Archives for category: Students

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.”

Hello, parents of New York, you have the right to opt your child out of state testing. So says the State Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

Forget what you heard last week about threats and sanctions. That was then. This is now.

” State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia says she won’t prevent parents who want their children to skip the state’s standardized tests from doing so. The commissioner detailed her views on the controversial Opt Out movement in an interview with public radio and television….

“Commissioner Elia says parents “absolutely” have the right to opt their kids out of state standardized tests, but she says she still wants to talk to them to try to bring them back to the fold.

“We haven’t done enough communication,” Elia said. “But if parents understand it and they still want their child to opt out, that certainly is their right.”

“Robert Lowry, the spokesman for the New York State Council of School Superintendents, says some superintendents did indeed ask for help. Others are trying on their own to convince students to participate. But he says many more believe that the tests themselves are fundamentally flawed.

“The real issue is that the tests have to change,” Lowry said. “Parents are upset for a reason.”

“Lowry says the preparations was not well thought out, and schools get too little information on results too late.”

This is a work in progress.

Message to parents: do what you think is best for your child.

Representative Bill McCamley of Las Cruces, New Mexico, has advice for disgruntled parents who object to the roliferation of standardized tests.

“These feelings reached a boiling point this year. In Las Cruces, furious parents claimed schools were left open during a February snowstorm only because a standardized test was scheduled. In March, over 1,000 students statewide walked out of school in an organized protest when testing started. And many are joining groups like New Mexico Optout to express their opposition.

“While doing research for a law last year that would limit testing to 10 total days, educators across the state told me about how testing constrained their ability to teach. Test days ranged from 20-26 per year in Las Vegas to 73 days per year in Albuquerque.”

You can ask your local board to eliminate tests that are nota dates.

You can have your child opt out, after reviewing possible consequences.

You can vote and get rid of the elected officials who love testing.

“Last? Elections have consequences, so make your voice heard. Governor Martinez has made her preference for testing well known, and even though turnout last year was the lowest in 70 years, she was re-elected. Therefore, the state Education Department will continue to make them a priority. However, all state legislators are up for election in 2016 and primaries are only a few months away. There will be forums, debates, and other opportunities to meet candidates. If you care about testing, go to them. Ask candidates where they stand and what they are doing to create a saner system.

“Use those answers to help decide who you support. And vote. If you don’t, the only person to blame is in a mirror.”

Something amazing is happening. Parents have discovered that they have the power to bring corporate reform to a halt. They do it by telling their children not to take the test. No test, no data. No data, no punishments for teachers, administrators, schools. Opting out is a vivid demonstration of the power of the powerless.

In Washington State, an unprecedented 48,000 students opted put.

Most of the opt outs were in 11th grade.

Carolyn Leith calls this an “educational uprising.”

If state leaders don’t listen to stents, the uprising will spread.

I received an email from a person in a foreign country; I am not free to identify the name of the informant or the country as I do not want the informant to be fired. I have deleted the names of the two university students who were investigated. Both have fewer than 100 twitter followers. Frankly, I find this level of scrutiny of individuals by a huge multinational corporation to be shocking.

The message reads as follows:

Diane I work for a company in XXXX that Pearson has retained to spy on students.

Find attached the text of the kind of surveillance in place – It’s run at Pearson by some guy called Marc Lueck – he’s an American living in the UK. He runs the Pearson threat team and that’s how he views these kids, as threats. He wants to spend more and more money monitoring the internet and has retained a number of comapnies around the world. We call him the childcatcher. You can see from the text that Pearson and this Marc guy are expending real money and resources to make sure no stones are unconvered. I have kids and what these guys are doing is wrong – I want to track down hackers and criminals not spy on kids. We state in the report that these kids pose no threat to Pearson but Pearson wants us to keep monitoring them.

I could lose my job for this, but I thought you should know.


The Post and Courier in South Carolina discovered that school choice leaves the neediest students behind. Its investigation of North Charleston High School describes the flight of the most able and advantaged students to “choice” schools. The students with the greatest needs are left behind.

“The school, which should house a diverse group of 1,141 students from across its attendance zone, instead enrolled just 450 this year — and shrinking. Nearly 90 percent of its students are black in an area that’s more than a quarter white, and virtually all left are poor.”

The largest department in the school is special education.

This story, one of a five-part series, focuses on Maurice Williams, a freshman who nearly died because an infection in his brain that led to a blood clot. Maurice lives with his half-sister. No car, no job, little money, no choice. Left behind.

