Tag Archives: Commissioner MaryEllen Elia

N.Y. Regents question standardized test data comparisons

The Board of Regents actually did a LOT more than just question standardized test data comparisons at their September 2016 monthly meeting according to this article.

The board that sets education policy for New York questioned Monday why the State Education Department touted gains on standardized test scores this year when most agree the data can’t be compared against previous years.

The department released the results of the state’s 2016 reading and math tests in July, showing that statewide proficiency grew 6.6 percentage points in reading and 1 percentage point in math compared to last year.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia warned against making direct comparisons with results from prior years — a point she would reiterate in weeks to come — since the 2016 tests were shorter than previous years and untimed. But in their first public meeting since the announcement, the Regents expressed concern that comparisons were made at all.

“When we send out a package that says, you know, we’re moving up and charter schools did so much better, this goes to the press and then to the political people who make decisions on our behalf sometimes based upon data that can’t be compared,” said Regent Roger Tilles.

They questioned whether charter school test data is valid because charter schools do not have to follow the same rules as public schools so students might be receiving help with the tests. They also compared the tests to ‘child abuse’ for students new to the English language and Regent Tilles said “But I really don’t like giving those tests, even if we’re asked to do so. I would choose to opt out of them.”

Refuse NYS testing because Common Core is broken

I have read many articles about why parents should refuse the New York State tests this year but this one by William Farmer is the one that I wish I would have written.

Will has captured my belief that the real problem is not the tests but the Common Core standards that the tests are designed to enforce as well as the refusal of many New York State officials, including Governor Cuomo, former NYS Commissioner John King and some members of the NYS Assembly, Senate and Board of Regents, to listen to the concerns raised about the Common Core standards, the tests and other associated educational changes.  There are problems with the NYS standardized tests themselves but just fixing the tests will not fix our education problems.

The key here isn’t that kids are spending too much time on “test prep” or the tests themselves. Rather, it’s that the standards upon which the tests are based are flawed and must be fixed.

It took a massive opt-out for the state to actually discuss correcting the problems they created.

New York state has admitted there are serious problems with the standards and it took four years to get to this point. The Education Department either lied to us or they were grossly negligent when rushing into Common Core.

Either option does not inspire parents to place our trust they will now do what is in the best interest of the students.

Like Will, I do not have much faith in the state officials who have discounted the voices of parents for the past four years.  Even now Commissioner Elia, while stating that parents do have the right to refuse the state tests, is still committed to the Common Core standards allowing for only minor adjustments as well as to the benefits of standardized testing.  I would like to believe that I can trust the promises for change that Commissioner Elia and Governor Cuomo have made but until I see real changes, codified in law, I believe that parents will need to continue to make their voices heard by opting-out/refusing the state tests.


What NYSED “forgot” to tell you regarding Grades 3-8 NY State Tests

Reblogging The Rest of the Story

What NYSED forgot header

As part of the “tool kit” put together by Commissioner Elia and the NYSED, schools have started to distribute this flyer in an effort to coerce parents into participating in the 2016 Grade 3-8 Math and ELA tests.  Much of the information provided is true: but plenty of information has been conveniently omitted from this flyer as the Commissioner continues to try to deceive the public into thinking that these “changes” will benefit children.  Parents are not appeased because the bottom line is as such: testing still dominates their child’s educational experience.

Let’s take a closer look at what NYSED “forgot” to mention …

click here to continue reading

How the Grinches made Common Core

For all the parents and kids discouraged by the damage wrought by Common Core in New York State, read this poem, chuckle and be encouraged to keep up the fight.

This poem was written by H. Brooks, an 11-year-old student on Long Island, whose mother is active in the Opt Out movement.

How The Grinches Made Common Core

A poem by H. Brooks, Inspired by Dr. Seuss

In Honor of the Common Core push-back, and my mommy

There once lived some people,
on top of Mount Gov.
Their name was the Government,
and they sure did love
to make education
so wrong for the kids,
those kids down in Yorkville,
in the state of New Ziz.

