Tag Archives: Board of Regents

Contact the Board of Regents today!

Contact Ulster County Board of Regents member Josephine Finn and tell her to vote NO on making the current, temporary teacher and principal evaluation system permanent at the Regents meeting next week (September 16-17, 2015).

Josephine Finn (518) 474-5889  Regent.Finn@nysed.gov

The current evaluation system (temporarily approved by the Board of Regents in June 2015) is not just bad for teachers.  It is bad for our students.

This evaluation system bases 50% of the evaluation on the test scores of the students sitting in the teacher’s class.  Talk about a heavy weight on those students’ shoulders.  Such a heavy emphasis on the tests also promotes teaching to the test and narrowing of the curriculum which adversely affect students’ education.

You can read further on why the tests are bad for teachers AND students here.

Call and email Regent Finn now!

Petitions to sign

Please read and sign the following two petitions regarding the right to REFUSE New York State Common Core tests:

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco wrote the “Common Core Parental Refusal Act” (A6025/S4161) to require school districts to notify parents of their right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core standardized tests.  The bill ensures that students, parents, teachers, schools and school districts will not be punished in any way because of test refusals.

Some state legislators said in March 2015 that the Common Core Parental Refusal Act was not necessary because parents already have the constitutional right to REFUSE the tests.  While parents do have the right to refuse the tests, many parents do not KNOW they have the right.  Also Commissioner Elia and Regent Tisch, while backing down on the threat to take away money from school districts who had too many REFUSALS this past school year, have clearly indicated that they have every intention of pressuring school districts, administrators, teachers and parents into making sure that students take the state tests this coming school year (read here and here).  The Common Core Parental Refusal Act is needed so that parents can refuse the state tests, if they wish to do so, without having to worry about what might happen to their student, teacher, school or school district.

From the petition to Support the Common Core Parental Refusal Act:

Dear Governor Cuomo:

I am very concerned about the over-utilization of Common Core-based standardized tests on children in grades 3-8 and urge you to support the rights of parents to have their children refuse these high stakes tests.

… I ask you to respect the rights of parents to make important decisions on the educational future of their children by supporting the Common Core Parental Refusal Act!

Governor Cuomo has just stated “I don’t believe there are sanctions for opt outs,” …  “At the end of the day, parents are in charge and parents make the decisions.” – Capitol Confidential August 20, 2015  Please sign the Common Core Parental Refusal Act petition and tell Governor Cuomo he needs to put legislation behind his statement that parents are in charge.

Commissioner Elia missed the memo that ‘parents are in charge’ and has bullied parents in districts with large percentages of opt-outs with threats of pulling school funding, called those who opted-out ‘unreasonable’ and stated that any teachers/administrators who encouraged test refusal (and she would be ‘shocked’ if any existed) were ‘unethical’.  Commissioner Elia talked about being ready to listen to concerns before she started her new job but it seems to me that she is doing all the talking and not much of any listening.

Because of Commissioner Elia’s harsh stance against those who are opposed to the state testing, Assemblyman Al Graf is calling on the New York State Board of Regents to FIRE newly appointed Education Commissioner Elia and re-evaluate their stance on Common Core and is asking New York State residents to join him by signing a petition requesting the same.

From the petition to fire NYS Education Commissioner Elia and re-evaluate Common Core:

New York State has continuously expressed a desire to partner with parents, teachers, and all the stakeholders in supplying a quality education for all of our children.

Commissioner Elia, through her statements has labeled concerned parents, teachers and other stakeholders who have expressed concerns about education in our state as adversaries. Parents attempted to communicate their dissatisfaction with the direction of education through an act of civil disobedience. The high number of opt-outs was meant to send a clear message to Albany.

Instead of digging in and threatening the people that are trying to send a message about policies they believe are harmful to our children, the State Education Department and the Regents should take a step back.

The debate over opposition to the Common Core curriculum is taking place in state after state, as well as on the federal level. It has also become a leading issue in the presidential campaign. Here in New York we have had an overwhelming opt-out movement, and more than 50,000 people actually voted on a Stop Common Core ballot line. It is time for the Regents to re-evaluate the direction they are determined to steer education in this state.

My signature is #587.  Please consider adding your signature to the petition as well.


New York Schools With Many Students Who Skipped Tests Won’t Lose Money

Threats have abounded both at the state and federal level that schools would lose money if parents/students REFUSED the state tests.  We now have official word from New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Tisch that schools will not be penalized by either the federal or state government because parents exercised their rights and REFUSED the state tests.

As recently as last week, the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, said that she was not sure if the federal Education Department would withhold money from districts with high opt-out rates. She declined to rule out the possibility that the state would do so on its own.

