I failed the gym test today

My 4 year old came home from her third day of kinder today (which is her third day of public schooling ever) and said: “I failed the gym test today. I didn’t know any of the answers.” She can’t read yet mind you. Fix this mess in New York!

Who do you think is getting a call on Friday morning? Followed by nasty emails to the Superintendent, our Regent, Roger Tilles, and new NYSED Commish Elia. This only strengthens my resolve to fight the madness that is NYS public elementary school testing. We fought this for the last few years to prevent this exact scenario; to prevent our youngest from being exposed to high stakes tests used to evaluate her teacher BEFORE she can even read. Now I feel like I have failed.

Make a 4 year old uneasy on her third day so much so that the first thing she says when she comes home is she failed. How does she even know what passing or failing is? Who does this? We certainly don’t talk to her about tests, and we are very careful in our home conversation about the refusal movement.

The powers that be have lost sight of the meaning of the German word kindergarten: children’s garden.

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.

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!!!!

All You Need to Refuse the NYS Elementary State Exams

Send the letter below via email and snail mail (hand delivered) to your child’s teacher(s) and principal. Refer to NYSAPE if you receive any push-back. Add in the Science exam if your child is in the 4th or 8th grade.

That is all.

Dear (name of administrator)

We are writing today to formally inform the district of our decision to refuse to allow our child (name) , to participate in the ELA and Math standardized assessments imposed on children across the state for the 2013-2014 school year. Our refusal should in no way reflect on the teachers, administration, or school board. This was not an easy decision for us, but we feel that we have no other choice. We simply see these tests as harmful, expensive, and a waste of time and valuable resources.

We believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administration. We believe in the high quality of teaching and learning that occur in our child’s school. We hope our efforts will be understood in the context in which they are intended: to support the quality of instruction promoted by the school, and to advocate for what is best for all children. Our schools will not suffer when these tests are finally gone, they will flourish.

We do apologize in advance for the inconvenience or scrutiny that this decision may cause the administration, the school, and staff.

Sincerely,
(your name)

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.

NY Districts Withdrawing from Race to the Top (RtTT) to Protect Student Privacy

Post last updated Feb 25, 2014
Note:
Moving forward, I am only going to update the Long Island list.

Districts are finally starting to question all the student data collection, storage, and sharing that New York State is so desperate to track and use. This fall a number of districts decided it was in the best interest of their district to not select a state data daashboard system and instead withdraw, from the federal Race to the Top (RttT) program. One of the requirements for accepting RttT money was to develop, or adopt, a data dashboard to both upload data to the state and provide a view for parents and educators (a portal).

Here’s two of the recent news articles about this issue one from Lower Hudson Valley area and one from Comsewogue and perhaps the best set of questions I’ve read as proposed by the Lower Hudson Valley Counsel of School Superintendents. These are the questions to ask within your local district.

Long Island Districts
Comsewoque (here)
Hauppauge (here)
Longwood (here)
Middle Country (on page 8 in agenda here and letter here and story here)
Smithtown (here)
Southold (here)
West Islip (here)

Elsewhere in New York State:
I stopped keeping track at 20 district, but fortunately Leonie Hamison is compiling a massive NY State list posted here.

* Possibly 20 lower Hudson districts that have withdrawn? Need names there. See post here
* Districts considering doing the same include Dobbs Ferry, Hastings-on-Hudson and South Orangetown.

From Ohio: About 80 districts and charter schools across the state have backed out of the grant program since 2010 http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/03/10/race-to-top-grants-not-worth-costs-officials-say.html

Please use the comments below to let me know of others on Long Island, try to include relevant links, and I will continue to update the list.

Why We Refused the NYS Assessments

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Let me start out by stating that I am not a testing or assessment expert. Nor is my wife. We are both career educators, former elementary teachers, and college educated through teacher preparation programs. More importantly, we are concerned parents who began watching and tracking Common Core implementation and the rapid, unproven, movement towards more high-stakes testing in our state, New York, three years ago. Currently, our 3rd grade son is doing very well in school. He’s a good test taker (whatever that means) and wasn’t concerned about the new NYS assessments…except for one fact. He once stated to us that he was a little worried about them because he thought his scores on them would determine if he went on to 4th grade (they don’t). Why would an 8-year old even have to worry about that?

This post would be so enormously long if I went into detail with every little item that influenced our decision. Instead, here’s our bullet point reasons for going all “999” this spring. What may sound like paranoia, is really the connecting of the dots, so to speak, for us as parents and educators.

