Archives for category: New York

Fred LeBrun, a columnist for the Albany Times-Union, wrote a terrific column about the power of the parents who opted out.


Without the pressure they exerted, Governor Cuomo would never have appointed a commission to review the Common Core standards and testing.


Without the force of their numbers, the state education department would have proceeded to evaluate teachers by student test scores, despite the research proving its invalidity.


Opt Out parents caused Cuomo’s poll numbers to plummet, and that got his attention. Poll numbers can outweigh hedge fund cash.


Here is part of LeBrun’s perceptive column:


According to the latest Siena poll, education has jumped to the top of the list for what matters most to New Yorkers, ahead of jobs, taxes, and that perennial favorite, governmental corruption.

Granted, education is a wide umbrella covering higher and lower ed, funding, curricula, charter schools, and a lot more, plus the poll indicates the greatest concern for education is held by downstate Democrats.

They’ve got the numbers to dictate the poll. But at the least we can reliably say the poll affirms how important public education consistently remains for upstaters and downstaters alike.

When it’s that important to voters, it’s critical to politicians.

In the brash youth of his governorship, Andrew Cuomo confidently swaggered to war against teachers and the “educational bureaucracy,’’ which it turns out is mostly parents, by trying to impose a cockamamie Common Core system that brutally punished school children and a punitive and grossly unfair teacher evaluation system, all in the name of “reform.”

Washington, in the embrace of billionaire advocates of privatizing public education, applauded.

So did New York hedge-funders promoting charters.

The governor used all his cunning and considerable available resources to get his way, and even beat up the Legislature to become complicit.

Yet he got his ass handed to him. By whom? By the most potent force there is in public education, the public.

Cuomo’s poll numbers fell through the floor. In December, the governor sent up the white flag and sued for peace with a landmark Common Core review commission report that made 21 splendid, common sense recommendations to put New York public education back on track.

In his State of the State this year about all he had to say on the subject was urging the Board of Regents to pass all 21 recommendations.

That’s exactly what the Regents should do, and we have every high hope they will once two new progressive members of the 17-member Regents are appointed by the Legislature, and once the Regents leadership becomes more enlightened and attuned, which is also imminent.

There are several factors behind why the governor lost the war, including a change of heart in Washington, but high among them is the Opt Out movement that last spring kept 220,000 New York pupils from taking the state’s ridiculous standardized tests.

Opt Out has been the most powerful in-your-face, can’t-ignore referendum on the governor’s policies since he took office.

So here’s the irony of Opt Out for the governor, post-truce.

If there is another Opt Out uprising this spring, the popularity fallout will still be the governor’s to reap even though he has been forced to see the light and change course. In the public’s eye he remains the architect of that dismally failed model for public education.

It should come as no surprise that Opt Out is a very real possibility again this year.

That’s because there’s a Grand Canyon between the considerable rhetoric of change we’ve heard and the reality of where we actually stand with altering or eliminating high stakes testing and the Common Core, teacher evaluations, and inappropriate pressures on our youngest citizens.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley writes on her blog VAMboozled that Néw York teacher Sheri Lederman rejected a settlement offer from the state.

Lederman, a veteran teacher on Long Island, is suing the state to challenge the validity of VAM. Although she has long been recognized as a superstar teacher, she got a low rating. Her husband Bruce is a lawyer, who is litigating on her behalf.

The state offered to raise her rating if she would abandon the lawsuit. The state said that the teacher evaluation process will be changed, in some fashion, but the Ledermans rejected the offer because there is no certainty that VAM will disappear.

Amrein-Beardsley explains the situation and adds useful links.

Michael Hynes, superintendent in Patchogue, New York, has been outspoken against the current wave of test-driven reform in New York State.


