Tag Archives: legislation

Oppose Ulster County Local Law 17

The Ulster County legislature is considering Proposed Local Law 17 Prohibiting Cyber-Bullying.  This legislation is slated for public hearing on Tuesday December 13, 2016 at 6:10pm and is expected to be voted on by the legislature after the hearing.

While Cyber-Bullying is a problem that we all want to address, there are a number of concerns with Proposed Local Law 17 (see policy-education-sheet) even after considerable changes made to the law from what was presented initially in January 2016.

  • inadequately addresses any restorative/educational component
  • brings kids as young as 10 in front of Juvenile Delinquency proceedings in Family Court
  • invests police officers the right to arrest your child
  • provides the first placement after arrest as JUVENILE DETENTION CENTERS where children may stay up to 72 hours before initial hearing
  • is entirely opposed as-is by one member of the 5-person Legislative Programs,  Education and Community Services committee
  • is concerning to 3 of the other 5 committee members
  • was written by the Public Defender’s Office without adequate input from community members, parents, or citizens

Please contact your Ulster County legislator and tell them:  I do not support Proposed Local Law 17 and I am asking you to vote NO. This law is inadequate and our children deserve better.


Our kids need reform in Albany

Assemblyman Marc Butler wrote a really good article last year about reform needed in the New York State Assembly specifically in the area of Assembly committees.

The Assembly Majority wields strong control over the committees where legislation is vetted. In those committees, bills are either released to come to the floor for a vote, or, as is often the case with legislation sponsored by the Assembly Minority, the bills never leave the committee. We have a term for this practice – killing a bill.

I (Jolyn) saw “killing a bill’ in committee in action when I went to Albany on June 3, 2014 in support of the first bill to halt Common Core A8844-2013.  I stood with 15-20 other parents squeezed around the edges of the committee room as the assembly majority voted to ‘hold’ the bill and prevent the full assembly from discussing and voting on the Common Core issue.  The majority legislators would not even look at us as they voted against the children.

Albany A8844 bill killed
Parents line NYS Assembly Education Committee room in support of A8844 (Halt Common Core) but bill still killed


This week [week of April 20, 2015], numerous bills were killed, and it happened to much-needed legislation. The Committee on Education met and the Assembly Majority refused to release an education reform bill [A3656] that would have put a moratorium on high-stakes Common Core testing. Three bills that would have bolstered Second Amendment rights by repealing all or portions of the governor’s so-called SAFE Act also were killed in committee. Additional legislation that would have increased the safety of our communities from sex offenders and child predators also was stopped in its tracks.

The Halt Common Core bill was reintroduced in the 2014-2015 legislative session as A3656 and the education committee killed it again!  Parents did not hear that the bill was on the assembly education committee agenda before the vote so no one was there to see how the vote went.  This committee vote occurred just after more than 200,000 parents/students REFUSED the New York State ELA test on April 14-16, 2015.  A bill that would not only help students but strived to fix the problems experienced by students suffering under the burden of high-stakes testing and Common Core was killed because it wore the wrong party label!

This important part of the legislative process is never seen by the public. Elected officials can hide behind the fact that these meetings, although open to the public, are difficult to attend. Many people are unaware they can attend these meetings. I would venture to say very few. Additionally, legislators’ votes in these committee meetings are never made public. Being cloistered away without having to answer to the people allows the Majority to say one thing but never follow through.

I still advocate for the changes I proposed in the past – that committee meetings be recorded and made available online and all votes be recorded and made public. Making these simple changes would mean more legislation could reach the floor of the Assembly for a vote.

NYS Senate committee meetings and the votes are recorded or at least some of them are since I saw a recording of the June 2, 2015 Senate education committee meeting.  NYS Assembly committee meetings should also be recorded and the voting made public.

