and terribly destructive tests. The idea of 'Common Core' protests are shorthand for these very real concerns.

But those concerns didn't stop Mr. King from fighting the straw man out in Brooklyn last night! They sent special buses for the E4E  and StudentsFirst crowd. They let them in the room early, then they let them have at it (see here)  They pretended it was all about the Common Core and allowed his supporters -charter school activists, E4E members and others specifically associated with one side of (the polarized) edreform movement- to praise the standards, while ignoring the very things about the Common Core that are making everyone across the state very very angry.  This made it seem as though anyone who appears to be against the Common Core actually wants low expectations for under privileged students.

Great job, Mr. King. You kicked the straw man's a$$ last night. Your sham argument seemed to pay off. Everyone is talking about high expectations. No one is talking about poor tests, poor curriculum or a rollout that is far less than competent.

It's based on a lie. You've driven a wedge between stakeholders. You've pitted race against race and taxpayers against taxpayers. Most importantly, you've set the notion of honest discussion and discourse about education in New York State in a backwards motion -something I thought was only possible in New York City under Michael Bloomberg.

But hey, you got the "W". That's all that counts for you, isn't it?

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