Archives for category: Parent Groups

A reader of a post this morning about a letter from John Kline to Arne Duncan asked for more information about the Department of Education’s change of regulations governing FERPA (the Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974).

In a post two years ago, I described the lawsuit filed by EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center), which sought to block the changes in federal regulations in 2011 that loosened the protections of student privacy.

Here is an explanation of the lawsuit that appeared on Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog.

The EPIC lawsuit was dismissed in 2013; the Court held that EPIC did not have standing to sue. Its ruling did not deal with the substantive claims.

Parent groups became concerned about FERPA when the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation funded the “Shared Learning Collaborative,” which was renamed inBloom. The plan was to aggregate personally identifiable student data from state data warehouses, store them in a cloud, and make them available for use by others. Whether those others included vendors, researchers, or commercial enterprises is not sure, but parents vehemently opposed the entire plan. The software was developed by Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (part of Joel Klein’s Amplify division) and the data would be stored in a “cloud” managed by amazon. Parent groups, fearful that their child’s personal data would be mined, testified against the data-sharing agreements in every state and district that agreed to join inBloom, and the effort collapsed. The last state to withdraw was New York, because Commissioner John King supported inBloom. The legislature compelled the state’s withdrawal. When there were no states or districts willing to share student data, inBloom had no reason to exist.

The organization to fight inBloom was led by Leonie Haimson of New York and Rachel Strickland of Colorado, who formed the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. See here and here and here.

The latest from Ohio: parents and educators take a stand against the destruction of their public schools:

“Ohio now has Public Education Partners – a new 401(c)3 that aims to act as an “umbrella” advocacy group that unites all the many grassroots parent/teacher/community groups in Ohio that are fighting corporate “reform,” including charters. We don’t have the money that Lager, Brennan, et al have, but we do have the power of our voices & our votes. Our Board includes current & retired teachers, local school board members, and such notables as Bill Phillis – executive director of Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy in Public Education Funding (Diane has posted his blog entries several times), among others.

“Our inaugural “Summit” is being held on 10/17 in Dublin, OH. Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio is our keynote – he has been relentless in writing about charter abuses. We will be having breakout sessions on Youngstown, Charters, Opt Outs, Parent Advocacy groups, etc. Tom Dunn, Superintendent of Miami County ESC is rounding out the day by helping us “connect the dots” and determine the next steps in our fight. It should be a great networking opportunity for those in Ohio who truly want to save our public schools. Cost is a modest $15 which includes lunch. Message me through this site if you would like registration information – I would love to meet you Chiara, Deb, drakestraw and other Ohio frequent commenters!! “

Parents in the Hudson Valley of New York are outraged by Cuomo’s commission to review the Common Core standards and tests.

This is a region that encompasses both high wealth and high poverty. It had some of the highest opt out numbers in the state.

Here is a large sample:

After conceding that “evidence of failure is everywhere”, Governor Cuomo recently announced his fifteen member 2015 Common Core Commission. Billed as an opportunity to cure an “implementation” problem, the commission is notably lacking in any representation of elementary school parents, let alone critics of the Common Core. Parents across the Hudson Valley reject yet another pointless commission that ignores the concerns of parents and educators.

“A panel of advisors hand picked by Chancellor Tisch made recommendations about the Common Core Learning Standards to the Regents in February 2014 and the Governor himself was responsible for putting together a Common Core Implementation Panel who made recommendations in March 2014. Now, over a year and half later, the Governor admits that “failure is everywhere”. The Governor keeps asking for time to make common core work but my children have no more time to give. Their most formative years are being wasted and abused by this deeply flawed and developmentally inappropriate education reform which focuses on standardized testing and eliminates authentic teaching” said Joanne Tumolo, Mahopac public school parent and co-founder Putnam, Northern Westchester, Southern Dutchess Refuse the Tests.

Failure of the experimental Common Core Learning Standards comes as no surprise to the 220,000 families of public school children who chose to refuse NYS Common Core tests in the spring of 2015. While state education officials claim that the appointment of new test maker, Questar will address the public concerns, parents know that this is simply more of the same. Until New York State takes action to scrap the Common Core Learning Standards and halts the invalid use of discriminatory test scores to evaluate schools and teachers, opt out will grow.