The committees need to stop suppressing/rejecting legislation just because it is written by the ‘other party’ but if that can’t be achieved, the Spirit of ’76 bill would give legislators outside the committee a way to influence legislation and get bills onto the floor for a vote if they can garner the support of a majority of the rank-and-file legislators.

Assemblyman Butler recently wrote about his support of the Spirt of ’76 bill:

The structure of the Legislature allows leaders to wield a great amount of power over which legislation can come to the floor for a vote. If legislation does not fit the agenda of the majority, despite popular support, it will never see the light of day – this must change,” said Butler. “There has been an outpouring from the public – they want reform, they want a state government that is more democratic, less about partisan politics and more about the people. Passing the Spirit of ’76 legislation will help us get that much closer to the government the people deserve.

Albany A8844 Parent Group
Parents supporting A8844 in the Assembly Education Committee – June 3, 2014


Spirit of ’76 legislation

While this is not directly related to education, the new Spirit of ’76 bill could help parents in the battle against Common Core.

The Spirit of ’76 bill (A08658/S06475) will allow legislation that is supported by a majority of members in the NYS assembly or NYS senate to come directly to the floor for a vote (not get stuck in committee or be held up by the speaker/majority leader).  This will give the rank-and-file legislators the opportunity to act on the wishes of their constituents and not be at the mercy of a few people within the legislature.

The Spirit of ’76 bill could help parents get bills that have been languishing behind the doors of the Education Committees out onto the floor for a vote.  We could meet with our legislators and ask them to specifically support legislation, for example the Common Core Parental Refusal Act, regardless of whether our legislators are on the Education Committee or not.  Legislators would not be able to give the excuse that there is nothing they can do to help with a bill because they are not on the proper committee.  Individual member support of a bill would actually matter!  A legislative member’s support would be one more towards the 76 members needed in the New York State Assembly or the 32 members needed in the New York State Senate to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Please sign the petition to show your support of the Spirit of ’76 bill to bring about some needed reform in Albany.

Note that local Assemblyman Peter Lopez and Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney are co-sponsors of the Spirit of ’76 bill.

Penalties for Refusing NYS Standardized Tests in 2016?

When parents refused the New York State standardized Common Core tests last spring, there were high hopes that change would be wrought and we wouldn’t have to be talking about refusing the state tests this year.

Unfortunately over 220,000 parents/students refused the tests and yet not much has changed in New York other than the name of the person who is in charge of the New York State Education Department. Commissioner Elia speaks of change but it is mostly in the future and not really in the areas that matter most to parents.

The students will still be taking developmentally inappropriate tests that are excessively long if they do not refuse the 2016 tests.  Even though a new testing company Questar has been hired, the 2016 tests were developed by Pearson.  Fifty percent (50%) of teachers’ evaluation will still be based on testing so testing will be the focus of the classrooms throughout the state.  The ‘official’ word is that a moratorium is being declared on the standardized tests and the results will not be used.  Seems to me like there is no need to administer the tests if the results are not being used.  In fact, for schools in receivership the test scores are being used to determine if the school can get out of receivership so there actually is no moratorium.

NYSAPE Nothing has changed 2016

The question is being asked, are there going to be financial penalties if too many parents/students refuse the state tests in 2016?

You would think we got this settled last year (here and here) but the question raised its ugly head again with a memo from the federal Department of Education in December 2015.  Note that the linked memo is actually an annotated version of the memo including a parental response from Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt-Out and NYSAPE.

According to analysis by FairTest, parents can safely refuse/opt-out/boycott standardized testing without fear of federal penalty to their schools.

In fact, the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) specifically authorizes states to allow parents to opt their children out of exams. ESSA does require 95% of students to be tested — but individual states have the power to decide what actions to take if too few students take an exam.

Some states have passed legislation protecting parental rights. Here’s the rub – New York State has not passed such legislation.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco introduced the Common Core Parental Refusal Act in March 2015 which would have given New York State parents the needed protection as well as requiring that parents be notified of their right to refuse.  Unfortunately due to party bickering, the majority party decided to introduce their own version of the bill, that lacked the important parental notification requirement, and neither version was passed.

