A Florida judge supported parents who fought for alternatives to the mandatory state reading test. Some districts permitted alternatives, others insisted that children would be retained in third grade if they didn’t take and pass the third grade test.

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/judge-issues-mixed-ruling-on-floridas-third-grade-retention-law/2291108

“A Leon County circuit court judge has come down in favor of families challenging Florida’s third-grade retention practices, ruling that school districts ignored the children’s right to alternative forms of promotion and the state Department of Education allowed that to happen.

“In her order, Judge Karen Gievers highly criticized the Hernando County school district for its “illegal refusal” to allow students to have a portfolio option to demonstrate their reading abilities, as permitted in statute. Notably, she also included report cards “based on classroom work throughout the course of the school year” as an acceptable option.

“Gievers took a further step in undercutting Florida’s long-time reliance on testing by validating the Opt Out Network’s use of “minimal participation.”

“The statute does not define participation,” Gievers wrote in her order. “The children were present on time, broke the seal on the materials and wrote their names, thus meeting their obligation to participate.”

The article calls this a “mixed” ruling, but I think it looks like a home run for parents who didn’t want their child’s future to be tied to one standardized test.

Thanks to reader Sheila Resseger, who sent this article about the low PARCC scores in Rhode Island.

Here were the results for the kids with the greatest need for support:

Less than 22 percent of black and Latino students scored proficient in English compared to a statewide average of almost 38 percent on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a challenging test rolled out last year amid dismal results.

Less than 9 percent of English language learners reached the state standard, and that number fell to less than 6 percent for special-needs students.

The achievement gaps widened.

The State Commissioner of Education, Ken Wagner (formerly deputy commissioner in New York state), is quoted.

Less than 22 percent of black and Latino students scored proficient in English compared to a statewide average of almost 38 percent on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a challenging test rolled out last year amid dismal results.

Less than 9 percent of English language learners reached the state standard, and that number fell to less than 6 percent for special-needs students.

Related content R.I. educators urge stay the course on standardized testsIn an interview yesterday, State Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said poverty was not to blame for the chronically low scores among urban school districts.

“If you go back 40 years, we’ve always been at a 30- or 40-percent plateau,” he said, referring to the percentage of students reaching proficiency in English and math. “Part of the story is we need to stop changing our minds. We need take a common-sense approach and stick with it for the long haul.”

Rhode Island, unlike Massachusetts, has switched state tests. It has reversed course on whether passing a test should be a high-school graduation requirement. Legislative leadership has undermined the work of education commissioners.

Math scores increased by 5 points this year, with nearly 30 percent of all students meeting the standards. Students improved in every grade level. In English, scores improved by two percentage points, with almost 38-percent reaching proficiency. Students improved in five out of eight grade levels.

Tim Duffy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, said Rhode Island is moving forward but “not fast enough.”

“The anxiety about the PARCC seems to have dissipated,” he said. “But the scores are stagnant at the upper grade levels, which reinforces that the test has to be part of the graduation requirements.”

Wagner moved this year to drop the PARCC as a graduation requirement after widespread criticism that urban students were not adequately prepared to take it, among other concerns.

The PARCC, which was originally adopted by 24 states, is down to seven. Rhode Island is the only state in New England to stick with the test, which has been confounded by technical problems and a huge opt-out movement in states like New York. Massachusetts switched to a hybrid of the PARCC and its own test, the MCAS, this past year.

Wagner denied that the test is too hard, a common criticism. Instead, he said Rhode Island has much work to do to put a rigorous curriculum in every school, ramp up teacher training and redesign the way schools, especially high schools, are structured.

High-school students across Rhode Island performed poorly on the tests. In Providence, every high school but Classical scored in the single digits on the math and English PARCC tests.

But it wasn’t just the urban schools that underperformed. At Burrillville High School, only 17 percent of the students scored proficient on the English test. In North Kingstown and South Kingstown, approximately a third scored proficient and in Westerly, 21 percent did.

