Archives for category: New York

Today, Marge Borchert, principal of Allendale Elementary School in the West Seneca Central School District, an inner-ring suburb of Buffalo, NY. joins our honor roll. She loves the children who attend her school. She sees each of them as beautiful human beings, growing and learning, not as data points. Many of her children opted out of the state tests. This caused Ms. Borchert to get a zero growth score. She is so proud of her children that she wears her score as “a badge of honor.”

She wrote the following letter to her students:

Dear Boys & Girls,

I wanted to write you a letter telling you how very much I enjoyed and continue to enjoy all of the painted rocks that you made. They are a great addition to our beautiful garden. I loved looking at each and every one of them this summer. I stopped to admire them when I checked on the flowers that were planted by your parents. Quite honestly, they brought a smile to my face even on rainy days. The rocks are as unique and colorful as each one of you. Each rock is painted with your own unique story.

The butterfly bush that is growing outside of my office window is blooming, and it is the most beautiful shade of purple that I have ever seen. A ruby throated hummingbird has been visiting that bush every day since it bloomed. I am looking forward to seeing a butterfly visit. The baby sparrows in the birdhouse have learned to fly, and have moved away. The crow that was tormenting the baby rabbits seems to have learned not to poke its beak in their home. Several of us watched in astonishment as the mother rabbit chased after that crow, jumped in the air and batted at that crow with its front paw. This was the first time that I have ever seen such a sport! That mother rabbit had strong protective instincts– just like your moms. We can learn so much by observing nature. Who knew that there was so much to !earn by just taking some time to stop, look, and listen.

So…..by now all of you are wondering why I was inspired to write you such a long letter. It is simply for this reason. I want each and every one of you to know that you inspire me on a daily basis. Each and every one of you is unique and colorful in your own special way. Each of you has a special talent, and you are loved. I intend to hold on to these thoughts when I look at the New York State scores, and I encourage your parents to do the same. The scores are not a true picture of who you are in this world. You can and will bloom when you are ready. You will fly when you are ready. It is entirely up to you to decide what you will grow up to be in life. It all depends on you. Remember the mother rabbit who used her own unique talents and skills to “fear that nasty crow nevermore. “

In my heart — you truly rock!!! I can’t wait to see you in September!!

Love Always,

Mrs. Borchert

P.S. These are the books that I read this summer:

The Diary of Anne Frank

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Recidicide by Kelly Gallagher

The Story Killers by Terrence 0. Moore

David & Goliath by Macolm Gledwell

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Children of the Core by Kris L. Nielsen

The Bible

In a stirring editorial, the “Nation” magazine endorsed Zephyr Teachout for Governor of New York. Its editorial makes clear that Andrew Cuomo has served the interests of Wall Street, not the people of New York. He is an austerity Governor who has been a disaster for the state’s public schools and children, as well as those who serve the children.

It says, in part:

“We believe New Yorkers who want a more progressive government should vote for Teachout on September 9. The Nation makes this endorsement with the understanding that Teachout may not be able to overcome the political barriers that have been erected, in the state and nationally, to a grassroots, idea-driven campaign. But we believe her candidacy holds out the potential for forging the bold, people-led politics we seek in 2014 and beyond.

“A vote for Teachout sends two critical signals. First, it objects to Cuomo’s approach to electioneering and governing, which is too heavy-handed, too top-down, and too prone to cutting ethical corners. While the governor has done some good on issues like marriage equality, his rightward tilt on education and economic issues has crippled New York’s fight against inequality. And Cuomo has stumbled badly when it comes to addressing corruption, as evidenced by the recent revelations that he meddled with the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption, which he created in 2013.

“But there’s more to this challenge than legitimate criticism of Cuomo and corruption. Teachout offers an example of what it means to be a progressive Democrat in the twenty-first century. A distinguished academic and activist, she has been in the forefront of advancing progressive reform for nearly two decades. As a professor at Fordham Law School, the author of important books on political and economic policy, a key figure in Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, and a visionary organizer on behalf of banking and business reforms, she understands that the Democratic Party must move toward progressive populism in order to become more than a tepid alternative to Republican extremism.

“Thus, the second signal that a vote for Teachout will send is a demand for change in the Democratic establishment, which cannot continue to dance around the issue of income inequality. It must reject austerity cuts and embrace investment in infrastructure, education and communities, as Teachout and others in the party’s populist wing have. It must recognize the political appeal of battling crony capitalism and corruption. And in the midst of a digital revolution every bit as disruptive as the Industrial Revolution before it, the party’s leadership must recognize the necessity of supporting Net neutrality, ending the digital divide and expanding broadband Internet access—issues that Teachout and her running mate for lieutenant governor, Tim Wu, have highlighted.

