Archives for category: Parent Groups

https://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-opt-remains-strong.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2019
More information contact:
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228; nys.allies@gmail.com
Kemala Karmen (917) 807-9969; nys.allies@gmail.com
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

Opt-Out Remains Strong Despite the former Commissioner’s Scare Tactics; Room Continues to be Made for Whole-Child Initiatives

The New York State Education Department released this year’s grades 3-8 test scores and opt out numbers at the end of August. Once again parents and educators searched in vain for justification for the millions of dollars spent on a testing system that has done little to improve student success or restore confidence and trust in our state’s education department.

After decades of testing, there remain significant gaps in results between Black and Hispanic students and their White and Asian peers, between economically disadvantaged and economically advantaged students, and between students with disabilities and nondisabled students. Continuing for another few decades on the same exact path of expensive and excessive tests hoping for different outcomes is a disservice to children and our society.

Although the outgoing Commissioner was able to slightly reduce the rate at which parents refused participation in the assessments, she accomplished this through fear and intimidation, urging district administrators to use whatever tactics necessary to increase participation rates. We documented these abhorrent tactics as we learned about them, here. In the end, these tactics didn’t work as most schools did not meet the 95% participation rate.

“The gap is still growing after far too many years. It’s time to own this and admit that annual testing in two subjects with draconian stakes attached haven’t helped the kids whom the tests are supposed to help. Instead let’s look to create real ways to help kids in underserved groups — with proven actions, backed by research. Let’s take the enormous taxpayer funds spent on destructive testing and invest instead in what we know works: food programs, after school care and programs, small classes, fully staffed school health offices—and so much more,” says Lisa Litvin, parent, former President Hastings-on-Hudson Board of Education and former Co-President Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA

Kemala Karmen, a founding parent member of NYC Opt Out, adds, “Not only does the so-called achievement gap remain, the whole notion is controversial and backward. To quote Ibram X. Kendi, historian and author of How to Be an Antiracist, ‘What if different environments actually cause different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement? What if the intellect of a poor, low-testing Black child in a poor Black school is different—and not inferior—to the intellect of a rich, high-testing White child in a rich White school? What if the way we measure intelligence shows not only our racism but our elitism?’ Our state would do better to focus on ensuring that all students start with equal opportunities rather than annually trot out test scores that merely reflect an uneven starting line.”

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters points out that “with all the considerable money and time spent on these tests, and the anxiety they have provoked in children, the state hasn’t been able to devise a valid or reliable assessment that gives any useful information either to districts or teachers about how to improve instruction or the conditions of learning.”

“Consider the harm to our students with special needs and to English language learners,” reasons Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School (Bronx, NY) and candidate for Congress for the 16th district. “Well over half are considered ‘far below grade level’ each and every year. These tests are flawed single measures that do not consider the complexity and diversity of intelligence. Our kids are so much more. Let’s create a system of progressive pedagogies like Montessori and Reggio Emilio that helps them to prove it.”

Jeanette Deutermann, parent of two, and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “The New York State Assembly bowed to unexplained pressure exerted by the NYSUT Leadership and blocked legislation–that the Senate had already passed–that would have codified protections for students who opt out. In doing so, they failed to ensure even the most basic protections for student and parental rights; ALL parents have the right to decide whether to allow their children to participate in high-stakes testing without fear of district retaliation. We urge NYSED and the Board of Regents to use the opportunity for a new Commissioner and new direction to move away from test-based education policies, and call upon elected officials to act now to protect students and parents who choose to opt out in EVERY district across New York State.”

Jake Jacobs, co-administrator of the NY Badass Teachers Association, sums it up: “New York’s testing policy is still highly flawed and scientifically invalid for high-stakes decisions. Students are trained to guess at answers they don’t know, eliminating bad choices and then basically just gambling. Each year, thousands of scores fall right on the borderline of passing/failing, meaning lucky or unlucky guesses determined all these outcomes. Because the tests also do not account for home circumstances, from private tutors to neglect or abuse, they are not a reality-based method for diagnosing or improving obstacles to learning. Most absurd of all, the state is still using test scores in math or ELA in the evaluations of teachers of other subjects. I teach art, but have had math scores in my annual evaluation since 2013 as part of district-based ‘compliance’ agreements. And as ever, the formulas used to calculate the scores are secret, as is the process by which the proficiency levels are set, aka the ‘cut scores.’ Who cares about minor fluctuations in scores when the tests are still unverifiable, still grossly inaccurate, and still ignoring the factors that matter most?”

