Archives for category: New York

This is one of the best articles you will read about Common Core and testing. It appears in the Long Island Business News. It shows the big business of testing, with a focus on Pearson.

Race to the Top, it turns out, unleashed a dash to the cash. And Pearson was the biggest winner. Since 1996, it has been buying up other companies in the testing industry. It is now the biggest provider of testing in the U. S.

You will learn about the big money behing the political decisions that affect children and why their parents want them to opt out.

New York Chancellor Merryl Tisch offered to delay Cuomo’s high-stakes testing regime for a year. Legislators were delighted.

But opt-out parents rejected the offer. They saw no change in the onerous testing, just a one-year reprieve.

The new system, under which teachers will be rated based on students’ standardized test scores as well as classroom observations, is bad policy, and delaying it a year won’t make it better, parents said.

“I love my teachers, but if you link the children’s achievement to the teachers’ evaluations, it turns classrooms into test prep, and it robs my child of a well-rounded education,” said Pamela Verity, a Suffolk County mother of three. “So I have to protect my teachers.

“This doesn’t calm me down,” Verity continued. “I want it all gone—Common Core, high-stakes testing, all of it. I want the federal government out of my schools. I want big business out of my schools. I want my schools back.”

The Néw York Times has barely covered the historic parent Opt Out movement. Before the testing began, it ran a story about parents who decided not to opt out for fear their children would suffer. When the opt out was making news across the nation, given the huge numbers, the Times did not deign to report the story. Then, at last, the Times wrote a story about how teachers’ unions had fomented the opt out, with no attempt to explain why nearly 200,000 parents from across the state might take orders from the unions.

But there was more trivialization and dodging. On Friday the Times published a story about districts that follow a “sit and stare” policy for children who opt out. It quoted several superintendents who disapproved of the opt outs, but not one of the superintendents who were sympathetic.

The parent-educator group that led the Opt Out movement published a letter to the editor asking why the Times has been dismissive of their hard work.

Here is the letter:

LETTER

Parents’ Role in the New York Test Protest

APRIL 24, 2015

To the Editor:

From “Teachers Fight Tests, and Find Diverse Allies” (front page, April 21), readers would never know that the 185,000-plus students who opted out of the state English Language Arts test last week did so because of more than three years of organizing by a genuinely grass-roots movement of public school parents.

This year parent groups held more than 100 forums across the state; rallied, protested and raised thousands of dollars for billboards promoting test refusal; and engaged tens of thousands more parents via Facebook and Twitter. Sadly, this article epitomizes the media’s preference to portray every education story as a battle between the teachers unions and their opponents.

NANCY K. CAUTHEN
New York

The writer is on the steering committees of New York State Allies for Public Education and Change the Stakes.

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Néw York Board of Regents, has delayed implementation of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s draconian and misguided plan to evaluate teachers by test scores.

When Néw York sought Race to the Top money, it promised that test scores would count for 20%. Under pressure from Governor Cuomo, the proportion rose to 40%. Cuomo was angry when almost every teacher was rated effective or highly effective. He wanted to fire teachers. Tisch wrote a letter to Chomo agreeing with his demand to raise the testing proportion to 50%.

The legislature caved during budget negotiations and passed a “matrix” that implies 50% but left the final determination to the Regents. Tisch decided more time was necessary and extended the deadline.

The sad part of this drama is that no one ever refers to research. Numerous studies and reports have refuted the validity of test scores for measuring teacher quality. Start with the American Statistical Association’s statement on VAM. There are too many variables that the teacher does not control that influence test scores.

The current dispute seems to be about whether to misjudge teacher quality sooner or later.

The New York Times has written another article about the historic Opt Out movement in New York. Thus far, we know that 150,000-200,000 students opted out of the ELA, and we don’t know yet how many opted out of the math tests. The subject of the article is whether opt out students are treated unfairly when forced to “sit and stare,” rather than going to the library and reading while their classmates take the test. The article raises another point: Are the opt out students “bullying” their classmates who are taking the tests?

