All Hail the Great Judith Johnson!

For this issue of my blog I will be sharing with you not my own words, but the words of someone much wiser, with more overall experience.  A person more articulate than myself. She puts into words what is in our hearts.  I wrote them down while watching her speak on camera as she interviewed to be a Regent for New York State. I wrote them down because her words need to be heard and shared. She is the voice of the Ninth Judicial District of New York, however as you read her words you may realize that she is not only a voice for the Ninth Judicial District, but a voice of reason.  She is a guiding voice of wisdom for education in New York, and the United States, that is desperately needed today, at a time when sheer madness has taken control of our public schools, our democracy, and our nation. Help me spread her wise words because she speaks for all of us who care about the future of our children, and the future of this great nation. All hail Judith Johnson the voice of reason. May she expediate her relationships in her newly appointed position that will positively affect policy change for the sake of our youth and the improvement, or as Ms. Johnson says “meaningful purposeful change” (in direct contrast to “reform”) of public education. We are extremely fortunate for her advocacy. She is simply one voice on a board of seventeen, however I pray that her powerful voice of reason is heard and heeded.

* (Commentary to Ms. Johnson’s ideas are my own)

Judith Johnson has a vision. Her three major principles are:
1. Defining schools. “What is the definition of a school?” asks Johnson.
They should be exciting places.  They should be engaging places.  They should inspire students and they should give every student, regardless of zip code, an opportunity to be successful.  Each school may be at a different stage depending on the quality of achievement of the students and that needs to be acknowledged. You can’t have a silver bullet for all districts.
(Judith Johnson is an experienced professional educator. She understands differentiation and that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is not feasible. This is why Governor Cuomo has no business legislating educational policy. It is blatantly obvious that education is not his area of expertise.)

2. “While it is really important for our children to be college and career ready, we also want them to be productive citizens who want to protect the democratic values. Schools are an investment in our future. We don’t need shrinking resources, unfunded mandates or external evaluation requirements that have no proof or power to improve schools.
(Governor Cuomo’s actions are contrary to these discerning statements.)

3. “Public schools did not create the poverty gap, however we all know that the one vehicle for leaving poverty behind is the public school.” (This powerful statement is ignored by “reformers” and politicians who are harming public education.)

Johnson on funding – ” …a real crisis is ahead of us if we do not address the GEA and if we do not address the tax cap. We should take a look at the cost benefit for all the analysis, of all the components of common core, APPR, and state testing to determine; Do we get a return on this investment? And we have to be honest with whatever the examination comes up.

She continues with fidelity, “There are more applicants for the ninth judicial district than for any of the other of the seats and this is the reason why. They feel that their voices have not been heard. They feel that their opportunities for input has not been invited. They feel that there is a misunderstanding between what the schools are able to do and what they want to do as a community for their children and what is being imposed on them.

This whole issue of common core learning standards has gone awry. The issue is not the common core learning standards. That’s become part of the conversation because of the package. The package that came through, all at once, standards, testing, teacher evaluation, accountability. No conversations. No invitation to discussion. Just imposed.”

I support the moral intent of the common core standards. The decision to implement it, the way it was implemented, was a flawed decision and it just belies common sense. And had they just invited us into the conversation, the boots on the ground, that’s what I call superintendents, maybe we could have helped them to understand what they were about to encounter.”

The tests themselves are not reliable, they’re not valid. And may I point out that one moment in time does not define who you are.

She quotes Loni Guinier’s term testocracy – “We are defining people, not on the nature of their character or their contributions, but on their test scores. And that’s a pretty scarey notion particularly if you took the test on the wrong day and your performance is not necessarily the right performance.”

On teacher evaluation, “If it’s been proven to be flawed, and if the Governor doesn’t think that it yield the right results, if he thinks it’s baloney, then why is he introducing it again with even greater emphasis on test scores? And I will leave it at that. It doesn’t seem to resonate.

The arts – “The arts become the glue that tie us together to the remainder of the planet. It doesn’t matter what talent a student has, whether it’s playing a sport or playing a musical instrument, or dancing, or creative art. They’re less important than the feelings of joy and competence and accomplishment that result in the development of one’s unique talents.

In a compelling moment during the interview Ms. Johnson revealed, “I’m a project kid, grew up in a housing project and made my way into the middle class.” This amazing woman comes from humble beginnings. While educational policy is being dictated by bureaucrats that were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, Ms. Johnson is a refreshing breath of fresh air with unique experiences qualifying her with resounding validity for the monumental task of “meaningful purposeful change” to our broken educational system.  She gets it.

You can watch Judith Johnson’s interview here.

by Mark Hegenauer

You can follow me on Twitter – @Chessmanmark or subscribe to this blog at

Catch up these previous entries.

Toxic Cultures April 29, 2015

The Exploitation of Your Child April 27, 2015

It’s Time For the Pendulum to Swing April 24, 2015

You Can’t Beat City Hall April 18, 2015

A Revolution is Growing April 11, 2015

Dear New York State Legislator April 7, 2015

Political Pawns April 1, 2015

NYS Common Core Tests Are Wrong For Our Children March 30, 2015


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