Tag Archives: Common Core State Standards

Panel questions effectiveness of Common Core standards

Governor Cuomo’s Common Core task force held their first public meeting on Thursday night October 29, 2015 in New Rochelle, New York.  They heard the following from Principal Jamaal Bowman:

“The state has disempowered the schools and the school districts” with the implementation of the educational standards, said panelist Jamaal Bowman, principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx, to the task force.

The results of those tests and the curriculum within the schools are no longer trusted at the level they used to be, Bowman said. “And the state assessments have driven a wedge between the teachers and the parents.”  – “Panel questions effectiveness of Common Core standards” lohud.com October 30, 2015

The lohud article continues on to report that “while there was much criticism of Common Core, there were still places in the state that it appeared to be working” and that the superintendent of the Schodack Central School District who “credited the standards with driving up graduation rates and students’ college-career readiness” had concerns regarding the reliance on standardized testing.

Local parents advocating for the removal of Common Core were in attendance at the meeting as well.  Stop Common Core videographer Mert Melfa captured Principal Bowman’s presentation and I highly recommend taking the 15 minutes to hear what he had to say to the panel.

Although Principal Bowman is a product of a public school and works at a public school (not a charter), he does not feel confident in placing his currently 18-month old daughter in a public school when she turns five due to “the test-and-punish culture that we have created.”

Principal Bowman made the following recommendations to the Common Core task force:

  • Remove teacher evaluations aligned to state assessments immediately
  • Administer state assessments, if you need to, created by teachers in fourth and seventh grades
  • Begin a statewide focus and conversation around authentic curriculum, instruction and formative assessment (not summative assessment).  Emphasis local assessment not state assessment.
  • Implement a birth to age eight program in our highest need districts.

“I am not anti-testing and anti-standards.  I just want to emphasize formative assessments that meet the needs of individual students and empowers teachers.”

Wappingers Falls Central School District parent and Stop Common Core warrior Deborah Torres Henning shared this report on her facebook page:

I know there are those interested in finding out what went on at the 1st task force meeting. Let me try and summarize: after being required to reserve our spot via sign up, we were told to be there no later than 3:30 for a 4pm start. We were there – the panel wasn’t…until 4:35. There were 65 (SIXTY FIVE) available seats for the audience – huh? Why so limited, and what was the criteria for allowing the audience in? No one on the governors staff could answer that question for me, so I proceeded to enter the room and say hello to familiar faces and fellow warriors.

Then the Task force led by Parsons introduced the members of the Task force panel. The presenters included a panel of 5, 2 of which were wishy washy in their stance for?against? ( Dr. Linda Sturges, Professor of Mathematics & Mathematics and Computer Science Curriculum Supervisor, SUNY Maritime College and Robert Horan, Superintendent, Schodack Central School District ); 1 who must’ve left her pom poms at home for her cc cheerleading and I swore was going to kiss herself bc she thought she was so great (Judy Kelly, English Teacher, Sleepy Hollow High School; English Department Chair, Sleepy Hollow High School & Middle School; President, Local Teachers Union ) and 2 presenters who actually wowed me (Jamaal Bowman, Principal, Cornerstone Academy for Social Action and Lisa Rudley, Westchester County Parent, Co-Founder and Executive Director of New York State Allies for Public Education )

While I may not agree with all of NYSAPE’s or BAT’s approaches to addressing this reform debacle, these two individuals did me proud! They were informed, they knew their stuff and they went to bat against the test and punish culture. Both called for the removal of teacher evaluations linked to testing IMMEDIATELY. Both called for more local control and to bring back creativty, communication, and critical thinking to educating our children, and that we needed to educate the whole child and that just wasn’t being done anymore and its WRONG.

While Jamaal did an outstanding job, and discussed design thinking and problem solving methodology, and something called I-Ready (I have to research that), I wished he had done just one more thing after his presentation – and that was to DROP THE MIKE! It was THAT good!

