Spring 2015 NYS ELA Exam – An Inside View

UPDATE: A Part 2 for this post can be found here.

Parents: If you are in the Long Island Opt Out Facebook group make sure you check in this week to get a sense of what the ELA exams for grades 3-8 were like. You can just lurk and skim. Everything posted below was publicly posted in that group. No comment posted below was edited by me.

Understand as you read these comments below that it clearly shows that THESE tests are not about the students. It isn’t about how much they know, how well they write, how well they find facts, etc. Very many of the questions have multiple good answers and the little minds have to choose the best one. And quickly. Note the very high reading level necessary for the passages. Additionally some of the questions are embedded field tested questions meaning they don’t count towards the scores, but do count against their time. It is obvious to me that the tests were designed for student failure…no doubt in my mind.

This quote was posted as a comment in a different group regarding the exams themselves: “I would like to remind parents: after they are scored, you have the right to view your child’s test ELA book 2,3 and math book 3. It’s in the administrators manual page 46.” Ask your test taking friends to do that for you if you can!

Anonymous post:
“3rd grade test. 3 passages. 7 mc, 3 short response paragraphs. I extended response which is an essay. First passage why do animals play. Fair and mc was ok. Second passage about a girl coming over from China separated from her parents etx. Questions required time and thinking. Higher level. Third passage about drag racing short response was really tough kids god stuck and many siding get to finish test and last question which was ok. Not enough time and many tears again. I feel like an imbecile. Quote from smart student.” (Comment on this post included: “The China passage and questions required inferencing on an adult level. It was ridiculous! Our students are set up to fail.”)

Anonymous Post:
“One of the third grade stories today was an excerpt from a book called eating the plates. According to scholastic it has a grade level equivalent of 5.2 and a 720 lexile level which is on the high side for an 8 year old. Another reason why these tests are not fair.”

Anonymous post:
“Today’s third grade ELA had passages from Drag Racer. Grade level 5.9 and interest level 9-12th grade.”

Anonymous post:
“Today’s 4th grade assessment had a passage from “The Clay Marble” from Mingfo Ho. I googled it. Here’s the grade level: Interest Level Grades 6 – 8, Grade level Equivalent: 6.8, Lexile® Measure: 860L, DRA: 50, Guided Reading: V”

Anonymous post:
“This mornings ELA exam was pure child abuse! There were 5 passages (2 which appeared on last years assessment). Each passage was 2+ pages long. The kids had their 70 minutes to complete 30 questions. Of the 30 questions 17 required the students to look back at various paragraphs! Most of my children didn’t finish and were very upset that they might have disappointed me or their parents when in truth many adults wouldn’t have been able to look back and find the correct answers in a 70 minute time frame. The students were deflated as they tried to find the best answers when MANY of the questions had more than one possible answer to choose from. Children appealed for help but all we could do was pat them on the back and say “keep trying your hardest”. How awful we felt that we couldn’t comfort or help OUR kids on a test that was so far above their level. Of the 10 children in my room during the assessment, I had three gifted and talented students and only 2 kids who receive remediation- they all struggled! Word back from my colleagues in 4th grade was more of the same. Instead of 6 2-page passages like they had last year, students had 5 3-page passages. The vocabulary used most adults wouldn’t be able to define. Overall we had a school of deflated students. I’d also like to point out that their were TONS of grammatical errors. I’d love to share but we are under lock and key!”

Anonymous post:
“Are You Smarter Than a 4th Grader? Well, here are the words you would need to read (decode) and comprehend. Now some of these words may seem okay, but in the context of many being grouped in the same passage, it is overkill. The words with parenthesis were defined with a sidebar. But still, too much fluff! stifling, ajar, hassock (a padded footstool), erratically, frenzied, rabic, illuminated, peculiar, Canuck, plodded, “the crusty guardian”…crusty?, dour, rummaged, floundered, blithely, insurmountable, obscured, obliterated (wiped out or blocked), event horizon (the outer layer of the black hole), scrutinizing (examining or observing with great care), summoned, astounded, maneuvering, arsenal, precautions, straggle, hemp, stammers, coincidence, enormous, glimpsed, precious, whittle, triumphantly, awestruck, gunnysacks, plowshares, laden, wordlessly, encased, refuge, assurances, amulet.”

