Tag Archives: Common Core State Standards

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.

 

Test REFUSAL in Kingston City School District

Letters went home to parents in at least two elementary schools (Edson and Crosby) in the Kingston City School District today telling parents that changes have been made in the New York State testing program and requesting that parents NOT opt their children out of the testing.  I anticipate that similar letters were sent home to parents in the remaining schools in the district or will be sent this week since the NYS ELA test begins next week April 5-7, 2016.

Crosby opt in letter
Crosby opt in letter
Edson opt in letter
Edson opt in letter

 

Even though parents are being encouraged to believe differently, nothing significant has changed with regard to the New York State testing.  The tests are shorter by a question or two but many kids will actually spend longer on testing because the tests are now untimed. Pearson still produced this year’s test questions even though NYS has signed a new contract with Questar. Who knows what the questions will be like as far as quality?  Also every single issue that has existed regarding the adverse impact of the tests for special ed and ELL students still exists.

Please continue to REFUSE the New York State ELA and Math tests for grades 3-8 this April 2016.

By refusing you can be an Upstander.  Even if you feel that your kids are not ‘hurt’ by taking the state tests, other kids are. When you refuse the state tests, you are helping to protect kids all throughout New York State.  Jeanette Deutermann clearly shares the reasons for opting-out in this video.

Deborah Torres Henning, a parent from the Wappingers Central School District who I am very proud to stand beside in the fight against Common Core, has also written an excellent piece on why it is important to refuse the state tests.

Instead of asking “why refuse?” we should be asking “why does the state want the children to take them so badly?”

•    240,000 children did not take the New York State Math and English Language Arts assessments last year.
•    The tests don’t count toward your child’s grades or promotional status.
•    The tests don’t count toward receiving or not receiving special services.
•    The tests are age and developmentally inappropriate.
•    The tests were already too long, and now they are untimed, making them longer.
•    The tests are developed by businessmen and corporations, not teachers.
•    The tests are just another form of data mining. Data is the name of the game.

The state wants you to believe it has dramatically decreased the number of test questions and effectively reduced the time it takes to complete taking the tests. The reduction of one or two test questions is not significant, and the tests are now untimed, which means longer, not shorter. New York State Education Department’s “changes” are as meaningless as the tests themselves.

For those who say, “My child does well on the tests,” what are they doing well on? They are doing well on following orders, filling in bubbles, and navigating an absurd myriad of age and content inappropriate test questions that do not measure what they are learning in class and have no bearing on where they will be placed the following year. All you see is a number (1-4), specific results are not given to school districts or to parents — so there is no information at all on what they’ve learned, where their strengths are, or where they need improvement. The tests do not have any bearing on whether or not your child will or will not receive  Academic Intervention Services or Response to Intervention Plan either.

Refusing the state tests does not mean your child will never have exposure to taking a test, nor does it mean you are teaching your child he or she doesn’t have to fulfill academic responsibility. Refusing means you are aware that these tests mean nothing, and you refuse to have your child be a guinea pig for the state and the test manufacturers.

School districts must make the tests available to all students, that does not mean they can force or “encourage” all students to take them. You have the option of refusing. Parents, you are the primary educator of your child, and you have first and final say. Parents’ rights supersede the rights of the school. Remember that. Always.

Your child provides free labor and research for the test manufacturers. Your schools have sold your child into indentured servitude in order to get grant money and the test manufacturers are cashing in.

The state Education Department and test manufacturers rely on your obedience to make your child take the tests, and they love to use threats to get you to do so. Don’t believe the threats you hear about losing funding or testing counting against your child’s teacher, these are scare tactics, and they work on people who don’t know the facts.

In a most recent development, our newly appointed Board of Regents Chancellor (and technically Commissioner Elia’s boss), Mrs. Betty Rosa, went on record to say, if she were a parent of a 3rd through 8th-grader today, she would refuse the tests. When the agency that supervises state Education Department and Mrs. Elia supports refusals, it is time for everyone to refuse!