Student test scores/high-stakes tests still 50% of teacher appraisal system

The New York State Senate and Assembly were supposed to end session last Wednesday June 17, 2015 but they have not yet done so.  They are returning today to try and wrap up ‘important’ issues.  One of the items still undecided is the impact of state standardized testing on our children and the teacher appraisal system.

The New York Board of Regents approved a new teacher evaluation system last week which still bases 50% of a teacher’s evaluation squarely on standardized testing.

Gone is the old rating method that lasted just two years and scored teachers on 20 percent local test scores, 20 percent state test scores and 60 percent classroom observation.

The revisions mean 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and rating will be based on state standardized test scores. The other half will be based on assessments developed by the local district. State Education Department staff wanted state tests to account for 80 percent of the evaluations, while some Regents and teachers union officials called for only 20 percent.  – Regents OKs new teacher evaluation system

Seven Board of Regents members submitted a letter protesting such usage of standardized testing in the evaluation but Regent Finn, the Regent for Ulster County, withdrew her support of the letter bringing the count down to six Regents  opposed and the majority passed the new evaluation system regardless of the letter.

The NYS Senate passed bill S5954 on June 15 that supposedly deals with the education problems we are facing but the bill is not up to snuff in my opinion.  You can read my analysis of the new bill S5954 below**.

Bottom line is that if a school district’s teacher evaluation plans are not submitted on time and with full compliance shown, no money for the school districts per Senate bill S5954. The Senate has NOT uncoupled the funding from APPR and 50% of the teacher evaluations are still based on standardized testing!  Also the Senate bill does NOT match the NYS Assembly bill A7303A passed last month and session is supposed to have ended so the likelihood of the two groups getting together to pass a bill that Governor Cuomo will then sign into law is about NIL!

The Assembly bill does not address a number of important issues, and in fact does not relieve the testing strain for children (read here), but it does at least uncouple school funding from implementation of a new APPR plan.

Will the educational mess that was introduced by Governor Cuomo’s state budget be dealt with before the legislators end session or will we be left with school funding still tied to a new APPR plan based 50% on student test scores that has to be negotiated in each district and submitted by November 15, 2015?  Sounds to me like Governor Cuomo is about to get exactly what he wanted!


** Details of Senate bill S5954:

  • Senate bill S5954 is pretty much the same as Senator Flanagan’s original education proposal S5124 (which I discussed here and here) except that school districts have until February 15, 2016 to submit their new appraisal plans.
  • Some extra wording regarding review of test questions is supposed to help ensure that the questions are readable at grade level but I am not convinced it will significantly help students due to the many problems with the standardized tests.
  • S5954 adds a restriction against teachers having to sign confidentiality agreements preventing them from discussing the content of the state tests.
  • The section regarding the election of board of regents members that was in S5124 has been removed from S5954.
  • Senator Bonacic believes this bill makes positive reforms for our kids.   “My colleagues and I have listened and received the concerns of parents, students, teachers and administrators regarding this process and I believe this legislation makes positive reforms,” said Sen. John Bonacic said in a statement. “This bill goes a long way in allaying any fears that students and teachers may have had when Governor (Andrew) Cuomo unveiled his initial education proposals.” – Regents OKs new teacher evaluation system – Times Herald Record June 16, 2015  I disagree based on my concerns noted for the original bill S5124 and those listed above.
  • CLASS went to Albany on May 27, 2015 and met with each of the majority members of the Senate education committee to request changes to Senate bill S5124.  Changes requested by CLASS and NYSAPE were NOT incorporated into S5954.

NYSAPE Demands 4 23 2015

CLASS goes to Albany

I recently joined CLASS, or Coalition for Legislative Action Supporting Students, to examine legislation presented by Senator Flanagan (bill S5124) and Assemblywoman Nolan (bill A7303A) in response to Governor Cuomo’s education reforms included in the state budget.  Our goal was to develop a list of parent education issues and suggested revisions to the legislation addressing the key concerns that parents throughout New York State are expressing.

Representatives of United to Counter the Core and CLASS headed to Albany yesterday May 27, 2015 to meet with members of the Senate and Assembly education committees to discuss current education policy.  We wanted to thank the committee members for moving in the right direction on various education issues and ask them to consider additional changes that would further address parental concerns as well as to consider parent issues that are not addressed at all by the proposed legislation.