Anonymous post:
Fourth grade day 3 passages from WHICH WAY TO THE WILD WEST BY STEVE SHEINKIN Lexile 940
HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson Lexile 700 but lists interest level grades 6-8
IF WISHES WERE HORSES BY NATALIE KINSEY WARNOK Lexile 796

Anonymous post:
“5th grade test OUTRAGEOUS! Children had to read over 3,000 words and answer 42 questions that were sooooo ambiguous and such difficult language. All this in 90 min. Many gave up. Just bubbled in. Some didn’t finish. Just wrong.”

Anonymous post:
“The second reading in 6th grade exam given today was titled A Master Teacher by Helen Bledsoe. It was a story about Confucius and how he was credited with the exam system in China. Printed in bold letters on the second page was: Let exams do the ranking
It spoke about how people had to take exams and how those that did well received positions in government based on the results. We were appalled and angry that this found its was onto the exams today. To us it spoke to how little NYSED and Pearson care about parent wishes, students and the testing climate and quietly “attacked” it yet again.”

Anonymous post:
“Here is what middle school kids were subjected to today… 6 lengthy passages to read and 42 questions to answer in 90 minutes. The passages were boring and included subjects and words that the children would not know. When was the last time you used cherimoya, mirth, or bethought?”

Anonymous post:
“The grade 6 test was ridiculous. 6 lengthy passages of 2-3 pages and 6-7 questions based on each passage that required students to constantly to locate paragraph numbers to figure out answers. Within 90 minutes a student had to read all the passages and answer the questions. So that means 15 minutes per passage. Lets pretend that a student took 1 minute to read and answer each question, that would take 7 minutes per passage leaving a total of 8 minutes to read and comprehend the 2-3 page passage. My students were taught all year to annotate / jot notes in the margins. Ummm that is what they were doing as the time was ticking….tick ..tick….tick….tick. I had two students my two that are reading at a 9th grade level able to complete the entire test. The rest of my students had to play color in the bubbles because they ran out of time. They had to guess / select any answer for at least the last 12 questions. This is an adequate measure of my students reading? This is OKAY? This is developmentally appropriate? THIS MY FELLOW EDUCATORS IS RIDICULOUS, UNFAIR, ABUSE OF POWERS, WASTE OF TIME and downright SAD and SICK! My students have worked so hard all year to be treated like this? To feel “dumb” to be graded and labelled with a number? I am so fed up with the profession I so LOVED. My dream job was ROBBED from me. My students self-esteem that I have built up all year was ripped from them today.”

Anonymous Post:
“The NYS Assessments should be used in a court, as evidence of child abuse! NYS ELA Grade 6 Day 1 had a passage, written by a British author in the 1800s, with a readability/ text complexity range from Grade 9-College!”

Anonymous Post:
“6th grade test was ridiculous and frustrating to all. Some passages were readable, but the majority of the questions focused on text structure and specific lines of the text. Students were forced to continuously return to the text to analyze lines for almost every answer choice, which made it virtually impossible to finish in 90 minutes. Most of the selections were science based and a poem was two pages long and way too advanced for sixth graders.Vocabulary was so far over their heads in several passages as well. There were some questions where teachers could not determine the correct answer. It was heartbreaking to watch students struggle and give up. By the end, many were randomly bubbling just to “finish”. This test is no where close to bring an accurate measure of skills taught in any 6th grade ELA classroom!”

