Tag Archives: NYS Allies for Public Education

A New Vision of Education

The following resolution from the Patchogue-Medford school board on Long Island, New York was reported by Diane Ravitch and is well worth a read through.

A New Vision of Education:  A Resolution Passed by the Patchogue-Medford School Board in New York

I will include the resolution as well in case you can not access the link.

WHEREAS, Learning standards must serve as a guide to what all children should develop toward and be based on developmental norms rather than systematic back-mapping of any given college and career readiness benchmark; and that such standards should be created by New York State classroom educators and content area specialists experienced in the grade level for which they are creating standards, with feedback from parents, community members, and where appropriate, students; and that such standards must specify at what level of difficulty a student is expected to demonstrate proficiency on state tests; and that such standards should be based on peer reviewed and evidence based research for each grade level, including lexile benchmarks; and that such standards should serve as a guide to what skills to what skills and concepts are taught at each grade level; and that such standards must be broad enough to allow local teachers, as professionals, to determine methodology, content, and instructional practices and assessments that will best suit the needs of the communities and students they serve; and that such standards must include fine and gross motor skills, including handwriting; and that such standards must broadly address play skills, a well researched and critical aspect of learning for students, to ensure that schools allocate instructional time for self-selected and guided play, particularly in the early grades; and that such standards in all grades must address cultural competencies;

WHEREAS, School districts must be given adequate funding to create or purchase culturally relevant curriculum that meets the needs of the communities and students they serve; and that all schools must have dedicated funding for curriculum-based field trips and project-based, experiential learning; and that music, art, physical education, and technology should be integrated into the curriculum for all students in grades K-12; and that all schools must offer at least one consistent foreign language in grades K-12; and that any state-wide digital learning platforms must be evidence based, piloted, and studied for both efficacy and safety before being implemented; and that all high schools must offer advanced mathematics and science courses as well as advanced electives in all disciplines; and that all schools’ curricula should offer significant opportunities for students to exercise choice and direct aspects of their own learning;

WHEREAS, Any federally mandated statewide assessments must be created by New York State classroom educators, including test question construction and reading passage selection; and that in a system that includes local assessment, classroom educators must have the primary role in constructing or selecting the assessments; and that tests must be criterion referenced rather than norm referenced and results must be given back within 4 weeks of administration; and that College and Career readiness benchmarks aligned with test proficiency must be aligned with strong indicators of post-high school success that have been vetted for racial, cultural, and socioeconomic bias; and that any federally mandated statewide assessments must be no longer than one day per subject with time limits established by a committee of classroom educators experienced in the grade level for which the assessment has been developed; and that time limits must be based on grade level expectations for time on task; and that the misuse of assessment data must stop; and that statewide exams must be decoupled from any high stakes including but not limited to teacher and principal evaluations, grounds for school takeover or closure, use as admittance criteria to selective schools, promotion, programs, and retention; and that on any statewide test, all test content, reading passages, and questions must align to the grade level benchmarks and lexile levels for the grade in which it is being administered; and that test scores and high stakes exit exams must not be the only pathway to graduation; and that students must have the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in other ways such as portfolios and interviews; and that Regents exams must be scheduled in such a way so as to ensure that no student must take more than one Regent exam per day; and that assessments must be subject to full transparency, including the annual release of comprehensive technical reports that provide transparency on specific items; and that all parents and guardians must be notified of their right to refuse standardized tests for their child(ren), with notification must be provided in the parent or guardian’s native language;

WHEREAS, New York State must fully and equitably fund our public schools; and that reasonable class size caps (for example, 18 students in K-3, 23-25 in other grades) must be used in aid and funding formulas as the basis for school aid determination; and that all schools must have at least one full time nurse, social worker, and security guard/safety officer, with all security guard/safety officers receiving crisis intervention and cultural competency training; and that all schools must have a well-resourced library and a full time librarian; and that all schools must have adequate counseling support provided by a psychologist, as determined by the overall number of students, the number of students with special needs, and the level of poverty a school is experiencing; and that all schools must have up to date technological infrastructure and resources, where state aid and funds for these resources should not be contingent upon schools increasing their capacity to administer computer-based assessments; and that in conjunction with parents, educators, school board members, and community members, the Board of Regents should develop a framework for what every public school in NYS must have in order to ensure equity and student success, where this framework should help drive the State’s accountability system as well as its funding; and that in Pre-K and in grades K-6, all students must have at least 60 minutes of recess per day in addition to the federally mandated 120 minutes of physical education per week; and that all students must be guaranteed at least 30 minutes for lunch, and this time may not be used for instructional purposes; and that all teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals must receive training in cultural competency, crisis intervention, and restorative justice practices; and that mandatory common planning time should be provided for general education, special education and ENL teachers, and intervention specialists who share students; and that New York State must prioritize the recruitment and retention of teachers from diverse backgrounds that reflect the students they serve, are trained in a fully accredited education program, and have completed a full course of student teaching with a trained mentor; and that all school districts must offer a strong teacher mentoring program to help new teachers navigate their first few years of service; and that schools must provide access to medical and dental services as well as high quality nutrition for ALL students who need them; and that all families must have access to fully funded, high quality Pre-Kindergarten;

