Thursday, October 30, 2014

Article from Times Herald Record: Movement to Opt Out of State Tests Growing


Article from Times Herald Record:  Movement to Opt Out of State Tests Growing

http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/NEWS/141019385



By Pauline Liu
Times Herald-Record

Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
Updated Oct 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
A revolt over excessive testing is heating up in New York.
Parents groups who've been "opting out" their kids from state tests have set a new goal to have 250,000 students boycott the next round of the exams - compared to 55,000 students who didn't take the standardized tests this year. 
More than 1 million students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to take the math and English tests when they’re offered next spring.
The boycott is gaining ground here in the mid-Hudson. Advocacy groups say that the tests are too long and shouldn't be tied to teacher evaluations.
“We feel it’s important for parents to refuse the tests because it’s a very powerful way for parents to send a message,” said Nancy Schniedewind of the New Paltz-based group Re-thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region. “Education has been taken out of the hands of communities, school boards and parents. It’s now in the hands of corporations, politicians and high-level educational administrators and they should not be making these decisions.”
Schniedewind, who is also a professor of Educational Studies at SUNY New Paltz, described the state tests as “developmentally inappropriate and unfair to all students, especially those in elementary school.”
The boycott has also won the backing of some school administrators. Most vocal is Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood, who has called Common Core testing “a failure.”
“All the parents are doing is protecting their children from test results that are premature, false indicators of what has been learned and, in any other world, an act that disregards student dignity and potential,” Eastwood said.
New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s largest unions representing more than 600,000 teachers, is supporting the boycott.
Legislation passed over the summer has placed a two-year moratorium on the use of state test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It’s important to use those two years to try to fix what’s wrong with testing and evaluations,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.
Leading the charge to boycott state testing is the statewide advocacy group New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).
Why 250,000?
“That’s the number of students that we think we need in order to put an end to high-stakes testing,” said Jeanette Deutermann of NYSAPE, a mother of two from Long Island.
NYSAPE is calling on the state to stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation, because the group claims that too much of classroom time is spent teaching to the tests in an effort to improve results.
NYSAPE is also demanding shorter tests. A lot shorter. 
The exams were given over six days. The actual time scheduled for students in grades 5-8 to take the tests was nearly 9 hours, while those in grades 3-4 were given nearly 7 hours to complete the exams.
The State Education Department reduced the overall lengths of the 2014 tests by 20 minutes, but the group wants the tests cut down to three hours, claiming that the longer tests only serve to drive up profits for tech and data storage companies.
“Parents have tried in so many ways to ask for change, but they haven’t been heard,” Deutermann said.
What's become known as the opt out movement began last year with the introduction of the new Common Core-based state exams.
According to the state, about 6,000 parents in 2013 refused the tests on behalf of their kids in grades 3-8. In order for their children to be excused, the refusals had to be submitted to school officials in writing. If that wasn't done, the student would be asked to make up the test. 
Nearly 70 percent of students who did take the tests flunked them. State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. responded by saying that the results would be used to set a “new baseline for testing.”
This year, about 55,000 students opted out of the tests. King said those who took the exams in 2014 made “incremental” gains over the results from the previous year.
Math scores inched up slightly so that nearly 36 percent passed, while reading scores remained flat with only about 31 percent passing the exams.
NYSED pointed out that the tests are required under federal law and the federal Race to the Top program.
“State assessments offer an opportunity for educators and parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward the standards,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for NYSED. “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how well his or her child is doing?"
NYSED also has its share of supporters, including a new statewide business and community coalition called High Achievement New York.
“Preventing children from measuring their problem solving and critical thinking skills is the wrong path,” said John Collins, the coalition’s spokesman.
- See more at: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/NEWS/141019385#sthash.ldLQgcVU.dpuf




y Pauline Liu
Times Herald-Record

Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
Updated Oct 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM


