Tag Archives: curriculum

Stealth Assessments and Competency Based Education

Stealth Assessments and Competency Based Education – from stopcommoncorenys


For anyone who wants to see how the new generation of Competency Based Ed rolling exams will be marketed and who is behind it, please check out the following. Note Gates and Pearson, among others. This is not the competency based learning from years ago.

click here to continue reading


Key points of concern:

You don’t have to be a technophobe to sound alarm bells. Children sitting on devices all day long – concerns all of us. For budgetary reasons, for health reasons, for social reasons, and for practical reasons, is this what parents and teachers want, and does it matter? And what becomes of the teacher who has acquired a masters degree, who is now to sit and be a tech support proctor? Where does the human interaction fall in this paradigm? Let’s not forget online vulnerability. Where does the data go? How safely is it protected from hackers?

How well do you understand the Constitution?

As I began investigating issues associated with high-stakes testing and Common Core back in 2012/2013, I realized that I was woefully uninformed about many aspects of the history and governance of the United States of America.  I learned some stuff back in high school but had forgotten most of it.  I believe that many of the educational problems we face today are firmly intertwined with governmental policies and social/political agendas so it is vitally important that those who are concerned about the education of our children be informed and involved in what is going on in government and politics.

Understanding the Constitution of the United States, the document on which the governance of our great nation is based, is vitally important.

I love what this young man Matthew Schrunk has to say and his passion for both the Constitution and the United States of America.

Dr. Carson,

After reading the first chapter of your new book, A More Perfect Union, I came to the conclusion that We The People need to better educate ourselves and others about the constitution for 4 reasons:

  1. It was specifically written for us, the citizens of the United States of America.
  2. Ignorance is not bliss. When we are uninformed about our constitution, how can it benefit us?
  3. Constitutional “scholars/experts” are distorting the constitution’s words and purpose.
  4. Freedom is not free. If we want our children’s children to be free, we must learn how to make it happen. The constitution was written for our freedom; it may not be a bad place to start.

I love how Matthew is so excited by what he has read that he wants to share it with others.  In my opinion he is the kind of student who is ‘college-and-career ready’, ready to face life after school, be a productive citizen and participate in the governance of America.

If Common Core is producing graduates like Matthew Schrunk, then it is working.  If not, it is failing.


Lengthen the School Year Before It’s Too Late Homework Assignment

I try to not get too hung up on the different postings of bad ‘Common Core’ assignments because they may or may not be the fault of Common Core but this one is just so egregious that I had to post it whether it is the fault of Common Core or not!

A mom on the Stop Common Core in New York State facebook page (not from Kingston) reported that her 2nd grade student brought this homework assignment home today.  Note that she said her school regularly sends work from the next grade up home as homework at the end of the school year.  The paper says it is for third grade at the bottom.

Homework Lengthen the School Year grade 3Homework Lengthen the School Year grade 3 p2

The mom was aghast and furious that her student was being told she was behind/not cutting it by the homework assignment and that she needed to give up her summer break.  This particular family spends their summers in Greece learning Greek culture, language and their family heritage.  The mom didn’t feel this qualified as blowing off the summer!

Regardless of how a family spends their summer, the opinions that are presented here as facts are way too many!  There are experts who say these things but there are experts who say the opposite or come up with other solutions based on similar facts.  If this was presented as an opinion piece MAYBE it would be okay but I still don’t know if I would think so for 2nd grade homework where there might be no one discussing it with the child. On the thread where it came from some teachers said they used a similar opinion piece to have a discussion with 5th graders and I could maybe see that working.  However I have been part of debates about extending the school year/having kids go to school in the summer between adults and it is just that – DEBATES!!!  There is NOT consensus about what is best for children in the summer.

I definitely feel this is too far into the brainwashing/social engineering camp for a 2nd/3rd grade class to be using it as homework.  What do you think?


Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 5th grade?

Kingston parents of 5th graders – how is/did the teaching of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) go this school year? I know I heard a number of concerns from local parents about it last year.

I also know there has been a lot of work done locally on Core Investigations which I though might deal with this but all I can find on the district website for Core Investigations is grade 4 and below. Does Core Investigations cover grades 5 and above?