It is now incumbent upon the New York State legislature to pass the Common Core Parental Refusal Act protecting a parent’s right to refuse standardized testing without penalty to the student, teacher, school or school district.

Don’t believe the hype Cuomo and State Ed are spinning! The Common Core Tests are still around to rob children of their love of learning and teachers of their creatitvy. If the changes they are professing to make to Common Core and to the standards are not lived up to, parents need to have in their back pocket a safeguard to opt their children out of the tests without fear of reprisal. Today, I joined my colleagues to talk about education including moving forward with the opt-out movement and codifying into law with the Common Core Parental Refusal Act (A.6025/S.4161) the right of parents to refuse to have their children take the developmentally inappropriate standardized tests without fear of any penalty to the students, teachers or schools. Sign the petition today at www.refusecommoncore.com!

James Tedisco at New York State Capitol.

Support the Common Core Parental Refual Act by signing the petition here.

Also contact your legislators and tell them to demand that the Common Core Parental Refusal Act A.6025/S.4161 be moved out of the Education committee and voted into law!

Common Sense Education Lobby Day Report – June 17, 2014

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

Kingston parents in Albany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversation with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill

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

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

Conversation with Senator Tkaczyk

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

Conversation with Senator Seward

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

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

Contact the Board of Regents today!

Contact Ulster County Board of Regents member Josephine Finn and tell her to vote NO on making the current, temporary teacher and principal evaluation system permanent at the Regents meeting next week (September 16-17, 2015).

Josephine Finn (518) 474-5889  Regent.Finn@nysed.gov

The current evaluation system (temporarily approved by the Board of Regents in June 2015) is not just bad for teachers.  It is bad for our students.

This evaluation system bases 50% of the evaluation on the test scores of the students sitting in the teacher’s class.  Talk about a heavy weight on those students’ shoulders.  Such a heavy emphasis on the tests also promotes teaching to the test and narrowing of the curriculum which adversely affect students’ education.

You can read further on why the tests are bad for teachers AND students here.

Call and email Regent Finn now!

Petitions to sign

Please read and sign the following two petitions regarding the right to REFUSE New York State Common Core tests:

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco wrote the “Common Core Parental Refusal Act” (A6025/S4161) to require school districts to notify parents of their right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core standardized tests.  The bill ensures that students, parents, teachers, schools and school districts will not be punished in any way because of test refusals.

Some state legislators said in March 2015 that the Common Core Parental Refusal Act was not necessary because parents already have the constitutional right to REFUSE the tests.  While parents do have the right to refuse the tests, many parents do not KNOW they have the right.  Also Commissioner Elia and Regent Tisch, while backing down on the threat to take away money from school districts who had too many REFUSALS this past school year, have clearly indicated that they have every intention of pressuring school districts, administrators, teachers and parents into making sure that students take the state tests this coming school year (read here and here).  The Common Core Parental Refusal Act is needed so that parents can refuse the state tests, if they wish to do so, without having to worry about what might happen to their student, teacher, school or school district.

From the petition to Support the Common Core Parental Refusal Act:

Dear Governor Cuomo:

I am very concerned about the over-utilization of Common Core-based standardized tests on children in grades 3-8 and urge you to support the rights of parents to have their children refuse these high stakes tests.

… I ask you to respect the rights of parents to make important decisions on the educational future of their children by supporting the Common Core Parental Refusal Act!

Governor Cuomo has just stated “I don’t believe there are sanctions for opt outs,” …  “At the end of the day, parents are in charge and parents make the decisions.” – Capitol Confidential August 20, 2015  Please sign the Common Core Parental Refusal Act petition and tell Governor Cuomo he needs to put legislation behind his statement that parents are in charge.

