John King: Common Core accountability is not new for students

Speaking at a Brooklyn school today, State Education Commissioner John King offered a spirited defense of the state’s decision to roll out end-of-year exams that are tied to new standards with unprecedented speed.

Of the 46 states that have adopted the new standards, known as the Common Core, New York is the first to tie its tests to them. And while the state is also the only one to develop accompanying curriculum materials, it won’t cover all of the standards until the end of 2013.

Last week, UFT President Michael Mulgrew criticized the state for requiring students to take exams based on the standards before giving teachers a full curriculum based on them.

“Millions of students will be tested on a curriculum that was never supplied to their teachers,” Mulgrew told Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform commission a week ago. “[This is] a storm that is headed right at us.”

But King suggested today that focusing on the challenges that teachers are facing is misguided. For students, he said, the tests are coming not too early but too late:

Students are already accountable for the Common Core because when they arrive on a college campus or when they arrive as a first-year employee, they are responsible for those skills. The gap has been that our K-12 system hasn’t been equipping all students with those skills. When you look at the remediation rates … for the community colleges, it’s clear, kids are already accountable for the Common Core, and their families are already accountable for the Common Core, because those remedial classes are essentially high school classes at college prices.

King made the comments during a visit to Pathways in Technology Early College High School, a Brooklyn school in its second year that will ultimately allow students to graduate with an associate’s degree. This afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited the school as well, joined by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. The city plans to open two other schools in the mold in 2013.

The barrage of visits preceded “From Classroom to Career: Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce,” a panel discussion this afternoon at Hunter College’s public policy institute. The discussion was sponsored in part by IBM, P-Tech’s corporate partner. IBM supplies mentors and internship experiences to P-Tech’s students, and it is filling a similar role for a P-Tech-inspired school in Chicago.