A Letter From New York Highlights Similarities Between John White and John King.

In her vigilant fight to preserve educational excellence in the US, Diane Ravitch posted this letter from a mother who spoke at one of New York Chancellor John King’s informational gatherings around New York State. This one was held in Port Chester, New York, and her letter and testimony is included below. It is interesting to note that Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education John White has followed an almost identical path to New York Commissioner John King. Neither King nor White has taught more than three years in a classroom. Both gentleman then spent all their educational experience in leadership positions, King founding a private charter school, and White serving as Deputy Superintendent in New York. Both gentlemen had the support of powerful governors, and both are pushing PARCC testing for their states. New York has already implemented one round of testing, with disastrous first-round scores, and Louisiana is supposed to start in 2014-2015. Even more telling, Bianca Tanis speaks about her son, who has autism and who had to take the high-stakes tests. Louisiana under John White required its special education students to take the ACT test also, until Louisiana legislator John Bel Edwards (D)  stepped in with HB 343 to correct this oversight. Both men are under intense pressure and scrutiny.

Here is that mother’s letter to Diane Ravitch.

“Dear Diane,

Last night I attended the Common Core Forum in Port Chester, NY. I was number 6 to speak.It was an incredible feeling to finally be able to look Commissioner King in the eye and say what I have been wanting to say to him for the past 6 months, and to know that this time, he would have to hear me. But that’s the thing, he didn’t hear me or anyone else for that matter.

I brought my almost 80 year old father to the forum. Before last night he was only peripherally aware of education reform. As we left, he was holding back tears, overwhelmed by the pain that he heard parents and teachers expressing and moved by the dozens of parents, teachers and administrators who had spoken so eloquently on behalf of children. I too was moved but I was also angry.

Despite being forced to listen to dozens of parents, superintendents and teachers say over and over again that the current education reform is hurting children and public education, Commissioner King was unmoved. King had not heard me or anyone else for that matter. Despite his 12 stop mea culpa tour, King is going full steam ahead with his corporate, hostile takeover of education.

Back when I was a 28 year old mother of 2 children on the Autism spectrum, I worked hard to return to graduate school and become a teacher. During my teacher training I lost my little brother to cancer and watched my son undergo numerous surgeries. Through it all I continued my graduate work and maintained a near perfect GPA. I don’t tell you these things because I want sympathy or accolades, but to make the point that I know perseverance, I know struggle…the qualities that commissioner king believes that 8 and 9 year olds should experience as the means of motivating them to achieve career and college readiness. And part of what has helped me to persevere and to push through the tough times is my ability to stop and reflect, to change course when one paradigm no longer works. I am saddened and angered that public education is led by someone who is willing to do neither.

I have attached my testimony from the forum below. This is what our commissioner of education didn’t hear.Commissioner King must resign because as parents and educators, we deserve better.

Sincerely,
Bianca Tanis
Parent, educator and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education

“My son has autism and your reforms have hurt him. You mandate schools to share sensitive student data. You force students with disabilities to submit to inappropriate and humiliating testing. Only now, 5 months later, after you have had to endure public outcry, are you willing to consider changes. Where was common sense and decency 5 months ago when parents begged to for their children to be exempt and when children with disabilities were being tortured. You should be ashamed.

“These reforms are not about education. They are about the agenda of billionaires with no teaching experience. The fact that your close advisors are the mysterious Regents Fellows, individuals with little to no teaching experience, who are paid 6 figure salaries with private donations by Bill Gates and Chancellor Meryl Tisch, speaks volumes. Private money comes with a price tag and that price tag is influence. We reject leadership that allows public education to be bought. That is not democracy. By the way, the Regents Fellow job description does not mention teaching experience as a requirement.

“It has been said that parent opposition is typical when change is introduced. There is nothing typical about the present response. The incompetent roll out of the common core and the naked disregard that has been shown for developmentally appropriate and educationally sound practice is unacceptable. Your recent concessions are disingenuous and a case of too little too late. They do nothing to reduce the hours of testing or the inappropriate level of test difficulty. They do nothing to make cut scores reasonable or address serious problems associated with high stakes testing.

“In addition to hurting children, your policies promote social inequality. Private school parents, such as your self have the opportunity to say to no to harmful testing and data sharing while public school parents are not afforded the same rights. Are you afraid of what would happen if you gave all parents a choice?

“The inadequacy of our schools is a manufactured crisis. Poverty is the number one indicator of student achievement. When you factor in poverty, US schools are at the top. New York deserves real leadership that addresses real issues. If you won’t provide that leadership, we need someone who will.”

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