John King in Conversation with Joanne Weiss

April 30, 2014

Joanne Weiss, former chief of staff to the Secretary of Education, interviewed John King, Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, about his experience in government. King is an education veteran: He started out as a teacher, worked as an administrator, and now King is responsible for New York’s education policy. 

King implemented the Common Core State Standards in his state, but parents have pushed back against the new standards. Weiss asked King about that parent push-back: How can we change parents’ minds about the Common Core?

King told a story about successful parent outreach: On Long Island, a public school teacher recorded a short video every school day that explains a Common Core aligned question to parents. The parents loved the videos; The practice of showing parents the Common Core in action spread quickly through the teacher’s district.

King regrets that he did not do more to reach out to districts about the Common Core implementation, because district leaders were not adequately prepared to defend the standards. 

Common Core implementation is still a challenge. King called out two major obstacles for Common Core implementation: First, some publishers have released Common Core materials that are not substantively aligned to the new, critical-thinking-based standards; Second, many teachers are not prepared to teach to the new standards, because the standards require unconventional instructional abilities.

Still, King sees the clear benefits of implementing the Common Core. Students in New York now learn to think critically about texts, increasing their enjoyment and educational engagement. Teachers regret that they have not used Common Core techniques to instruct students in the past. With the Common Core, King and other education policymakers are able to help students in new, never-before possible ways.

Weiss asked King about how he deals with public criticism of his work, much of it personal and vitriolic. King emphasizes that we need to celebrate the benefits of Common Core implementation and combat false information, false information people spread quickly over their social networks. 

The conversation with King leaves us inspired; The fight for the Common Core is difficult, but it is worth the struggle.