Anonymous Post:
Grade 6 Day 3: Open the booklet to see an article titled ” Nimbus Clouds: Mysterious, Ephemeral, and Now Indoors”. The word ephemeral was also used in the text and there was no footnote! I know several adults who could not define this word! After reading this painful article, they were then asked again how a photograph helps them understand certain lines of the text! The paired passages were both focused on the relationships between dogs and their owners. Here are more vocabulary words – paroxysm, sufferance (footnoted) clamorous, furlong, “queer throw back trait” (not footnoted). The children were very confused because people did not have names in the story, but the dogs did. The second paired passage was “That Spot” by Jack London, written in 1908. Again, very confusing with a lot of old English and extremely complex sentences. Vocabulary included “beaten curs”, “absconders of justice” (in the same sentence) surmise, “savve our cabin” , and “let’s maroon him”. Students were asked to determine how the author’s use of the word “that” repeatedly in front of the dog’s name shows the narrator’s relationship with the dog. Think of how difficult this must’ve been not just for general Ed students, but also for our ELL’s and Students with Disabilities! They were then also asked to determine the theme of a paragraph! Most English teachers will tell you that theme is the message the author is trying to convey throughout a WHOLE text. Asking the theme of one isolated paragraph is ridiculous! The essay was a comparison of the challenges of both dogs, which isn’t a poor question. However, the texts were both so difficult for the kids to understand that it made it difficult for them to organize their thoughts. Throw in the fact that they once again had a time limit of 90 minutes and you guaranteed frustration, anxiety, and many not finishing. Thank goodness this test is over!

Anonymous post:
“I’ve proctored the 7th grade ELA this morning and the test has become even more difficult then last year. In one section the students had to read a story and the only question regarding it was a writen response question that asked “how does the dialogue add to the meaning of the story? List two details to illustrate your point”. 11-12 year olds are not able to do this. It was devastating watching them try. They all had no idea what the question was asking. The multiple choice questions asked them to read stories and define difficult words using context clues. However every answer to define the words used even higher vocabulary so even if they could figure out the meaning of the word in the passage was they weren’t able to answer because the had no idea what the definitions of the words in the answer. I would compare the vocabulary in the answers to SAT words”

Anonymous post:
“Grade 7: Excerpt from Under the Lilacs by Alcott. Published in 1878. Included 10 footnoted vocabulary, some with 2 in one sentence. It also included “old” English such as “recognising”, “humourous” and “attind”. There was also Gaelic dialogue mixed in with the vocabulary to really add to students’ confusion. It was extremely difficult overall and most did not finish on time.”

Anonymous message:
I think it is safe to make an assumption that multiple versions of the ELA test are given. That being said, is it reasonable to question IF all the tests are equal? Do all districts receive tests with the SAME number of passages ? Are some students burdened with MORE READING than others to obtain the same number of answers? Are lexiles equal? Is the totality of all the words read in the passages the same for all students? How can a test be standardized if there are multiple versions? Could there be a purposeful distribution of tests so that districts continue to maintain certain standings?

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A Possible NCLB Rewrite – Act Now #ESEA

This week (April 14-16, 2015) begins NY statewide ELA testing. Testing refusals are well underway and I am expecting huge refusal numbers not just on Long Island, but across New York state. The open Facebook group, Long Island Opt Out, has further details and both official and unofficial numbers.

However, we need not lose sight of the fact that the US Congress is taking up possible revisions to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the 2001 No Child Left Behind law (NCLB). Congress (the Senate is discussion the revisions this week) can either call for an end to annual high stakes testing, revise it, or keep it as is. It is imperative that we contact our federal legislators as much as we did recently with our local ones regarding the NYS budget vote. Right now, these politicians in Washington are making a HUGE decision. A decision that very well may  determine what teaching and learning looks like in America’s public schools over the next decade.

Don’t let this slip under the radar. Our US Senators and House representatives need to hear from us this week and until they vote on any proposed changes or this madness will continue and the state can continue to hide under the wording of “it is a federal requirement for students to be standardized tested every year.” The annual testing requirements under NCLB also set in place the punitive effects of testing we are experiencing today from possible loss of funding, to loss of teachers, to labeling students as potentially “not career or college ready.”

Below is a sample of what you can tell them in emails. Please feel free to use it. Come up with your own shortened version for posting to the attention of their social media accounts. Here’s how to find your US Senator and House rep.

______________________

Dear Senator (or Representative),

It is time to reduce annual standardized testing in our public schools.

