NY Governor Cuomo’s Comments on Elem Testing: He Said What?

What is going on with the powers that be in NYS government and education? The recent comments of Governor Cuomo are a striking difference from recent comments made by the Chancellor of the state Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch. Add to the mix comments by state legislators and we have the setup for a potential steel cage match in Albany’s state capitol building.

Here’s where we start.

March 31, 2014 (here): Governor Cuomo comments about delaying the impact of the new tests on teacher evaluations at an afternoon event at LIU-Post in Brookville: “I think that parents can now exhale. Students can now exhale,” Cuomo said. “The test scores don’t count.” According to the Newsday report of the event, “Under a deal approved by the Senate and Assembly, Common Core-aligned tests for students in grades 3 through 8 won’t be included on their transcripts through 2018. Further, school districts can’t use the scores as the sole way to determine student placement.”

Fast forward another year to more recent comments.

March 20, 2015 (here): Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever responds to concerns expressed by parents of children with learning disabilities and parents attending a pro-teacher rally by dismissing “…the protests as the tantrum of “special interests.”

April 2, 2015 (here): Dr. Kathleen Cashin, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, representing Brooklyn, pens a statement to Diane Ravitch and states: “As a Regent of the State of New York, I cannot endorse the use of the current state tests for teacher/principal evaluation since that was not the purpose for which they were developed.” She continues, “How can we criticize people for opting out when the tests have not been verified? We need to cease and desist in the use of these tests until such time as we can be confident of their reliability and validity. If tests do meet those criteria, the tests must be released to teachers and to the public after they are given, in the spirit of transparency and accountability.”

April 15, 2015 (here): Board of Regents Chancellor Tisch downplays the opt-out movement and paints parents as confused patsies of a labor action in a discussion with Diane Ravitch on MSNBC. Chancellor Tisch said, “The intent of the test is to give a snapshot of performance and allow parents to know where their children are at any given point in their educational career as compared to their peers.” She continued with this rebuttal to one of Ravitch’s comments: “I would say that the tests are really a diagnostic tool that is used to inform instruction and curriculum development throughout the state.” She later added, “…school districts report to us all the time that they design curriculum around the results of these tests. I would say to our parents that our kids have got caught in the labor dispute between the governor and the teacher’s union.”

April 24, 2015 (here): Governor Cuomo provides the most telling sound bite to date: “The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City. Cuomo said he believes they haven’t done a good job of publicizing the fact that the tests, for at least the next five years, won’t count at all for the students.”

“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count,” Cuomo said.

He said what?

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.

NYS Assembly Education Hearing on Disclosure of Student Personally Identifiable Information

02November 20, 2013 NYS Assembly Education Committee Hearing on Disclosure of Student Personally Identifiable Information
Full video with agenda here

I was only able to hear portions of the hearing and jot down a few notes and quotes. The details and quotes below are not in order of appearance.  I will listen to the entire hearing at some point and add to my summary below. If anyone else watched it and wants to comment, please feel free to use the area at the bottom of the post.
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Assemblymember’s question (missed who asked this): What has been collected to this point?
NYSED response: State has provided student data to inBloom, but not with names. As we move closer to final implementation, we will provide names to finalize testing process and dashboard use (says Ken Wagner)
– Commissioner King says over and over we are not sharing data, they are jsut storing it. Also says the data can’t be used for research purposes. (Not sure that is accurate, but have to research this. I thought I read in several places online they do provide data to researchers.)
– King says “we are not collecting new data”  … Wagner later says “We have collected new data elements over the past couple of years. Student level attendance started last year and student level suspension started this year. But those data elements are something we would have collected independent of the inBloom project.” So a grey area here. Are they playing games with the wording? Appears to be. Better question would be: What new data elements are you collecting specifically as a result of using inBloom or because of the technological capability that inBloom provides? What about in the future?
– King says districts can’t opt out of providing data to state. Must comply with state and federal law. (So, what are the federal and state requirements for data collection?)

