Earlier this month, state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. thought he could back out of public forums on the state's new education standards and testing after the first meeting became a shouting match. According to media accounts, the event in Poughkeepsie was so acrimonious that a person who pleaded with the crowd to settle down was himself shouted down. Two days after that meeting, King canceled four upcoming events, including one in Garden City.
If King thought he stumbled into a brawl when he exchanged ideas with parents and educators about the new Common Core curriculum, it was nothing compared to the brouhaha that erupted when he canceled further exchanges. The response was so explosive that King had to replace the four canceled appearances with 12 new ones, including four on Long Island. They will be moderated by legislators. He also is adding another four that will be televised.
King's decision to cancel meetings without a plan for alternative forums came off as a whiny, embarrassing error. Parents and teachers are upset and fearful: That's why these meetings have to happen. It's not an excuse to cancel them. But calls for King's resignation from legislators and educators are overblown. Test scores of third- through eighth-graders across the state plummeted about 30 percent compared with the previous year because the standards got tougher and the curriculum is new. The curriculum and its toughness are steps in the right direction. But parents are rightfully anxious about the changes.
Listening to and understanding what King is trying to do, and in response, offering suggestions and alternatives that could make the adoption of the new curriculum smoother, should be the point of these forums. But if people want to scream and shout, then King, who works for these taxpayers and has admitted the Common Core rollout was clumsy and poorly explained, needs to sit there and take it.