Search results for: "Stand for children"

No one knows for sure when Stand for Children abandoned its original mission of advocating for public schools and seeking more equitable funding.

But by 2011, Stand for Children had become a handmaiden of the hedge fund managers and super-rich, promoting their agenda of privatization. Its founder, Jonah Edelman, boasted at the Aspen Ideas Festival of how he had outsmarted the teachers’ unions and had bought up the best lobbyists. He worked with like-minded legislators in Illinois to pass legislation to take away teachers’ job protections. The legislation said that the Chicago Teachers Union would need a 75% approval to strike, and Edelman was certain this would never happen.

He sat side by side with an equity investor from Chicago as he boasted of his triumph in crushing the teachers of Illinois, especially those in Chicago.

It cost millions to achieve this “victory,” and he had no trouble raising the millions.

Stand for Children, with no roots in Massachusetts, went there to bully the teachers’ union with the threat of a ballot initiative to strip them of hard-won rights, so the union conceded to avoid an expensive election battle.

Flush with cash from equity investors, Stand is now operating in many states. It still pretends to be “for the children,” but it uses its money to attack their teachers. It still pretends to be a supporter of better education, but cannot explain how to get better education if teachers are treated as at-will employees, lacking any academic freedom or collective voice.

Many of its former supporters now refer to Stand for Children with a different name: They call it Stand On Children.

There is always hope for redemption. Jonah was embarrassed when the Aspen video went public (http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/jonah-edelman-apologizes-to-my-blog-readers/). He even recanted in a public letter. But he has not stopped trying to crush teachers and their unions.

Jonah, come home.

Jonah, think of the great legacy of your parents, Marian Wright Edelman and Peter Edelman.

Jonah, the civil rights movement of the 1960s fought so that workers could join a union to protect themselves.

Jonah, remember that Martin Luther King, Jr., died when he went to Memphis to defend the sanitation workers who wanted to join a union.

Jonah, leave the hedge fund managers and the equity investors and return to your roots. Fight for real education reform, not privatization. Respect those who teach our nation’s children.

It is never too late.

This blog has received a late entry into an already closed contest.

Once I realized that the National Lampoon had already threatened to kill the dog on its cover in 1973, I recognized that loss aversion had reached its apogee forty years ago.

Nonetheless, this entry was posted by a blogger-tweeter who goes by the name of “Last Stand for Children First.”

In this post, the blogger is young teacher Monica Caldwell. She was hired by one of those Gates-funded teacher groups:

Monica Caldwell commented on The Loss Aversion Contest: You Can Win!Roland Fryer, Snooki, and Building the Perfect Teacher
By Monica CaldwellPeople are always surprised to find out that I wasn’t an education major in college. As a hotel/motel management major I learned a lot about how to deal with employees. This knowledge was further augmented when I began managing a tanning salon at the tender age of 20. Teaching was the hardest job I ever had and the five weeks of training leading up to it was even tougher than the nearly 2 whole years I spent in the classroom.

Recently, a couple of studies have come out that really got me thinking. The first study was by the awesome Roland Fryer. He says that the key to making merit pay work is loss aversion. Now math is hard, but the way I understand it instead of giving teachers money if they show improvement on tests, you give them the money up front and then if their students’ test scores don’t improve they either cough up the dough, or your Uncle Rocco pays them a little visit. If they’re like me, they’d probably spend it all on shoes.

Another really cool report I read was called The Irreplaceables. Now, this isn’t to be confused with The Expendables which is a movie about a lot of old guys blowing stuff up, but an article by The New Teacher Project says that urban schools are not making their best teachers feel valued and instead retaining the bad ones. I can relate to this. The fire in my classroom wasn’t what got me terminated as much as all the other teachers who were jealous of my rapport with my class going to the principal.

What we need is a way to make teachers feel rewarded, retain the best teachers, and use loss aversion to scare teachers into working really hard. Now, if you believe like I do, the best teachers come from programs like Teach for America, this is really easy. When teachers go through the Teach for America program, put like a dozen of them up in a mansion that they could never afford on a teacher’s salary. Then as the school year goes on, have teachers vote each other out of the mansion, but if your kids improve on standardized tests, you have immunity.