WHEREAS, The role of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be restored and allowed to drive instruction for the individual student and should be guided by the needs, interests & development of each student; and that the needs of the student must inform IEP goals rather than alignment to learning standards that are currently in flux; and that all special education teachers must receive training in evidence-based methodologies for teaching math and reading to struggling learners; and that all co-taught models must have a full time special education teacher; and that students with disabilities must have access to pathways that lead to a diploma and provide access to vocational training that is aligned with student interest and strengths; and that special education teachers must have time set aside on a weekly or daily basis to engage in differentiated curriculum work, intervention planning, communication with parents, and fulfillment of IEP and special education mandates;

WHEREAS, The following five principles should be incorporated in any law or policy regarding the protection of personal student data in grades preK-12, and after students reach age 18, all these rights, including those related to notification and consent, should devolve to them:

Transparency: Parents must be notified by their children’s school or district in advance of any disclosure of personal student information to any persons, companies or organizations outside of the school or district. Once notified, parents to must be able to opt out of the disclosure of their child’s personal data. All disclosures to third parties should also require publicly available contracts and privacy policies that specify what types of data are to be disclosed for what purposes, and provide a date certain when the data will be destroyed.

No commercial uses: Selling of personal student data and/or use for marketing purposes should be banned. No advertising should be allowed on instructional software or websites assigned to students by their schools, since ads are a distraction from learning and serve no legitimate educational purpose.

Security protections: At minimum, there must be encryption of personal data at motion and at rest, required training for all individuals with access to personal student data, audit logs, and security audits by an independent auditor. Passwords should be protected in the same manner as all other personal student information. There must be notification to parents of all breaches, and indemnification of the same. No “anonymized” or “de-identified” student information should be disclosed without verifiable safeguards to ensure data cannot be easily re-identified.

Parental/ student rights: No re-disclosures by vendors or any other third parties to additional individuals, sub-contractors, or organizations should be allowed without parental notification and consent (or students, if they are 18 or older). Parents must be allowed to see any data collected directly from their child by a school or a vendor given access through the school, delete the data if it is in error or is nonessential to the child’s transcript, and opt out of further collection, unless that data is part of their child’s educational records at school. Any data-mining for purpose of creating student profiles, even for educational purposes, must be done with full parental knowledge. Parental consent must be required for disclosure of personal data, especially for highly sensitive information such as their child’s disabilities, health and disciplinary information.

Enforcement: The law should specify fines if the school, district or third party violates the law, their contracts and/or privacy policies; with parents able to sue on behalf of their children’s rights as well.


BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the Patchogue-Medford School District, in agreement with the New York State Allies for Public Education, calls upon the Governor of New York State, the New York State Legislature, the New York State Commissioner of Education, and the New York State Board of Regents, to consider this outline as a new framework for public education in New York State, a framework that serves all students; an equitable public education system in which ALL students can succeed; a vision of public education that prioritizes child-centered and developmentally appropriate learning standards and assessments, research and evidence based practices and policies, equitable resources and opportunities, and an accountability system that supports rather than punishes; what all schools must have in order to foster creative, critically thinking, confident, well-rounded, independent, self-motivated, culturally competent, and well-prepared students who can work cooperatively and excel post-high school, whether they choose to attend college or pursue a vocation. Further, we call on all aspects of public education to be rooted in ethical practices and democratic decision making.

NYSAPE’s Response to Tim Kremer, Executive Director of NYSSBA

Timothy Kremer, Executive Director of New York State School Boards Association, wrote an article last week to “encourage” parents to allow their children to take the state tests this year. He believes that enough change is under way and that parents should be ready to get back with the program and let their kids take the tests or as he puts it
parents and teachers in New York State should recognize that testing boycotts are not constructive – especially when everyone is bending over backwards to try to make the very adjustments that parents have sought as quickly as possible.
I wholeheartedly agree with NYSAPE’s response to Mr. Kremer.
In a nutshell
Until the changes we have enumerated are CODIFIED IN LAW and we see them implemented in our children’s classrooms, our opt out numbers will continue to grow.  (emphasis mine)
 Refuse tests because we love our kids Conversation Heart
Full text of NYSAPE’s letter below:

January 27, 2016

New York State School Boards Association

Attn: Mr. Tim Kremer, Executive Director

24 Century Hill Drive, Suite 200

Latham, NY 12110–2125

Dear Mr. Kremer,

This letter is in response to your commentary titled, “Take yes for an answer,” in the January 25th edition of NYSSBA’s On Board. We would like to thank you for recognizing the role that New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) have played in being a “vocal and politically effective group of parents and educators opposed to a ‘test and punishment’ culture.” On behalf of the 50-plus grassroots organizations across the state that we proudly call allies in the fight to reclaim our public schools, we wish to respond to some of the arguments you made.