While these are interesting points, they seem to be trivial as compared to the reasons why parents opt out. It is not simply to protect their children. Is it not simply to thwart public officials who want data. It is because parents know that the tests provide no information of any value to their child.

I have in front of me a report from this year’s ELA exam in New York. It was for a third-grader. The names of the child and the school are removed. The report gives the child a score and a ranking. Of what value is that for the child or her teacher? How does that show whether the school is making progress? How does it lead to improved curriculum and instruction? The teachers and parents are not allowed to see the test questions and answers, or to know which ones the students got wrong. How can anyone learn from such paltry information?

The parents seem to understand this. Their numbers will grow, and as they do, the threats will grow shriller but more hollow.

This press release just arrived from Néw York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of 50 parent and educator groups.

http://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-ny-parents-have-spoken.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2015

More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123; nys.allies@gmail.com
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) – http://www.nysape.org

NY Parents Have Spoken, Now It’s Time to Fix Cuomo’s Education Budget Debacle & Establish New Leadership for the Board of Regents

For the past two years, New York State Allies for Public Education has warned elected and appointed officials about serious concerns related to excessive high-stakes state testing based on flawed and experimental learning standards, as well as the collection and sharing of private student data.

This past week, the national attention focused on the parent uprising taking place in New York State. Spurred to action by the refusal of both the Governor and the NYS Education Department’s failure to respond to legitimate concerns, thousands of parents fought back to protect their children.

At this time, estimates indicate parents of close to 200,000 students this year have refused New York State’s Common Core testing agenda and the final figures are expected to be even higher.

The educational program of the state is in chaos. Leadership is more important than ever. On Sunday, April 19th the Editorial Board of The Journal News declared, “The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership” in calling for Chancellor Merryl Tisch to step aside.

New York State Allies for Public Education, a grassroots coalition of over fifty parent and educator advocacy organizations from all corners of the Empire State, stands with the Editorial Board of The Journal News.

Chancellor Tisch must step down. The only way for the Board of Regents, Assembly, and Senate to regain trust of their constituents is to call for the Regents to empower a new leader to fix within its authority, the Cuomo budget legislation fiasco and the misguided Regents Reform Agenda.

“Parents have been left with no choice. We will submit our refusal letters, which is our parental right, on day one of school, next year and every year and if those in power will not listen, we will free our children from a test driven, developmentally inappropriate education,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.

“For the past two years Chancellor Tisch has repeatedly ignored parents at forums throughout the state. She is incapable of leading the state in a new direction because she believes what is happening is just fine and her latest plea for asking for more time is just a distraction from the real issues. Her repeated calls for critics to “calm down” indicates her unwillingness to change course.” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“On Chancellor Tisch’s watch, the work of the State Education Department has been outsourced to a privately funded ‘Regents Fellows’ think tank. It is not surprising that the reforms put forth by this think tank advance the agenda of the wealthy ‘yacht set’ and corporate-linked groups that fund the Regent Fellows: The Robin Hood Foundation, Gates Foundation, and even Chancellor Tisch herself. When you replace a public service with a private organization that advances corporate agendas, New Yorkers know that is corruption,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent and Schools of Thought Hudson Valley, NY founder.

“While the Governor has demonstrated blatant disregard for the will of the people by doubling down on the use of high stakes testing, the State Education Department and Chancellor Tisch similarly ignored parent concerns regarding inappropriate test content by forcing children to read passages on last week’s ELA tests that were up to four years above grade level followed by vague and confusing questions,” said Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent, Central NY Opt Out co-founder, and educator.

Fred Smith, testing specialist, NYC public schools retired administrative analyst, and Change the Stakes member said, “Instead of transparency and disclosure of complete and timely test data that would open the quality of the ELA and math exams to independent review, Tisch has ruled over an unaccountable testing program that flies at near-zero visibility–in a fog of flawed field testing procedures, age-inappropriate poorly written items, the covert removal of test questions after they have been scored, arbitrarily drawn cut off scores, and the misapplication of the results to reach unsupportable conclusions about students, teachers, and schools.”