Christine Zirkelbach co-Administrator of Hudson Valley Parent Educator Initiative said: “The Governor continues his charade of listening to the parents of New York State students by appointing a commission to review Common Core State Standards where the majority of the members are not professional, life time educators at all. Parents are not going to be appeased by another commission or rebranding of CCSS. Parents will continue to advocate for our public schools until local control is restored and the Governor and NYSED no longer mandate the corporatization of our children’s education.”

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County Public School parent and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education said “While the task force includes business leaders with no pedagogical knowledge, it does not include a single parent of an elementary school child. And of the 15 person panel, there are two teachers, only one of whom is an elementary school teacher. The panel is a sham and disgrace. Union leaders and politicians claiming to support the best interest of children should refuse to participate until the parents and teachers of the young children harmed by these experimental learning standards are represented.

“The Governor’s selected panel is very disappointing. There is not a single member who is an expert or a teacher of Math or English. The exclusion of parents of Special needs students and Special Educators is alarming. This task force is a farce and it’s another failed attempt by the Governor to mend a system that is failing miserably” said Suzanne DiAngelo Coyle, Rockland County public school parent and administrator of Stop Common Core Rockland County.

Who on this commission will actually do the work of reviewing the standards and the tests? This appears to be yet another “Cuomo commission” that has lots of sound and fury, amounting to nothing.

The Néw York State Allies for Public Education, representing more than 50 grassroots groups across the state, denounced Governor Cuomo’s commission to review and revise the Common Core standards and tests. Yet th Cuomo commission includes no parent who opted out, no early childhood educator, but many who served on Cuomo’s last, failed commission.

NYSAPE describes the commission as”donor-driven,” chaired by the same banker who chaired the last Cuomo commission on standards and tests.

Opt out leaders promise to refuse the tests next spring.

“The Cuomo Commission consists of many members from his first unproductive Commission and will again be led by the same businessman, Richard Parsons, despite the public’s outcry for an educator-led process. Parents know the Common Core standards and the Common Core exams are damaging their children’s education, not because they are “confused”, but because the standards themselves are invalid.

“Governor Cuomo cannot use a political task force to get politics out of education. Until our children’s education is once again under the direction of real education experts and classroom teachers, parents will not comply. Continuation of an unreliable teacher evaluation system tied to test scores, inappropriate and untested Common Core curriculum in our classrooms and inappropriate exams will not be tolerated. A task force devoid of critics is pointless.” –Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out.

“If the governor really wanted to fix this mess, he would have called back the legislature for a special session to undo the laws that got us here in the first place. It is time to get back our real learning in our kids’ classrooms and to local control by elected school boards. Without a fundamental improvement to the Common Core standards, the state exams and the way test scores are being unfairly used to stigmatize schools, teachers and students as failures, the number of parents opting out is guaranteed to sharply rise again this year.” –Lisa Rudley, Hudson Valley public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“Governor Cuomo is not trying to fix the problems with Common Core and testing. He is trying to make it salvage his reputation and his poll ratings, to make it ‘look like’ he is fixing these problems. These problems are not difficult to fix. Start by disconnecting tests from teacher evaluations to the extent allowable by Federal law, and then totally redo the standards and the exams by allowing New York teachers to rewrite them. But it appears that the Governor does not really want to do what is best for our children.”–Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“Cuomo claims Common Core is headed for a total reboot. Oddly enough, he has chosen 15 individuals as members who never had a problem with the standards to begin with. It is not often that you ask a bull to clean up the mess it has created in the china shop.” –Kevin Glynn, Long Island public school parent and educator.

“Governor Cuomo claims he is listening to parents, yet he has established another group that contains many of the same members as his previous commissions, which totally failed to provide answers to the education crisis created by the corporate reform movement. Polls show that the public is opposed to the Common Core, over-testing our children, and tying teacher evaluation to assessment results, yet the vast majority of Cuomo’s latest task force support the very policies rejected by New York families.” – Chris Cerrone, Western NY public school parent, school board member and educator.

​“For too long the majority of NYS Regents led by Chancellor Merryl Tisch have failed to provide the leadership necessary to protect children from harmful reforms. While the tide is changing with six Regents representing kids, the parents of Central NY see that Vice Chancellor Bottar has failed to protect kids and will call for his ouster.” –Jessica McNair, Central New York public school parent and educator.

“To show how off-base Cuomo is, in his speech he bragged about the teacher merit pay system he has imposed on the state. Teacher merit pay has never been shown to work to help kids learn, and this is one more sign of his willingness to waste millions of dollars of our taxpayer funds on untested or even damaging programs, in place of proven reforms like class size reduction.” –Lori Griffin, Northern New York public school parent and educator.