He posted the following comment:


What is Best for our Children



Many parents, educators and legislators are talking about the possibility of federal and state funds being withheld from schools. The fact is, hundreds of New York State public schools fell below the 95% participation rate for the 3-8 assessments last year. Here are some facts you should know before testing season begins this spring:


1. The Commissioner believes parents have the right to opt their children out of 3-8 state assessments.
2. The Governor stated that parents have the right to opt their children out of 3-8 state assessments.
3. The Governor stated the 3-8 assessments will not count for students and teachers for the next several years.
4. The 3-8 assessments this year are still a Pearson test.
5. The “new” 3-8 assessments are now “untimed” which means our children can actually take tests that will last for several hours over several days.
6. The assessments are still fundamentally age inappropriate and aligned with the Common Core standards. The Common Core Standards will no longer be in New York State. I repeat, they will no longer be in New York State.



There is absolutely no reason for any student to take the assessments until we have some true fundamental changes. I don’t believe making the tests a few questions shorter or allowing students to have an unlimited amount of time is the answer. This is not in the best interest of our students, especially our special education and ELL students.





Fear and misinformation is being spread by Newsday and other agencies that believe public schools are failing. This is not only unfair but unethical. School districts with high opt out rates should not be sanctioned by the State Education Department or the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, the school districts with the highest opt out rates should be rewarded. They should be rewarded because it exemplifies that we value our children. It yells from the rooftops that we are free from the burden of the Pearson crafted Common Core poisoned assessments which have zero value to anyone. Well, except for Pearson.



We need true leadership in our schoolhouses.

When you are locked in a tough battle, be pro-active. New York opt out advocates are encouraging allies to apply for two open positions on the Board of Regents. One of the co-founders of New York State Allies for Oublic education, Jessica McNair, parent and teacher is applying. The lesson here is: get involved. Run for office. Help good candidates win. If there are no good candidates, become a candidate.


This article is behind a paywall.


I am excerpting it here:


ALBANY — The parent-led coalition that last spring spurred one of the largest test refusal rates in the nation is pushing to have a voice on the state Board of Regents, as one of the opt-out leaders and several opt-out supporters have applied for a position on the education policymaking board.

“The people in the opt-out movement, or who have opted their kids out … are people that believe in a transparent research-based process,” said Lisa Rudley, co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of more than 50 groups statewide.
Two seats on the 17-member board will be open after chancellor Merryl Tisch, a member at-large, and vice chancellor Tony Bottar, who represents the 5th Judicial District, which includes the Mohawk Valley, said they will not run for re-election. Their departures will significantly change the dynamic of the board as it continues to be impacted by the controversy over the Common Core learning standards.

The opt-out groups have announced their endorsement of regent Betty Rosa, who represents the Bronx, as chancellor and Beverly Ouderkirk, who represents the North Country, as vice chancellor.

But the parent-led movement is looking to take it a step further by getting opt-out supporters on the board itself.

One of the most notable applicants for Bottar’s seat is Jessica McNair, 36, a New Hartford teacher, parent and co-founder of Opt Out CNY, a NYSAPE coalition member that represents nearly 4,200 parents in Central New York. Opt Out CNY this fall called for Bottar’s resignation, saying he “ignored” their concerns.

McNair told POLITICO New York that with her experience as a teacher still in a classroom setting, as well as having a first- and third-grader attending public school she has a “good read on the pulse of what’s happening.”

“Typically teachers don’t apply because the demands of serving on the Board of Regents and working in a classroom can be pretty great, however, I really feel that an educator’s voice is what’s needed on the Board of Regents right now,” NcNair said.

McNair and NYSAPE have expressed frustration over the continued use of student test scores in teacher evaluations, over-testing, the use of standards that are not developmentally and age appropriate. They also have said they are disappointed in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core task force recommendations.

The task force, charged with reviewing the Common Core, made a number of recommendations in December, including placing a moratorium on the use of state test scores on teacher and principal evaluations — a hold the Regents later put in place through the 2019-2020 school year. Local assessments will be used in their place.

“We’re not really addressing the issues at hand,” said McNair, who also served as an advisor to the task force. “I feel like I’ve been very outspoken in advocating for children and that we still haven’t gotten where we need to be. I also want to be a part of the solution in advocating for kids.”

Regents board members are selected by the Legislature during a joint session in March, a process currently controlled by the Assembly Democrats, the biggest conference. The chancellor and vice chancellor are selected by the Regents board.

