NY’s Smart Schools Bond Commission Report – Followup Post

First, thank you to all who read and shared my original post about the Nov 4th vote on Governor Cuomo’s Smarter Schools Bond Act.

Gov Cuomo’s Smarter Schools Commission just released a detailed report yesterday (Oct 27, 2014), to the governor, outlining suggestions for spending the bond money … a week before the vote on the bond. I asked my local district last week if they saw the report since the Governor’s Office had previously indicated it would be available this fall. The district did not reply to that question, but I knew they did not see it because last week it did not exist. It does now and in my opinion, the report makes several suggestions that do not appear to jive with the four bullet points listed as items that can be obtained with the grant.

Specifically the new report lists the following 7 “Keys to Success”

1. Embrace and expand online learning which will break down geographic barriers, provide access to the best sources of instruction in the world, and level the playing field for students in rural and smaller school districts.
2. Utilize transformative technologies, such as tablets, laptops, and interactive whiteboards to deliver differentiated instruction tailored to students’ specific abilities and needs that lets them learn and advance at their own pace.
3. Connect every school to high-speed broadband using technology that is capable of scaling up over time and deliver sufficient wireless capability to serve every student.
4. Extend connectivity beyond the four walls of the classroom so students from all backgrounds have equal access to the information superhighway.
5. Provide high-quality, continuous professional development to teachers, principals, and staff to ensure successful integration of technology into the teaching and learning experience.
6. Focus on in-demand STEM skills to ensure that students graduate with 21st century skills.
7. Plan, plan and plan again.

I say #4 and #5 are not listed as items you can obtain via bond money when you compare it against the list available here. Am I wrong?

#6 is even debatable as everything I have read says there are currently too many STEM graduates and not enough STEM jobs (see here and here and here). Plus, in-demand today is not in-demand in say 10 or 20 years. It is a short-sighted approach that panders to certain audiences.

Additionally, I found the example of a shining school on page 16 of today’s report to be suspect. The district mentioned, Colton-Pierrepont Central School District, is a Chromebook district. Chromebooks are Google. Google is Eric Schmidt. Eric is one of the 3 on Cuomo’s Smart Schools Commission who prepared the report and will help determine how funds are used. Here is district mention of their Chromebooks here and here.

Page 33 of the report also lists Clifton Fine Central School District listed as shining example in the box at the top. Also a Chromebook district here.

Showcasing the Chromebook districts in the report is exactly what I, and others, ‘feared’ with Schmidt on the panel. He clearly has an interest in seeing this bond pass. Hold up, as a shining examples, what districts have done with his Chromebooks.

The Mineola School District shows up as another example of districts that are integrating tech. What I found odd about that mention is how this bond will ‘work’ compared to a district’s regular budget process. Here the Superintendent of Mineola details how districts can pay for tech purchases through regular budgets while working with their local BOCES offices. As far as I understand it, that is clearly not what this bond is setup to do.

“How did you afford all of this technology? (from interview here)
There are many ways you can afford to purchase things. We go through our local BOCES, which is a collaborative which allows us to pay for things over time. So we purchase everything on a five-year lease purchase on the end. What that allows us to do is that in year six we can go back to year one and determine do we want to replace everything that we purchased in year one or do we want to buy new technology? But the beautiful thing is that it’s already built into your budget. If you build a budget over time, you won’t feel the massive effect of $100,000 hitting your budget at one time. You can pay for that $100,000 of equipment over five years so it’s only $20,000 hitting your budget at one time. Those methods really make it easy if you plan how you can phase things in.”

Additional points about the report include:

Page 23 lists CK-12 as a resource for Open Educational Resources, which they are. However, one of their technology ‘partners‘ is Google.

Page 30 discusses expanded student broadband access AT HOME! Put taxpayers on the hook for increasing home broadband speeds? Don’t think so. “As was previously discussed, students’ connectivity needs do not end when they walk out of the school building at the end of the day, so districts may consider pursuing community projects that enhance students’ connectivity outside of school as well, including projects that impact public libraries and students’ broadband access at home”.

Also from page 32: “By improving access to reliable, robust and cost-effective broadband in school and at home, we can ensure that New York’s students are prepared for digital learning.” I wasn’t aware that this bond covers improving HOME Internet access. That’s not listed in the talking points from the Governor’s office.