– Ken Wagner says we do not provide student level data to the federal government. Also says data collection is a must for federal accountability purposes. “We have a federal requirement to monitor school programs” (says Wagner.) Ok, spell it out. What has to be monitored and what data must be collected to abide by the “federal requirement?” It is never definied or explained.

“Doesn’t the parent have the right to selectively withhold info?”
-Assemblymember O’Donnell
(He grilled King and Wagner and made it real personal. That’s what we need to do as parents. Make it personal.  NYSED: No reply to the question. Have to abide by the requirements of the laws.)

“Our ability to protect our privacy has not caught up with mechanisms used to protect the data. Parents ought to have a choice. Parents should have the right to not have child’s data sent to X.”
-Assemblymember O’Donnell

“I don’t understand why the names of each child need to be attached to this data.”
-Assemblymember Jaffee
(Bingo. Please ‘splain it NYSED. She also asks a great line of questioning about the contract line that appears to indicate districts can request info be deleted from inBloom. NYSED: No reply.)

“There will be a move in the legislature to revisit those laws that require so much data collection.”
-Assemblymember Nolan
(Bingo. Just because it is law doesn’t mean now, considering our current technological capabilities and potential security issues, it is good law. Please examine the laws and adjust.)

“Has any money changed hands between NYS and inBloom?”
-Assemblymember ? (missed who asked this)
NYSED reply from King: inBloom is funded until Dec 2014 by philanthropic ventures. $50 million of state money has been spent for the portal project so far. Past Dec 2014 how much will it cost? (???)

“What are the penalities for a breach?
-Assemblymember ?? (missed who asked this)
(Wagner: “No idea.”  The recent Sachem School Distrcit breach is mentioned, although it has nothing to do with inBloom.)

“Commish King, you are a master at avoiding questions.”
-Assemblymember Abinanti
(He questions why the state’s agreement with inBloom is specifically referring to the laws of the state of Washington. NYSED: No reply. Not aware of this.)

Assemblymember Abinanti refers to the NYS P-20 plan as a result of a tweet I sent him during the hearing. Bravo! First time I recall hearing it in public in any hearing or discussion. He is shocked to just discover this via an email he received during the hearing (it was a tweet, but that’s ok). More on this here. This, my friends, is something to dig into. Mr. Little’s reply was very good.

NY refusing to have a parent opt out. Illinois has up to 35 districts that might participate, with a parent district opt out option AND are not including health info. NYSED has not put limits on what data the districts can send into inBloom.
-Leonie Haimson
(Corrected the word parent as per Leonie’s comment below.)

* Listen to every one of Assemblyman Abianti’s questions and the responses he is given. There are almost no direct answers to questions.
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Press on the hearing includes:
inBloom is not in the room
Ed Comm King Faces Bi-partisan Grilling by Assemblymembers
Assembly Education Chair Threatens Subpoena Against Data Company

Keep Those Tweets, Emails, and Calls Going … You Can Make an Impact

During the NYS Assembly Education Hearing yesterday (Nov 20, 2013), I sent a tweet to Assemblyman Abianti. I was pleasantly shocked to hear and see the Assemblyman refer to the tweet (he called it an email, but ok) and the NYS P-20 Longitudinal Database Plan. He brings it up as a statement/question during the hearing to put it on the record much to everyone’s surprise. Watch the moment at the video linked below at the 4 hour and 16 minute mark just past when Assemblyman O’Donnell finishes his statement. Assemblyman Abianti wasn’t able to ask this of the NYSED officials, but I am assuming this will come up again and will hopefully be something the politicians start to investigate. Mr. Little’s response was fantastic as well.

http://nystateassembly.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=769

So parents send your tweets, Facebook posts, emails and more AND send them during these hearings or at any chance you can!  Here’s mine during the hearing.

