Archives For standardized testing

Parents across the state demand that the Board of Regents act immediately to remove Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. It is time the Board of Regents exercises control over the State Education Department to stop the runaway train of anti-public school “reform” that the commissioner represents.

Last week’s 3rd-8th grade ELA testing was an epic–and avoidable–fail for the children of New York State. The problems began before the tests were even administered, continued during their administration, and will persist unless there is a radical shakeup in the leadership of the State Education Department; in the way in which information about the tests and participation in the tests is communicated to families; and in how the tests themselves are constructed, administered, and scored.

The twin disasters of this year’s botched computer-based tests and an even more flawed than usual ELA test design prove that Elia is unequal to her duties and lacks the competence to helm the education department. Our children deserve better.

Leading up to the tests, some districts sent letters to parents asking whether their children would be participating in the assessments. Others, including the state’s largest district, New York City, sent home testing “info” riddled with spin, distortion, and outright lies regarding test refusal and its consequences. Many disadvantaged communities told advocates that they did not know they had a right to refuse the tests, even though it is their children who are most likely to suffer the negative effects of school closure.

Amy Gropp Forbes, a mother active in NYC Opt Out, wrote in a letter addressed to Chancellor Betty Rosa, “I urge you to issue a formal statement that clarifies a parent’s right to refuse state testing for their children. If the state allows some parents the right to opt out of state exams, it MUST give ALL parents this right, and consequences to schools and districts across the state must be equitable.” Gropp Forbes received no reply.

That the BOR and SED stood by and let this situation transpire despite having been made fully aware of the inequity–a statewide NYSAPE letter writing campaign generated over 200 complaints of “misinformation and intimidation”–is inexcusable. The absence of state-issued guidance also allowed some schools and districts to intimidate potential test refusers by instituting “sit and stare” policies.

Further evidence of a dereliction of duty on the part of BOR and SED came last week during the state ELA exam. The problems far exceeded the typical complaints associated with the state’s standardized exams. In fact, the problems were so egregious that one Westchester superintendent felt compelled to apologize to his entire community for what students had to endure. Social media flooded with teacher and proctor reports of children crying from fatigue, confusion, angst, hunger, pain, and more.

“Any good teacher knows how to judge time in lessons and assessments,” stated Chris Cerrone, school board trustee from Erie County. “As soon as I saw the format when I received the instructions I knew something was wrong. Day 1 would be short. Day 2 would be too long.”

Jeanette Deutermann, founding member of NYSAPE and LI Opt Out questioned, “Who was actually responsible for the construction and final version of these assessments? SOMEONE is responsible; that someone is Elia and the Board of Regents. The worst test since the new rollout has happened on their watch. Until a more capable leader is in place, we demand that all work on the construction of future tests be suspended immediately.”

Ulster County parent, educator, and NYSAPE founding member Bianca Tanis attributed last week’s fiasco in part to the state’s adoption of untimed testing. “Both SED and members of the Board of Regents continue to ignore the egregious consequences of untimed testing, misleading the public by claiming that the tests are shorter. For many educators, administering this test was the worst day of their career. The truth is out, and it cannot be ignored.”

“Enough is enough,” declared Dr. Michael Hynes, Superintendent of Long Island’s Patchogue-Medford district. “Not only are children and educators suffering, but with this untimed policy the state is in violation of its own law, which caps testing at no more than 1% (9 hours) of instructional time. Where’s the enforcement?”

“For a decade or more, SED and its vendors have proved themselves incapable of creating valid, well-designed, non-abusive exams that can be reliably used for diagnostic purposes or to track trends in student achievement over time,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters.

“Since the Common Core was introduced, these problems have only gotten worse, with tests so difficult and confusing that teachers themselves are at a loss as to how the questions should be answered. A recent report from the Superintendents Roundtable revealed that the NYS exams were misaligned to excessively high benchmarks, meaning far too many students are wrongly identified as low-performing,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and BATs Executive Director.

Brooklyn public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out, Kemala Karmen, is calling on SED to notify every single parent of their right to refuse May’s upcoming math assessment. She added, “The state can and should halt its hellbent race towards computerized testing, for which it is clearly ill-prepared; stop farming out test construction to dubious for-profit companies; truly shorten the exams; and, most important, remove high stakes attached to the assessments.”

Here’s a compilation of observations made by parents, administrators, and teachers about the numerous problems with this year’s NYS ELA state test, and the suffering it caused students.

