Questions About NY’s Implementation of Current Education Reforms

The New York specific set of questions below was inspired by Susan Ohanian’s questions for Vermont’s education leaders. In turn, Susan was inspired by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Daniel J. Forest’s open letter to that state’s chief education officer, asking 67 questions about the Common Core State Standards. Read more on the original post here: 28 QUESTIONS ABOUT THE COMMON CORE. Please feel free to use the comments area below to submit an answer for any of these questions. I am, however, looking for a response from official NYSED or NYS Legislative representatives.

The Standards
1. Please provide the names and qualifications of the New Yorkers “actively involved” in the development of CCSS; include minutes and materials.
2. Please make public all CCSS-related correspondence between the New York State Education Department, the governor, and members of the New York Legislature between January 2009 and July 2010.
3. Did NYSED, the State Board of Regents, and members of the New York legislative education committees examine dissenting views before adopting the CCSS? (Please provide a list of individuals, groups, associations providing reasons for NOT pursuing CCSS.)
4. Can you point to pedagogical research supporting the following CCSS directives (offered as tiny examples of inappropriate mandates)?
• Kindergarten: Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme words.
• Grade 6: Establish and maintain a formal style in writing.
5. Please name the international standards used as CCSS benchmarks.
6. Please provide research showing even a causal relationship between any national standards and economic competitiveness.
7. What was inadequate about New York’s previous standards?  Please provide evidence of New York schools not teaching our students to read, write, speak, listen, and learn math for the past several decades.
8. What is the cost of providing teachers with resources to make the change to CCSS?
9. Is this cost the responsibility of taxpayers in local districts?
10. Has consideration been given to what schools will have to sacrifice in order to meet the standards?
11. Were local school boards consulted before CCSS adoption? Please provide details of these discussions.
12. When New York adopted CCSS, what convincing information superseded the fact that the radical CCSS, written by non-educators, was not research-based, not field-tested, not proven effective?
13. The CCSS can be changed/altered by “15%” to accommodate local needs. What constitutes a percentage point when modifying CCSS?  Who can request such modifications for New York? To whom does New York submit modifications?  What happens if changes above “15%” are made?
14. The Pioneer Institute estimates the cost to implement CCSS nationally at about $16 billion over the next seven years. Six Rockland County (New York) school districts estimate a four-year cost of $10,886,712. What is the cost projection for the entire state of New York? Please also provide a detailed timeline of implementation tied to costs as well.

15. How are the potential PARCC assessments aligned to CCSS better than previous assessments (which New York taxpayers paid a lot to develop)? Please make public correspondence and documentation of New York participation in PARCC meetings.
16. What is your best estimate for the time CCSS assessments will take from regular school studies?
17. Who will determine cut scores, the number of right answers students need on a test to be deemed proficient, on the new CCSS exams?
18. What happens to students who do not meet these cut scores?
19. Why did New York decide not to extensively field test CCSS assessments prior to the complete roll-out?
20. So far this year, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia have withdrawn from assessments (PARCC) associated with CCSS. Pennsylvania put its participation on hold and PARCC is in deep trouble in Florida and Ohio. Has New York looked into the option of withdrawing from PARCC completely? Why or why not?
21. To accommodate just the technological requirements for CCSS assessments, Florida budgeted an additional $450 million and California an extra $1 billion. What has New York budgeted for technological improvements to ensure our schools meet the basic requirements for CCSS assessment?
22. Does every New York school have bandwidth capacity for the CCSS assessments? Please provide a list.
23. Will the implementation of new technology requirements to accommodate CCSS assessments require local schools to hire additional IT staff?

Origin of the Common Core
24. Do you think that the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent several hundred million dollars to create and promote the CCSS, shutting teachers out of the process, puts the democratic process in jeopardy?
25. In his State of the Union address President Obama referenced CCSS: “We’ve convinced nearly every state in the country …” What form did federal “persuasion” take in New York’s decision?
26. What is the federal role in how we evaluate our teachers? Are federal money or grants involved?