LI Education Forum Summary: The King Is Still Not Listening

Topic: NYS Education Regents Reform Agenda, blah, blah, blah
In attendance: NYS Education Commissioner, John King, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch (not this one, the real one), State Senator John Flanagan, and lots of special interest groups.
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I have to say, tonight was powerful. The passion, energy, commitment, and dedication of our Long Island parents and educators was palpable in Ward Melville High School tonight. Tomorrow it is your turn Mineola area!

Last spring, before my wife and I made our final decision to have our son refuse the NYS assessments, I attended a parent/educator meeting in Mt. Sinai. The meeting was very well attended on just a week’s notice. Again, I thank Jeanette Deutermann for her tireless efforts to both raise awareness of the misguided NY educational reform agenda and for inviting me to that forum. I left that forum feeling inspired, educated, and determined. I vividly recall coming home that night and saying to my wife: “Dear, we just found ourselves a cause around which we can rally.” Actually, I don’t think I said it that nicely as a result of drinking a beer, or two, at the time. That was my first “no turning back” moment. Tonight was my second.

For starters I missed my fellow green lacers from the Lace to the Top group and my fellow district parent advocates from SCAPE outside. I arrived later than planned (but did make nearly 17 traffic lights in a row all the way from the south shore to Old Town Rd – all green lights) and wanted to rush inside since a friend was holding a seat. Thank you, Jane St. Pierre, for attending. It really means so much to me and my family to have your support, insight, and expertise. So I missed all of you “cool kids” hanging out stirring up trouble literlaly on the corner. Mark, Kevin, Jeanette, Sara, Janet … next time. I did arrive with 12 22″ green glow-stick-necklaces, proudly wore mine inside, and drove home will all of them in my windshield. I also did go out to look for you a little after the mid point, but then returned to sit with the overflow crowd in the cafeteria. Out of guilt for missing everyone, I came home and forced myself to have a bowl of green ice cream. It was terrible. I did spot the educational rockstar, Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joseph Rella literally standing in the back the entire time after coming in from hanging out with the cool kids.

The crowd. What can I say. Were they loud? Yes. Were they sometimes rude? Yes. Did the Commissioner expect anything else? No. The way these “public” forums are setup, the organizers left themselves open for these types of passionate outbursts. That and the fact that Commissioner King refused, yet again, to address any questions presented to him in these forums. He literally opened his first talking segment with, “Let me tell you why 45 states adopted the Common Core…” When you see someone like Commack Superintendent Dr. James cut off after a measly two minutes you ask yourself, “What’s the point?” Of course, every speaker went over time. The holding up of the time warning signs right in the field of vision for the speakers was a little much in my opinion. Here we have years of frustration all boiling over and you are supposed to package it up nicely into a nice 2 minute box. Not going to happen.

Speaking of packaging things up nicely … have you seen the video of PJSTA President Beth Dimino presenting her case at the forum? She was one of the first few to speak and it was shocking that she did not have that much to say. I mean she only had 50 letters, and mailed 300 others, asking for Commissioner King’s resignation. Maybe that just wasn’t enough letters? I bet we can drum up a few more. She had her red on for public ed and her green lace around her neck. Standing ovation #1.

My view of Beth’s powerful message is here.

I don’t have a list of speakers, but up to the point I left, they were all really good. Even the ones I may not have agreed with 100% were still making an effective case for their message. These were all points we could sit down at the table and discuss with the NYSED officials and the Board of Regents, but you see, that will just never happen. This is clearly a dog-and-pony show, smoke-and-mirrors, or whatever other over-staged phrase you want to use (feel free to comment below with some good ones.)  This King is still not listening.

I was proud to listen to Sachem Schools Wenonah elementary principal, Christine DiPaola speak. She made very powerful comments about every educational reform item that concerns me as a Sachem parent. If I can find her video or transcript, I will repost it here. I am sorry to have missed the other two Sachem speakers. Principal DiPaola was standing ovation #2.

As the speaker is called from the Smithtown school district, I am thinking, “I wonder what she will say considering I saw some resistance last spring from Smithtown with regards to the parent refuse movement.” I have to say, Smithtown parents and educators your Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Bradshaw spoke very eloquently about this current mess. I sense some support there and hope it was genuine. I believe she was standing ovation #3.

