Commissioner King resigns, leaving behind uncertain future

Nelson Gomez, Editor-In-Chief

On December 10, New York State Education Commissioner John King announced his intent to step down from his position at the end of the year. Upon resigning, King will become a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Executive deputy commissioner Elizabeth Berlin will act has his interim successor.

Though usually an uncontroversial position, King’s tenure oversaw the rollout of the largely debated Common Core standards and new standardized examinations aligned with them. During his time in office, New York also adopted a new teacher evaluation system that placed more emphasis on standardized testing.

The rapid pace of the implementation of Common Core standards resulted in widespread criticism, including a unanimous vote that showed little confidence in King by the NYS United Teachers’ assembly that called for his removal by the Board of Regents. Teachers called the new evaluation metrics flawed, stating that they had little time to adjust to the new standards. Public forums with King across the state have raised the same concerns.

“NYSUT and our members have consistently done everything to convince SED to avoid the train wreck they have engineered,” former NYSUT vice president Maria Neira said. “For three years, SED and the Regents have repeatedly rejected every significant recommendation teachers and parents made to correct the huge problems with Common Core and the Regents reform agenda.”

However, the direction that education in New York has taken under Commissioner King has also received some positive feedback, such as the New York Daily News calling him “a warrior for higher standards and better education” in one of its editorials.

Regardless of the mixed reception regarding his effectiveness as the state’s education commissioner, the fact remains that the new commissioner will face an uphill battle trying to satisfy numerous educators and administrators. King leaves a number of policy wars in his wake, with reform advocates concerned that the new commissioner will slow the pace of changes such as the implementation of the Common Core, leaving parents and educators anxious that he or she will be as steadfastly supportive of these changes as King.

“As John B. King Jr. vacates his position as the NYS Commissioner of Education and moves on to the national level, all districts in New York State, as well as Massapequa, are left with more questions than answers,” superintendent Mrs. Lucille Iconis said. “Whoever replaces him will occupy a prominent post, where he or she will need to juggle numerous heated issues including testing, the new Common Core standards, and teacher evaluation.”

Despite his departure from the state, his future position as a top adviser in the U.S. Department of Education will net King more of a say in how education policies are developed nationally. Legally, he will have the same powers and responsibilities as the deputy secretary; accordingly, he will be focusing primarily on K-12 education.

“New York State public school educators, as well as many parents and students, found Commissioner King’s goals detrimental to public education, so I see his resignation as a positive for Massapequa Public Schools,” Massapequa Federation of Teachers president Mrs. Tomia Smith said. “However, I now have concerns regarding what impact he will have at the federal level.”

For now, the future of education in New York remains unclear. Until King has been formally appointed to his new position and the Board of Regents selects a new permanent commissioner, it’s impossible to assess the effects that this shakeup will have on the quality of schooling in New York and the country.

Still, one thing remains certain: parents, educators, administrators, and politicians alike will be watching closely to see what will happen next.

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