Tag Archives: ELA

English Language Arts

No consequences for KCSD test refusal

I have heard from several parents who are concerned that Kingston City School District students will be penalized in some way if they refuse the New York State testing for grades 3-8 which begins tomorrow April 5, 2016.

Some students have been told by teachers that their opportunities for participating in KALP or taking honors courses would be hurt if they did not take the state tests.  This is not correct.  The state test scores are just one of several factors used in making decisions about KALP and honors courses in Kingston.  This has been confirmed with middle school principals and Dr. Padalino so parents/students can opt-out/REFUSE, if that is what they desire to do, without concern for KALP and/or honors course participation.

Many parents are also confused or concerned about refusing the state tests due to the letters sent home this past week from school administrators asking “for your consideration to NOT opt out your students”.  Most parents want to support their local teachers, schools and administrators and now if parents refuse the state tests, they are going directly against the stated wishes of those local teachers, schools and administrators.

The KCSD administration clearly stated, when they presented the Annual Summary Report to the Board of Education on Wednesday March 30, that they believe the data points they receive from the New York State tests provide them with valuable information to make decisions about how to teach our students.  The letters sent home to all elementary and middle school families this past week asked families to allow their students to take the state tests and participate in this collection of data.

I personally believe that the New York State tests actually cause harm to some students by inappropriately labeling them as failures year after year and that the tests have been used to force Common Core upon us and are part of a plan to break public education. Therefore I can not support the state testing or the use of the state tests to generate data even if the data is useful in some ways.  This opinion puts me ‘in conflict’ so to speak with our school district administration but it does not mean that I do not respect our administrators or that I can not work with them.  People who care about important issues often disagree with each other and must simply find ways to work together in spite of the disagreements.

I encourage all parents to determine what YOU feel is the right thing for your family to do regarding New York State testing.  Examine the information and then proceed with your decision.  Do not allow yourself to feel “intimidated” into a decision by anyone (myself included).  Also know that there are not supposed to be any rewards for students who take the New York State tests in the Kingston City School District or consequences for students who refuse the New York State tests.  If you are aware of a situation where a student is being rewarded or penalized for taking or refusing the state tests, speak to your principal and/or Dr. Padalino so the situation can be rectified.

New York State Common Core Regents Exams Failing Students

New York State high school students sat for the Common Core ELA and Common Core Geometry Regents tests yesterday and reports are not sounding good.

I posted last week about the upcoming Common Core regents and that students needed to take the ELA and Algebra 1 Common Core regents because they are mandatory for earning a high school diploma.  This information is listed in the KHS student handbook and it is why I have been careful to talk about test REFUSAL specifically for grades 3-8.  The New York State Regents tests are most definitely high-stakes because graduation depends on them or at least on passing 1 math regent, 1 science regent, ELA regent, US History regent and Global History & Geography regent.  Click here to see the available diploma types and the credits/assessments required.  Note that the local diploma option is no longer available to general education students.

Some parents in other districts were shocked though when they received a letter informing them this weekend that the Common Core regents test was required for graduation since some parents had planned to refuse the Common Core regents tests.

According to letters from the New York State Education Department during transition periods to the new Common Core regents, the ‘old’ regents test and the new Common Core regents test will both be administered.  Students, depending upon when they began their high school course of study, may have the option to take both regents tests and take the higher grade but the clear expectation in the letters is that students will take both tests (pre-Common Core and Common Core version).

The Common Core regents tests have been problematic since they were introduced in June 2014 but haven’t gotten as much attention as the grade 3-8 state tests.  This year’s tests are seeming to continue the trend of problems and students/parents are wondering what to do?

This letter to the editor published on May 5, 2015 from Jose Rodriquez in Wappingers Falls reports his experience with the Algebra 1 Common Core regents introduced last June 2014.

When New York state first gave the Common Core math Regents, I was one of the students who had to take the exam. It was very difficult; even teachers were unhappy with it. Since it was the first time the state was administering the new test, the state made us take the regular algebra Regents exam. The state used us as test subjects to see how students would fare on the Common Core Regents. They used the old Regents exam as a fail-safe just in case a lot of students failed the Common Core, and whichever you scored highest on was the grade that counted.

