Archives for category: New York

This is a striking story about a group called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER. It was created in 2005 by hedge fund managers Whitney Tilson and John Petry. They held their first meeting in a plush apartment in New York City owned by another hedge fund manager, Ravenel Boykin Curry IV. Their speaker that evening was a brilliant young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. In the past 11 years, they have funneled millions of dollars into state and local elections to elect candidates who support charter schools. They endorse Republicans and Democrats alike, so long as they support charter schools.

In New York State, they have supported Republican control of the State Senate and Governor Cuomo, as well as any Democrat who is charter friendly. Now comes news that DFER has decided to spend serious money to flip control of the State Senate to Democrats this fall. This is a strategic effort to hedge their bets, in case the Democrats sweep the state in 2016. DFER can’t risk losing control of the Senate. They know the Republicans will support school choice without their money.

Chris Bragg of the Albany Times-Union has the story.

Supporters of charter schools have had no stauncher ally in Albany than state Senate Republicans.
So why is a prominent national charter group saying it will spend money this year to try to flip the chamber to Democrats — many of whom were elected with the strong support of teachers unions, charters’ frequent nemeses?

“We understand the dynamic and the shift in the state Senate,” Nicole Brisbane, the New York director of Democrats for Education Reform, said in an interview last week. “We’re playing a long game.”

As the demographics of New York shift more and more toward Democrats — and Republicans continue to hang on to their Senate majority by a thread — there’s a growing sense that charter supporters need to “cultivate change in the hearts and minds” of the Democratic conference, Brisbane said.

DFER recently created an independent expenditure committee, called Moving New York Families Forward, that can raise and spend unlimited amounts. The charter backers will support pro-charter Senate Democrats in some general election races against Republicans this year, Brisbane said.

Informed of DFER’s strategy, other charter supporters reacted with skepticism and surprise.

“The expectation that State Senate Democrats will have goodwill towards education reform priorities is misplaced,” said one person heavily involved in education reform politics and policy.

“The only thing that will get accomplished is angering DFER’s true allies, Senate Republicans.”
As indicated by the group’s title, Democrats for Education Reform backs Democratic candidates across the country.

But in New York, that’s largely meant backing charter-supporting Democrats in primaries, not going after Republicans in general elections. And it doesn’t appear that any charter group has ever openly stated an intention to flip the Senate to Democratic control.

In 2010, DFER and its deep-pocketed donors — a number of whom have made hedge-fund fortunes — were heavily involved in backing challengers in New York City to three Democratic senators aligned with the teachers unions. All the charter-backing candidates lost soundly. After the election, the United Federation of Teachers issued a report calling the group “a letterhead stacked with super-rich backers.”

Now the union and DFER are putatively on the same side of the Senate

Brisbane said it was too early in the fundraising process to say how much would be spent. And she declined to say which districts the group will target in the general election, which means it’s not clear how much vulnerable Republicans would be impacted. (DFER is also set to back two New York City Assembly Democrats who are supportive of charters.)

Brisbane acknowledged that many members of the Senate Democratic conference don’t currently support her group’s stands — such as expanding the numbers of charter schools — but wants to make sure “more and more of them are championing our issues.” That list also includes increasing accountability through testing, another point of contention with the teachers union, and “Raise the Age” legislation increasing the age of criminal responsibility.
The Republican majority currently depends on the support of a Brooklyn Democrat, Simcha Felder, who conferences with them. And in a presidential election year, Democrats are likely to pick up seats in November, although they will still need to woo the five-member Independent Democratic Conference to join them to have a majority.

DFER’s new strategy “gives them protection for their agenda if the Senate goes Democratic without their help,” said Diane Ravitch, a prominent education historian and frequent critic of the charter movement. “If they get their favored candidates elected, then it doesn’t matter who controls the State Senate.”

Leadership of DFER has also shifted: Shavar Jeffries, who in 2014 lost a high-profile race for mayor of Newark, N.J., with the strong backing of charter supporters, became the group’s national president a year ago.

In recent election cycles, the New York State United Teachers union has spent millions to attain Democratic control of the Senate. NYSUT has endorsed mostly Democrats in swing districts this year. But with the fate of the Senate uncertain, NYSUT is also hedging its bets and supporting a Republican incumbent for a competitive Hudson Valley seat, while giving maximum $109,000 contributions to each side of the Senate battle.

