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

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

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

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

Mercedes Schneider continues her slog through the turgid legislative language in the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB. It matters because the revision of the law was supposed to happen in 2007, and because it defines the federal role in education. She reviews 20 amendments here.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs has surmised that this is an ominous situation. Before you go into a paroxysm of laughter, remember that life is ephemeral.

If you wonder why the outbreak of clamorous verbiage, please note that Jacobs has collected some of the unusual words that appeared on the 6th grade Common Core test in Néw York.

She writes:

“Arguably there is universal admiration for a command of vocabulary, but the thought of eleven and twelve year olds wrestling with these words in a timed pressure cooker suggests an “ominous situation”.

“What were these test makers thinking? Perhaps they yearn to design those SAT exams for seniors. The sobering fact that the results will have a direct impact on how a teacher is evaluated points to a profound disconnect.”

The Opt Out movement continues to grow. In Seattle, not a single junior showed up to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Nathan Hale High School.

Earlier this year, teachers at Nathan Hale passed a resolution against in the Common Core Standards test, but SPS Superintendent Larry Nyland threatened teachers with the loss of their teaching licenses if they didn’t administer the test, according to the Seattle Education blog.

Students who opt out were threatened with a zero.

Despite the threats and efforts at intimidation, the students did not show up.

This is civil disobedience in the finest tradition of American history. Think Henry David Thoreau, think Martin Luther King, Jr., think of the Suffragettes, think Nathan Hale.

Peter Greene watched a video of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testifying before a Senate committee about the budget. Watch what happens when a Senator asked Duncan about programs in the Department that address the problems of dyslexia.

Greene writes:

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) asks a simple question: What specific programs do we have in place for helping students with dyslexia?

And it just goes south from there.

The answer, pretty clearly, is “none.” But Duncan is bound determined not to go there, so he tries, “Well, students with dyslexia have special needs, and we have a special needs fund, so they fall under that–“

Cassidy bores in, citing studies and facts and figures to elaborate on his point which is that students with dyslexia make up 80% of the students with special needs and as much as 20% of the general student population, so wouldn’t it make sense to have programs directed at that particular issue?

Let the flailing begin. I would put together my usual summary-deconstruction of a Duncan word salad, but this is the mouth noise equivalent of a large-mouthed bass thrown up on the creek bank and trying to flop his way back to some water.

Cassidy tries again. Does Duncan have any sense of the quality of dyslexia programs out there? The answer, again, is “no,” but Arne can’t form that word, so instead he starts making up some sentences that boil down to, “I suppose there are some good ones and some bad ones and some in between ones” which is not exactly an insight that required the United States Secretary of Education to deliver it.

Here’s Arne’s problem– he absolutely has an idea about what the approach to dyslexia should be. He’s been very clear about it in the past. Let’s go back to his conference call about new USED special needs policies

“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel.”

Or the explanation from Kevin Huffman in that same call. These words didn’t come out of Duncan’s mouth, but he didn’t say, “Well, that’s not quite what we mean” either.

Huffman challenged the prevailing view that most special education students lag behind because of their disabilities. He said most lag behind because they’re not expected to succeed if they’re given more demanding schoolwork and because they’re seldom tested.

So, Senator Cassidy, that’s the USED plan– we will expect those students with dyslexia to do better, and then if they don’t we’ll get rid of their teachers and replace them with teachers who are better at expecting things. That’s it. That’s the plan.

But Duncan was smart enough not to say that out loud to a man who 1) has clearly done his homework about dyslexia 2) cares about dyslexia and 3) is a US senator.

A reader named Anita Hoge has posted comments here and elsewhere claiming that the Senate committee proposal on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (aka NCLB) contains federal requirements for “medicalizing” children and other such assertions. When I disagreed, because I know that the bill reduces the federal authority rather than enlarging it, the writer asked me if I had read the entire bill, as Anita Hoge did. I had not; I had read summaries. It is typical of legislation these days that few people, even members of Congress, read huge bills. Sorry to say so, but it is true as legislative language is tedious and bills tend to be very long (NCLB was more than 1,000 when it passed in 2001). So I turned to someone who had read every single line of the bill, Mercedes Schneider, and asked her to review Ms. Hoge’s contentions.

