ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - State Education Commissioner John King Jr. and the state Board of Regents said Tuesday they are pushing ahead with the new Common Core learning standards even as some teacher and parent groups call for King's resignation.
King, however, continues to have the strong support of his bosses on the Board of Regents during this latest outcry over major changes to public education. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also strongly supported the education overhaul.
On the other side, "we've had a lot of positive support from folks," said Eric Mhelbergel, spokesman for the New York State Allies for Public Education seeking King's resignation.
The group and other organizations of teachers and parents opposed to more testing and testing to evaluate instruction said they have no choice but to call for King's resignation. They have criticized the Common Core and its uniform, higher standards being adopted nationwide. Critics say the Common Core requires too many tests for students and that New York is requiring leaps in achievements too quickly.
Mhelbergel said that included a call by the powerful New York State United Teachers for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing. NYSUT is providing some "behind the scenes" advice, but no direct support, he said. He said the effort that depends on its website, social media and fliers in schools has drawn 20,000 supporters statewide.
Driving the latest conflict was an Oct. 10 forum in Poughkeepsie that triggered King's cancellation of other scheduled forums. State officials said King was shouted down by special interests seeking to manipulate the meeting, while the parents and teachers challenging the commissioner said King simply refused to accept their input.
"That was the last straw," Mhelbergel said Tuesday in an interview.
The "meeting in Poughkeepsie mirrored his established pattern of ignoring the concerns of parents and educators," stated the website of the Allies for Public Education. "The cancellation of the future town hall meetings shows a lack of leadership from Commissioner King. ... His ability to lead the school districts of New York has been called into serious question."
On Friday, King rescheduled the meetings under a different format. He will hold 12 forums statewide beginning Thursday in Albany.
"I'm not backing down here," said state schools Chancellor Merryl Tisch.
The Regents have encountered similar outrage from teachers' unions and parent-teacher groups at every stage of major educational change in Albany over the past 20 years. With few exceptions, changes including the creation of school report cards to compare teachers and schools, an increase in the number of Regents exams and other tests to measure improvement, revamping math and science tests by experts in the fields, and other efforts continued regardless of the outcry by some organized groups.
Regents have long noted that students have met higher standards despite critics who said they couldn't.
King said Tuesday that teachers are doing just that. He released the preliminary statewide composite ratings for teachers and principals and said the Common Core standards didn't hurt teacher ratings. He found almost 50 percent of teachers outside New York City were highly effective and just under 42 percent were effective, while 4 percent were rated as developing and 1 percent were ineffective. King said 26 percent of principals outside New York City were rated highly effective, nearly 61 percent were effective, while 7 percent were developing and 2 percent were ineffective.
Comparable New York City figures will be released later after city teachers reach their second year of evaluation under the system.
The NYSUT teachers union was critical of the state's "obsession" with testing and the way the state is implementing the Common Core standards.
The state Education Department "must turn its attention away from its obsession with testing and back to its responsibility for providing the time, tools, resources and professional development needed to achieve the potential of the Common Core," said union President Richard Iannuzzi. "The state must listen to parents' and teachers' call for a moratorium on high-stakes consequences to allow the time to get it right."
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