The Yorks, however, felt something was strange,
so they traveled up
the whole mountain range,
just to get to the top, to go try and stop,
those nasty old grinches
at the top of Mount Gov.

But the grinches said NO! We’ll fight till you obey.
We won’t let up on Core and testing! We MUST get our way!
So the Yorks went down, feeling somewhat defeated.
And the very next weekend, the York council meeted.

They talked about art, about social studies, and trees,
They talked about awful buzz-stinging bees.
But most of all, they talked about testing and Core,
The Yorks wanted less; the Gov wanted more.
The Yorks asked the little Yorks what they thought of school.
The little Yorks said, “It used to be fun, but now it’s not cool.”
So the Yorks went to Albany, to see those old meanies,
But compared to the Government, the York protest seemed teeny!

The grinches said, “We won’t change a bit!
It simply won’t help, it will just cause more fits!”
The Yorks tried very hard to set the Gov straight,
But the Gov said, “Go home! It’s getting quite late.”

The Yorks fought for months and months and weeks and weeks and weeks,
and what do you think happened next at that peak,
the peak of Mt. Gov, where the Government sat?
Finally, the King was sent out. At last!

With less grinches left, maybe it would be easier,
to convince the grinches not to be so sleezy-er.
But then – oh no! – the head Grinch was re-elected,
four more long years – and he’s clearly ineffective!

But wait – what is this? What’s happening in York?
Forums and meetings and opt outs galore!
And all this because of some hopeful dads and moms
Who came together on Facebook to keep their kids calm.

Oh me, oh my, lots of depressing things went by,
for those hopeful parents who really did try.
For out of the blue, from behind closed doors,
a Gov to replace King – who also loves testing and Core.

Now this new Gov was infamous around town,
And she made sure that all of her thoughts got around.
She made speeches and interviews and told people things
that were about as true as monkeys with wings.

Then suddenly, all at once, Yorks started to see,
The Head Gov’s making speeches, about failing CC.
And all of a sudden, they say there’s a right to Opt Out,
Have these parents done their work right? We have no doubt!

Now parents from everywhere (except the South Pole)
are fighting back, with heart, and with soul.
Kids and teens, and in betweens,
are Opting Out by the thousands. Oops! REFUSING, I mean.

And maybe – just maybe, if the Gov took these tests,
They’d opt their kids out too, I bet.
But they’re too arrogant, too greedy, too yuck!
Maybe they’ll slightly agree, if the Yorks have some luck.

Could they come down to our schools? Could they see kids read and write?
Could they finally understand why the Yorks put up such a fight?
Could they put in some more science? Could ELA non-fiction be mashed?
Could they do good for our students? Or will they just waste our cash?

This story’s not finished, there’s more yet to come.
There’s still too much testing, and Core’s on the run.
So remember, dear people, as you read this story,
Have hope for the Yorks, that they’ll soon get their glory.

Deborah Abramson Brooks, Esq.

Co-founder, Port Washington Advocates for Public Education; https://www.facebook.com/groups/1596839960529301/

Member, New York State Allies for Public Education; http://www.nysape.org/

Member, National Parent Coalition for Student Privacy; http://www.studentprivacymatters.org/  

Unlimited State Testing Time?

Commissioner Elia announced last Wednesday during the New York State budget hearing that there would be no time limits on the New York State tests this year.

Students in grades 3-8 will have as much time as they need to complete their state-mandated tests this year — as long as they are “working productively,” state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Wednesday.

This announcement has been received with disbelief and horror by parents who having been saying over and over that the tests are too long due to the stress they place on many children.

I attended the parent meeting with Commissioner Elia in New Paltz New York on December 8, 2015.  She asked us to raise our hand if we thought students should be allowed to have more time for the state tests.  A parent/teacher had commented about the stress on students who were not able to finish the tests in the allotted time.  Many parents did raise their hands. However the hand-raising was not a response to the presentation of a well-thought out proposal but a response to a question that seemed to have just occurred to the Commissioner in response to the comment that was presented.