The best part is we film this as a reality television show. Now one problem is Teach for America’s training is only 5 weeks and a reality tv show season is much longer, but that’s fixed by following the recruits through the beginning of their teaching careers. The teachers will try really hard because the mansion will have like a hot tub and cute guys and a kitchen that’s totally stocked with everything you could want. The good teachers will be retained and a few teachers may even get famous like Snooki. Hey Bravo! Call me, we’ll do lunch.

It turns out that Stand for Children is not only the guiding organization behind the plan to transfer large numbers of public school students to charter schools, along with $212 million of taxpayers dollars, in Memphis/Shelby County, but it was previously active in promoting the pro-privatization propaganda film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” to parents and the public in Memphis.

As you will see in the link below, John Legend, the singer who is on the board of the Wall Street hedge fund manager group Democrats for Education Reform, funded the showing of this mockumentary to low-income communities. The purpose of the film was to show the failure of public education and the superiority of private management.

A reader sent this link. It shows how Stand on Children set the stage for privatization on a large scale in Memphis.

This is an evolving definition. Stand for Children began in Portland, Oregon, as a grassroots organization to advocate for more funding for public schools (readers in Portland and elsewhere, correct me if I am wrong).

At some point in the past two or three years, Stand shifted priorities and discovered that it would have far greater impact if it aligned itself with the financiers behind the corporate reform movement. Their numbers are small, but their wallet is large. They want more privately managed charts, and Stand was okay with that, after all, charters provide an escape from “bad” public schools. They want teachers to serve at-will, with no job protections (after all, don’t job protections protect “bad” teachers). They want teachers to be evaluated by student test scores (after all, isn’t that a good way to identify and boot those “bad” teachers).

And until we hear a different account from Stand’s founder, Jonah Edelman, we must conclude that it is now a very well-funded arm of the corporate reform movement. Some of its original supporters in Portland removed their names. Some of its original sponsors removed their names. One, who shall remain nameless, told me that she now thinks of Stand as “Stand ON Children.”

Stand has pushed the corporate reforms–anti-public school, anti-teacher, anti-union–in several states, notably in Illinois (where they wrote a new law that was supposed to make it impossible for Chicago teachers to strike by setting a threshold of 75% approval–but CTU got a 90% approval vote), and in Massachusetts (where they threatened a ballot referendum to achieve their goals with a heavily-funded PR campaign (the union capitulated to avoid the punitive language that would have been on the ballot, as well as the costs of fighting it).

If any reader can add to this description, or contradict it with better information, let me know.

A reader comments about Stand:

You really should read past what you have been told. This is the beginning for SFC, not the ultimate goal. What happens in other states is coming to you eventually. Getting rid of seniority, job security, basic rights will all be taken away for your teachers. You will be left with a revolving door of at will temps who will focus primarily on test prep and stay at max five years and then repeat. This does not build a professional community where teaching and learning is a priority that is respected and cherished. Maybe you are the one who cannot see the forest though the trees. You really should check out SFC’s record in Masachusetts.

Best of luck to you, your children and your community. Stay informed.

Excerpt:
Soon after agreeing to Patrick’s reforms, though, SFC broke away from the pack. Claiming that the measures weren’t bold enough — specifically, that principals, superintendents, and school boards should have more if not all power over teacher evaluations and firing — the group paid more than $300,000 to gather signatures to advance a unilateral proposal in the form of a ballot initiative. The compromise that’s likely to pass the state legislature in July is less severe in its stripping of union controls, but the fact remains that SFC is the new education power broker on Beacon Hill, and that its agenda represents the will of corporations — not the grassroots.

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/140448-as-schools-struggle-to-get-better-is-selling-out-/#ixzz1zf8hgIbn

I received the following comment from Kenya Bradshaw, the executive director of Stand for Children in Tennessee. She was responding to the posts about the transition plan for merging Shelby County and Memphis. The transition plan envisions an expansion of the number and proportion of students in privately managed charter schools, from 4% to 19%, and a transfer of $212 million out of the Memphis public school budget.