Another pro-charter group, New Yorkers For a Balanced Albany, spent millions to help Senate Republicans in 2014 and again spent heavily to help Republican Senate candidate Chris McGrath in a May special election on Long Island; that race was narrowly won by Democrat Todd Kaminsky.

StudentsFirstNY, another New York City-based pro-charter group, runs that campaign group.
Brisbane, the New York director of DFER, insisted that some deep-pocketed donors supporting StudentsFirstNY — and Republican control of the Senate — would also give to her group backing Democratic control.
According to campaign finance records, there has been some overlap in the past between the groups’ donors.
For instance, DFER’s federal political action committee took a donation in 2015 from hedge fund magnate Daniel Loeb, who also gave $100,000 in June to the StudentsFirstNY campaign group. The executive director for StudentsFirst also gave last year to DFER.

A spokesman for StudentsFirst declined comment on DFER’s support of a Democratic Senate takeover.
Despite the fact that many Senate Republicans do not have many charter schools in their districts — the schools are concentrated in New York City — the conference has been a staunch supporter of their major financial backers. In the final hours of this year’s legislative session, for instance, the Republican-controlled Senate demanded a number of concessions for charter schools in exchange for granting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools.

An open question in this year’s Senate races is the degree to which Gov. Andrew Cuomo — a charter supporter who has received major support from DFER donors — will act to help his fellow Democrats win the Senate. Critics of Cuomo say he has given them lukewarm support in past election cycles in order to maintain his close working relationship with the Senate GOP.

Brisbane said her group’s support of Democrats should not be read as an indication of Cuomo’s own intentions.
“We are supporters of the governor and of Democrats who support this issue,” she said, “but have not coordinated with him on this push.”

The biggest obstacle to political, social, and educational reform in New York State is Senator John Flanagan from Suffolk County on Long Island. Flanagan succeeded Dean Skelos as Republican majority leader of the State Senate after Skelos was convicted on various counts. Flanagan is a major supporter of corporate reform, especially charter schools and vouchers. He is no friend of public education.

This fall he faces a challenge from a highly qualified Democrat in his district: Peter Magistrale. Peter is working closely with parent leaders on Long Island who understand the problems and needs of the public schools. He will fight for us and with us.

Please reach out and help him! His election would not only change the leadership of the State Senate, but return control to the Democratic party. Governor Cuomo has already said that he will do nothing to help Democratic candidates for the State Senate. The governor prefers to work with the Republicans. The Senate is currently divided with 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans, but five renegade Democrats caucus with the Republicans to exercise greater leverage for themselves and their districts.

Three years ago, I wrote about a heroic educator in upstate New York who wrote bluntly about the current obsession with testing, ranking all students based on their test scores. Her name is Teresa Thayer Snyder. I called her a hero educator. She was at that time the superintendent of Voorheesville, New York, a small and high-performing district. She spoke out against the rigging of test scores on the new Common Core tests, which caused scores across the state to collapse. Because of her courage and integrity, I named her to the blog’s honor roll.

Now Superintendent Snyder is leading another district, Green Island Union Free District, and she has spoken out again about the stupidity of annual standardized testing, which tells us nothing that we don’t already know.

She writes:

NY State Tests and The Three Bears

I am certain every reader remembers the story of Goldilocks breaking and entering into the cottage of The Three Bears. After wreaking havoc on their household, seeking a chair, a bed, and a bowl of porridge that was “just right” she dozed off in baby bear’s bed until she was awakened by the three bears’ return, at which time she ran off into the forest and was never seen by the bears again.

Such it is with New York State testing for children in grades 3 through 8. In the desperate attempt to find a test that is “just right” the State (and other States) has experimented for the past several years. Sadly, in the pursuit of “just right,” thousands of children have been subjected to assessments that were anything but. The results are in again, and while the powers that be are claiming gains in proficiency, analysts are suggesting that the gains are the result of lowering the bar that signifies achievement. Whatever—the point that should not be missed is that the raising or the lowering of the bar is entirely unrelated to the experience of children in the tested grades.