You state that “although our state has shifted from overdrive to neutral on testing, NYSAPE has declared it’s frustrated that ‘nothing has changed.” You continue with several examples where you believe some changes have been made, such as:

  • The governor has “endorsed the recommendations of his Common Core Task Force….”
  • The Board of Regents has placed a moratorium on the consequences for students and teachers of the 3–8 tests for the next four years.
  • A new testing vendor will play a large role in the state tests next year and according to Commissioner Elia, “teachers will be even more closely involved in the vetting and development process.”
  • “In the near future, New York will once again revisit its learning standards, grade-by-grade.”

Unfortunately, promises of change will not suffice until the governor and the legislature change the law. “Endorsements” and “moratoriums” are not changes in law, they are modifications. Furthermore, they are modifications that do nothing for the students taking this spring’s 3–8 tests — tests that will still be developmentally inappropriate, far too long, invalid measures of student growth or knowledge, and provide third party vendors with personally identifiable information without sufficient privacy protections. Moreover, our teachers will still be rated on the basis of unreliable and often invalid local assessments, which will not relieve their anxiety nor the test prep culture that has overtaken our schools.

You continue, “The point is that the state is taking seriously the concerns raised by parents, teachers, and others. It’s hard to understand why NYSAPE thinks further antagonism through test refusals is their best course of action.” Our response to this is we wouldn’t even be having a conversation if over 240,000 brave parents had not chosen to opt their children out of the 3–8 tests. What you call “antagonism”, we call “protecting our children.” Lastly, you include the veiled threat of federal sanctions if schools do not meet the required 95% participation rate for the 3–8 ELA and math tests. No state has ever lost federal funding due to a testing boycott on the part of parents. Taking Title I money away from the neediest students in order to punish parents who are boycotting a testing system that is out of control is not defensible. Any lawmaker or policymaker taking this course of threatening action would be under extreme political fall-out from the people they serve.

If you would like to see parents become a part of the solution instead of viewing them as the problem, we would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and the NYSSBA Board members to further explain what needs to be accomplished before we opt back into the system. Until the changes we have enumerated are codified in law and we see them implemented in our children’s classrooms, our opt out numbers will continue to grow.


Steering Committee Members of New York State Allies for Public Education:

Jamaal Bowman, Bronx,

Carol Burris, Queens,

Nancy Cauthen, NYC

Chris Cerrone, Western NY

Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island

Tim Farley, Capital Region

Kevin Glynn, Long Island

Leonie Haimson, NYC

Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island

Jessica McNair, Central NY

Lisa Rudley, Westchester

Bianca Tanis, Hudson Valley

Katie Zahedi, Hudson Valley

CC: ​Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, NYS Education Department

NYS Board of Regents

Governor Andrew Cuomo

Secretary of Education Jere Hochman

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Chair of Assembly Education Committee

Assemblywoman Debra Glick, Chair of Assembly Higher Education Committee

Senator Carl Marcellino, Chair of Senate Education Committee

NYS School Boards of Education Members

Bonnie Russell, President of NYS PTA

John McKenna, President of SAANYS

Karen Magee, President of NYSUT

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!

Who will be the next Board of Regents Chancellor?

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch announced in December that she will retire from the Board of Regents when her current term ends in March 2016.  Vice chancellor Anthony Bottar is also not seeking re-election.

NYSAPE announced support for Regent Betty Rosa as the next Chancellor and Regent Beverly Ouderkirk as Vice chancellor.  NYSAPE is also calling for the Board of Regents vote to select the next Chancellor to be delayed until April after new Regents are selected for the seats to be filled this year.

We are calling on the Board of Regents to postpone the elections for the offices of Chancellor and Vice Chancellor vote until April, when the two open seats are filled with new Regents. The current plan calls for a vote in March (as per the Board’s bylaws), but we believe that it makes very little sense for two outgoing Regents to vote for the next leaders of the Board they will no longer be serving on. – NYSAPE January 15, 2016

Please contact your legislators* and Board of Regents member to voice your thoughts regarding who you would like to see selected as the next Board of Regents Chancellor and Vice Chancellor and to request that the selection be delayed until April.

Your voice matters


*Note that legislators do not select the Board of Regents Chancellor but they, at minimum, have their individual opinion which they should be expressing to the members of the Board of Regents.  Also as legislators I am sure they have more ‘voice’ than the average citizen here in Kingston, New York and they should be using that voice to make the desires of their constituents known to the Regents.

NYSAPE Survey Shows New Yorkers Overwhelmingly Reject Common Core Standards, Tests & Evaluation Policies

In response to NYS Education Department’s AimHighNY survey on the Common Core that many parents and teachers found excessively complex and not open to general comments, New York State Allies for Public Education created a user-friendly survey and posted it online between November 23 and November 30. Close to 12,000 New Yorkers filled out our survey in just a week’s time. According to Commissioner Elia, only 5500 completed NYSED survey in three weeks’ time. Governor’s Common Core task force has received 1,798 submissions since December 2, according to Politico.