1. Common Core (background here)

– Someone else has already decided for teachers what should be taught and when and that someone is government. While the Governors Association and those who defend it have stated there was significant teacher input, hundreds of others refute that. When all I see my son doing is “Common Core aligned”, Pearson stamped, worksheets I know the truth. These standards were not written primarily by teachers (the group is referred to as “the secret 60”) writes Anthony Cody in 2009 (only 1 teacher) here and here. Yes, one teacher involved in the process.
– There are no standardized kids. Why the focus on so many standardized tests? The flawed assumption made by the writers of the Core was this: all children at a particular grade/age are all the same. They should learn the same, move at the same pace, and the outcome should all be the same (achieving a “proficient” score).
– We will have a child in kindergarten next year. Look at what Common Core has done to that age group and their teachers. This is “homework” for a 5 or 6-year-old?
– Our concerns are less at the moment with the actual standards themselves, but more towards the actual rushed,  untested, unproven implementation of them. We are told over and over again that these are “internationally benchmarked”, “robust,” “aligned with college and work expectations,” “rigorous,” and “evidence-based.” None of this is true. This is one huge, costly national “experiment”.
– There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core. Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states.
– We’ve spoken with both preschool and early elementary educators who can’t believe how developmentally inappropriate the standards are. We have allowed our children’s childhood to be stripped from them. And for what? To get the 5-year old ready for his/her career? What other successful, happy, developed nation is doing that? Do you think that most students by the end of kindergarten are developmentally capable of writing a paragraph complete with a topic sentence and details? That is what the Common Core demands of five-year olds. Tell me, does this look like fun when learning math? Or, conformity? Kindergarten literally translated from German means “children’s garden.” Listen to Sir Ken Robinson talk about creativity in schools (or the lack thereof) here and here. His quote has been ingrained in my mind for the last two years: “I can’t imagine that there is a kid in the world who gets out of bed in the morning wondering what they can do to raise their country’s reading standards.”
– Common Core, for parents, has become an information dump. Just read through this widely circulated “memo”, posted right on the front page of our local school district’s web site. Get all that?
– The only state to have administered Common Core tests so far, to date, is Kentucky. The number of students who scored ‘proficient’ or better in reading in math dropped by a third or more depending on grade level. Why weren’t both CCSS and the new testing not field tested AT LENGTH, maybe for a two-year minimum across several states before a nationwide push to adoption? Why the rush to adoption? Easy answer – follow the money.
– CCSS implementation is only in full just being rollout this year in NYS. Testing on it, already?
– Many states are currently looking to get out, or “pause”, Common Core implementation. Review the Bill Status Tracker here. Ask yourself, “Why are they doing this after agreeing to adopt CCSS?” At time of this posting, Indiana was the latest to pause CCSS implementation.
– Here is a direct quote from the NYSED website on the Implementation of the Common Core Standards: “Instead, the results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school.” Results? We are told repeatedly that all we (and teachers) will see is a number indicating proficient or not. Are these tests given to students ages 8-14 really going to explain developmentally whether a child is ready for college or a career? Every child develops psychologically at different times in their lives. But, the state doesn’t care about that.
– “The creators of the Common Core standards have now taken jobs with testing companies which stand to make millions of dollars developing tests based on the standards they created.”  In fact, the main developer of the Core, David Coleman, now works for the College Board. Yes, that College Board.  More here
– NY State’s exclusive $34 million contract with Pearson to supply all the materials we will ever need to “be proficient”. That’s just what has been agreed upon to date, on record. Enough said. More on this topic, in-depth, at a later date.

Resources:
“Eight problems with Common Core Standards”
“Choking on the Common Core Standards”
“Why I Cannot Support the Common Core Standards”
Carol Burris’s Washington Post op-ed covers many of the problems with the new Common Core
“Rotten to the Core”
“Common Core testing begins in NY — but are exams ready for prime time?”