Please click on these links to download the 2019-2020 Opt Out Letter:
English version & Spanish version

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition of over 70 parent and educator groups across the state.

Gay Adelmann, founder of the parent activist group called Dear JCPS, recently requested the financial records of the Kentucky PTA. The PTA refused to turn them over, although they are supposed to be a matter of public record. (Jefferson County is synonymous with Louisville.)

Dear JCPS co-founder, Gay Adelmann recently made a routine records request of the largest school district in Kentucky (27th largest in the nation), to obtain copies of local PTAs’ financial records for the past 5 years. These records, which, according to the “Redbook” are required by Kentucky law to be filed annually with each school’s year-end audit, consist of a preliminary budget and a one-page year-end financial review. Her hope was to identify schools that might benefit from a little extra help with programming or fundraising and raise community awareness so that these disparities could be taken into consideration while the district is actively tackling the bigger picture issues.

As often happens when records are held in multiple locations, or when district personnel are unavailable during summer break, the district notified Adelmann that additional time would be required before these records would be made available to her. They informed her she would receive the documents on August 30.

On August 12, Adelmann received an email from Kentucky PTA attorney Coy Travis informing her that his client had filed a complaint in district court to seek injunctive relief in order to prevent the district from turning these records over to her. A hearing was set for August 15 in which she was invited to appear.

After some skirmishing, the judge in the case ordered the PTA to release the documents. It must do so or file an appeal by September 16.

Adelmann writes:

At a time when privatizers are trying to get in through every nook and cranny, influential entities such as Kentucky PTA should be dedicating resources toward revealing predators and exposing their influence. This lawsuit does the opposite.

How much money and time is this lawsuit costing their dues-paying members and taxpayers? More importantly, where was this level of activism when charter schools, vouchers and loss of local parental voice on SBDMs were on the menu? In the past 10 years, only one resolution has been passed at the Kentucky PTA annual convention, and it was one that was initiated by Adelmann.

Transparency is integral to accountability. Bill Gates gave millions to the National PTA to win its support for Common Corea nd its silence on charter schools. Show your cards.

With so much billionaire cash sloshing around California to promote charter schools and to disparage public schools, it can be difficult to know which groups are real and which are Memorex.

Here is one that definitely is not a real parents’ group. It is called Speak Up and it is populated with people who are embedded in the charter sector. It recently chastised L.A. Superintendent Austin Beutner for not moving swiftly enough to clamp ratings on every school, the better to close them with and set them up for privatization. How will parents know how to choose a school if the district doesn’t give it a grade or a rating? They say he is in danger of “breaking a promise” to the parents of Los Angeles, who are longing to have their schools rated.

Schools should be evaluated based on such issues as their class size; the experience of their teachers; the resources invested by the district, such as: does the school have a library with a librarian? Does it have a school nurse? Does it have classes in the arts for all students?

But Speak Up seems to be interested mostly in test scores. Are they going up or down? Most people these days recognize that test scores measure the demographics of the students enrolled, not the quality of the school.

So who is this group?

Its founder and executive director is Katie Braude, a former KIPP executive. Until recently, she was on the Los Angeles County Board of Education, which has the power to overrule the LAUSD Board of Education on charter school decisions.

On Speak Up’s board of directors is Russell Altenburg, who is also connected to KIPP, was a program officer at the Broad Foundation, and a fellow at the NewSchools Venture Fund. And he was part of the “inaugural cohort” at the Pahara Next Gen Network.

Mary Najera was a founder of the Los Angeles Parents Union, now known as the Parent Revolution, which used the Parent Trigger law to try to convert public schools into charter schools. Parent Revolution was funded by Walton, Broad, Gates, Arnold and other billionaires. She is “chief community officer” at the Extera Public Schools charter chain.

Rene Rodman is another member of the board of directors of Speak Up. She is a also on the board of the Palisades Charter High School, where she served as president.

Aida Rodriguez is Vice President of Advocacy and Government Relations at Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, a charter school network. She too worked for Parent Revolution.

Speak Up is an organization led by charter school advocates. Twenty percent of the students in Los Angeles are enrolled in charter schools. Eighty percent are not.

Nowhere on Speak Up’s website does it list the names of its funders. One can only guess. Waltons? Broad? Hastings? Gates?

When you see a press release from Speak Up, remember that they are speaking up for Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, the Waltons, Bill Gates, and the charter industry, not for the 80 percent of students in the public schools.

A coalition of civil rights and parent groups spoke out against Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s proposal to create a voucher program, Chalkbeat reports.

The Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, which champions policies that address disparities in education, said Lee’s plan to create education savings accounts would instead end up helping middle-class families. The accounts are a new kind of voucher that give families taxpayer money to pay for private school or other private education services.

The group charged that the proposed plan would exclude and discriminate against some students and questioned the state’s ability to measure the program’s success if participants are not required to take the same state assessments as Tennessee’s public school students.

Calling voucher bills moving through the legislature “a step backwards” for Tennessee, the coalition urged the governor to instead invest more money in proven school improvement strategies like Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone, which gives additional resources and pays for extended school days to turn around low-performing schools….

The coalition’s diverse members include the Tennessee chapter of the NAACP, the YWCA, the National Civil Rights Museum, and education funds, foundations, or urban leagues in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.

“Vouchers take critical resources away from our neighborhood public schools, the very schools that are attended by the vast majority of African-American students,” the NAACP said in a separate statement. “Furthermore, private and parochial schools are not required to observe federal nondiscrimination laws, even if they receive federal funds through voucher programs.”

Governor Lee met with leaders from the urban districts that would be affected by vouchers, and they gave him an earful.

“If this voucher bill passes, the private schools will pick the best of the best, and we will become a district of the academically and behaviorally challenged,” said Stephanie Love, a board member with Shelby County Schools in Memphis, recounting her message to the governor as she left the meeting.

In all, more than 20 board members and four superintendents from Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Jackson met with the governor, according to Tammy Grissom, executive director of the Tennessee School Board Association, which organized the gathering….

Meanwhile, the administration revised its proposed budget to move the $25 million previously allocated for the controversial program to go instead to fighting hepatitis C in state prisons. Lee’s finance commissioner, Stuart McWhorter, said the funding shift is not a sign of trouble for the governor’s education plan.

 

 

 

 

 

After months of threats and bribes and warnings, the New York State Education Department released a statement affirming that students have the right to opt out of state testing.

This is a victory for the Opt Out movement, the parents, superintendents, principals, and teachers who have said that the exams are flawed and of novalue to students.

This is the statement:

 

As students in grades 3 through 8 take New York’s state assessments this week, we appreciate the efforts of school leaders to ensure parents have all information to make a decision about the assessments that is right for their family. We would like to remind school leaders of the importance of honoring requests received by parents to opt their children out of the exams. While federal law does require all states to administer state assessments in English language arts and mathematics, parents have a right to opt their children out of these exams. To be certain, the vast majority of schools honor parents’ requests to have their children not take the tests; however, we have also heard of isolated but troubling reports of parents’ requests being ignored.
We thank New York’s parents, teachers, and school administrators for their support and understanding as we continue to work together in the best interest of all students.

The New York State Allies for Public Education issued this statement in opposition to State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia’s efforts to “bribe, coerce, manipulate, and threaten students and parents into complying with a broken assessment system.” NYSAPE has led the opt out movement for several years. About 20 percent of eligible students in grades 3-8 do not take the state tests. About half the students on Long Island boycotted the tests. In some schools on Long Island and upstate New York, more than 75% of students refused to take the tests. Commissioner Elia doesn’t listen to parents. She doubles down and tries to force them to take the tests, which provide no information about individual performance to teachers. The tests are meaningless other than as punishments for students, schools and teachers, and they require far more time than taking an SAT for college admission.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 1, 2019

More information contact
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228; nys.allies@gmail.com

Kemala Karmen (917) 807-9969; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education – NYSAPE

 

Link to Press Release

 

NYS Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia Creates a Culture of Fear, Intimidation, and Misinformation in our Schools

 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (the federal law known as ESSA) gives states authority to design their own unique accountability plan regarding the state tests. Unfortunately, Commissioner Elia has used that authority to misinterpret ESSA, and has used ESSA as an opportunity to impose a culture of fear on our administrators and teachers, and our children.  Under Commissioner Elia’s direction, the State Education Department (SED) at best turns a blind eye to, and at worst encourages, school districts to bribe, coerce, manipulate, and threaten students and parents into complying with a broken assessment system.

As we head into the first round of 2019 grades 3-8 state testing, NYSAPE is receiving an unprecedented number of reports from parents statewide about morally objectionable, educationally unsound, and in some cases, illegal policies and tactics that local schools and districts are using in attempts to suppress test refusal. Parents are reporting bribery with prizes, parties, and exemptions from district course finals. Students are threatened with removal from or ineligibility for honors programs, retention, and summer school; schools are threatened with closure.