“As seen with the budget debacle earlier this month, New Yorkers know when the ‘Albany Fix’ is in,” Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member. Mihelbergel went on to say, “We know that the opt out movement will ultimately invalidate the data and render these test scores useless. When some schools have opt outs as high as 70%, we know that any claims that opt out is “random” and that only a small sampling of test scores will yield usable data is illogical.”

To ensure clarity for all, NYSAPE calls for the following from the NYS Legislature & Board of Regents and will release a more comprehensive list in the near future:

1. A dramatic reduction of testing in grades 3rd – 8th, along with reasserting New York State’s authority to determine the education of its children by calling on the US Congress to reduce testing requirements and return to grade span testing. As former President Bill Clinton said we don’t need annual testing, “I think doing one [test] in elementary school, one in the end of middle school and one before the end of high school is quite enough if you do it right.”

2. Chancellor Tisch must immediately step down.

3. An independent review of the NYS career and college ready standards to ensure that standards are research based and appropriate. Establish a taskforce including parents, educators, and stakeholders to study the Common Core Learning Standards and make recommendations to adjust and adopt NYS standards.

4. Adhere to a public and transparent process for selecting a new NYS Commissioner of Education.

5. Fix the Cuomo budget legislation debacle by passing legislation that decouples student test scores and restores local board of education control over teacher evaluations.

6. Pass legislation that REQUIRES parental consent to share ANY identifiable student data beyond school district administrators.

We want to restore our classrooms with a well-rounded education and drive testing compliance factory reforms out of our classrooms forever.

###

– See more at: http://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-ny-parents-have-spoken.html#sthash.WPxXvbWx.dpuf

New York State may have the discretion to withhold federal funds from districts where more than 5% of students didn’t take the annual tests. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch continues to assert that nearly 200,000 children refused the tests because of a dispute between the labor unions and the governor. Parents groups who have advocated for opting out as a protest against top-down decision-making and over-reliance on standardized testing insist that their actions were not influenced by the unions.

ALBANY—State education officials appear to have some discretion over whether districts or schools lose federal funding because of this month’s unprecedented boycott of standardized testing.

State officials had previously suggested that the matter was out of their hands. Representatives for the U.S. Department of Education and the state Education Department have said the federal government could withhold Title I funds—grants for schools that serve low-income students—if fewer than 95 percent of students in an individual school or district take the tests, and Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday also said the federal government holds the power to decide whether to withhold funding.

Some parents have indicated that any effort to punish them or their children or their schools will inflame the opt out movement and help it grow.

But public statements and regulatory guidance from both the U.S. and state education departments suggest the decision is not totally up to the feds.

“They [federal officials] seem to indicate—I’m hearing that we have discretion, but we will find out how much discretion we have,” state Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch told Capital on Tuesday. “If we do have discretion, we intend to use it.”

Tisch has said she hopes students won’t be punished for a disagreement among adults, attributing the so-called “opt out” movement to the fight between the state and teachers’ unions over controversial performance evaluations. According to unofficial totals compiled by parent activists, more than 100,000 children refused state English language arts tests last week, and the so-called “opt out” movement will likely continue when math exams start today.

Tisch said if it were up to her, she wouldn’t withhold funds. She acknowledged, though, that taking no action could further fuel the test refusal movement, validating the arguments of parent activists who have called officials’ warnings about funding cuts empty threats and an example of fear mongering.

Sometimes, people have to retire to speak candidly. A reader in Néw York left this comment:

 

“I am a retired Superintendent. If my kids were still in school they would not waste their time taking these tests–and I would encourage the friends of their parents to have their children opt out. These are terrible assessments that are used for very inappropriate purposes. Do not feed the Tisch/Cuomo testing machine–take your child to a museum when other kids are being tested–and make clear to administrators that under no circumstances are your kids to be taken out of class for make up exams!”

Donn Esmonde of the Buffalo News sat down to talk with three of the parent leaders of the historic Opt Out movement in New York state. Although the mainstream media has trouble understanding that the movement is led by parents, Esmonde got it.

