Striving to maintain an open dialog on Common Core, the state Education Department is reportedly working on developing a new format for Commissioner John King's town hall-style discussions, which he cancelled after one in Poughkeepsie erupted in anger and frustration.
Some New York parents and teachers who are dissatisfied with Common Core are livid that Commissioner King has opted out of attending any further meetings sponsored by the state Parent Teacher Association.
King said in a statement this week that the first two forums on the topic — held last week in Poughkeepsie and Whitesboro — had been “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal was to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.”
Several parents at the Poughkeepsie meeting on October 10th accused King of dodging difficult questions and failing to take notes, which they perceived as an unwillingness to vet their concerns.
King visited a Long Island elementary school Wednesday for a closed-door session with educators. He told reporters he understands parents’ frustrations and that they were similar to what he encountered in Massachusetts, where he served 5 years as co-director of charter school Roxbury Prep.
King has taken a lot of flack because his own children attend private school.
Democratic Upstate Assemblyman Phil Steck chided King for cancelling the forums
Forums had been scheduled for this week in Garden City and Clifton Park and later this month in Williamsville and New Hartford.
A spokesperson for the Commissioner’s office, Tom Dunn, says alternatives are being sought.
Anonymous sources quoted in media reports say the state is considering reaching out to PBS stations, hoping that having local celebrity-announcers host and moderate the meetings with King would act as a buffer between Commissioner and community.-
Republican State Senator Jack Martins of Mineola had demanded King reschedule the canceled gatherings or immediately resign.
On Monday, New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of more than 40 parent groups from Long Island to Buffalo, called for King to resign immediately - STOP Common Core in New York State, a parent and teacher advocacy group based in Port Chester has joined the movement urging King to step down.
Common Core is a set of national education standards emphasizing more critical thinking - adopting them was a condition for receiving federal Race to the Top money.
The first of the new state English and math tests on the Common Core last spring came before teachers could teach the curriculum - and the percentage of students receiving proficient grades dropped from between 55 and 65 percent to just 30 percent.
Rick Longhurst is the executive administrator of New York State PTA: he says the group is pushing the idea of delaying the use of the test scores to hold back students or grade teachers. NYSUT has been calling for a three-year moratorium on using test scores in that manner.