Archives for category: New York

Many parents and educators are outraged by the over-testing and misuse of testing that has been embedded in federal policy since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002. No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year in grades 3-8, as we have since the passage of NCLB.

Young children sit for exams that last up to 15 hours over two weeks. The fate of their teachers rests on their performance. Parents remember taking tests in school that lasted no more than one class period for each subject. Their tests were made by their teachers, not by a multinational corporation. Parents can’t understand how testing became an endurance trial and the goal of education.

Politicians claim that the tests are necessary to inform parents and teachers and the public how children in one state are doing as compared to their peers in other states. But this information is already reported by the federal test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Parents have figured out that the tests don’t serve any purpose other than to rank their child. No one is allowed to see the test questions after the test. No child receives a diagnosis of what they know and don’t know. They receive only a score. In every state, the majority of children have been ranked as “failures” because the testmakers adopted a passing mark that was guaranteed to fail close to 70% of children. Parents have learned that the passing mark is not objective; it is arbitrary. It can be set to pass everyone, pass no one, or pass some percentage of children.

In the past 14 years, parents have seen the destruction of neighborhood schools, based on their test scores. They have seen beloved teachers fired unjustly, because of their students’ test scores. They have seen the loss of time for the arts, physical education, and anything else that is not tested. They have seen a change in their local public schools that they don’t like, as well as a loss of control to federal mandates and state authorities.

In the past, testing companies warned that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. Now, these corporations willingly sell their tests without warning about misuse. A test of fourth grade reading tests fourth grade reading. It should not be used to rank students, to humiliate students, to fire teachers and principals, or to close schools. But it is.

Communities have been devastated by the closing of their neighborhood schools.

Communities have seen their schools labeled “failing,” based on test scores, and taken over by the state or national corporate charter chains.

Based on test scores, punishments abound: for students, teachers, principals, schools, and communities.

This is madness!

What can we as citizens do to stop the destruction of our children, their schools, and our dedicated educators.

Opt out of the tests.

Use the power of the powerless: Say NO. Do not participate. Withdraw your consent from actions that harm your child. Withdrawal of consent in an unjust system. That’s the force that brought down Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel and Lech Walensa said no. They were not alone. Hundreds of thousands stood with them, and the regimes with their weapons and tanks and heavy armor folded. Because the people said no.

Opting out of the tests is the only tool available to parents, other than defeating the elected officials of your state (which is also a good idea, but will take a very long time to bear fruit). One person can’t defeat the governor and the local representatives. But one person can refuse to allow their child to take the toxic tests.

The only tool and the most powerful tool that parents have to stop this madness is to refuse to allow their children to take the tests.

Consider New York. A year ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo was in full attack mode against teachers and public schools, while showering praise on privately managed charters. He vowed to “break the monopoly” known as public education. The New York State Board of Regents was controlled by members who were in complete sympathy with Cuomo’s agenda of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and evaluating teachers by test scores.

But in 2015, about a quarter million children refused the state tests. Albany went into panic mode. Governor Cuomo convened a commission to re-evaluate the Common Core, standards, and testing. Almost overnight, his negative declarations about education changed in tone, and he went silent. The legislature appointed new members, who did not share the test-and-punish mentality. The chair of the New York State Board of Regents decided not to seek re-appointment after a 20-year career on that board. The Regents elected Dr. Betty Rosa, a veteran educator who was actively supported by the leaders of the opt out movement.

Again in 2016, the opt out movement showed its power. While official figures have not yet been released, the numbers evidently match those of 2015. More than half the students in Long Island opted out. Federal and state officials have issued warnings about sanctions, but it is impossible to sanction huge numbers of schools in middle-class and affluent communities. The same officials have no problem closing schools in poor urban districts, treating citizens there as chess pawns, but they dare not offend an organized bloc in politically powerful communities.

The opt out movement has been ridiculed by critics, treated by the media as a front for the teachers’ union, belittled by the former Secretary of Education as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed that their child was not so bright after all, stereotyped as privileged white parents with low-performing children, etc. There are indeed black and Hispanic parents who are part of the opt out movement. Their children and their schools suffer the greatest penalties in the current testing madness. In New York City, where opt out numbers were tiny, parents were warned that their children would not be able to enter the middle school or the high school of their choice if they opted out.