Commissioner Elia missed the memo that ‘parents are in charge’ and has bullied parents in districts with large percentages of opt-outs with threats of pulling school funding, called those who opted-out ‘unreasonable’ and stated that any teachers/administrators who encouraged test refusal (and she would be ‘shocked’ if any existed) were ‘unethical’.  Commissioner Elia talked about being ready to listen to concerns before she started her new job but it seems to me that she is doing all the talking and not much of any listening.

Because of Commissioner Elia’s harsh stance against those who are opposed to the state testing, Assemblyman Al Graf is calling on the New York State Board of Regents to FIRE newly appointed Education Commissioner Elia and re-evaluate their stance on Common Core and is asking New York State residents to join him by signing a petition requesting the same.

From the petition to fire NYS Education Commissioner Elia and re-evaluate Common Core:

New York State has continuously expressed a desire to partner with parents, teachers, and all the stakeholders in supplying a quality education for all of our children.

Commissioner Elia, through her statements has labeled concerned parents, teachers and other stakeholders who have expressed concerns about education in our state as adversaries. Parents attempted to communicate their dissatisfaction with the direction of education through an act of civil disobedience. The high number of opt-outs was meant to send a clear message to Albany.

Instead of digging in and threatening the people that are trying to send a message about policies they believe are harmful to our children, the State Education Department and the Regents should take a step back.

The debate over opposition to the Common Core curriculum is taking place in state after state, as well as on the federal level. It has also become a leading issue in the presidential campaign. Here in New York we have had an overwhelming opt-out movement, and more than 50,000 people actually voted on a Stop Common Core ballot line. It is time for the Regents to re-evaluate the direction they are determined to steer education in this state.

My signature is #587.  Please consider adding your signature to the petition as well.


NY State attempts to turn Poughkeepsie schools around through Receivership

As part of Governor Cuomo’s 2015 state budget package, a number of schools throughout New York State are being put into ‘receivership’ in an attempt to ‘turnaround’ the schools.  NYS Commissioner of Education Elia declared her commitment to these take-overs in the Buffalo area within days of beginning her new job.

We don’t have to go all the way to Buffalo to see what the impact of receivership might be however.  Poughkeepsie Middle School and Poughkeepsie High School, just across the river, are in receivership right now.

From the Poughkeepsie school district website:

The new law appoints a “receiver,” initially, the superintendent, to oversee the turnaround of the identified schools, and sets a deadline by which the schools have to make demonstrable improvement. Receivers are authorized implement changes, including lengthening the school day or school year, making curriculum modifications and, replacing staff.

Poughkeepsie High School and Poughkeepsie Middle School have two years to show “demonstrable improvement” within the guidelines of the Receiver. The state will set demonstrable improvement targets for each school. If a school does not meet those goals during that time, the state will require the Board of Education to appoint a state-approved outside receiver, removing the district’s ability to control future decisions about the school.

This process is baffling to me.  The initial ‘receiver’ (the person who is in charge and can make drastic changes) is the district superintendent per the new New York State law.  Not quite sure how this makes sense.  If the superintendent couldn’t make things work in the district before receivership, then how does one expect that he/she is going to have new ideas or plans to make things better when the district is in the receivership state?  Receivership seems to assume that the ‘education failure’ is either the fault of the school teachers/staff whom the superintendent receiver can fire or make reapply for their jobs or the school board of education whose decisions (budget/curriculum/any other decisions) can be overridden by the superintendent.  Apparently the superintendent is above fault but I suppose that makes sense or else the school board should have already fired/replaced him/her before the district went into receivership?  This doesn’t sound like a process likely to bring about positive change to me.

Here is discussion of the superintendent receiver from the perspective of the superintendents themselves as reported by NYSSBA (New York State School Boards Association).  Some Kingston parents are not going to agree with the superintendents regarding extended school day and community schools**.