“A victory by Teachout and Wu would be a dramatic upset—one with the potential to overturn political calculations nationwide. But even a respectable finish could illustrate the strength of the progressive base and keep the proposals that Teachout and Wu have been fighting for alive.

This morning, Carol Burris had a post on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet in which she tried to decipher the New Common Core test scores in New York. The first thing she noticed was that the state did not release the mean scores, which it usually does. So she calculated them herself for several key counties.

English language arts scores were flat, math scores were up. In several of the counties, ELA scores declined by three or four points. The only grade that held steady in ELA was grade 8. No gain.

“The only good news for ELA was that the achievement gap between white and black proficiency rates narrowed a bit. However, a narrower gap, achieved predominantly through lower scores of the higher performing group, is not the strategy of choice. The proficiency rate for white students dropped two points (38 percent), and the proficiency rate for black students went up one point (17 percent).”

Math scores were up, but the black-white gap may have grown.

“The lack of success of the state’s most vulnerable children on tests that are inappropriate measures of learning is breathtaking. The ELA proficiency rate for students with disabilities who are economically disadvantaged is only 4 percent. Seventy-six percent of such students remain in the lowest of the 4 score bands, 1. This is not a small group of students; they comprise 123,233 of New York’s public school children in Grades 3-8. The news was equally bad for the nearly 78,000 English Language learners whose ELA proficiency rate remained stuck at 3 percent.”

Given the inappropriate choice of “proficiency” as a passing mark, the majority of students “failed” both tests, despite increased familiarity with the standards, the curriculum, and the tests. As I have explained before, New York selected the NAEP definition of “proficient,” which is a very high mark, not grade level, and certainly not pass-fail. So long as the state insists on NAEP proficient as its passing mark, a majority of students will fail and students with disabilities and English learners will remain far, far behind. What plans does the state have for the many pupils who will not ever earn a high school diploma?

Remember that Arne Duncan said that there was too much testing, that testing was sucking the oxygen and joy out of classrooms? New York didn’t get the message. In that state, state tests count for 20% of educator evaluations, and local assessments count for another 20%. That is the agreement negotiated with the unions when the state won Race to the Top funding.

That was then, this is now.

The Néw York Board of Regents want state test scores to count for 40% of the evaluations of teachers and principals. This report was was confirmed to me by someone in Albany.

It matters not to the Regents that test-based evaluation is not working anywhere else. It matters not that the AERA and the National Academy of Education warned against it, warned that it would incentivize teachers to avoid high-needs students. It matters not that the American Statistical Association warned against using test scores to rate individual teachers since they affect only 1-14% of variation in student scores.

The ASA said: “Attaching too much importance to a single item of quantitative information is counter-
productive—in fact, it can be detrimental to the goal of improving quality. In particular, making changes in response to aspects of quantitative information that are actually random variation can increase the overall variability of the system.”

Unlike the state of Vermont, which refuses to rate teachers and principals by test scores, Néw York’s Regents will plunge ahead, regardless of the damage they do to teachers, principals, students, and communities.

Fred Smith, a testing expert who worked many years at the New York City Board of Education, has become a mentor to the opt-out movement in New York. In this article, which was published in the New York Daily News, Smith writes, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the half-truth, the partial truth and nothing like the truth? Apparently, that’s the vow press officers who work for the New York State Education Department take.”

“Why was half of Thursday’s announcement of the 2014 test results devoted to testimonials, mainly from selected superintendents, on how educational gains are being made due to implementation of the Common Core?”

Smith writes that:

“The 2014 tests were given in April and scored in May, with the results and press release issued in August. Why the delay. The same pattern was followed in 2013.

“The delay is unexplained, and it feeds suspicions that the state is sitting on the results trying to figure out the most advantageous way to package them.”

Under pressure from parents, the state released half the test questions. Smith wonders, why not release them all? By the time teachers get the test results, the children are no longer in their class. Nor do teachers learn which questions their students got right or wrong. If teachers can’t learn anything about their students other than whether he or she was rated as a 1, 2, 3, o4, of what value is the test?

The state’s contract with Pearson stipulates that test questions may not be used again, so why not release to the public the entire test that the public paid for?