The respondents to the NYSAPE survey overwhelmingly reject the Common Core standards, believe the state exams and test-based teacher evaluation system are flawed, and that these reforms have worsened instruction in both English Language Arts and Math at the classroom level.

Read NYSAPE’s full press release below.

New Yorkers reject Common Core

New Yorkers reject Common Core

More information contact:
NYS Allies for Public Education www.nysape.org

NYSAPE Survey Shows New Yorkers Overwhelmingly Reject Common Core Standards, Tests & Evaluation Policies

In response to NYS Education Department’s AimHighNY survey on the Common Core that many parents and teachers found excessively complex and not open to general comments, New York State Allies for Public Education created a user-friendly survey and posted it online between November 23 and November 30. Close to 12,000 New Yorkers filled out our survey in just a week’s time. According to Commissioner Elia, only 5500 completed NYSED survey in three weeks’ time. Governor’s Common Core task force has received 1,798 submissions since December 2, according to Politico.

The respondents to the NYSAPE survey overwhelmingly reject the Common Core standards, believe the state exams and test-based teacher evaluation system are flawed, and that these reforms have worsened instruction in both English Language Arts and Math at the classroom level.

Parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and concerned NY residents all took part in the NYSAPE survey. Of special note, 11 percent of our survey respondents also completed NYSED’s survey and 32.9 percent attempted to complete NYSED’s survey but gave up.

Of those who responded to the NYSAPE survey, 70 percent oppose the Common Core standards, 4 percent support them, 23 percent have concerns with them, and 3 percent are undecided. An even higher percentage –83 percent — believe the Common Core standards in both ELA and Math have worsened instruction. 83 percent also disagree with the shift to close reading strategies.

Over 80 percent of respondents indicated that they believe ELA and Math standards in grades K-3 are developmentally inappropriate for many students. Fewer than 4 percent of respondents say that the ELA and Math standards for grades 4-8 are well designed.

For grades 9-12, only 2 percent of respondents approve of the ELA and Math Standards. Only 6.2 percent agree with the Common Core’s quota for informational text versus literary text.

An overwhelming number – 91 percent –say that the Common Core exams in grades 3-8 are flawed, while fewer than 1 percent believe they are valid or well-designed. Among those who find the tests to be flawed, many believe the tests are developmentally inappropriate, too long, not useful for assessing students with disabilities and/or English language learners and that reading passages and questions are too difficult and confusing.

Of our respondents, 54 percent indicated that high schools should use the previous NYS Regents exams rather than new exams aligned to the Common Core standards, while roughly 40 percent believe that students should not have to pass any high stakes exams to graduate.

Those who took the NYSAPE survey are nearly unanimous, at 96 percent, that test scores should not be linked to principal or teacher evaluations. 86.5 percent say that the state should abandon the Common Core standards and return to the New York’s former standards until educators can create better ones.

The full results of the survey are posted here: http://www.nysape.org/nysape-cc-survey-results.html

“NYSAPE’s findings are in line with the poll results and most of the testimony to the Governor’s Common Core Task Force. There is no way around this; the Governor and the legislature must eliminate these Standards, revamp the tests, and reverse the harmful education laws,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

One of the survey respondents said, “As a teacher who trained at Bank Street College of Education, I find the standards developmentally inappropriate. As a reading specialist, I find the kindergarten standards far too high in reading and writing. As a parent, I am very concerned because I have a child who hates reading because it was pushed so hard at his school.”

“The results of the survey confirm that the vast majority of parents and teachers do not approve of the Common Core, and oppose the rigid quotas for informational text and ‘close reading’ strategies that have straitjacketed instruction throughout the state. They want to abandon these standards, and return to our previous ones until educators can craft better ones. We hope that state policymakers, including the Commissioner, the Governor, the Board of Regents and our legislators, will listen,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

“The tremendous response to NYSAPE’s survey underscores that parents and educators are eager to be heard. The fact that the Commissioner Elia could not create an accessible survey only fuels concerns about her competence and willingness to truly engage parents and practitioners,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent, Rethinking Testing member and educator.

“Vice Chancellor Bottar attempted to portray the appointment of Commissioner Elia as a positive change, assuring the public that she would be able to communicate more effectively with parents and educators to find common ground. Vice Chancellor Bottar’s continued poor judgement and complicity with the failed reform agenda can no longer be tolerated; it is time for him to step down,” said Jessica McNair Oneida County public school parent, educator and Opt Out Central NY founder.

NYSAPE, a grassroots organization with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state, is calling on parents to continue to opt out by refusing high-stakes testing for the 2015-16 school year. Go to www.nysape.org for more details on how to affect changes in education policies.



