Tag Archives: Test refusal

How much testing is too much?

President Obama issued a statement on October 24, 2015 that testing has gone too far and needs to be reduced to at most 2% of classroom instruction time.

Governor Cuomo followed up with a press release praising President Obama’s Testing Action Plan and detailing what he believes New York has already done to make testing less onerous.

Unfortunately as Diane Ravitch points out based on a piece written by Tim Farley, for states like New York where we already require 2% or less of instructional time to be spent on testing, the new Obama testing policy might increase the time spent testing students.

From Tim Farley:

In New York, as Cuomo has reminded us, we already have a two percent cap on time spent on standardized testing. What does that actually mean? New York requires 180 school days and an average school day runs about 6.5 hours. Do the math and the result is 180 x 6.5 x 2% = 23.4 hours of testing. So, by law, we cannot exceed 23.4 hours of standardized testing in grades 3 — 8.

This begs the question — how much time do kids in grades 3–8 spend on the state tests in English Language Arts and math? If you are a general education student, you will spend roughly nine hours in a testing room for both the ELA and math tests. If you are a student with a learning disability (SWD), and you have a testing accommodation of “double time,” you get to sit in a testing location for eighteen hours. As insane as that seems, it is still 5.4 hours short of the time allowed by law. A 2% cap isn’t a step forward, it’s a giant leap backward. …

How much testing is too much? I don’t know the magic number that will give the state education departments and the U.S. Department of Education the data they supposedly need in order to determine the effectiveness of the schools, but I do know that nine hours of testing is too much for a nine-year-old, eighteen hours is abusive for nine-year-olds with a learning disability, and 23.4 hours of testing for a child at any age is criminal.

 

More teaching less testing

Articles announcing President Obama’s Testing Action Plan:

Additional responses to the federal/New York State statements on reducing testing time:

By the way if you are not a regular reader of Mr. Greene’s posts, ‘BS Tests’ stands for ‘Big Standardized Tests’.

Editorial: Finally, testing obsession is under review

This editorial from lohud is an excellent summary of the state of testing and Common Core in New York right now with a bit thrown in about President Obama’s about-face on testing last week.

At the first public meeting of Gov. Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force on Thursday, a Bronx principal named Jamaal Bowman displayed a picture of his young daughter on a big screen and said he would not send her to a public school in New York because of our “test-and-punish culture.” The task force members, including state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, sat impassively at the College of New Rochelle as Bowman, an invited speaker, decried an overemphasis on standardized testing at the expense of innovation, creativity and richer methods of measuring student achievement.

Read the rest of the article here.

I would like to highlight the following points where parents have made a difference as noted by the editorial staff:

  • Cuomo’s task force is charged with reviewing New York’s testing program and its close ties to the Common Core standards by year’s end.
  • Cuomo just named Bedford Superintendent Jere Hochman his deputy for education. Hochman has sharply criticized New York’s focus on “high-stakes” testing and has called for the state’s widely disliked teacher evaluation system, tied to student test scores, to be torn up and replaced.
  • Longtime Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who has overseen the state’s test-centric “reform” agenda, will leave the board when her term is up in March.
  • The state Education Department is also reviewing individual Common Core standards — but not the role of the Core itself.
  • The Board of Regents plans a serious review of the teacher evaluation system, which Cuomo and legislators have essentially taken control of in recent years.
  • Congress is trying —struggling, really — to rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind law to reduce the federal role in education while maintaining accountability measures for school systems.

The battle for the education of our kids has been long and hard and there is still much to do.  We don’t know yet if those in charge of ‘education’ are really going to start listening but we can hope that this is a step on the path to dealing with the testing mess and Common Core.  Do not despair and continue to do what is best for the children.

It’s debatable how much Obama’s new posture will help. But he knowingly gave a shot in the arm to parents, teachers and others who are fed up with federal and state prescriptions for saving our supposedly failing schools.

Have no doubt that New York’s opt-out movement forced Cuomo, legislators, the Regents and newcomer Elia to reconsider testing and related policies. Tisch and Elia may condemn opting out as counterproductive, but when 1 in 5 bubble sheets are not filled out, which is what happened in New York last spring, you’ve got a big problem on your hands.

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In case you can not access the lohud editorial, here is a PDF containing the article – Editorial_ Finally, testing obsession is under review

 

Common Core has NOT won the war!

If you heard about an article from Politico that declares ‘Common Core quietly won the war’, know that the assessment is NOT correct.