2. Over-testing

– High stakes testing is not about learning; it’s about penalizing.  Because of the wide spread use of these scores, it forces good teachers to teach-to-the test. We’ve seen it first hand where the worksheets sent home day-after-day for homework look exactly like practice test questions, whether old practice questions or some items taken directly from the engageNY web site (where they don’t call them practice test questions).
– This is what we’ve seen this year with our 3rd grade son: benchmark testing, weekly “regular” end of unit type tests, CoGATs, NYS ELA, NYS Math, end-of-year benchmarks, etc. And that’s all just thrown at the 8/9 year olds as if  they can handle all that. Three years ago, Grade 3 testing time was 160 minutes.  This year, Grade 3 testing time was 410 minutes.
– What we need are more leaders like Montgomery County (MD) superintendent who called for 3 year moratorium on standardized testing.
– Standardized testing does not encourage the genius in every child. It stifles creativity and curiosity and leads students to believe that there is always only one right answer for any, and every, problem, and one right way to get there.
– It has created an educational system overloaded with worksheets and drill, skill, and kill.
– Tally up ALL the prep time spent on the tests. All of it, not just the practice tests in class, but those sent home (many over vacation time periods), the days teachers are away to learn about all the testing procedures, etc. All wasted instructional time that teachers could be using to further the learning in our classrooms.
– The relationship of the new testing to teacher performance has never been tested and is challenged by educational experts over and over. Why go with a full on, national shift to implement untested practices and procedures? No one at the state level is listening.
– I hate to say it, but as I understand testing, this is all just the beginning.
– Students are given discrete reading passages they have never seen before and expected to answer questions about them, supposedly demonstrating certain “skills”? Since I’m writing this after the spring NYS testing period, hundreds of stories and posts have been written about the testing experiences. Take a look at the NYS ELA Feedback forum and read the comments. Wonderful, eh?
– Anecdotes like this one abound online: “Bonnie Strope teaches second grade in Odessa-Montour schools. She spoke against high-stakes standardized tests for students in kindergarten, first and second grades. A member of the Odessa-Montour Teachers Association, she recounted witnessing kindergarten students line up to enter a computer lab so they could learn the skills needed to complete tests by computer. “This is far too young!” she protested.” More here
– Mingled in with all the yearly testing we also have Pearson field-testing (overview). A violation of child labor laws, perhaps? If Pearson wants our kids to take practice tests, then can pay the parents who permit their kids to sit AFTER school time in their testing center to take the practice tests. The fact that districts permit this on school time is a disgrace.

Resources:
Press Briefing on the Harms of High Stakes Testing in NY (at least watch it up to minute 22 or so)
Meeting of Long Island education leaders at Hofstra April 10, 2013, “More Than Just a Number
Field Tests: Unfair Burden on Students, by Fred Smith
Standardized Testing Creates ‘Toxic Environment’ in Schools, Professor Says
Rochester, NY School Board Member Says Her Son Won’t Take State Mandated Test
Mapping the Backlash Against High-Stakes Testing (Infographic)
Frontline “Testing. Teaching. Learning?” series with great resources (link to interview with IOWA test maker)

Frontline 2001 interview with James Popham, professor and former test maker, about the uses and misuses of standardized tests here and Future of Education interview here

3. Financial cost

This is one of the big unknowns at this moment. Go ahead, ask your district to provide to you in writing how much they have spent on the move to CCSS and the new testing. Ask them in terms of dollar amounts and manpower hours. I have not seen one district clearly able to identify how much testing, and the move to CCSS, has cost their district. If you can find one, please feel free to comment below. How are districts even supposed to budget for this? I am currently working on a FOIL request for this information anticipating the request to be denied.
– The Rockville Centre Schools Superintendent, Dr. William Johnson, a former president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, said that his district alone has spent $550,000 to $1 million annually for test preparation and administration. He admitted to “low-balling” that figure.
– “Middletown School District Superintendent Ken Eastwood issued a letter last month calling on state and education leaders to not weigh the test grades in teachers’ evaluation formulas, which he said count toward 25 percent of their evaluation as per state law. The Middletown school board voted last week to urge an end to the over-reliance on tests. Eastwood said student results will still fall largely along socioeconomic lines, regardless of the new standards, tests and evaluations. “People are finally getting totally disgusted with what’s going on here,” said Eastwood. Cost of implementing the tests in the next few years will also increase, according to the New York State School Boards Association. The Association said the cost will exceed the federal Race to the Top money to fund it. That will put the onus to pay for the changes on cash-strapped local districts, said the Association. Districts will eventually be required to take the new tests online, Eastwood said. “When we have to tell parents that we’re going to cut music, art, sports or other programs because we have to implement online testing, that’s when people are really going to go berserk,” he said.” More here
– Many experts have already stated that the shift to CCSS and these new tests has already been well more expensive than the federal RTTT dollars received in return.

Resources:
National Cost of Aligning to CCS report here (Feb 2012 from Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research) $15.8 billion nationally over 7 years
[Got any New York State information on cost of CCSS and testing implementation? Can’t locate ANY specifics on this yet.]