Wagner says the tests are not too hard. Surely that can’t be an excuse for the vast majority that “failed.” Can’t blame poverty.

The real problem, he says, is that we need to stick with the PARCC no matter how many kids fail.

Tim Duffy of the state’s school committees wants PARCC to be a graduation requirement (Wagner disagrees). What will Rhode Island do with all those kids who never pass? At this point, it would be a very large majority. Will they drop out? Will they get jobs without a high school diploma? Will they stay in third grade or fourth grade until they pass? Will third grade become a huge parking lot where few students make it to fourth grade?

Please, someone, explain how this would work. And Commissioner Wagner, how many years will it take until most students in Rhode Island “pass” the PARCC test, a feat not accomplished by any other state except Massachusetts? Will students with disabilities stay in school for the rest of their lives?

No surprise: Most students in Rhode Island “failed” the Common Core PARCC tests. As I have explained many times, the tests were designed to fail most students. They are aligned with NAEP Proficient, which most students have never reached, with the sole exception of those in Massachusetts, where slightly more than half have reached that standard.

What is the point of giving a test that is too hard for most students?

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote to say that the tests were designed to show college readiness, and only 40% (or less) are college ready. But 70% enroll in college. Thus, he writes, a remediation crisis in college.

But really, why should schools test third graders for college readiness?

Colleges set their own admission standards, they can accept or reject whoever they want.

I wonder if Michael Phelps or Simone Boles would have tested “proficient” on PARCC?

I posed these questions to him:

Making the passing mark so high that most kids fail is insane. Does that make them smarter? Will they be denied a high school diploma? Will they be retained in grade? Will the schools become giant holding pens where most kids never get past third grade?

Mike is never at a loss for words so I expect he will answer.

Allie Gross has reported in-depth on education issues in Detroit.

In this article, which appeared in Metro Times, she gives the context and background of the sudden closure of University YES Academy’s high school. High school students were told with only two weeks’ notice that they had to find a new school. One student she interviewed was just starting her senior year and was shocked to learn she had to find a new school at the last minute.

There is a backstory, and it relates to the school’s efforts to keep a union out.

“WHILE THE INSTABILITY FELT by the high schoolers at UYA Monday may seem like an isolated incident, it’s in fact one of several topsy-turvy occurrences that have transpired over the past few months — and really years.

“UYA, which opened its doors to sixth-grade students in the fall of 2010, came into local spotlight in the spring of 2015 when staff made public their desires to unionize. The decision was ill-received by the school’s then-charter management company, New Urban Learning (NUL), and by April NUL announced that it would be leaving UYA.

“We believe that a larger charter management organization with more resources and fresh ideas would better enable UYA to meet its 90-90-90 goals — game changing goals we believe are attainable,” the letter forwarded to the staff by Lesley Ester Redwine, the CEO of NUL, read.

“The news was crushing for staff, as the resignation of NUL meant that should the staff vote in favor of a union (which they did a few weeks later) they would have nobody to bargain with. At charter schools, the management company is the employer not the school board — which means the departure of the management company is also the departure of the employer the staff hoped to bargain with. More dispiriting, the departure of NUL (the employer) meant that everyone on staff was terminated and had to re-apply for their jobs. At the start of the following school year, only 17 of the school’s 68 employees had been there the year prior.

“While these were clear signs of instability there was one consistency. After leaving the school as NUL, Redwine created a new management company — InspirED Education — and submitted an RFP to run the school under the new company. The board decided to go with Redwine’s new company. In other words: the management company more or less stayed the same, but the obligation to bargain was gone. Redwine argued that she did not need to bargain because InspirED was not at the school at the time of the union vote and that the majority of the staff had changed since then.

“What complicates this story — and the instability seen at UYA — is what occurred next. In March the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint, alleging that Redwine created an “alter ego corporation” (InspirED Education) in order to avoid collective bargaining with the UYA staff, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of union representation in the spring of 2015. By May the school’s charter authorizer, Bay Mills Community College (located about 342 miles aways from the school), sent a letter of revocation, saying the school was at risk of losing its charter.