Lisa was so jarring to their smug senses that they pummeled her in the question and answer portion between the presenters and the task force members. She held her own and didn’t falter. She knew her stuff! One member, Sam Radford, had the audacity to come down on Lisa about what her credentials were and how could we trust her integrity for being the voice of parents…we have NO idea how HE was chosen to be on this task force, and he dares to ask her THAT? He’s a punk, I guess that’s why Cuomo put him on there.

The arrows kept flying at Lisa, but she not only was able to succinctly deflect them with actual information and reason, she had a few of us supporting her the way you would expect us seasoned warriors trying to protect their own – LOUDLY!

The questions the task force asked sounded as if they had never heard any of this before. “how do you know the testing is bad?”, “what evidence do you have to support this?”, “can you get us the data and research to support blah blah blah?” Hey! Aren’t THEY the ones who are supposed to get the research and data??? Grrrrrr….. There was so much more, but I just wanted to get my initial thoughts out before my head burst.

There are 12 of these meetings scheduled around the state – PLEASE make sure that if there is one within a 2 hour radius from your home, you get to one! Our voices and our support is needed for the presenters who are trying to speak out against CC, Testing, Data Collection, RttT and all the other tentacles.

Regional Public Sessions – Friday, November 6th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
One session will be held in each region of the state (total of 10 meetings). Regional meeting details will be available on the Task Force website early next week.
Public Session Two – Wednesday, November 18th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Erie County – meeting details will be announced on the Task Force website as they become available.
The public is also encouraged to submit comments and recommendations to the Common Core Task Force on its website,ny.gov/CommonCoreTaskForce.

 

Additional reporting on the first public meeting:

Common Core Task Force Public Meeting Schedule

Does the Common Core Task Force seated by Governor Cuomo really want to hear about the problems with Common Core?  They aren’t giving people a whole lot of time to prepare comments for or to attend the public meetings being held around the state.

Last week, the task force announced its first public meeting (in New Rochelle) just two days before the event was held. And on Tuesday, the task force announced it will host five listening sessions on Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. in regions across the state to taking testimony from the public on the standards.

The task force’s website, however, had incomplete information about the meetings and faulty links. After POLITICO New York made inquiries about the schedule with the governor’s office on Tuesday afternoon, the times and locations were removed from the site entirely and were later replaced.

“Advocates question Common Core task force schedule” November 3, 2015

The article continues with a number of concerns about the announcement of and timing of the five public meetings being held day after tomorrow (Friday November 6, 2015).  Ten total meetings were promised.  A meeting in Erie County on November 18 has apparently been posted since the article referenced so that means here are four more yet to be scheduled.

Here is the email invitation received by some people for the November 6 meetings:

*****

The Common Core Task Force cordially invites you to attend a Regional Common Core Listening Session

Friday, November 6, 2015
3:00 PM — 5:00 PM
Check-in will begin at 2:30 PM.

Participants will have the opportunity to deliver up to three minutes of timed testimony to selected Task Force members and staff.

Meetings will be held in the following regions. We anticipate that additional sessions will be scheduled in the near future.

Long Island
Stony Brook University Research and Development Park
Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT)
1500 Stony Brook Road
Stony Brook, NY 11794-6040

New York City
LaGuardia Community College
Poolside Café
31-10 Thomson Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101

Hudson Valley
SUNY Purchase College
Humanities Building, Theater
735 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577

Capital Region
Crossings of Colonie
Large Meeting Room
580 Albany Shaker Rd
Loudonville, NY 12211

Finger Lakes/Western New York
Genesee Community College
Conable Technology Building, Room T-102
One College Rd.
Batavia, NY 14020

We encourage you to R.S.V.P here.

R.S.V.P is appreciated but not required and all guests are welcome as space permits. Any attendee wishing to deliver testimony will be invited to do so, within the time available. Written testimony will also be accepted at the event, or can be uploaded to our website here.

For details on event location and parking, or to learn more about past and upcoming events, please visit our website.

Thank you!

Editorial: Finally, testing obsession is under review

This editorial from lohud is an excellent summary of the state of testing and Common Core in New York right now with a bit thrown in about President Obama’s about-face on testing last week.