Data Collection/Storage/Sharing
27. inBloom Inc. states that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored, or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.” Please detail any communication between representatives from inBloom and the New York State Education Department regarding this statement.
28. Please list what specific data points will be collected on New York public school students and shared with “contractors, consultants and volunteers.”
29. Please provide the names of contractors, consultants and volunteers who conducted research over the last two years using New York State student and/or teacher data.
30. Can New York parents and students “opt out” of the collection and storage of personal information in education databases associated with either CCSS or Race to the Top (RttT) implementation? If so, what is the process? If not, why not?
31. Please cite the specific wording and definitions in both federal and state law that requires data collection. Please also cite the specific pieces of data these laws are requiring districts to collect and send to the state.
32. What happens if a student transfers from one district to another within the state? What data is sent electronically to the new district without parent consent? What about medical records associated with special needs students? What happens if the student transfers out of state, to a non-inBloom state?
33. Students are now encouraged to upload all high school courses and grades when completing the SUNY Online Academic Record (SOAR). What happens to that data when students decide to no longer move through the application process or enroll in a SUNY school of higher education?
34. Why does all the state data collected about students need to be personally identifiable to each individual student? Please provide evidence and educational rationales that support that decision.
35. Please explain how the new inBloom database/system fits into New York’s larger plans for a statewide P-20 Longitudinal Database System. What is the educational value of the statewide longitudinal databases? Where has one been setup, tested, and used for an extended length of time (a decade or more) and found to be a valuable tool in making statewide decisions?


My Notes From the Open Forum Led by S.C.A.P.E

I posted the message below in the Lace to the Top Facebook group. My notes from tonight’s meeting follow the comment. Next time you attend a local forum, bring a friend, a parent, a teacher, a concerned neighbor. If you add one each time, you will have an over flowing room very quickly.

Special thanks to the S.C.A.P.E. advocates for organizing this. Would love to speak at the next one. (Stands for Sachem Community Alliance for Public Education.) We can try to get a web site going for the group and community as a place to organize and share content, especially some of the background knowledge. I have a lot of info right here on my bog that may help.  Check the links above and to the right. I am working on the data-mining page above.

Tonight I got to meet a rock star. Yes THAT rock star. Dr. Joe Rella (and his lovely wife)!!! What an honor to hear him speak to our local group in Sachem. Blog post pending, but it was great to hear him tell the story of the original letter that started the movement. How every superintendent doesn’t think like him is beyond me. Intelligent, reasonable, rational, informed, and most importantly caring. All he wants ia for the kids to be kids and to right the wrongs. It is inspirational to hear him speak. He had his green laces on and I had my laces, glowing necklace, and bracelet on then ran home to have green ice cream (again this week). People are starting to connect the dots. Even if it’s only 5 today, then 10 next week. Just keep telling them to bring a friend and spread the message. These 3 quotes sum up hearing Dr. Rella tonight:

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”
“In a civilized country when ridicule fails to kill a movement it begins to command respect.”
-All from Mahatma Gandhi


Thank you to Jeannie Cozetti for opening the night by telling your story and explaining Race to the Top and how it impacts our state. One thing you said really stood out for me: “Don’t let a test score define your kids and their teachers.” Oh, and you nicknamed Sara Wottawa the “Fact Machine”!

Thank you to Doug Smith from NYS Assemblyman Al Graf’s office from speaking to us and starting Assemblyman Graf’s position on this important issues. If you have not signed the Fix New York Schools Petition yet do it tonight! Support his legislation in the NY Assembly Bill A.7994 to withdraw from Common Core and Race to the Top.

Thank you to Mary Calamia for sharing the details about the very harmful physical and psychological effects of the Common Core Learning Standards and high-stakes testing and its impact on our children.  I will link to your written testimony at the NYS Assembly Education Committee hearing here. Thank you for being such a great advocate for these kids and helping to put an end to this madness. Your’s is a story everyone should hear.
– Normal year she gets 20 student referrals
– Now 50% of case load is 8 and 9 year old
– Last October she was getting near 10-12 calls/referrals a day. Serves 20 districts.
– Lots of self mutilation as a result of stress and other school related factors
The rest of her story … I can’t even type it. It is too upsetting.

