Refuse the New York State standardized tests grades 3-8

Call Albany – NYS Education Committee Chairs Propose Changes

Senator Flanagan and Assemblywoman Nolan have introduced legislation (Senate bill S5124 and Assembly bill A7303) that appears to be an attempt to respond to parent concerns with New York State education reform.

You can read an article about the bills here or read the actual bills linked above.

It seems like a number of issues are still not addressed adequately but maybe this can be made to work?  Trying to be optimistic here.

  • Section 1 and 2:  Looks like APPR is still being based on junk science (VAM) in using the standardized tests to evaluate teachers.  The public has 45 days to comment but I don’t see any indication of expectation of significant change as a result of those comments.  In order for the voice of parents to be ‘heard’, a DIFFERENT method of teacher evaluation has to be determined.  Just giving more time for parents to say that testing is bad but the Regents will move forward to continue using testing is not a solution!  Giving districts longer to come up with how they are going to use the bad methodology doesn’t help either.
  • Section 2:  Schools will have until December 15, 2015 to get their new APPR plan in but they still don’t get any money for the 2015-2016 school year until the plan is in.  By the way, whoever said that the budget didn’t tie money to implementation of Cuomo’s education reforms was sadly misinformed or else lying through their teeth!  Here it is in black and white.
  • Section 3:  A release of ‘some’ of the test questions is NOT going to be satisfactory to parents who are concerned about transparency and bad test questions.  With the awful track record that the tests have had, I don’t think I will trust that the questions released are truly a sampling of all the good or the bad that is on the test. What is to say that the one or two questions not released weren’t the ‘bad’ questions?  NYSED tried to simply ‘do away’ with some bad questions without telling anyone last year – read here and here.
  • Section 5:  More reliance on junk science.  What ‘considerations’ are going to be put in place for teachers who will be hurt by growth scores from students in the ‘problem’ areas (ELL, poverty, prior academic history, disabilities) other than to not use those growth scores?  Seems to me like the growth scores shouldn’t be used for any teachers (see first bullet).
  • Section 6 and 7:  There isn’t already a ‘content review committee’?  Sorry – couldn’t hold back a bit of sarcasm.  What does this committee do if they find problems or if some members of the committee believe there are problems?  Currently various ‘gag orders’ muffle anyone with concerns about the tests.  How will that change just because there is a ‘committee’ to look at the tests?
  • Section 9:  Who is the state education commissioner that is going to be conducting this review of the Common Core standards? Remember we don’t currently have one and honestly until one is appointed, I have no idea if I would trust him/her to oversee such a review or not.
  • Section 9:  How are ‘education stakeholders’ from whom the Commissioner seeks input regarding the review of the Common Core standards going to be selected?  If they are hand-picked as the Regents are doing in who they are inviting to the input session this Thursday May 7 (read here and Commissioner Regs on EdEval – 4-22-15) regarding coming up with what is being done for APPR to meet the June 30 deadline, then this is a no go.  I do not trust that everyone is truly going to be adequately represented at the table.
  • Section 9:  Seems like an awful lot of input has been gathered already via the New York State Assembly (that was then used to create the APPLE Plan and Assembly bill A3656). Will this input be considered? Senator Flanagan also had a number of hearings and although I felt they were more skewed to get what he wanted to hear, some of the concerns of parents/teachers were raised. Again will this input be included by the Commissioner/Regents or continue to be ignored?
  • Section 9:  What do we do with the ‘reforms’ we are stuck with while the review of the Common Core standards is being conducted?

Sorry no optimism left.  Seems to me like there are an awful lot of issues that these bills do NOT deal with adequately.

Things are becoming a bit clearer now:

And despite the unlikelihood that Cuomo will agree to slow implementation of the new evaluations, lawmakers are considering such a change, in part because of the intense pressure they have felt from constituents since passing the unpopular education provisions of the budget.  – Evaluation regs to be adopted without formal comment period capitalnewyork.com  May 1, 2015

The legislators who accepted the budget with Cuomo’s strings attached are now trying to look like they are listening to parents by extending APPR deadlines.  Sorry, this legislation won’t cut it!

This article has sound suggestions for the APPR piece of the problem.  We don’t just need more time to get ready for the new APPR system.  Time is needed for the right people to DESIGN a new APPR system “that would promote classroom instruction and hold teachers accountable.”

As of now, the Regents are required to devise a system that would grade teachers on only two measures: how their students grow on tests; and at least two classroom observations. And that’s it. This absurdly narrow system would not measure most elements of teacher quality or give districts enough information to improve instruction. School districts would be prohibited from considering other evidence of student development, like portfolios of student work, student and parent surveys, or ongoing classroom observations.

The Regents should call on the Legislature to freeze the current system and appoint a group of educators and evaluation experts to recommend the best possible system or, better yet, several models. And talk about setting aside time to pilot them.

Harrison Superintendent Lou Wool, who has pleaded with legislators and Cuomo’s staff to put education before politics, said that parents who boycotted the state tests could focus their frustration by demanding a new evaluation system. “It’s simple,” he said. “Amend these policies now.”

NYSAPE also presented a list of what the NYS legislature and the Board of Regents needs to do to FIX the problems regarding testing, the Common Core Standards and data privacy in a press release on April 23, 2015.

To ensure clarity for all, NYSAPE calls for the following from the NYS Legislature & Board of Regents and will release a more comprehensive list in the near future:

1. A dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th, along with reasserting New York State’s authority to determine the education of its children by calling on the US Congress to reduce testing requirements and return to grade span testing. As former President Bill Clinton said we don’t need annual testing, “I think doing one [test] in elementary school, one in the end of middle school and one before the end of high school is quite enough if you do it right.”

2. Chancellor Tisch must immediately step down.

3. An independent review of the NYS career and college ready standards to ensure that standards are research based and appropriate. Establish a taskforce including parents, educators, and stakeholders to study the Common Core Learning Standards and make recommendations to adjust and adopt NYS standards.

4. Adhere to a public and transparent process for selecting a new NYS Commissioner of Education.

5. Fix the Cuomo budget legislation debacle by passing legislation that decouples student test scores and restores local board of education control over teacher evaluations.

6. Pass legislation that REQUIRES parental consent to share ANY identifiable student data beyond school district administrators.

We want to restore our classrooms with a well-rounded education and drive testing compliance factory reforms out of our classrooms forever.

Time to get on the phone to Albany and tell our legislators to give us legislation that actually FIXES the problems with testing and Common Core.  Bills S5124 and A7303 do NOT cut the mustard.

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