King Holds Court

It isn’t commonplace for the commissioner of the New York State Education Department to make a personal visit to classrooms in Chautauqua County, but that was the case for three Jamestown Public Schools buildings Wednesday.

Commissioner John King took time to stop by Persell Middle School, Fletcher Elementary School and Jamestown High School prior to his public information session on the Common Core Learning Standards at the JHS auditorium in the evening.

It was an endeavor that required much planning and coordination, but one that Tim Mains, JPS superintendent, felt would be invaluable to his district. According to Mains, he made the push to get King into Jamestown classrooms as a means of providing him with a visual of Common Core implementation as it pertains specifically to Jamestown.

“I wanted him to see what I’m seeing, because I’m very thrilled with what I see,” Mains said during a previous interview. “I think people are really working hard, and I want them to get some credit for that. I also know that he likes to see all of this in action in real time. And he likes to see the good, the bad and the ugly. It doesn’t always have to be an exemplar – whatever it is, it is.”

King, along with Robert Bennett, NYS Board of Regents chancellor emeritus, witnessed a group of eighth-graders at Persell writing their own lesson plans, third-graders at Fletcher progressing through lessons in Greek mythology and math, a third-grade teacher team meeting at Fletcher, and the AV department at Jamestown High School – from where morning announcements and commercials are filmed and broadcast.

The result of the classroom visits were referenced by King and Bennett during a press conference in which they said they were encouraged by what they saw.

“All of it was applied knowledge and ties in with what the Common Core learning standards are all about,” Bennett said, noting that a better name for the Common Core is the 21st Century Learning Standards. “It is not a curriculum, it is a set of very specific standards of learning that a child is expected to have all the way from pre-K through 12th grade in order to prepare them for a career and college.”

“I very much enjoyed my visit to Jamestown schools today,” King said. “We had the opportunity to be in classrooms where students are engaged and excited about the rigorous learning that they’re doing around the Common Core. We had the opportunity to see students building their math problem-solving skills, and students doing critical thinking in their ELA instruction. That was very nice to see.”

King said he also engaged in discussions with the Fletcher teachers during their team meeting, as well as parents within various PTA organizations throughout JPS, revolving around the pros and cons of Common Core implementation and strategies to help support students and parents in their adjustment to meeting the raised standards.

“I’m looking forward to the conversation (Wednesday night),” King said. “I’m sure there will be questions and concerns. So we’ll listen to those, try to clarify misunderstandings, and certainly hear out the concerns and continue to make thoughtful adjustments along the way as we join with 45 other states in dramatically raising our standards to ensure that our students graduate ready for college and careers.”