I can’t spend the time to research line-by-line and page-by-page the details in the report. However, I did immediately see this inconsistent wording:

(bottom of p.31): “Over 500,000 households lack access to basic broadband service that meets New York State minimum broadband speed standards.  More than 4.6 million households in New York lack access to broadband speeds of 100 Mbps. Worst of all, five percent of all New York students lack even basic access to the Internet at home, leaving students in these households unable to complete even simple school-related online tasks at home.”

(bottom of p.32): “Addressing broadband gaps not only requires robust broadband networks at the school and home, but also includes affordable broadband service and computer equipment. With more than 6 million New Yorkers not subscribing to Internet services, broadband affordability at home presents a major challenge. In New York State, approximately 30% of students, particularly those from low-income households, are still not connected to the Internet at home.”

Funny, how one can play with data, isn’t it? Which is it 5% or 30% of students don’t have access to the Internet at home?

The jury isn’t out on anything technology related in schools. Not use of mobile devices, interactive white boards, computers in lab settings, etc. This new report mentioned NOTHING of any opposing viewpoint about use of technology in, and out, of schools. The report also fails to show what success might look like. Does getting all this tech mean increased test scores? Guarantee employment? Make for happy and healthy kid and teachers? Define it. The report ends with :”The Commission was charged with advising the State and school districts on how best to invest the proposed $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act to enhance teaching and learning through technology” (page 49). I think the report suggests using the funds for purposes (professional development and student home Internet access among other questionable items) that are not listed in the bond act proposition.

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Related resources:
https://www.governor.ny.gov/press/10272014-smart-schools-commission
http://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/default/files/SmartSchoolsReport.pdf
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/223333/smart-schools-commission-releases-report
http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5389-how-bright-smart-schools-bond-act-prop-3
http://nypost.com/2014/10/07/new-yorks-school-bond-boondoggle/
http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/editorials/2014/10/26/editorial-new-york-proposal-schools-bond-misplaced/17848377/

NY’s $2 Billion Smart Schools Bond Act – My View

Let me go on record as saying that I love technology. I love our public schools. I love adding technology components to school assignments and classwork and learning. I love technology used to solve very specific academic and administrative problems. I love helping my kids prepare for their future and not my past.

Let me add that I am not anti-educational technology, not anti-technology, not anti-preK, and not anti-security. Not one bit.

On November 4th I will be voting no on the $2 billion NY Smart Schools Bond Act. Here’s why.

1. I oppose:
– Money thrown at solutions to problems that don’t exist. In this case we will have state residents paying for ‘things’ that may be needed outside their region.
– Additional money added to our state’s overall debt putting NY really close to the debt ceiling limit.
– Money thrown towards administrators who haven’t expressed a need for the money ahead of time in the form of a plan or rationale for why such money is needed.
– Money borrowed and used to buy technology that will be outdated and in need of upgrades just two or three years after purchase.
– Having to pay millions on interest for the bonds each year that could be better spent on other more pressing educational needs.
– A member of a the appointed state Commission that oversees the distribution of these funds may possibly profit from the spending of bond money.

2. In the related studies section (linked here) and provided by the state as ‘evidence’ that we need this, two of the four links are vendor supported ‘research'; one from guess who, Pearson, and the other from guess who, Gates Foundation. They can’t even find non-vendor, non-interested party, research that warrants this massive expenditure. The state provided zero non-vendor related resources in their measly “Related Studies & News” section. No long term study on the effective use of “interactive white boards”. No needs analysis. No real rationale for why this is needed other than, “…build out schools and classrooms for the 21st Century to ensure that our students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in the economy of today and tomorrow.”

3. Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch is ambivalent about the bond according to recent reports. (Read here) Governor Cuomo threw this proposal into the state budget that passed last January without any consultation with educators. Note the quote here from a recent story about this act: “Even the State Board of Regents, which nearly always recommends at least a billion dollars more per year be spent on schools, only asked for $1 million in additional money for technology for schools.”

“No education group is actively backing the proposal. And many, including the teachers union and the state school boards, have expressed reservations.” (Read here)

4. Tech will be bought and curriculum won’t be adjusted. I mean REALLY adjusted. Not just the technology side-show that takes place in most schools now. Schools have had over 20 years to figure out what to do with technology. Ask yourself this: “What does my child’s school actually do with technology? How is it used to improve student learning and experiences?” I’ve lived this for nearly 20 years working in the ed-tech field. If the plan doesn’t come first, and the devices do, the initiative always fails. What are the pedagogical reasons for requiring more technology? For increasing WiFi access? For getting tablets? Have districts evaluated their use of technology to date? If so, where are both the local and statewide reports? Where is the local report that examines the return on investment to date of any past technology expenditures? Where is the list of schools districts who asked for this money that also outlines how much they requested?

