Public Comment Period for Proposed Changes to NY State Teacher Evaluation Process APPR

The public comment period for proposed changes to New York State’s teacher evaluation process (known as APPR) is now open. To date, I have not been able to locate a date when it closes nor find a link on NYSED’s site that explains this. Others in NY, including senators, have been posting to their social sites about it. Comments should be sent to the NYS Education Department and the Board of Regents through the following email:

On a related note, here’s a great blog post by a teacher from the spring of 2013 when NYSED also had an open window for public input. It appears they just refuse to listen. So while I am hopeful that all the new feedback they receive will have an impact, I am realistic and smart enough to know it won’t.



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.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Cupcake Test

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

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

The Cupcake Test

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

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

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

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

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

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


Students Not Scores Rally and Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos from the rally :: here

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

NYSUT’s review of the rally :: here

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

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


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


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

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


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


Three Ideas for Educational Change in New York: Testing Schedule, Formal Opt-Out, Budget Lines

Here’s my ideas for impacting immediate educational change in New York State that I am willing to pursue with the appropriate elected officials.

Formal Testing Schedule
1. Mandate that districts provide a formal testing schedule to parents each year. This would include all tests used to evaluate the schools, teachers, admin and students where the results, or data collected, are sent to the State Ed Office. Field testing would be included as part of this schedule. We would not need a list of any summative, end-of-unit type, tests.

Formal Parental Opt-Out
2. Provide a formal means for parents to direct the schooling of their children by permitting parental opt-out of high-stakes state assessments and other factors that influence.

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)

New Budget Guidelines
3. Mandate that districts create a new line items in the budget that clearly show how much money is spent towards the investigation, implementation, and administration of state mandated testing and teacher/principal evaluations. This would include accounting for all costs associated with implementing these tests and evaluations including, but not limited to: trips outside of the district to learn about, score, or administer the tests, acquisition of testing materials, providing subs to cover teachers and admins who leave the building for testing or eval purposes, time to input any data into a data collection mechanism, etc.