My response to the ‘not enough time’ problem would be to fix the tests so they could be completed in a reasonable amount of time so I was rather surprised when the Commissioner asked us to vote to allow students to take even longer than the currently allocated testing time.  A report at our our local board of education meeting on December 9 indicated that the Commissioner talked to the school board members about extending testing time when she met with them on December 8.

Kingston parent/board member Dr. Robin Jacobowitz was sitting beside me during the parent meeting with Commissioner Elia and tried to get Commissioner Elia’s attention to present a report Time on Test: The Fixed Costs of 3-8 Standardized Testing in New York State BEFORE the parent hand vote was taken but was not able to speak until after the vote.

The Time on Test report details the additional time spent on testing outside the actual time that the students are engaged in answering questions on the tests.  These “fixed costs” of testing do not lessen if a few questions are removed from the tests.  Many parents also do not realize how much additional time these activities take away from classroom instruction time.

The time for 3-8 testing in NYS, including the test itself and the fixed costs consume approximately 2 percent of the “required annual instructional hours.”  This exceeds and is already double the 1 percent standard that was passed by the legislature.

Elected leaders and appointed policy makers have been talking about shortening the exams (Harris, 2015, Sept 16; NYSSBA, 2015).   We agree it is a good idea to reduce the time given to these tests.  But as our research demonstrates, reducing the duration of each test will have minimal effect; less time will be spent on each exam, but the fixed costs remain and will still detract from instruction on those days.  Moreover, apportioning the tests over six days means that those “fixed costs” – and the time given to them – are replicated with each administration.  The only way to eliminate these fixed costs is to reduce the number of exam days.

A final contextualizing comment:  the “1 or 2 percent for tests” paradigm is arbitrary.  It is grounded less in science and more in rhetoric.  We believe that where time on testing is concerned, our students would be better served by thoughtful, deliberative testing policies that account for time as it relates to the loss of instruction as well as the capacity of our children to sit for an exam.  And while we agree a reasonable amount of testing might be necessary to assess our efficacy in educating our children, the cost to instruction, and student emotional health, must be considered.

We in New York State, give a lot more time to testing than we think we do.  We need to be concerned about the amount of instructional time that is lost, and resources diverted, in this process.

In fact time was so short in the parent meeting that Dr. Jacobowitz was able to say very little about the report other than to present a copy to Commissioner Elia.  She did not say all that I have included above.  The Commissioner did not ask for a revote after the “Time on Test” report was presented.

I believe that if the parents/teachers at the meeting had heard the details of the report before they voted, the hand vote would have been much different.

Parents do not want their students sitting for even longer than they already sit for the state testing!  Commissioner Elia’s announcement leaves parents even more resolute in their need to continue to REFUSE the state tests.

Parent meeting with Commissioner Elia

Commissioner Elia came to Ulster County on Tuesday December 8, 2015 and I was one of the three parents from the Kingston City School District invited to attend the parent meeting with her.  The meeting was arranged through BOCES and I know there were parents from both Ulster and Dutchess counties.  Not sure if Orange county was represented or not.

Commissioner Elia seemed to be a very nice lady and was definitely more successful at creating rapport with the parents than our previous commissioner, John King. Commissioner Elia spoke for more than half of the hour scheduled for our meeting with her and we didn’t actually start at 1:15pm so only 5 parents had opportunity to ask any questions.  I wasn’t one of those who asked a question this time around (I did get to address Commissioner King when he visited Spackenkill back in 2013).
Commissioner Elia took time to introduce herself and give her background in education.  She then gave a history of Common Core and explained how a lot of people categorize everything as “Common Core”.  She said that when talking about Common Core, we should just be talking about the standards and that there are four “buckets” of things people have issues with:
  • standards
  • curriculum
  • assessments
  • evaluation system

She also noted that we have had standards since 1647 and that the evaluation system has been changed four (4) times since Common Core was introduced.

Commissioner Elia is right that all of the above items/issues get lumped under “Common Core”.  In fact she missed including excessive data collection.  However I disagree with her that the standards are the only part that should be appropriately referred to as “Common Core”.  Each piece of this package is intricately woven together and can not function/succeed without the other pieces so it is indeed appropriate to refer to the package in its entirety as Common Core.