“Parents don’t just want politics out of their kids’ education. They want Andrew Cuomo and his political contributors to stay out of their classrooms. Parents across the state have vowed to continue refusing these harmful tests and practices to protect their children and their schools.”

Join NYSAPE. Help them resist political manipulation of our children and our schools.

The following statement was released by the New York State Allies for Public Education:—parents-respond-to-cuomo-tisch-elia.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 4, 2015

More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;

NYS Allies for Public Education

The Message of 220,000 Opt-Outs Has Not Been Heard: Elia Calls Opt-Out Parents “Unreasonable” and Cuomo Continues Trampling on the NYS Constitution

For over three years parents across New York have called on Albany to substantially change the direction of education reforms built on the flawed Common Core, its intertwined high-stakes testing and fundamentally broken teacher evaluation system.
Despite outrage with the appointment of an education commissioner without a public process, parents initially withheld their concerns with MaryEllen Elia and the reports of her support for Common Core reforms coupled with a heavy-handed, non-collaborative approach that factored in her firing in Florida.

Just a few short weeks into her appointment in New York however, Elia has proven parent skeptics right. She has adopted the “tough-talk” tactics of Andrew Cuomo and Merryl Tisch, apparently as cover for a governor and chancellor who have dramatically softened their education rhetoric to the public. Elia has labeled opt out parents as ‘unreasonable’, opt out supporting educators ‘unethical’ and threatened funding cuts if opt outs are not stopped.

In a press release yesterday expressing “sympathy” for parents, Cuomo called for a review of the Common Core in New York, blaming the State Education Department’s implementation while vowing to revive his Common Core panel to review the mess.

Parents across the state are not fools.

They know the problems are hardly limited to implementation of the Common Core, but the actual Common Core itself, its excessive testing, and a fundamentally broken teacher evaluation system.
Parents know that Andrew Cuomo is not part of the solution. Cuomo is the problem.

It is Cuomo who forced his unproven teacher evaluation system down parents’ throats.

It is Cuomo who slashed and underfunded the State Education Department staffing.

It is Cuomo who accepted ‘Big Donor’ campaign money and enabled the build-up of a privatized, unaccountable shadow government within the State Education Department –The Regents Research Fellows—who created the “Implementation” mess Cuomo now blames.

It is Cuomo who repeatedly tramples on the New York State Constitution–which gives a NY Governor NO authority over education policy—with his serial habit of forming pro-corporate education reform stacked panels, complete with Washington lobbyists salivating to eliminate parental consent for data profiling of children.

Parents of New York are outraged and will continue the fight to take back their schools and classrooms from the Albany shenanigans of Andrew Cuomo, Merryl Tisch and MaryEllen Elia.

“In New York, Governor Cuomo and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, teamed up for the past five years to turn theory and promise of the Common Core into a living nightmare for our children and their teachers. Parents see through the ploys and will not back down. We will continue to refuse to participate in the Common Core tests that are destroying our schools and our children’s education. Governor Cuomo’s role in this mess will not be ignored.” – Jeannette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.

“The spirit of our children is being broken. When will Albany start really paying attention and make the changes that parents are asking? We want our classrooms back, we want our teachers to teach, and we want a well-rounded curriculum for all our children. More test prep or testing is not the answer to closing the achievement gap.” –Charmaine Dixon, Brooklyn public school parent and NYC Opt Out member.

“Parents will not stop fighting for their kids. Tests MUST be decoupled from teacher evaluations, state tests MUST be reduced, and student data MUST NOT be shared without parental consent.” –Eric Mihelbergel, Western NY public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“The corrupt influence of ‘Big Money’ and ‘Big Data’ Collection in New York has ushered in the most destructive education laws and policies in the nation based on model American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) legislation and “pushed” by the privatized Regent Research Fellows think tank. Parents very clearly see how profit motives are driving the loss of local control in their children’s classroom…and they reject it.” -Lisa Rudley, Westchester public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“The results of the recent annual PDK/Gallup education poll are telling. An overwhelming majority (64%) of Americans say there is too much emphasis on testing in schools and a majority of public school parents oppose the Common Core. How much longer will parents in New York tolerate what Albany is doing to their children’s classrooms? The next election cycle will be very telling,” said Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator, and CNY Opt Out founder.