4. Data-mining (note that this topic is so huge right now that I am devoting an entire page to it…in development)

– Data collection begins in kindergarten and will continue through all school years, college, and once that child enters the workforce. Literally the potential for 20 years worth of educational data shared OUTSIDE the district and outside the state level.
– FERPA was quietly adjusted in 2011 so the feds would permit…what? Timing is everything.
– inBloom Inc. and NY State…what a partnership, huh? The Reuters article that really drew national interest in this issue and other relevant info here
Screen shots of what inBloom plans to collect for states. inBloom is passing the buck back to districts to say what can and can’t be sent into the database, but then schools say it is up to state guidelines. It is nearly impossible to get straight answers on this topic right now from anyone. I can’t support these efforts until we get details from districts, the state, the feds, and the database partners.
– CBS2 NY report: Experts, Parents, Lawmakers Blast Database Providing Personal Student Information To Vendors
– The New York State Education Department has committed to participate in a “Shared Learning Collaborative” (SLC) with other states whose assessments reflect the Common Core Standards. The SLC is designed to provide analysis of student data so that teachers can access custom analysis and curricular recommendations based upon it. According to the State Education Department, data security will be protected through legally binding agreements as they understand that “the protection of student privacy is and will remain the priority throughout the development and implementation of SLC.” All districts receiving Race to the Top funding will have their data included in the analysis. So the question, among many others, remains: what data are our schools sending to NYS? What is NYS sharing with the 3rd party companies? Good luck trying to find an answer.
– I am trying to find out specifics from my local district as to what data points, or sets, have previously been shared with the NY State Ed Dept, or what the data sharing plans are for the future. Perhaps I am the first person within this huge district to ever ask or even question this?  I hope not.

Resources:
See my complete page on this topic here

“If not us, who? If not now, when?” – Hillel the Elder

5. Use of the scores

– From Carol Burris resolution against high-stakes testing: “All tests and student results should be available to teachers and parents after test administration. They should be used only to inform parents and teachers about a child’s learning and to improve instruction. Tests should exist to serve students not politicians or for-profit testing companies.”
– There is undue pressure on kids to succeed on tests in order for teachers to have an acceptable evaluation. The pressure comes from many angles. Something is drastically wrong with that picture.
– In NYS, standardized tests were originally developed for evaluating programs in schools. That has dramatically changed as these tests are now tied to receiving money, evaluating teachers, closing schools, and more.
– Whatever feedback is given is not timely as it is sent over the summer. Students, teachers, and parents will have no clue what questions were wrong. Does not seem to drive future instruction now does it.
– Who is being assessed? Teachers? Administrators? Students? The implementation of the new Common Core Standards?
– The minute testing is tied to funding, it loses strength as an assessment tool for student learning. Conformity is then about money, not learning.
Campbell’s Law: Raise the skates on the test, you corrupt the test. Yup. Good job NYS, done that.
– The tests were originally designed pass/fail and to identify AIS, however, now they are being used as 20-40% of a teacher’s APPR evaluation and that is unjust. In addition, the tests have become a huge for profit business. Millions of dollars are going to test companies to purchase the test and any preparation materials. What if those millions went to assisting students, buying modern technology, and providing professional development?
– Golfer Tom Watson once said, “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” How true.

Resources:
See the resource links up under item #2 above. All relevant here as well.

6. The Corporate, For Profit, Angle

– As much as the rush to implement new testing and CCSS has been a political move, it has also neatly linked big business with education. Perhaps permanently.
– In New York, Pearson Education currently has a five-year, $32 million contract to administer state tests and provides other “testing services” to the State Education Department. It also recently received a share of a federal Race to the Top grant to create what the company calls the “next-generation” of online assessments.
– Pearson is profiteering off our children while using the money to lobby in state capitals for more testing. They have also designed the tests to be so difficult that even the NYSED indicated that the failure rate will dramatically increase this year. I suspect Pearson will swoop in with all new testing guides, workshops, practice tests, worksheets, books, web sites, and tools teachers can use to increase those scores. Oh, and this will all be at a NEW cost to schools. More here

Resources:
New Questions About Trips Sponsored by Education Publisher
Enough is Enough–Pearson Education Fails the Test Again and Again

7. Parental rights to direct the upbringing of their children

– Parents’ federal constitutional rights: The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents posses the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35) The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own.” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.) In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (262 U.S. 399).

In recognition of both the right and responsibility of parents to control their children’s education, the Court has stated, “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for the obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder.” (Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158)

Resources:
Decisions of the United States Supreme Court Upholding Parental Rights as “Fundamental”
Congress Introduces Constitutional Amendment for Parental Rights

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“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams