Reactions to John King’s Departure From New York Reveal Sharp Divide

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 11, 2014 2 min read
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During his tenure as education commissioner in New York state, John King provoked strong reactions, both positive and negative. Some have praised him for how the Empire State has handled the shift to the Common Core State Standards, new teacher evaluations, and other changes in policy. Others argue he bungled key aspects of the common core’s rollout and improperly brushed aside the viewpoints of educators and others.

UPDATE: In a Dec. 11 farewell address at the state education department’s Network Team Institute, King thanked educators for their hard work in implementing the common core. In the speech, which you can watch below, he exhorted them continue their work to better prepare students for the world beyond K-12: “Too many of our students can’t find jobs that provide a family-supporting wage.”

NTI Keynote & Farewell by Commissioner John B. King, Jr. from EngageNY on Vimeo.

Now that King is leaving his post to join the U.S. Department of Education as a senior adviser to Secretary Arne Duncan, as my colleague Alyson Klein reported Dec. 10, those disparate opinions are on full display.

StudentsFirstNY, the New York state affiliate of the national advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee, said King had proved that “if you raise standards in a smart way, students will rise to the challenge.”

At least one other group, Democrats for Education Reform, said that King’s willingness to stir up controversy in the name of certain policies is to his credit:

However, others used the announcement as a way to highlight what they saw as King’s failings in New York state.

The New York State United Teachers, the state teachers’ union, noted that it has “disagreed sharply and publicly” with King on several occasions. (The union called for King’s departure, as Alyson noted in her blog post.)

“We call on the Regents, in appointing the next education commissioner to, first and foremost, select a passionate advocate for what children and public schools need. The next commissioner must be a heralded educator who respects parents, teachers, and students,” the union said in a statement, which you can read in full here:

And New York State Allies for Public Education, an advocacy group that fiercely opposes the common core in New York, the aligned assessments, and other key pieces of King’s agenda, bemoaned what they viewed as his elevation to the national stage:

Counting King’s departure, 30 states have now changed or are due to change education chiefs since March 2012. King’s replacement will be appointed by the state Board of Regents, which is led by Merryl Tisch.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.