And a final, big thank you to Comsewogue Superintendent (once dubbed “America’s Superintendent”) Dr. Joe Rella. Me_Rella_VWIt was an honor to both hear you speak and talk with you, and your wife, afterward. Thank you for staying so late as well. Here’s some notes from his talk:
– Dr. Rella told his teachers not to use the state test results for anything. How can they? A 1, 2, 3, 4 with absolutely no idea how they achieved that score.
– RTtT starts with developmentally inappropriate standards. Harmful in the lower grades especially.
– State Modules not complete don’t match the standards. Districts don;t even have them all and they are supposed to test on this.
-” It is hard for kids to accept day after day that I’m a loser.”
– The scores are useless and have nothing to do with the kids. Are used for the next piece of RTtT, that is APPR, the teacher/principal evaluations. 20% of teacher eval from the state tests, 20% from local assessments (SLOs, etc.). There are high stakes here.
-“How many of you had to see a shrink after taking the Regents? None of you. Not anymore.”
– Numbers matter. Blast everyone with calls and emails. Strength in numbers.
-“We’ve gotten lazy as citizens.”
-“There is nothing right about it.”
-In his district it cost $250,000 just for administration of the tests. District got $30,000 in RTtT funds. Basic economics here.
-He sent a formal “opt-out” letter to inBloom’s CEO to request that his district’s data be removed from their system and to indicate he wasn’t participating anymore. He just received a written reply back (paraphrasing here): “Thank you for your letter. Your contract as a district is not with us. Please contact your state.” He is working on his next step.
– And on 12/22 he will be a TV star. Tune in to channel 7 at 5:30 am. (It’s a Sunday so set your DVR.)
-“Stop it. Fix it. Scrap it.”

Thank you to all the S.C.A.P.E. advocates who organized tonight’s forum. We will double the crowd next time, I promise! Sachem friends and neighbors, please join our Facebook group and get informed. Our students are more than scores.

The Cupcake Test

I received permission from Marianne to post her entire comment below. This originally appeared as a reply within the comments section of a recent Diane Ravitch post. I thought the comment was so insightful, that I wanted it to stand out on its own. Thank you, Marianne.

By Marianne Giannis
November 5, 2013 at 8:38 am
Here is my idea of how to be heard since the “reform” leaders don’t seem to hear the protests, emails, meetings etc. I call it “The Cupcake Test.” Read below to understand what this test is all about. Perhaps the people in power will start to understand what is important to children, parents, teachers, and schools if they receive cupcakes with a message. For example, a cupcake with “freedom to learn” written upon it. It’s worth a try.

The Cupcake Test

I teach 1st through 6th grade at a private, non-profit Montessori school in Wisconsin. We don’t do any standardized testing of any kind at our school. So let me rephrase my first sentence: I teach all day, every day, for nine months out of the year at a Montessori school.

I love the little bubble that I am so fortunate to go to every day. The children I teach are happy, curious, capable people and I enjoy having conversations, making discoveries, and trying out new things with them. I don’t like to even call them “my students” because so much of what they learn is a result of their own personal quest to know more about the world: past, present, and future. It is a really nice place to work, teach, and learn and I think that they feel the same way.

But I also like to know what is going on beyond this wonderful bubble. Outside of my school bubble, these happy, curious, capable people would be referred to as learners. Outside of the bubble, their knowledge would not be solely for their own personal benefit but used as data. Their experiences would not be unique but standardized, franchised, and homogenized across the county as we, as a nation, collectively run this “Race to the Top.” I wish that every child, teacher, and parent could join me in my bubble. Sorry, everyone else in eduland, you are not invited.

Here is my solution to educational reform that is easy, simple, and cheap. I call it the “Cupcake Test.” How do schools get the things that they really want? Bake sales. If parents, students, and teachers really want something for their school, they hold bake sales. If the cause is really important to them, people will take the time to bring in plates of cupcakes and then other people will buy them. How would the Common Core reform stand up to the cupcake test? Let’s say CCSS vs. fictional books, or CCSS vs. freedom from standardized testing, or CCSS vs. time to get to know each student, CCSS vs. learning just because it is what makes life interesting? Which cause do you think would win?

So here’s my point. Would we as a nation have supported this latest educational reform if it had to be funded by cupcakes or is it being initiated because there is so much corporate funding providing the money? Is it really important to the parents, students, and teachers and did anyone in eduland take a moment to ask them?