Ms. Bradshaw seems to be a sincere and committed person, and I suspect she has no idea of the enmity that Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children generated by his performance a year ago at the Aspen Ideas Festival, when he boasted of stripping away job protections from teachers in Illinois, specifically in Chicago. Or the enmity he created when he launched a campaign in Massachusetts to eliminate teacher job protections. Or the enmity he gained by converting Stand for Children into a multi-million dollar corporate organization that advocates for privatization as well as the reduction of teachers’ job status. There was a time when Stand for Children was a grassroots advocacy group that actually stood for children. Now, it is part of the corporate reform movement that is pushing the untested and often failed ideas of the wealthiest, most powerful people in this nation on children and school teachers.

I’d like to hear Jonah Edelman explain why he thinks it is a good idea to strip teachers of all job protections, leaving them at the mercy of communities that might fire them for teaching evolution or the wrong novel. And why he thinks it is a progressive idea to hand public schools and children over to entrepreneurs.

Dear Mrs. Ravitch,My name is Kenya Bradshaw, I am the TN Executive Director of Stand For Children. First let me thank you and Jim Horn for your analysis of the Transition Plan that the Transition Planning Commission developed for the Merger of Memphis and Shelby County Schools although I disagree with your attempt to use one data point as an attempt to showcase the flaws in the plan. I believe that you both should highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the plan and let us know. But to call out one item lacks journalistic integrity and does not offer a fair prospective to the people who read your blogs. To do an in depth analysis of the process I would urge you to read the over 10,000 pages of documents every member poured through or read the transcripts of the over 400 hours worth of meetings. I would also ask that you research the history behind how this happened and read Professor Daniel Keil’s report on schools in Memphis and Dr. Marcus Polhman’s recent book on education in our county then come visit Memphis.I was humbled to work with such committed people who came up with recommendations such as instituting a service learning model so that all students complete at least 40 hours of volunteer service prior to graduating, expanding Art, Music, Pre-K and STEM courses, and a parent advisory board to help engage more parents at every school. My summary in no way does justice to the recommendations so I would urge others to use the link about to read them.Charters:
Charters are already a part of the landscape in TN. We projected for what the reality of our current educational landscape forecasts and also took into account the Achievement School Districts growth. First let me say that all schools in the ASD are not charters some schools are directly run by the state. Personally as a native Memphian I was unsure of what this meant for schools initially so I reached out to Chris Barbic and I must say that he exceeded my expectations. He CARES about not only what happens with the schools data numbers but what happens to the children in the community and the community as a whole. One of your commenters said that parents and teachers did not have a say in this process. I must completely disagree since I attended the first round of community sessions when the ASD team meet with parents. I also know that they meet with every staff member and solicited feedback about what was working and what needed to improve and offered each the opportunity to return to MCS if they did not want to be a part of the ASD. I ask that others just also give them a chance because I do not see any of the people complaining running to get their children into these schools. This work is personal for me because my zoned schools fall into the ASD and it directly affects my family. My family deserves better schools than the current options that are available to them. As an avid supporter of public education we must work to improve our system as a whole and charters in my opinion serve as a tool to improve schools. Charters are not the enemy of public schools and public schools are not perfect. As a nation we should stop painting the picture that it is one or the other if you support charters you hate traditional public schools. I support strong public schools and strong public charter schools and will work to hold each group equally accountable.Stand for Children:
I am not only an employee of Stand for Children I am also a proud member and came to this organization through its grassroots advocacy to advocate for school funding in Chattanooga, TN. I then became a community organizer then worked my way up to being the ED. I am a first generation college graduate who returned to Memphis to work to improve the system that I LOVE and graduated from. If I ever felt that anything I was doing was not in the best interest of children my moral convictions would not allow me to proceed. At my core I believe that you are a brilliant woman and deeply care about what happens to all children but I do believe that you are unfairly targeting our organization and painting everyone who works in “education reform” with the same brush. Judge us fairly.I work with some of the best people in the country and they spend their lives working to support and build parents up to let them lead on redefining what needs to happen for children in our communities. They don’t believe that we can wait to improve outcomes for children and neither do we.If you are interested I would host a meeting for you in Memphis or anywhere TN to hear parents stories about what has been happening in education. I assure you that these will not all be sad pity stories because great things are happening at many schools across TN. But our parents as do we believe if there is any school that is not providing a solid educational foundation to children we should advocate to change that.