NYSAPE, a grassroots organization with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state are calling on parents to continue to opt out by refusing high-stakes testing starting on the first days of school. Go to for more details on the how to be part of the Great Opt Out of this decade.


Soon after MaryEllen Elia was selected unanimously by the New York Board of Regents to be the State Education Commissioner, she gave me a call to introduce herself. We had a very pleasant exchange, and I made one request of her: Would she be willing to meet with the board of New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)? I explained to her that NYSAPE was the primary organizer of the historic opt out from state testing last spring, leading to about 200,000 students refusing to take the mandated tests. That’s 20% of the children who were supposed to take the tests. I told her that I thought it was important for her to meet them and hear their concerns. She readily assented.

Commissioner Elia took office on July 6, and she met with the leaders of NYSAPE (a few were away on vacation) on August 4. I joined the meeting to hear the discussion. From the outset, it was clear that Commissioner Elia intended to listen and that she is warm and personable. She may have heard that parents had a serious problem with her predecessor John King, who lectured them and seemed never to listen. Commissioner Elia asserted that there would be no teacher-bashing from her office; she was a teacher, and she wants the public to respect teachers.

That was a good start. Then the parents and educators expressed their views candidly. They do not like high-stakes testing; they do not like teachers’ evaluations tied to test scores, because that distorts the educational process. They are not opposed to testing, so long as testing is used only within the school for diagnostic purposes. The parents of children with disabilities complained that the tests were too long (three hours a day for six days), and in some cases, meaningless to their children. There were complaints about the State Education Department’s failure to answer FOILS (freedom of information requests) in a timely manner (or at all!) and complaints that the SED had failed to appoint a chief privacy officer, as a state law required.

What was striking was that this group of leaders are very well-informed. They have testified at hearings in Albany and in their towns. They are active in their communities and interact with elected officials. They are determined and they are not going away. One promised that if there were no policy changes from the Regents or the Legislature, the number of opt outs would grow.

Commissioner Elia was very cordial, but she hinted that there might be some kind of sanctions for opting out. It is hard to see how the state could withhold funds from school districts without incurring the wrath of some powerful state legislators. She also said that although Pearson had been replaced by Questar, Pearson’s tests would be used again this coming year. The new tests would be used for the first time in 2016-17. I am not sure if the change of vendor breaks the trend line, nor do I know anything about the record of Questar.

Commissioner Elia calmly but clearly stated her support for evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. She did it in Florida and says that the teachers supported the practice. She is also a fan of online testing and raised the question of “embedding” online testing into instruction.

Carol Burris, the recently retired principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center (and new executive director of the Network for Public Education Fund, of which I am chair), participated in the meeting. She read off the ratings of teachers at very low-performing schools in Buffalo; many of the teachers in those schools received high ratings. Then she read the ratings of teachers at the high-performing Scarsdale public school, and an extraordinary proportion were rated “ineffective.” Commissioner Elia agreed that these results made no sense. Carol Burris wrote about this same meeting here. She suggested that New Yorkers hoping for a change in direction should not hold their breath waiting.

Of course, Commissioner Elia has to deal with the political realities. New York has a governor, Andrew Cuomo, who loves high-stakes standardized tests and wants to find and fire teachers who don’t “produce” them. Elia can’t write her own laws. But the story isn’t over. The leadership of the Board of Regents might change next spring when new members are appointed. There is already a strong bloc of retired educators on the Board who don’t like the current regime of high-stakes testing and don’t think the tests are either valid or reliable. That bloc might become the majority, and the realities would change.

It was a friendly and cordial meeting, but the differences in opinion were large. If NYSAPE was hoping for a change of direction, it seems unlikely to happen soon. Commissioner Elia agreed to meet again, and NYSAPE will no doubt continue to try to change her views. If nothing changes, the number of opt outs could increase in a big way next spring.

This reader, named Megan, is a teacher. She does not teach in Néw York. She is grateful to the Néw York Opt Out movement, who keep alive her hope for a return to sane education policies:




“We just finished SBAC 2 weeks ago followed by MAPs the very next week. I am, I guess fortunate to work in a district where test scores are not yet tied to my evaluation but the legislature is working on this very thing at present.



“We were told this year that it would be a ” no fault” year due to the fact that our district could not correlate last year’s CBM to the new test. This after initially saying they had a “special formula ” to do just that.