Please complete NYSAPE Common Core Survey today

** UPDATE:  Survey results in –  NYSAPE Survey shows New Yorkers overwhelming REJECT Common Core Standards, tests & evaluation policies **  

From NYS Allies for Public Education:

If you haven’t already done so, please complete NYSAPE’s  Common Core survey today to have your voices heard regarding the common core standards, curriculum and testing.  Please share this survey widely.  For more details about this survey, please click here.

The results of this survey will be made public and presented to the Board of Regents, Education Commissioner Elia, Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force, and NYS Legislature.

Together, let’s keep up the fight to ensure all children receive the education they deserve. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Very best,

NYS Allies for Public Education www.nysape.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 23, 2015 

More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) www.nysape.org

NYS Ed Commissioner Elia is Misleading Public with Deceptive Common Core Survey

Immediately following the release of NY Education Commissioner’s Maryellen Elia’s Common Core ‘AimHighNY’ survey a few weeks ago, critics sounded the alarm that the State Education Department was preventing the public from offering any comment on the standards that did not adhere to the survey’s arcane format –a complex maze of ‘click here’ boxes for each specific standard.

During this month’s Board of Regents meeting, Commissioner Elia claimed that the survey DID provide the opportunity for general public comment and that she never expected people to respond to each specific standard.

Calls to the NYS Education Department following that meeting revealed there was no opportunity for general public comment in the survey, and feedback NOT aligned with the lengthy and complex standard-by-standard format would NOT be included in the public record.

From the NYSED website, “This [survey] is not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.”
Experts, parents, and educators alike are outraged.  Not only is the survey fundamentally flawed, it is designed to silence legitimate criticism and exclude the views of most members of the public, who according to the polls, overwhelming oppose the Common Core standards.

Sandra Stotsky, a leading expert who designed the esteemed Massachusetts education standards, said, “A review of a set of standards, standard by standard, is a dishonest and deliberately unproductive method for the state to ask for because the organization of the standards is the key to their quality and effectiveness, whether in mathematics or English language arts.”

“Members of the public are not fooled.  When you ask for ‘Public Comment’ but prevent most parents and teachers who do not have the time to follow your complicated rules, we know that you are really not interested in what they have to say.  The survey is designed to block out dissenting voices,” said Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator, and Opt Out CNY founder.

“Elia has declared war on parents who are trying to protect their children from these harmful reforms.  This disingenuous survey along with Elia’s ‘fear mongering’ School Administrator Toolkit demonstrates a complete disregard for parents who are choosing not to participate in this failed system,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.

Alan Singer, Hofstra University professor and Huffington Post blogger, wrote in his recent post [link] “… the problem with this bogus survey is not each individual standard. No one is going to vote that we should not teach children to read, write, and think. However, nowhere can you vote that Common Core Standards aligned with high-stakes testing have undermined education in New York State, stressed out students and teachers, turned curriculum development over to test design companies, and transformed schools into test prep academies. These are the real reasons parents and teachers oppose the Common Core.”

Parents know the poorly designed survey is the reason why only 5500 people across the entire state have responded.  Elia also reported at the Board of Regents meeting that while most speakers at public hearings have been opposed to the Common Core, this controversial survey shows a different result that so far, 70% of teachers [less than 1% of NY Teachers responded] support the Common Core.

“The Albany Fix is already in.  Parents predict Commissioner Elia’s survey press release will likely declare that despite overwhelming opposition in statewide polls and at public hearings, a majority of respondents support the Common Core,” said Lisa Rudley, Hudson Valley public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.
Instead, NYSAPE just released a user-friendly survey to maximize public participation and input, and offer the results to the Board of Regents, Commissioner Elia and the Governor’s Common Core Task Force for their consideration.

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator grassroots organizations throughout the state.

Your voice matters


Demand that NYSSBA tell the truth about test refusal!

A document from New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) regarding REFUSAL of the New York State test was presented to members of District Wide Parents’ Council last week as part of the board of education co-liaison report.

April 6 DWPC

Excerpt Managing State Assessment Opt Outs

Unfortunately the Excerpt Managing State Assessment Opt Outs document contains untruth from NYSSBA and was communicated to DWPC members and through them many other parents as being factual.  The April 6 letter from the BOE co-liaison to DWPC states in regard to the NYSSBA document:

The state tests for elementary and middle school students are swiftly approaching and, as you know, there has been much talk in recent years about “opting out” of the tests. I have included a link to legal guidance that Boards of Education across the state are receiving. There is a misconception circulating that school districts are not negatively impacted when students “opt out”. Last month’s quarterly newsletter that came home with your students, spoke to this very issue.

Diane Ravitch addressed the untruth in the NYSSBA document on April 10, 2015 Whose side is the New York State School Boards Association on?  Ms. Ravitch reports on a statement made by Bianca Tanis of NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).  “Parent and educator Bianca Tanis was stunned to discover that the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) was misinforming parents about their right to opt out of state testing.”

