Archives for category: Parents

In the previous post, I referred to Din Armstrong of Lee County, Florida, as a hero for his principled stand against Florida’s insane obsession with testing.

Here is more from Don Armstrong:

“Good morning, everyone. Like always, I spend my Sunday, gathering my thoughts and thinking of the upcoming week over a cup of coffee.

“One thought that has crossed my mind this past week is regarding our Constitution. Perhaps this is due to the fact that last week was Constitution Week in the United States. Yet, while listening to our leaders in Tallahassee, as well as many here locally, it seems the Constitution is rarely considered in their talk about parent rights and student rights, specifically with regard to what options and control parents have in schools.

“Specifically, I am referring to our Lee County, FL school district’s stance on parent rights to opt out of testing. In a recent communication from our district, taken from previous board attorney comments, legal advice was provided that although the “14th Amendment provides that parents have the right to control the upbringing of their child, including the education the child receives … the right does not enable the parent to dictate the instruction provided to the student or the assessments administered to the student.” This quote is taken directly from our district directive that further implies the only control a parent has is to choose public or private schools. I can not disagree strongly enough with this statement.

“This misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment infuriates me. Our Constitution is clearly defined and gives specific rights to parents which has been upheld in court precedence. To borrow from Fair Test, a national organization ran by Lee Cty local advocate, Robert Schaeffer, here is a more correct interpretation of the 14th Amendment, with regard to parenting:

“According to the U.S Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, parental rights are broadly protected by Supreme Court decisions (Meyer and Pierce), especially in the area of education. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children. Furthermore, The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interference is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399).”

“Like the Supreme Court who criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own”, I also suggest our school district reconsider its position on parent rights. Lee County is lucky to have an active community, highly involved in our school system. And, while involvement often leads to greater accountability, it is exactly what we strive for here in Lee County. It is the true definition of local control and I know that is what Lee County residents want. It is certainly the wish of every parent: not just local control over their schools, but especially, local parental control over their children. To expect less of our community is not reasonable.

“So, as I try to always offer solutions, here are a couple. Firstly, I would solve the problem of parent concern by redrafting the district position on parent rights to fully recognize the rights of our local parents, more correctly honoring the 14th Amendment of our Constitution. Let our local parents know we understand their concerns with the overtesting and scripted curriculum. Let our parents know that we appreciate their activism and we know that only through the combined voices of board members, parents, and citizens will we get relief from the overbearing mandates from the state and feds. Local control comes from local voices. Listen to the parents.”

A note from an admirer who sent this letter from Don:

-Don Armstrong, former Lee County School Board Member, well known for being the first board member to opt his own, twin children out of the state FSA exam, creating the momentum to garner the first county wide opt out in the US. While Lee County reversed its decision to opt out of tests, Armstrong and local parents are keeping up the fight.

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.

This article in The Hechinger Report says that the opt out movement will win some concessions. Policymakers in their cocoons inside the Beltway are not (yet) worried by the parent-led movement. They hope that if they ignore it long enough, it will go away.

But at the state level, the opt out movement looks threatening. Some states are rebranding the Common Core, dropping out of PARCC or SBAC, looking for other ways to respond to angry constituents.

If the Opt out movement spreads to other states and continues to grow, it will be a huge blow to those in D.C. who like to impose their ideas on other people’s children. Even inside the Beltway, they might have to listen to the voices of the people.

Remember the Lincoln line (Gettysburg Address) about a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” He did not mean “of the billionaires, by the bureaucrats, and for the corporations”

David Gamberg is the superintendent of the Southold Public Schools and the Greenport Public Schools, two small contiguous districts on the North Fork of Long Island. I have visited the elementary school in Southold and was wowed by the student garden and by the musical groups. These are schools and communities that care about their children, not just their test scores. Large proportions of students in both districts opted out of state testing last spring.

Gamberg spoke out against the Common Core standards and testing to his local newspaper. When Governor Cuomo announced that the Common Core was “not working” and that he would appoint a commission to find out why, Gamberg agreed that the standards and tests are not working. He worried that the Governor’s commission might not be independent.

He said:

The group might not sufficiently represent educators’ beliefs, Mr. Gamberg cautioned, if Gov. Cuomo hand picks the members.

“We need a completely independent commission, not one that is constructed by the governor who has no right nor position to do so,” he said. “When we look to bring expertise into the equation, we should be the ones developing and finding those individuals.”

In this video on YouTube, Gamberg addresses the faculty and staff at the opening of school and poses a question: What is worth fighting for? The answer: public education. He discusses the philosophy of the districts he leads, which prioritize children and their needs and help them grow into responsible adults. He offers no bonuses or threats to his staff. He knows they are working as hard as they know how to meet common goals, focused on the students in their care.

David Gamberg is a stand-up superintendent and leader.

The Hudson Valley Alliance for Public Education issued a statement pledging to increase the number if opt outs next spring, in response to the Board of Regents’ decision to endorse a punitive, test-based teacher evaluation system. In the new system, test scores will count for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation, despite the American Statistical Association’s warning that a teacher accounts for 1-14% of variation in test scores.