At the first public meeting of Gov. Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force on Thursday, a Bronx principal named Jamaal Bowman displayed a picture of his young daughter on a big screen and said he would not send her to a public school in New York because of our “test-and-punish culture.” The task force members, including state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, sat impassively at the College of New Rochelle as Bowman, an invited speaker, decried an overemphasis on standardized testing at the expense of innovation, creativity and richer methods of measuring student achievement.

Read the rest of the article here.

I would like to highlight the following points where parents have made a difference as noted by the editorial staff:

  • Cuomo’s task force is charged with reviewing New York’s testing program and its close ties to the Common Core standards by year’s end.
  • Cuomo just named Bedford Superintendent Jere Hochman his deputy for education. Hochman has sharply criticized New York’s focus on “high-stakes” testing and has called for the state’s widely disliked teacher evaluation system, tied to student test scores, to be torn up and replaced.
  • Longtime Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who has overseen the state’s test-centric “reform” agenda, will leave the board when her term is up in March.
  • The state Education Department is also reviewing individual Common Core standards — but not the role of the Core itself.
  • The Board of Regents plans a serious review of the teacher evaluation system, which Cuomo and legislators have essentially taken control of in recent years.
  • Congress is trying —struggling, really — to rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind law to reduce the federal role in education while maintaining accountability measures for school systems.

The battle for the education of our kids has been long and hard and there is still much to do.  We don’t know yet if those in charge of ‘education’ are really going to start listening but we can hope that this is a step on the path to dealing with the testing mess and Common Core.  Do not despair and continue to do what is best for the children.

It’s debatable how much Obama’s new posture will help. But he knowingly gave a shot in the arm to parents, teachers and others who are fed up with federal and state prescriptions for saving our supposedly failing schools.

Have no doubt that New York’s opt-out movement forced Cuomo, legislators, the Regents and newcomer Elia to reconsider testing and related policies. Tisch and Elia may condemn opting out as counterproductive, but when 1 in 5 bubble sheets are not filled out, which is what happened in New York last spring, you’ve got a big problem on your hands.

******

In case you can not access the lohud editorial, here is a PDF containing the article – Editorial_ Finally, testing obsession is under review

 

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.

Common Core has NOT won the war!

If you heard about an article from Politico that declares ‘Common Core quietly won the war’, know that the assessment is NOT correct.

Not so fast, Politico. Common core is fading. Don’t believe the hype.

image

This is a must read. Common core has taken over. That much is true. It’s the hottest topic out there. But they have not won. That is false. We are not done. What are we doing to stop this? We are fighting, always.

Cato speaks the truth:

“A Politico article today declares that the Common Core has “quietly” won the school standards war. It is a headline that would have been accurate several years ago, but today’s headline should be somewhat different: “Common Core in major – but quiet – retreat.”

– read the rest of the blog post here

Do NOT give up!  We still have a battle to win for our children and our schools.

UPDATE October 14, 2015 11pm:  Here is another perspective on how Politico is wrong about Common Core.

Hefling’s main point is that Common Core is now everywhere, so it won. But this would be tantamount to saying that Kleenex has cornered 100% of the facial tissue market because all citizens wipe their noses on something that they call “Kleenex.”

Sure, there’s something called Common Core almost everywhere in education. But which Common Core Ish thing would we like to talk about?

….

If the picture of success was supposed to be that everyone in the public education system (not the private schools! never the private schools!) had to deal with something that had the words “Common Core” attached to it, then yes, CCSS has won.

But if, as was actually the case, the goal was to have identical standards pursued and measured in every public classroom in the country, with teachers working in virtual lockstep to pursue exactly the same goals– then, no– the Common Core lost. It failed. It was a sledgehammer that was supposed to beat open the brick wall of US schooling, and instead shattered into a million different bits.

And Hefling doesn’t even talk about the other promise of the Core– that all students would be college and career ready. We supposedly have several years’ worth of Common Core grads out there now– how are they doing? Are colleges reporting an uptick in well-prepared freshmen? Are businesses reporting a drop in their training needs? Hefling and her Core-adoring sources don’t address that at all. Can you guess why?

Put the children first in education reform

Read this excellent commentary about APPR, unions, NYSED and our children.

