Tag Archives: Race to the Top

New York’s new standards sidelined by Common Core

New York was nearly ready to launch a new set of standards back in 2010, starting with English Language Arts, that sound like they were being put together the right way: local teacher input, public forums, better balance between literature and informational texts, support for English-language learners, de-emphasis on testing, and a lot of the decisions being left to the local schools.

Along comes CCSS and the dangled Race to the Top money and out goes New York’s new standards which would have been a better route.

“The board grabbed the money from ‘race to the bottom’ and tossed out all the work we had done,” said Cohen, a former president of Queens College who served as an at-large regent from 1993 until 2010. “I was very upset, because the national standards weren’t as good. Now we have this mess.”

Read how New York’s school reform was sidelined by Common Core here.

Data mining our children

Many parents are concerned about the multiple (400+) points of data that the New York State Education Department wants to collect on each student in their Statewide Longitudinal Data System* being created and managed by inBloom.  Others might wonder “What’s the big deal?  Why are parents so concerned?”

Here is a photo taken from a Pearson marketing video that might explain just a little bit of the concern.


I am not good at judging ages so I can’t tell how old this boy is but the concept that a computer program can determine what his college major and/or career should be causes me great concern.  I started college convinced that I was going to get a double major in math and biology with a secondary education teaching certificate.  I graduated with a degree in computer science (still in 4 years mind you!)  Even if teachers and guidance counselors are contributing to the date being used, how is a parent to know with confidence that some colleges are not being more heavily favored because they have some ‘special arrangement’ with the vendor providing the software?

Here is the full video (photo is taken from about the 5:20 mark):

Vision for Personalized and Connected Living video

My daughter thought the tables that were giant computer screens where the students worked were really cool.  I was chilled by the ‘attendance’ being taken as the students walked through the school door!  Was there retina scanning going on or were the tablets each student was carrying being scanned?  The students collaborating on the train might be neat but what about students like me who get carsick if I try to read at all in a moving vehicle and what kind of wifi access are the students using on the train?  I sure hope they have been thoroughly briefed by the school on what is safe to share via ‘public networks’ versus ‘home networks’ (ie secure networks).

We are told as parents that we need to limit the amount of screen time our children have – looks like this boy is living his entire life by/on the computer!

As a parent, what do you think of Pearson’s “Vision for Personalized & Connected Living” for your student(s)?  Are you willing to allow the school district and New York State to provide the data on your child(ren) to make it happen?  Please post your thoughts so we can find out what parents from all around the school district think on this important topic.



*Statewide Longitudinal Data System – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) included Race to the Top monies as part of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.  As a requirement for applying for the Race to the Top money, states had to assure the federal Government that they would establish a Longitudinal Data System.  The Federal Government defined the pieces of data, which would range from PreK through college (P-20) that the states had to include in the LDS as part of the America COMPETES Act.  New York State submitted their application for stabilization funds in April 2009 signed by Governor Patterson and Commissioner Mills.

The EngageNY Portal is the interface teachers, students and families will use to access the SLDS data managed by inBloom.


Music in Our Schools

With school budget season upon us, I would like to pause for a moment and reflect upon music and arts in our schools.  Many would say that when times get tough, this is an area where money should be cut but I beg to differ.

I had the privilege of listening to children grades 5-12 from throughout Ulster County sing at the All-County Choral Festival on March 1, 2014.  All three groups of singers (elementary, junior high school and senior high school) sang with enthusiasm and did an amazing job after their full day of rehearsal.  The music was varied in style and very enjoyable to listen to.  The elementary and junior high school choruses had songs in foreign languages as well as with clapping and/or other choreography to add to the excitement of the song.  It was obvious that the teachers and students had all worked hard to prepare for this concert.

In this atmosphere of enjoyment contrasted with the yearly rounds of budget cuts, I read the President’s message with a somewhat heavy heart and have received permission to share it for your contemplation.

We would like to thank you for joining us in our celebration of music in the Ulster County schools.  Parents, students and teachers have worked hard to produce the beautiful concert you will hear today.  And even as we take pride in today’s performance it is equally important that we consider the environment in which it has been created.

We are continually called upon to defend and justify the importance of music.  We are asked to provide scientific data to prove that music changes lives, shapes neuro-pathways, creates social bonds, sensitizes the emotions, and develops compassion for our fellow human beings.  Students and teachers of music have always known this.  The president of Cornell University David J. Skorton stated on June 26th, “It is through the study of art, music, literature, history and other humanities and social sciences that we gain a greater understanding of the human condition than biological or physical science alone can provide.”

The current path of education leads us away from what matters most.  As Diane Ravitch has pointed out, the concept behind a ‘race to the top’ is fundamentally flawed.  There is no race where everyone wins.  The democratic ideal is educational equality, not winners and losers.  When the value of education is reduced to a formula then the essence of education is lost.

The health of music education reflects the state of education as a whole.  How long can the canary sing in this environment?  You are about to hear a wonderful concert.  You will be inspired, moved and uplifted in spite of over-testing, cuts, and reductions of music departments county-wide.  The canary is still singing, but for how long?

