Monday, March 31, 2014

Hear about why parents are refusing the tests in this incredible video from Change the Stakes:


How Do I Refuse the NYS Tests?

Refusing the tests is as simple as writing a letter to your principal and superintendent. You should also cc your refusal letter to your child's teachers. Your child's test will be scored as a "999" which is essentially a non-score. Again, your child will NOT receive a score. If your child is refusing the tests, instruct him or her to refrain from making any marks on the exam.

Below you can find a sample letter:


Dear School Administrator,

I am writing to inform you that my child, _______________, will be refusing the 2014 NYS ELA and Math Tests. My understanding is that this letter will be sufficient for my child to refuse and that he will not be required to verbally refuse these tests. I request that my child be allowed to read or engage in an alternate activity during the testing period. Please confirm receipt of this letter.

Sincerely,


Frequently Asked Questions About Refusing the NYS Tests

Commonly Asked Questions

If my child is likely to do well on the NYS test and he or she refuses to take the test, will their teacher’s APPR score be negatively impacted?

Refusing the tests would not affect a teacher’s APPR Score as long as enough there are enough students tested to obtain a valid score. Interestingly, high achieving students could actually hurt a teacher’s growth score because in many cases they are consistently high achieving and therefore do not show growth beyond what is expected. If enough students refuse the test, there will not be sufficient data to generate a score based on the state tests. Considering that only 30% of students scored proficiently on last year’s exams, that would not necessarily be a bad thing. In this case, the teacher would design their own local assessment in order to gauge student growth and progress.

Will my child lose access to accelerated programs, Academic Intervention Services (AIS) or Special Education Supports if they refuse the test?

In a nutshell, no. State test scores are not sole factor for determining if a student qualifies for AIS. In the absence of state test scores, a district will simply rely more on other measures such a local assessments, reading benchmarks and progress monitoring. State test scores are in no way considered when determining the supports that a special education student will receive. Further more, districts like NPCSD rely on multiple measures when determining access to accelerated programs.

Will our school lose funding if less than 95% of students take the tests?

It is true that NCLB dictates that all districts/schools must have at least 95% participation on state tests in order to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  According to NCLB, any district/school that does not reach the 95% participation is considered a district/school that “failed to make AYP”.  They must bear this label. 

As part of the ESEA Flexibility Waiver that NYS received from President Obama, no new districts/schools will be identified as “Focus Districts/Schools” until after the end of the 2014-2015 school year.  What this means is that if a district was in good standing in 2011-2012 (and NPCSD was), they would have to fail to meet AYP for the 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-15 school years in order to have their designation changed to a “Focus” or “Priority” School.

What would happen if down the road, a school district, like NPCSD, became a “Focus” school?

For schools that do not receive Title I money, there are zero financial consequences at this point. However, if a district receives Title 1 money, there is a minor consequence. Many of our local districts do receive Title I money. For example, for the 2013-2014, New Paltz CSD will receive $181,311.

 If a district that is currently “In Good Standing,” like NPCSD, were deemed a “Focus” school for the 2015-2016 school year, the school district would be required to set-aside 5-15% of Title money that they have received into a separate “set-aside account.”  The money is NOT taken away from them

What happens to the Title I money that is set-aside? 

This money stays in the district, and the state requires that it be used for state-approved programs and services which might include tutoring for students, parental involvement, etc.  THIS MONEY IS NOT LOST.  And any of this money that is not spent on the state-approved programs and services is returned to the district’s general fund.

If the only reason that a district/school was given “Focus” status in 2015-2016 was because more than 5% of the district/school’s parents decided not to allow their children to participate in harmful tests, then the lawyers of the school district would certainly take notice.  It seems unlikely that a court would allow funding to be impacted in any way due to the actions of informed parents, especially since the district/school has no control over this. 

What about the schools with large numbers of student refusals last year?

To date there has been NO indication of any district/school anywhere in the state being impacted financially for failure to meet the 95% participation rate. Ichabod Crane Middle School near Albany and Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook had over 20% of its students refuse the tests.

BOTTOM LINE:  A school district does NOT lose funding if there is less than 95% participation on state tests.

But what if?

Let’s say that a district/school happens to be Title I.  Let’s assume that they fail the 95% participation rate.  Let’s assume that the ESEA Waiver is imaginary (like Peter Pan). Let’s assume that the district/school is not listed as “Focus” for any other reason other than the 95% participation rate.  Let’s assume that the NYSED forces the district to set aside 15% of their Title I money solely because responsible well-informed parents refuse tests (even though NYSED has never done this to date).  Let’s assume the school district does not stand-up for the children and does not file a lawsuit.  Let’s assume that a court does not intervene to prevent funding loss to school children.  Let’s assume that all of the set-aside money happens to be spent on state approved programs (that are somehow supposed to magically fix the participation rate caused by responsible well-informed parents standing up for their children).  Let’s assume that none of the set-aside money goes back into the general fund.  We know that NPCSD receives $ 181,311 in Title I funding and has to set-aside (15% which amounts to approx. $19,500) and is forced to spend all of it on state approved programs (that won’t fix the participation rate).  Let’s assume that this district has 4,500 taxpaying households. 

