As the leaders of the nation and the city delivered major speeches on combating inequality — with President Obama reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and Mayor de Blasio marking 100 days in office — Thursday’s most important statement about building a better, fairer American future was well below the marquee.
It was state Education Commissioner John King, issuing an intelligent and vigorous defense of the Common Core state learning standards.
These new expectations for student learning — which force students to aim higher and dig deeper in math, English, science and other subjects — replace dumbed-down and discombobulated standards that were a disaster for kids.
Thanks in large part to that old regime, barely 20% of city public schoolchildren are being adequately prepared for college or careers. Speaking of civil rights and a tale of two cities, the numbers are even lower for black and Hispanic students — with just 11.1% and 12.2%, respectively, graduating ready for career or college.
King has been the state’s, if not the nation’s, leading proponent of raising the bar — which is why his face is plastered on dartboards in teachers union hangouts around the state.
Saturday, a statewide federation of unions even passed a vote of no confidence in the commish and called for his immediate removal.
But there King was, at NYU alongside federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan, rightly refusing to back down.
“We are not, not going backward,” he said. “We are not retreating.”
In fact, to help schools spend as much time as possible actually teaching the subjects that are central to the Core, King announced a $16 million grant program to fund district efforts to determine which local tests are needed and which smartly can be scrapped.
He concluded with a plea aimed mostly at his union foes:
“I hope that we can all see the good in each other and begin to move foward together — because the alternative is unthinkable. Children have been waiting too long for the education they desperately need, while the adults have become paralyzed by the politics of education.”
Just right. Ensuring all children get a high-quality education is the true key to building one nation, with opportunity for all.