Commissioner Elia talked about the state department of education AimHighNY survey on the Common Core State Standards and reported that 71% of the 10,500 respondents were supportive of the standards.  I thought it was interesting though that she then proceeded to state that comments included statements that someone liked a standard but it should be in a different grade, for example it should be in grade 1 but it is in kindergarten.  My question is: how can the standard be liked/considered good if it is in the wrong grade?  The standard identifies what the children are supposed to know at the particular grade so if the standard is in the wrong grade then the standard is wrong/bad.  This is how some people defend the developmentally inappropriate Common Core State Standards – “they are okay if you just do them a little differently”.  The standards were written so that all states across the country would be teaching students the same things in the same grades and therefore students could move from state to state without missing out on pieces of their education.  If states can just move standards from one grade to another, we no longer have COMMON Core.
Commissioner Elia didn’t talk about it but I want to make sure everyone knows about another important survey.   New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) conducted a survey on the Common Core State Standards for one week and received about 12,000 responses.  You can click to read full details about the survey but the key points are:
  • 70 percent oppose the Common Core standards
  • Over 80 percent of respondents indicated that they believe ELA and Math standards in grades K-3 are developmentally inappropriate for many students
  • 91 percent say that the Common Core exams in grades 3-8 are flawed
  • 54 percent indicated that high schools should use the previous NYS Regents exams rather than new exams aligned to the Common Core standards
  • 96 percent say that test scores should not be linked to principal or teacher evaluations
  • 86.5 percent say that the state should abandon the Common Core standards and return to the New York’s former standards until educators can create better ones
The first parent/teacher who spoke was from Ellenville and felt that students spend too many days taking the state tests.  One of the parent’s comments was that perhaps a fixed 90 minute testing time is not appropriate and that perhaps students who were engaged in taking the test should be allowed to finish their test if they desired to do so, even if it took longer than the ‘allowed’ testing period.  I interpreted the comment to be a suggestion that the testing time should not be so regimented.  Apparently Commissioner Elia interpreted it differently because she asked the audience to raise hands if we thought students should be allowed to take longer than 90 minutes to finish their test.
Dr. Robin Jacobowitz, parent and board of education member from Kingston, was in attendance at the parent meeting with me and shared the “Time on Test” report in response to the suggestion to allow children to spend even more time on the standardized tests. Her concern was that even more than the current 4 days of lost instruction time could be lost but Dr. Jacobowitz’s comment was after the hand vote was taken by Commissioner Elia.
I was surprised when Rev. Childs reported at the KCSD Board of Education meeting on December 9 that Commissioner Elia said the department was considering allowing students to take longer than 90 minutes on their tests because Commissioner Elia didn’t tell us the idea was already under consideration when the idea was proposed in the parent meeting.
Concerns regarding testing and special education were mentioned by most if not all of the parents who spoke.
This quote from a parent, who I believe was from Red Hook, summed up the parent comments pretty well – “Someone owes these kids an apology for what they have been through.  It’s really not fair.”

NYSAPE Survey Shows New Yorkers Overwhelmingly Reject Common Core Standards, Tests & Evaluation Policies

In response to NYS Education Department’s AimHighNY survey on the Common Core that many parents and teachers found excessively complex and not open to general comments, New York State Allies for Public Education created a user-friendly survey and posted it online between November 23 and November 30. Close to 12,000 New Yorkers filled out our survey in just a week’s time. According to Commissioner Elia, only 5500 completed NYSED survey in three weeks’ time. Governor’s Common Core task force has received 1,798 submissions since December 2, according to Politico.

The respondents to the NYSAPE survey overwhelmingly reject the Common Core standards, believe the state exams and test-based teacher evaluation system are flawed, and that these reforms have worsened instruction in both English Language Arts and Math at the classroom level.

Read NYSAPE’s full press release below.