Misinformation and scare tactics are coming from school districts, administrators, and even SED itself (see NYSUT’s rebuttal to the Commissioner), and range from claims that refusal students will be scored a ‘1’ and that the tests were created by teachers to statements that the assessments are “vital” and more. The New York City Department of Education even sent out letters–which they later had to retract–informing parents they could transfer out of their schools. Whether the city acted on its own or at the behest of SED is unknown, but SED’s endorsement of “public school choice” for the NY ESSA plan, along with its reductive test-based criteria for identifying these schools as in need of “Comprehensive Support and Improvement” (CSI) certainly paved the way for this debacle. The panic and humiliation caused by identifying schools as CSI was not limited to the city, but was felt in districts all over the state.

Most concerning is the resurgence of purely punitive policies like “sit and stare” (a cruel practice where test refusers as young as 8 must sit in the room with the testers with not so much as a book or a pencil to divert themselves with) and forcing elementary refusers to do old state assessments throughout the testing administration hours. Outraged parents have questioned these abusive actions, and the response many have received from their districts is that these tactics were suggested and encouraged, incredibly, by Commissioner Elia of the New York State Education Department.

A letter from the principal of the Oswego Middle School to her students perfectly illustrates that the NYS grades 3-8 testing system has gone completely off the rails. The sole purpose of the letter was to convince children “why you should say yes to the test.” Given out during the school day, for students to sign while still in school, the letter indicated they should “feel free to share with your parents.” It invoked a warped child psychology, attempting to manipulate students with phrases such as, “you love OMS, and we LOVE YOU! So, you WANT TO HELP!”  “If you take the NYS ELA Assessment…you can be exempt from the English Final Exam in June!,” and “Daily Drawings for FABULOUS prizes for all ‘YES’ slips.”  And, finally, as a way to single out any child whose parents had decided they wouldn’t be participating, “…a school-wide event if we can hit 100%! Something like a Spring Pep Rally….your favorite teachers will do something FUNNY ‘like’ KISS A PIG.”

Any policy that singles out, discriminates against, rewards, or punishes school children for the decisions of their parents is cause for deep concern. It’s appalling and disconcerting that Commissioner Elia/SED is encouraging these unacceptable policies. SED must immediately admonish these policies, and address the many flaws, complaints, educational issues, and legal questions raised by this deeply flawed testing program—for years the most highly boycotted state testing system in the nation.

NYSAPE calls on the NYS Legislature to pass legislation, before session ends, that reinforces a parent’s right to opt out, protects students from punishment, requires districts to notify parents at the beginning of the school year about those rights, and forbids SED and school administrators to bribe, punish, lie, and manipulate as a way to increase test participation. Neither students, administrators, schools, nor districts should suffer retaliation or negative consequences as the result of parents exercising their right to refuse the state tests.

NYSAPE and parents statewide will continue to monitor the policies and tactics encouraged by SED and implemented by school districts who have chosen to comply with misguided directives rather than advocate for the students in their care. We believe the time has come for the Board of Regents to bring in a Commissioner who values a whole-child education, respects parental rights, and places our children’s best interests at the forefront.

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Michael Elliott, professional videographer and ally of every New York parent group that opposes high-stakes testing, filmed the events on March 16, when AOC joined a community discussion in Jackson Heights, Queens, about public education. With the help of Kemala Karmen, he has broken up the day into segments that you can watch at your leisure. Each of them is short–mostly 3-5 minutes.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION TOWN HALL

A BOLD NEW VISION FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EQUITY & JUSTICE

Organized by Jackson Heights People for Public Schools

Recorded by @TurnOntheSound

New York City (Jackson Heights, Queens) | March 16, 2019

Part 1

TRANSFORMING THE CONVERSATION ON PUBLIC EDUCATION

Amanda Vender, Jackson Heights People for Public Schools

https://vimeo.com/325191468/3242902bd6

Opening remarks from lead organizer Amanda Vender (Jackson Heights People for Public Schools) kick off an inspiring convening of public school parents and community members; education activists; and local, state, and federal elected representatives.


Part 2

PARENT EMPOWERMENT AS RESISTANCE

Robert Jackson, NY State Senator

Johanna Garcia, NYC Opt Out & New York State Allies for Public Education

https://vimeo.com/325193259/8751a891eb

New York State Senator Robert Jackson and his chief of staff Johanna Garcia, both of whom started out as public school parent activists, encourage parents in the room to seize their power. Garcia, who has organized with both NYC Opt Out and NY State Allies for Public Education, ends with a rousing call for parents to opt out of state tests.