I was one of many students who failed the Common Core Regents, but thankfully I passed the regular algebra Regents. Students have enough stress on them and this new curriculum is not helping. I know firsthand that students were dropping out because the Common Core Regents is really hard or they lacked confidence in their abilities. Dropout rates could continue to rise all across the state because of the governor’s education reform plan.

Comments after the second administration of the ELA Common Core regents in January 2015 were still generally negative about the test.

Comments I have seen posted on facebook about the Geometry Common Core regents (administered for the first time yesterday June 2) are resoundingly negative.  They report that students who were getting 90s in their Common Core Geometry class were devastated by the test.  It was really hard and included material that they had not learned in class.

Student Devin Vandermark gave permission to share his post:

Took the Common Core Geometry exam. I have a 98% in that class. In fact I help the other students in my class. This exam was a piece of work. I know I failed. I was not able to answer a lot of questions with 100% confidence or even sometimes answer anything at all. This exam made me upset, frustrated and really lowered how I feel going forward with these regents/state exams. I feel put down as a student in my geometry class.

A number of adults/parents attempted to reassure Devin with encouragement that he can take the upcoming ‘regular’ regents geometry test and take the higher of the two grades or that colleges will not look at the regents score.  However the general consensus seems to be that the Common Core regents tests are poorly worded and purposely confusing (sounds pretty much like the grade 3-8 tests) and designed to fail the majority of students.

If students, such as Devin, who would generally be considered to be ‘excelling’ in their classes can not pass the regents exams, how are our struggling students or the special education students going to pass?

I don’t know what ‘story’ NYSED is planning to tell as a result of this round of regents testing but the story emerging from a student/parent perspective is that the students are not failing the Common Core regents but the Common Core is failing the students.

Field testing – just say “No!”

Stand-alone field test time is here.

Each year students are asked to take a test and ‘try out’ questions so that the producers of the state tests can determine if the questions are ‘good questions’ or not.  Our students do not get paid for participating in these tests.  The results do not affect their grades in any way nor do they inform classroom instruction.  It just assists the test manufacturers along the road to more profit in the creation of next year’s state tests.

Only some schools and some grades within each school are asked by the New York State Education Department to participate in the field tests each year.  The field tests are to be administered between June 1-10, 2015 but the specific date is up to the school.  If a student is absent on the day of the field test, they do not have to make up the field test.  The field tests are NOT mandatory for the school district and in fact some school districts are refusing to participate in the field testing at all this year.

Southampton Field Testing Resolution

Deception associated with the field tests is also being reported.  A memo from NYSED has been reported to encourage teachers to lie about the purpose of the upcoming field tests.

A memo has recently surfaced in which the New York State Department of Education appears to encourage educators to mislead students about upcoming standardized field tests meant to “provide the data necessary to ensure the validity and reliability of the New York State Testing program.”

“Students should not be informed of the connection between these field tests and State assessments,” the memo reads. “The field tests should be described as brief tests of achievement in the subject.”  – Huffington Post May 28, 2015

Also a parent I know in Wappingers Falls reported that her child was already given the field test.   The field test administration is not supposed to begin until June 1 so she had not yet sent in her test REFUSAL letter and was very upset that the school administered the test early.

Parents may send in a letter of REFUSAL for the field tests as they did for the New York State tests back in April.   A sample field test REFUSAL letter is included in this post if you did not include field tests in your state test refusal for the state tests in April.  Even if you did include refusal of field testing previously, I recommend sending a reminder letter if your child’s school/grade is scheduled to participate in field testing.