I am for tests that measure my child’s growth and progress. I am for tests that give teachers and parents a dashboard to look at and pinpoint what questions they are struggling with or excelling in. I am for tests that are staggered throughout their school years and do not last for days. I am for meaningful testing.

I want my children educated when they go to school. I don’t send my children to test-taking school — I send them to school, just school. Please stop the rampant, abusive, useless testing and lets get back to educating the whole child. That won’t happen unless we all refuse these tests.

refusal_letter_2015-2016__8_

Update 4/4/16: Letters from other KCSD schools

Chambers opt in letter
Chambers opt in letter
GW testing letter
GW testing letter

 

GW testing letter in Spanish
GW testing letter in Spanish
JFK opt in letter
JFK opt in letter
Miller opt in letter
Miller opt in letter
Myer opt in letter
Myer opt in letter

New York Perspective on Confirmation hearing of John King as U.S. Secretary of Education

I watched the H.E.L.P. committee confirmation hearing of John King yesterday and the statements made at the hearing are totally inconsistent with my knowledge of John King.

John King was the Commissioner of Education in New York before he went to Washington D.C. to work in the Department of Education.   His time as Commissioner was a failure and parents in New York State tried to get him kicked out of the position although he resigned and went to Washington D.C. in December 2014 before he actually got fired.  Unless the U.S. wants even more of the Common Core mess that we already have, you do NOT want John King as the U.S. Secretary of Education.

You can read the details about why John King should not be U.S. Secretary of Education, written when he resigned as NYS Commissioner of Education in December 2014, here.  Basically he totally supports Common Core, high stakes testing and judging teachers and schools by student test scores and I believe these things are all bad for students in New York State as well as the entire United States of America.

A detail that has not been posted on my blog until today is the fact that I know personally that John King did not listen to parents in New York.  I know this because I am one of the ‘Poughkeepsie Five‘. These are five of the seven parents who actually got to speak at the first Town Hall Meeting on the Common Core that Commissioner King held in Spackenkill (part of the Poughkeepsie area) in October 2013.  The other two speakers were not comfortable having their names publicly listed.  You can read the whole story of Commissioner John King’s failure to communicate with parents here or just the highlights below.

Full video of the Spackenkill Town Hall Meeting with Speakers beginning at 1:23:16.

Commissioner King didn’t like what we parents had to say or how the crowd responded to what he had to say about Common Core (we were not a very receptive audience particularly when he took up an hour and a half with his talking and left very little time for parent comments/statements) and therefore canceled all the rest of the forums around the state because the first one was “co-opted by special interest groups” (those pesky parents!)  This was just the beginning of a total lack of understanding of the concerns that parents were feeling/expressing that continued until the time John King left New York State.

John King stated in the H.E.L.P. confirmation hearing: “We believe that stakeholder feedback is critical.”  I cry foul!  John King did not listen to stakeholder feedback in New York State.

#noking4seced

Spackenkill Town Hall meeting with Commissioner John King – October 10, 2013

I wasn’t writing Jolyn’s Education Corner yet when the Spackenkill Town Hall meeting with New York State Commissioner of Education John King took place on October 10, 2013.  However I believe that information regarding this meeting is relevant now that John King is being considered for confirmation as the U.S. Secretary of Education.

I learned of the Town Hall Meeting on Common Core to be held at Spackenkill High School from a friend on facebook on October 3, 2013.  I readjusted my family’s schedule so I could attend because I was very concerned about Common Core and wanted to hear what Mr. King had to say and have the opportunity to ask a question or make a statement about my Common Core concerns.

I invited other local parents to attend and talked with friends about what questions to ask Mr. King in preparation for the meeting.  On October 10, I made the 45 minute drive to Spackenkill High School with another parent from the Kingston City School District arriving early in hopes of being able to sign up to speak at the end of the meeting.