Carol Burris and Biana Tanis take a close look at New York’s Common Core tests and find them deeply flawed. Burris is a high school principal on Long Island and Tanis is a public school parent and special education teacher in the Hudson Valley.

State officials celebrated paltry results: the passing rates on the reading test were flat and increased in math by 4.6%. But nearly 2/3 of the state’s children did not reach the state’s unreasonably high proficiency level. Testing experts and state officials knew in advance what the results would be. Why do they stubbornly cling to the outworn cliche that raising the bar improves achievement? We thought that idea was discredited by the abject failure of NCLB. If a run er can’t clear a four-foot bar, how will he clear a six-foot bar?

Burris and Tanis show that certain groups, such as students with disabilities and English language learners, did very poorly. The content was far beyond their capacity. Fifty percent of the questions were released, and the authors show that many were age-inappropriate. What is the logic of giving 7th grade content to a 5th grader?

Here is an example:

“In addition to passage difficulty, the questions themselves required skills out of the reach for many young children. Consider this fourth-grade question on the test based on a passage from Pecos Bill Captures the Pacing White Mustang by Leigh Peck.

Why is Pecos Bill’s conversation with the cowboys important to the story?

A) It predicts the action in paragraph 4

B) It predicts the action in paragraph 5

C) It predicts the choice in paragraph 10

D) It predicts the choice in paragraph 11

Visualize the steps required to answer this question. First, 9-year-olds must flip back to the conversation and re-read it. Next, they must go back to the question and then flip back to paragraph 4. Complete this step 3 more times, each time remembering the original question. In addition to remembering the content of each paragraph, they must also be mindful that choices A and B refer to the action in the related paragraph, while choices C and D refer to a choice. Similar questions were on the third-grade test. Questions such as these are better suited to assess one’s ability to put together a chair from Ikea than they are to assess student’s understanding of what they read.”

Is it any wonder that parent anger towards the Common Core is growing in New York? This is a blue state; these parents are outraged by a state policy that labels their children as failures based on tests that are developmentally inappropriate. Why does the state want 2/3 of its children to be branded as failures? If this is what Common Core means, it will have a short life indeed. It may be fine for the kids bound for the Ivy League, but most kids are not. We need common sense more than Common Core.

In New York State, a small group of Democrats in the State Senate flipped their allegiance to the Republicans, giving Republicans control of the Senate. Republican control of the Senate worked to the benefit of the 1%.

One of that group was State Senator Jeffrey Klein. He just won the endorsement of the New York State United Teachers.

This is bizarre. According to this blogger, Perdido Street School, Klein is pro-voucher and pro-charter. He supports evaluating educators by test scores.

Can anyone associated with NYSUT explain this endorsement?

As the New York Daily News put it, today was not a good day for Governor Cuomo.

First the New York State United Teachers decided not to endorse him or anyone else.

Then the Public Employees Federation endorsed Zephyr Teachout.

He still has $35 million in campaign funds, but a steamroller he is not.

He hoped to be re-elected with such impressive numbers that he would be seen as Presidential timbre. He forgot that New York Democrats are not traditionally a pro-business, pro-Wall Street, anti-labor, anti-public school party. He lined up the money brokers and forgot his party’s base. Bad idea.

New York released its 2014 test scores today. The proportion of students reaching “proficiency” English was flat, and there was a small increase in math. Unfortunately, in both subjects, a large majority of students in grades 3-8 were “not proficient.” As I have pointed out in earlier blogs, the Common Core tests in New York and elsewhere decided to adopt a very high bar for their definition of “proficiency.” It is aligned with the definition of proficiency in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which represents solid academic achievement, NOT “grade level.” There is only one state—Massachusetts–where as many as 50% of students have managed to reach proficiency on the NAEP. With such a high bar, the state knew that most students would be branded as failures, based on a grueling standardized test. With 64-68% of students “failing,” these results are likely to fuel the New York parent revolt against high-stakes testing. What a terrible burden to place on young children.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2014
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

Parents and Educators Reject the Tests, the Scores and Corporate Agenda of NYSED & Pearson

Today Commissioner John King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch released the test scores of the state exams in 3-8th grades, showing that, more than 68% of the state’s students were judged not proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) and more than 64% not proficient in Math. The overall results were largely flat with little to no change year over year with only small gains and drops for specific demographic groups.

Members of the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of more than 50 parent and educator advocacy groups, challenge the quality of the tests, the accuracy of the scores, and the motives of those who have manufactured these results. This past spring, NYSAPE estimated that at least 44,000 students had opted out of the state exams; today the Commissioner admitted that the number was as large as 60,000 compared to 10,000 in 2013.