As you consider the next re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), I urge you to roll back the amount of federally-required high-stakes standardized testing to give students more time to learn and teachers to teach—especially to work closely with students most in need. Further, test scores should not be used to punish schools or teachers nor be used as a wedge to drive a split between what takes place in the classroom and what those in charge want to take place in the classroom.

No nation over tests children, especially those children most in need, more than America. None. Not Finland, Singapore, China, Poland, Canada…none. It is excessive, unnecessary, and actually harmful. You cannot find any research or evidence that the excessive amount of standardized testing that has occurred since NCLB has actually improved schools. None.

I will continue to work hard to advocate for parents to refuse these “federally mandated” annual standardized tests until changes are made. To borrow the motto of one of my local Long Island heroes, Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella, “Stop It. Fix It. Or, Scrap It.”

Respectfully sent,
______________________

Some reading for you on this topic.

Follow the tweets of Politics K-12 here https://twitter.com/PoliticsK12
http://thejournal.com/articles/2015/04/07/senate-ed-committee-unveils-draft-legislation-to-fix-no-child-left-behind.aspx
http://www.nysape.org/nysape-comments-on-esea-draft-legislation.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sens-alexander-murray-propose-bipartisan-measure-to-replace-nclb/2015/04/07/c6c37b3c-dd36-11e4-acfe-cd057abefa9a_story.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/us/senators-propose-bipartisan-bill-to-revise-no-child-left-behind-law.html
http://dianeravitch.net/2015/04/13/mercedes-schneider-part-4-of-her-close-reading-of-the-alexander-murray-bill-to-reauthorize-nclb/
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2015/04/senate_education_committee_con_1.html

American Schools Need Way More Than an Hour of Code

The “Hour of Code” that has swept America off its feet this week is fine and all, but what happens after that hour? America children are wonderful consumers of technology, apps, devices, and screens. It is generally not until high school that they may encounter a sustained experience in programming skills. The topic is rarely visible in the middle schools and practically completely non-existent in the elementary schools. Sure, there are pockets of success here and there, but even within districts that may say they teach these skills to students there is no uniform curriculum for it. One class does it while the neighboring class doesn’t.

Here’s why the American approach is both outdated and dangerous: learning to code teaches you how to think. That is hard to visualize if you’ve never coded. Programming helps develop design and problem-solving skills that are foundational for later academic success. Rewriting spelling words 3x in ABC order doesn’t do that. Nor does monotonous skill-n-drill math homework sheets. Our approach of avoiding, rather than embracing, programming skills is dangerous because we are risking leaving an entire generation of would-be-coders behind. Young children are actually interested in this. They love seeing how things work, how to make them move, and how to deliver commands. Their inquisitive minds are ripe for these experiences. Instead, we are focusing more on other more testable skills like close-reading and break apart math. While those may be necessary as well, it should not be at the expense of learning a vital skill to the world economy right now and in the future. These stand alone hours and days (I call them ‘side-shows’) are really useless. It might pique a child’s interest in the topic, but then what? Can they continue coding on school time? Can they get a loaner laptop from the school to take home and continue coding? Can they skip a math worksheet if they can make the purple alien fly across the screen instead? What is the point of what we are doing now with programming in schools and what goals or problems are we looking to solve? Right now, I believe we are just looking to check the box as more of a PR stunt; “Do your students code?” Yes. We have computer science week because American schools don’t yet see the value in getting ALL students to learn to program. Add the fact that there is no standardized test for it and you can piece together why we’ve failed our children to date.

According to the the recent joint ACM and CSTA report, “Running on Empty”: “In 2009 and 2010, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) conducted a joint study and found that most public schools in the U.S. focus only on the consumer aspects of using computers.”

Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of what schools in the rest world are doing.

In Estonia, the new programming initiative is looking “to turn children from avid consumers of technology into developers of technology.”

In England, the entire computer technology curriculum was redeveloped so students as young as 5 are learning programming skills in the classroom and algorithms. No need for a hour of code there and some fancy posters and political photo-ops.

In Hong Kong, they are looking to have programming taught in at least 20% of the primary schools by 2016.

Even in tech-rich Singapore, they are starting to move towards teaching the little ones how to program. For years, they’ve been like American kids and viewed as just consumers of technology.