The Town Hall meeting began and it quickly became apparent that it really was just a “ra ra” session to sell Common Core to the parents.

We got lots of “education” about Common Core and how wonderful it was and then questions that had been written on index cards when we arrived were addressed to Mr. King in groups but the answers were very generic and if the audience had any concerns or further questions about the “answers”, there was no opportunity to delve into the issues.

Here is the full video of the Town Hall Meeting as well as an edited version highlighting the frustration felt by the parents at the meeting.

If you are not able to watch the entire video, I have noted times for different segments:

0:0 Introductions by New York State PTA President Lana Ajemian
5:27 Welcome by Regent Lester Young
7:00 Commissioner King presents on Common Core
18:50 “Teaching is the CORE” promotional video about Common Core in the classroom
26:30 New York State 2013 Teacher of the Year Greg Ahlquist speaks
32:35 Question & Answers begin with PTA members reading pre-written questions for Commissioner King to answer
1:22:50 (the video notes that approximately 10 minutes of Q&A lost due to battery failure)
1:23:16 Audience statements  (I spoke at 1:43:04 and was the final speaker of the night)

Thirty minutes were supposed to be allocated for statements from the audience at the end of the meeting.  Fifteen (15) people should have been able to make statements (2 minutes each) but Commissioner King responded to several statements and time was not used efficiently so only seven (7) attendees ended up being able to speak.  If you listen to the end of the full-length video you will hear the frustration from the many parents who wanted to speak and did not get the opportunity.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the NYS PTA announced the next day that the remaining four Town Hall meetings were canceled.  I posted the following on facebook on October 12, 2013 in response to this announcement:

I am very sad that the New York PTA decided to cancel the remaining 4 Common Core Town Hall meetings based on Commissioner King’s conclusion that the ‘outcome was not constructive for those taking the time to attend’.

I was in attendance at the Spackenkill Town Hall meeting and came to a very different conclusion regarding the meeting. I wrote the following comments yesterday morning before the PTA decided to cancel the forum but had not posted them. I found it very constructive to learn that there were so many parents and teachers who are VERY concerned about different aspects of Common Core and am sad and concerned that many parents at Spackenkill and those around the state who were planning to attend the other forums will not have the opportunity to voice those concerns.

****

I appreciate that the New York State PTA recognized the many concerned parents and teachers with regards to Common Core and is hosting these Town Hall meetings. However I was disappointed with how the meeting last night, October 10, turned out and I have a couple suggestions that I hope you will consider for the remaining Town Hall meetings.

It very much felt like Commissioner King was a politician trying to ‘sell’ the audience on Common Core and not there to truly answer the questions being asked. Hopefully at the next forum, the questions can be answered directly as I am sure there were specific reasons why each decision has been made and each action taken with regards to the implementation and roll out of the Common Core Standards and supporting programs/materials. Also since the state department of education has now had the opportunity to present their ‘case for Common Core’ and answer a number of questions, perhaps the initial presentation time and question time can be shortened at the next forum (assuming the video from the Spackenkill forum is available for all to review) allowing more time for the audience statements.

Please consider asking all who are signed up to make statements to line up at the beginning of the statement time and then just approach the mic as their name is called so that time is not taken waiting for each speaker to struggle out of their seat after their name is called. Also please only allow the number of speakers who will actually be able to give statements to sign up and if something does occur to take time away from statements that is not the fault of the audience, like Commissioner King stopped the speakers to rebut the comment regarding the Montessori program, please extend the statement time so that the speakers do get the allotted time to make statements.
****

I have included the text of an article from the Poughkeepsie Journal about the Town Hall meeting below as well as various responses to cancellation of the Common Core forums for your reference.