Thus far, the opt out movement has not been discouraged or slowed by these tactics of ridicule and intimidation. The conditions have not changed, so the opt out movement will continue.

The reality is that the opt out movement is indeed a powerful weapon. It is the one weapon that makes governors, legislators, and even members of Congress afraid of public opinion and public action. They are afraid because they don’t know how to stop parents from opting out. They can’t control opt out parents, and they know it. They offer compromises, promises for the future, but all of this is sham. They have not let go of the testing hammer. And they will not until opt out becomes the norm, not the exception.

In some communities in New York, opting out is already the norm. If politicians and bureaucrats continue on their reckless course of valuing test scores more than children, the opt out movement will not be deterred.

Save your child. Save your schools. Stop the corporate takeover of public education. You have the power. Say no. Opt out.

One of the hotbeds of opt out in New York was centered on Long Island, which consists of Nassau County and Suffolk County. Fully half of the students eligible for state tests did not take the tests. Reporter Jaime Franchi surveys the movement and asks, “what’s next?”

A year ago, parents were battling a combative Governor Cuomo, facing a hostile State Education Department, and rallying against Common Core. But what a difference a year makes. Now the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, Betty Rosa, is an experienced educator who is sympathetic to the parents who opt out.

And the movement has larger goals:

The struggle came to a head during this spring’s testing season, culminating in a giant win for Long Island Opt-Out, a parent-led group that organized an historic number of test-refusals this year with almost 100,000 students—more than half of the student population in Nassau and Suffolk counties—opting out of state tests. Their message has been effective: No more Common Core. Despite incremental fixes promised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his so-called “Common Core Task Force,” they are still demanding concrete changes.

Yet, it remains to be seen how this evolving protest movement will improve or replace the current education agenda.

According to local public education advocates, the answer is multi-tiered. It includes elections: first at the state level and then at the local school board in an effort to tackle education policy from all sides. The goal is a shift away from schools’ increasing test-prep focus almost exclusively on math and reading skills—eschewing the arts and play-based learning—to a comprehensive curriculum that addresses what some advocates call the “whole child.”

The opt out leaders have been shrewd. They have elected nearly 100 of their members to local school boards. They threw their support behind a candidate for the State Senate and he eked out a narrow victory. They regularly schedule meetings with their representatives in Albany.

Opt out leaders want a sweeping change in education policy, from scripted lessons and high-stakes testing to child-centered classrooms, where children are really put first, not test scores.

In late night negotiations, rushing to finish the legislative session, the New York Legislature reached a package deal to extend mayoral control by only one year. Part of the package creates a parallel system for charter schools, which can switch authorizers and choose one (either the State University of New York or the Board of Regents) that will give them freedom from any regulations and standards that apply to public schools. In other words, there will be one set of rules for public schools, and no rules for charter schools. This will be the first time in New York state’s history that the Legislature has officially established a publicly-funded dual school system: One sector is subject to democratic control, the other is not. One must accept (or take responsibility for) all students, the other is free to accept and reject whichever students it wants.

A one-year extension, with few or no caveats, had seemed all but cemented when lawmakers went to bed on Thursday evening. But the morning found Mr. Flanagan pushing for the funding transparency requirement, followed by the charter-school provision in the afternoon. It would effectively create a parallel system of charter schools within the city, allowing “high-performing charter schools in good standing” to switch to join the State University of New York umbrella or the Board of Regents of the State Educational Department.

Not since the era preceding the Brown decision of 1954 has a state legislature so brazenly established a two-tier system of K-12 schools.

The leader of the State Senate, John Flanagan, has made no secret of his contempt for Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio helped to raise money for Democrats running for the State Senate; had they won, the State Senate would be controlled by Democrats, not Republicans. Governor Cuomo has stabbed the mayor in the back repeatedly, because he doesn’t like to share the stage with any other prominent Democrat in the state. So, the mayor had a losing hand when he asked for a three-year extension of mayoral control.