“There is nothing in here that is a surprise,” said Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, superintendent of the Albany school district. “All the things in the receivership law are things we know we need to do. We need to extend the school day. We have to differentiate learning better so that we can concentrate on a variety of needs for students. We know that the community school model is effective for providing medical and mental health services. We have bits and pieces of those things already in place.”

But the title of receiver communicates a sense of urgency, superintendents told On Board.

“I see receivership as a key lever, right now, to galvanize our community,” said Nicole Williams, superintendent of schools in Poughkeepsie. She said her new title of receiver of two schools communicates the need for teachers, community members and district leaders to redouble their efforts.

The NYSSBA article points out that superintendent receivers who are receiving money from New York State to help with the turn-around seem a little more hopeful about being successful as superintendent receivers.  Poughkeepsie is not receiving any extra money to help with the turnaround.  Superintendent receivers also have different thoughts about what plans they will implement including the wisdom of replacing large numbers of school staff.  Refer to the article for details.

In Poughkeepsie, which has a struggling high school and struggling middle school, Superintendent Nicole Williams noted that school improvement is far from a new priority. She points with pride to an intensive focus on literacy that earned Poughkeepsie a spot on the program at this summer’s Model Schools Conference in Atlanta. She reeled off other initiatives including peer tutoring, participation in the state’s P-TECH early college high school program and student internship opportunities through a new partnership with the Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce.

… “We are on the right trajectory,” Williams said, and “we can ratchet up those practices under receivership, certainly.” She added that she “would welcome additional resources” to help support the district’s ambitious plans.

Spring, the Schenectady superintendent-receiver, questioned what assumptions legislators and the governor held when they created the receivership law.

“The state is expecting these schools to make things dramatically different in a short period of time when all the state is threatening them with is a bigger stick,” he said. “That supposes that people in these schools have not been sufficiently scared to do what they need to do. I just don’t think that’s true.”

Is the receivership stick going to be successful at ‘scaring’ the stakeholders (parents, teachers, administrators and school board members) at Poughkeepsie Middle School and High School into ensuring that the students get better test scores and more students graduate this year and next year so they can get out of receivership or will this be another case where the schools will continue to ‘fail’ (as so many students are ‘failing’ the New York State tests) and control will be passed off to an outside receiver even more removed from the situation making things worse and worse?  Only time will tell.

**Note that one of the decisions the superintendent receiver can make is to convert the school into a ‘community school’.  Some local parents have concerns regarding ‘community schools’ due to the ever-increasing government influence and potential decreasing parental ability to make decisions regarding student services such as health care. The superintendent receiver is not required to convert a school into a community school but is allowed to do so if he/she wishes.  If the process moves to an independent/outside receiver (the superintendent can’t fix the problem in the allotted one or two years), then the school MUST be converted to a community school.

Definition of Community School

A school that partners with one or more state, local or other agencies to:

  • Address social service, health and mental health needs of students in the school and their families in order to help students arrive and remain at school ready to learn;
  • Provide access to child welfare services and, as appropriate, services in the school community to promote a safe and secure learning environment;
  • Offer access to career and technical education and workforce development services to students in the school and their families in order to provide students and families with meaningful employment skills and opportunities;
  • Offer mentoring and other youth development programs.



Student test scores/high-stakes tests still 50% of teacher appraisal system

The New York State Senate and Assembly were supposed to end session last Wednesday June 17, 2015 but they have not yet done so.  They are returning today to try and wrap up ‘important’ issues.  One of the items still undecided is the impact of state standardized testing on our children and the teacher appraisal system.

The New York Board of Regents approved a new teacher evaluation system last week which still bases 50% of a teacher’s evaluation squarely on standardized testing.

Gone is the old rating method that lasted just two years and scored teachers on 20 percent local test scores, 20 percent state test scores and 60 percent classroom observation.