“Then, in the first days of the test, the whole system shut down and the largest district in our state received permission to forego the test this year. So, the rest of us took the test over two weeks. I did some online test prep in January but refused to overwhelm my students with weeks of test prep. I taught all the subjects in the curriculum normally. I will not subject my students to the stress that assemblies, daily test prep., and rigmarole I have seen in other schools, it’s just not right.



“I’m pleased to see other states such as New York sounding the alarms to what these tests do to students, their parents and schools. I am hopeful that this current movement to opt out will spread across the rest of the country.”

MaryEllen Elia, who was fired as Superintendent of Hillsborough County a few months ago, was unanimously endorsed by the Néw York State Board of Regents yesterday.


Valerie Strauss wrote about her selection here. She has the support of the Republican establishment in Florida (she was a member of far-right Governor Rick Scott’s transition team), as well as the support of teachers’ unions in Florida and Néw York.


Parent activists are wary of Elia because of her past support for high-stakes testing. To win their confidence, she must clarify her views about testing, about the Opt Out movement, about detaching test scores from teacher evaluations, about merit pay, and about Common Core.


In this interview, she reiterates her support for high-stakes testing, the Common Core, and using test scores to evaluate teachers. When asked her reaction to parent resistance to testing, she emphasizesd the need for better communications with parents. I don’t think that “better communications” will pacify parents who are fed up with the overuse of testing. At some point, hopefully soon, Commissioner Elia must recognize that parents know what they are doing, and they disagree with the Regents’ policy of plunging into the Common Core, high-stakes testing, and test-based accountability.


Commissioner Elia must understand that the problem is not a failure to communicate, but a genuine difference of opinion about how to educate children. The leaders of the Opt Out movement are not misinformed; they are very well informed indeed. Will she punish children who refuse the tests next year? Will she collaborate with parent leaders? Will she listen to parents and hear them? Will she use her influence to persuade the Regents and the Governor to reduce the importance of standardized tests? If she doubles down on Governor Cuomo’s testing agenda, she will energize the Opt Out movement. Parent leaders are disappointed by the lack of transparency in the selection process as well as the implicit message that the Regents did not listen to them. They will continue to speak out in the only way they can be heard, by refusing to submit their children to the tests.

Elizabeth Harris and Ford Fessenden wrote an article that just went online in The Néw York Times about the stunning growth of the Opt Out movement in Néw York state. Its numbers have increased dramatically in only two years.

The movement is now a potent political force:

“As the vanguard of an anti-testing fervor that has spread across the country, New York’s opt-out movement already has become a political force. Just two months ago, lawmakers from both parties, at the behest of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, increased the role of test scores in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions.

“Those same legislators are now tripping over one another to introduce bills that guarantee the right to refuse to take tests. The high numbers will also push state and federal officials to make an uncomfortable decision: whether to use their power to financially punish districts with low participation rates.”

The federal government requires a 95% participation rate on tests. Two years ago, almost every district complied. Not this year.

“Only 30 of the 440 districts where data was available met the 95-percent test participation rate called for by federal requirements, a far cry from just two years ago, when almost every district complied.”

Critics of opt out say that without the test scores, no one would know which students, teachers, and schools are “failing.” But if the tests are invalid and unreliable, as many believe the Common Core tests are, then the information they provide is worthless. Are superintendents, principals, and teachers so untrustworthy that no one knows what is happening in the schools? Are the test makers better judges than professional educators?

Where will the Opt Out Movement go from here? It terrifies the Establishment. It is a grassroots movement that can’t be bought out.

Now that parents have found their voice and a means of expressing their displeasure, there is nowhere to go but up. The organizing will continue, especially as the state raises the stakes on the trsts. Next year expect even bigger numbers.

Amazing news!

Long Island Opt Out, led by parent Jeanette Deutermann, endorsed candidates in yesterday’s school board elections across the two counties that comprise the Island. Fifty-seven of the 75 candidates endorsed by LIOO won their races. This includes seven of Deutermann’s liaisons for Opt Out.

Their message was: “We are taking back our schools.”

Long Island is the national hotbed for opt outs. It is a model for the nation. Parents are organized and active; they have the support of many principals and superintendents.

Jeanette Deutermann has spearheaded this effective resistance to high-stakes testing. She belongs on this blog’s honor roll as a champion of public education.


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