5. Money randomly thrown at technology for the stated purposes of catching our kids up to the rest of the world (whatever that means) rarely works. The most glaring example of this was on the west coast where the LAUFSD school superintendent recently, and abruptly, resigned. Let’s learn from the Los Angles UFSD’s iPad debacle, shall we. I am all for adding more technology into the curriculum when it has a purpose other than test taking or simply “getting students prepared for the competitive world” nonsense that is used as a rationale for these initiatives.  (Read here)

“All told, the nation’s second-largest school system has purchased 109,000 iPads so far; 62,000 contain the Pearson curriculum. It was left off devices purchased late last year for use in state standardized testing. To date, the district has spent $61 million on the iPads, including carts to charge them.” (Read here)

Check out one of the comments on the site here:
“Our principal just sent out a message that we are getting 40 iPads for taking the new smarter balance assessment. They will be not used for anything else and when the children are done with the test we are sending them back. They do not get to practice the assessment on the iPad or use it for anything else. That is an expensive test taking machine. I wonder who’s forward thinking this is.”

That’s the predictable road we are heading towards in New York State.

6. I had a lengthy back and forth email exchange with my local district administrators about it (well one admin … no one else chimed in to date). I’ll give you the short version and frankly the wrong administrator responded. The curriculum admin should have stepped up to explain the need for new tech, not the business admin. I was sent a hastily organized series of documents and files as rationale for why our district needed the funds. It was basically a wish list of needs. Computers are old, we need new ones. Servers and infrastructure are old, we need to update it. A long term investment in pre-k is needed. More high tech security cameras, more WiFi, interactive white boards, projectors, art centers (did not realize that was allowable), publication centers, etc. Bullet points of desires. Nothing in the supplied files sent to me, nor in the email exchange, tied these purchases to increased, or improved, student learning or teaching. I scoured my local district site to try and find a current Technology Plan. There is none publicly posted that could find. I was told there is one and I asked to be sent a copy. Still waiting. I also asked if that plan clearly expressed the need for any and all of these ‘things’ the bond may cover. No response to date.

Also as part of this exchange I frequently mentioned two additional points:
– Since I bought my house in this district (10 years ago) enrollment is down 1150 students.
– I asked for the 1 yr, 3 yr, and 5+ yr costs associated with any new purchases.

No comment from district officials to either point. Enrollment down 1150 students at what $15000 per student cost to educate = $17.2 million savings, right? There’s your money for tech upgrades. The pattern of borrow and spend, borrow and spend all while enrollment is declining must stop.

Summarizing: First, show me the curriculum plan, the research on improved pedagogy, the drive towards creativity and innovation. Then, explain to me what tools you need to get there. Anything else is unacceptable and laced with profit driven motives only.

I will be voting no on this bond. My no vote isn’t a vote against my district. Rather, it is a clear protest against the wrong way to pay for technology. I recommend that districts first develop the plan that outlines how much they need, what they need it for, and what educational goals the expenditures are linked to. The plan must include a multi-year approach to using the technology that includes an upgrade or removal path. Take that plan and present it to your community. Then, take that plan and present it to the state. If warranted, funds are granted, used to implement the plan, oversee the plan, assess the plan, and act accordingly.

Telling my local district you may get a blank check for $11.06 million is absurd. Of course they will try to spend that. Almost every district would. After all it’s free money that grows on trees, right?

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Questions for your local district
I would suggest spacing them out over a few emails to the entire board of ed and the superintendent and any other local admin who may have answers (business, curriculum, testing, technology, …). Also, scour your local district web site to find the documentation that indicates there is a need for more ‘tech money’.

1. What is the plan for spending up to $_____ million as our district allotment from the possible passage of the NY Smarter Schools Bond Act on Nov 4th?
(Find your tally to include on the blank line at the web site here.)

2. Considering enrollment is trending down, why should district residents vote yes/no on this?
(Question obviously used if your local enrollment is trending down … mine is and is on a 10 year spiral down.)