The revisions mean 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and rating will be based on state standardized test scores. The other half will be based on assessments developed by the local district. State Education Department staff wanted state tests to account for 80 percent of the evaluations, while some Regents and teachers union officials called for only 20 percent.  – Regents OKs new teacher evaluation system

Seven Board of Regents members submitted a letter protesting such usage of standardized testing in the evaluation but Regent Finn, the Regent for Ulster County, withdrew her support of the letter bringing the count down to six Regents  opposed and the majority passed the new evaluation system regardless of the letter.

The NYS Senate passed bill S5954 on June 15 that supposedly deals with the education problems we are facing but the bill is not up to snuff in my opinion.  You can read my analysis of the new bill S5954 below**.

Bottom line is that if a school district’s teacher evaluation plans are not submitted on time and with full compliance shown, no money for the school districts per Senate bill S5954. The Senate has NOT uncoupled the funding from APPR and 50% of the teacher evaluations are still based on standardized testing!  Also the Senate bill does NOT match the NYS Assembly bill A7303A passed last month and session is supposed to have ended so the likelihood of the two groups getting together to pass a bill that Governor Cuomo will then sign into law is about NIL!

The Assembly bill does not address a number of important issues, and in fact does not relieve the testing strain for children (read here), but it does at least uncouple school funding from implementation of a new APPR plan.

Will the educational mess that was introduced by Governor Cuomo’s state budget be dealt with before the legislators end session or will we be left with school funding still tied to a new APPR plan based 50% on student test scores that has to be negotiated in each district and submitted by November 15, 2015?  Sounds to me like Governor Cuomo is about to get exactly what he wanted!


** Details of Senate bill S5954:

  • Senate bill S5954 is pretty much the same as Senator Flanagan’s original education proposal S5124 (which I discussed here and here) except that school districts have until February 15, 2016 to submit their new appraisal plans.
  • Some extra wording regarding review of test questions is supposed to help ensure that the questions are readable at grade level but I am not convinced it will significantly help students due to the many problems with the standardized tests.
  • S5954 adds a restriction against teachers having to sign confidentiality agreements preventing them from discussing the content of the state tests.
  • The section regarding the election of board of regents members that was in S5124 has been removed from S5954.
  • Senator Bonacic believes this bill makes positive reforms for our kids.   “My colleagues and I have listened and received the concerns of parents, students, teachers and administrators regarding this process and I believe this legislation makes positive reforms,” said Sen. John Bonacic said in a statement. “This bill goes a long way in allaying any fears that students and teachers may have had when Governor (Andrew) Cuomo unveiled his initial education proposals.” – Regents OKs new teacher evaluation system – Times Herald Record June 16, 2015  I disagree based on my concerns noted for the original bill S5124 and those listed above.
  • CLASS went to Albany on May 27, 2015 and met with each of the majority members of the Senate education committee to request changes to Senate bill S5124.  Changes requested by CLASS and NYSAPE were NOT incorporated into S5954.

NYSAPE Demands 4 23 2015

CLASS goes to Albany

I recently joined CLASS, or Coalition for Legislative Action Supporting Students, to examine legislation presented by Senator Flanagan (bill S5124) and Assemblywoman Nolan (bill A7303A) in response to Governor Cuomo’s education reforms included in the state budget.  Our goal was to develop a list of parent education issues and suggested revisions to the legislation addressing the key concerns that parents throughout New York State are expressing.

Representatives of United to Counter the Core and CLASS headed to Albany yesterday May 27, 2015 to meet with members of the Senate and Assembly education committees to discuss current education policy.  We wanted to thank the committee members for moving in the right direction on various education issues and ask them to consider additional changes that would further address parental concerns as well as to consider parent issues that are not addressed at all by the proposed legislation.

