Tag Archives: legislation

Common Core Action needed today – June 2, 2014

For those of you concerned about Common Core, action is needed today – Monday June 2, 2014.

Assemblywoman Nolan, chairwoman of the New York State Assembly education committee, will be asking the committee to take a vote tomorrow (June 3) to ‘hold’ Ed Ra and Al Graf’s bill A8844 to stop common core.  This bill is the bill that we need as parents to stop common core and a vote to ‘hold’ it will kill the bill.

Task #1:  Call the education committee members today and tell them “Don’t hold Bill A8844“.

Assembly Members on Education Committee:
Catherine Nolan (Chair): 518-455-4851; (718) 784-3194
Carmen Arroyo: 518-455-5402; (718) 292-2901
Michael Benedetto: 518-455-5296; (718) 320-2220
James Brennan: 518-455-5377; (718) 788-7221
Karim Camara: 518-455-5262; (718) 771-3105
Barbara Clark: 518-455-4711; (718) 479-2333
Jane Corwin: 518-455-4601; (716) 839-4691
Steve Englebright: 518-455-4804; (631) 751-3094
Do not call as he is a supporter of A8844 – Al Graf: 518-455-5937; (631) 585-0230
Carl Heastie: 518-455-4800; (718) 654-6539
Earlene Hooper: 518-455-5861; (516) 489-6610
Ron Kim: 518-455-5411; (718)-939-0195
Kieran Michael Lalor: 518-455-5725; (845) 221-2201
Barbara Lifton: 518-455-5444; (607)-277-8030
Peter Lopez: 518-455-5363; (518) 943-1371
William Magnarelli: 518-455-4826; (315) 428 9651
Shelley Mayer: 518 455 3662; (914) 779-8805
David McDonough: 518-455-4633; (516) 409-2070
Steven McLaughlin: 518-455-5777; (518) 272-6149
Michael Miller: 518-455-4621; (718) 805-0950
Joan Millman: 518-455-5426; (718) 246-4889
Daniel O’Donnell: 518-455-5603; (212) 866-3970
Amy Paulin: 518-455-5585; (914) 723-1115
Do not call as he is a supporter of A8844 – Edward Ra: 518-455-4627; (516) 535-4095
Phil Ramos: 518-455-5185; (631) 435-3214
Robert Sweeney: 518-455-5787; (631) 957-2087
Claudia Tenney: 518-455-5334; (315) 736-3879
Fred Thiele, Jr.: 518-455-5997; (631) 537-2583
Matthew Titone: 518-455-4677; (718) 442-9932
Michele Titus: 518-455-5668; (718) 327-1845
Harvey Weisenberg 518-455-3028; (516) 431-0500


UPDATE:  Ulster county residents – we have 2 members on the education committee Peter Lopez and Claudia Tenney who are both listed as co-sponsors of bill A8844. I just spoke with Assemblyman Lopez’s office and they said that he is going to definitely vote to not hold the bill and will be trying to get the bill out of committee so it can come to a vote. We need to be making those calls to show support particularly if you are in these districts. Also the calls to the other education committee chairs are very important to let them know that there are ‘real people’ out there who care about this issue. Please make the calls, send the e-mails! I don’t know where Assemblywoman Tenney stands currently regarding A8844 as the person I spoke to in her office said they were not allowed to give that information out.


Task #2:  Please e-mail the following letter (or feel free to write your own) to members of the Assembly education committee to stop the assembly from shooting down the Halt Common Core bill (bill A8844) that we need.

Make sure to include your name and address at the end

TO: nolanc@assembly.state.ny.us, arroyoc@assembly.state.ny.us, benedettom@assembly.state.ny.us, brennanj@assembly.state.ny.us, camarak@assembly.state.ny.us, clarkb@assembly.state.ny.us, corwinj@assembly.state.ny.us, engles@assembly.state.ny.us, heastiec@assembly.state.ny.us, hoopere@assembly.state.ny.us, kimr@assembly.state.ny.us, lalork@assembly.state.ny.us, liftonb@assembly.state.ny.us, lopezp@assembly.state.ny.us, magnarelliw@assembly.state.ny.us, mayers@assembly.state.ny.us, mcdonod@assembly.state.ny.us, mclaughlins@assembly.state.ny.us, millermg@assembly.state.ny.us, millmanj@assembly.state.ny.us, odonnelld@assembly.state.ny.us, paulina@assembly.state.ny.us, ramosp@assembly.state.ny.us, sweeneyr@assembly.state.ny.us, tenneyc@assembly.state.ny.us, thielef@assembly.state.ny.us, titonem@assembly.state.ny.us, titusm@assembly.state.ny.us, weisenbergh@assembly.state.ny.us, speaker@assembly.state.ny.us

SUBJECT: Please vote NO on June 3rd to holding A8844.
Dear members of the Assembly Education Committee,

As a registered voter, the following are reasons why I support the bill presented by Assemblyman Al Graf and Assemblyman Ed Ra. They did their homework before writing this bill. Please vote NO on June 3rd to holding A8844.