As the growing problems with New York’s excessive and speculative testing reforms are exposed, parents across the state are outraged and calling for an overhaul at the state education department.

Lisa Rudley, Westchester county public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “Though Commissioner John King assured us that the new Common Core state tests would be a much better reflection of the skills students will need for ‘college and career’ success with the release of 50% of the questions last week, we learned what educators were forbidden by law from telling us: these were flawed tests, riddled with vague questions, inappropriate reading passages and multiple product placements. In its new Pearson contract signed amidst a financial crisis, NYSED doubled annual spending on testing and even worse, eliminated the transparency of the previous McGraw-Hill contract. Where is the management from NYSED and the oversight from the Board of Regents?”

Dr. Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School on Long Island said, “Considering the more than $28 million taxpayer investment in curriculum modules, this paltry increase in scores is one more indication of the ineffectiveness of State Education Department’s reforms, and the inappropriateness of the Common Core tests. Parents should take heart in knowing that the ‘college readiness‘ proficiency scores have no connection with reality. My high school and many other well-resourced high schools in NY have proven records of preparing students for college success that are no way connected to the state’s newest measure of proficiency.”

Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “If the released questions are this bad, you have to wonder how much worse the other half were. I have no confidence in the results released today. Parents now demand new leadership for a Board of Regents and Commissioner of Education who repeatedly fail to adequately respond to their legitimate concerns.”

“Many of the multiple choice questions required up to five steps and compelled 8 year olds to flip back forth between numbered paragraphs. The question becomes more of a measure of attention, memory and test taking skills rather than their deep understanding of a text. The commissioner has stated that education should not be about test prep, but these tricky assessments all but ensure that test prep will continue — to the detriment of real learning,” said Bianca Tanis, an Ulster County public school parent and special education teacher.

Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Opt Out said, “This past spring, 55,000 to 60,000 New York State students were spared from yet another year of test scores that were designed to show a large majority of failures. The number of opt outs will steadily grow until NYSED takes the concerns of parents seriously and makes the necessary changes to our children’s excessive high stakes testing regimen. High stakes testing and the Regents Agenda have hijacked our classrooms, and every day more parents become aware of how they too must protect their children from these harmful policies.”

Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent and educator notes, “Until the NYSED acknowledges that these developmentally inappropriate exams take time away from instruction, cost taxpayers, and set kids up to fail — in an attempt to perpetuate the false narrative of Governor Cuomo’s ‘death penalty’ for schools — parents will continue to refuse to allow their children to participate in these state tests.”

“The test content was not sufficiently disclosed and there was no quality assurance or mechanism for parents or educators to obtain valuable feedback. The bottom line is that students are getting hurt, money is being wasted and precious time is being spent on high stakes testing at the expense of more meaningful instruction. The system surrounding the NYS testing program is dysfunctional to say the least,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

Fred Smith, a test specialist formerly with the NYC Department of Education (DOE) stated, “The State Education Department took a half-step by releasing 50 percent of the English and math questions from the April 2014 exams. It was a half-step not just because it falls halfway short of full disclosure, but also because SED fails to provide data at its disposal that would enable objective evaluation of the questions, each of which is a brick in the wall of the testing program.”

“Like many other parents, I see how flawed the tests are as a measure of learning, and fear for all those millions of students who are told, unjustly, and at an early age, they aren’t ‘college and career ready’. These tests which ask our children to prove the existence of Big Foot and expose them to numerous and inappropriate product placements are the furthest from rigor one could imagine. I question the motives of the bureaucrats and the testing companies who are forcing these inappropriate exams onto our children – to try to prove to the public that our schools and children are failing, so they can better pursue their privatization agenda and the outsourcing of education into corporate hands,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

###

The New York State United Teachers decided not to endorse Andrew Cuomo for re-election, nor anyone else.

NYSUT has 600,000 members and a strong get-out-the-vote operation. It did endorse the Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“Those who earn endorsements are friends of public education and labor,” NYSUT president Karen Magee said in a statement. “Over the last two years, they earned our support by advocating effectively for our public schools, colleges and health care institutions; listening intently to the concerns and aspirations of our members, and voting consistently the right way.”

Cuomo is a staunch advocate of privately-managed charter schools and has received large campaign contributions from the hedge fund industry, which supports charter schools. 3% of the state’s children are enrolled in charter schools. Cuomo is also a firm advocate for evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, although he gives no sign of knowing that it has been tried and failed in many other places.

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