The Assembly has collected approximately 50 applications to fill the two positions, which have a five-year term that begins April 1, according to Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Whyland did not at have the number of applicants broken down by seat at this time, or the names of who applied. The Legislature will next schedule interviews and in March elect members to the board.











Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters and Lisa Rudley of the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) wrote to New York State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and the Board of Regents to protest the latest Gates grant for collection and implementation of student data. They are concerned that the purpose of the grant is to re-start efforts to exploit personally identifiable student data, one of Gates’ passions. In addition, the grant went to a privately funded group (funded largely by Gates) called the Regents Research Fund, which operates as a “shadow government,” with neither transparency nor accountability.


By law, the state is required to have a Chief Privacy Officer, but no qualified person has been appointed. The acting CPO has no background in the field and has resisted complying with parent requests for information about their own children.


The quest for student data is endless:


Our concerns about expanded student data collection are also exacerbated by the fact that we have been unable to get any information about why NYSED officials decided that the personal student data collected by the state should be eventually placed into the State Archives, eight years after a student’s graduation from high school, with no date certain when it will be destroyed. We have asked what restrictions will be placed on access to that data, when if ever the data will be deleted, and have requested a copy of the memo in which state officials apparently determined that these records have “long-term historical value and should be transferred to the State Archives.”vi Neither NYSED nor the State Archives will answer our questions or provide us a copy of this memo, and instead demanded that we FOIL for it.


They point out that the same issue raised parent ire against former Commissioner John King (now the Acting Secretary of Education):


The previous Commissioner faced intense opposition from parents, school board members, district superintendents, teachers and elected officials over his plan to share personal student data with the Gates-funded data store called inBloom Inc. Because of strong public opposition and NYSED’s refusal to change course, the Legislature was forced to pass a new law to block the participation of the state in the inBloom project. The controversy over inBloom was one of the major issues that contributed to the public’s loss of trust in Commissioner King’s leadership, as well as his eventual resignation. We do not want to have to engage in such an intense battle over student privacy once again in relation to this new data collection plan.


Parents should send their own letters to the State Commissioner, the Board of Regents, and legislators. Now is the time to protect your child’s privacy rights!

Governor Cuomo has called himself the “students’ lobbyist,” but if so, he is not doing a good job. He has cut school budgets with a tax cap and other mechanisms. Apparently, his idea of breaking the “public school monopoly” is to starve the public schools that 90% of the children in the state attend. This letter was sent to Governor Cuomo by the PTSA of Hastings-on-Hudson:

Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
℅ Lisa Eggert Litvin, Co President (917-881-3266)


Dear Governor Cuomo:


We write to urge that full funding be restored to our public schools. Specifically, Foundation Aid should be paid in full to all school districts this year, and past due funds should be paid as well. In addition, funds diverted away from schools via the Gap Elimination Allowance (GEA) must be paid up, and use of the GEA must end immediately.


This gross underfunding all public school districts has lead to two unacceptable outcomes:


1. Schools statewide have been forced to cut meaningful and effective programing and staff. Class sizes have grown; language and advanced courses have been cut. Supports like summer school and after school have been cut. Positions that insure safety like bus monitors, security workers, social workers, and more have been cut or remain not fully invested. And more.


2. Our taxes have gone up in order to pay for the state’s shortfall. With full funding, many districts would have and should have instead seen tax decreases. As an example, had Dobbs Ferry received its full state funding in 2013-2014, it could have easily covered its budget increase of $1.5 million and avoided that year’s tax hike. But instead, the state diverted $2.25 million and Dobbs’s taxpayers were hit with a tax increase of 4.5%. (A full explanation is available at


Our state is flush with funds now. During Governor Cuomo’s re-election bid, he announced that our state has a $2 billion surplus. This grew by an additional $5 billion last spring, from a legal settlement. There is no excuse whatsoever to continue shortchanging our schools and avoiding paying what has been owed over the past several years.


Our schools cannot handle the lack of funds — which is rightfully due to them. And our property taxpayers cannot continue to shoulder these unnecessary increases, all the cover a debt of the state, a state that promotes a surplus.


The Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA Executive Board
Lisa Eggert Litvin and Jacqueline Weitzman, Co Presidents

Michael Elliott is a gifted videographer who has made videos for parents who protest testing. He knows the issues: his own children are in public school in Brooklyn.