The test results again show that children in wealthy schools are more proficient than children in poverty; that children in regular education are more proficient than children who are differently abled; that children whose first language is the same as the test writers are more proficient than children for whom that language is a new language. These outcomes are so stable over time that one wonders why we need an expensive and extensive testing program to reveal these results. Indeed, standardized tests have been telling this story since their inception over a century ago.

What standardized tests have also been telling us for all these years is that there is very little correlation, if any, between outcomes on these tests and success in life. Recently, I was with a group of young women, all 30-something young adults. In the course of the conversation, standardized testing came up (I swear it was not I who brought it up!!). A litany of anxiety poured forth. Person after person articulated how much they hated those days of testing they had experienced in their k-12 education. One after another made statements such as “they made me feel stupid;” “I was always so disappointed as I worked so hard.” I finally said, in a firm tone, cease and desist. Sitting with me was a doctor of pharmacy, a speech pathologist, a director of human resources, a lawyer, a social worker—all women who had achieved remarkably well despite the profiling that they felt they were subjected to while taking those assessments years before. Imagine, if these successful adults felt inadequate because of those tests, imagine how youngsters who truly struggled on such assessments felt. My own daughter, a PhD who is professionally published, barely passed the New York State writing assessment that used to be on the testing menu when she was in fifth grade. She did poorly because she doesn’t like to elaborate much when she writes. Curiously, in her current field, such succinctness is valued!

A test of any sort is only a minimalist measure of what it purports to measure. I recently had a conversation with a data analyst who had beautiful color coded item analyses of the sample of recently released NYS test questions. One of the trends that was alarming to him was that the scores on “higher level questions” reduced with each grade in school. He suggested that this indicated that children were not grappling with higher level items on the test and this was a deficiency. I asked him how he could be so certain that, as children matured, they were not using higher level thinking skills. Maybe they were—evaluating their likelihood of success or even the quality of the test items, and rejecting them. Maybe, as children valued the assessment less, they were actively resisting engagement—resistance requires higher level thinking.

The significant “opt out” movement in New York—and other States– is growing as parents also value these tests less and less. What is astonishing to me is that opting out of tests is a recent phenomenon—one which deserves the attention of the powers that be. Remember, students have been subjected to tests for a good many years, and over that time, there has never been the level of resistance that we now see. Instead of denigrating the resistance or seeking to “punish” the schools where participation is down because of parental decisions, maybe it is time to listen to that resistance. Why, in a state where Regents testing has been a gold standard for years, why is there such disaffiliation with this testing mechanism in grades 3-8? Perhaps it is because the resistance recognizes the lack of value in the assessment regimen. Perhaps the outcomes matter little in the life of a child and are not worth the testing experience that their parents deem unnecessary.

I am 66 years old. I have taken so many standardized tests over the course of my life that I cannot begin to count them. I can tell you this—what I remember about school is not the results I obtained on any test I ever took—it was each and every teacher. I remember books they introduced me to, and ways of thinking that challenged me. I remember struggling with penmanship (I still do) and I remember being urged to participate in daunting speech contests, and I remember being prodded to write and to re-write—But what I most remember is the teachers and I cannot repeat that enough.

So, as we approach the beginning of the next school year, and while the State in which we work continues to search for the “just right” assessments, I urge my colleagues in the field to never lose sight of the things that matter in the classroom. It is not the test that makes a difference in a child’s life—it is you. May all of the children who cross your classroom thresholds find themselves in the company of someone who believes in them, regardless of the chair, the bed, or the bowl of porridge. A year of promise awaits!

New York State Allies for Public Education reviewed the recently released test scores and found curious anomalies. The group–which represents more than 50 other organizations–issued this statement.


NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)
More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190
Kevin Glynn (631) 291-2905
Bianca Tanis (845) 389-0722

Did NYSED Manipulate Test Scores to Boost Proficiency?

Parents Demand Explanation of Anomalies in State Test Data and the Immediate Release of Suppressed Test Information

New data reveals that the percentage of raw points necessary to achieve a proficient performance (level 3) were lower on eleven out of the twelve 2016 NYS Common Core tests.

After analyzing the raw score to scaled score conversion charts that NYSED provides, advocates are asking whether NYSED has manipulated the raw score to scale score conversion in order to increase proficiency rates this year​ as the department did in the past under former NYS Commissioner of Education, Richard Mills.