Because it is so important that parents fully understand their right to refuse the state tests and any possible implications, I am including Ms. Tanis’ full statement here:

As the opt out movement grows, questions about a parent’s right to refuse and potential loss of school funding persist despite the fact that test refusal has been in full swing for two years now with NO negative consequences for any school districts or students. According to the New York State School Board Association (NYSSBA) 2015 advisory , Managing State Assessment Opt Outs, schools risk a loss of funding and unspecified penalties should less than 95% of students participate in the NYS State ELA and Math tests in grades 3-8. This is a patent falsehood, and a significant one, as this organization advises our local school boards and administrators.

According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), under the ESEA waiver there is NO direct negative financial impact on a school district that does not meet the 95% participation rate if it is in good standing. In the worst-case scenario, a school in good standing that fails to meet the 95% rate for three consecutive years may be labeled a Local Assistance Plan (LAP) School. While the school will then be required to craft a plan detailing how it will seek to increase test participation, there is absolutely no impact on state aid or Title I monies, and the school district would continue to remain in good standing. These facts have been confirmed by Joseph Shibu of the NYSED Office of Accountability, and were recently reconfirmed in a March 24th, 2015 interview with Senior Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. You can read that interview here.

An April 2nd, 2015 interview credits NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer with saying, “If even a small percentage of children, 5%, boycott the English and math exams, then schools could risk federal sanctions or funding penalties.” The NYSBBA opt out advisory also warns that schools must be careful in how they handle opt outs: “Some district responses could have negative legal and financial consequences for both the district and school district officials.” Yet nowhere in the regulations or laws concerning education in NYS is there anything to indicate that schools stand to lose funding or Title I monies due to test refusal.

It should be noted that a 2014 survey conducted by the New York State Council Of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS) revealed that 35% of superintendents self-reported that their schools did not meet the 95% participation rate, and that none of these districts have been found to have lost any funding. Despite the lack of evidence for loss of funding, NYSSBA stands by its baseless claims. By putting forth false information and utilizing scare tactics, NYSSBA has essentially robbed many local BOEs of the opportunity to advocate for parents who wish to refuse. This is especially true in districts that are significantly under-resourced where loss of funding would be especially devastating.

The fact is, at every turn, this organization discourages school districts from recognizing parents’ rights to protect their children from a controversial test that no one, save the child, may view. According to NYSSBA the “State Education Department has stated that there is no provision in statute or regulation allowing parents to opt their children out of State tests.” The March 24th interview with Senior Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner reports that “Wagner did not deny that there is nothing in place forbidding parents to refuse.” And it is worth noting that the Empire State School Administrators Association (ESSAA) reported to school administrators on 3/25/15 that the NYS Commissioner of Education’s Office has advised that “while the ordinary procedure is to present the test to a student and have him/her refuse, if a parent asks you to not present the test at all, NYSED has recommended that you comply with the parent’s wishes.”

These actions do not align well with NYSSBA’s self-proclaimed core beliefs in “open communication” and “Public education as grassroots democracy.” Their goal to “Serve as the primary information source on public education” is clearly undermined by what appears to be either a willful dissemination of false information or a failure to do their due diligence.

In response to NYSUT president Karen Magee’s very recent call for parents to refuse the NYS Common Core Test in grades 3-8, NYSSBA president Tim Kremer credits the union with a “brilliant strategy.” With this statement, Kremer once again undermines the role that parents have played in directing their children’s education and falsely characterizes test refusal as a union initiative. It is doubtful that Kremer is unaware that prior to President’s Magee’s 3 day old call for opt out, the parent driven test refusal movement has been in full swing for almost two years with more than 60,000 refusals last year.

In response to the passing of Governor Cuomo’s budget, the NYS PTA issued a statement in which they said, “Today is a sad day for the students and teachers of New York. The Governor, claiming to be the best advocate for children, has tied inadequate school funding to questionable education reform based on volatile state tests…” The School Administrators Association of New York (SAANYS) issued the following statement, “SAANYS and its members are extremely disappointed with many of the education components negotiated in this budget, specifically in regard to principal and teacher evaluations (APPR)” and according to the latest Quinnipiac polls, 71% of the public opposes the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. Parents, administrators and educators unilaterally denounced the bill as harmful for public education. Yet NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer had this to say in about the state budget, “All in all, school boards have been given additional resources and tools they need to invest in educational programs and improve teaching quality” and in an interview on the Capital Pressroom Kremer maintained that “overall, school boards are pleased with many of the education changes.” Once again, NYSSBA is out of synch with parents, educators, administrators, and the public.

It seems clear that NYSSBA has made a choice through their advice to school boards to put as many road blocks as possible in the way of parents seeking to refuse tests that erode local control, siphon school resources and adversely affect teaching and learning, thereby downplaying the concerns of communities across NYS. As the information available has evolved, NYSSBA’s direction to those they advise has not. Without speculating about why this organization seeks to diminish the role of parents in the direction of their children’s education, the effect of their disdain and disregard for opt out has in many ways diminished local control by attempting to silence the concerned voices of parents, and in many cases, school board members. If a school administrator or a Board of Education presents false information to a parent or community, can they be faulted if they are acting on false information from the body tasked with advising them?