“In June, reports Michigan Radio, the school board struck a deal with the authorizer, which promised to get the school back into “good standings” if it dropped Redwine’s management company and found a new company to run the operations.

“This is where things get particularly tricky.

“At the end of June Redwine signed a settlement with Michigan ACTS promising to bargain with the staff; however, two days before the settlement agreement was signed, the UYA board announced their intentions to sign a contact with New Paradigm, a local charter management company run by self-proclaimed “education entrepreneur” Ralph Bland. While the board essentially had to find a new management company to keep the school open, the move once again shook up the school. For a second year in a row, the entire staff was fired and asked to re-apply for their jobs, and once again the obligation to bargain was voided. The big difference this time around is how it would so directly affect the students.”

While the charter operators were playing their games, the students were an after-thought. They were referred to other charters managed by the same corporation.

It is a shameful story: a business run by people who are indifferent to their students.

Jersey Jazzman reports on what competition does to schools and communities. A new charter school in Bethlehem, PA., is recruiting students from the public schools by sending out mailers claiming that students who enroll in the charter school will be safe from drug dealers in the public school. Really.

A promotional mailer claiming to be from a new Catasauqua charter school paints Liberty High School students as drug users, sparking outrage among many Bethlehem residents.

Innovative Arts Academy Charter School denies it had anything to do with sending out the promotional mailer, which lists the school’s return address.

The postcard references the September 2015 drug arrest of a 17-year-old Liberty student and asks “Why worry about this type of student at school? Come visit Arts Academy Charter School. Now enrolling grades 6-12.”

It shows a stock image of a teenager holding their head in their hands and reprints a Morning Call headline: “Teen busted by Liberty HS officials with more than $3,000 of heroin, cocaine.”

Nothing like using defamation to recruit new students.

The school insisted it was not responsible for the mailer. The CEO of the charter school resigned.

Outsiders were wondering about the role of the real estate developer, who not only owned the building in which the charter was located, but loaned the charter $100,000.

Was it “all about the kids?”

The annals of competition.

The Boston Globe used to be a liberal newspaper. But that was long ago. Now it opposes the teachers’ unions and it supports privatization of public education.

Massachusetts is the highest performing state in the nation, as judged by test scores; you would never know that if the Globe was your only source of information. Corporate reformers were audacious in choosing Massachusetts as their next big battleground to save poor kids from failing schools. Their ambition–to break public education–is outrageous in the nation’s top-performing state. Their promises ring hollow.

Our reader Christine Langhoff gives us an update on the escalation of hostilities as the air war for public opinion heats up.

She writes:

The Question 2 campaign continues to, as we say, “evolve”.

On Sunday, The Boston Globe published an advertorial scolding the Boston Teachers Union that it had better settle contract negotiations pretty quickly because “such changes are necessary to boost the quality of teaching and learning so the school system can compete more aggressively with independently run charter schools, a sector of public education that could grow dramatically in the coming years.”

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/08/21/watchdog-urges-teachers-city-act-boldly-contract-deadline-looms/RZVzQq9h13CAJMGTTvQOSP/story.html#comments

The “research” comes from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, whose President Sam Tyler, of course lives in the suburbs. Among the recommendations:

“Supporting and improving teacher quality and adding more time for learning in the BPS should be the mutual objectives of the City and BTU in these negotiations. To that end, the final three-year contract should include the following provisions:

*Teacher Compensation – Adopt a new fiscally responsible teacher compensation system that rewards teachers for performance and additional responsibilities rather than for academic credits and longevity.

* Mutual consent – Reinforce early hiring and mutual consent for teachers and extend mutual consent as the process for hiring paraprofessionals.

* SPC Teachers – Improve procedures for the assignment and evaluation of teachers in suitable professional capacity (SPC) positions in order to improve teacher quality and reduce the number of SPC teachers not hired after a year or who do not apply for positions.

* Teacher Evaluation – Improve the teacher evaluation process based on the BPS’ experience over the last three years.

* Excessing Procedures – Include language for excessing teachers that is consistent with retaining top quality teachers irrespective of seniority.

* Extended Time – Provide more time on learning for students in traditional Boston schools in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner.”

In other words, credentialed, certified teachers, many with decades of classroom experience, ought to accept the kinds of working conditions that their uncertified, inexperienced colleagues find in charters.

The attack on compensation for academic credentials is particularly outrageous.

Massachusetts law, since the 1993 ed reform act (which also enabled charters), requires teachers to obtain a Master’s within the first five years of their careers if they wish to obtain professional status. There’s no re-imbursement of this expense, and the cost of an MA is Massachusetts is pretty pricey.

Here’s the six page attack (er, report) on unionized teachers in what’s been called the best urban school system:

http://bmrb.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SR16-6BPScontract.pdf

Then John Oliver presented his views on the Charter School industry.

In response, Chris Farone of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism’s DigBoston, a local alternative news organization, put the Globe and the Boston Municipal Research Bureau under its spotlight, noting that BMRB reps for businesses:

“…it wouldn’t take the Globe’s award-winning Spotlight team to see that BMRB’s board of directors boasts members from such companies as State Street Corporation, Suffolk Construction, Fidelity Investments, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Citizens Bank, Boston Properties, and John Hancock, among others in the corporate class whose money drives the pro- side of the charter war.”

The article is titled: “THE BOSTON GLOBE AND JOHN OLIVER: WHICH ONE IS FULL OF CRAP ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOLS?”

THE BOSTON GLOBE AND JOHN OLIVER: WHICH ONE IS FULL OF CRAP ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOLS?

On Tuesday, the 23rd Globe published an article reviewing the Dobbie, Fryer research which shows that charters don’t do much in the way of improving test scores and may have a negative impact on earnings. (The question of whether those ought to be considered appropriate goals of education is not discussed.)

Here’s the study:

http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/fryer/files/charters_7.15.16.pdf

and the Globe article:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/08/23/charter-schools-boost-test-scores-nothing-else/D6F7vTwLTqYnBJyeupoODK/story.html#comments

Also on Tuesday, Boston’s other newspaper, the Boston Herald, posted the following column by Carol Doherty, member of the Taunton School Committee, questioning the flow of dark money and Wall Street connections for this ballot question:

http://www.heraldnews.com/opinion/20160823/carol-doherty-following-money-billionaire-investors-tied-to-charter-school-campaign

And the Twitter exchange has been fierce, with Jeanne Allen and Dmitiri Melhorne accusing two Boston parents (one of whom writes a blog called Public School Mama) who have organized protests against the underfunding of BPS for the past year with such finely considered arguments as “Your grandchildren will be embarrassed by you 60 years from now” and “Oh, wait! Urban voters would choose to lift caps! It’s OUTSIDERS from suburbs who are blocking choice for Boston parents!” Sheesh!

Wednesday, it was reported that Massachusetts students had the highest ACT scores in the nation, undermining once again the rationale for increasing the number of charters, when we’re doing just fine without them, thanks.
http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/08/best_in_the_nation_massachuset.html

The Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., has published a major paper that describes a new vision for American education.

Instead of focusing on goals like raising test scores, which narrows the curriculum and produces perverse results (like cheating, excessive test prep, and gaming the system), educators should be encouraged to emphasize the development of the whole child. This is not a new idea; its roots go back to the early twentieth century. But it is a research-based idea that promises to change the direction of education and to align teaching and learning with what is in the best interests of students and society.

The report was written by Elaine Weiss and Emma Garcia of EPI.

Here is the introduction.