While Commissioner Elia can factually claim that the “cut scores” have not changed this year, the percentage of raw points (also called raw scores) needed to receive a scale score associated with proficient performance were lowered across the board.

[Open link above to see graph Revised Cut Score Raw Percent]

​​An analysis provided by ​Michael O’Donnell of the New Paltz Board of Education as well as the chart below form the basis for concern.

[Again, open he link above for graph Percent of Raw Points Change.jpg]

Slight, annual changes in the raw scores required to achieve a given scale score are to be expected. This is a process called “equating,” which is routinely used in the administration and scoring of all standardized tests to reflect fluctuations in test difficulty. Compared to the implementation of Common Core-based state tests in 2013, however, the 2016 conversion charts show atypically large decreases in the raw scores required to be deemed proficient, especially in math. This could indicate that the 2016 tests were significantly more difficult than previous years. However, Commissioner Elia has repeatedly stated that the content of the 2016 tests was comparable to previous years in terms of rigor.

The use of test scores for high stakes accountability decisions makes test scores vulnerable to manipulation ​in order to serve political purposes. Maintaining the same “cut scores” from year to year while artificially decreasing the number of raw points needed achieve a scale score in the proficient performance range could result in inflated passing rates.

Given NYSED’s attempt to increase passing rates through the practice of untimed assessments and the State’s failure to maintain any data on the number, demographics, and performance of students who availed themselves of additional time, the state is admittedly unable to attribute or explain any increases in scores.

Michael O’Donnell, public school parent and New Paltz Board of Education member stated, “Assessment proficiency rates, in addition to not being reflective of college readiness or grade-level skills, are now not comparable to previous years’ results and have been subject to aggressive manipulation. It is hard to find any utility in these data.”

“The State seems to be doing everything it can to convince parents that these tests and the flawed standards they are based on are educationally sound. Year after year, 60 percent of our children are labeled as failing when we know this is simply not true. Increases in test scores based on inappropriate standards are meaningless, even more so if they have been manipulated to placate the public. We demand fully funded schools, equitable learning opportunities for our children, and an end to test and punish policies,” said Johanna Garcia, NYC parent and Co-President of District 6 President’s Council.

“It is foolish to have a conversation focused on data when 22% of students have opted-out. That is a 10% increase over the 20% who opted out last year. NYSED chose to cure flawed tests with fewer questions and unlimited time. When that wasn’t enough, they lowered the requirements for proficiency in a quest to show progress. Politicians gained new talking points, but students lost meaningful classroom time and schools are targeted for punishment because of flawed tests,” said Kevin Glynn, Long Island educator and public school parent.

Eileen Graham, Rochester public school parent and founder of Black Student Leadership said, “These exams have always negatively affected students, schools, and districts. As a black parent, I’m not satisfied with Commissioner Elia’s claims that the changes as they relate to black and Hispanic students are improvements or have created a different experience for this population. It seems she is using that narrative to appease and “trick” the community into believing things got better for the most vulnerable students. This is nonsense and in my opinion, patronizing.”

“The only question is how much the level of distortion goes up each year. Since Common Core-aligned testing began in 2013, SED and test publisher Pearson have depended on keeping information about the construction and quality of the exams hidden from independent review. Given all that has gone wrong over the last four years, it’s no wonder they want to operate in the dark,” said Fred Smith, testing specialist and former administrative analyst for New York City public schools.

“NYSAPE demands the public release of all state test analysis data from 2013-2016 and urges NYSED to account for the unprecedented lowering of the raw scores aligned with proficiency. These anomalies must be explained by Commissioner Elia if the State continues to maintain that state test scores are valid and reliable.

“NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.”


Leonie Haimsom, founder of Class Size Matters and board member of the Network for Public Education and New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), warns that the test scores released by New York are not to be trusted. She argues that “we are entering a new era of mass delusion and test score inflation- including cut score manipulation.”

She offers evidence for her assertions.

State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released the scores and advised readers not to compare the Scores of 2016 to earlier years, then immediately made the very comparisons she cautioned against. Chancellor Farina celebrated the astonishing growth in the city’s ELA scores.

But Haimson takes a close look and concludes that state officials are manipulating the data. She reminds readers that state scores went up at a dizzying pace from 2002-2009, leading Mayor Bloomberg to boast about a New York City “miracle.” But in 2010, after an independent investigation, the state admitted that the tests had become easier, the passing mark had been lowered, and the dramatic gains had been a hoax. Once the scores were corrected, the gains of the Bloomberg-Klein era disappeared.