*This is why I support A8844…It was carefully crafted by individuals who traveled the state, genuinely listening to the pitfalls and travails of those who are being forced to use these standards, tests, and curriculum.

*This is why I support A8844…It establishes the procedures for appointing a 23 person panel to review the standards, including classroom educators who were previously left out of the discussion.

*This is why I support A8844…It provides a full 3 years to review for age and content appropriateness for standards. Something that was not done when they were created and something other bills do not address. One year is not enough time to fully investigate the effects of this reform initiative.

*This is why I support A8844…It halts Common Core testing and goes back to 2009-2010 standardized testing, effectively eliminating APPR and VAM which will halt teaching to the tests and will immediately bring back real learning to the classrooms.

*This is why I support A8844… because the elimination of on-line tests will save districts millions of dollars in the addition of infrastructure to support the PARCC testing.

*This is why I support A8844… It stops a one size, cookie cutter approach to education, allowing students to be individuals and ELL students and students with IEPs to be treated fairly and with dignity.

*This is why I support A8844…because childhood only happens once and the joy of learning has been corrupted by RttT and CCSS.
Please consider carefully the repercussions of your actions on Tuesday. The fate of our children is in your hands. Lets be true leaders in NYS and show the rest of the country that we are capable of thinking and doing for ourselves without federal oversight. Our schools were not broken, they are breaking now. Return the control of education to where it belongs, out of the hands of businessmen and politicians and back into the hands of educators, parents, and local Board of Educations.


(your name and address here)


Task #3:  If you can possibly come to Albany with me tomorrow (Tuesday June 3 9am) morning, let me know!

On Tuesday at 10am we have an education committee meeting in room 835 of the legislative building. Chairwoman Nolan will take a vote to hold Ed Ra’s and my bill A8844 to stop common core. These are open meetings. Holding the bill will kill it. It would be great to see a bunch of familiar faces standing in the hallway wearing t-shirts showing their opposition to not letting the bill out of committee. If I were interested in going I would be in the hallway by 9:30. Just a thought.  – Assemblyman Al Graf

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


Action needed on Vote for Board of Regents today

Today the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate will be voting on four Board of Regents members. If you are satisfied with education in New York right now, do nothing. If you are NOT satisfied, call Assemblyman Kevin Cahill this morning and urge him to show up for the vote and vote NO on the incumbent regents.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill contact information:
Albany office (518) 455-4436 Kingston office (845) 338-9610

Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk has indicated that she WILL be voting NO on the incumbent regents. We need to contact her to thank her for the stand she is taking for our students and for education.

Senator Tkaczyk contact information:
Albany office (518) 455-2470 Kingston office (845) 331-3810

If you are like me and did not even know what/who the Board of Regents was prior to six months ago, here is some information .

Action needed again regarding Common Core and New York Assembly bills A8929/A8844!

I apologize for such frequent legislative action requests (3 in 5 days).  Unfortunately some of our legislators in the New York State Assembly have decided they need to rush through bill A8929 when bill A8844, which has been worked on for months, has also been presented for consideration.  More on the politics of this when things settle down – for now I will just state that politics should NOT be driving the education of our children!

Bill A8929 was introduced to the education committee on Friday, voted on by the committee today (Tuesday) and is expected to show up for a vote on the floor of the assembly tomorrow (Wednesday) when the session begins at 9:45am.  If you are new to this saga of the two Common Core bills, you can read more details in my BLOG post from Monday.

What you need to do before Wednesday 9:45am:

  • Contact Assemblyman Kevin Cahill  cahillk@assembly.state.ny.us  (518) 455-4436
  • Contact Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver  speaker@assembly.state.ny.us  (518) 455-3791
  • Contact Assembly Education Committee chair Catherine Nolan  nolanc@assembly.state.ny.us  (518) 455-4851
  • Contact any other assembly members whom you feel you can influence
This is what you NEED to say when you make those calls/send e-mails VERBATIM:
The Edward Ra/Al Graf Bill (A8844) is going up as an addition to the Nolan bill (A8929), we expect YOU to support it.  We want A8844 to pass as an amendment to A8929.