New Yorkers reject Common Core

New Yorkers reject Common Core

More information contact:
NYS Allies for Public Education www.nysape.org

NYSAPE Survey Shows New Yorkers Overwhelmingly Reject Common Core Standards, Tests & Evaluation Policies

In response to NYS Education Department’s AimHighNY survey on the Common Core that many parents and teachers found excessively complex and not open to general comments, New York State Allies for Public Education created a user-friendly survey and posted it online between November 23 and November 30. Close to 12,000 New Yorkers filled out our survey in just a week’s time. According to Commissioner Elia, only 5500 completed NYSED survey in three weeks’ time. Governor’s Common Core task force has received 1,798 submissions since December 2, according to Politico.

The respondents to the NYSAPE survey overwhelmingly reject the Common Core standards, believe the state exams and test-based teacher evaluation system are flawed, and that these reforms have worsened instruction in both English Language Arts and Math at the classroom level.

Parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and concerned NY residents all took part in the NYSAPE survey. Of special note, 11 percent of our survey respondents also completed NYSED’s survey and 32.9 percent attempted to complete NYSED’s survey but gave up.

Of those who responded to the NYSAPE survey, 70 percent oppose the Common Core standards, 4 percent support them, 23 percent have concerns with them, and 3 percent are undecided. An even higher percentage –83 percent — believe the Common Core standards in both ELA and Math have worsened instruction. 83 percent also disagree with the shift to close reading strategies.

Over 80 percent of respondents indicated that they believe ELA and Math standards in grades K-3 are developmentally inappropriate for many students. Fewer than 4 percent of respondents say that the ELA and Math standards for grades 4-8 are well designed.

For grades 9-12, only 2 percent of respondents approve of the ELA and Math Standards. Only 6.2 percent agree with the Common Core’s quota for informational text versus literary text.

An overwhelming number – 91 percent –say that the Common Core exams in grades 3-8 are flawed, while fewer than 1 percent believe they are valid or well-designed. Among those who find the tests to be flawed, many believe the tests are developmentally inappropriate, too long, not useful for assessing students with disabilities and/or English language learners and that reading passages and questions are too difficult and confusing.

Of our respondents, 54 percent indicated that high schools should use the previous NYS Regents exams rather than new exams aligned to the Common Core standards, while roughly 40 percent believe that students should not have to pass any high stakes exams to graduate.

Those who took the NYSAPE survey are nearly unanimous, at 96 percent, that test scores should not be linked to principal or teacher evaluations. 86.5 percent say that the state should abandon the Common Core standards and return to the New York’s former standards until educators can create better ones.

The full results of the survey are posted here: http://www.nysape.org/nysape-cc-survey-results.html

“NYSAPE’s findings are in line with the poll results and most of the testimony to the Governor’s Common Core Task Force. There is no way around this; the Governor and the legislature must eliminate these Standards, revamp the tests, and reverse the harmful education laws,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

One of the survey respondents said, “As a teacher who trained at Bank Street College of Education, I find the standards developmentally inappropriate. As a reading specialist, I find the kindergarten standards far too high in reading and writing. As a parent, I am very concerned because I have a child who hates reading because it was pushed so hard at his school.”

“The results of the survey confirm that the vast majority of parents and teachers do not approve of the Common Core, and oppose the rigid quotas for informational text and ‘close reading’ strategies that have straitjacketed instruction throughout the state. They want to abandon these standards, and return to our previous ones until educators can craft better ones. We hope that state policymakers, including the Commissioner, the Governor, the Board of Regents and our legislators, will listen,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

“The tremendous response to NYSAPE’s survey underscores that parents and educators are eager to be heard. The fact that the Commissioner Elia could not create an accessible survey only fuels concerns about her competence and willingness to truly engage parents and practitioners,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent, Rethinking Testing member and educator.

“Vice Chancellor Bottar attempted to portray the appointment of Commissioner Elia as a positive change, assuring the public that she would be able to communicate more effectively with parents and educators to find common ground. Vice Chancellor Bottar’s continued poor judgement and complicity with the failed reform agenda can no longer be tolerated; it is time for him to step down,” said Jessica McNair Oneida County public school parent, educator and Opt Out Central NY founder.

NYSAPE, a grassroots organization with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state, is calling on parents to continue to opt out by refusing high-stakes testing for the 2015-16 school year. Go to www.nysape.org for more details on how to affect changes in education policies.