Here is her response. Schneider checked and could not find evidence for Hoge’s claims.

There are good things in the bill (it shifts responsibility for the use of assessments to the states, it prohibits the Secretary of Education from interfering in which standards and assessments states adopt), and it allows states to try new ways of assessing students), and there are bad things in the bill (it continues to mandate annual assessments, which is my view is wrong, inasmuch as these assessments provide little useful information [other than test scores and rankings] and no high-performing nation tests every child every year). Whatever federal policymakers say they need to know can be learned from the NAEP assessments.

One of the few rules of this blog is: no conspiracy theories. So, I will no longer post comments that make claims about this bill or other bills that are not factual.

Good news–no, great news–from York City, Pennsylvania! Because of the district’s fiscal problems, exacerbated by state budget cuts (a designed crisis), the state appointed a receiver who wanted to turn the entire district over to a for-profit charter chain. A lower court upheld the state’s decision. However, an appeals court overturned the state takeover. This fortunate event reflects the change at the top, as Governor Tom Corbett was defeated by Tom Wolf. Corbett was bent on budget-cutting and privatization. Wolf is not. Corbett and his receiver were set to hand all the schools in York City over to Florida-based Charter Schools USA. That won’t happen.

Ending almost five months of uncertainty about who will control the York City School District, an appeals court in Harrisburg on Wednesday put a stop to the state’s push to appoint a receiver, someone who would’ve had almost all of the school board’s powers.
The order filed in Commonwealth Court throws out a judge’s previous decision appointing David Meckley as the district’s receiver, along with the appeals of that ruling. That comes after the attorneys for the state, district and other sides met earlier this week after a hearing and filed an application asking the court to end the case.
On Dec. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Education filed a petition in the York County Court of Common Pleas asking a judge to appoint Meckley as the district’s receiver. As receiver, Meckley, the district’s state-appointed chief recovery officer, would’ve had all of the school board’s powers – with the exception of levying taxes.
The state had argued that the York City School Board did not follow Meckley’s instructions, including his request to turn the district’s buildings into charters. The judge granted the state’s petition to appoint Meckley as receiver at the end of the December, which the district almost immediately appealed.
Meckley resigned as chief recovery officer on March 13, saying he could not move the district forward as Gov. Tom Wolf was opposed to turning its buildings into charters.
Carol Saylor, who previously worked as a superintendent of a school district in Lancaster County and has almost 40 years of experience in education, has since been appointed to replace Meckley as chief recovery officer.

Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” will be greatly missed when he steps down in August. He is the only national television figure who really gets what is happening in education, perhaps because his mother worked in the public schools of New Jersey.

In this segment, he contrasts the treatment of the Atlanta educators convicted of “racketeering” for changing answers on students’ tests with the treatment of Wall Street fraudsters. He is the best.

Minnesota testing was briefly halted when Pearson servers became overloaded–were they not expecting so many students?–and a “denial-of-service” hacker broke into the system.

“An overloaded processor and a “malicious denial-of-service attack” led to the shutdown Tuesday of Minnesota’s statewide student testing system, the state’s testing contractor said Wednesday.

“Pearson, the testing company, apologized for the problems and said the system had been repaired. By late morning, though, Minnesota Department of Education officials were not yet ready to give the all-clear.

“We still need to hear from Pearson exactly what the issue is, how they have resolved it, and receive an assurance that testing can resume smoothly,” department spokesman Josh Collins said.”

In an age when hackers can break into the computer systems of major corporations, can Pearson expect to remain immune?

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

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Chancellor Tisch must immediately step down.

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 148,179 other followers