Part 3

MAKING SCHOOL SAFE & WELCOMING FOR CHILDREN OF COLOR

Maria Bautista, Alliance for Quality Education

https://vimeo.com/325195289/ebc805dc06

Maria Bautista, campaigns director for the Alliance for Quality Education, makes the case for bills NY state can pass to make schools culturally responsive to their populations and break the school to prison pipeline.


Part 4

CLASS SIZE & EQUITY

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

https://vimeo.com/325194937/ebbfd1bf6c

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters on the myriad benefits of smaller class size, especially for children considered at risk; how class size has skyrocketed in NYC; and how a lawsuit, proposed legislation, and adequate funding could remedy this equity issue.

Part 5

THE IMPERATIVE OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION FOR OUR SCHOOLS

Kate Menken, New York State Association for Bilingual Education

https://vimeo.com/325194457/823d4ea9de

CUNY professor Kate Menken of New York State Association of Bilingual Education on the history and benefits of bilingual education, ways that federal and state law can be changed to bolster bilingual ed, and how high-stakes testing hurts language learners.


Part 6

WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION: CHARTERS & VOUCHERS

Carol Burris, Network for Public Education

https://vimeo.com/325191672/53caf8839e

Carol Burris talks about waste, fraud, and discrimination in voucher schools and the charter industry; discusses how pouring money into privately controlled vouchers and charters drains funding from public schools; and announces an upcoming report from the Network for Public Education.


Part 7

FIGHTING BACK: REFUSE STATE TESTS!

Diane Ravitch, Network for Public Education

https://vimeo.com/325192088/9f31ee23cd

Noted education historian and author Diane Ravitch on the undue influence of billionaires on education policy, why there is no such thing as a “public charter school,” and the separation of church and state. According to Ravitch, the whole shaky edifice of 20 years of failed federal educational policy rests on high-stakes tests and parents should wield test refusal as David would a slingshot.

Part 8a

NY STATE SENATOR JESSICA RAMOS RESPONDS

https://vimeo.com/325192892/188d2b41fd

In her response to the education advocates who preceded her at the town hall, NY State Senator Jessica Ramos, who ran on a platform that prioritized “real public schools,” touches on: testing and opt out, education that is responsive to our kids’ needs, charter schools’ lack of accountability, bilingual ed, more.

Part 8b

NY STATE SENATOR JOHN LIU RESPONDS

https://vimeo.com/325193891/f8f8c5a998

In his response to the education advocates who preceded him at the town hall, NY State Senator John Liu deems schools “the most important things in our lives,” and talks about school governance/accountability and his leadership of the new subcommittee on NYC Education.

Part 8c

CONGRESSWOMAN OCASIO-CORTEZ RESPONDS

https://vimeo.com/325190755/8e5d4deffb

In her response to the education advocates who preceded her at the town hall, US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks about her own experience as a bilingual student, decries the pernicious reach of Betsy DeVos, and calls for a national movement on the scale of the Green New Deal to solve the systemic and structural problems of our school system.


Part 9a

Q&A I: ESSA

https://vimeo.com/325195655/292bcdf611

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and education advocates* respond to questions from the audience. The questions in this segment were about the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

*Advocates (fr L to R): Kemala Karmen (NYC Opt Out/NY State Allies for Public Education), Kate Menken (NY State Association for Bilingual Education), Diane Ravitch (Network for Public Education), Carol Burris (Network for Public Education), Leonie Haimson (Class Size Matters), Maria Bautista (Alliance for Quality Education)

Part 9b

Q&A II: BILINGUAL EDUCATION

https://vimeo.com/325196134/b423807f1e

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and education advocates* respond to questions from the audience. The questions in this segment were about bilingual education.

*Advocates (fr L to R): Kemala Karmen (NYC Opt Out/NY State Allies for Public Education), Kate Menken (NY State Association for Bilingual Education), Diane Ravitch (Network for Public Education), Carol Burris (Network for Public Education), Leonie Haimson (Class Size Matters), Maria Bautista (Alliance for Quality Education)


Part 9c

Q&A III: “Diane Ravitch, what changed your mind?”

https://vimeo.com/325196402/3d6da0ca28

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and education advocates* respond to questions from the audience. The question in this segment was directed to Diane Ravitch re her metamorphosis from public education critic to champion.