We don’t have to claim that participation in the arts raises test scores.  That’s not the point.  The arts are far more valuable.  They awaken our soul and spirit and they don’t need any more justification than that.

- Dr. Barbara Wild & Mr. Randolph Loder, Co-Presidents, UCMEA

Perhaps you attended the All-County Band Festival last weekend or will be joining me in attending the All-County Orchestra Festival this weekend.  Perhaps you enjoy other musical venues put on specifically by Kingston school district students.  Maybe your focus is visual arts rather than music or maybe sports or some other aspect of the many wonderful experiences that Kingston offers to our students beyond just “reading, writing and arithmetic”.  Please be involved in the budget process and urge the Kingston Board of Education to continue their focus from past years and retain our wonderful music and arts and other programs that make KCSD such a rich experience for our students.  Also remind our board of education that as we continue to deal with the Common Core Agenda not everything can be measured by STEM and high-stakes testing.

Additional opportunities for you to get involved include an online budget survey that the district will be posting on March 24, 2014 and the third budget forum on April 7, 2014 6pm at the Cioni administration building.

What is the Common Core Agenda?

What do you think of when you hear someone say ‘Common Core’?

Do you think of the Common Core State Standards (or the Common Core State Standards Initiative CCSSI) which the states agreed to accept in exchange for Race to the Top money before they were even  written under the direction of two private nonprofit organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)?

Maybe the Common Core tests come to mind – tests that were administered for the first time in New York this past spring and then the scores set to ensure that the expected percentage of student failures were achieved.

Or we have the teacher appraisal system (Annual Professional Performance Review or APPR) which uses the test scores as a big part of the rating but yet students are not supposed to worry/stress over the scores because they don’t impact the students in any way.

Perhaps you think of Common Core curriculum such as the EngageNY modules that are riddled with errors and causing children to cry at night when trying to do their homework.

And let us not forget the data being collected right and left about our children, without parental consent, that New York has agreed to share with a third party company called inBloom; over 400 data points – some data points associated with the standardized tests, some data points I have no idea why the state would need such as eye color, family voting status and bus stop times.

Some people mean one of these things when they say ‘Common Core'; some mean more than one.  I am joining a growing number of parents who are defining the horrible mess that we are fighting against as the COMMON CORE AGENDA.  I believe that the standards themselves have problems and they are an important part of the Common Core Agenda but not the only part.  The COMMON CORE AGENDA is the whole, ugly marriage of the standards, the data collection, the testing and the teacher appraisal system wrapped up into a package that is destroying our children, our teachers and our schools.  Hypothetically if the NGA and the CCSSO had written and released the Common Core Standards for everyone to use or not use as their school boards wished, WITHOUT penalties for NOT using it, WITHOUT using it to punish teachers and school districts, WITHOUT collecting our kids’ personal data and giving parents no say in the matter, none of the parents would be here fighting against Common Core; the standards would have failed or succeeded (I think failed) on their own merits.

This COMMON CORE AGENDA is why I don’t believe the standards will work (even if they were good standards) because truly they can not stand on their own and MAKE anything happen. If the intent is to force every state to achieve a certain level, the standards must have some teeth behind them to MAKE it happen. At the core, there is a philosophical battle over what is the purpose of education and who gets to make the educational decisions for children. And then you have to throw in issues like how to deal with poverty, dysfunctional families and students who don’t want to invest any effort in their own education.
The article New York should pull out of flawed Common Core was recently written by a New York parent Tricia Farmer and is a very good description of the various pieces of the Common Core Agenda that I have tried to describe in my post.  If I have lost you or you want further explanation, check out the article.  
Another parent Shelly Stevens has created the following videos that give further insight into the Common Core Agenda mess.  The words following the two video links are Shelly’s and not my own but she summarized my thoughts so well that I am going to let her close out my post.  Please give consideration to what she has to say and then consider what you are going to do with regards to the Common Core Agenda.

The Children’s Education Rights Movement

Why One NYS Mom Fights Common Core


So I leave you with one last statement that I wrote in a moment of passion recently:
Regarding Common Core, I’m not upset about “not understanding what my kids are bringing home”
I’m upset that the only 2 educators involved in the creation of these standards REJECTED them in a validation committee,
I’m upset that it was privately funded through lobbyist groups in DC,
I’m upset that this was not voted on in NYS (education without representation),
I’m upset that reading requirements include pornography, molestation, pedophilia, degrade the US military,
I’m upset that USA children are learning Singapore math with no evidence of its success,
I’m upset that over 400 personal points of data is being collected on my minor children and my family and fed to the state for them to do with as they see fit,
I’m upset that most public school teachers have a gag order on them to not be able to speak up without fear of loosing their jobs,
I’m upset that 70% of kids failed Common Core testing last year,
I’m upset that those failures hurt teachers in their evaluations,
I’m upset that our school districts will not be able to afford this new curriculum and neither will the tax payers in our district
…I’ve done my research and I want Common Core Standards, modules, and data mining ALL to STOP!

-Shelly Stevens