Something similar is happening now, write Haimson.

“There are four ways to artificially boost results on exams:

1. Make the tests shorter

2. Allow more time to take them

3. Make the questions easier

4. Change the cut scores and/or translation from raw scores to performance levels.

“It appears that the state made at least three out of the four changes listed above. We won’t know if the questions were harder or easier until the state releases the P-values and provides other technical details.”

These are serious charges. It is now the responsibility of Comissioner Elia, the Board of Regents, and the State Education Department to demonstrate the validity and integrity of the tests.

About 21-22% of eligible students in New York refused to take the state tests. That’s 230,000 students. That is a popular uprising.

In some districts, more students did not take the tests than did. The county with the highest opt-out rate was Suffolk, the east end of Long Island. There are two counties on Long Island: Suffolk and Nassau: the average opt-out rate was 49.6% for both.

In some small school districts, opting out has become the norm. The one with the highest opt out is in upstate, rural New York. According to Politico:

“Herkimer County’s Dolgeville school system again takes the title for highest opt-out rate in the state with 89 percent of students opting out of ELA, the same percentage it had in 2015.

Dolgeville was followed by Consewogue (84 percent), Plainedge (79 percent), Rocky Point (79 percent), Patchogue-Medford (77 percent), Sayville (77 percent) and Eastport/ South Manor (76 percent).”

Secretary of Education John King wants to punish schools and districts that do not have a 95% participation rate. Long Island is a politically powerful section of New York. The parents are not afraid of King. They weren’t afraid of him when he was New York’s Commissioner of Education. He hopes the movement will fade away. It hasn’t.

Politico reports:

“It is unclear whether the schools or districts with the highest opt-out rates will be sanctioned. The movement comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Education, led by former state education commissioner John King Jr., is trying to increase sanctions for those who don’t meet participation requirements through regulations under the broad federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Under the new draft regulations, schools would face harsh penalties for not meeting the 95 percent participation requirements.

About 49.6 percent of third- through eighth-grade students didn’t take the ELA test on Long Island, the lowest participation rate in any of the state’s economic development regions. This was followed by 37.5 percent in the Mohawk Valley, 30.8 percent in Western New York, and 26.1 percent in the Mid-Hudson.”

The mass defiance of parents in New York raises questions: Can the state force parents to comply with its demands when there is no issue of health or safety involved? Can schools and districts be punished by the state for the actions of parents?

The New York State Education Department released the test scores for 2016 and warned that they were not comparable to previous years due to significant changes in the tests, then proceeded to declare that the scores had grown substantially over the previous year.

The New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), which led the opt out movement, reported that the opt rates continued to be high and even increased. The students who opted out in the eighth grade were no longer part of the testing cohort, but new students took their places. Despite threats and blandishments, parents of more than 200,000 students said no to the tests.

Here is NYSAPE’s statement:


More information contact:

Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;

Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228;

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

NYSED Declares Scores Not Comparable, Opt Out Grows Across State

This past Friday afternoon, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the results of the 2016 NYS Common Core 3-8 ELA and math results. Despite expensive ad campaigns from Gates-funded advocacy groups and the distribution of “Anti Opt-out” toolkits by Commissioner Elia aimed at persuading parents to opt in to state tests, the test non-participation rate increased from 20 percent last year to 22 percent.

As Chris Cerrone, a school board member and NYSAPE member from Western NY said, “Given Commissioner Elia’s public relation blitz across the state and all the interviews she did with the media, as well as all the money spent by the pro-Common Core groups, the increase in opt out numbers indicates that parents remain very concerned about the low quality of these tests and the direction of education in our state.”

An increase in test refusals were seen across the state, including in large urban districts like Buffalo and New York City. In only 5 percent of districts statewide –38 out of 686 — was the test participation rate at or above 95 percent for ELA and math. If the current proposed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) regulations are adopted, this would mean that the state would have to punish the vast majority of schools by giving them low grades or imposing aggressive intervention plans. (see chart below)

“Despite the relentless and well-funded PR push back we received in the city, more and more parents are becoming educated on just how harmful standardized testing is for their children. The increase in opt-out is a significant win for immigrant families, students with special needs and students from low income households. Our grassroots approach is resonating with parents seeking true equity in public education,” said Johanna Garcia, NYC parent and Co-President of District 6 President’s Council.