NYSAPE calls on the Board of Regents to stand up for equitable and authentic learning & assessments and immediately remove Commissioner Elia.

#OptOut2018 Test Refusal Letter: English & Spanish

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

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Dear NYC Opt Out allies,

We signed petitions. Wrote letters. Got on the bus to Albany. All to no avail.

Boycott/refusal/opt out—however you phrase it—remains the ONLY tactic that we have to force change so that ALL our children have the enriching, citizen-building public education they deserve.

The 2018 NYS ELA test is less than 4 weeks away! For opt out to be effective, we need families refusing the tests in every district and in numbers. That can only happen if we all pull together to organize and get the word out. Seriously, this is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

Can we count on you commit to one or more of the following?

1) Distribute postcards. We are especially trying to reach parents who have less access to information (whether due to language barriers or other disempowering factors) and so may not know their rights. We have 2 flavors of postcard this year, one of which is in both English & Spanish. Hand them out in person at schools, playgrounds, etc or leave a stack at a café, laundromat, library, etc. If you can do this, email janinesopp@gmail.com and write Postcard Distribution in the subject line. Indicate in your message how many cards you want and which design or designs.

2) Help organize a press conference. The Department of Education has been pressuring administrators and feeding the public flat-out lies in a deliberate effort to squelch opt out. So we’re joining with students to push back and to demand that the city respect parent and student rights. Our student-centered press conference is tentatively scheduled for 4 PM on either Thurs March 22 or Tues March 27 (depending on availability of the City Hall steps). Please email  kemala@nycpublic.org (Subject: Press Conference) right away if you can help with this.

Who we need:

  • Spanish speakers. More and more Spanish-speaking parents are interested in opt out. If you are able to help organize or translate, please contact us.
  • kid speakers (possible topics: what opt out has meant to them, learning in a test-prep-heavy environment, learning in a non-test-prep-heavy environment, attending a school where test score-based closure is imminent, the experience of testing days, how their family found out about opt out, etc)
  • point person to be a liaison with student organizers
  • elected officials point person (getting quotes, requesting and facilitating their appearance at presser)
  • press release/media alert (writing and sending)
  • social media pushers (do any or all: create memes, FB event, social media blasts—in conjunction with students)
  • day-of media (shooting video, taking photographs, etc)
  • your body! (check NYC Opt Out on Facebook or optoutnyc.com/events for details once we confirm a date)

3) Be a speaker/presenter at community meetings. We are being asked to send speakers to various parent meetings throughout the city.  Some of you have lead meetings before. Others have not, but you can learn! (If at all possible, we would try to have you buddy up with someone who is more experienced.) If you are willing and able to assist as a parent speaker, please email janinesopp@gmail.com (Subject: Parent Speaker)

Please do your best to pitch in to the full extent you’re able. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, join our Facebook group and use (and share!) our newly redesigned website, optoutnyc.com. Both are incredible resources!

Special thanks to Amy Gropp Forbes for all her hard work on the website redesign and to Ilana Greenberg for another attention-grabbing postcard design.

Starting May 5th, look for your UFT election ballot in the mail from the American Arbitration Association. Mark the box for the MORE/New Action slate and mail it back before May 25th to cast a vote for an active, member-driven union willing to stand up for the schools NYC deserves. tiny.cc/joinMORE

Starting May 5th, look for your UFT election ballot in the mail from the American Arbitration Association. Mark the box for the MORE/New Action slate and mail it back before May 25th to cast a vote for an active, member-driven union willing to stand up for the schools NYC deserves. tiny.cc/joinMORE

by Jia Lee, Chapter Leader, The Earth School

MORE/New Action 2016 Candidate for President of the UFT

The Ensure Success for All Students Act retains the requirement for 95% of students to be subject to annual testing in grades 3-8, threatening funding if districts don’t comply or parents opt out.

Here is the disturbing email that all UFT members received on Tuesday, December 1, a day before the Federal HELP Senate Committee was to vote on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). UFT President Michael Mulgrew urges us to contact our senators to “Vote Yes” and I can only stare in shock at the screen.
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Jia Lee, MORE candidate and teacher at the Earth School is one of the conscientious objectors who refuses to administer the NY State Test this year.

Jia Lee, MORE candidate and teacher at the Earth School is one of the conscientious objectors who refuses to administer the NY State Test this year.