Not so fast, Politico. Common core is fading. Don’t believe the hype.

image

This is a must read. Common core has taken over. That much is true. It’s the hottest topic out there. But they have not won. That is false. We are not done. What are we doing to stop this? We are fighting, always.

Cato speaks the truth:

“A Politico article today declares that the Common Core has “quietly” won the school standards war. It is a headline that would have been accurate several years ago, but today’s headline should be somewhat different: “Common Core in major – but quiet – retreat.”

– read the rest of the blog post here

Do NOT give up!  We still have a battle to win for our children and our schools.

UPDATE October 14, 2015 11pm:  Here is another perspective on how Politico is wrong about Common Core.

Hefling’s main point is that Common Core is now everywhere, so it won. But this would be tantamount to saying that Kleenex has cornered 100% of the facial tissue market because all citizens wipe their noses on something that they call “Kleenex.”

Sure, there’s something called Common Core almost everywhere in education. But which Common Core Ish thing would we like to talk about?

….

If the picture of success was supposed to be that everyone in the public education system (not the private schools! never the private schools!) had to deal with something that had the words “Common Core” attached to it, then yes, CCSS has won.

But if, as was actually the case, the goal was to have identical standards pursued and measured in every public classroom in the country, with teachers working in virtual lockstep to pursue exactly the same goals– then, no– the Common Core lost. It failed. It was a sledgehammer that was supposed to beat open the brick wall of US schooling, and instead shattered into a million different bits.

And Hefling doesn’t even talk about the other promise of the Core– that all students would be college and career ready. We supposedly have several years’ worth of Common Core grads out there now– how are they doing? Are colleges reporting an uptick in well-prepared freshmen? Are businesses reporting a drop in their training needs? Hefling and her Core-adoring sources don’t address that at all. Can you guess why?

Who are the Stop Common Core activists?

Reblogging:

Let’s dispel some myths about the stop common core activists. We who fight common core and obsessive, useless testing are not here because we are a bunch of ‘white suburban moms whose kids aren’t as smart as we thought they were.’, ala Arne Duncan. (And may we add, in what other job title could a national representative say such a thing without losing his job?)

We are many. We are parents of honor students. We are grand parents. We are ‘highly effective’ teachers. We are aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers. We are school principals. We are empty nesters. We are childless by choice and career oriented. We come from all walks of life and are all income levels. We share a single goal. That goal is not to ‘make school easier’, or to show children ‘they can shirk the daily challenges and hard work’. That goal is to take back our schools. We share the vision of reclaiming the American freedoms our forefathers afforded us, currently stripped away by big money and the United States of Gate$.

Click to read the rest of this blog entry from stopcommoncorenys March 8, 2015

Board of Regents approves 50% of teacher evaluation based on state test scores

The Board of Regents voted 10-6 to approve the current, temporary teacher and principal evaluation system that bases 50% of the evaluation on the test scores of the students sitting in the classroom.  The current evaluation system is not just bad for our teachers; it is bad for our students!

I am getting tired of the ‘heavy hearts’ and ‘nose holding’ but still going along with what Governor Cuomo wants. The state legislators did it in March (read here and here). The board of Regents did it in June and again today. I want someone in Albany to have the guts to stand up and tell Governor Cuomo that his education plans are BAD and New York says No!

Regent Tilles talks of a ‘lack of confidence in the current evaluation system’ but he still voted for it.

“We have to express a lack of confidence in the current evaluation system,” said Regent Roger Tilles of Long Island, who voted for the rules. “We have to express a lack of confidence in the current growth model. We have to … call for changes to the evaluation system as it currently exists.”  – “After debate, Regents pass teacher-evaluation rules”  Democrat & Chronicle September 15, 2015

I KNOW I have a lack of confidence in 10 members of the Board of Regents who voted to continue the current teacher and principal evaluation system that places 50% of the evaluation squarely on the shoulders of the students sitting in the classroom.

Diane Ravitch got it exactly right in her blog on September 16, 2015:

Today, the New York Board of Regents will vote to approve the harsh and punitive educator evaluation plan that Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through the Legislature last spring as part of a budget bill.

In doing so, the Regents will abandon their Constitutional authority over education policy. The New York State Constitution grants full control over education to the Board of Regents. It grants none to the Governor. The Governor does not appoint a single member of the 17-member Board of Regents. The State Legislature selects them. The Governor does not appoint the state Commissioner of Education. That is the job of the Regents.

Today the Regents will approve Cuomo’s plan to tie 50% of educator evaluations to student test scores. The Governor’s plan was shaped in his office, without benefit of hearings, public discussion, public debate, or expert testimony.