3. What are the short and long terms costs associated with any expenditures made as a result of this bond? What is the cost of the migration and upgrade both in the immediate first year of install, the 3-yr projected cost to maintain and upgrade (e.g., those 1000 new computers will need a memory upgrade by year 3 … I’ll discount the memory upgrade at that time to $40 a computer x 1000 = $40,000 plus time for technicians to install it), and then 5-year projected cost which is exactly where the NEXT upgrade path will begin. Do the math on all these costs for each server, switch, backup system, etc. that need to upgraded now. What is the 1-yr, 3-yr, and 5-yr cost for training, maintenance and support, then the upgrade path for the replacement of this new tech?

4. As stated here: “Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, the Smart Schools Commission will lead a research effort into best practices into technology-enabled education and broadband connectivity efforts. In preparation for the Commission’s final report that will be developed in Fall 2014, we will invite local and national experts to present best practices for the Commission’s consideration over the coming months at public symposiums and Commission meetings.”

Has the district received this report? Have any district administrators attended these public symposiums and Commission meetings?
(I’ve not been able to find the “Commission’s final report” posted online. There are three presentations from public forums at the link above, but no final report.)

5. Have you had any discussion with parents about this bond and how the money could be spent? If so, are there public records of this?
(The FAQ posted at the link above clearly states schools must discuss this with their community.)

6. Is the district concerned that one of the three Commission members selected by Governor Cuomo, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, has a clear interest in seeing this pass since his company could easily benefit financially from any purchases made as a result of bond spending?

7. Are you concerned that in each of the three public events listed on the web site above, there was no speaker who opposed the use of technology in the classroom? Shouldn’t we hear from both sides before asking taxpayers for this amount of money? Shouldn’t we see verifiable research that this is both needed and useful?
(That leads me to the next question …)

8. Where is the verifiable, non-vendor specific, research that indicates OUR district and students need more “… interactive whiteboards, computer servers, and desktop, laptop, and tablet computers?”

9. What are the specific educational goals you feel the district will reach with the purchase of these new devices that you just can’t obtain without them?

10. How will curriculum be adjusted to integrate the new high-tech purchases?

11. Is this bond driven by the fast statewide move towards PARCC? Do you know if the purchase of any new technology from this bond will be used to administer computer based testing? If so, how much?
(Yet another NEW high stakes testing system…this time one that is computer/tablet based. Read more here.)

12. Where is the local report that examines the ‘return on investment’ to date of any past technology expenditures?
(This is a big question in my opinion because I’ve not yet seen a district have this kind of report. How can you ask for money of anything before first seeing if what you last purchased is actually working and you have evaluated it’s effectiveness?)

13. If the district wants to use the bond for pre-K, there are a whole host of other questions: What does the pre-K program look like now and how will the bond change the picture of it? How many new students will the bond cover? Does it cover costs associated with staffing pre-K? If not, how much will that cost and where will the money come from? Are classrooms going to be reconfigured? If so, how many? Are students going to be shuffled to new buildings? Buildings going to close, open, etc.? How many pre-K students will be accommodated?

14. Does every single classroom need an interactive white board? If so, based on what non-vendor supplied educational research? If only a few classrooms would ‘need’ these boards, which ones? Did teachers specifically ask for them or are administrators deciding the classes need them? How about for the tablets?
(Question obviously used if the district has made it clear they desire interactive white boards and tablets.)

15. Same is true about any stated desire to “incorporate wireless technology in buildings.” For what purpose, a BYOD initiative? What will connect to that expanded WiFi access? Will WiFi be installed only to then be secured and locked down so students can’t use their devices on it? Or teachers as well? Who is asking for an expansion is WiFi? What does WiFi look like now and what do you hope it will look up with acquisition of this bond money? What are the stated educational goals and objectives for needing expanded WiFi? Will there be public access to use of WiFi for open meetings, concerts, sporting events, and other events where the public use the facilities outside of regular school hours? You get the point.

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Related resources:
http://ballotpedia.org/New_York_Bonds_for_School_Technology_Act,_Proposal_3_(2014)
https://www.diigo.com/user/the999ers/Smart_Schools_Bond_Act

Brief Late Summer 2014 Data and Testing Update

Apologies to my blog readers for a quiet summer. It was a busy few months for my family and I just did not get a chance to post. I was reading and researching … that I did not put aside. This post is still a summer update even though fall has started. Better late than never.