Come meet our organizers and members hear about our work and then fairly judge us.

I would also like to extend an offer for you and Mr. Horn (Please share the invitation with him) to talk to me or any other TPC member Please let me know if either of you are interested. I believe that our Country should be watching what happens in Shelby County.

(Lastly please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors I am typing on my phone and the small screen is making it hard to proof)
Kenya Bradshaw
TN Executive Director of Stand for Children

Stand for Children has moved its campaign for privatization and against experienced teachers  to Massachusetts. Stand’s politically savvy, well-connected, and well-funded leader Jonah Edelman threatened an anti-teacher ballot initiative unless the unions negotiated away their seniority and tenure.

Governor Deval Patrick agreed with Stand for Children that teacher evaluation (based to some extent on standardized test scores of students, which is a wholly unproven measure of teacher quality) will outweigh experience.

Stand for Children believes that experience is unnecessary in teaching. Like Michelle Rhee’s Students First, Stand for Children holds that inexperienced teachers are just as good if not better than experienced teachers. Stand threatened a ballot initiative, backed by millions of dollars in spending, to destroy teachers’ seniority and tenure. The Massachusetts Teachers Association could not match the spending of the hedge fund managers who want to destroy teacher unionism and it capitulated.

Let’s be clear: Stand for Children and its kind want to put an end not only to teachers’  unions but to the teaching profession. They want teachers to be evaluated by test scores, despite the overwhelming evidence that doing so will promote teaching to standardized tests and narrowing the curriculum, as well as cheating and gaming the system.

An underfunded group called Citizens for Public Schools tried to rally support for teachers and opposition to Edelman’s scheme. Former members of Stand for Children signed a petition against its campaign.

Since Massachusetts leads the nation on the no-stakes federal tests called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, it seems difficult to understand how Stand for Children was able to mount a campaign against the state’s teachers. But the national atmosphere is so poisonous towards teachers, that Stand must have latched onto the sentiment generated by the odious movie “Waiting for ‘Superman'” and the public relations machine of those out to belittle teachers while pretending to care about teacher quality.

This Massachusetts teacher blogger will give  you some idea of what teachers think about Stand’s campaign.

At some point in the hopefully not distant future, the “reformers” who are working so hard to remove all job protections from teachers will be held accountable for their actions. When that day arrives, they will be ashamed of what they have done to rob our children and our schools of the experienced teachers they need.

Diane

Jan Resseger writes here about the almost complete lack of leadership at the national level–and even at the state level–in protecting our children in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. The failure of Congress to agree on federal aid for cities and states is a glaring example of indifference to the health and well-being of children and families and teachers. The breakdown of negotiations between Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin can be attributed to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, who don’t want to see any aid go to blue states and cities. This is tragic because the victims are children.

She writes:

I do not remember a time when the wellbeing of children has been so totally forgotten by the leaders of the political party in power in the White House and the Congress. This fall, school district leaders have been left on their own as they try to serve and educate children while the COVID-19 pandemic continues raging across the states. School leaders are trying to hold it all together this fall at the same time their state budgets in some places have already been cut.

In Ohio, the COVID-19 recession is only exacerbating a public school fiscal crisis driven by a long history of inequitable school funding and the expansion of school privatization. On November 3, the school district where I live has been forced to put a local operating levy on the ballot simply to avert catastrophe. EdChoice vouchers, funded by a “local school district deduction” extract $6,000 for each high school voucher student and $4,650 for each K-8 voucher student right out of our school district’s budget. Although these students attend private and religious schools, the state counts voucher students as part of our per-pupil enrollment, which means that the state pays the district some of the cost of the voucher. In a normal year, there is a net loss because the vouchers are worth more than our district’s state basic aid, but this year the loss is even worse: In he current state budget, the Legislature froze the state’s contribution to the state’s school districts at the FY 2019 level. This means that the state is not allocating any additional funding to our school district to cover the new vouchers the state is awarding this year from our local budget. The Plain Dealer reports that our district will lose $9 million to the EdChoice vouchers this school year, and the school treasurer reports that 94 percent of all vouchers being awarded to students in our district are for students who have never been enrolled in our public schools. In essence, this means that across Ohio, the Legislature is forcing local school districts to pay for private and religious education.

