MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – New York State Commissioner of Education John King visited Westchester County Tuesday in an effort to become more familiar with area schools and learn ways to improve them.
“I want to get out and hear areas that people are struggling in so that we can hear and learn which areas to improve,” said King. “You hope as an educator that there are always ways in which you can get better.”
King, accompanied by Harry Phillips, member of the NYS Department of Education Board of Regents, began his tour of Westchester in the Ossining School District before visiting two elementary schools in New Rochelle and ending his day at Westchester Community College and Southern Westchester BOCES in Valhalla. King said he typically visits one area of New York a week to do these tours. Some of the topics he explored at the schools included learning techniques in early education, analyzing and applying standardized test scores to improve curriculums, and economic development.
Sandra Simpson, Superintendent of the Southern Westchester BOCES, said she was proud to be able to have King offer advice on how to improve, but to also show a presentation on what their educational services are all about.
“It’s clearly an honor to showcase a few of the programs that we are so proud of,” Simpson said.
Following his trip to BOCES, King spoke on the hot topic of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) teacher evaluation system, which is a new state mandated teacher and administration evaluation system that partially takes into account student performances on statewide standardized tests in annual performance evaluations.
“Anytime there’s a new system on which people are evaluated and there’s a change in culture it naturally brings anxiety,” King said. “However, people will gradually adjust.”
At the Southern Westchester BOCES, administrators and staff members at the presentation expressed concern with advancing technologies and managing costs. King advised creating five-year technology plans and for districts to consider purchasing technologies that could also be cost-saving to the district in the long run.
“Districts need to be very thoughtful of how they go about a technology plan, there’s a lot of things like online assessments that can eliminate paper costs,” King said. “Technology and the level of learning is advancing and schools need to keep it a priority.”
King was appointed by the Board of Regents as the Commissioner of Education, effective July 15. Previously, he served as Senior Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education at the New York State Department of Education.