Why are parents revolting against the Common Core?  Start with the English curriculum – Nicholas Tampio January 16, 2014

Meetings and events for KCSD Parents this week – November 17, 2014

Below are some meetings that might be of interest to parents in the Kingston City School District this week:

  • Autism Parent Support Group – Tuesday November 18 6:30pm Chambers
  • Ulster County Legislature Session – Tuesday November 18 7pm – 6th floor County Office Building – discussion/vote on Resolution 350 supporting repeal of Common Core
  • Board of Education Meeting – Wednesday November 19 7pm JFK – agenda here
  • Budget Forum – Thursday November 20 6pm Cioni
  • Financial Aid Night – Thursday November 20 6pm KHS auditorium
  • Parent Education Night – KCSD Curriculum Changes (grades K-8) – Monday November 24 6:30-8pm Miller

There are a number of PTO/PTA meetings this week as well as special events for parents in many of the elementary schools in celebration of American Education week.  Check the district calendar or your school calendar for specific dates.

The first KCSD concert of the season is tonight (Tuesday November 18), a Pops Concert at KHS (click here) and the full winter concert schedule is available here.  Miller Middle School is performing Hairspray Jr. this weekend – click here for times and ticket information.

If you know of an event/meeting that should be added to this list, send me a message so I can update the list.  Also send me a message or call me if you find this sort of list helpful and you would like to see it be a weekly feature on Jolyn’s Education Corner.




Why vote on May 20, 2014?

The three candidates who are elected to the Kingston BOE (Board of Education) will be making decisions on behalf of the Kingston community for the next 3 years.

The winning candidates will:

  • be responsible for a yearly budget of approximately $150 million
  • set policy regarding the role that parents will have within the school system
  • make decisions guiding the curriculum and instruction that students receive
  • likely to be asked to make decisions regarding teacher and staff contracts (unless the contracts are resolved before July when the new trustees take office).
  • be able to have a voice in how much input teachers have regarding curriculum and instruction within the district.

It is vitally important that you make sure the candidates elected are who you want representing YOU on the board of education.

Campaign Business Card

Please vote for me, Jolyn Safron, as YOUR representative on the Kingston City School District Board of Education on May 20, 2014.

PJSTA Approves Resolution to Oppose Common Core

How exciting that the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association felt able to take the bold step to approve a resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards.

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and

WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and

WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that – teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and

WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the PJSTA opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning;

Read the full resolution here directly from their website.

Jolyn Safron’s Statement on Testing

Green Laces

At the request of the Kingston City School District to consider the advantages of encouraging my child to come to school well-rested and prepared to participate in the upcoming New York State math assessments beginning on April 30, 2014, this parent has considered the request and I would like to present my response.

KCSD Statement on Testing – April 10, 2014

The Kingston City School District respectfully requests that all parents consider the advantages of encouraging their children to come to school well-rested and prepared to participate in the upcoming New York State assessments. Participating in these tests has benefits for the individual student, their classmates, their teachers, and their school community as a whole.

I have been thinking and thinking about what possible benefit taking the upcoming New York State math assessment could possibly have for my child.

  • If she takes the math assessment, she will be sitting in a room taking a test that serves no useful purpose for her personally for 9 hours*.
  • If she refuses the test she can use that time to do something she enjoys immensely and which builds vocabulary and all sorts of other wonderful things – read!
  • My daughter happens to be a good test taker so she does not need to practice test-taking for future tests, one of the suggested benefits below.  In fact she gets plenty of test-taking practice on her graded tests that are required for her class grades and I can not imagine when she will ever take a test that requires the extended time required for the New York State assessments, using the tests as a ‘stepping stone’ below.  My understanding is that the tests to be certified as a doctor or a lawyer are shorter than these assessments and the Regents test is definitely shorter since each Regents test is completed in a single morning or afternoon.

After all that thinking I can’t come up with any personal benefits for my daughter to take the New York State math test.  In fact I believe that there is potential for my daughter and her fellow classmates to be hurt by taking the New York State tests.  I won’t go into all the details but if you are not familiar with the wide variety of issues and concerns that many parents, teachers and even some school administrators have regarding standardized testing, please read this article which hits lots of key points.

Are the Tests Really High Stakes?

The state test results for students in grades 3-8 are not used to determine promotion or retention. They are never used in isolation in KCSD as an indicator of giftedness. They do not follow the student to high school and they are not included in a student’s high school transcript to determine class rank, scholarship eligibility, or college admission. Selection for honors level classes in grade 8 for high school courses relies upon other factors in addition to the tests like report cards, teacher recommendations and –in the case of Honors English, ELA – essays. In Grades 3 – 8, if a student performs poorly on a test they may receive extra supports or services. This is not a punitive measure – it is to help the student do their very best.