The recommended changes and legislative initiatives presented by CLASS included:

  • Cease the use of VAM (value added model) in calculating students’ growth and for teacher evaluations
  • Decouple the school district funds from implementation of the education reforms proposed by Governor Cuomo
  • Ensure released test questions accurately and cost effectively reflect the nature of the test
  • Develop fair assessment methods for SPED/ELL teachers and students
  • Make changes to the appointment and terms of New York State Regents restoring local control and parent voice
  • Changes to the comprehensive review of the education standards being used in New York State (Common Core) particularly the make-up of the review committee
  • Support for the Common Core Parental Refusal Act
  • FERPA-HIPPA changes to protect student data privacy and restore parental control

I personally met with representatives from the offices of Assemblymembers Steve Englebright, William Magnarelli and Phil Ramos and Senators Betty Little and Hugh Farley.

  • The aides from Assemblyman Ramos and Senator Little’s offices just took notes and were not able to speak to the issues we raised.
  • In general the aides from the other offices indicated that the legislators were concerned about education issues but I did not get a strong sense that they were willing to act beyond what they have already done regarding education legislation.  I believe they will need to hear from additional constituents to generate legislative action.
  • Assemblyman Englebright voted against his majority party with a “No” vote for the state education budget (very few assemblymembers were willing to stand against Governor Cuomo and vote “No!” so this was a strong statement for the students on Assemblyman Englebright’s part) and he also is a co-sponsor on the Nolan parental test refusal bill A6777.  We asked that he consider an amendment requiring that school districts inform parents of their right to REFUSE the state tests.
  • Assemblyman Magnarelli’s aide indicated that Magnarelli voted to move both of Nolan bills A6777 and A7303A out of the education committee.  The aide has to consult with Asseblyman Magnarelli to determine if he is willing to take any further action on the items CLASS requested.
  • Senator Farley’s aide indicated that the senator is very opposed to Common Core and ran on the Stop Common Core ballot line last fall.  Parents need to continue to be vocal about our concerns – do not stop, “keep it up” the aide said.  In addition to contacting the education committee members, we also need to contact our own assemblymember and senator to share our education concerns and request that our representatives communicate our concerns to their colleagues including those on the education committee.

In total, parents met with 16 of the majority education committee members from the assembly and the senate including: Assemblymembers Cathy Nolan, Carmen Arroyo, Barbara Clark, Barbara Lifton, Shelley Mayer, Amy Paulin, Linda Rosenthal, Sean Ryan and Matthew Titone and Senators Kenneth Lavalle and Joseph Robach.

We ask that you now join CLASS in requesting legislative action to support our students.

Please contact the following legislators to let them know that you agree with the changes presented by CLASS.  Also contact your NYS Assembly member and NYS Senator, even if they are not on the education committee, and ask them to voice support for these educational issues with their colleagues.

Assembly Education Committee Majority Members:
Catherine Nolan – 518-455-4851
Carmen Arroyo – 518-455-5402
Michael Benedetto – 518-455-5296
James Brennan – 518-455-5377
Barbara Clark – 518-455-4711
Steve Englebright – 518-455-4804
Earlene Hooper – 518-455-5861
Ron Kim – 518-455-5411
Barbara Lifton – 518-455-5444
William B. Magnarelli – 518-455-4826
Shelley Mayer – 518 455 3662
Michael Miller – 518-455-4621
Walter Mosley -518-455-5325
Daniel O’Donnell – 518-455-5603
Amy Paulin – 518-455-5585
Phil Ramos – 518-455-5185
Linda Rosenthal – 518-455-5802
Sean Ryan – 518-455-4886
Matthew Titone – 518-455-4677
Michele Titus – 518-455-5668

Senate Education Committee Majority Members:
Hugh Farley – (518) 455-2181
Andrew Lanza – (518) 455-3215
Kenneth Lavalle – (518) 455-3121
Betty Little – (518) 455-2811
Carl Marcellino – (518) 455-2390
Michael Ranzenhofer – (518) 455-3161
Joseph Robach – (518) 455-2909
Sue Serino – (518) 455-2945
James Seward – (518) 455-3131

New York State’s new Commission of Education – MaryEllen Elia

Despite concerns raised by parents and NYS Allies for Public Education today, the NYS Board of Regents appointed MaryEllen Elia as the new Commissioner of Education.

A former school superintendent in Florida who led efforts to tie teacher evaluations and pay to student achievement and was fired after clashing with her board was appointed New York State’s education commissioner on Tuesday.  – “MaryEllen Elia named New York State Education Commissioner” New York Times

Read more about Ms. Elia here and here and here.  This facebook page called for her resignation in Florida and here is NYSED’s glowing press release announcing her appointment today.

I hope and pray that the concerns raised about Ms. Elia are all for naught since she is now the New York State Commissioner of Education.  However I am baffled as to why the Regents decided to appoint a new Commissioner who comes to New York trailing rumors of dissatisfaction from parents in her previous Florida school district when New York is itself in such a state of turmoil.  How will starting with a commissioner that had to be ‘snuck in’ (Regents called in the day after a holiday weekend to vote before anyone got wind of what was going on) because the Regents apparently knew a large portion of the New York population would be unhappy with this appointment get us started on the right foot?