While parties may agree to disagree on the merits of the Common Core and the Common Core based ELA and Math tests and their impact on children and schools, shouldn’t those in positions of school leadership be tasked with providing their communities with the most factual information available? NYSSBA claims that “School board members are the educational leaders of their communities.” Is it not then incumbent upon these leaders to educate parents and allow them to make informed, reasoned decisions for their children? It is ever OK for those in positions of power to mislead the public, no matter how well intentioned their reason? Until NYSSBA is willing to advise Boards of Education on how to effectively advocate for the rights of parents within the parameters of the law and until NYSSBA provides fully factual information to our local boards of education, parents and community members will urge their elected board members to spend tax-payer dollars elsewhere.

I can not hold the BOE co-liaison to DWPC and the Kingston School Board of Education at fault for presentation of this untruth since I am sure the BOE is trusting that NYSSBA will provide them with factual information.  However upon presentation of the errors in this legal advice from NYSSBA and the blatant disregard being shown for the rights of parents by NYSSBA, I can not condone tax-payer dollars being used to pay the membership fees to NYSSBA.  I will be requesting that the KCSD Board of Education request a correction and apology from NYSSBA and if it is not received that KCSD not renew their membership with NYSSBA.

I also ask that other KCSD parents and community members join me in this request to the KCSD Board of Education and that KCSD parents and community members contact NYSSBA executive director Timothy Kremer (contact information below) to express displeasure with NYSSBA’s statements.

Demand NYSSBA tell the truth


tim.kremer@nyssba.org  and (518) 783-0200

** Note that all comments presented here are the personal opinion of myself, Jolyn Safron, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of other members of DWPC.


Saugerties Reclaiming Education forum – Wednesday March 25, 2015

PACE Saugerties (People Actively Committed to Education) is hosting a Reclaiming Public Education forum to discuss funding and high-stakes testing on Wednesday March 25, 2015 7:00pm at the Frank D. Greco Senior Center, 207 Market Street in Saugerties.

This forum will be similar to the Demystifying Testing forum hosted by Kingston Action For Education on March 16, 2015.  If you missed the KAFE forum but don’t want to miss the great information, attend the forum in Saugerties.

Saugerties Reclaiming Public Education March 25 2015

Please pass the information below on to any parents in Saugerties who you have contact with and encourage them to attend the PACE forum this Wednesday March 25, 2015.

Earlier this morning [March 23, 2015], Saugerties CSD Superintendent Seth Turner posted a letter on the district website that purports to address ramifications of refusal on the district’s good standing.

Mr. Turner goes on in his letter to outline a litany of “consequences” that may befall the district in the case of opt outs.

Well, NYSAPE has taken the liberty of contacting the NYS Education Department to discuss and separate fact from fiction.

We now offer Saugerties parents a rebuttal to Mr. Turner’s littany of claims, in the letter attached.

We look forward to discussing this and other issues more fully with you at the PACE forum on Wednesday March 25, 2015. Hope to see you there!

Thank you!


RSVP & Forum info here:

Opting Out of Governor Cuomo’s Attack on Public Education

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County resident and co-founder of NYS Allies for Public Education, eloquently shares the narrative of failure being imposed upon our children by Governor Cuomo’s education reforms and continued reliance upon high stakes testing.

The attack on public education in New York State is taking place on several fronts. On one front, our schools are being underfunded and starved of resources. On the other front, our schools are deemed ineffective, and two thirds of our children are labeled as failures. Policies have been put into place claiming to foster equity and access. Ironically, these reforms have resulted in a test driven education in which children are ranked and sorted by test scores and the needs of the highest and lowest performing students are sidelined. Young children sit for tests that rival the SATs in length while students with disabilities as young as 10 sit for more than 18 hours of testing.

Rather than addressing the very real challenges created by poverty and disproportionate school funding, Governor Cuomo wants to double down on the use of draconian “test and punish” policies that emphasize test scores over teaching.

I urge you to read Bianca’s entire post but if you are not able to do so, I would like to highlight a few points.

There are significant fears that a New York State diploma is going to become unattainable for many students.  Every student will have to pass the New York State Regents tests which will be aligned to the common core to earn a diploma.  The GED will also be aligned to the common core.  There are no other diploma options available in New York State.  If you remember local or IEP diplomas, they are both gone.  The new Career Development and Occupational Studies credential (CDOS) for special education students is NOT a diploma.

Because we have now back mapped and correlated success at every level to this bizarre metric [a 1630 on the SAT], a high school diploma will soon be out of reach for many students. This is especially true as NYS has now tied every diploma to a high stakes test, eliminating the local diploma and aligning the new GED with the common core. Starting with the freshman class of 2017, NYS will require “career and college ready” passing scores on the Regents exams required for graduation. If these score requirements were put into place right now, only 5% of students with disabilities and less than 16% of African American and Hispanic students would have graduated in 2014.