*Advocates (fr L to R): Kemala Karmen (NYC Opt Out/NY State Allies for Public Education), Kate Menken (NY State Association for Bilingual Education), Diane Ravitch (Network for Public Education), Carol Burris (Network for Public Education), Leonie Haimson (Class Size Matters), Maria Bautista (Alliance for Quality Education)

Part 9d

Q&A IV: NYC’S SPECIALIZED HIGH SCHOOLS

https://vimeo.com/325196799/dd265c6fd2

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and education advocates* respond to questions from the audience. The questions in this part of the Q&A were about access to NYC’s test-in “specialized” high schools. Later in the program, local Assembly Member Catalina Cruz also addressed this issue. These 2 segments are combined here although they were not directly consecutive.

*Advocates (fr L to R): Kemala Karmen (NYC Opt Out/NY State Allies for Public Education), Kate Menken (NY State Association for Bilingual Education), Diane Ravitch (Network for Public Education), Carol Burris (Network for Public Education), Leonie Haimson (Class Size Matters), Maria Bautista (Alliance for Quality Education)

Part 9e

Q&A V: INFLUENTIAL EDUCATORS

https://vimeo.com/325197845/7c6bde519a

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and education advocates* respond to questions from the audience. The question in this segment was about how educators influenced the panelists/respondents.

*Advocates (fr L to R): Kemala Karmen (NYC Opt Out/NY State Allies for Public Education), Kate Menken (NY State Association for Bilingual Education), Diane Ravitch (Network for Public Education), Carol Burris (Network for Public Education), Leonie Haimson (Class Size Matters), Maria Bautista (Alliance for Quality Education)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred Smith is a testing expert in New York who worked for the NYC Board of Education for many years. He advises the opt out movement.

He writes:

“For five years, 2012 – 2016, Pearson Inc. had a free ride that cost taxpayers $38 million for tests aligned with the Common Core blah blah. Pearson was shielded in completing its run by the State Education Department, which allowed the company to operate without having to provide information about how its exams were functioning. There would be no timely or complete disclosure of data about test materials, such as item statistics, thwarting the opportunity for independent review of their quality; a gag order that prevented teachers from discussing flaws in the exams; top-down engenderment of fear and confusion among parents abetted by compliant superintendents and too many jittery administrators, denying parents information about their right to opt out, effectively keeping most parents marching along blindly to the annual testing beat; and all the while Pearson and NYSED flouting professional standards for educational testing, while most of the academic world watched silently.

“But by 2014 and 2015 a growing opt out movement arose on Long Island and upstate outside of New York City—brilliantly spearheaded by a few indignant parents activists who summoned the courage to say “NO” and drew on a well of leadership skills and organizing ability–the extent to which, perhaps, they did not know they possessed. And 20% of the children targeted for the tests sat them out. Evidence finally obtained from the state and the city revealed that the opposition the exams was fully justified. I urge readers of this influential tide-turning blog to Google a series of reports (“Tests Are Turning Our Kids Into Zeroes”) posted by the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY, New Paltz.

“So where does that leave us? I would hope that parents and other interested parties draw upon our experience with Pearson. A two-stage plan of action is needed as Questar (Pearson’s successor) is about to enter the third year of its five-year, $44 million agreement with SED this April. Before this occurs, a reasonable demand by parents and advocates would be for immediate information about how Questar’s exams worked in 2017 and 2018. To date, such information has not been forthcoming. Lack of transparency and lack of accountability must no longer be accepted as SOP. Stage 2 would follow: If, in two weeks, we don’t get information that we know is already in hand, that should help drive home the message that opting out in April is a rational alternative and a direct way for the voice of parents to be heard. I believe that pushing back against the tests could unify grass roots groups throughout the city on a number of issues that focus the well-being of all children.”

Peter Goodman has been covering New York State and city education politics for many years.

In this post, he reports that Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is planning to punish schools that have high opt out numbers, treating them as”failing schools” even though they include some of the highest performing schools in the state.

Elia is out of control. She doesn’t know how to listen but she sure knows how to crack the whip.

On the teacher evaluation front,Goodman reports that the Legislature is prepared to turn the issue back to districts. It’s fair to say that the Legislature’s efforts to base teacher evaluation on test scores and computer algorithms has been a disaster.

Uncertain: even as teacher evaluation is returned to districts, Will it still be based on test scores, a measure proven to be flawed and inaccurate?

Parents are preparing for the teachers’ strike on January 10 by creating a FB page to support their teachers.

Parent Jenna Schwartz started a FB Page called “Parents Supporting Teachers.”

If you live in LA, join them.