In a totally baffling move, NYSUT has expressed support for Ms. Elia.  Unfortunately we know that NYSUT is not expressing the will of many of the teachers it is supposed to be representing so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that NYSUT is supporting a Common Core supporter from the most highly tested state in the country who has a goal of firing teachers based on standardized tests/VAM (junk science).  Read over 3,000 New York teachers denouncing the selection of Ms. Elia here.

From Valerie Strauss, Washington Post Answer Sheet May 26:

Carol Burris, an award-winning principal in New York, said this about Elia:

“It is now apparent why the Board of Regents did not reach out to stakeholder groups and inform them that she was a candidate–if her support for merit pay, the Common Core, Gates Foundation grants,  the formulaic dismissal of teachers, and school choice were known, certainly there would have been an outcry from New York parents and teachers who have had more than their fill of test-based reforms.  The message of 200,000 Opt Outs has not been heard.”

Tell Board of Regents “No” to Mary Elia as NYS Commissioner of Education

UPDATE May 26, 2015 9pm – The Board of Regents voted unanimously at 4pm today to appoint Mary Ellen Elia as New York State Commissioner of Education.  I agree with Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s summary of this appointment.

Once again, there was absolutely no transparency in this process. Where was the input from educators, elected officials and the public to help vet candidates and at least get a second opinion?

Something so important as the future of our children’s education deserved a more open and transparent process.

– original post below –

The Board of Regents is preparing to appoint Mary Elia as the New Commissioner of Education.  Ms.Elia is a former superintendent of Hillsborough FL who was recently fired by her school board.  Elia received a large grant from the Gates Foundation to evaluate teachers through test scores and is a big supporter of the CC. The Board of Regents meets at noon TODAY. Please flood their phone lines and tell the Regents to vote NO.


Regent Finn (518) 474-5889


What will happen to APPR? Watch Learning Summit LIVE Thursday 5/7/15

Board of Regents LEARNING SUMMIT, Thursday, May 7, 2015, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

The LEARNING SUMMIT has been set up by the Board of Regents to obtain input/advice regarding how to implement the changes to the evaluation system for teachers and principals (APPR) required as a result of the 2015-2016 New York State education budget.

Commissioner Regs on EdEval – 4-22-15 has information about the required changes as well as information about the ‘stakeholders’ who have been asked to participate in the LEARNING SUMMIT.

The public can watch the LEARNING SUMMIT via livestream.  You can connect to the livestream at 8:30am at the nysed.gov homepage.

For members of the public watching the Summit simulcast on the NYSED.gov website, NYSED has set up an email address for Thursday, May 7 ONLY.  That email is summitquestions@nysed.gov

After May 7, the public may submit questions and comments at the following email address: eval2015@nysed.gov


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.

Urge Regents to hold public hearings on APPR

The New York State standardized tests in ELA and Math are over for grades 3-8 (except for those absent for the math test) but the battle for our children’s education is not done.

Huge numbers of parents throughout New York State have expressed their dissatisfaction with some aspect of their child’s education, whether specifically the tests or something much bigger, by REFUSING the state tests.  Read here for comments straight from parents about why they chose to REFUSE the state tests.

APPR is NOT the only thing that needs to be fixed regarding the state tests but if we can get the Board of Regents listening, perhaps we can get a number of the problems addressed.

Based on the rushed and trouble-filled implementation of the Common Core, NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said it is imperative that, this time, the Regents hold public hearings to listen to concerns from parents, teachers and other educators about how they can make a bad evaluation plan better. She said NYSUT members are already emailing individual Regents to press for hearings.

“The governor’s punitive teacher evaluation plan will do nothing to improve the teaching and learning process. Parents are in the midst of a statewide revolt against the over-reliance on standardized testing and the way the governor’s ‘test-and-punish’ agenda is harming teaching and learning,” Magee said. “The Regents have an opportunity to take this mess the governor foisted upon them and mitigate it. We believe it is essential that each Regent do what the governor refuses to do — and that’s listen to parents, educators and school leaders about what they want for their public schools.

NYSUT calls on Regents to hold public hearings to solicit input April 21, 2015

Our Ulster County Board of Regents member is Josephine Victoria Finn. She visited KCSD on Monday April 20, 2015.  Use the TAKE ACTION link above or compose your own comments and e-mail them to Regent Finn.  Contact her via e-mail at RegentFinn@mail.nysed.gov or by phone at (518) 474-5889 to make your voice heard.