The new Career Development and Occupational Studies credential is the ONLY commencement credential available to students with disabilities who cannot pass the Regents with modified passing scores. It precludes a student from taking a civil service exam, attending technical school or college, or joining the military. To date, the NYS Department of Education has NOT launched any major public awareness campaigns to inform the labor force and employers of its existence yet students have already begun to leave high school with this little known credential as their only entry to employment. At a time where the school to prison pipeline persists and individuals with disabilities struggle to find long term employment, these reforms will likely widen the achievement gap and lead to fewer opportunities.

Parents have attempted to sound the clarion about charter schools, refusal to give adequate funding to schools/inequitable funding, inappropriate use of test scores of students, labeling children/teachers/schools as failures, unfunded mandates, loss of fieldtrips/library/music, use of untested policies/standards, lack of respect for teachers’ experience but “while those in power may be hearing us, unfortunately they are not listening.”

The attack on public education has many moving parts and they are intricately linked. Ultimately, high stakes testing is the hub around which they all revolve.

That is why alongside tens of thousands of other parents, my family is refusing the NYS Common Core tests. It is a necessary act of civil disobedience to safeguard public education for every child in NYS.

We are refusing because patronizing these tests gives tacit approval to a system that serves few and harms many. We are refusing because we reject shoddy and illogical education practices that do not support individual learning, and because we object to valuable learning time being co-opted to generate a data point that is used to punish. We are refusing because we can’t support practices that squander our schools limited resources, erode local control and have not resulted in better outcomes for our children. We are refusing because we will not be part of a practice the harms all children, but especially children of color, children who learn differently, and children living in poverty.

We are refusing the tests because we know that loss of funding due to test refusals is a myth, and because we know that legislation passed last March prevents a school from using state test scores as the sole, or even the majority factor in placement decisions. We are refusing the tests because we believe in assessment and accountability, but not at the expense of children’s dignity or their education. We are refusing because we know there is a better way.

So until we reframe the conversation, until we redefine the term high standards to mean universal preschool, equitable school funding, schools that honor the interests, strengths and culture of every child, education policies and learning standards that are rooted in research and empirical evidence, schools where the diversity of educators mirrors the diversity that children see in their communities, assessment practices that have been vetted for cultural and economic bias and do no harm, until every school has a librarian, a social worker, reasonable class sizes, until the benefits of play, exploration, and creative inquiry are valued, and until we begin to value the expertise of experienced educators….we will continue to opt out.

Bianca has so eloquently stated the reasons for REFUSING the state tests that we will be adopting them as our own family reasons for refusing.  Thank you Bianca!

Not job to toughen children


Ulster County defends public education forum wrap-up

Several hundred parents, students, teachers and concerned community members attended the Ulster County Defends Public Education forum last Monday February 23, 2015 at Miller Middle School.  The forum was hosted by Kingston Teachers Federation, New York State Allies for Public Education, Alliance for Quality Education and Rondout Valley Federation of Teachers.

Dr. Paul Padalino, superintendent of Kingston City School District, and Billy Easton, executive director of Alliance for Quality Education, spoke regarding school funding and the problems with Governor Cuomo’s education budget proposal.  Mr. Easton asked audience members to call New York State legislators and demand that the legislators say “No” to Governor Cuomo’s education plan and put $2.2 billion in new school aid in the budget.  The state legislators CAN do this and we as constituents of New York State should accept NO excuses!  Alliance for Quality Education is coordinating a rally/lobby day in Albany on March 11, 2015.  20150311EDUParadeFlyer-color-1

Student Sam Longbotham, Rondout Valley, and teachers Kristina Flick, Rondout Valley Central School District, and Laura Harnden, Ulster BOCES, spoke regarding the impact of high-stakes testing on the classroom.  Bianca Tanis, co-founder of NYS Allies for Public Education, spoke regarding excessive testing and its adverse impacts, particularly on students living in poverty, students with disabilities and English Language Learners, and test refusal.

An opportunity was given for audience members to ask questions after all presenters concluded their remarks.

The Daily Freeman and Kingston Times wrote articles about the forum and NYSUT also published a write-up on their website.

Kingston Times article – Dissatisfaction with Cuomo common bond among local educators

Daily Freeman article – Forum participants say NY Gov. Cuomo hurting schools

NYSUT article – Ulster unites to demand fair funding and relief from testing

Video of the entire forum can be viewed here as well as videos of some of the individual segments.


If you would like an opportunity to talk further about high-stakes testing, plan to attend the upcoming Demystifying Testing forum hosted by Kingston Action For Education and NYS Allies for Public Education on March 16, 2015.

Everything you wanted to know about "the tests" hosted by Kingston Action For Education (KAFE)
Everything you wanted to know about “the tests” hosted by Kingston Action For Education (KAFE)