It was a surprisingly busy summer, as well, in the education world with regards to protecting educational data and the administration/use of high stakes testing. I wanted to use this blog post to pick out a few of the stories that made the news either locally on Long Island/New York or elsewhere.

There are two major areas I think we should address between now and the November elections:
1. The failure of the NYS Education Department to comply with the new legislation put forth by the state last spring with regards to protecting student data. NYSAPE  has posted their letter on this topic here and Class Size Matters has blogged about this extensively (here’s a sample). Additionally, two informed Long Island moms have also been leading the charge to get NYSED to comply (see here).

Try doing a search on the NYSED web site for any details about all these wonderful new privacy changes they are working towards. I’m not finding anything about it. See here. Only thing there is the link to the Parent Bill of Rights on the main page. Try doing a search for the new interim privacy officer on the site and there is nothing about her bring appointed to that position, no office page … nothing. So much for openness and transparency moving forward. I can only explain this using two terms: it is either intentional or incompetence.

2. The pending $2 Billion NYS Smarter Schools Bond Act. The voting public needs details on this massive new expense. Details from both local districts and from NYSED/Governor Cuomo. So far all we have is a web page with some seemingly random links and files that try to explain the purpose of the bond. My post and thoughts on this topic will be available mid-October here on this blog.

Data and Data Privacy
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US Senate Ponders Student Data Privacy Bill :: here

US Senators Markey and Hatch submitted a student privacy bill :: PDF here

Student Privacy Matters response to Senators Bill :: here

Student data: New guidance from the feds :: here

Delayed student data ‘bill of rights’ met with concern :: here

NYSED Posted a Prelim Parents Bill of Rights :: PDF here

[ If you want to send comments to the new interim NYSED Privacy Officer, Tina Sciocchetti, or urge her to hold hearings so that she can hear directly from parents their views on this critical issue, you can email the new privacy officer at CPO@mail.nysed.gov ]

10 privacy steps for every district :: here

A National Look at Student Data Privacy Legislation :: here

NY State Testing
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State education department releases test questions – via Newsday :: here

Details of NY’s test cut scores :: here

Meet the NY panel that set the cut scores :: here

Time For An Investigation Into New York State’s Test Score Results, Data Tracking :: here

NY Teacher Ratings (APPR) :: here and here and here

But, then there’s this: “States Given a Reprieve on Ratings of Teachers” :: here

Critics Question High Ratings on New York State Teacher Evaluations Amid Poor Test Scores :: here

US schools give kids standardized tests so much more than top performing countries. :: here
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“The bottom line is that students are getting hurt, money is being wasted and precious time is being spent on high stakes testing at the expense of more meaningful instruction,” Dutchess County parent Anna Shah said in a statement from New York State Allies for Public Education, a parent-teacher coalition seeking an overhaul of the state Education Department.

“Teaching and learning in our state would benefit if we could reduce the fixation on testing and test results,” the New York State Council of School Superintendents said. :: here

Here’s another:
Do New York State Education Officials Ever Tell the Truth? :: here

Outside NY
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From Florida (this should honestly be a crime for waste of tax payer money and damage done to these kids)
A school system’s stunning standardized test schedule for 2014-15 :: here

From Vermont: Vermont to the Nation: This Is What Good Education Looks Like (or a lack of testing at least) :: here

From Oklahoma: “Oklahoma education department says it will withhold fifth-, eighth-grade writing scores from report” :: here

From California: California Protects Student Data Privacy with Two Bills :: here

The Need for a Return of Local Control

The decision this week, for those not following, by the Lee County School Board in Florida to NOT have their entire district opt-out of their state testing is showing the nation exactly why we need to refuse the over testing of our kids; loss of local control. The board listened to those who voted them in, voted to refuse the testing, then was pressured by the state and others to rescind the vote, decided to revote, and went ahead and over turned it. The state came in with multiple threats then threw in the loss of federal money. That’s what flipped this decision. The LOCAL school community wanted to make their own local decisions and they were strong-armed by both the state threats and the federal money dangling at the end of the line. That is why we fight on. It is exactly the situation you would see here on Long Island, I suspect, if a similar situation were to arise. Follow the money. As one commenter on the article linked below said:

“…as long as they need the funding…”
NOT “as long as it’s good for students,” NOT “as long as it helps schools,” but “as long as they need the funding.”
There it is, in a nutshell.

Click here to read one of the many reports about Lee County.