The members of MORE proudly support our colleague, Jia Lee, who will be testifying at a senate hearing on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education policies on Wednesday, January 21st 2015. Jia has taught at all school levels from high school to elementary school. She currently serves as the UFT chapter leader at the Earth School on the Lower East Side. She is a parent who has opted her child out of testing, joining thousands of parents around the nation. She has become a leader of the opt-out movement.

Jia has been a strong advocate for teachers, parents and students, especially on the testing issue in her school, in MORE and in Change the Stakes. Last year she and other teachers at her school declared themselves “teachers of conscience” a form of conscientious objection in relation to the overwhelming negative impact of high stakes testing. In a letter to NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina, they wrote:

Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,

We are teachers of public education in the City of New York. We are writing to distance ourselves from a set of policies that have come to be known as market-based education reform. We recognize that there has been a persistent and troubling gulf between the vision of individuals in policymaking and the work of educators, but we see you as someone who has known both positions and might therefore be understanding of our position. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of education reform in which clear acts of conscience will be necessary to preserve the integrity of public education. We can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children. We will not distort curriculum in order to encourage students to comply with bubble test thinking. We can no longer, in good conscience, push aside months of instruction to compete in a city-wide ritual of meaningless and academically bankrupt test preparation. We have seen clearly how these reforms undermine teachers’ love for their profession and undermine students’ intrinsic love of learning.

As an act of conscience, we are declining the role of test administrators for the 2014 New York State Common Core Tests. We are acting in solidarity with countless public school teachers who have paved their own paths of resistance and spoken truthfully about the decay of their profession under market-based reforms. These acts of conscience have been necessary because we are accountable to the children we teach and our pedagogy, both of which are dishonored daily by current policies.

Read the full statement here:   https://teachersofconscience.wordpress.com

The voice of the classroom teacher will be in extraordinarily capable hands in the person of Jia Lee at the national forum at the US Senate Education Committee hearing.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) voted unanimously at our last General Body meeting to propose that the United Federation of Teachers, instead of sitting out this gubernatorial race, endorse the pro-public education platform presented by Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor.

MORE prepared to present a resolution at Wednesday’s Delegate Assembly. The UFT leadership, however, did not allow this discussion. Despite being informed in advance that MORE chapter leaders and delegates intended to raise this resolution for debate and voting, UFT leadership called time on the ten-minute new motion period, thus prohibiting this conversation. In fact, though Michael Mulgrew’s President’s Report was longer than 45 minutes, there was no mention of this Governor’s race.

Though UFT and NYSUT leadership remain silent regarding the upcoming Gubernatorial race, we pledge go to the polls and vote for the only public school positive, teacher-and-student friendly candidates in this race.  We encourage fellow friends of public education to join us in voting Hawkins/Jones!

Why? Here are just a few of the many reasons:

  • Both Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino vocally support the privatization of education through the expansion of charter schools. In contrast, the Green Party ticket of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones opposes charter schools.
  • Andrew Cuomo has pushed through an expansion of testing statewide and the punitive linking of test scores to teacher evaluations. The Hawkins/Jones ticket opposes an emphasis on high stakes testing.
  • Andrew Cuomo implemented a destructive tax cap that has forced massive layoffs of teachers in upstate districts.
  • New York State AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) have declined to endorse Cuomo because of his anti-education policies.
  • Astorino and Cuomo are both millionaires while Hawkins and Jones are both union activists, Hawkins in Teamsters, Jones in the UFT and PSC.
  • The Hawkins/Jones platform of a Green New Deal calls for
    • equitable funding for all of our schools,
    • reduced class sizes across the state,
    • support for programs that promote desegregation in our schools,
    • an end to zero-tolerance discipline policies driving the school-to-prison pipeline,
    • and allowing schools to develop methods of assessment organic to the learning process. 
  • To learn more, Read their letter to teachers here, and spread the word using the voter guide below. 
MORE/UFT Caucus Pro-Education Positions Hawkins/ Jones (Green) Cuomo(Dem.) Astorino(Rep.)
Against the Expansion of Charter Schools
Against High Stakes Testing, Against APPR (New teacher evals) / Supports Parents & Students’ Right to Opt Out of High Stakes Tests
Against Common Core?
Union member or Millionaire Candidates? Union Millionaire Millionaire
Fight corporate ed deform by rescinding NY’s Race to the Top application and replacing NYSED commissioner John King
Tax Top 5% and Eliminate State Property Tax Cap to Fund Schools
Supports unionism, social movements and a $15/hr minimum wage

Don’t sit this election out, vote for a real change in Education Policy!  Vote Hawkins/Jones!