When Mike Bloomberg asked for a six-year extension in 2009, the Legislature granted it. The State Senate loved Mayor Bloomberg, because he often contributed to individual Republicans running for re-election (three years later, in 2012, the Mayor gave $1 million to the Republican campaign fund for the state senate). When Mayor Bloomberg asked for a renewal of his unlimited power over the schools in 2009, he boasted of the dramatic increase in test scores that were a direct result of his control. However, a year later, the New York Board of Regents commissioned an independent study, which concluded that the New York State Education Department had lowered the passing mark every year and test scores across the state were inflated. When they were adjusted after this revelation, the dramatic gains disappeared. NAEP scores never confirmed the boasts by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein about “historic gains.”

If anyone remembers what all these political maneuvers over control have to do with educating one million children, please remind me.

Testing expert Fred Smith worked for the New York City Board of Education for more than a decade. Now retired, he assists parent groups understand what the testing corporations are doing.

In this post, he reviews the items released by Pearson (via Questar) to New York. 75% of the test items on the ELA were released. He wonders, why not all of them? We the taxpayers bought them, why not release them to see what we paid for?

He goes through specific test items to show their flaws.

This is a useful review of what the testing corporations are doing.

Fred LeBrun of the Albany Times-Union is the best mainstream journalist in New York state. He understands parents and teachers, and he writes sharp columns that explain more about the state of education than anything you will read in the editorial columns of the New York Times, which hews closely to the NCLB/RTTT narrative. This column is a critique of the recent statement issued by State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and State University of New York President Nancy Zimpher, containing their proposals for elevating the teaching profession and recruiting more teachers. Take it from LeBrun, the proposals are hogwash that will make it harder to recruit new teachers.

He writes:

A national public school teaching shortage looms, with New York no exception.

This is not breaking news. We’ve known this was coming for some time, although New York poses an interesting set of internal contrasts and contradictions for what this actually means. Like most of the rest of the nation, New York faces a big bloc of baby boomers aging out as teachers and administrators, leaving a lot of holes to be filled.

That is nothing new, either, and not necessarily a bad thing. Retirements bring opportunity for new blood, fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Teachers, even very good ones, wear out.

New York has always been able to meet the challenge of filling classrooms in 700-plus school districts with qualified, accredited teachers because we arguably have, in the State University of New York, the best teacher preparation network of colleges in the nation for cranking them out. We are so good at it we’re a major provider of teachers for other states.

And therein lies New York’s problem. It’s not in creating qualified teachers, even with teacher preparation enrollment in New York dropping 40 percent in the last six years. It’s in keeping them in teaching and in the state, particularly in difficult assignments that aren’t hard to guess at.

Nor is it hard to guess why the college-bound are avoiding the teaching profession in droves, or leaving New York once they get a degree.

You’d have to live on another planet to be mystified. Across the country, public school teaching has gone through six years of organized disrespect by opportunistic politicians and morons with big money looking to privatize public education, abetted by morons with higher degrees in education with wing-nut ideas. Teachers have been deliberately made scapegoats for the far-reaching effects of poverty, demonized, demoralized and sneered at by the likes of Gov. Andrew Cuomo among others. Cuomo seemed to particularly relish humiliating teachers every chance he got, for reasons that remain a mystery. Public revulsion for what teachers were subjected to finally put a stop to it.

Morale within the teaching ranks has to be low, and my guess is recruitment for the retiring ranks will be tough for some time in parts of New York. You can thank Cuomo and his hedge fund friends for that.

So, when State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher* and Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia held a press conference last week to tout an extensive new TeachNY report leading into a campaign for recruiting teacher preparation applicants, it was timely.

I sat down and read all 140 pages of it, and all 62 recommendations. If you can spare a couple of hours, I recommend it. (

Not especially for the content. As I was painfully reminded, there is no gibberish like education gibberish. A good editor could knock it down to under 20 pages of actual English, with maybe a dozen rather ho-hum recommendations. But it’s worth looking at for what it markedly isn’t.