Please complete NYSAPE Common Core Survey today

** UPDATE:  Survey results in –  NYSAPE Survey shows New Yorkers overwhelming REJECT Common Core Standards, tests & evaluation policies **  

From NYS Allies for Public Education:

If you haven’t already done so, please complete NYSAPE’s  Common Core survey today to have your voices heard regarding the common core standards, curriculum and testing.  Please share this survey widely.  For more details about this survey, please click here.

The results of this survey will be made public and presented to the Board of Regents, Education Commissioner Elia, Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, and NYS Legislature.

Together, let’s keep up the fight to ensure all children receive the education they deserve. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Very best,

NYS Allies for Public Education www.nysape.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 23, 2015 

More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) www.nysape.org

NYS Ed Commissioner Elia is Misleading Public with Deceptive Common Core Survey

Immediately following the release of NY Education Commissioner’s Maryellen Elia’s Common Core ‘AimHighNY’ survey a few weeks ago, critics sounded the alarm that the State Education Department was preventing the public from offering any comment on the standards that did not adhere to the survey’s arcane format –a complex maze of ‘click here’ boxes for each specific standard.

During this month’s Board of Regents meeting, Commissioner Elia claimed that the survey DID provide the opportunity for general public comment and that she never expected people to respond to each specific standard.

Calls to the NYS Education Department following that meeting revealed there was no opportunity for general public comment in the survey, and feedback NOT aligned with the lengthy and complex standard-by-standard format would NOT be included in the public record.

From the NYSED website, “This [survey] is not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.”
Experts, parents, and educators alike are outraged.  Not only is the survey fundamentally flawed, it is designed to silence legitimate criticism and exclude the views of most members of the public, who according to the polls, overwhelming oppose the Common Core standards.

Sandra Stotsky, a leading expert who designed the esteemed Massachusetts education standards, said, “A review of a set of standards, standard by standard, is a dishonest and deliberately unproductive method for the state to ask for because the organization of the standards is the key to their quality and effectiveness, whether in mathematics or English language arts.”

“Members of the public are not fooled.  When you ask for ‘Public Comment’ but prevent most parents and teachers who do not have the time to follow your complicated rules, we know that you are really not interested in what they have to say.  The survey is designed to block out dissenting voices,” said Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator, and Opt Out CNY founder.

“Elia has declared war on parents who are trying to protect their children from these harmful reforms.  This disingenuous survey along with Elia’s ‘fear mongering’ School Administrator Toolkit demonstrates a complete disregard for parents who are choosing not to participate in this failed system,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.

Alan Singer, Hofstra University professor and Huffington Post blogger, wrote in his recent post [link] “… the problem with this bogus survey is not each individual standard. No one is going to vote that we should not teach children to read, write, and think. However, nowhere can you vote that Common Core Standards aligned with high-stakes testing have undermined education in New York State, stressed out students and teachers, turned curriculum development over to test design companies, and transformed schools into test prep academies. These are the real reasons parents and teachers oppose the Common Core.”

Parents know the poorly designed survey is the reason why only 5500 people across the entire state have responded.  Elia also reported at the Board of Regents meeting that while most speakers at public hearings have been opposed to the Common Core, this controversial survey shows a different result that so far, 70% of teachers [less than 1% of NY Teachers responded] support the Common Core.

“The Albany Fix is already in.  Parents predict Commissioner Elia’s survey press release will likely declare that despite overwhelming opposition in statewide polls and at public hearings, a majority of respondents support the Common Core,” said Lisa Rudley, Hudson Valley public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.
Instead, NYSAPE just released a user-friendly survey to maximize public participation and input, and offer the results to the Board of Regents, Commissioner Elia and the Governor’s Common Core Task Force for their consideration.

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator grassroots organizations throughout the state.

Your voice matters


AimHighNY survey is not reflective of public opinion

Commissioner Elia reported to the Board of Regents regarding the AimHighNY survey on Monday.   According to her report:

 So far, about 71.5 percent of the feedback elicited through the survey has been “supportive of the standards,” according to the department’s presentation. The remaining 28.5 percent was not supportive.