There are thousands upon thousands of programming jobs right here in America. A recent search for just one term (computer programming) returns over 58,000 job listings in just one job listing site. Change the search term to app programming, mobile programming, software developer or any other relevant combination and you will find thousands upon thousands of openings. Many of these won’t be filled by Americans. At what point to we seriously look at ourselves and ask why? The American job market has been dubbed as being in bad shape, but improving. All along thousands of ‘high-tech’ positions have remained open and there for the taking. Our society wasn’t ready to fill the need. Our society was (is) still looking for the job descriptions of the 1980s. Will we allow this to happen again in the next version of the worldwide digital revolution? Will our young students be able to develop and create ‘things’ like this:

Forget the hour of code. Really. Do your students and children a favor and give them hours of meaningful coding instead. Weave it into daily school activities. Encourage them to spend less time tapping away at Angry Birds and more time figuring out what makes the birds fly.

Get your students and children learning programming with these resources:
Tynker
HopScotch
Scratch  and ScratchJr
Move the Turtle
Learning to code while playing Minecraft

What Does Unchecked Tech Spending Look Like?

So, here’s why unchecked spending on tech costs taxpayers, teachers, and students. I predict a similar situation in NY after the recent passing of the $2 billion NY Smarter Schools Bond. Are the systems currently in place able to track what will be purchased under that bond? Doubt it. Do your local districts have control over their tech inventory right now? Doubt it. Ask ’em what their annual IT audits look like. Is everything accounted for? Having been responsible for the audit in a local district many years ago, if only for a brief time since I inherited it as a job task, I can tell you with certainty that most districts can’t match their in-use inventory with actual live databases. Old and outdated equipment is probably equally an inventory mess.

One story from the west coast:
FBI seizes LAUSD iPad documents; 20 boxes carted away in surprise visit
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fbi-agents-take-ipad-documents-from-la-school-district-20141202-story.html

One story from the east coast and closer to home:
Stringer Audit: New York City Schools Lost Track of Technology
http://observer.com/2014/12/stringer-audit-city-schools-lost-track-of-technology/

The NYC story is even more distressing than the LA one. The audit only checked 10 schools and the actual NYC DOE offices! Imagine if they looked at all 1800 schools. Disgraceful misuse of funds, equipment, and public trust. Plus, how did the prior city comptroller not uncover this? Who the heck does the annual IT audits? But hey, your kids data … that’s safe with us. Don’t worry about this. Data … we got that over here … over maybe here … or there.

Is Giving Up All Your Data Really Worth a $.50 Coupon?

This topic has been on my mind lately and I was so happy this week to catch this post. I will dig into the details of their research a bit more when the chance arises. For now: Carnegie Mellon Gives Privacy Grade to Android Apps

Here’s the summary –> We are all downloading and installing apps on our devices that have way more access to the info on the device than they actually need in order to function. This includes the Apple fans who need to obtain every new device and app out there, the Google fans who must have the resources of Google at their fingertips, and the schools who rush to get the latest-and-greatest devices and apps in the hands of their teachers and students.

If you use a smart phone, tablet, or any other device that uses apps, do yourself a favor and start to show some concern here. Here’s what you need to do to see how out of control data collection is:

1. Pick the name of a big box store. Make sure it isn’t already an app you have installed on your device.
2. Go into the app store on your device and search for that big box store app.
3. When you find it, read the details of the app permissions. Sometimes you have to touch to install in order to see these permissions. Don’t install it, just read. And read. And read.

Now, you decide if you think the app really needs those permissions. I’ve posted a screen shot below of a popular one. This store needs access to your phone and call logs? The last calls you’ve made? To read your contacts and calendar? Names of connected Wi-Fi devices? Whether a call is active and the remote number connected by the call? Why? Yet, millions of users voluntarily give up this data. Store apps, education apps, game apps … they all want data. And lots of it. Heck, even Plants v. Zombies wants to know if your phone is in a call and the remote number connected by the call. That means when your mom, who doesn’t have a smart phone calls you on yours while you are playing the game, her phone number could be sent to the game manufacturer, EA Inc. No one even questions this nonsense?