Let’s assume that ALL of that above happens (which seem ridiculous).  Then each taxpaying household would have to come up with an extra $4.50 per year to replace the money spent on senseless programs.  Wow!  $4.50 per year???  Still worried about funding???





Why should I consider having my child refuse the NYS state tests?

There is NO evidence to support the premise that tying teacher and school evaluations to test scores will result in increased academic achievement.

No child should ever be compelled to participate in a demoralizing and developmentally inappropriate learning experience against the wishes of parents or caregivers. Parents must give permission for students to participate in sports and sex education, but State Education does not believe that parents should have a say in their child’s test participation.

These tests do NOT benefit the individual child in any way. Scores are not given until the following school year and even then provide next to NO information regarding the student’s individual performance. The tests yield NO data can be used to help the individual student.

Excessive testing takes away approximately 25% of our children's academic school year. The amount of time that a 3rd grader will spend on NYS tests exceeds the time spent taking Medical Boards and the Bar Exam, voluntary examinations undertaken by adults.

Excessive testing forces teachers to "teach to the test.” Schools may say that they do not “teach to the test” but despite the best intentions, this is not true. When 20-40% percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on state test scores, this creates a siutation whereby a teacher must choose between delivering instruction that they know to be sound and delivering instruction that will focus on test taking strategies and what is “on the test” in order to safeguard their employment.

Attaching teacher evaluations to state scores destroys teacher autonomy. - Teachers can no longer choose the pace of instruction that they feel is most appropriate for their students.They must adhere to the strict and relentless pace set by the tests.

Excessive focus on test scores narrows the curriculum. The arts and music are short changed as there is no state measure in these areas.

Excessive testing teaches children that there is only one right answer in academics and in life.Students are encouraged to learn formulaic methods of reading and writing in order to score maximum credit on the tests.Outside of the box thinking is not encouraged.

Excessive testing costs millions of dollars of taxpayer money to produce and thousands of dollars of our school district's money to implement.School districts will incure expenses in the tens of millions of dollars to implement the unfunded mandates set forth by Race to the Top.

Refusing the test is the ONLY POWER that parents have to take back public education from corporate interests. Refusing the tests is the ONLY POWER that parents have to ensure the quality of their child’s education. Despite listening to the concerns and outrage of thousands of parents and educators for months, Commissioner of Education John King and the NYS Board of Regents insist that they will continue to carry out their reform agenda without delay.




What’s wrong with the Common Core and Education Reform in NYS? In a nutshell…



The Accountability Mandates in Race to the Top:
·      Discourage emphasis on “un-tested” subjects like art and music, which are often areas of significant strength for students for students who struggle in other academic areas.
·     
Eliminate teacher autonomy over pacing in the classroom. The pace is dictated by “the test,” not the students. This hurts both struggling learners and “gifted” students.
·      
Require schools to share sensitive, personally identifiable student information that can be shared with 3rd party vendors without parental consent. For students with disabilities, this often includes information that in a medical setting would be protected under HIPAA law. However, their educational records (including IEPs) are afforded no such protection.
·     
Discourage teacher responsiveness to student interests –if content is not on the test, there is NO time to pursue student directed avenues of inquiry.
·   
   Ignore research indicating that standardization is decreasing student creativity, a quality that is needed in the fields of engineering, medicine, music and art. (Kim 2011) Read more about that here.
·     
NYS proficiency levels are based on cut scores and levels of proficiency that are not based in research or evidence, but rather on an illogical and faulty premise. Read more about that here, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/12/how-come-officials-could-predict-results-on-new-test-scores/.