I am so proud to know the author Anne Miller- LaValle​ and so excited that she will be serving on the Wappingers School Board of Education starting in just a few days!

Just in case you can’t access the article from the Poughkeepsie Journal, I am including the full text below:

In a recent interview, Harrison School District Superintendent Dr. Louis Wool discussed the dangers of the recently implemented teacher rating system known as Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). It’s a system whereby the New York State Education Department holds teachers and students hostage to the Common Core standards and associated curriculum through a ruthless and unproven testing and rating mechanism. Teachers, at the risk of their jobs, are held responsible for student performance on standardized tests that no one can see and which have significant financial and political benefits to those who control them. The rating system is structured in such a way that even a tenured teacher may be fired based solely on their students’ performance over a two year period on these covert and highly questionable tests.

Dr. Wool says that research indicates that it takes five years experience, on average, for a teacher to truly achieve competence. He argues that a single test over a two-year period should not be used exclusively to determine teacher “effectiveness” and suggests that multiple observation criteria including numerous, varying assessments must be considered in order to adequately evaluate teachers’ performance and certainly before potential termination. I agree entirely.

But then I must ask, by contrast, why the teachers’ unions continue to insist that the standard for teacher tenure be a minimum of three years? We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say five years is the minimum necessary experience to achieve recognizable competence in the teaching profession and use the criteria to oppose APPR, but then be willing to grant irrevocable tenure after just three years.

Meaningful evaluation and accountability are essential to an effective and successful education system. The objective of any teacher evaluation program should be the development of qualified educators dedicated to the authentic education of our children. The NYSED “Reform” program is nothing of the kind. It is instead, a twisted mutilation of the concept which pits NYSED against the teachers’ unions in a battle to determine who gets to define “accountability.”  The “reform” program is in reality NYSED’s corrupted use of the term “accountability” being used to justify dismantling the teachers’ unions and their tenure program in order to take control of the education system and deliver it into the hands of their greedy corporate cohorts.

And in the epitome of indifference, the children who are supposed to be the singular focus of our education system are barely mentioned. Students are being used; forced to take absurd tests that are driving a highly questionable curriculum and which NYSED intends to use solely as a noose to slip onto the necks of teachers. This entire situation does not get nearly the attention it deserves. But when the discussion finally does come up, the children and what they are facing are barely mentioned except as leverage to back the pressure off of the teachers. NYSED and the unions wrestle over APPR consequences without ever even mentioning the torment to the students and the gutting of their education system. It’s the elephant in the room and it is absolutely crushing our children.
The teachers’ unions’ response to the education reform?  Deflection: “We’ll teach the curriculum, and if we have to, we’ll administer the tests, but we’re drawing the line at the rating system.”

I recognize that teachers are caught in this web.  Some are suffering silently; some are speaking out; too many are quitting.  But the reality is that the ultimate voiceless victims here are the students.

The unions have sold out their teachers by refusing to actively push back against the reform.  It’s not OK for the teachers to respond by leaving the students in the crossfire.  I’m not categorically opposed to tenure.  I’m opposed to the unions selling out the students to hold tight to tenure they’re going to lose to APPR anyway while our children are devastated as collateral damage.

It’s madness.  It needs to stop.

We must start having the real discussion.  The discussion that begins and ends with our children:

What do they really need?

How do we deliver it to them?

How do we truly hold the people we trust to do that accountable?

Stop talking about the teachers.  And the “workforce stakeholders.”

Start talking about the children

Anne LaValle is a trustee-elect of the Wappingers Central School District Board of Education.

Call Albany – NYS Education Committee Chairs Propose Changes

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

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

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

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

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

Things are becoming a bit clearer now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Chancellor Tisch must immediately step down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A perspective on test refusal from Japan

Christopher Chase describes himself as “a University teacher who was involved with U.S. education reform from 1988 to 1992.  Since 1993, I have lived and taught in Japan, where high-stakes testing has dominated the educational system for over 60 years.”

He describes a number of concerns he has with linking the Common Core Standards to high-stakes testing, closing of public schools and punitive teacher assessments in his post Why Opting Out from PARCC is Important.