The Regents have the power to reassert their Constitutional authority. But they are weak. They will fold to the will of a Governor whose determination to rule is greater than the Regents’ commitment to the State Constitution. Or to the children, or to the educators, or to the best interests of education in New York.

Parents have been ignored throughout this charade of the Governor flexing his political muscle. They will have a chance to be heard next spring, when the tests are administered. More students will opt out, more than the 220,000 who refused the tests in 2015. Will it be 300,000? 400,000? This is parents’ only means to be heard. They will be heard.

I will be doing everything I can to make sure that the 10 Regents who voted in support of the continued emphasis on state testing today will NOT be re-appointed.  Ulster County representative Regent Josephine Finn is one of the 10 who voted to continue the teacher evaluation system that is harmful to our students, teachers and local public schools.

Regents APPR vote 9 16 2015

Regents Rosa, Cashin, Chin, Collins, Johnson and Ouderkirk voted against the teacher evaluation system in June and again today. Please thank them for taking a stand for the children.

I will also be encouraging parents to continue to REFUSE the state tests for grades 3-8.  Apparently 220,000 test REFUSALS were not enough to let New York State know that the tests are unsatisfactory to the parents of New York so I guess we will have to have more REFUSALS.

Test refusal letter links:

 

Diane Ravitch response to the widely expected (and disappointing) “vote” by the NYS Regents today making Cuomo’s attack on public schools permanent. Again, no surprise that the weak Regents bowed to a bully Cuomo, but the blatant ignoring of over 20,000 written appeals to vote NO is appalling. The Regents, Legislature and Governor are all begging parents to Opt their kids out of this mess (oh.. And they’re renaming Common Core – same problems, different name).

All 6 votes against we’re women, all men voted yes joined by 3 women and Brown from Rochester was absent. Nice.

“Today, the New York Board of Regents will vote to approve the harsh and punitive educator evaluation plan that Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through the Legislature last spring as part of a budget bill.

In doing so, the Regents will abandon their Constitutional authority over education policy. The New York State Constitution grants full control over education to the Board of Regents. It grants none to the Governor. The Governor does not appoint a single member of the 17-member Board of Regents. The State Legislature selects them. The Governor does not appoint the state Commissioner of Education. That is the job of the Regents.

Today the Regents will approve Cuomo’s plan to tie 50% of educator evaluations to student test scores. The Governor’s plan was shaped in his office, without benefit of hearings, public discussion, public debate, or expert testimony.

The Regents have the power to reassert their Constitutional authority. But they are weak. They will fold to the will of a Governor whose determination to rule is greater than the Regents’ commitment to the State Constitution. Or to the children, or to the educators, or to the best interests of education in New York.

Parents have been ignored throughout this charade of the Governor flexing his political muscle. They will have a chance to be heard next spring, when the tests are administered. More students will opt out, more than the 220,000 who refused the tests in 2015. Will it be 300,000? 400,000? This is parents’ only means to be heard. They will be heard.”

Commissioner Elia affirms parents’ right to REFUSE state testing

Just in case anyone missed it last week, Commissioner Elia has ‘clarified’ that parents do indeed have the right to REFUSE the state standardized tests for their children.

Commissioner Elia says parents “absolutely” have the right to opt their kids out of state standardized tests, but she says she still wants to talk to them to try to bring them back to the fold.

“We haven’t done enough communication,” Elia said. “But if parents understand it and they still want their child to opt out, that certainly is their right.”

She admits the tests “have problems” and are “too long.”

“Elia clarifies position on opting out” WAMC August 31, 2015

The clarification was necessary due to the fact that many people (parents, assemblymen and even newspapers – keep reading) perceived her comments that “Its’s the law.” and discussion of talking to SED lawyers as threats to those who might consider refusing the tests in the future.

Commissioner Elia insists that her comments were misinterpreted as a threat but I do believe that this editorial from the Middletown Times Herald Record actually gets the ‘threat’ exactly right.  Unfortunately for the Times Herald Record editorial staff (who sounds incredibly excited and eager for parents who ‘opt-out’ to be punished), they missed the fact that the Commissioner shifted course right before they published their editorial.

Peter Greene who blogs at Curmudgucation brought the Middletown editorial to light (at least for me) and accurately points out the flaws in the editorial argument with the basic one being “It is NOT the law”.

Here they are making noise about how the opt-out movement is doomed. Doomed!! Oh, they had a big run last year, but that was back when there were no consequences for their shenanigans. But this year things will be different. Oh, yes, baby. Different. Because the new sherif in town has laid down the law.