Supporters of VAM think that the teachers’ union is pulling the strings and persuading parents to express such views. They think parents are dupes and fools. They are wrong.

Parents understand that when test scores matter so much, teachers will spend more time on test prep and less time on untested subjects. This is educationally unsound, and it hurts their children.

The parents support opt out to protect their children.

Here is the statement of the Hudson Valley Alliance:

“Parents across the Hudson Valley are dismayed by yesterday’s vote by the Board of Regents to adopt teacher evaluation regulations that will double down on high stakes testing and the harmful effects of test-prep driven education. While we applaud the courage of those Regents who voted no, Hudson Valley parents are disappointed with Regent Finn’s failure to protect public school children in our area.

“Under Chancellor Tisch’s leadership, the Regents majority have failed to challenge flawed legislation that harms public school children” said Carol Newman Sharkey, Orange County public school parent. “It is clear that Chancellor Tisch must be removed from her position when her term is up this year.”

“The Regents failed to rise up against the Governor’s tyrannical demands and instead have allowed bad education policies to displace whole child and sound pedagogical practices. They have stood idly by while Cuomo makes a mockery out of public schools putting cronies, political ambition, and charter schools above children” said Tory Lowe, co-founder of Kingston Action for Education and Ulster County public school parent.

“This vote ensures that the opt out movement will continue to grow. Parents seeking to protect their children will not back down or be appeased by false promises of better tests. At the end of the day, you cannot measure teaching and learning with a test score. Until there is real change, parents will continue to reject a corrupt system that destroys authentic teaching and learning” said, Bianca Tanis, New Paltz public school parent.

Since the adoption of the Common Core-aligned assessments, the Regents have voted to limit the number of students entitled to extra support in the form of Academic Intervention Services while simultaneously labeling teachers and students as failures.

“Once again, NYSED seems to talk out of both sides of its mouth. The message that SED continues to spread is that almost 70% of the students in grades 3-8 aren’t “proficient”, but yet schools don’t have to provide AIS (i.e. – “flexibility”) if their level of failure isn’t low enough. Either our children who are scoring ‘1s and 2s’ on the state tests are struggling and they deserve to get the academic support to help them meet the standards, or the standards themselves are inappropriate. They cannot have it both ways” said Tim Farley, Columbia County public school parent.

Stacey Kahn, Ulster County public school parent said “We suggest that Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner stop insulting the intelligence of the public. We will refuse the tests until the Regents majority starts making decisions that put children before politics and corporate sponsors.”

“What took place at the Regents meeting only underscores what parents and educators have known for quite some time – Chancellor Tisch must go. It is critical that parents, educators, and concerned community members turn their eyes towards our state legislators who have the power to amend destructive education law and remove Chancellor Tisch and some of her colleagues as they seek reappointment in the new year. New York students deserve responsible and informed leadership that will ensure an equitable, community-driven, and child-centered education. We will accept nothing less” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

“The 10 NYS Board of Regents members who lacked the courage to vote against Governor Cuomo’s public school privatization agenda have now emboldened parents towards increased activism. Through the use of social media, traditional media and speakers forums parents will continue to inform and educate. They will forge ahead against these harmful policies using their best weapons…involvement in the political process (our eyes will on our legislators) and of course the 500,000 test refusals for Spring 2016,” said Lauren Isaacs Schimko, public school parent, Rockland County educator & Administrator of “Pencils DOWN Rockland County” on Facebook.

HV Alliance for Public education, is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of parents and public school children against harmful testing practices in the Hudson Valley. To join the Alliance or to learn more, please visit us here:

Seattle parents are encouraging others to cancel their subscription to the Seattle Times, which is anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public school, and pro-charter.

Dora Taylor writes on the parent activist blog:

“The majority of people I speak to are thoroughly disgusted with the Times and its biased editorials and selection of topics headlined that seem to reflect the opinion of the moneyed few rather than providing real information.

“Bill Gates bought a section of the Seattle Times and titled it the Education Lab. It seemed it wasn’t enough that the Seattle Times was already a shill for charter schools and merit pay for teachers based on test scores, Gates now had his own pull-out section of the newspaper.

“Now parents of students in Seattle Public Schools are fighting mad about the one-sided reporting and editorializing of the teachers’ strike and they are taking action….”

Parent activists in Los Angeles have started organizing a campaign to have a seat at the table when the school board picks the next superintendent.

They call their campaign “Vet the Supe.” See links here and here.

They are concerned that the Board might select another Broadie like Deasy, who collected $350,000 a year, wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in a botched plan to buy iPads, and now works for the Broad Foundation, training other superintendents. Is that the definition of chutzpah?

In 1975, New York City’s government teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. The city’s leaders appealed to the Gerald Ford administration for financial help. President Ford said no.

The New York Daily News published a headline on its front page that was immediately iconic:


Today the same newspaper published an editorial with the same sentiment, this time directed at the parents of the 220,000 children who refused the state tests.

The editorial argues that the parents have been manipulated by the teachers’ union, which is not only false but implies that the parents are dupes.