Traits and skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, persistence, and self-control—which are often collectively called noncognitive skills, or social and emotional skills—are vitally important to children’s full development. They are linked to academic achievement, productivity and collegiality at work, positive health indicators, and civic participation, and are nurtured through life and school experiences. Developing these skills should thus be an explicit goal of public education. This can be achieved through research and policy initiatives involving better defining and measuring these skills; designing broader curricula to promote these skills; ensuring that teachers’ preparation and professional support are geared toward developing these skills in their students; revisiting school disciplinary policies, which are often at odds with the nurturing of these skills; and broadening assessment and accountability practices to make the development of the whole child central to education policy.

Introduction and key points

The importance of so-called noncognitive skills—which include abilities and traits such as critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, social skills, persistence, creativity, and self-control—manifests itself in multiple ways throughout our lives. For example, having greater focus as a student improves the acquisition of skills, and creativity is widely associated with artistic abilities. Persistence and communication skills are critical to success at work, and respect and tolerance contribute to strong social and civic relationships.

But support for noncognitive skills—also commonly referred to as social and emotional skills—extends far beyond this casual recognition of their impact. Empirical research finds clear connections between various noncognitive skills and positive life outcomes. Indeed, researchers have focused on assessing which skills matter and why, how they are measured, and how and when these skills are developed, including the mutually reinforcing development of noncognitive and cognitive abilities during students’ years in school.1

At the same time, there are clear challenges inherent in this work, including those associated with data availability (in terms of measurement, validity, and reliability), the difficulty of establishing causality, and the need to bridge gaps across various areas of research. This points to the need to exercise caution when designing education policies and practices that aim to nurture noncognitive skills. Nonetheless, given the crucial role that noncognitive skills play in supporting the development of cognitive skills—as well as the importance of noncognitive skills in their own right—this is an issue of great importance for policymakers.

Moreover, there is increased recognition, both domestically and internationally, that noncognitive skills are integral to a wider conceptualization of what it means to be an educated person. Indeed, UNESCO’s Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, which sets forth an international consensus on the new vision for education for the next 15 years, states, “Relevant learning outcomes must be well defined in cognitive and non-cognitive domains, and continually assessed as an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Quality education includes the development of those skills, values, attitudes and knowledge that enable citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions and respond to local and global challenges.”2

This policy brief, which focuses on a set of skills that can and should be taught in schools, is based on a body of scholarly literature that tends to use the term “noncognitive skills” over others. James Heckman, a prominent, Nobel Prize–winning economist, has dubbed these skills “dark matter” in recognition of their varied nature and the challenge of accurately labeling them. Various fields and experts call them social and emotional skills, behavioral skills, inter- and intra-personal skills, and life skills, among other terms, but this brief does not aim to settle this issue. We therefore use noncognitive throughout in many places, as well as social and emotional skills and other terms.

This brief explains why it is so important that we incorporate these skills into the goals and components of public education, and lays out the steps necessary to make that happen.

This is a report that will gladden the hearts of most educators. It calls for a paradigm shift at a time when policymakers are realizing that the past fifteen years of testing, carrots and sticks, and other efforts to raise test scores, has produced negative consequences. It is time to take another look at our goals and our vision. This is indeed a worthy project.

Only hours after losing its lawsuit to block teacher tenure in California, the Silicon Valley-funded “Students Matter”filed a lawsuit in Connecticut, claiming that the state’s restrictions on magnet schools and charter schools discriminated against inner-city children.

Curious. Why isn’t this group suing the state for not giving the neediest schools the funds to reduce class sizes and provide social and medical services to the children?

“California-based educational-advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit charging that Connecticut’s restrictions on magnet and charter schools harm city children and violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Students Matter, a group best known for bringing an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to eliminate teacher tenure in California, filed a 71-page complaint Tuesday charging that “inexcusable educational inequity” in Connecticut was primarily the result of state laws “that prevent inner-city students from accessing even minimally acceptable public-school options.”

“The group is taking aim at laws that have put a moratorium on new magnet schools, limit the expansion of charter schools, and set per-student funding levels for districts participating in the Open Choice program in which city students attend suburban schools.