DD_app_permissions

Ask yourself if the once a month free coffee you get from the app is worth giving up tons of personal data details from your device including the details of those you may be interacting with on said device. We literally have no idea what is happening with all these newly created data points. Will the data that indicates you ‘check-in’ to a lot of local drinking establishments someday make it’s way to your health insurance provider? When you are using the Maps app in combination with GPS enabled, is data going to one day be sent to your state’s DMV or police department to let them know how fast you drive? If you are ok with this, fine. That’s your call and I will work hard to make sure that data is not misused while you sip your coffee and drive fast. If you aren’t fine with this, great. Join the fight to #ProtectData, especially the data of educators, their students, and their families.

Schools and educators need to step up and start to ask more questions. Stop the rush to get the device and apps and start to figure out why you need them and what you hope to accomplish with them. Review Terms of Service agreements and stop skipping past them. Check app permissions and ask app creators why they have a need for such device access. Find alternatives. Protect student, educator, and family data.

Does Healthcare Data Mirror Education Data

I’ve long predicted the education world will look very similar to the healthcare world in terms of data breaches. The education folks haven’t been learning from the 15 years or so of breaches in the healthcare industry. As education moves very rapidly into the cloud, to mobile devices, to unchecked data collection/sharing/transmission and more, it would be a wise move to slow down for a minute and actually think about this from start to finish.

Why do we collect so much educational data? Who has access to it? Who needs access to it? Why? For how long? How is data destroyed? Who audits the security of said data? Who audits the Terms of Service (TOS) of every 3rd party with access to student information and data? The questions at the moment (many of them unanswered or uncertain) far outweigh the desire for any more data collection, use, and sharing tied to questionable benefits in both short and long term. The “don’t worry, we’ve got this” approach that the data-lovers in the education world take just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Data = money and the education world is the next target.

To borrow a comment from an online post about education data: “And the slew of data breaches gets ignored, and the sale of PII student information continues unabated. When will we wake up to how our children are being used as poker chips in the big gamble for education money.”

Here’s the link that got me thinking some more about this topic:
State data breach numbers sound alarm – Healthcare ranked second worst behind retail in California
http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/state-data-breach-numbers-sound-alarm

NY’s Proposition 3 Passes – Now What?

NY’s $2 Billion Smarter Schools Bond Act passed statewide:

Yes 48.97%  1,806,939 votes
No 30.29%  1,117,639 votes
Blank 20.72%  764,417 votes
Void 0.02%   760 votes

Total statewide votes 3,689,795 out of 10,827,434 active registered voters (approx 34% voter response). Only approx 10% of registered voters marked a Yes on this proposition. Totals as of Wednesday Nov 5 11:30pm

Results from the two counties here on Long Island:
Suffolk
Yes 47.07 %    151,325 votes
No 34.35 %    110,442 votes
Blank 18.56 %    59,669 votes
Void 0.02 %    53 votes
Total votes  321,489 out of  ??

Nassau
Yes  49.84 %    155,187 votes
No  30.66 %    95,446 votes
Blank  19.44 %    60,524 votes
Void 0.06 %    189 votes
Total votes  311,346 out of ??

Once again, a minority of the voting population makes the decisions that impact the majority of us. In the NY City counties of Bronx, Queens, Kings and Manhattan the blanks were even higher varying in the upper 30% to mid 40% range. I feel there should be a 60% minimum needed to pass any statewide proposals (Florida and other states have this threshold).

Here’s what this means for ALL NY’ers.

1. Blanks? Really? 1 in 5 voters did not vote on it statewide. However, 100% of NYers will suffer the long term debt and interest payment for these expenditures. The man filling out his ballot next to me mumbled under his breath “I don’t have time to read all these” after he flipped his ballot over. That’s exactly what the politicians expect and it is exactly what they get. Nearly as many blank votes as No votes is incredible. It impacts every single tax payer. Everyone complains about school taxes being too high and here we have a chance to prevent a massive borrowing scheme used for questionable items that NO DISTRICT ASKED FOR. Only roughly one-third of registered voters even bothered to have their say on the issue. That is very depressing.