They don’t look or act like radicals. None dress in camouflage. All three are parents who vote, pay their taxes, stop at red lights and salute the flag. But Eric Mihelbergel, Christine Cavarello and Jodi Hitchcock – and thousands like them – form the roots of a revolution.

It would be one thing if they were a disaffected minority, a grumpy niche, a band of eccentrics. But their numbers have swelled to the point where they – and their message – can no longer be ignored. Not even by as large, autonomous and irrepressible a bureaucracy as State Ed.

The three are part of a mushrooming legion of parents who don’t let their kids take standardized state tests. Their numbers are startling: 70 percent of third- through eighth-graders in West Seneca; 58 percent in Lake Shore; 56 percent in North Tonawanda; and 49 percent in Lackawanna opted out of Tuesday’s English Language Arts (ELA) exam. Numbers were lower in other districts – but exponentially larger in most places than last year….

We sat Thursday in the living room of Mihelbergel’s tidy ranch house in Tonawanda. I wanted a better idea of the motives behind the movement. These parents didn’t strike me as irrational, uninformed or overprotective. Quite the contrary.

They have a huge – and, it seems to me, justifiable – problem with their kids being force-fed these now-annual exams of questionable content. The results are being more heavily tied by the governor into grading teachers and schools. At worst, it feeds a teach-to-the-test culture that undercuts learning, handcuffs teachers and disregards the strengths and interests of each kid.

“It’s a game nobody’s going to win,” said Cavarello. “You’re chasing test scores, to the detriment of really educating the kids … The teachers aren’t happy, but they can’t do much about it.”

When the testing tail wags the learning dog, parents stand up in protest. And their numbers are growing. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, “You know something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Cuomo?”

The parents I spoke with aren’t rising up because they don’t know what’s happening in the classrooms, but because they do. Ramping up standardized testing, and its ripple effect in schools, has turned parents into rebels, solid citizens into outliers, the law-abiding into the rule-defying.

“The state has underestimated the power of that Mama Bear and Papa Bear instinct, when it comes to protecting our children,” said Hitchcock. “This fight isn’t easy, it takes a lot of work.”

Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News says that 999 is the code for students who opted out in New York state, and their numbers are huge. At last count, with slightly more than half the districts tallied, protest organizers estimate that about 180,000 students opted out of the English language arts exams. In some districts, 70-80% of the students did not take the tests. State officials, acting with all due speed, as usual, said that they won’t know how many students opted out of the test until the summer, maybe.

 

Remember that these are not the tests that we took when we were in school. They are tests that last several hours over a three-day period for each subject. Two full weeks of school are devoted to testing, one week for ELA, one week for math, three days of testing each week. Why can’t the testing companies figure out what students know and can do with a one-hour test, as our teachers used to do by themselves?

 

Parents opted out despite threats from state and local officials that their child would jeopardize his/her future or the school would lose funding.

 

Gonzalez writes:

 

Whatever the final number, it was a startling act of mass civil disobedience, given that each parent had to write a letter to the local school demanding an opt out for their child.

 

It’s even more impressive because top education officials publicly warned school districts they risk losing federal funds if nonparticipation surpasses 5%.

 

“To react to parents who are speaking out by threatening to defund our schools is outrageous,” said Megan Diver, the mother of twin girls who refused their third-grade test at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

 

Gonzalez sees the game that the state is playing with the tests:

 

Back in 2009, the old state tests showed 77% of students statewide were proficient in English. The next year, the pass level was raised and the proficiency percentage dropped to 57%. A few years later, Albany introduced Common Core and the level plummeted even more — to 31% statewide.

 

Same children. Same teachers. Different test.

 

The politicians created a test that says all schools are failing, not just the ones in the big cities, then declare a crisis, so they can close more neighborhood schools, launch more charter schools, and target more teachers for firing.

 

Meanwhile, the private company that fashioned this new test, Pearson, insists on total secrecy over its content.

 

This week, test instructions even warned teachers not to “read, review, or duplicate the contents of secure test material before, during, or after test administration.”

 

What kind of testing company forbids a teacher from reading the test he or she administers?

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