It has only marginally to do with how to recruit teachers to fill a coming shortage. I was astounded at how much a bait and switch it turned out to be, because the report is mostly about how to torque up requirements at those aforementioned teacher preparation colleges in order to make teaching far more demanding, even more rigorous in continual training and evaluation, even more time-consuming in delivery than it is now. More hoops to go through.

The net effect of the recommendations would be to elevate the requirements for becoming — and remaining — a teacher to roughly the status of brain surgery.

I was gobsmacked. Rather than attract more candidates to the profession, the thrust of this report, if executed, will chase more away. What are these people thinking was my first reaction.

Then I took a harder look at the language, and noticed bits like “data-driven” and “evidenced based” and “metrics,” and suddenly the reek of familiar garbage brought on a eureka moment. I’d seen this stuff before, in the justification and language associated with the utterly discredited state high stakes standardized testing tied to teacher evaluations nonsense. The work of the Common Core cadets. That took me to scanning the multitude of participants in this study, and sure enough there was the abominable John King himself, former state commissioner of education, high advocate of blame the teacher. Come to find out the TeachNY report was funded by Race to the Top, groan…..

We need respect for what a teacher is and does and can do, and build from there. This goofy report doesn’t come close.

LeBrun says that the real danger of the report is that any part of it might be picked up and enacted by the legislature, which has demonstrated repeatedly that it does not have a clue about improving education.

He points out that we need an army of new teachers, not a trickle. The recommendations of Elia and Zimpher will narrow the pipeline and make it more like a straw.

The best thing to do with this lengthy report is to ignore it.

Hopefully it is only online and no trees were felled to print it.

*Nancy Zimpher announced that she will step down as president of the State University of New York in September 2017:

New York appears to be in resistance mode. Governor Andrew Cuomo passed a tax cap when he first took office, requiring a 60% supermajority to raise the school budget more than 2% in any year.


Despite the millions spent by billionaires to prove to New Yorkers that their local public schools are failing, the voters gave them a vote of confidence. 98% of districts passed their school budget, some overriding the tax cap.


In addition, many new school board members were elected, including supporters of the opt-out movement and teachers.


The current estimate, reported in this story, is that the opt out numbers were as large this year as last year, that is, about 20% of all the state’s students in grades 3-8.


Opt out continues to be a powerful tide, and there is no indication that it is diminishing. As long as the high stakes testing continues, so will the opt out movement.



The New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia and the President of the State University of New York Nancy Zimpher announced a plan to recruit more teachers. The teacher educators at SUNY immediately blasted the proposal.m as deeply flawed.


The elements of the plan are not especially original. Recruit more teachers of color. Internships in schools. Career ladder. Etc.


The problem with the plan is that it does not address the root causes of the teacher shortage. The root causes are state and federal policies that discourage and demoralize teachers.


Nothing was said about eliminating the edTPA or making it optional; the test has a disparate impact on teachers of color and is opposed by many who prepare teachers.


Nothing is said about the other tests for future teachers that have a disparate impact on teachers of color.


Nothing is said about the state’s teacher evaluation system, based on test scores, which is unreliable, unstable, and invalid. In the case of Sheri Lederman, decided recently, the judge tossed out her evaluation because of its inaccuracy. Many teachers are leaving the profession because of this system.


Nothing is said about the nonstop testing and test prep that demoralizes teachers and wastes instructional time.


Elia and Zimpher are trying to fix a major problem while ignoring the root causes. That won’t work.


The union that represents the faculty and staff of SUNY released the following statement:

“A report by SUNY’s TeachNY Advisory Council on teacher education is flawed, incomplete and fails to tap the experience of SUNY education professionals who teach and mentor future teachers across the state, according to United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D.


“The report, heralded by SUNY as a “historic partnership” between SUNY and the State Education Department, glosses over glaring problems with the state’s teacher certification exams and their impact on teacher shortages and the lack of diversity in teacher ed programs. The study ignores recent changes implemented by the state Board of Regents and inappropriately cites reform groups such as the National Council on Teacher Quality as experts.