“A statement from Students Matter said, “Year after year, these parents have tried to avoid sending their children to failing public schools by trying to enroll them in magnet schools, charter public schools or other adequate public school alternatives.”

“However, the group contends that children have been “forced to remain in failing schools” because laws prevent magnets and charters from “scaling and meeting the need for high-quality schools demanded by Connecticut’s population.”

Hmmm. If students have a constitutional right to attend charter schools, do charter schools have the right to refuse admission?

I wonder if TIME Magazine will give the story a cover, as it did for Vergara, claiming that Silicon Valley knows how to fix failing schools. Or the cover it gave to Michelle Rhee, holding a broom, saying that she knew how to fix the public schools of D.C.

I have an idea: since David Welch, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur behind Students Matter, knows how to fix low-scoring schools, why doesn’t he offer to take over a district in California and show us how to do it?

Calling John Oliver! The charter lobbyists have been criticizing Oliver for his expose of charter fraud last Sunday. Unfair, they say. Untrue, they say. Slanders charters, they say. Let’s see how they fit this story into their narrative.

Nicholas Trombetta, founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, pleaded guilty to stealing $8 million from the school and diverting it for his personal use. Trombetta’s school was often featured on television as the nation’s first virtual charter. With an enrollment of 10,000 students from across the state, Trometta had receipts of $100 million a year. What to do with all that dough rolling in from taxpayers?

I have written about this scandal on several occasions, from the time Trombetta was charged in 2013. (See hereand here and here. Another cyber charter leader in Pennsylvania, June Brown, who ran the K-12 Agora Charter, was arrested and charged with stealing $6 million.

The Associated Press reports:

“PITTSBURGH (AP) — The founder and former CEO of an online public school that educates thousands of Pennsylvania students pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal tax fraud, acknowledging he siphoned more than $8 million from The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School through for-profit and nonprofit companies he controlled.

“In entering his plea, Nicholas Trombetta, 61, who headed the school, acknowledged using the money to buy, among other things, a Bonita Springs, Florida, condominium for $933,000, pay $180,000 for houses for his mother and girlfriend in Ohio, and spend $990,000 more on groceries and other items.

“He manipulated companies he created and controlled to draw the money from the school, also spending it on a $300,000 plane, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman said.

“Trombetta was making $127,000 to $144,000 annually at PA Cyber when he ran the illegal tax evasion scheme from 2006 to 2012. He faces up to five years in prison when he’s sentenced Dec. 20.

“By running the money through the companies or their straw owners, Trombetta avoided income taxes, though prosecutors haven’t said how much. Most of the siphoned money was squirreled away in Avanti Management Group, which functioned as Trombetta’s retirement savings account, Kaufman said.

“This case reflects the priority we’ve placed on protecting against fraud in education,” U.S. Attorney David Hickton said.

“The school, founded in Midland in 2000, had more than 11,000 students across the state when Trombetta was charged three years ago and still has more than 9,000. As a public institution, it’s funded by federal, state and local taxes. Districts across the state pay the school to educate any students who opt to enroll in PA Cyber instead of a bricks-and-mortar school.

“Trombetta almost didn’t plead guilty Wednesday when his attorney, Adam Hoffinger, began sparring with Kaufman, who had to describe the complicated conspiracy to the judge.

“Kaufman said Trombetta used Avanti, the National Network of Digital Schools and other companies in the scheme. The Network of Digital Schools markets a curriculum developed in conjunction with PA Cyber and sold it back to the school, while Avanti provided unspecified management services, the prosecutor said. Avanti had four owners who pretended to be equal 25 percent partners when, in reality, Trombetta owned 80 percent of the firm, Kaufman said.”

Michael Hynes is a veteran superintendent of schools in New York. His district–Patchogue-Medford– is one of those where about half the students opted out of state testing. He has a better vision for education than that of New York State or the federal government.