The story didn’t end for me with the cancellation of the remaining four Town Hall Meetings however.  Commissioner King announced that the reason he would not continue with the meetings was because the forums were “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum“.  Those of us who spoke at the Town Hall meeting did not appreciate being spoken of in such a way, particularly since it wasn’t true.  We managed to find each other, thanks to the wonders of social media, and put out a statement clarifying that we were NOT a ‘special interest group’ and our only possible special interest was our kids who were being harmed by Common Core.

Unfortunately communication with Commissioner King never got any better as you can read from the reactions when his resignation was announced in December 2014.

*****

Responses to cancellation of the remaining Town Hall Meetings:

Poughkeepsie Journal report on the Spackenkill Town Hall meeting (no longer available online)

Commissioner King addresses big, critical crowd on Common Core

Oct. 10, 2013 10:56 PM

Written by Craig Wolf Poughkeepsie Journal

State Education Commissioner John King faced a critical and often loud crowd Thursday evening as he defended the state’s Common Core curriculum initiative that all students, educators and parents are coping with and that has become increasingly controversial.

King was sponsored by the state PTA, which has been collaborating with King to spread the word statewide and answer questions.

The Spackenkill High School auditorium filled with a capacity crowd.

King said, “The Common Core is about college and career readiness.” He said a quarter of students entering high school don’t finish.

“The Common Core is not about assessment, although assessment must be a part of the work that we do,” King said.

The session was at Spackenkill High School in the Town of Poughkeepsie.

Participants filed questions in advance. At times, the audience grew loud and boisterous as parents and teachers complained about the new system.

Common Core is a set of standards adopted by many states to raise the education level in all grades. A key goal is to help students learn to think and reason more. The standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The standards come with a tougher set of tests.

One question that brought loud applause was, how can I protect my children’s data from vendors?

King said there is encryption and there are rules protecting such data.

Another prefiled question was, how can I help my children with homework when I don’t understand it? That was greeted with laughter and applause. King said there are portals on the Internet for the state Education Department that can help.

Some attendees held signs saying, “Students are more than a test score.”

Another prefiled question was, how will we know the Common Core is working overall?

King said we will need to ask, in five years, “Are employers still saying, we can’t find the workforce that we need?” If not, they will say, “We will take the work to other states or move overseas.”

One questioner asked how New York will attract good teachers when the career has been made less attractive by Common Core.

King cited progress made in Massachusetts when they raised standards beginning 20 years ago,”t took time to do that,” King said.

On the tougher tests, King said, “Let’s be clear: We don’t use student performance as the sole measure of student performance,” or of teacher or administrator performance.

Another theme from the audience was a feeling that so much emphasis is being placed on math and English that “other subjects like math and science have gone by the wayside.”

King said the other subjects are important, too, noting that research has found that students do better on English when they have a rich background of knowledge. “They have to build a rich background of knowledge,” he said.

The crowd grew boisterous after several public statements critical of Common Core.
One man pointed out that King’s children go to private Montessori schools.
King said those schools also have Common Core standards. He also said his kids are not fair game.

 

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.”

National Academic Standards

One of the original claims of Common Core, although you don’t hear it as much now with the Common Core Standards dropping like flies in state after state, was to give uniformity from state to state so that we could be sure students everywhere were learning up to par and that students in military families could move from state to state without missing out on important pieces of their education.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation even funded a brochure to make sure military families knew how wonderful Common Core was for their children.

Questions have been raised about whether it was actually possible to achieve this goal of uniformity from state to state and whether it was even truly desirable.

Steven Singer does an amazing job of exploring these questions in “National Academic Standards – Turning Public Education into McSchools”.  You may or may not agree with his final conclusion (spoiler – he thinks National Academic Standards are a terrible idea and I agree with him) but the really interesting part is what you might discover along the journey to his conclusion.

Be sure to check out as many of the hyperlinks as you can while you are reading Mr. Singer’s article.  I found the article from early 2014 about how private schools liked the Common Core Standards since they could pick bits and pieces, the parts that worked for them, particularly interesting.

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 4, 2015
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.