The recommended changes and legislative initiatives presented by CLASS included:

  • Cease the use of VAM (value added model) in calculating students’ growth and for teacher evaluations
  • Decouple the school district funds from implementation of the education reforms proposed by Governor Cuomo
  • Ensure released test questions accurately and cost effectively reflect the nature of the test
  • Develop fair assessment methods for SPED/ELL teachers and students
  • Make changes to the appointment and terms of New York State Regents restoring local control and parent voice
  • Changes to the comprehensive review of the education standards being used in New York State (Common Core) particularly the make-up of the review committee
  • Support for the Common Core Parental Refusal Act
  • FERPA-HIPPA changes to protect student data privacy and restore parental control

I personally met with representatives from the offices of Assemblymembers Steve Englebright, William Magnarelli and Phil Ramos and Senators Betty Little and Hugh Farley.

  • The aides from Assemblyman Ramos and Senator Little’s offices just took notes and were not able to speak to the issues we raised.
  • In general the aides from the other offices indicated that the legislators were concerned about education issues but I did not get a strong sense that they were willing to act beyond what they have already done regarding education legislation.  I believe they will need to hear from additional constituents to generate legislative action.
  • Assemblyman Englebright voted against his majority party with a “No” vote for the state education budget (very few assemblymembers were willing to stand against Governor Cuomo and vote “No!” so this was a strong statement for the students on Assemblyman Englebright’s part) and he also is a co-sponsor on the Nolan parental test refusal bill A6777.  We asked that he consider an amendment requiring that school districts inform parents of their right to REFUSE the state tests.
  • Assemblyman Magnarelli’s aide indicated that Magnarelli voted to move both of Nolan bills A6777 and A7303A out of the education committee.  The aide has to consult with Asseblyman Magnarelli to determine if he is willing to take any further action on the items CLASS requested.
  • Senator Farley’s aide indicated that the senator is very opposed to Common Core and ran on the Stop Common Core ballot line last fall.  Parents need to continue to be vocal about our concerns – do not stop, “keep it up” the aide said.  In addition to contacting the education committee members, we also need to contact our own assemblymember and senator to share our education concerns and request that our representatives communicate our concerns to their colleagues including those on the education committee.

In total, parents met with 16 of the majority education committee members from the assembly and the senate including: Assemblymembers Cathy Nolan, Carmen Arroyo, Barbara Clark, Barbara Lifton, Shelley Mayer, Amy Paulin, Linda Rosenthal, Sean Ryan and Matthew Titone and Senators Kenneth Lavalle and Joseph Robach.

We ask that you now join CLASS in requesting legislative action to support our students.

Please contact the following legislators to let them know that you agree with the changes presented by CLASS.  Also contact your NYS Assembly member and NYS Senator, even if they are not on the education committee, and ask them to voice support for these educational issues with their colleagues.

Assembly Education Committee Majority Members:
Catherine Nolan – 518-455-4851
Carmen Arroyo – 518-455-5402
Michael Benedetto – 518-455-5296
James Brennan – 518-455-5377
Barbara Clark – 518-455-4711
Steve Englebright – 518-455-4804
Earlene Hooper – 518-455-5861
Ron Kim – 518-455-5411
Barbara Lifton – 518-455-5444
William B. Magnarelli – 518-455-4826
Shelley Mayer – 518 455 3662
Michael Miller – 518-455-4621
Walter Mosley -518-455-5325
Daniel O’Donnell – 518-455-5603
Amy Paulin – 518-455-5585
Phil Ramos – 518-455-5185
Linda Rosenthal – 518-455-5802
Sean Ryan – 518-455-4886
Matthew Titone – 518-455-4677
Michele Titus – 518-455-5668

Senate Education Committee Majority Members:
Hugh Farley – (518) 455-2181
Andrew Lanza – (518) 455-3215
Kenneth Lavalle – (518) 455-3121
Betty Little – (518) 455-2811
Carl Marcellino – (518) 455-2390
Michael Ranzenhofer – (518) 455-3161
Joseph Robach – (518) 455-2909
Sue Serino – (518) 455-2945
James Seward – (518) 455-3131