Don’t let them hide behind “the law.” Laws can be overturned, changed, etc. Force the schools, school boards, and parents to pressure the politicians to “fix it.” The reforms brought to ALL of our schools now are not moving forward because they will benefit the kids. They just aren’t. You can’t find me one instance of any of these reforms (e.g., Common Core standards, new high-stakes testing, massive data collection efforts, etc.) being tested and piloted for many years in a district and shown to have helped kids learn. It is all speculation. All an experiement. It is time we end the experiments and let local schools figure out what is need in their own communities. Standards used as guidelines? Fine. However, that’s not what we have now.

PS: The Palm Beach County School Board in Florida is also investigating opting out of all state testing.

The Fight to Return NY Schools Back to Local Communities Enters Year 3

Back to school already? That’s right parents and that means it’s time for that game we like to call “high stakes testing that is used to judge and grade your teachers and principals, but has no real purpose”. Have you asked your school and/or principals when testing starts? You think it is the spring-time you say? Guess again. Here’s the early testing schedule for our local district:

Math SLO and Local – September 4th and 5th
ELA SLO and Local – September 9th and 10th
Special Area SLO and Local – September 8th-19th

That’s right. Starting the year off with a few high stakes tests (these count toward the teacher’s APPR scores and can be a test of content the kids have not yet learned…a real confidence booster there.) For our kids’ teachers the APPR score is 60% observation, 20% State tests and SLOs, 20% Local assessment.

NYSED’s previous statement that referred to “no standardized testing for K-2″ is BS. There was none to begin with. These are not considered standardized tests.

Now here’s the kicker…among all the others…ALL of our local area school districts are spending millions to give, track, and monitor these early assessments. And for what? Neither the SLO or the local is being used to guide instruction. There are purely used as a “judgement” tool at the waste of precious early bonding and learning time in the classroom. And guess what? NYSED wants the tests scores to count for 40% and get rid of the SLOs and locals. Can you say even more “teach to the test” worksheets and curriculum. (see here)

So, yeah…here we go again and welcome back to yet another year of meaningless high stakes testing. The fight to bring back local control of our classrooms enters the 3rd year for not just our family, but pretty much for all of the Long Islanders who have researched, studied, questioned, and fought hard against the well-funded corporate driven takeover of the state/local public school system. This will most certainly be the most important yet because once our state gets too far into this mess we call “education reform”, there will be no turning back.

I ask you fellow Long Island parents of school-aged children: take note of what happens in your child’s classroom this year. What kind of work comes home? What is hanging on the walls when you visit? What does school look like before and after winter break? What message about testing is your kid’s teacher conveying? What do YOU want your kid’s classroom to look like? Do you want performance or innovation?

Wish your kids well this week and help them achieve happiness and success. Tell them to always do their best and to try not to let the pressures of school break them down. Wish your kid’s teachers and principals well this week and tell them you will help to fix the mess that is NY public education.

Oh, and don’t forget those green laces, bracelets, and scrunchies.

Royal Screwup on Day 2 of NYS Math Exam

Per upstate parent/teacher Chris Cerrone: BREAKING NEWS: “The 3rd Grade math test (Form D version) across the state contained blank pages with missing questions #33-37 & #43-48. Some schools caught the mistake and delayed the state of the test until copies of the missing questions could be obtained from BOCES were made. Other schools did not catch the error until the test began. These schools will be bringing their kids back to take the test once copies are made.

Another huge Pearson and NYSED fail.

The Third Grade test should be declared INVALID.”

The first news story to report this is here. Other reports have followed here and here and here.

According to page 14 of the NYSED testing guidelines (linked here to PDF): Testing materials can only be obtained from regional centers ON THE DAY THEY ARE TO BE ADMINISTERED.

So, replacement pages obtained today must be administered today. Not tomorrow or another day.

Also reports of some 5th grade tests pages not being cut (pages were connected and couldn’t be turned). Admin had to cut the pages open.

Additionally and unrelated, Wantagh High School, here on Long Island, was evacuated today as a result of a potential bomb threat. The neighboring middle school was also evacuated during the testing time. What are those kids supposed to do?

According to the NYSED testing guidelines page 25 (linked above): No student may be permitted to leave and then return to the testing room during any part of the test unless the student is accompanied by a proctor for the duration of his or her absence from the testing room.

So does that mean that the students who have seen the test today CANNOT come back tomorrow and take it because they will have left the testing room and returned to the same test?