Competition has drained the top students out of North Charleston Hogh. Those who lacked the means are left behind. With fewer resources in a highly segregated school.

A situation caused by a law ironical led named No Child Left Behind. Call it a landmark in resegregating our public schools and leaving behing those children with the greatest disadvantages.

Carol Burris recently retired as principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center on Long Island, Néw York. She is now executive director of the Network for Public Education. She read recently that MaryEllen Elia, the new Commissioner of Education in New York, said that she would be “shocked” if any educators encouraged parents to opt out of state testing, and she said such educators (if they existed) were “unethical.”

Burris wrote:

“Well, Ms. Elia, be shocked. I am turning myself in to your ethics squad. I absolutely encouraged the opt-out movement last year. In fact, I did so right here on the Answer Sheet. I don’t think I could have been clearer when I wrote this:

‘But there comes a time when rules must be broken — when adults, after exhausting all remedies, must be willing to break ranks and not comply. That time is now. The promise of a public school system, however imperfectly realized, is at risk of being destroyed. The future of our children is hanging from testing’s high stakes. The time to opt out is now.'”

Yes, indeed, Burris encouraged opting out, as did many other administrators, both superintendents and principals.

Burris believed it would have been unethical to stand by in silence.

She wrote:

“It would have been unethical to not speak out after watching New York’s achievement gaps grow, indicating that the tests and the standards on which they are based are not advancing the learning of the state’s most vulnerable kids.

“It would have been unethical to ignore watching the frustration of my teachers whose young children were coming home from school discouraged and sick from the stress of test prep designed to prepare them for impossible tests.

“It would have been unethical to not respond to the heartbreaking stories that I heard from friends who are elementary principals—stories of children crying, becoming sick to their stomach, and pulling out hair during the Pearson-created Common Core tests.

“And it would have been unethical to not push back against a system of teacher evaluation based on Grade 3-8 test scores that is not only demeaning and indefensible, but also incentivizes all the wrong values.

“So if there is a place called Regents Jail, I guess that is where I will have to go.”

Burris noted that Elia would have to lock up her boss, Regents’ Chancellor Merryl Tisch as well, since Tisch recently said that if she had a child with disabilities, she would “think twice” about allowing the child to take the state tests.

Who is “unethical”? The educator who complies with orders regardless of her personal and professionsl values or the educator who refuses to do what she knows is wrong?

NYSAPE (Néw York State Allies for Public Education) represents 50 organizations of parents and educators. Today they released a statement on the state scores.

They previously thought that about 200,000 students had refused the tests, but the state acknowledged 225,000.

Without any change in state policies, NYSAPE warned that there would be more opt outs next spring. In some districts, opting out is the norm,not the exception.

Here is the press release. To open links, go to the original link:


More information contact:

Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228;
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) –

Opt Out to Sharply Rise as NYS Continues to Sacrifice Children With Flawed Tests & Policies

Yesterday, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the results of the 2015 3-8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) & Math exams. ELA scores were essentially flat, and the small increase in Math scores (less than 2 percentage points) was smaller than last year’s modest jump. There was also an increase in the percentage of Level 1 students in ELA, and an unchanged percentage of Level 1 students in Math, suggesting that the ratcheting up of high-stakes is leaving our most struggling students behind.
Test refusals, also known as opt outs, rose to a record number of 222,500, surpassing advocates’ estimates. More New York parents across the state are informed and have said no to the high-stakes testing regime that is disrupting quality education and harming their children. With no relief in sight, opt out figures are expected to grow significantly again this year until damaging education laws and policies are reversed.

Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “How many more children will we sacrifice to a narrow education, excessive testing, and failure, before New York calls a timeout? How many veteran, master teachers will we watch flee the profession before we untie testing from evaluations? How many schools will close before New York State recognizes that public schools are the foundations of every community? Instead of dreaming up sanctions, SED should be working with educators and parents to change course and right this wrong.”

“Governor Cuomo, the Regents and SED have been quick to judge teachers through a sham accountability system that wrongfully reduces highly effective teachers to an ineffective rating and claims public schools are failing when, in fact, they are not. But they are slow to accept responsibility for the devastating consequences of these flawed testing and evaluation measures on our children, the teaching profession, and our public schools. Threats of sanctions will not deter opt outs. Parents are onto this sham and will continue to opt out children in order to protect them,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

“Considering the amount of time, resources and money devoted to the state assessment system, the resulting data does little to help pinpoint specific student, educator or school strengths and weaknesses. The entire testing system is a boondoggle to taxpayers and continues to limit our children’s educational opportunities,” stated Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent, educator, and school board trustee.

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent said “Chancellor Merryl Tisch has publicly stated that she would think twice before allowing a child with special needs to sit through an ‘incomprehensible exam’ and has called state exams ‘cruel and unusual’. Yet neither the Board of Regents nor NYSED leadership has taken action to inform parents of their right to refuse harmful testing, let alone curb the eighteen hours of harmful state testing that disabled students as young as eight are compelled to engage in. Until the abuse stops, opt outs will continue.”

Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and General Manager of the BATs stated, “As research shows, test scores will not close the achievement gap. We need to begin to invest in proven strategies that close the gap, or we will lose an entire generation of children.”

“The NY State tests are an illegitimate way to evaluate kids, schools and teachers – as shown by the recent NY Times article, in which questions on the 3rd grade exam stumped the author of the relevant passage. These tests are designed to make it look like the vast majority of our students and schools are failing, when they are not. Until the state provides less flawed exams – and a better teacher evaluation system not linked to them – parents will continue to opt out in growing numbers,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

“Pearson has been fired as the state’s test vendor, yet our children will be subjected to their tests for another school year. This is outrageous. If Governor Cuomo and members of the legislature who voted to increase the contribution of test scores to teacher evaluation think this is ok, they should prove it by taking the tests themselves. Let our public officials prove that they are smarter than a 5th grader,” said Nancy Cauthen, a NYC public school parent.

NYSAPE, a grassroots organization with over 50 parent and educator groups across that state, will be calling on parents to hand in test refusal letters on the first day of school in order to reclaim their children’s classrooms and to stop the destruction of our public schools. An updated 2016 test refusal letter is coming soon.

– See more at:

For months, state officials downplayed the significance and number of opt outs from state tests last April. The Néw York Times waited a week before acknowledging that it happened.

But now we know that the opt out was historic. 220,000 students–20%–of eligible students refused the tests. The previous year only 60,000 opted out. The number almost quadrupled in only one year. And the momentum will continue to build as state officials refuse to make any changes and threaten sanctions.

Now some say the high proportion of opt outs make state scores and trends invalid.

“That’s a large number, said George Theoharis, a Syracuse University professor and chair of the Teaching and Leadership program at the college. He said caution should be used in using the scores as a measure of students’ performance and schools’ accountability.

“We have to be careful about what we take from these tests and about school accountability, which is built around everyone taking the tests,” he said.

“Last spring, numerous parent groups organized to encourage people to boycott the tests, saying they were poorly written, too difficult, and created anxiety among students. The teachers’ union also joined to encourage opting out.

“The success of these efforts to convince students not to take the exams varied wildly.

“Dolgeville, about 28 miles northeast of Utica, recorded the highest opt out rate in the state, 90 percent, according to a Post-Standard analysis of state opt out data released Wednesday. At the other end, about 15 districts spread around the state reported no students opted out.

“Scores of districts, however, had 50 percent or more of their students not take the exams, the analysis showed. Ninety-four districts out of 668 (14 percent) had half or more students opt out of the ELA; it rose to 121 districts (18 percent) skipping the math exam.” has test data for every school in the state.

“The region with the highest opt out numbers was Long Island (40 percent) followed by the Mohawk Valley (38 percent) and Western New York (33 percent).

“New York City recorded the lowest opt out number ( 1 percent), the state data showed.

“Central New York had 33 percent of its students opt out.

“In Central New York, the district with the higher percentage of opt-outs was New York Mills with 77 percent opting out of math and 74 percent opting out of the English exam.

“In Onondaga County, LaFayette had the highest percentage of students opting out: 55 percent opted out of the math exam.”

Does a time come when state officials are forced to listen to parents?

It is safe to predict that the staye’s refusal to listen to parents will produce more opt outs next spring.

In an effort to slow or stop the opt out movement, Néw York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia announced that she would punish schools with high opt out numbers next spring.

About 20% of all eligible students in grades 3-8 opted out in 2015. Leaders of the opt out movement have promised to increase the numbers in the next round.

Commissioner Elia says she listens to parents, but right now she seems to be listening to Governor Cuomo, who is contemptuous of public schools and teachers.


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