The THR quotes MaryEllen Elia’s recent speech about how she’s armed superintendents with special parent-intimidation tool kits so that supers can make it clear that it’s the law. The editorial writer underlines that with punchy single-sentence paragraphs.

That’s worth repeating.

“It’s the law.”

 Well, no. It’s not worth repeating. It might be worth clarifying. As in, what, exactly is the law. Because while I have not examined the relevant laws of New York State in painful detail, I’m pretty sure that what the law says is that schools must give the test. There’s no law that says that students must take the test.

Mr. Greene, who lives in Pennsylvania, might not have examined the relevant New York laws in detail but parents in New York did and it seems Commissioner Elia has finally done so as well.

Elia knows better. As the THR was threatening doom and unspecified penalties for opt-out naughtiness, Elia was “clarifying” her position in the kind of political clarification that civilians think of as “taking back that dumb thing I said and trying to replace it with something less wrong.”

Elia has suddenly discovered that parents do, in fact, have the right to opt out. It’s even possible that they have a point about some of the test’s deficiencies (they “have problems” and are “too long”). Also her threats were totally not threats. Don’t be silly. But she is going to arm her superintendents with high-powered PR tool kits because she has not yet abandoned the last hope of the reformsters, which is that folks are hostile to Common Core Testing Stuff because they just don’t understand how awesome it really is, and once we finally ‘splain it to them the right way, they will be hollering, “Me!! Me!! Test my kids more, please!!”

Parents in New York have won the greatest victory of all– recognition by the state that they get to decide, and that they must be convinced– not coerced, not threatened, and not treated like the states’ low-level flunkies. It may take a while for word to get to Middletown, but the state is figuring out that they can’t simply order students to take the Big Standardized Test. And that’s the law.

I don’t think parents need more explanation about how awesome the New York State Common Core tests are.  They need a commissioner who will LISTEN to what is broken with education in New York State and will start working right now to FIX it!

Dr. Hynes supports parents and teachers

Dr. Michael Hynes, district superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island, stands with his parents and school staff in support of the children.

Dr Hynes and Commissioner Elia

This letter is one demonstration of the support Dr. Hynes is giving his district.  He is not encouraging test refusal but simply informing parents of their right to refuse and asking for the school district to be notified so the district/schools can be prepared to deal with any test refusals that may occur.

The letter that Dr. Hynes sent to his district families is very much like what Assemblyman Jim Tedisco is advocating for as part of the Common Core Parental Refusal Act.

The letter Dr. Hynes sent to at least one of his district teachers made me cry because of the compassion it shows and the depth of understanding of how broken our educational system is right now.

Hynes teacher test score letter

Unfortunately Commissioner Elia will be ‘supporting’ superintendents to make sure that their staff and parents understand how important state testing is (whether the superintendents agree or not).

We, as parents, must stand behind the district superintendents and other administrators throughout New York State who are supporting parents, teachers and children against the current educational madness being called ‘reform’.

Check out these two petitions which, if acted upon by Albany/Board of Regents, will protect not only parents but superintendents like Dr. Hynes.

 

** Update since I started this post:  Commissioner Elia is clarifying her position on opt-outs according to an article from this afternoon (8/31/15).

Commissioner Elia says parents “absolutely” have the right to opt their kids out of state standardized tests, but she says she still wants to talk to them to try to bring them back to the fold.

“We haven’t done enough communication,” Elia said. “But if parents understand it and they still want their child to opt out, that certainly is their right.”

She admits the tests “have problems” and are “too long.”

So Commissioner Elia understands parents’ rights but will she LISTEN to what is wrong with testing, Common Core and New York State education?  Or does she still believe she has all the answers and just has to convince parents and superintendents like Dr. Hynes that they “don’t understand”?

 

Petitions to sign

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

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

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

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

Dear Governor Cuomo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Eliaiswrong4NYS

New York Schools With Many Students Who Skipped Tests Won’t Lose Money

Threats have abounded both at the state and federal level that schools would lose money if parents/students REFUSED the state tests.  We now have official word from New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Tisch that schools will not be penalized by either the federal or state government because parents exercised their rights and REFUSED the state tests.

As recently as last week, the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, said that she was not sure if the federal Education Department would withhold money from districts with high opt-out rates. She declined to rule out the possibility that the state would do so on its own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

** Details of Senate bill S5954:

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

NYSAPE Demands 4 23 2015