Principal: John King Hurt My Students

“Should John King resign? No. He should be removed.”

Diane Ravitch's blog

In response to my call for John King’s resignation, this principal in New York wrote:

“Thank you, Diane! Last night I finally had the heart to review my school’s test scores, child by child. As I read their names and numbers, I saw their little faces on the days of the testing, so many in tears, and I cried.

“This is so wrong for children.

“I have an excellent school, smart, hard-working kids and outstanding teachers. My students were not 30% smarter a year ago, but John King has deliberately turned many of them into “failures.”

“In the year ahead, the students will not miraculously get 50% smarter or the teachers suddenly better, yet I already know that the scores will go up – so that John King can look like a hero on the backs of little children. Mean-spirited is too kind a word.

“Should John King resign? No…

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NYS Ed Commissioner John King should resign

Dear Regent Tisch,

As a NYC public school teacher who proctored the 2013 Common Core state tests, I am calling for the immediate resignation of Commissioner John King. Through his corporate ed reform policies, he is robbing our children of their right to a meaningful education. Please save our schools.

Katie Lapham
Brooklyn, NY

Twitter: CriticalClassrooms @lapham_katie

Freedom to Teach, Freedom to Learn: A Year at Mission Hill

Teachers' Letters to Bill Gates

Chapter 4: Love and Limits


Chapter 4 of A Year At Mission Hill gave me anxiety.  As a teacher of ELLs (English-language learners), some of whom have significant special needs, I pictured myself trying to teach NYS and NYC Common Core curricula (test prep) to the group of special needs students profiled in this short chapter.  One of my biggest challenges is trying to keep my cool in this climate of high stakes testing. The pressure to show progress – via test scores – of our SWDs (students with disabilities) and ELLs while simultaneously giving each student what he/she TRULY needs, both emotionally and academically, is very palpable.  I spend most of each school day trying to loosen the knot in my stomach.

Mission Hill is a K-8 public school in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, MA (note: since filming, the school has relocated to Jamaica Plain).  It is a…

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Can you explain yourselves as human beings?

August 10, 2013


An open letter to all the policy makers, business leaders and think tankers responsible for the horror show that is the Common Core in New York State,

Yesterday, I attended a social gathering of NYC teachers, which I thought was going to be an afternoon of catching-up, gossip and reality show bashing over Italian heroes and cookies. In the presence of wise, common sense veteran teachers, I shouldn’t have been surprised when our get-together instead turned into a damning critique of NYC’s new Common Core (CCSS) curricula and, of course, the new CCSS state assessments.

We bemoaned what’s being forced on us by our state and city; material that we don’t believe in as conscientious whole child educators. Like broken records, we concurred with regards to what we’ve long believed our particular group of students really needs in order to be successful learners, none of which carry the Common Core trademark.

With this in mind (and I appeal to your human side), please consider these questions:

How can you – in good conscience – think these tests and curricula are remotely appropriate for our elementary students? Have you even seen the materials?

Are you just repeating the “rigorous, college and career ready” mantra because that’s what’s expected of you at work?

Do you ever feel like a fraud at work?

Is your goal at work to make money and/or to please shareholders and higher ups?

Like so many teachers, do you go home at night and tell your loved ones, “I can’t believe what I’m doing at work. What a waste of time and money! This makes no sense whatsoever.”

If you are unmoved by these questions, we are left to consider the possibility that you may possess some sociopathic tendencies.


Katie Lapham, Brooklyn

The Format of the NYS Common Core ELA exam


In light of Wednesday’s release of the embargoed NYS Common Core test scores, I thought it would be useful to post this excerpt from a letter I wrote to John King at the conclusion of the 2013 NYS Common Core English Language Arts exam.  It details the length and format of the ELA exam administered to 5th graders in New York State.

excerpt from my April 22, 2013 letter to NYS Education Chancellor, John King:

Last week, I administered the grade 5 Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) test to a group of 10-year-old former English Language Learners (ELLs). Over the course of three consecutive days, they were asked to answer a total of 63 multiple-choice questions on two different answer grids, and eight short-response questions and two extended-response questions in two different booklets. In order to do this, they had to first carefully read and re-read a large number of reading passages.

Most of the grade 5 students throughout New York State received 90 minutes each day (a total of four and a half hours) to complete the tests. As former ELLs, the students I tested received an additional 45 minutes of testing time each day. Thus, they sat in a testing environment for a total of six hours and 45 minutes. If they had not received extended time, most of the students would not have finished any of the exams at the conclusion of the standard allotted time of 90 minutes. While I was impressed by the students’ stamina, resilience and overall positive attitude, by the end of day two their test fatigue and frustration were visible. This week, they will receive the same amount of time as the state administers to them the 2013 Common Core Mathematics test. By the end of Friday, April 26, this group of former ELLs – fifth graders – will have tested for a whopping total of 13.5 hours.


Freedom to Teach, Freedom to Learn: A Year At Mission Hill

Teachers' Letters to Bill Gates

Chapter 3: Making it Real

Dear readers,


I watched chapter three of A Year At Mission Hill with a heavy heart, almost tearful.  The way in which educators teach and students learn at Mission Hill is exactly what I’ve viscerally yearned for in a school community, long before the words Common Core were ever uttered. Mission Hill is a K-8 public school in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, MA (note: since filming, the school has relocated to Jamaica Plain).

Mission Hill’s staff meets at the end of the summer to develop curricula that support the school’s philosophy; ideals such as kindness, meaningful work and caring for the land are infused into lessons. Together they came up with the first school wide theme of the year: honeybees.  As you will see in this short chapter, students across all grades developed a wide range of important skills centered on this natural science…

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