He states his main concern as follows:

My main concern, as an educator who was involved in successful U.S. school reform in the past and has been living in Japan, is that once the new testing systems and standards are in place there will be many negative consequences, and (most importantly) that it will be VERY difficult to remove the changes in testing and instruction which are now being forced into place.

In Asia, they have long experience with a culture of high-stakes exams, teaching to the test and test prep, especially at the junior high and high school level. On paper and in International rankings, this seems to be effective, as Asia’s students do very well in testing situations. But in practice it means there is much less creativity, experimentation, freedom of expression and diversity in education.

There also appear to be links between the testing culture and high rates of suicide and bullying in schools (see this NY Times article on South Korea). On average, Asia’s students work hard in order to do well on highly competitive and rigorous exams, but at what cost? Teachers need to be accountable, but we also need to hold business and government leaders tinkering with education accountable for new policies that focus on data collection, but are not aligned with research evidence.

This is why the grassroots Opt Out protests and other criticisms of Common Core are very important now. Opting Out is a way for parents and students to voice their disagreement and concerns in a democratic and peaceful way. From the U.S. revolution to the abolitionists, from the suffragettes to the civil rights movements, speaking out against unjust and unwise government policies is part of what being American is all about.

Once the Common Core standards and tests are in place it will be much harder to make changes. As state governments plough forward the Opt Out protests are throwing a monkey wrench into the Core’s machinery, helping to push the issue into the mainstream media and the consciousness of the nation. We need this to happen, so Americans can debate and reflect upon the wisdom of this potentially dangerous path the country is embarking upon.

Will you join me (Jolyn) and parents across New York State in throwing a money wrench in the Core’s machinery by refusing the New York State tests for grades 3-8 math and ELA in April 2015?

Join in REFUSING the tests April 2015 nysape.org

Join in REFUSING the tests April 2015 nysape.org

Defeated by the Common Core State Standards

If you do not have a student who is adversely affected by the Common Core curriculum (engageNY modules) or the stress of test prep for and/or taking the New York State standardized tests, please read this mom’s account of how her third grade son (just 8 years old with nine more years of school to get through!) has been affected.

The Common Core State Standards have changed the math curriculum and made it much more challenging for the students in many grades.  So challenging that if your child struggles with concepts, they are left perplexed and broken.  Plain and simple.  The children that are high achievers and normally do well will be okay because they are able to understand the information being presented.  The average achieving students must work harder to understand it, but they will eventually get it.  Unfortunately, the lower achieving students are completely lost and overwhelmed.  Of course this is not the case for everyone, but in my experience with my son this is what I am seeing.

If you still have questions as to whether test refusal is the right way to go for your family, plan to attend one of the following presentations where you can gather additional information on standardized testing:

Long Island Teacher Refuses to Administer State Tests

Long Island Teacher Beth Dimino has submitted a letter announcing that she will not administer the mandated New York State standardized tests this April.  She believes that not only should parents refuse to allow their students to take the state tests but that teachers who are opposed to the high-stakes testing should refuse to administer/proctor the tests as a ‘matter of conscience’.  Why is Dimino taking such a bold step even though it could cost her her job?

Dimino, by refusing to administer the upcoming Common Core tests, is effectively risking her job for what she believes, and implores others to do the same. She believes there are many other teachers out there whom may feel the same way but are prevented from acting for fear of jeopardizing their positions, and because of those mixed signals, many parents are confused about whether or not opting out of the tests is the best option for their children.

To help clarify this, she’s also putting forth a proposal before the New York State United Teachers Federation (NYSUT) asking that all teachers who have school age children refuse to let them take the exams.

This resolution, which Dimino co-authored, passed her union unanimously, she says, and will be brought to the NYSUT general assembly meeting in April, and aims to coordinate local teachers unions across the state in opting their children out of the tests in solidarity.

Dimino has the support of her Comsewogue District Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella, who is also opposed to the high-stakes testing and Common Core but will it be enough?  Not unless a lot of other teachers join her in this stand.  Read the full article here.

What if Every Parent and Teacher Refused the Test