I believe the New York State tests are high-stakes because the tests affect the rating of the teachers and that has an impact on the students.  Our students look up to their teachers and want to do what the teachers say.  Teachers are validly concerned about being rated using a system based on standardized test scores because it is not a reliable way to show what students have learned nor what teachers have taught.  You can read here for more details.  The bad rating system places stress on teachers and I don’t see how we can expect no indication of the stress teachers are feeling to come across to the children.  The students will know that the tests are important to the teacher even if the teacher doesn’t say so.  Even if a teacher is truly not concerned about their rating, the teacher will tell the students to ‘Do your best.’  Students are NOT going to want to let their teachers down and have the potential to feel very high stress regarding how well they do on the ‘high stakes’ tests.  And let’s admit – what kid is really going to believe ‘Just do your best, the test doesn’t really matter’.  If it doesn’t matter, why do they have to take the test?!?

Why Take the Test?

-Testing provides the KCSD with important data that allows us to plan curriculum and identify our strengths and weaknesses. As we seek to be an organization of continuous improvement, we need tools to help measure our progress. The information gleaned from these tests is one piece of the puzzle. Testing data helps us to target specific improvements and aids us in learning how we can better serve our students.

KCSD needs to find better ways of collecting data to plan curriculum and identify our strengths and weaknesses.  This article gives some teacher/administrator feedback from New York City on how poorly designed the New York State tests were this year.  I bet our teachers could give a bunch of suggestions of ways to gather that data – things like portfolios, classroom observation, methods that actually give a good representation of the whole story regarding what our students are learning.

-For students in our younger grades, these tests provide a “stepping stone” to tests of increasing length and intensity as they move up in their educational careers. Beginning in the third grade, student scores on tests are factored into a number of important decisions, including the selection of students for enrichment opportunities. While test scores are only one factor in the selection process, achievement on exams helps students to better their chances of being offered accelerated learning opportunities.

I have already shared my thoughts on the tests as ‘stepping stones’ to longer tests.  Children do NOT need to be stepping up to this many hours of testing!  I do find it interesting that this reason for taking the tests stresses how the tests are factored into a number of important decisions for students – isn’t that what ‘high stakes’ tests are?

-Low participation levels can have an adverse impact on school communities. Schools with a testing participation rate lower than 95% will be labeled by New York State as being required to undergo an improvement process. Those schools must form inquiry teams comprised of teachers and administrators. Participating in the test – no matter how a student scores – enables a school to show compliance. This keeps teachers in the classroom, doing what they do best – teaching. Being out of compliance adds another layer of mandated work for our KCSD teachers and administrators. In addition, Title I funding formulas utilize the performance of schools and districts on these tests to determine how much state aid a District will get and how much control (autonomy) the district will have in determining how it should be utilized.

This concern over Title 1 funding is causing parents to be pitted against administration and with the way this district statement is written, administration is essentially pitting parents against parents.  If parents choose to exercise their right to refuse the test for their children, other parents can blame them for money lost by the district.  Money is not going to be lost by the district.  Please go read this explanation and note that Kingston is already a focus district and has title 1 schools so you will want to follow it through to the end.  Since we are already a focus district, my guess is that we already have a bunch of paperwork that isn’t helping a whole lot so how about another solution?  Let’s come together as a district and stand with others throughout the state against the inappropriate use of testing!  If all of the districts in the state have lower than 95% participation rate, the state isn’t going to be able to give every district unnecessary oversight.  If the additional oversight by the state from falling below 95% is going to be helpful to the district, then we should welcome it.

-Testing helps prepare students for the future. When students opt out of tests in elementary and middle school, they miss an opportunity to gain a comfort level and familiarity with standardized testing. Learning to become good test takers requires practice. When tests become more important – such as the Regents exams for graduation or SAT test for college entrance – experience can help students to feel confident and do their absolute best.

Becoming a good test taker doesn’t necessarily require practice.  Some are just naturally good at it.  Some aren’t good no matter how hard they try.  Some do get better with practice but lots of standardized testing isn’t the future I want for our students.  And what are we going to do when the federal legislation HR-4172 passes (I am working to help get this legislation passed!) which will amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to change the number of federally mandated standardized tests that states are required to administer?  HR-4172 would eliminate the need for annual testing and replace it with grade-span testing (or testing once in elementary school and once in middle school) like we had before No Child Left Behind.  Is this standardized test practice really so important that we will force our students to take practice standardized tests each year, even if the federal government does not require it, so they will have adequate experience to feel confident to take the Regents or the SAT?  I sure hope not!