“Some of the report’s recommendations directly conflict with actual experiences of SUNY teacher educators. Also missing: mentions of outstanding practices and new teacher ed developments already underway in the field.


“TeachNY is a smoke screen that bolsters the failed policy of former Commissioner John King, which SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher appears to endorse,” said Kowal. “It is insulting to SUNY’s teacher education faculty and staff, and seriously out of touch with the widespread rejection of the top-down reform agenda that has undermined the work of educators and their students.


“This report is pretentious and overreaches in an attempt to design standards for a profession that is highly regulated,” Kowal continued. “This report is one more misguided critique that is disconnected from reality.”
“Kowal said that UUP and NYSUT attempted to work with SUNY on the report, but pulled away when teacher education professionals were given no real voice in vetting the council’s recommendations. The report’s findings lack a “full range of input” from council meetings, he said.


“In March 29 and May 6 letters to Chancellor Zimpher, Kowal and NYSUT President Karen E. Magee requested that UUP and NYSUT be removed from the report.
“We cannot and will not endorse a report that is so flawed and one-sided, yet purports to be a legitimate collaboration between SUNY leadership and teacher educators,” said Kowal. “As written, this study goes out of its way to avoid the professional expertise and actual experiences of teacher educators, while thwarting attempts by our members to address real issues that need fixing.”
“UUPs’ many concerns with the study include:
A failure to acknowledge recent Board of Regents actions to extend teacher certification exam safety nets for the third year in a row and the need to address problems that led to the extensions;
Problems with SUNY’s promotion of a 3.0 GPA admission requirement for undergraduate and graduate teacher ed programs, and failure to analyze the potential barrier this requirement creates for underrepresented and disadvantaged students who have the potential to develop and excel with appropriate mentoring and support;
A failure to discuss problems with the state’s flawed teacher certification process and how the process has impacted declining teacher ed program enrollments;
The lack of focus on diversity in the teaching force and the need to recruit underrepresented groups into the teaching profession;
Legitimizing reform groups such as the NCTQ by citing them as experts when they command little respect among education professionals;
Supporting Simulating Teaching as a way to expand clinical experiences for student teachers even though there is no research to back the program’s effectiveness, while neglecting to analyze current obstacles to expansion of actual clinical experiences;
Accepting the state’s flawed Annual Professional Performance Review system without regard to recent Board of Regents implementation changes; and
Advocating for expansion of private alternatives to public education, a complex subject that requires far more extensive analysis than the TeachNY study.

“Hopefully, the chancellor will see the error of her ways and we can work together to produce a viable, workable report that takes a 360-degree view of this important issue,” Kowal said.”





The following is an excerpt from a letter written by the BATs to Chancellor Betty A. Rosa.


Dear Chancellor Rosa,


Congratulations on your well-deserved chancellorship. Students, parents, educators and taxpayers across NY state have sorely missed out on guidance from experienced practitioners in the challenging conditions of the real world. We also applaud your prioritization of the CFE state funding ruling because the state has avoided compliance for too long.


NY BATs are vocal members of our communities working to inform state and local policymakers on the in-classroom consequences of Albany’s policies. Allied with parent groups, we foster public engagement in education and electoral debates via a resolved grassroots presence.


STATE OF CONTROVERSY: NY’s test refusals show a deep, sustained rejection of top-down standardized testing. Those most impacted have experiences to share as well as scientific and scholarly research which needs a close read. Free from some federal mandates, the battle has come to fifty state houses. In Albany, well-established networks of monied corporations and private consultants drive privatization policies, greatly exaggerating actual educator or local input.


Public discourse is also changing, with media spending, advocacy and spin failing to use the Common Core’s requirement to source claims and show critical rigor. If we ask students to contrast and respond to differing viewpoints, why does our “adult” communication consist of exaggeration, distortion and people talking past each other?


TIME LOST: We haven’t seen open debate of snapshot-based assumptions or hidden formulas used to define and weigh ‘growth’. Nor a debate of data integrity following post-testing manipulations and 700 different implementations. These “comparative” results, already skewed badly are turned into “swiss cheese” once the opt-out families refuse participation. These experimental attempts at standardization have cost us time we can never have back.