The Common Core Learning Standards:
·      Pre-Supposes that students will demonstrate greater academic gain by arbitrarily making standards more difficult to achieve. There is NO evidence to support this.
·    
I  Ignores the basic pedagogical tenant that student engagement is the largest influence on student learning. By teaching to developmentally inappropriate standards, we risk losing student engagement and actually risk a decline in student achievement.
·      
Are based on flawed research. One of the premises of the Common Core Standards is that text complexity has declined since the early 20th century and that we have “dumbed down” the curriculum. Researchers from Penn State published a report in October of 2013 that indicates text complexity has in fact increased. (Gamson, Lu, and Eckert, 2013) That study can be found here: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/42/7/381.full.pdf+html?ijkey=JV4K0MyCHPsyE&keyty pe=ref&s        iteid=s peer

·      Due the erroneous assumption that text complexity has decreased, the Common Core arbitrarily increased grade level reading benchmarks by 2 to 3 years. In doing so, the achievement gap widened overnight and many students have been turned off to reading. Read more about this here, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/26/common-core-tests-widen-achievement-gap-in-new-york/

·      Encourage instructional methods that are not aligned with evidenced based best practice. The Common Core promotes a reading strategy called “Close Reading.” Close Reading encourages students to rely ONLY on the information on the next rather than accessing their own background knowledge and personal experiences.

·      Compel the use of mental math strategies and multiple methods to solve a single problem. Research shows that direct and explicit instruction in one strategy is the most effective way to learn a new concept. The Common Core encourages a type of learning that will result in a student who is “a jack of all trades, master of none.”

·      Were created without the input of elementary school teachers, pre-school teachers and child development experts. You can read about the CCLS work groups here, http://www.nga.org/files/live/sites/NGA/files/pdf/2010COMMONCOREK12TEAM.PDF

·      Carry a liability waiver which you can read here, http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

·      Do nothing to address the real problems facing students – poverty, insufficient funding of public schools, lack of appropriate support and access to assistive technology.

The rushed implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards:

·      Ignored the fact that students are sensitive to change and improper scaffolding.
·      Resulted in students receiving instruction without being taught the necessary pre-requisite skills.
·      Widened the achievement gap by raising standards “overnight.” Students who were struggling prior to implementation suddenly found themselves significantly further behind.
·      Resulted in 25 million dollars being spent on curriculum materials rife with errors and inappropriate content, many of which have not yet been released even though students are already being tested on the standards.
·      Could have been predicted and prevented. Public feedback in 2010 revealed significant concern regarding a possible rushed implementation. You can read about that here, http://www.corestandards.org/assets/k-12-feedback-summary.pdf.

The Common Core Raises the Questions:
·      Will the teaching of developmentally inappropriate learning standards result in more students being erroneously identified as learning disabled?

·      Will the lack of teacher autonomy and the inappropriate use of test scores to evaluate teachers cause more experienced teachers to shy away from teaching students with the highest level of need?

·      Why would New York State adopt copyrighted, unproven learning standards that they have no control over and no ability to revise?

·      What are the long term effects of using learning standards that have no basis in
evidence or scholarly research?

·      What was wrong with the previous standards held in NYS? You can read the 2005 NYS Math standards here, http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/math/standards/core.html

·      Why did many members of the Common Core Validation Committee refuse to sign off on them?

·      Why did the Board Of Regents and The NYS Education Department award millions of dollars to curriculum companies and subcontractors outside of New York rather than keeping these dollars in the NYS economy?

Resources/Citations
Bomer, R., Maloch, B.  (2011).  Relating Policy to Research and Practice: The Common Core Standards.  Language Arts, 89, 38-43

Burris, C. (2013, August 12. How come officials could predict new test score results? The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/12/how-come-officials-could-predict-results-on-new-                  test-scores/.

Ferguson, D., (2013/2014).  Martin Luther King Jr. and the Common Core, A critical reading of “close reading”. ReThinking Schools, Volume 28, No.2.  Retrieved from                   http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/28_02/28_02_ferguson.shtml

Gamson, D.A., Lu. X., & Eckert, S.A. (2013).  Challenging the Research Base of the Common Core State Standards: A Historical    Reanalysis of Text Complexity. EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER, 42, 381

New York State Education Department.  Mathematics Core Curriculum, Revised 2005.  (2005). Retrieved from http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/mst/math/standards/core.html

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers.  (2010).   Common Core State       Standards Public License.  Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/public-license.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers.  (2010).   Reactions to the March                   2010 Draft Common Core State Standards: Highlights and Themes from the Public Feedback.  Retrieved from               http://www.corestandards.org/assets/k-12-feedback-summary.pdf.

Kyung H.K. (2011). The Creativity Crisis: The Decrease in Creative Thinking Scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking.      Creativity Research Journal, 23:4, 285-295. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2011.627805

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Carol Burris: Why test-based school reform isn’t working — by the numbers.

"If our destination is to make all of our students college and career ready, we need to open doors for students, not shut them with sorting and punitive testing. Creating unreasonable graduation standards that will marginalize and exclude our most at-risk students while we implement untested standards linked to high-stakes testing, will not get us where we want to be. It is a road on which too many students will be lost."

Carol Burris takes a look at the potentially devastating effect CC based exams will have on graduation rates. You can read the rest of the article here