The instructions above regarding what to say to the assembly members come directly from Assemblymember Al Graf.  This gets bill A8844 out of the education committee and onto the floor for a vote to determine whether A8844 (Ed Ra/Al Graf bill) is germane to the purposes of A8929 (Catherine Nolan bill).  (Germane definition:  relevant to A8929).

Assemblyman Al Graf discusses the Apple Plan upon which bill A8844 was based in this video .

Action needed Monday 3/3/14 regarding Common Core and New York Assembly bill A8929!

If you are at all concerned about the state of the educational system right now in New York and particularly Common Core and can possibly spare 5-10 minutes, your urgent action is needed.
The New York State assembly introduced a bill A8929 on Friday that appears to ‘fix Common Core’ but in fact that is not the case.  You can read more about the situation in my BLOG post from the weekend.  Basically the bill presented on Friday leaves us stuck with the way things are right now BUT there is another bill A8844 which will actually provide some relief from Common Core and is a much better bill.
What you need to do:
  • Contact Assemblyman Cahill and tell him to drop support of the bill A8929 introduced on Friday and instead support bill A8844.
  • Contact Assembly Speaker Silver and tell him to drop support of A8929 and to support A8844 instead.
  • Contact Assembly Education Committee chair Cathy Nolan who introduced bill A8929 and ask her to support A8844 instead.
Contact information for the legislators:
UPDATE 3/3/14 5pm:  The assembly education committee is scheduled to vote on bill A8929 tomorrow (Tuesday 3/4/14) so there is still time to contact the legislators if you have not been able to do so yet today.
I am including the e-mail I sent to Assemblyman Cahill if you would like to use it as a template but feel free to write your own version instead – it will have even more impact if it is in your own words.  When I called, I left a very simple message asking the legislators to drop support of A8929 and to instead sponsor A8844.
Dear Assemblyman Cahill,
I have just learned that you have signed on to sponsor assembly bill A8929.  I am actively working to enact changes to the Common Core Agenda in New York State, however bill A8929 does not make the changes that are needed for our children.  This bill does not deal with the problems regarding testing for our special education and ELL students.  It does NOT stop the error-filled Common Core curriculum or tests.  It does not provide support for our advanced learners (of which my daughter is one).  In the end this bill adopts the federal standards and leaves our local teachers, parents and communities with the same problems we are facing right now and no way of fixing them. 
You MUST remove your name from bill A8929 and instead support bill A8844 which provides relief in all of the areas I have listed.  I am looking forward to hearing a response from you as soon as possible.
Jolyn Safron
(include your address here)

Don’t be fooled by NYS Assembly bill A8929! It will NOT fix Common Core!

A bill has just been introduced to the New York State assembly that looks like a fix for Common Core but please don’t be fooled! The bill A8929, sponsored by Kingston’s Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, simply takes away the consequences for the Common Core tests for 2 years and adds more Common Core teacher training (not sure where the funding for it is coming from!) This bill does NOT stop the curriculum or the tests, nor does it stop the teacher evaluations without the waivers from the federal government. It does not deal with children with disabilities, nor does it deal with children who are advanced learners. In the end it adopts the federal standards, and attempts to get the sponsors past the next election.

Assembly bill A8844 DOES address the problems listed above and has a companion senate bill. Please contact Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and tell him to remove himself as a sponsor from bill A8929(bad bill) and add his name to A8844(good bill)!

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill  cahillk@assembly.state.ny.us  (518)455-4436

A Rochester NY station reported on the new bill yesterday but did NOT point out the problems with the bill.

You may read bill A8929 here (the one that will NOT fix our Common Core problems).

Read bill A8844 here that WILL slam the breaks on the Common Core Agenda and sign a petition in support of bill A8844.

Fix New York Schools – Slam the Brakes on Common Core!

I am very concerned about the Common Core Agenda and the impact it is having on schools throughout New York State and right here in the Kingston City School District.  If you are also concerned, please sign the petition below to tell Governor Cuomo that we want to slam the brakes on Common Core, that the state is hurting our children, and that we expect the Governor to act!

Fix New York Schools petition

As part of the petition you will find links to legislation that has been introduced by Assemblymen Ra and Graf (bill A8844) and Senators Ball and Zeldin (bill S6604) to stop Common Core and then give New York three years to fix it or scrap it (my personal vote but more on that another day).

The legislation … would impose a three-year moratorium on the standards. It would also create a committee with all relevant stakeholders, who would study the issue and then come up with recommendations: Either ditch Common Core entirely, or create new state standards that would conform to the national scheme pushed by Washington. “For now, it stops the abuse of our children,” explained [Graf].

New York Revolts Against Common Core

Read further details about the 11 state-wide forums leading to this legislation and the feedback received by the legislators at those forums regarding the Common Core Agenda here