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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.

*****

Notes:

  • 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.

 

Common Sense Education Lobby Day Report – June 17, 2014

Four Kingston parents, including representatives from Kingston Action for Education, traveled to Albany for Common Sense Education Lobby Day on Tuesday June 17, 2014.

Kingston parents in Albany

We met up with eight parents from the Onteora school district intending to meet with our legislators after attending the rally.

We did not attend the press conference before the rally and had to leave before the rally concluded to meet with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill but full videos of the press conference and rally are available here.

Mary Calamia opened the rally with the following (video here):

We are all here today because we are trying to fix something that is very, very broken.  We have joined in a battle to fix a broken educational system that has created a hostile learning environment for our children and a hostile working environment for those who teach them.

Mary then encouraged the attendees that we are not just parents but advocates and even lobbyists.  And I was very proud to wear those titles with approximately 200 other people standing for New York’s children in Albany yesterday.

Mary quoted Governor Cuomo as saying “too often government responds to the whispers of lobbies before the cries of the people”.  Her response:

This from a man who is completely deaf to the cries of the people!  So Governor Governor, I say this – we are the people, we are the lobbyists.  We are not crying and we are so NOT whispering!  Today as lobbyists, you are going to meet with legislators and do what any other lobbyist does, try to influence legislation on behalf of the special interest and what more special interest can we have than the children of New York State?

We, the people will go into more than 50 legislative meetings and tell them what we know, what we have experienced and what we need from them and we will follow up this summer and talk with them again and again until we can restore Common Sense in Albany and Common Sense to our schools.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who was a member of the original Common Core Validation Committee charged with reviewing and approving the Common Core standards but refused to endorse the standards, spoke about the havoc that Common Core is wreaking on our education system and what parents, students and school board members can do about it. (video here)

  • (mark 5:10) Dr. Stotsky pointed out that the four most important stakeholder groups in the education of our children – parents, teachers, state legislators and school board members – were generally left out in the draft stages/early development of the Common Core Standards.
  • Students were also left out of the development of Common Core.  Go to mark 6:10 in the video segment for how high students got involved in Massachusetts and how Kingston students might want to get involved if they, particularly our current 7th and 8th graders, want to make sure they have adequate math course availability when they get to grades 11 and 12.
  • (mark 8:45) Common Core is wreaking havoc in our high schools particularly in the area of the math standards.  The Common Core Standards do not require courses above a weak Algebra 2 which will not get students to needed STEM fields – will the courses be there when budgets continue to be cut?  We have already lost accelerated math for our KCSD middle school students.  7th graders did not have it this year and we have been told that it will not be offered for next year’s 7th graders either.  ‘unless there  if they are in grade 8 or 9 now, your children are going to be the victims of Common Core’  Recruit your children who are old enough to understand the academic issues.
  • What can parents do?  (mark 12:50)  Parents have the right to do what they feel is best for their children.  Parents can send in a note stating that their student will only take ‘teacher-made’ tests.  Parents do not need to ask for permission – they have always had these rights.  Parents can send a note and indicate that they want instruction, not testing, on the days of state sponsored tests.  Also parents can say that they want to see their student’s scores from the ‘teacher-made’ tests within a week so that they can see what those tests look like and what scores/grades their kids are getting.
  • “What the law does not explicitly forbid or explicitly require in a free country, you can do.”
  • (mark 17:55) importance of local self-government – Legally elected school board members still have almost all of the legal authority they have had for 100s of years in this country.  Board members have rights and responsibilities as locally elected officials. All states, save one, have the right for local school boards to set/adopt their own standards.  They might still be responsible to take the tests but they can reject Common Core Standards explicity, adopt a superior set of standards, ask their local superintendent/teaching staff to create superior standards.  Teachers and administrators are not in an enviable state.  They are doing what they think they have been ordered to do by a state board of education.  People need to start straightening out who is the master and who is the public servant?
  • (mark 24:00)The State Board of Regents did not ask the questions they should have asked before accepting Common Core.  No state board of educations asked for a cost benefit analysis.  No state boards of ed asked their higher education teaching faculty (people teaching at the college level in mathematics, science and engineering) to look at the Common Core college-readiness standards in high school to see if they were adequate (were they really college-level standards?) or at least no boards are on record as having asked these questions.  Dr. Stotsky recommends that parents ask teachers from our STEM colleges to look at standards and see if they are indeed adequately preparing students for entry into those college.