2. I’ve documented enough why I felt this bond  should have been voted down. What to do now? Hammer your local district once they release the spending plan for their share of the bond money. Question everything and ask for detail. Find out not just how and why they are buying and building now, but how they plan to pay for it next year, in 3 years, in 5 years and more. For example, if they want to build out classrooms for new pre-K programs, how will they pay for staff, supplies, and more? How many kids are they expecting will fill those rooms? Based on what data that they have? How many pre-K kids do they anticipate they will have in 5 years from now? Etc…

3. Districts are REQUIRED to involve parents (see FAQ posted here). Make sure they do and make sure you have the chance to publicly comment and discuss the expenditures. Send emails so you have a documented paper trail of questions and responses.

4. Hold the districts accountable for the expenditures. In 1, 3, 5 years time make sure they prove the worth of the expenses.

5. These new tech purchases will cement computer based Common Core testing in NY. The state can now move to quickly adopt the PARCC exams. Wait till you see how much these tests will costs districts (and the state) next year and the year after and after. After the dust settles, start to do your own research about PARCC and ask lots of questions of your districts. When they say they are now buying new devices, get them on record as saying they will not be used for testing purposes (or that they will be used for that purpose). Districts across the country have literally bought computers and tablets that are used for nothing more than testing.

6. This vote was actually about an education issue that the people could change. We could have made a difference and prevented a massive amount of financial borrowing. Instead, voter apathy won the day.

7. Governor Cuomo threw this bond, seemingly from out of nowhere, into the state budget in January 2014. No one asked for these funds including the state Board of Regents who only asked for $1million more in the budget for tech spending. So now he got what he wanted even though he recently said this about NY public schools:
““I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term,” he said, “to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly. The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it,” Cuomo said. “I feel exactly opposite.”

Problem is that’s not what the teachers have said. At all.

8. Once an expenditure plan is created, start looking into any and all possible data privacy issues associated with any new purchases, subscriptions to online services, contractors, etc.  All the data related questions you’ve heard about over the last two years are in play here with any 3rd party service and vendor. It is finally on everyone’s radar so make it the focus on your research.

Above all, please educate yourself, family, and friends on not just candidates, but the issues and proposals before heading to the polls the next time. A 20% blank rate is not acceptable. Take a stand for or against something and leave your mark.
________________
References:
http://nyenr.elections.state.ny.us/home.aspx
http://ballotpedia.org/New_York_Bonds_for_School_Technology_Act,_Proposal_3_(2014)
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/30/10bond.h33.html
http://www.empirecenter.org/publications/smart-sounded-good-to-62/
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/30/10bond.h33.html

Thank You, NY Voters, For Leaving Prop 3 Blank

Thank you to the over 20% of NY voters who chose not to answer the ballot proposition #3. Thanks. Really. Thanks for taking the time to care. I am convinced that the majority of voters had no clue what the proposals were for and what they meant. They read the few sentences and voted yes or left blank based on that little info. That is scary. The pols who put those proposals there know that and they could do anything they wanted and it would most likely pass. Prop 3 will probably pass with under 50% of the vote being yes.

http://nyenr.elections.state.ny.us/home.aspx

Here’s percentages of voters as of 10:45 pm that left Prop #3 blank:
Bronx 42%
Queens 36%
Manhattan 28%
Kings 37%
Rockland 33%
Suffolk 18%
Essex 27%

Thanks again for those blank votes. But I do know this: 100% of voters will be paying for the outcomes of this $2 billion of NEW borrowing you just gave the Governor and his chosen few. You will be paying for this for up to 30 years with over $155 million in interest payments alone every year. This will now officially put NY pretty much at it’s state debt ceiling limit. After all, this was just free money, right? Who says no to that.

And on top of it NY voting numbers and turnout are dismal. Once again a minority of the people making decisions for the majority of us. 2% of NY voters left blank their choice for governor. That’s half as many than voted for Green Party candidate Hawkins.

All politics is local.

(Data from link above as of 11:15pm 11/4/2014)