Students in the Kingston City School District will be asked to take field tests as follows:

  • Chambers (620600010011) – grade 3 ELA
  • Crosby (620600010015) – grade 3 ELA and grade 4 ELA
  • Myer (620600010013) – grade 3 Math and grade 4 Math
  • George Washington (620600010012) – grade 4 ELA
  • Edson (620600010024) – grade 3 Math
  • JFK (620600010014) – grade 3 ELA and grade 4 ELA
  • Graves (620600010017) – grade 3 ELA
  • Bailey (620600010020) – grade 7 ELA and grade 8 ELA
  • Miller (620600010025) – grade 6 ELA and grade 7 ELA
  • KHS (620600010022) – Geometry, PS/Earth Science and Algebra 2/Trigonometry

Full schedules available here

Here is the field testing that KCSD students were asked to do last year.

High school students and state test REFUSAL – NOT a good match!

Kingston High School students and parents – just want to make sure that you understand to NOT refuse the upcoming New York State Regents tests even though some of them are ‘Common Core’ tests.  High school students are required to sit for these tests (and pass them) for graduation.**

The KCSD schedule (dates and times) for all of the Regents tests is available here.

Note that Kingston High School students will be taking the Common Core Regents tests for ELA and Geometry next Tuesday June 2, 2015 – bus and cafeteria details here.  The remainder of the Regents tests are administered during Regents week June 16-24, 2015.

There are definitely problems with the Common Core Regents tests (read here, here and here just to start) but unfortunately test refusal is not an option for drawing attention to the problems/dealing with the problems if students want a crack at graduating.

** Notes:

  • This chart lists how many credits and what assessments are required to graduate/earn a diploma as of May 2015.
  • There are limited situations where students may not be required to sit for certain exams if they have previously taken the exams and failed or if they have an IEP.  If your student has previously failed a Regents exam or is a student with an IEP, you might want to join the NY STOP GRAD HST facebook group to inquire about these special cases.

Parents demand independent review of NYS tests

Please send an email or make a call to the New York State Attorney General’s office demanding an independent review of the NYS grade 3-8 tests.

From United to Counter the Core:

Hundreds of thousands of parents across NY have spoken loudly and clearly with test refusals. Now it is time for YOU to take the next step!

United to Counter the Core is proud to join over 60 grassroots parent activist groups across NY calling for an investigation into the tests by our Attorney General, Eric T Schneiderman. We ask you, the parents, to support this effort by taking three minutes to call the Attorney General’s office and add your voice to the rising chorus.

Please call or email the AG’s office and DEMAND an independent review of the 2015 grades 3-8 ELA and math tests, addressing concerns with quality, validity, and appropriateness.  We are FINALLY being heard in Albany; please call TODAY and continue to let your voice be heard!

Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman’s Office

UPDATE: the phone system can be difficult to navigate, but you will find an operator by dialing 1, then 3, then 6. You can leave your name and number with the operator on the phone log, telling her that you’re calling in support of a petition that has already been filed.

You can also contact Eric T. Schneiderman‘s office by posting on his Facebook page (click his name above). -Storm

Parents demand an investigation

Read the press release about the demand for an independent review of the tests as well as the petition and the 60+ parent groups supporting the demand.

If you have not yet added your name to the petition, you may do so by clicking here.

Experiences of students REFUSING the NYS tests in KCSD

Kingston parents REFUSING the NYS tests for your children – how did the testing weeks go for your kids?

My 8th grade daughter had a relatively stress-free TEST REFUSAL experience at Bailey during the NYS ELA test.  She wasn’t terribly comfortable sitting for three hours on the bleachers in the gym on Tuesday but Bailey had a lot of kids REFUSING and I felt they did a pretty good job accommodating the students.  I was very happy when I heard that they brought in tables and chairs for all of the 8th graders to sit on in the gym on the second day of testing.

My daughter actually hasn’t been either a test-taker or a test refuser during the NYS math test.  She is taking the Regents Algebra class and Earth Science and her class was told just before the ELA test started that the Regents Algebra students wouldn’t be taking the 8th grade NYS math test.  Instead she has been doing some math and some science with her classroom teachers during the testing period.  She would have preferred to be in the REFUSAL room and having time to read but the extra time to prepare for the upcoming Regents tests that she will be taking in June will be more beneficial for her in the long run.

I think that, in general, the Kingston district has followed their intent stated last year of ‘treating all students with respect and compassion.’ However I have heard of several areas of concern which I present so they can be clarified and/or addressed for next year should we still be stuck with unresolved issues and, as parents, feel compelled to REFUSE the tests again (I hope not!)

Bribe/reward for test-takers:  Parents reported that at JFK there was a perception that candy/gum was being used as a bribe or reward for test-takers.  At least some children taking the tests received candy or gum and some children who REFUSED the tests felt that they did not get candy/gum because they did not take the tests.  At Miller some parents reported that test-taking students were able to watch movies after testing was finished but TEST REFUSERS had to sit silently the entire time and were even threatened with suspension if they were not silent.

Practice test packets for TEST REFUSERS:  Crosby had practice test packets for students who REFUSED the test this year in Kingston. This was a school-by-school decision as it was not all schools who did it. At least one class at Graves had a practice test packet on the first day of ELA but it was changed after a parent spoke to the principal.  I think it was a teacher decision at Graves rather than school-wide.  The fact that a change was made shows responsiveness to parental concerns.  The principal at Crosby made the decision for REFUSING students to have to do test prep booklets as their ‘alternate educational activity’ and would not change the activity even though a parent asked for something different and even volunteered to come in and do an activity with the students if staffing was limited.

I  have been somewhat worried all along when parents have asked/demanded ‘alternative educational activities’ during testing (what might these activities end up being?) but deciding for them to be practice tests is particularly offensive when the parents are REFUSING TESTING. A parent says “I don’t want my child to take the test because I have concerns about the test” and the educator says “Okay, I will just give them a practice test instead.” Does that mean the educator did not really understand what the parent is expressing concern about or is the educator deliberately trying to offend?

Unexcused absence:  Parents at Bailey who brought their REFUSING student to school after the testing time completed (so the student would not just have to sit in a large room for three (3) hours which is a long time even though they can read) learned that the absence/late arrive was going to be marked as UNEXCUSED even though a note was submitted by the parent.

To end on a positive note, Bailey students are only in the testing rooms for two hours for the math test this week rather than for three hours as was the case for ELA.   This is a considerable reduction in time being taken up by the tests for most students. Thank you Bailey!




NYS ELA Test REFUSAL numbers for KCSD and Ulster County

The NYS ELA test has wrapped up and Kingston test REFUSAL numbers are in.

Some 43 percent of Kingston City School students were opted out of this week’s English Language Arts Common Core tests, district officials announced Thursday.

According to the district, there were 2,813 students eligible to take the test, and 1,212 did not, for a participation rate of 57 percent. The KCSD rate is high for schools in the area, but not as high as Onteora’s 61 percent refusal rate. Statewide, hundreds of thousands of the estimated 1.1 million kids who were to take the tests were opted out by their parents, according to reports.

– Kingston Times Kingston City School District opt-out rate at 43%


Preliminary REFUSAL numbers for school districts throughout Ulster county are as follows:

Kingston: 43 percent of the 2,813 eligible students declined to take the test in grades 3-8.

Ellenville: 16.2 percent of the 383 eligible students in grades 3-5 declined to take the test; 22.5 percent of the 383 eligible middle school students opted out.

Highland: 45.6 percent of the 384 eligible students in grades 3-5 opted out; 49.5 of the eligible middle school students declined to take the test.

New Paltz: 57 percent of the eligible students in grades 3-5 opted out; 64 percent of the eligible middle school students opted out.

Rondout Valley: 34.9 percent of the 424 eligible students in grades 3-5 opted out; 38.3 percent of the eligible middle school students opted out.

Wallkill: 42 percent of the eligible students in grades 3-8 opted out.

Rhinebeck: 8.59 percent of the 273 elementary students eligible to take the test opted out; 17.25 percent of the 273 middle school students opted out.

Red Hook: 20 percent of the 401 eligible students in grades 3-5 opted out; 33 percent of the 482 eligible middle school students opted out.

District officials said the numbers reported were preliminary because the testing spanned three days and the numbers of students refusing to take the test differed from day to day.

Saugerties school officials did not return repeated calls over two days for opt-out information.

– Daily Freeman Many Mid-Hudson students opt-out of NY state English tests

The state-wide count of over 155,000 mentioned in the Freeman article is a very preliminary count and I expect it to go much higher since numbers from only 52% of the school districts in the state were included in that count.  Data from United to Counter the Core available here and here.

On to test REFUSAL for the New York State Math test for grades 3-8 which begins next Wednesday April 22, 2015.

Refuse Math Test April 2015

Test REFUSAL on days 2 and 3 of ELA test

Parents – if your child suffered through day 1 of the New York State ELA test yesterday, please do not force them to suffer through additional days of testing based on my blog post recommending against REFUSAL on days 2 and 3. That post was intended to encourage parents to make a decision before testing started rather than just waiting to see how things went.

If you thought your child would not be harmed by the tests and now need to change your mind and REFUSE for your child, do what is best for your child!

Regarding the impact of only taking day 1 of the test, Bianca Tanis writes:

Yes, they [the student] will automatically get a 1 (as far as we know) BUT it will not show up on their permanent record and it will have NO negative repercussions for them. Any teacher who has a negative rating based on students who refused 2/3 of the tests has PLENTY of grounds to fight it and a local union to advocate for them.   Do what is right for your child and do not worry about what others will say…you have the right to change your mind. All of that said, PLEASE let your school admins know asap.

I was so hoping that things would be calm and non-stressful for the students taking the test this year – not a repeat of last year. After all according to our state and national education officials, these tests are supposed to be a good thing, right? However when I read about kids who experienced extreme stress yesterday, who were taking a test with words that adults don’t even know and that the students truly did not have adequate time to finish because the test was set up to make them fail , their parents SHOULD get them out of the test TODAY!!!

Not job to toughen children


Post from Long Island Opt-out facebook group:

Anonymous post:

This mornings ELA exam [Tuesday April 14, 2015] was pure child abuse! There were 5 passages (2 which appeared on last years assessment). Each passage was 2+ pages long. The kids had their 70 minutes to complete 30 questions. Of the 30 questions 17 required the students to look back at various paragraphs! Most of my children didn’t finish and were very upset that they might have disappointed me or their parents when in truth many adults wouldn’t have been able to look back and find the correct answers in a 70 minute time frame. The students were deflated as they tried to find the best answers when MANY of the questions had more than one possible answer to choose from. Children appealed for help but all we could do was pat them on the back and say “keep trying your hardest”. How awful we felt that we couldn’t comfort or help OUR kids on a test that was so far above their level. Of the 10 children in my room during the assessment, I had three gifted and talented students and only 2 kids who receive remediation- they all struggled!
Word back from my colleagues in 4th grade was more of the same. Instead of 6 2-page passages like they had last year, students had 5 3-page passages. The vocabulary used most adults wouldn’t be able to define. Overall we had a school of deflated students.
I’d also like to point out that their were TONS of grammatical errors. I’d love to share but we are under lock and key!

Overall the only children who won today were the children who opted out. They enjoyed doing enrichment activities in another part of the building.

Anyone still on the fence….please do your children a favor and opt out of the math!

Additional anonymous reports (anonymity required because teachers are gagged) here if you can not access Long Island Opt-out on facebook.

Submit your KCSD test REFUSAL by Friday April 10, 2015 – Correction

Kingston parents – I just received an e-mail from attendees at the District Wide Parents’ Council (DWPC) this evening that Bailey parents must submit notification of test REFUSAL for their students by tomorrow Friday April 10, 2015.  The e-mail said that parents are not allowed to refuse on the day of the test.  The ELA state testing begins next Tuesday April 14, 2015.

UPDATE 4/10/15 1:45pm – I received notification from Mrs. Linton at 1:19pm today that my information was indeed incorrect and Bailey Middle School will allow parents to submit refusal letters next week.  I apologize to Mrs. Linton for sending incorrect information as I said I would do.  I still encourage parents to get their refusals submitted as soon as possible but I am actually very glad that my information was incorrect so that parents can feel comfortable submitting refusal letters next Monday or Tuesday if they decide to refuse the tests next week.