“Overall, these exams not only demonize our students and teachers, but the entire city of Rochester. I will not allow my child to take an exam that does not accurately reflect her progress. I’m not against testing, but I am against tests with no educational value,” Eileen Graham, Rochester parent of 4th grader and founder of Black Student Leadership.

Long Island districts again this year opted out in large numbers, some as high as 84%. Many other districts also experienced over 50% of student refusing to take the tests. (see chart below)

Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent, the founder of Long Island Opt Out and a member of NYSAPE said, “The opt out movement continues to expand despite the aggressive campaign to thwart our efforts and marginalize our voices. Parents demand nothing short of a complete overhaul to our excessive testing system, a ban on the mining of sensitive personal data, replacement of flawed Common Core with research-based standards, and a permanent decoupling of evaluations from test scores.”

Despite their own warning that this year’s test scores could not be compared to last year’s because the tests were shorter and untimed, NYSED still claimed that increases in this year’s ELA scores over last year’s scores justified their continuing to implement the Common Core standards and Common Core aligned exams. These contradictory statements undermine NYSED’s credibility.

The reality is that without a more careful analysis of the tests themselves, their length, and the impact of giving them untimed, it is impossible to ascertain if achievement increased, decreased, or stayed the same as last year. In addition, the fact that so few schools and districts had a 95% participation rate also undermines their reliability.

“The fact that 95% of school districts in NYS did not meet the federal and state participation requirements significantly weakens the reliability and validity of test scores for accountability purposes. How can Commissioner Elia claim that these scores are valid or show any improvement in achievement,” asked, Jessica McNair, Central NY public school parent, educator, and Opt Out CNY founder.

“There is little doubt that parents will continue to exercise their right to refuse harmful state tests and right now it is imperative that Commissioner Elia and the Board of Regents advocate for a revision in the proposed ESSA regulations, or else face having to intervene in most of the schools in the state,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director

“Parents were very concerned when MaryEllen Elia was named Commissioner, due to her links to the Gates Foundation in Florida. Skepticism was withheld to give her the benefit of the doubt while changes were discussed. However, her continued failure to address the concerns of parents have only further eroded confidence in her leadership and in the State Department of Education,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.

In response to increases in test refusal, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia attacked critics and claimed that parents refusing the state tests were unaware of “important” changes made to the tests. Bianca Tanis, Ulster County Public School parent and educator said, “The small changes and tweaks made by the NYS Education Department are simply not enough. Nothing has changed for the individual child and to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.”

Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters: “Between 2003 and 2009, the NY State Education Department engaged in rampant test score inflation, by making the tests and the scoring easier, without admitting this. After that, the bubble burst and the scores fell radically with the introduction of Common Core-aligned exams, when our Commissioner was intent on proving to parents their children and their schools were failing. I fear that state officials are still manipulating the scores for political ends. It is no wonder that New York parents do not trust these exams to give an accurate picture of their children’s learning.”

“NYSED must work more consistently with teachers, parents, and students, to create policy that supports whole child initiatives in every community. It’s tiresome to continue to sell our children and families short by engaging annually in narrow discussions about learning that only focus on ELA and mathematics, while continuing to neglect science, the arts, and civic engagement,” said Jamaal Bowman, Bronx public school educator and parent.

“Why would anyone support tests designed for over 60 percent of students to fail? If a teacher gave a test in her classroom where over 60 percent failed she would rightly question the validity of her test. This is insanity,” said Tim Farley, Hudson Valley principal and public school parent.

It is clear that the over-emphasis and misuse of test scores with questionable validity and no educational purpose continue to rob our public schools of valuable instructional time and resources. Until the leaders of public education in NYS begin to focus on closing the opportunity gap by addressing the inequitable resources in our schools and heed the demands of parents and educators for evidence-based and child-centered educational policies, the opt out movement will continue to grow.

