Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 20, 2013

King reverses forums stance

STAFF REPORTS
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — State Education Commissioner John B. King will try a second time to hold public forums with parents.

King announced Friday that he and the state Board of Regents will hold a series of 12 forums in school districts across the state to discuss with parents and educators the Common Core standards and other education reforms approved by the board.

The events will be moderated by state legislators and held in school auditoriums in the legislators’ districts. In addition, King is participating in four forums at New York State Public Broadcasting Stations that will include a studio audience. The PBS forums will be recorded for broadcast and will also be available on the web.

“The Board of Regents approved the reforms, including adoption of the Common Core in 2010,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “We’re just starting the second year of full implementation with aligned assessments. It’s a good time for the Regents and the commissioner to meet with parents and teachers to understand how the implementation is going and what adjustments, if any, have to be made.”

King had set up a series of town hall meetings, then abruptly canceled them last week. After the first meeting, a rambunctious Oct. 10 session in Pougkeepsie, he decided that “special interest groups” were manipulating the forums and depriving parents a chance to listen and ask questions about reforms, and therefore he saw no point in continuing them.

“I want to have a respectful, direct, and constructive dialogue with parents,” King said Friday. “More and smaller discussions will make sure there’s a real opportunity for parents to be heard. This is just the first round; we’ll continue to schedule forums for parents. We want these to be regular events. We want the conversation to rise above all the noise and make sure parents understand the Common Core and, just as important, we want to understand parents’ concerns. We all share the same goal: to make sure our students have the skills and knowledge to be successful in a changing world.”

The Common Core Learning Standards, adopted by the state Board of Regents in 2010, are supposed to help students be better prepared for college and careers, state officials have said. The standards are based on a more narrowly focused curriculum that favors depth over covering a wider range of topics and skills.

As a result, state tests including ELA and math assessments have increased in difficulty. This past spring, the first time the tougher tests were given, schools across the state saw scores plummet.

King said the new round of forums will be scheduled over the next six weeks; details for all the events will be finalized early this week. The first forum will be held Oct. 24 in the Albany City School District.

Other locations for the forums are Rochester, Westchester, two each in Suffolk and Nassau counties, Schroon Lake, Binghamton, Amherst, Syracuse and Jamestown.

The four PBS televised forums will be in November in Syracuse, Plattsburgh and Binghamton, and December in Rochester. Additional PBS forums will be scheduled, King said.