Per page 43: Any breaches or irregularities, except interruptions caused by power outages or alarms, may be determined by the school or by the Department to invalidate a student’s test results.

This would include seeing the test, leaving the building, then returning to take the same test. Wording from page 43 seems to indicate students leaving for “alarm” does not invalidate the results.

 

Oh the glitches, those lovely glitches

So it appears there’s been some technical issues with the latest round of computer based testing. The question I will most certainly ask of my local school administrators when the time is right is: What will be considered tolerable? When 10% of students experience online testing “inconveniences?” Will it be 20%, 50%? The tests are high-stakes enough, then they have to go throw a Denial of Service attack on top of it, or random screen crashes, or back-end server failures, or whatever it will be next.

When these tests, across many states, are attached to such high stakes as grade promotion, teacher effectiveness, federal grant money, and more, these “glitches” are entirely unacceptable. Oh, and in many states, this is the second straight year of “glitches”. The phrase “Not Ready for Prime Time” comes to mind.

April 2, 2014: Kansas (here)

April 22, 2014: Oklahoma (here and here)

“A similar glitch stalled testing last year in Oklahoma, as well as in Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota. Of those, Indiana also used CTB/McGraw-Hill as its testing vendor.”

April 23, 2014: Florida (here)

I am pretty certain we will probably be adding New York to this list next year or the subsequent year.

So now tell me how these test results can be used to measure anything of value? Or used to make any high-stakes decision? Not only can you not compare these tests to results of prior years of pencil/paper based testing, you can’t even begin to set the baseline for the new CBTs.

Here’s the recent response from Pearson: A Message Regarding Pearson’s Online Testing Services

The US federal government’s attempt at getting a web site ready to handle the crush of simultaneous visitors was very unsuccessful this past October. Do we think that the mad rush to get SBC or PARCC testing up and running will be any different. I don’t … and I really don’t think these testing consortium’s are heading any warnings nor learning from past non-education sector mistakes.

Related:
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2014/04/oklahoma_students_face_second_.html
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/04/22/fairtest-computer-test-failures-are-common/

Pretty decent summary of the upcoming computer based testing.
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/04/23/29cc-promises.h33.html

All I Can Do to Say Thanks

Thank you to my online friends and followers for putting up with my education posts and not all blocking me, unfriending me, or unfollowing me. At least, not yet.

Whether you had your kids refuse testing or not, or if you discussed it with family and friends or not, today was one of the greatest days in parent activism this nation has ever seen, led by knowledgeable and concerned NY parents.

Last year it was estimated between 1000-1200 refused the tests on Long Island out of nearly 215000 who could be tested. Today, we are over 15000 refusers and still counting out of 204000 possible test takers. My home district, where my son was only one of 3 in his whole building last year, topped out at 1398 refusers, 20% of test takers. His school had 32 this year. These numbers will go up in 3 weeks when the math exams are thrown at these kids. There were massive numbers in many districts. Numbers so high the tests are completely invalid and these kids are “More Than a Score.”

Consider this: no other nation over-tests their kids, especially their youngest and most vulnerable (those with special needs), every year from grades 3-12 with countless hours of high stakes exams. None. We stand alone in abusing these kids, hammering their confidence, and killing their creativity all so we can “evaluate their teacher”. Actually, so we can find a way of labeling them ineffective all because these kids could not sit for 540 minutes of high pressure exams. Almost every other nation simply tests students entering high school (or vocational school) and exiting. No, not us.

LI Principal Carol Burris, Education Historian Diane Ravitch, and CW Post Professor Arnold Dodge can sum up this movement much more eloquently than I can. Please read their thoughts here and here and here respectively.

So, one of the many points of this movement was not to coddle our kids, teach them to rebel against authority, nor shake up the schools this week. It was to send a message to Albany. A clear and loud message to NYS Education Commissioner John King and our Governor Andrew Cuomo: You refused to hear us for 2 years, now deal with us. And look what breaking news we have today. Low and behold…it’s our Governor with a “deal.”

Now, Cuomo plans Common Core changes for teacher evaluations

Oh and PS: just watched him on ch 5 news and he said the tests will not count for students and it will be good practice for them. I don’t even think he can make that decision. So, the kids now know it means $&@” and will not care how they do. How could he possibly allow that to be part of teacher evaluations. What a mess!!!!

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