This year, however, on top of the voucher expansion, COVID-19 has affected local school budgets across our state. Last spring, when the coronavirus shut down businesses and caused widespread layoffs, the Governor significantly reduced what the state had already promised to school districts in the state budget.  Across the state’s 610 school districts, over $300 million—which the school districts had been promised before the fiscal year ended on June 30—just didn’t arrive. All of this has created a fiscal emergency for school districts across Ohio.

Only the AFT and Randi Weingarten, she writes, have remained alert and warned of the dangers of Congressional inaction. But the party in power is not listening.

Bianca Tanis is a teacher of special education in a K-2 classroom in the Hudson Valley of New York. She is also a member of the board of NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Parents and Educators), the statewide group that has led the Opt Out movement.

In this post, she excoriates New York’s new standards and says the New York State Education Department ignored the voices of early childhood educators. From the perspective of young children, she says, the standards are fundamentally flawed.

She writes, in part:

We should never have to fight for the right of children to play. Nor should we have to fight for them to spend more than 20 minutes at recess. Instruction should never come at the expense of the creative, spontaneous, and joyful exploration of 4- and 5-year olds. But, increasingly, it does. With the unveiling of New York State’s “Next Generation of English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards,” the struggle to maintain these experiences for young learners—already underway—will intensify.

When New York’s Education Department released the draft standards last September, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia claimed they represented substantive change. Yet most revisions consisted of minor tweaks to language and placement. There were very few shifts in content, and the Common Core anchor standards remained mostly intact. The latest iteration walks back any positive content changes, increasing the rigor of the prekindergarten through second-grade grade standards over and above the draft released in September, and moving some first-grade standards to kindergarten.

While many policymakers profess their commitment to play-based learning and meeting the needs of the whole child, their actions say otherwise. This problem is not unique to New York. But in a state with one of the largest parent uprisings against high-stakes reform and the arbitrary imposition of rigor on child-centered practice, Elia’s reaction is disturbing. She and the New York Education Department have missed an opportunity to deliver developmentally appropriate learning standards that align with early childhood’s robust evidence base.

They’ve also systematically denied teachers who work with young children the chance to advocate for their students and reasonable expectations for development as well as practice that engages them in the critical early years of learning.

Although some teachers working with children in prekindergarten through second grade took part in the review, their voices were marginalized. Not a single early educator was a member of the Standards Review Leadership and Planning team. None were facilitators, or on any of the advisory panels that made the final revisions.

Those who took part in the original standards revision work in August of 2016 were so dissatisfied with the process that they ultimately requested the formation of an early learning task force. These outspoken educators were barred from serving on the 32-member committee, of which only a quarter were early educators.

It’s easy to understand why they were largely excluded from this process. In a room full of teachers working with prekindergartners to second-graders, you would be hard-pressed to find consensus around the idea that all kindergartners should “read with purpose and understanding”—an expectation that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force report cited as concerning to early childhood experts.

Ten out of 14 members of the PreK-2 review committee issued a letter of dissent, expressing concern that the number of skills included in the revised standards would make it difficult to find time for play-based and child-led learning.

Lynn Stoddard, a retired educator, writes about the damage done by trying to standardize what is inherently non-standard: a human being.

 

His solution: Let teachers teach. Encourage them to recognize and magnify individual differences. Standardization doesn’t work for unique human beings, which each of us is.

 

He writes:

 

Perhaps the largest damage to our culture is the countless people who have died with their music still in them because they attended schools devoted to standardizing students. An eighth-grade boy in Farmington composed music for full orchestra, with 29 instruments — brass, woodwinds, percussion and strings — a piece that was so good it was chosen to be played at the State Music Educators Conference. Sadly, he did not go on to become another phenomenal composer like Mozart or Andrew Lloyd Webber, because he had to spend so much time with higher math and other required subjects.