He writes:

Public Education and what it stands for has been taking a beating not only in New York but across this great nation for far too long. It is my belief that the people who think they know all the answers (policy makers and corporate reformers who are non-educators) are getting in the way of the leaders who understand what our students truly need and deserve.

There is no better time than right now since there is a four year moratorium in New York related to the development of new standards, teacher/principal evaluations and state assessments. Now is the time for our school leaders to have a collective voice about a number of items we have solutions to.

Nobody likes to live in regret….my biggest fear is ten years from now, history will question why school leaders didn’t push back or voice their concerns against the agenda of changing public education. Now is the time to have our collective voices known. A compendium of our ideas and opinions will be sent to the Board of Regents, Commissioner of Education, the heads of the Senate and Assembly and our Governor. It is my hope to have this information ready for the public by November.

Here is a letter that was sent to every NY Superintendent:

Dear Superintendent Colleague:

It is a privilege and honor serving our school communities as educational leaders. It is a remarkable experience like no other. As superintendents, we are entrusted and responsible for our communities’ most prized possessions, the children. We are responsible for everyone’s safety as well as a child’s academic, social and emotional growth. It is a tightrope walk between the balancing acts of educator and politician twenty-four hours a day… seven days a week.

Like any leadership position, a school leader deals with obstacles on a daily basis. But the impediments we face have grown tremendously because of the mandates our state and federal governments have put in place over the past several years. These mandates are at a point that I believe is interfering with our work to best serve our children and our communities. And while there is much anti-public school sentiment that we read about in the news, there is also a rising awareness of the harm that is happening as well as growing frustration among our parent bodies and community leaders. In light of the harm our schools and children have endured, and to put our schools back on the right track, I write to suggest that now is the time to speak out against:

• The overemphasis and overreliance on assessing our children

• The disproportionate use of state tests to evaluate students and teachers

• The hard push for technology as a substitute for teaching and the lack of professional development

• The demonization of teachers and administrators

• The over emphasis on ranking and sorting students and staff into impractical and unrealistic categories

• The early push to be college and career ready, even in Kindergarten

• The insufficient discussion about alternate paths for students, such as vocational school or military opportunities

• The chronic government underfunding of special education

• The use of un-validated and not-fully-transparent tests that have high stakes attached

• Curriculum that sets unachievable standards for our most vulnerable learners

• Protecting personally identifiable student data

The list can go on and on. I realize we have many educational leaders who are relentless advocates for their school district and students. They are innovators within their domains but are hesitant to voice their apprehensions outside of their schoolhouses. The messages from the state have led many to stay quiet, but I believe that now is the time we can act as a whole. By acknowledging our shared concerns, we can send our own message that the time for change and for putting children first is now.

I would love to see New York State educational leaders push for more recess, play and begin redirecting the important focus toward educating the “whole child.” Together we can concentrate on supporting all our children by addressing their social, emotional and academic needs. Now is the time to promote more project-based learning opportunities for our schools. Together we can push the pendulum toward a thoughtful school that will harvest the talents of our students so they are
educated … and move away from a clinical habitation where students are trained to perform well on standardized tests. Parents, students and educators are looking toward our educational leaders now more than ever.

As a beginning, I am looking to collect the thoughts/opinions of superintendents from across the great state of New York in a qualitative nature that support the bulleted items above as well as other issues you think need attention. My hope is to collate the majority of our sentiments on the above mentioned items listed in this letter and with your permission, send a compendium to our state’s education policy makers, including the Board of Regents, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, the heads of the Senate and Assembly, as well as the head of the Education Committees, and Governor Cuomo. I am happy to include anonymous postings if that is what anyone wants. I am requesting that your statement is limited to 300 words or less. It would be beneficial if your statements were sent via email to me at mhynes@pmschools.org no later than Friday, September 30th. Once completed I will send
you a copy.

Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience with any questions you may have. Thank you for your time and continued commitment to all our children.

Respectfully yours,

Michael J. Hynes, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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