Remember, this is a survey that is geared towards supporters. You must respond to individual standards and are not allowed to give general comments about the standards or problems with the ‘common core package’. There is no place for opposing views. And just like the state standardized cut scores, the NYS education department can produce the outcome they want.  Many parents who are opposed to Common Core, including myself, have not bothered to fill out the survey because it is considered to be a farce.

The Common Core standards have been publicly blasted around the state during the Common Core Task Force listening tours and task force members have got an earful.

Various reports from the Common Core Task Force listening tours so far:

Thoughts from task force members after first public meeting on October 29, 2015:

Task force chairman Richard Parsons said the meeting was “useful.”

“It gives you some sense of the heat and the passion under various points. You get a sense of how people feel about it, so that was useful,” said Parsons, a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners and former Citigroup board chairman who led the governor’s education reform commission in 2012. “At some point in time, you need to get outside of the silver realm of just the experts, the people who spend all day, every day doing this and hear what parents think, what teachers think, what other educators who aren’t in the process think.”

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, who chairs the chamber’s education committee, said she learned a lot from the meeting.

“There is certainly a lot of intensity around these changes here and clearly there were a lot of mistakes in the implementation and the rollout [of the Common Core standards], but also in the underlying concept,” Nolan said. “There was too much emphasis from the people who developed the Common Core on using testing as a sort and select mechanism.”

Nolan also questioned the amount of testing and “to link it so extensively to teacher evaluation.”

In addition to the task force, the state Education Department is reviewing the Common Core standards. Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who also is on the task force, said the audience reaction Thursday showed how “involved and passionate” people are about the work that’s going on.

“We had some really great panelists tonight and I think they brought us a multiple set of views on various things,” Elia told POLITICO New York after the meeting. “I heard some things that I think we need to be looking at and those are many of the things I’ve been talking about, so I think we’re on the pathway.”

Parents, teachers at Common Core task force meeting bring the ‘heat’ – October 29, 2015

If Commissioner Elia can sit through the Common Core Task Force listening sessions and still retain the belief that the AimHighNY survey is giving a true picture of public sentiment, then she is really NOT listening to what the public is saying.  I also find it interesting that Commissioner Elia has her recommendations as a member of the Common Core Task Force ready before the listening tour is even completed.

The Commissioner is a member of all three work groups and this presentation outlines the anticipated recommendations from the Commissioner to the task force.

There is a public session tomorrow November 18, 2015 in Amherst New York.  How does Commissioner Elia know what is going to be said at that session before the listening session is held?  Is it not possible that some awesome testimony will reveal new perspectives about Common Core that will alter her thinking?

The AimHighNY survey, as it is being reported, is not an accurate indicator of public opinion regarding the Common Core State Standards.



  • You may provide public testimony to the Common Core Task Force via their website here through November 30, 2015.
  • The AimHighNY survey is available for input through the end of November.


NYSED Common Core Survey

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) and Commissioner Maryellen Elia introduced a Common Core survey open to the public this past week.

In New York State, we are committed to higher standards and to evaluating the standards on a regular basis with input from stakeholders. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is conducting a review of the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. NYSED is conducting a survey in order to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the standards. The results of the survey will directly inform any changes that we make to the standards as a result of the review. I look forward to hearing from you and reviewing your feedback on the standards.

— Commissioner Elia

This blog post, NYSED and Elia have not fooled us with their survey, highlights the general feeling from those concerned about testing and Common Core that the survey is designed to frustrate those who attempt to complete it so that NYSED can say they tried to get feedback and no one responded so the standards must be just fine.  It is generally felt that the survey is not structured in a way to truly solicit feedback from the public.  It is long, cumbersome and requires responses to be given to specific Common Core Learning Standards.

Another article expresses some of the same concerns about the survey from both parents and school officials.

Common Core critics leery of new NY survey

— New York education officials Wednesday kicked off a review of the state’s Common Core standards with an online survey, but some of the standards’ foes say the review doesn’t go far enough — or may even be designed to fail.

