NYSED Commissioner John King runs away: Lessons from the trenches


Protest of NYSED policies in Port Jefferson, NY photo courtesy of http://perdidostreetschool.blogspot.com

October 12, 2013

Mr. King,

The suspension of your Common Core Town Hall tour has resulted in a justified uproar among parents and educators in New York State and beyond (see Anthony Cody’s recent post). In satisfying the requirements of the 60% Danielson component of my teacher effectiveness rating, I have been writing reflections on my teaching practice under your Race to the Top and Common Core top-down policies. I intend to submit them as one of my eight artifacts (Danielson 4a). In this reflection, I wish to address your decision to retreat after facing opposition from parents at Thursday’s Town Hall meeting at Spackenkill High School in Poughkeepsie.

Unlike you, teachers do not have the luxury of fleeing in the face of stressful situations. Over the past eight years of being a classroom teacher – you lack this experience, correct? – I have learned different ways to ride out storms. I may not always respond to them gracefully, but I acknowledge my discomfort – sometimes aloud – and tell myself that these feelings will pass. As tempting as it might be, I don’t run away or give up on a particular student. The ability to work through tough situations, particularly confrontations, is a character trait that both educators and parents model to children. I’m sure you have done the same with your own kids.

Parents and educators in NYS have long suffered under your policies.  Your lack-of-common-sense mandates are crushing, and we are witnessing firsthand the damage to children wrought by high-stakes testing and uninspiring, developmentally inappropriate Common Core curricula. We are not venting; rather, we are standing up for our children by speaking the truth.  

When I encounter angry students, I try my best to acknowledge their feelings and to listen to them even if we are in disagreement. Some students act out because of situations at home. School may be the only place where their voices can be heard; thus, I try my best to put myself in their shoes in order to understand where they are coming from.

This has not been your approach to parents and educators who disapprove of your policies. Your decision to suspend these hearings is a mistake that has resulted in ever increasing numbers of people calling for your immediate resignation. Public education is a democratic institution, and it is our right to voice our concerns even if they conflict with your agenda.  If some of us appear angrier than others, it’s because our arguments have fallen on deaf ears for too long.


Katie Lapham (Brooklyn, NY)