 

What would American culture be like if teachers had been respected and trusted enough to determine the learning needs of each student and help him or her develop unique talents and use them to benefit society? What would have happened if, instead of trying to make students fit a standardized curriculum, teachers had helped students magnify their positive differences?

 

We can get some answers from the only teachers who are now allowed to personalize education: athletics coaches and arts teachers. These teachers see benefit in letting students try out for positions on the athletic team or for a part in the school musical. Coaches understand why sprinters should not be required to throw the shot put, or weightlifters to high jump. Choir teachers understand why high tenors cannot sing the bass part.

 

Let teachers teach, and let every child attain his or her full potential.

 

 

 

Tim Farley, school leader and parent in New York, wrote this letter to the state’s superintendents and board members. Farley is an active member of the directors of NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education):

 

 

Dear New York State Superintendents and Boards of Education Members,

 

I write this letter to you on the eve of a new year.  The past year has brought many changes to education – a new Commissioner, a soon-to-be new Chancellor, new regulations on APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review), new Regents, a new testing company for the NY State tests, the Education Transformation Act, the partial moratorium of provisions of this Act, and the re-write of ESEA to ESSA. We are being told by some that everything is fine now, the parents can opt back in to having their children take the tests, the teachers can take a breath, and the children can stop stressing out. Let me assure you that this is not true.

 

Despite the well wishes of Commissioner Elia in her recent newsletter, it is doubtful that teachers will have a happy holiday. Ms. Elia tries to assuage the teachers’ fears in the opening paragraph with the following: “The emergency regulation removes any consequences for teachers’ and principals’ evaluations related to the grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and Math State Assessments and the State-provided growth score on Regents exams until the start of the 2019-2020 school year.” Teachers can take a much needed sigh of relief. Or can they?

 

In the third paragraph of the newsletter, Ms. Elia writes: “The transition scores and subsequent ratings will be determined based on the remaining subcomponents of the APPR that are not based on the grades 3-8 ELA or Math State assessments and/or a State-provided growth score on Regents examinations. During the transition period, only the transition score and rating will be used for purposes of evaluation, and for purposes of employment decisions, including tenure determinations and for teacher and principal improvement plans. State-provided growth scores will continue to be computed for advisory purposes and overall HEDI ratings will continue to be provided to teachers and principals.” What Ms. Elia gives teachers in the first paragraph, she snatches from them in this one.

 

In the first paragraph one might infer that no matter how poorly students do on the state tests, it won’t count against the teacher. However, she later clarifies that, in fact, the student test scores can and will be used for “advisory purposes.” Does that mean that teachers can still be fired for “ineffective” growth scores based on their earlier growth scores? You bet it does. The moratorium that the Board of Regents recently put in place is for state-provided growth scores moving forward. However, if a teacher or principal already has two “ineffective” state provided growth scores (2013-2014 and 2014-2015) and receives an ineffective, under the new 3012d, if they receive an additional ineffective this year, they must be fired. In addition, the growth scores of the teacher must still be made available to parents.

 

As you are all probably well aware, the opt out movement has grown exponentially over the past three years, from about 20,000 in 2012-2013, to 65,000 in 2013-2014, to over 240,000 in 2014-2015. Why are parents opting out in such large numbers? What will happen this spring? Parents have been shouting from the rooftops what they want: the end of Common Core, the end of the developmentally inappropriate tests (both the level of “rigor” and the soul-crushing length of the tests), the end of high stakes testing (student testing tied to teacher effectiveness or school ratings), and the unfettered collection of their children’s data to stop. Additionally, Commissioner Elia signed a new contract with Questar without a full vetting or vote by the Board of Regents. Has enough been done to stop the opt out movement? I don’t think so.