Conversation with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill

12 parents from Ulster County (from Kingston and Onteora school districts) met with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill outside the assembly floor at 1pm on June 17.

  • We told Assemblyman Cahill that we were very concerned about Common Core and asked for his support of bill A8844.  He asked if that was the Graf bill and when told ‘Yes’ responded that ‘the Graf bill politically can not pass’.  He went on to tell stories about his 8 year old granddaughter and her four and a half hours of homework and upset parents and how he understands that the Common Core implementation is not working but he believes that the Common Core Standards are good.  Cahill mentioned at one point that the Graf bill had “bad stuff” in it and I wanted to ask what that was but decided it wasn’t worth getting into an argument over at this time.
  • Parents brought up concerns with regards to special education and Common Core and Assemblyman Cahill affirmed that he understands that every child is unique.
  • Assemblyman Cahill stated dissatisfaction with Commissioner King.
  • He talked about the reappointment of Regents this year and how that he learned of a paper, from Regent Jackson himself, that Regent Jackson had written regarding high-stakes testing that stated the many problems with implementation.  In the interview process Cahill asked Jackson about the paper and why he hadn’t communicated the concerns to the other regents when and Jackson said that he hadn’t thought about it and probably should have (it sounds like Jackson forgot about the paper he had written during the discussion of Common Core) and Cahill decided he could not vote for Jackson for reappointment.  When I asked why he voted for someone (no one could remember Regent Josephine Finn’s name but I came home and looked it up) who did not know anything about Common Core instead, Cahill responded that the new regent was appointed because she was well respected and it was believed she would be someone who would ‘shake things up’.  Cahill stated that the Regents work in task forces and only the few Regents (5 he though) who are on the Common Core task force are actually responsible to know anything about Common Core.  He recommended, as had Assemblywoman Nolan on June 3, that we the parents speak to our regent who happens to be Regent Finn about our Common Core concerns.

Conversation with Senator Tkaczyk

We found out last minute that Senator Tkaczyk’s office had requested a maximum of six people to attend the meeting with her so 2 parents from Kingston and 2 parents from Onteora attended and I was not one of them as I have spoken with her previously.

Conversation with Senator Seward

Instead of speaking with Senator Tkaczyk, Madeline and I sat in on a meeting with Senator Seward who appeared to be very supportive of the educational concerns raised by the parents/teachers speaking with him.  The primary focus of the discussion was on the high school level and regarding students who tend to fall through the cracks both special education students and those who might not be special education but still struggle in school.  The 9th grade Common Core math test was shared with Senator Seward and the question raised about how was that test useful to be required for every student and would it really prove that every student was college ready?  The example was given of current college students in programs for television, to be a chef and something arts-related (can’t remember the specific field) where each student was excelling in college and the math test would have been no accurate indication of anything to do with their field of study yet if a student can not pass the test, they will not be able to graduate and go on to college.  Discussion of the RCT (Regent Competency Test) took place and in particular a student who had to take it 5 times and just managed to finally pass before aging out of high school.  Now students do not even have the RCT option and must pass 5 Regents tests in order to earn a diploma at all!

Note:  This report was written in June 2014 after Common Sense Education Lobby Day but never published.  I think there might have been more information that I wanted to include.  The information included is still relevant (and someone was just asking about Assemblyman Cahill’s stand on Common Core) so I am posting it on November 15, 2015.