In this post, he explains why opt out numbers were very low in New York City, while parents in the rest of the state were refusing to let their children take the state tests. Statewide, more than 220,000 students did not take the state tests in 2015, about 20% of students statewide. In New York City, the opt outs were only 1.4%.


Elliott explains the difference. Students in low-performing schools have the possibility of school closure hanging over their heads. If they opt out, their school might close.


Students in other schools need test scores to be admitted to a junior high school or high school of their choice (and they might not get their choice anyway, since the city has a convoluted system based on admissions to medical schools).


Fear suppressed the New York City opt outs.


Interesting that when you think about the number of opt outs in the rest of the state–excluding NYC–the proportion rises dramatically. Maybe 30% or more of the kids outside NYC opted out. No wonder the politicians in Albany are running scared and trying to allay the concerns of the angry parents on Long Island, upstate, and in the Hudson Valley.

This just in from the group that led New York’s historic opt out movement. One of every five students did not take the state tests last spring, over 220,000 students.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2015
More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education

Parents Will Continue to Opt Out Until Ed Law Repealed &
Real Change Seen in the Classrooms

The Governor’s Common Core Task Force released a list of recommendations last Thursday, Dec. 10th. The recommendations while a reflection of the parent and educator voices around the state do not alone restore trust in Albany. How the recommendations and other issues get addressed is the key and parents are watching this very closely.

Until there is a halt of the Common Core standards, repeal of the Education Transformation Act, major changes to the state tests, a reduction of unnecessary testing, protection of data privacy, and local control restored, parents will continue to Opt Out in large numbers.

The recommendations deliberately state that Governor Cuomo’s ‘signature’ legislation that enforces many of these harmful policies doesn’t need to be touched. On the contrary, this law is the prescriptive blueprint to these harmful policies that was passed by the legislature as part of the budget last spring.

One of the recommendations to put a 4-year moratorium on evaluating teachers based on the flawed Common Core state tests was officially voted into emergency regulations by the Board of Regents at today’s board meeting. Until the law is repealed, this moratorium does not reduce testing it actually does the opposite, increases testing and further puts a strain on school districts’ budgets to comply.

NYSAPE is calling on parents to Opt Out of state tests and any local tests that are linked to this corrupt and invalid evaluation system that clearly doesn’t provide value for the students, educators, or schools.

“The task force recommendations have opened the door to change. Much of these harmful policies came in through our legislature when they passed the Education Transformation Act against the will of the people they serve. Our State Assembly and Senate must now reverse this harmful legislation so that changes will be meaningful and substantial. Parents will be vigilant in following these changes every step of the way. We will continue to refuse to allow our children to participate in this system until ALL harmful reforms are removed from our classrooms,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out.

“Until specific laws and policies regarding standards, student assessment, teacher evaluation and school ranking are changed, parents will continue to boycott any system that ties high-stakes to standardized assessments.” Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent, educator, and school board member.

Jamaal Bowman, Bronx public school parent and middle school principal said, “Although I consider the task force recommendations to be a step in the right direction, it is merely a single step. At this point, there is too much uncertainty to get excited about where we are headed in our public schools. Until we know how the recommendations will be implemented, and by whom, and until the law tying teacher evaluations to test scores is revised or repealed, we will not be able to move forward and properly meet the holistic needs of our children.”

“How the Common Core, testing, and other education policies are revamped to be in the best interest of the children will be watched very closely by parents. I will not be opting my children into any unnecessary tests including local assessments that do not provide important feedback for my children,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

“While there is much talk of high standards, there is little discussion of the non-curricular resources required to ensure that all students can succeed in the face of poverty and lack of adequate funding. It is disappointing that the task force failed to raise the question, if disadvantaged students were struggling prior to the implementation of the Common Core, how will simply raising the bar increase student achievement,” said Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent, Rethinking Testing member and educator.

“After so much time and money has been wasted in forced implementation of flawed policy, students and educators of New York have been hurt and trust has been broken. We must repeal the APPR imposed by politicians who did not understand the domain. Scholars in schools of education and professional educators should design the best systems to achieve goals for public education,” said Katie Zahedi, Dutchess County, principal.

Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator and BATS’ executive director said, “Teachers and parents do not trust NYSED, the ‘Tisch’ Regents’ majority, the legislature, or the Governor to be in charge of education. What they have done to our public education system and to our children is unconscionable. I have been an educator in NY for over 25 years and the mass destruction their policies have caused will take years to repair.”

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 for more details on how to affect changes in education policies.


This seems like a strange question, but it is real. The political buzz around New York is the question of whether the Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo will support a Democrat running for election to take the place of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, who was convicted of various financial crimes.


Skelos represented a majority-Democratic district in Long Island, and his seat is up for grabs. Will Cuomo support a Democrat? The Governor has had more power by working with a Republican-dominated State Senate, which agrees with him about keeping taxes low for the rich and for corporations.


When the Working Families Party appeared about to endorse insurgent Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo changed the party’s mind by pledging to help elect Democrats to the State Senate, where progressive legislation goes to die. He won the WFP nomination, but he didn’t work to elect Democrats to the State Senate.


Once again, the Governor will have a chance to show whether he prefers a Democratic-controlled State Senate or a Republican-controlled State Senate.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and former principal at South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, New York, has subjected the report of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s task force to a close reading.


But not the kind of close reading where you forget about context and prior knowledge. She notes that Governor Cuomo has no intention of amending or repealing the law he pushed through last June, which requires that teachers are evaluated by test scores that count for 50% of the evaluation.


There is the elephant in the room–the evaluation of teachers by test scores. When it comes to the damage done by APPR, the report is strangely silent. It is as though the committee never heard a complaint on how evaluating teachers by test scores increased both anxiety and test prep. The only place where it is addressed is in Recommendation 21 that states that until a new set of standards are phased in, the results of Common Core 3-8 assessments should be advisory only. Cuomo immediately seized on the ambiguity of that statement and issued the following:


[Cuomo statement] “The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers.”


The Education Transformation Act was the bill Cuomo pushed through the legislature to raise the percentage of test scores in teacher evaluations to 50 percent. Like a teenage boy who doesn’t get that the relationship is over, Cuomo cannot let go of his APPR, even though more researchers agree that evaluating teachers by test student scores makes no sense.


And more ominously, she describes the new testing corporation that New York has contracted with for the next five years.


Truth be told, no matter what recommendations the report made, at least half of the horse is already out of the testing barn. The new direction in assessment was set with the July approval of a $44 million contract with Questar that locks the state in for five years. If parents are looking for relief from test-driven instruction, they will not find it with Questar. You can read about the company’s philosophy of continuous assessment-driven instruction here. Below is an excerpt:


…after every five minutes of individualized tablet-based instruction, students would be presented with a brief series of questions that adapt to their skill level, much as computer-adaptive tests operate today. After that assessment, the next set of instructional material would be customized according to these results. If a student needs to relearn some material, the software automatically adjusts and creates a custom learning plan on the fly. The student would then be reassessed and the cycle would continue…


The practice of adaptive, computer-based learning, known as Competency Based Education (CBE), is a reincarnation of two other failed reforms from the last century — Outcomes Based Instruction and Mastery Learning. As the tests roll out, Questar will be marketing their CBE modules for test prep, and schools desperate to increase scores will buy them.


Thus far, Governor Cuomo has gotten the press he wanted: banner headlines in the New York Daily News and Long Island’s Newsday, proclaiming prematurely that Common Core is dead. No, it is not. What happens next is up to the Governor.


The good news is that he has an outstanding educator advising him, Jere Hochman, former superintendent in Bedford, New York. Hopefully, Hochman will help the Governor understand how to get out of the hole he dug for himself and how to take concrete steps to remove the disruption and constant churn that the State Education Department and the Governor’s interventions have imposed on schools. It is time for some stability and sanity at the helm. At the moment, teachers and students see a battle for control of the wheel, and the ship is lurching from side to side. I won’t torture the analogy any more. But I do hope that Governor Cuomo listens to Jere Hochman’s advice and takes the task force report seriously.


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