STUDENT SUPPORT? We need the best evidence in policymaking, media, and even in the courts. The stated purpose of the tests is to identify need in order to send in support. The test results have purported to show major, widespread need of improvement. But where has the support been? Instead of in-classroom resources, we have seen a changing of standards and steady expansion of testing, receivership policies and charter schools, all actions that displace funding to support students.


THE BIG CONTOURS: The most basic fallacy driving NY’s testing lumps all learners into a one-year age-based range of assessment – only in two subjects – calibrated to the highest third of a bell curve, and then ponderously backwards-mapped to benchmarks that mandate conformity to a single, consistent pace of physical, cognitive and emotional development.


In struggling schools, students losing the opportunity to learn on their functioning level, all year long. Today we still see testing benchmarks driving curriculum rather than student need.


CONSTITUTIONAL ARGUMENT: Could a test case ask the Supreme Court whether there was ever any federal authority to impose testing, let alone the testing criteria? The NYS Board of Regents should consider this question in interpreting whether age-based benchmarks are appropriate for every learner in every circumstance across the state. If so, evidence of efficacy or reliability is paramount.


STANDARDIZATION WHY? The “cookie cutter” approach conflicts with best practices in education, where teachers are specifically trained to exercise autonomy in recognizing and meeting student need. Each year, NY districts struggle to comply with ever-changing tweaks, reinventions and overhauls of policies built on unproven theories of assessing learning.


Diverting millions per year, local educators’ ability to meet need is hampered, with individualized attention at the school level sacrificed for tests and macro-comparison. NY’s homegrown portfolio-based models, such as those used in the Performance Standards Consortium, have proven better suited to meet student need and value individual student ability.


BACKROOM, TOP-DOWN DEALS: NY’s closed door process gives us decrees without transparency or inclusiveness. Educators who know best what works in schools are shut out as special access is given to connected lobbyists and consultants. But their corporate ideas have failed to deliver improvement or support, year after year, showing that we need a shift to research-based, piloted and proven teaching methods.


We were told annual testing in ESSA was renewed because “civil rights groups” demanded it. More accurately, it was the leadership of these groups, awash in influence from reformers. We recognize the desperation to level the playing field for underserved schools, disproportionately located in communities of color, but we do not buy that standardized test-based accountability works. We believe wraparound services and removal of obstacles to whole-child learning are what’s needed.


NARROW MEASURES: The belief cognitive ability can be measured and compared in a vacuum is inherently unscientific, fraught with oversimplification that denies important real world variances. Can student growth legitimately be boiled down to annual test scores in just two subjects? Do “norming” controls for language, disability and poverty cover the true range of issues affecting outcomes? Even farther removed, can these scores be used across the state in a flat numeric percentage purporting to capture the impact of teacher practice?


DOJ and CDC research suggests measures of non-cognitive development are more accurate predictors of future success and societal costs. If ever we were looking to optimize the search for “red flags” to direct support and early intervention, it is the social-emotional markers that more directly tell the story.


MORATORIUM NOT ENOUGH: NY’s version of VAM is APPR, assailed by study after study before being hauled into court. The six-Regent position paper published last June requested that APPR should be suspended for reexamination. The Board passed a moratorium, but we still await the review, including overdue responses to the 2014 report by the American Statistical Association or the report by the American Educational Research Association.


Opt-out leader Jia Lee has suggested that the 4-year moratorium is designed to outlast parents whose kids will age out of testing, as younger teachers also proliferate. Perhaps it’s “kicking the can down the road” during an election year, but we hope that a transparent process to expose VAM will lead to decisions based on technical merit and efficacy.


NY TRUSTS ITS EDUCATORS: Who shapes these policies is also germane to the debate. Should we entrust the officials coming and going through the “revolving door” whose track record led us to this moment? Can we recognize that the professionals most familiar with the students had it right from the start? The NY Principals Paper on APPR was signed by over a third of NY’s principals back in 2011, showing that NY’s top field practitioners weighed in on this – apolitically – long before public trust was compromised, hoping to avoid costly waste and social experimentation.