There was another star tonight and that was Eric Gustafson from the Three Village School District. Watch for yourself and you’ll see why he received standing ovation #4.

There were some quotes and quick moments that stood out.

– “The Mommies in NY don’t abuse their children.” –Beth Dimino
– Paraphrasing this one: Please explain to me Mr. King why I was rated 19/20 last year and only 11/20 this year. I am the same person. I lead my students the same. –Longwood Middle School Principal, Dr. Levi McIntyre
– “What has happened to the common sense of the Common Core? If this intiative does fail it will be due to pilot error with you and the state at the controls.” –Sachem Schools Wenonah Principal, Christine DiPaola
– “What about the kids? What about the kids?” -Yelled by a special interest group member from the back of the auditorium

And my favorite one-liner of all: “We agree more than we disagree about these points.” – John King

Is that so?

One of the things that really struck me while I listened to Commissioner King provide a “timed” response three different times was exactly what others online have said about him, and his speeches: he did not once mention the students. Hours of thoughtful, passionate pleas from these many educators and parents who see what all these new education reforms are doing to these kids presented before him and he doesn’t once mention the students, the children. Every single reform buzz word/phrase was used. He barely, I mean barley, remotely referred to anything the speakers mentioned. He picked up on a keyword or phrase like “professional development” if someone mentioned that. Then he’d go on and on that he’d help and he’ll get more money, but it never addressed the point the speaker was making about professional development, or whatever else the topic might have been. He has failed his Common Core listening skills module.

And here’s a few online comments I just discovered:
– ” Tonight I heard such articulate speakers ask very intelligent questions and Commissioner King did not answer any if them.” -LM
– “So proud of all the amazing people who spoke on behalf of the children tonight and ALL the green laces that were inside and out! Bad news…. King is STILL NOT LISTENING….” -JR
– “If there is a better parent organizer than New York Ed Commissioner John King, I have yet to meet him! He has single handedly turned thousands of parents in New York State into education activists!!!” -MN

A common comment from the audience during a lull, was: You’ve rallied the mommies. Something of that sort. My response … don’t forget about the daddies, too! So, that’s all I can recall from memory from tonight.  I urge all New York residents to get out and attend one of these meetings. Don’t sit there and complain all day about teacher pay, standards, testing, your taxes paid to the schools. Listen to these people. Hear their message and understand the concerns. Don’t be like Commissioner King and pretend to listen knowing full well your mind is already made up.

Here’s some local media coverage of the event.

Patchogue Patch:  State Ed Commish Slammed in Common Core Forum
Port Jefferson Patch:  Realtime Live Updates (now archived)
Newsday:  Hundreds attend East Setauket forum about state testing
News12 Long Island: LI Residents Gets Heated at Common Core Forum
Times Beacon Record North Shore of LI: State Education Commissioner Faces Heated Criticism

Note: I edited the text above to include the name of my “friend” who held my seat after receiving her permission to do so. The original wording when first posted kept her anonymous. That is no longer needed.

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

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

“MOTION TO APPROVE THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTION

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.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED,

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.

STOP IT – FIX IT- or SCRAP IT.”

Best Posts About Recent NYS Test Score Announcements

Here’s the four best posts, all from local NY/NJ admin, about the NY State ELA/Math test results released this week that I’ve come across.

NY Principal Carol Burris in Washington Post  here
NJ Principal Eric Sheninger  here
Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder, Superintendent of Voorheesville CSD  here
Joseph Rella, Superintendent of Comsewogue  here (PDF)

Talk about leadership!! If these admin “get it”…why don’t all of them? That’s the question I keep asking myself and I think one of the ones that tick me off the most. Please use the comments to share the best articles and posts from district and school admin that you have read on the topic of the newly released NY scores.

Rally for Public Education June 8 in Albany, NY

“We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.” NYSUT President, Richard Iannuzzi is a little fired up about the June 8th rally in Albany.