There has been much discussion about the need for reform in education, and the KCSD wholeheartedly agrees that we need to do better for our students. We will be strengthened by acting together – not separately – to change education. Test refusal is a one-time action that could impact a school community for years to come by creating an inappropriate and inaccurate label of that school’s student population.

What are we going to be ‘acting together’ to do and how?  Involved parents have asked for partnership with and direction from the school district regarding how to advocate with the state department of education and state legislators but have been told that ‘our lawyers tell us we can’t say anything about that’ or words to that effect.  I understand that the school administration and Board of Education have to follow the state and federal laws/regulations but there seems to be little acknowledgement of the many concerns that parents and teachers have regarding the state tests.  The Board of Education passed Resolution BOE67 High Stakes Testing on March 20, 2013 (p. 21-22 of minutes) but there has been very little discussion of the topic since that time.  Other districts are supporting parents to help bring about change.  Unfortunately I am not feeling a partnership here but more ‘let me tell you what to do’.  This parent has not embarked upon the course of action of refusing the tests lightly.  Test refusal is NOT a one-time action but rather an action targeted at the problem – the standardized tests!  While I wish to be acting together with KCSD to change education, I can not, in good conscience as a parent, encourage my child to take the state tests.  I will continue to act in the best interest of my child and the children of this community by REFUSING the tests.

Thank you for taking the time to review this information. We are committed to your child’s education, and to making the KCSD the best that it can be

Thank you for taking the time to review my thoughts and information.  I am committed to my child’s education as well as the education of all of the children of Kingston and to making the KCSD the best that it can be as well.

Jolyn Safron


*Most students will not actually be taking tests for 9 hours – only those who have double-time accommodations in their IEPs.  However at Bailey for the ELA test, students spent approximately 3 hours each day in the testing rooms even though they were only given 70 minutes for grades 3 and 4 and 90 minutes for grades 5 – 8 (plus 10 minutes of preparation/test instruction time for all grades) to take the tests.  For the math state test students without IEP modifications will have 60-90 minutes each day, depending on their grade, to complete the test in addition to the 10 minutes of preparation.  My assumption is that the students will remain in the test room for the maximum possible test time as they did for the ELA tests.  Details regarding the test formats, times and accommodations can be found in the Teacher’s Directions files at the Office of State Assessment.



KCSD Statement on Testing


Refusing the New York State tests and potential impact on Kingston Honors courses

Our family struggled long and hard with the decision as to whether Julia, our 7th grader, would refuse the state tests this year. Julia had kids signing a petition against the tests last year and she has been wearing green laces (Lace to the Top) for a year so she is personally concerned about issues related to testing. I have also been concerned by many issues related to high-stakes testing. Our family’s primary reluctance has been the issue of placing stress on the child to have to practice civil disobedience in refusing the tests. With the assurances from the Kingston school district the week before ELA testing was to begin that pressure would not be placed on the students to sit and stare and the expected extensions of that philosophy into treating all refusing students with consideration and respect throughout the testing time, we decided to refuse the tests.

Green Laces

I am very happy to report that other than having to spend 9 hours last week sitting in the Bailey auditorium (3 hours on each of the 3 days of testing), the testing week went smoothly for Julia.  She loves to read and passed the time with her books although having to sit in the same spot for 3 hours is hard for anyone and I feel for the staff who were overseeing the approximately 180 students on day 1 of testing in the auditorium and over 200 students on days 2 and 3.  Julia said that some students did not remember to bring books with them to read so I am not sure how they kept themselves occupied.

One question that was not answered before the testing began was what impact, if any, refusing the state tests might have on Julia’s ability to participate in honors courses next year.  I submitted the question to the district via the new Let’s Talk application when it was introduced last Tuesday April 1, 2014 and received the following answer in my e-mail today April 9, 2014.

Question: What impact will my daughter’s refusing the state tests have on her ability to participate in honors courses next year?

Students may opt of state tests and still be selected to participate in honors courses; however, sitting for state exams and achieving a high score can help students better their chances of being chosen for the honors program.
In English Language Arts, students must meet KCSD standards in 5 of 7 criterion:
1) 7th Grade ELA test score
2) 8th Grade ELA test score
3) Report Card average over 92 percent
4) STAR assessment
5) Guidance recommendation
6) Teacher recommendation
7) Honors Essay

In Math and Science, students must meet KCSD standards in 5 of 6 criterion*:
1) 7th Grade Math/Science test scores
2) 8th Grade Math/Science test score
3) Report Card average over 92 percent
4) STAR assessment
5) Guidance recommendation
6) Teacher recommendation
*Math and Science are separate courses