In 2013, teachers organized – outside of unions – activating a process of learning, sharing and speaking out against testing and evaluation policies we found were hatched by a sprawling network of “philanthropists”, hedge fund managers and billionaire PAC bundlers.


In 2015, NY parents statewide finally forced the media and political class to notice, building on gains made in 2014 centered in Long Island. The more parents learned, the more likely they became to refuse the tests. But deliberately off-putting technical jargon ensured most New Yorkers wouldn’t question the validity of tests. NYBATs asked incoming Commissioner Elia to explain or source the state’s reliability evidence in an open letter last July……


TEACHER TINKERING: We anticipate ESSA provisions concerning teacher recruitment, licensing, training and mentoring to be problematic based on any top-down federal approach. We suspect these will be new avenues for privatization and usurpation of local control and stakeholder input. Competitive grants increase inequity, politicization, and federal interference in education, introducing perverse incentives. We ask the Board to put NY’s proven teacher-training practices ahead of federal standardization incentivizes.


Deference to market-based approaches instead of basic, equal distribution of resources has led your predecessors astray, and the damage has awakened a concerned public. The continually botched implementations of privatization policy in our state have hurt, not helped learning in classrooms, directly illustrating how money-in-politics affects children.


NY’s educators have already developed alternatives to federal standardization strictures. We hope to support you in the effort to treat kids as individuals and restore sensible, democratically accountable and transparent decision-making to NY schools.


So signed,



After loud and persistent complaints from parents and educators about the testing giant Pearson, the New York State Education Department announced that Pearson would be replaced by a new testing vendor, Questar. That was last year. The footnote was that Pearson would continue to be the testing contractor for 2016 and 2017. Then the state would switch to Questar for fully online assessments.


But lo! What’s this?


Questar just hired a Pearson testing expert–Katie McClarty– to be in charge of Questar assessments.

Katie may be a fine psychometrician, but what are the chances that the new assessments will be a change from the old assessments? Sounds like Pearson all over again.

Daniel Katz of Seton Hall University explores the meaning of Sheri Lederman’s victory in court over New York State’s teacher evaluation system, the one promoted by former Commissioner John King (now Secretary of Education). He shows the complicated statistical calculations that produce “VAM” ratings and growth scores. Bruce Lederman, the attorney representing his wife in the proceedings, called them “a statistical black box.” It is not clear that anyone understands these models or can claim that they accurately measure teacher quality. This case is probably the first in the nation where a teacher has successfully overturned her rating.


Katz writes:


Not only are these models difficult to impossible for teachers and most administrators to understand, they simply do not perform as advertised. Schochet and Chiang, in a 2010 report for Mathematica, found that in trying to classify teachers via growth models, error rates as high as 26% were possible when using three years of data, meaning one in four teachers could easily be misclassified in any given evaluation even if the evaluation used multiple years of data. Dr. Bruce Baker of Rutgers wanted to test the often floated talking point that some teachers are “irreplaceable” because they demonstrate a very high value added using student test scores. What he found, using New York City data, was an unstable mess where teachers were much more likely to ping around from the top 20% to below that and back up again over a five year stretch……


Equally important as the court’s recognition of arguments against value-added models in teacher evaluation, is the ground that was broken with the ruling. Ms. Lederman’s attorney (and husband), Bruce Lederman, sent out a message reported by New York City education activist Leonie Haimson which said, in part, ” …To my knowledge, this is the first time a judge has set aside an individual teacher’s VAM rating based upon a presentation like we made.” The significance of this cannot be overstated. For years now, teachers have been on the defensive and largely powerless, subjected to poorly thought out policies which, nevertheless, had force of policy and law on their side. Lederman v. King begins the process of flipping that script, giving New York teachers an effective argument to make on their behalf and challenging policy makers to find some means of defending their desire to use evaluation tools that are “capricious and arbitrary.” While this case will not overturn whatever system NYSED thinks up next, it should force Albany to think really long and hard about how many times they want to defend themselves in court from wave after wave of teachers challenging their test-based ratings.




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