 

  • We still have Pearson making this year’s 3-8 tests in ELA and math. As a matter of fact, Pearson will also be playing a role in next year’s tests according to this Newsday article. As reported by John Hildebrand, “State education officials said local teachers and administrators will be given a much bigger role, working with Questar to write new test questions. Those officials acknowledged, however, that questions developed by Pearson must be used in tests administered in April and in the spring of 2017, because of the time needed to review new questions for validity and accuracy.”

 

  • We will likely still have tests that are far too long and far too “rigorous.” Ms. Elia has stated that certain reading passages and some multiple choice questions would be eliminated, but admitted that these changes will not substantially reduce the length of the tests. The tests will still be administered three days for ELA and three days for math for grades 3-8. 

 

  • Despite a promise that onerous field tests would be eliminated if NYSED received $8.4 million to print different versions of the exam, they were provided with this funding but are still imposing field tests on the state’s students.

 

  • We still have tests tied to teacher and principal effectiveness ratings. As stated above, teachers and principals can still be fired based on state-provided growth scores in grades 3-8 tests from the last two years – and all other teachers will have their effectiveness ratings based primarily on local assessments or high school Regents exams.

 

  • We still have standards that are developmentally inappropriate and a Commissioner that is determined to make minor adjustments solely at the K-3 level.

 

  • We still have a system in place that collects enormous amounts of data on our children, without protecting the privacy of this sensitive information. According to Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, the Daily Mail reports, “Students’ names, emails, addresses, grades, test scores, disabilities, disciplinary information, health information, economic status, racial status and more,” are being collected by schools, districts and the state; with little or no restrictions on their disclosure.

 

Last year, the threat of losing any Title I monies for any district not meeting the required 95% participation rate was put to rest by Governor Cuomo, Chancellor Tisch, and then reluctantly, Commissioner Elia. They knew then that if they withheld any money that goes to the neediest students, it would have been political suicide. Yet, despite the fact that the new version of  ESEA, called Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA, specifically bars the US Department of Education from penalizing states that have high opt out numbers, they are still threatening the loss of federal money from any district not meeting the 95% participation rate.

 

According to this letter, dated December 22, 2015, from USDOE’s Ann Whelan – the threats/sanctions include:  

 

  • Lowering an LEA’s or school’s rating in the State’s accountability system or amending the system to flag an LEA or school with a low participation rate.
  • Counting non-participants as non-proficient in accountability determinations.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to develop an improvement plan, or take corrective action to ensure that all students participate in the statewide assessments in the future, and providing the SEA’s process to review and monitor such plans.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to implement additional interventions aligned with the reason for low student participation, even if the State’s accountability system does not officially designate schools for such interventions.
  • Designating an LEA or school as “high risk,” or a comparable status under the State’s laws and regulations, with a clear explanation for the implications of such a designation.
  • Withholding or directing use of State aid and/or funding flexibility.

 

Clearly, these threats are being made to quash the opt out movement. However, I assure you these tactics will have the opposite effect.

 

There are roughly 700 school districts in New York State. That means there are about 700 Superintendents who were hired by locally elected Boards of Education. These Superintendents work for their communities and they are evaluated by their Boards of Education. Superintendents know that VAM (value-added model) has been deemed invalid and unreliable in measuring teacher effectiveness. Superintendents know that the state tests are too long and are not developmentally appropriate.

 

One of the claims of the newly written ESSA was that it would re-establish state’s rights and “local control” with regard to education. Do these threats indicate more local control?  Instead, the US Department of Education, now led by John King, our former Commissioner, whose rigid authoritarianism was soundly rejected by our state’s teachers, parents, and students, seems to be intent on ignoring what should have been learned through his experience: that parents will be even angrier and more intent on resisting the more they are exhorted to submit. 

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In any society, it is every citizen’s responsibility to obey just laws. But at the same time, it is every citizen’s responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” It is long past time for our education leaders to lead the charge. The parents will opt out in unprecedented numbers this spring.  However, what if the 700 Superintendents refused to administer the tests? What if their locally-elected boards directed them to do so? What if there was a test, but no one took it?

 

General Colin Powell once said, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems, is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

 

Who will stand up for the children? Who will stand up for the teachers? Who will stand up for the schools and for public education? Who will demand that we deserve better? If not you, who? If not now, when?