2016 Test Refusal Analysis – Public School Districts

ELA Tests


# of districts – less than 95% participation


% less than 95% participation


# of districts – 95% or more participation


% 95% or more participation


Math Tests


# of districts – less than 95% participation


% less than 95% participation


# of districts – 95% or more participation


% 95% or more participation


Test Refusal increase from ELA to Math


# of districts


% of districts


Test Refusals by Percent Thresholds

% of Districts*

20% and over test refusals


30% and over test refusals


40% and over test refusals


50% and over test refusals


*Based on NYSED math test opt out figures

# of public school districts (includes big five): 686

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

You know how important it is to elect informed people to school boards and state legislatures and Congress. That’s the way we will save our public schools from the grasp of privatizers and defend our teachers from punitive laws that intrude on their ability to teach.

That is why I am happy to endorse Rachel Barnhart for the New York State Assembly, representing the 138th district in Rochester.

Rachel Barnhart grew up in Rochester. Her parents are retired Rochester City School District educators. Rachel’s parents were strong believers in public education, sending her to Rochester city schools. Rachel graduated from John Marshall High School and Cornell University.

Rachel worked as a television journalist in Rochester since 1999. Rachel’s reputation in the broadcasting industry is that she is one of the brightest and most insightful reporters in ferreting out corruption and finding the truth. She frequently reported on financial mismanagement in Rochester public schools, earning her the respect and admiration of many teachers. Rachel often blogged about growing concerns regarding Common Core, testing, school closures and teacher evaluations. She also used her blog and huge social media presence to talk about poverty and segregation.

As a reporter, Rachel challenged politicians, including Governor Andrew Cuomo. (The governor once called her a cynic when she questioned a big drop in the labor force.) She won’t be afraid to challenge Albany’s culture. She will represent citizens, not the governor, the speaker or special interests.

Rachel gave up her job to run for the Assembly. She will be a champion for public schools.

I urge you to support her, contribute to her campaign, and vote for her if you live in her district.

Despite threats and bribes, despite warnings and cajoling, the Great Opt Out Movement of New York maintained its momentum

About 22% of the eligible students in the state did not take the mandated tests.

Opt out numbers in New York City were low because test scores are needed for admission to middle schools and high schools.

But in parts of the state, like Long Island, about half the students didn’t take the tests.

The New York State Education Department released the test results on a Friday afternoon, a time widely known as the best way to bury news. See here for a local story. The story in New York Politico is here.

Good news for New York City: Its reading scores increased to the state average. This should make Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina happy, since they bet on helping schools instead of closing them.

The subject of standards and assessments is very much up in the air. Most of the states that signed on to administer either of the federally funded Common Core tests–PARCC and SBAC–have dropped out. A few states have abandoned Common Core, while others are calling it something else. There is a growing trend among states that drop PARCC or SBAC to substitute the SAT or the ACT, but neither of these tests were designed as high school graduation tests or as “college-and-career-ready tests.” They are supposed to predict readiness for college, but have nothing to do with career-readiness. Nor does it make sense to leave the Common Core tests and to adopt instead one of the college entrance examinations, not only because they are inappropriate, but because they are aligned with Common Core. David Coleman, heralded as the “architect” of the Common Core, is now president of the College Board. Representatives of the ACT were members of the small group that wrote the Common Core standards. The system has been designed so that students are stuck with Common Core whichever way the state turns, unless it writes its own standards and tests.

Lisa Eggert Litvin, president emeritus of the Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA and co-chair of the New York Suburban Consortium for Public Education wonders why New York continues to hang on to the Common Core standards even though Governor Cuomo’s task force said they should be completely revised.

She notes that early childhood experts have excoriated the standards as developmentally inappropriate. As a result of the Common Core standards, she says,

children’s love for learning is dissipating rather than growing. Parents report that their children don’t want to go to school, that they feel like failures if they can’t read, that there’s no time for play or choice, and that the children are exhausted — in kindergarten. Children lose confidence and feel insecure, all because they aren’t reaching standards that, for many, simply cannot be reached at their stage of development, or because of their challenges.

Yet despite what children are feeling, despite the detailed findings of the Task Force, despite the loss of learning that is occurring, CC is slated to remain in effect well into the future. Specifically, the transition to replacement standards outlined by the Task Force will take several years, until fall 2019 at the earliest — with CC staying in place in the interim.

This makes no sense. Instead, the CC standards should be be put on hold, and already existing, well regarded non-CC standards should instead be used in the interim — just as is being done in other states.