New education commissioner should start new conversation

New education commissioner should start new conversation

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MaryEllen Elia succeeds John B. King Jr. as the state’s next education commissioner. Photo from state education department

Shortly after our newly-elected school board trustees are sworn in for the next school year, MaryEllen Elia will officially take her seat as New York’s top education official.

As a community newspaper, we understand just how much the neighborhoods we cover care about education. We’ve taken notes through countless school board meetings, forums on the Common Core Learning Standards and rallies for public education. We have witnessed the passion on both sides of the aisle when it comes to educating our kids.

But while the whole debate over Common Core, higher standards, testing and teacher evaluations — just to name a few — started out as a civil one, it has become overrun with rhetoric, anger and confusion. We hope Elia will help start a new conversation.

Critics of former commissioner John B. King Jr. often mention he had no experience in the classroom. We are pleased to see that Elia, who began her career as a social studies teacher in New York state, has nearly two decades of teaching experience.

In addition, the teacher evaluation system she helped develop received praise from the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the union that oversees many of our local teacher associations. The system uses student test scores as a factor, but also provides developmental support for teachers and utilizes a pay structure that encourages teachers to take on more challenging positions.

We see this system as a sort of compromise and we want to see similar outcomes in New York with Elia at the helm. Both sides need to cooperate with each other, remain respectful and — most importantly — leave politics out of the classroom.