The survey established a goal to gather input from teachers, parents, school board members and residents across the state as part of the state Education Department’s review of the standards.

The review — and a separate commission formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “reboot” the standards — comes after more than 200,000 students this year opted out of the state’s assessments used to measure the standards.

Parents and school officials in and around Schenectady on Wednesday said the survey poses technical problems and comes late in the process to provide much meaningful insight in time for lawmakers and state officials to consider changes in their established timelines.

“There’s not a lot of time for them to do this,” Schenectady school board President Cathy Lewis said.

Parent and former middle school teacher Alison Bianco of Colonie went even further, arguing the survey and review commission were a “sham” intended to make it look like state officials were listening to concerns with the standards but doing nothing to address those concerns.

She said: “220,000 opt-outs tell us there is a level of dissatisfaction with what is going on. … But they are going to rename it, rebrand it and it’s business as usual.”

Moreover, Bianco and Tim Farley, a school principal in Columbia County, said they tried to take the survey Wednesday, but it was difficult to navigate and didn’t give participants the chance to provide narrative answers or responses about their opinions of the standards. Farley estimated completing the survey could take 20 hours or more.

Bianco said she isn’t bothered that much by the standards themselves — which set general grade-level targets for math and literacy — but more with the process, “shrouded in secrecy,” that led to their adoption and the testing that comes with them. She is also concerned with long-term data collection and monitoring she fears will follow the testing.

The complaints over the standards cut deeper than just the survey, however, and come from different groups with varying interests. The standards are tied to statewide exams that play a major role in evaluating teachers and schools.

Schenectady Federation of Teachers President Juliet Benaquisto said there is a lot to like about establishing standards, but she worries the “high-stakes” testing tied to the standards doesn’t provide teachers with useful information. She also said the testing doesn’t account for other factors students face — home conditions, poverty, special needs and more.

Fifty percent of a teacher’s evaluation is tied to how students do on the tests which, Benaquisto said, places teachers in the most challenging schools and districts under a constant cloud of fear. She said the tests are too long and rigorous to represent a fair measure of a teacher’s success.

“We need to have a system where we are looking at other measures … what gains students have made,” she said. “We need to engage in a process where we look at results and compare how our students are doing compared to districts with similar poverty rates and English-as-a-second-language students.”

Schenectady schools Superintendent Laurence Spring agreed that too much stock is put in the tests when it comes to evaluating teachers, especially tests that are so new and have yet to be statistically validated over multiple years. He also said the focus of the tests and standards should be on students and not teachers.

“Let’s ensure that the test is good for kids first. The test has to be used to improve teaching and learning for children,” he said. “When you use it for a purpose other than that, let’s be careful.”

-The Daily Gazette, Friday October 23, 2015

The announcement of the survey itself clearly indicates that NYSED/Commissioner Elia has no interest in truly hearing about what the people of New York desire (getting rid of Common Core) but will only consider minor tweaks here and there to some of the standards.

In January 2011, the NYS Board of Regents adopted the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards, which include the nationally recognized Common Core State Standards and a small amount of additional standards uniquely added by New York State. The Common Core State Standards were created through a collaborative effort on behalf of the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed by key stakeholders in the field, including teachers, school administrators, and content experts.

The New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards:

  • provide a consistent set of expectations for what students should learn and be able to do
  • are internationally-benchmarked and evidence-based

The New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards are not:

  • assessments
  • evaluations
  • curriculum

This survey provides an opportunity for every New Yorker to go online, review each standard and comment on what is liked, not liked, or offer a suggestion for a change to a particular standard. Please note: Respondents do not need to comment on every standard. Please comment on as few or as many standards as desired.

This is not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered. The objectives of this review are to:

  1. increase awareness and understanding of New York’s current standards in ELA and math that were adopted in 2011; and

  2. gather actionable feedback from all New Yorkers as part of the department’s regular review process of the academic standards with an eye toward continuous improvement.

So has NYSED provided an opportunity for the public to give feedback on the Common Core standards?  Yes, technically.  Will the survey bring about change that will satisfy parents?  Probably not.