It is too late at night to verify this information with the Bailey principal Mrs. Linton before sending it out so I will have to apologize after the fact if it is incorrect and you actually have the weekend to submit your refusals.  I don’t want to have anyone wait, thinking they have the time, and then get a nasty surprise on Monday or Tuesday.

Also I do not know if this same deadline applies to other schools in the Kingston school district.  I recommend that all parents submit your refusal letters tomorrow so you do not discover that it is ‘too late’.

I am hoping that many, many Kingston parents will be REFUSING the tests for their students and the school administrators will need to know how many refusing students they have to work with next week so let’s get those refusal letters in!

If you need assistance with your refusal letter, check out NYS Allies for Public Education  or Stop Common in New York State.  You are also welcome to contact me directly by filling out the contact form below.

Kingston Action For Education has issues with Cuomo’s Agenda

Kingston Action For Education (KAFE) was interviewed by the Kingston Times regarding Governor Cuomo’s education agenda.

Kingston Times Feb 12 2015 page1


Kingston Times Feb 12 2015 page2c

I presented a statement on behalf of KAFE at the Kingston Board of Education meeting on February 4, 2015 that read in part:

KAFE is very concerned about the education reform proposal presented by Governor Cuomo. His proposal has made it abundantly clear that he supports an increased emphasis on high stakes testing and that he supports a reduction in local control of our schools. He does not support a fair and appropriate education for our students but instead is holding school aid hostage to force the legislature to implement his education proposals.

The impact of the proposed increased emphasis on state testing will undoubtedly intensify the “teaching to the test” atmosphere in the classroom.  KAFE opposes standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the federal and state governments because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children. KAFE encourages all parents throughout NYS to refuse grades 3-8 assessments. It is our fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of our children.

The Daily Freeman reported on Governor Cuomo’s withholding of state aid information and comments from the board of education meeting here.

KAFE co-founders Maria Maritsas and myself Jolyn Safron were able to expand on our concerns when talking to the Kingston Times.

“Parents and educators have been trying to convey the many concerns that we have concerning the state of education for the last two years and Governor Cuomo has not been listening” said Safron. “And it’s become blatantly obvious with this education agenda that he’s doing what I feel is exactly the opposite of the things that need to be done. It feels like a slap in the face”

While high stakes testing is not the only problem with Governor Cuomo’s education agenda, it is the glue holding the ball of problems together.

FOR MARITSAS, THE INCREASED EMPHASIS ON high stakes testing is of the utmost concern. “I am a parent of a classified student and [Governor Cuomo’s] proposal does not take into consideration children’s level of ability within the high stakes testing environment,” she said. “Children who are not functioning at grade level, who are working with goals set on their IEPs, also not grade level, are forced to take exams well above their level of functioning. It is unfair not only for the children who have to take these exams above their functioning but also unfair for the teachers who choose to work with the most needy of students to have their evaluation be based 50 percent on the outcome of one test.”

Safron agreed.

“That is what I see as the area that directly causes so much pain to many kids and is driving so much of the damage that is being done in our schools” she said. “I am incredibly concerned about Common Core as a whole, and I do view Common Core as a whole package with the standards and the testing and the teacher appraisal system. If it’s raised to 50 percent, they can’t help but teach to the test. That test is going to be the deciding determinant of their job.”

Because high stakes testing is causing so much pain, so many problems, KAFE is encouraging parents of students in grades 3-8 to refuse the state tests for math and ELA in April 2015.

while conversations are happening locally, some members of KAFE feel the best way of getting their voices heard further up the chain is through action. Safron said she was hoping parents of students in grades 3-8 will opt out of standardized tests planned for April of this year.

“If we can stop the data that is being harvested from our kids, if we stop that pipeline, it’s our only hope to make change. Because we are being ignored. It feels like we are being pushed to drastic extremes. We have to act this year. With everything Governor Cuomo is doing and the direction he’s taking, we can’t continue this way in New York.”

Find information on writing a test refusal letter here.