The editorial claims that the state must stand by the Common Core standards, which (they say) were “developed over many years by the nation’s top education experts.” Would the editorial board please tell us how many years they consider “many,” like two? Would the editors please name the nation’s “top educational experts?” David Coleman of McKinsey? Jason Zimba of Bennington College? Representatives of the College Board and ACT? Are these our “nation’s top educational experts”? Who says so?

The editorial argues that the state must support Governor Cuomo’s demand that 50% of teachers’ evaluation be tied to student test scores, ignoring the research and experience showing that this policy has no basis in research or real life.

Has the editorial board read the statement of the American Statistical Association, which found that teachers affect 1-14% of the variation in student scores, while the family and home have a far greater effect?

Is the editorial board aware of the legal battle of Sheri Lederman, an exemplary fourth-grade teacher in Great Neck who was rated “ineffective” on student growth? Sheri received accolades from her superintendent, her principal, parents, and former students. Should respected and successful teachers like Sheri be fired and replaced by new and inexperienced teachers? Why?

The editorial piously says:

“Kids in struggling schools have for years been plagued by low expectations and too many lower-performing teachers.”

So the editorial wants readers to believe that the Common Core tests that failed 96% of English language learners, 94% of children with disabilities, and more than 80% of Black and Hispanic children are in their best interests. Never mind that the same tests, with their absurdly unrealistic passing marks, widened the achievement gaps among groups. Why does the editorial board think that students in “struggling schools” will fare better academically if most of them fail the Common Core tests year after year? How will repeated failure create higher expectations? More likely, it will produce among the children a sense of despair and low self-worth.

It may be comforting to the editors of the Daily News to think that their arch-enemy–the teachers’ union–is pulling the strings, but the reality is that parents across the state are fed up with the excessive emphasis on testing. They know it robs their children of the arts, science, history, even physical education and recess.

The union doesn’t tell them that their children are cheated by the obsessive focus on testing. Parents see it with their own eyes. And parents across America agree with parents in Néw York. A recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll reported that 67% of public school parents and 64% of the public nationwide think there is too much emphasis on standardized tests in school.

So who should we listen to about education? The politicians or public school parents? The politicians or statistical experts?

This is a battle that the Daily News and Governor Cuomo can’t win. If they keep fighting and demeaning parents, next spring there will be 400,000 students who refuse the tests. They will refuse not because their parents are dupes of the union, but because their parents are defending the best interests of their children.

Last spring, the Néw York legislature passed a budget that included a harsh and punitive teacher evaluation plan. This was done at Governor Cuomo’s insistence because he was angry that the state teachers’ union did not support his re-election in 2014. There were no hearings, discussions, or debates on the governor’s plan. It was passed because he wanted it.

The following comment was sent by Lisa Eggert, a specialist in education law who lives in Néw York. She wrote in response to this post.

“Thank you Diane for posting this! And here’s more to say about whether “this is the law”–

“1. The law (Education Transformation Act) required that the Regents pass rules on the evaluation plan by June 30, 2015, which they did, so they will not be in violation by voting no. The legislature surely realized that the tight time constraint meant that only temporary 90-day emergency rules could be passed, and it did not require a subsequent rule to be passed when the emergency one expires.

“2. It’s the job of the Regents and Ed Dept to set the plan’s cut scores that determine who is effective and who’s not. The plan of now sets an effective rating at a whopping 75% of students meeting targets. The School Administrators Assn. suggests 55%. What science or research supports 75%?

“3. The law actually requires that the public be told all the specifics regarding research and studies on which the plan is based, when the Ed Dept publishes a Notice of Rulemaking (the Notice is also required by law). But when the Ed Dept published the Notice, it gave a non responsive answer, identifying no study or research and just acknowledging that it had to work with experts. This is a legal violation of NY’s State Administrative Procedure Act, which protects the public’s right to have input into rules that have the force of law.

“4. The law is also being violated because the Admin Pro Act requires that any member of the public who asks be allowed access to any underlying studies. The Notice says to contact Kirti Goswami at the Ed Dept. I’ve emailed and spoken with her several times to find out how to access any underlying studies supporting the plan or, alternatively, to confirm that in fact no studies or research were relied on in creating the plan. She has been unable to provide anything or confirm anything, all in violation of the Admin Pro Act. (It feels like an awful run-around.)

“5. So, in talking to the Regents, feel free to point out that yes, the law is being broken –the law that protects the public’s right to understand and assess proposed rules and give input. I don’t mean to sound hoaky but this is the law that protects the democratic process, giving the public a voice when unelected officials, like the Commissioner Elia and the Regents, make rules. The Regents need to stand up for these laws that protect our basic rights.

“6. And also, from the state’s inability to point to any underlying science, it strongly appears that these rules, including the harsh cut scores, are entirely unfounded. They should be voted down so that a researched-based plancan be created by experts.”

Some of those who are offended by the idea that parents opt their children out of state tests have said that all children MUST take the test because “it’s the law.”

But Peter Greene says there is nothing in the law that says students MUST take the test. The law says that the state MUST give the tests.

Parents have the right to refuse. The state does not own their children. The state education department works for the public, not the other way around.

Even MaryEllen Elia recognizes that parents have the right to opt out. She will try to persuade them not to, but she cannot coerce them. She has no legal power to do so.


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