View the original comment in context at Diane’s post here:


Students Not Scores Rally and Info

These tests are meaningless. What (who) is the state trying to evaluate: students, teachers, admin, schools, curriculum, ….? You can’t possible have a series of tests that evaluates all of that, which is exactly what they are now trying to do. We (those of us opposed to the recent round of education reforms including CCSS, high-stakes testing, APPR, etc.) aren’t opposed to testing or evaluation. We are opposed to rushed implementation of the CCSS, Pearson worksheet drill-n-kill, lack of funding for these new initiatives, more testing and changes coming under PARCC, the hidden scores, tests, and results, etc. The list or reasons to oppose goes on-and-on. “Stop it. Fix it. Scrap it.” Great rallying call right now. One of my favorite SNL clips comes to mind:

Here’s some reviews, write-ups, and details about the very successful “Students, Not Scores” #SNSRally. Consider that nearly, if not over, 2,000 people attended the rally on just one week’s notice and organizing. The idea for the rally began after a letter from Dr. Joseph Rella went viral in various Facebook groups, through tweets and re-tweets, and a constant sharing of the message with those who care and those who needed to be “educated” on the topic of high-stakes testing and ed reforms being rushed through here in New York.

Links listed below do not constitute endorsement of ideas, reviews, sites, bloggers and the like. These are simply provided for readers in one place to convey a sense of what took place at the rally.

3 separate video clips of Comsewogue Superintendent, Dr. Joseph Rella addressing the crowd :: here

The “Students, Not Scores” site setup by Dr. Rella :: here

Summary from the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association site titled: “#SNSRally Going Forward” :: here

“More Than 1,500 Parents, Students And Teachers Rally Against John King And His Common Core Tests In Port Jefferson” :: here

Photos from the rally :: here

The Port Jefferson Patch’s article on Saturday’s rally :: here

NYSUT’s review of the rally :: here

“Comsewogue School District Hosts Rally Against State Testing” :: here

Families, educators rally against Common Core, state exams :: here


The following resolution was adopted at the SNS rally – UNANIMOUSLY!!!


WHEREAS, The NY State Common Core initiative, implementation, and testing regimen hurts children. And

WHEREAS, We believe that our children are a light, a beacon and that this light is in serious jeopardy of being extinguished by this abusive initiative.


We call upon the Governor, The Regents, The Commissioner of Education, and the State Legislature, to call a halt to it immediately AND have it examined by educators. If it is capable of being fixed – fix it. If it is not, then throw it out – scrap it.


What Will New York Do with Common Core?

June 3, 20113 update to the original post below. Assemblyman Al Graf confirms via comments in the Facebook thread linked here that he is working on drafting the bill and hopes it will be ready this week (the week of June 3rd). Facebook login required to read the comments in the above linked thread.  Here’s one of the comment by Assemblyman Graf:

The best thing about having a lot of people here on Facebook is that they all have different representatives. I should have my bill drafted next week. If you agree with the bill that I am drafting (when it is completed), then I would encourage everyone who is interested to speak with other representatives to sign on as cosponsors. Additionally, what this petition website is doing, is requesting the Governor submit a “program bill” in both houses to fix this problem.


Original post below

With permission, I am re-posting the comment below from the LI Opt-Out Facebook group. Obviously, we don’t know where this may lead, but this is the first I am seeing an elected NY official actually take steps (allegedly) to halt the implementation of Common Core in NY. Since this is only hearsay to this point, I will report back and edit this post if this comes to fruition…or not.

ARE YOU READY?! Because we are ALL about to make some history!
Today Sara W. met with Assemblyman Graf and Jeanine C. was tuned in via conference call. We spoke with him and he WILL BE DRAFTING A BILL to withdraw New York from ALL the federal requirements of Race to the Top which including Common Core, High Stakes Testing and those assessments linked to teacher evaluations, data collection and closing of schools. All that is within the Race to the Top WE are drafting to be removed from!
This was our goal from the beginning…..and when I say beginning I mean just 7 weeks ago. We just don’t talk in this group, we WALK it!
So in one week P-TACC (Parents and Teachers against common core) will have a bill to bring to EVERY SINGLE politician in New York and DEMAND that our children, teachers and country be our FIRST priority!

Weingarten Calling for Moratorium on Common Core Stakes

This is big news mostly because she was on stage in front of NY State’s Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who helped steer New York’s adoption of the tougher standards when she spoke.

AFT President Randi Weingarten calling for moratorium on Common Core stakes

“When states and districts get the alignment right — moving from standards to curriculum to classrooms to feedback and improvement — student success will follow,” Weingarten is saying, according to her prepared comments. “But until then, a moratorium on stakes is the only sensible course.”