A revolt over excessive testing is heating up in New York.
Parents groups who've been "opting out" their kids from state tests have set a new goal to have 250,000 students boycott the next round of the exams - compared to 55,000 students who didn't take the standardized tests this year. 
More than 1 million students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to take the math and English tests when they’re offered next spring.
The boycott is gaining ground here in the mid-Hudson. Advocacy groups say that the tests are too long and shouldn't be tied to teacher evaluations.
“We feel it’s important for parents to refuse the tests because it’s a very powerful way for parents to send a message,” said Nancy Schniedewind of the New Paltz-based group Re-thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region. “Education has been taken out of the hands of communities, school boards and parents. It’s now in the hands of corporations, politicians and high-level educational administrators and they should not be making these decisions.”
Schniedewind, who is also a professor of Educational Studies at SUNY New Paltz, described the state tests as “developmentally inappropriate and unfair to all students, especially those in elementary school.”
The boycott has also won the backing of some school administrators. Most vocal is Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood, who has called Common Core testing “a failure.”
“All the parents are doing is protecting their children from test results that are premature, false indicators of what has been learned and, in any other world, an act that disregards student dignity and potential,” Eastwood said.
New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s largest unions representing more than 600,000 teachers, is supporting the boycott.
Legislation passed over the summer has placed a two-year moratorium on the use of state test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It’s important to use those two years to try to fix what’s wrong with testing and evaluations,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.
Leading the charge to boycott state testing is the statewide advocacy group New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).
Why 250,000?
“That’s the number of students that we think we need in order to put an end to high-stakes testing,” said Jeanette Deutermann of NYSAPE, a mother of two from Long Island.
NYSAPE is calling on the state to stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation, because the group claims that too much of classroom time is spent teaching to the tests in an effort to improve results.
NYSAPE is also demanding shorter tests. A lot shorter. 
The exams were given over six days. The actual time scheduled for students in grades 5-8 to take the tests was nearly 9 hours, while those in grades 3-4 were given nearly 7 hours to complete the exams.
The State Education Department reduced the overall lengths of the 2014 tests by 20 minutes, but the group wants the tests cut down to three hours, claiming that the longer tests only serve to drive up profits for tech and data storage companies.
“Parents have tried in so many ways to ask for change, but they haven’t been heard,” Deutermann said.
What's become known as the opt out movement began last year with the introduction of the new Common Core-based state exams.
According to the state, about 6,000 parents in 2013 refused the tests on behalf of their kids in grades 3-8. In order for their children to be excused, the refusals had to be submitted to school officials in writing. If that wasn't done, the student would be asked to make up the test. 
Nearly 70 percent of students who did take the tests flunked them. State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. responded by saying that the results would be used to set a “new baseline for testing.”
This year, about 55,000 students opted out of the tests. King said those who took the exams in 2014 made “incremental” gains over the results from the previous year.
Math scores inched up slightly so that nearly 36 percent passed, while reading scores remained flat with only about 31 percent passing the exams.
NYSED pointed out that the tests are required under federal law and the federal Race to the Top program.
“State assessments offer an opportunity for educators and parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward the standards,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for NYSED. “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how well his or her child is doing?"
NYSED also has its share of supporters, including a new statewide business and community coalition called High Achievement New York.
“Preventing children from measuring their problem solving and critical thinking skills is the wrong path,” said John Collins, the coalition’s spokesman.
pliu@th-record.com
- See more at: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/NEWS/141019385#sthash.ldLQgcVU.dpuf




y Pauline Liu
Times Herald-Record

Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
Updated Oct 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM


A revolt over excessive testing is heating up in New York.
Parents groups who've been "opting out" their kids from state tests have set a new goal to have 250,000 students boycott the next round of the exams - compared to 55,000 students who didn't take the standardized tests this year. 
More than 1 million students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to take the math and English tests when they’re offered next spring.
The boycott is gaining ground here in the mid-Hudson. Advocacy groups say that the tests are too long and shouldn't be tied to teacher evaluations.
“We feel it’s important for parents to refuse the tests because it’s a very powerful way for parents to send a message,” said Nancy Schniedewind of the New Paltz-based group Re-thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region. “Education has been taken out of the hands of communities, school boards and parents. It’s now in the hands of corporations, politicians and high-level educational administrators and they should not be making these decisions.”
Schniedewind, who is also a professor of Educational Studies at SUNY New Paltz, described the state tests as “developmentally inappropriate and unfair to all students, especially those in elementary school.”
The boycott has also won the backing of some school administrators. Most vocal is Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood, who has called Common Core testing “a failure.”
“All the parents are doing is protecting their children from test results that are premature, false indicators of what has been learned and, in any other world, an act that disregards student dignity and potential,” Eastwood said.
New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s largest unions representing more than 600,000 teachers, is supporting the boycott.
Legislation passed over the summer has placed a two-year moratorium on the use of state test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It’s important to use those two years to try to fix what’s wrong with testing and evaluations,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.
Leading the charge to boycott state testing is the statewide advocacy group New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).
Why 250,000?
“That’s the number of students that we think we need in order to put an end to high-stakes testing,” said Jeanette Deutermann of NYSAPE, a mother of two from Long Island.
NYSAPE is calling on the state to stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation, because the group claims that too much of classroom time is spent teaching to the tests in an effort to improve results.
NYSAPE is also demanding shorter tests. A lot shorter. 
The exams were given over six days. The actual time scheduled for students in grades 5-8 to take the tests was nearly 9 hours, while those in grades 3-4 were given nearly 7 hours to complete the exams.
The State Education Department reduced the overall lengths of the 2014 tests by 20 minutes, but the group wants the tests cut down to three hours, claiming that the longer tests only serve to drive up profits for tech and data storage companies.
“Parents have tried in so many ways to ask for change, but they haven’t been heard,” Deutermann said.
What's become known as the opt out movement began last year with the introduction of the new Common Core-based state exams.
According to the state, about 6,000 parents in 2013 refused the tests on behalf of their kids in grades 3-8. In order for their children to be excused, the refusals had to be submitted to school officials in writing. If that wasn't done, the student would be asked to make up the test. 
Nearly 70 percent of students who did take the tests flunked them. State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. responded by saying that the results would be used to set a “new baseline for testing.”
This year, about 55,000 students opted out of the tests. King said those who took the exams in 2014 made “incremental” gains over the results from the previous year.
Math scores inched up slightly so that nearly 36 percent passed, while reading scores remained flat with only about 31 percent passing the exams.
NYSED pointed out that the tests are required under federal law and the federal Race to the Top program.
“State assessments offer an opportunity for educators and parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward the standards,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for NYSED. “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how well his or her child is doing?"
NYSED also has its share of supporters, including a new statewide business and community coalition called High Achievement New York.
“Preventing children from measuring their problem solving and critical thinking skills is the wrong path,” said John Collins, the coalition’s spokesman.
pliu@th-record.com
- See more at: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/NEWS/141019385#sthash.ldLQgcVU.dpuf

y Pauline Liu
Times Herald-Record

Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
Updated Oct 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM


A revolt over excessive testing is heating up in New York.
Parents groups who've been "opting out" their kids from state tests have set a new goal to have 250,000 students boycott the next round of the exams - compared to 55,000 students who didn't take the standardized tests this year. 
More than 1 million students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to take the math and English tests when they’re offered next spring.
The boycott is gaining ground here in the mid-Hudson. Advocacy groups say that the tests are too long and shouldn't be tied to teacher evaluations.
“We feel it’s important for parents to refuse the tests because it’s a very powerful way for parents to send a message,” said Nancy Schniedewind of the New Paltz-based group Re-thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region. “Education has been taken out of the hands of communities, school boards and parents. It’s now in the hands of corporations, politicians and high-level educational administrators and they should not be making these decisions.”
Schniedewind, who is also a professor of Educational Studies at SUNY New Paltz, described the state tests as “developmentally inappropriate and unfair to all students, especially those in elementary school.”
The boycott has also won the backing of some school administrators. Most vocal is Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood, who has called Common Core testing “a failure.”
“All the parents are doing is protecting their children from test results that are premature, false indicators of what has been learned and, in any other world, an act that disregards student dignity and potential,” Eastwood said.
New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s largest unions representing more than 600,000 teachers, is supporting the boycott.
Legislation passed over the summer has placed a two-year moratorium on the use of state test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It’s important to use those two years to try to fix what’s wrong with testing and evaluations,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.
Leading the charge to boycott state testing is the statewide advocacy group New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).
Why 250,000?
“That’s the number of students that we think we need in order to put an end to high-stakes testing,” said Jeanette Deutermann of NYSAPE, a mother of two from Long Island.
NYSAPE is calling on the state to stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation, because the group claims that too much of classroom time is spent teaching to the tests in an effort to improve results.
NYSAPE is also demanding shorter tests. A lot shorter. 
The exams were given over six days. The actual time scheduled for students in grades 5-8 to take the tests was nearly 9 hours, while those in grades 3-4 were given nearly 7 hours to complete the exams.
The State Education Department reduced the overall lengths of the 2014 tests by 20 minutes, but the group wants the tests cut down to three hours, claiming that the longer tests only serve to drive up profits for tech and data storage companies.
“Parents have tried in so many ways to ask for change, but they haven’t been heard,” Deutermann said.
What's become known as the opt out movement began last year with the introduction of the new Common Core-based state exams.
According to the state, about 6,000 parents in 2013 refused the tests on behalf of their kids in grades 3-8. In order for their children to be excused, the refusals had to be submitted to school officials in writing. If that wasn't done, the student would be asked to make up the test. 
Nearly 70 percent of students who did take the tests flunked them. State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. responded by saying that the results would be used to set a “new baseline for testing.”
This year, about 55,000 students opted out of the tests. King said those who took the exams in 2014 made “incremental” gains over the results from the previous year.
Math scores inched up slightly so that nearly 36 percent passed, while reading scores remained flat with only about 31 percent passing the exams.
NYSED pointed out that the tests are required under federal law and the federal Race to the Top program.
“State assessments offer an opportunity for educators and parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward the standards,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for NYSED. “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how well his or her child is doing?"
NYSED also has its share of supporters, including a new statewide business and community coalition called High Achievement New York.
“Preventing children from measuring their problem solving and critical thinking skills is the wrong path,” said John Collins, the coalition’s spokesman.
pliu@th-record.com
- See more at: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/NEWS/141019385#sthash.ldLQgcVU.dpuf

y Pauline Liu
Times Herald-Record

Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
Updated Oct 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM


A revolt over excessive testing is heating up in New York.
Parents groups who've been "opting out" their kids from state tests have set a new goal to have 250,000 students boycott the next round of the exams - compared to 55,000 students who didn't take the standardized tests this year. 
More than 1 million students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to take the math and English tests when they’re offered next spring.
The boycott is gaining ground here in the mid-Hudson. Advocacy groups say that the tests are too long and shouldn't be tied to teacher evaluations.
“We feel it’s important for parents to refuse the tests because it’s a very powerful way for parents to send a message,” said Nancy Schniedewind of the New Paltz-based group Re-thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region. “Education has been taken out of the hands of communities, school boards and parents. It’s now in the hands of corporations, politicians and high-level educational administrators and they should not be making these decisions.”
Schniedewind, who is also a professor of Educational Studies at SUNY New Paltz, described the state tests as “developmentally inappropriate and unfair to all students, especially those in elementary school.”
The boycott has also won the backing of some school administrators. Most vocal is Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood, who has called Common Core testing “a failure.”
“All the parents are doing is protecting their children from test results that are premature, false indicators of what has been learned and, in any other world, an act that disregards student dignity and potential,” Eastwood said.
New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s largest unions representing more than 600,000 teachers, is supporting the boycott.
Legislation passed over the summer has placed a two-year moratorium on the use of state test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It’s important to use those two years to try to fix what’s wrong with testing and evaluations,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.
Leading the charge to boycott state testing is the statewide advocacy group New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).
Why 250,000?
“That’s the number of students that we think we need in order to put an end to high-stakes testing,” said Jeanette Deutermann of NYSAPE, a mother of two from Long Island.
NYSAPE is calling on the state to stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation, because the group claims that too much of classroom time is spent teaching to the tests in an effort to improve results.
NYSAPE is also demanding shorter tests. A lot shorter. 
The exams were given over six days. The actual time scheduled for students in grades 5-8 to take the tests was nearly 9 hours, while those in grades 3-4 were given nearly 7 hours to complete the exams.
The State Education Department reduced the overall lengths of the 2014 tests by 20 minutes, but the group wants the tests cut down to three hours, claiming that the longer tests only serve to drive up profits for tech and data storage companies.
“Parents have tried in so many ways to ask for change, but they haven’t been heard,” Deutermann said.
What's become known as the opt out movement began last year with the introduction of the new Common Core-based state exams.
According to the state, about 6,000 parents in 2013 refused the tests on behalf of their kids in grades 3-8. In order for their children to be excused, the refusals had to be submitted to school officials in writing. If that wasn't done, the student would be asked to make up the test. 
Nearly 70 percent of students who did take the tests flunked them. State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. responded by saying that the results would be used to set a “new baseline for testing.”
This year, about 55,000 students opted out of the tests. King said those who took the exams in 2014 made “incremental” gains over the results from the previous year.
Math scores inched up slightly so that nearly 36 percent passed, while reading scores remained flat with only about 31 percent passing the exams.
NYSED pointed out that the tests are required under federal law and the federal Race to the Top program.
“State assessments offer an opportunity for educators and parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward the standards,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for NYSED. “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how well his or her child is doing?"
NYSED also has its share of supporters, including a new statewide business and community coalition called High Achievement New York.
“Preventing children from measuring their problem solving and critical thinking skills is the wrong path,” said John Collins, the coalition’s spokesman.
pliu@th-record.com
- See more at: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/NEWS/141019385#sthash.ldLQgcVU.dpuf


By Pauline Liu
Times Herald-Record

Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
Updated Oct 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM


A revolt over excessive testing is heating up in New York.
Parents groups who've been "opting out" their kids from state tests have set a new goal to have 250,000 students boycott the next round of the exams - compared to 55,000 students who didn't take the standardized tests this year. 
More than 1 million students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to take the math and English tests when they’re offered next spring.
The boycott is gaining ground here in the mid-Hudson. Advocacy groups say that the tests are too long and shouldn't be tied to teacher evaluations.
“We feel it’s important for parents to refuse the tests because it’s a very powerful way for parents to send a message,” said Nancy Schniedewind of the New Paltz-based group Re-thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region. “Education has been taken out of the hands of communities, school boards and parents. It’s now in the hands of corporations, politicians and high-level educational administrators and they should not be making these decisions.”
Schniedewind, who is also a professor of Educational Studies at SUNY New Paltz, described the state tests as “developmentally inappropriate and unfair to all students, especially those in elementary school.”
The boycott has also won the backing of some school administrators. Most vocal is Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood, who has called Common Core testing “a failure.”
“All the parents are doing is protecting their children from test results that are premature, false indicators of what has been learned and, in any other world, an act that disregards student dignity and potential,” Eastwood said.
New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s largest unions representing more than 600,000 teachers, is supporting the boycott.
Legislation passed over the summer has placed a two-year moratorium on the use of state test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It’s important to use those two years to try to fix what’s wrong with testing and evaluations,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.
Leading the charge to boycott state testing is the statewide advocacy group New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).
Why 250,000?
“That’s the number of students that we think we need in order to put an end to high-stakes testing,” said Jeanette Deutermann of NYSAPE, a mother of two from Long Island.
NYSAPE is calling on the state to stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation, because the group claims that too much of classroom time is spent teaching to the tests in an effort to improve results.
NYSAPE is also demanding shorter tests. A lot shorter. 
The exams were given over six days. The actual time scheduled for students in grades 5-8 to take the tests was nearly 9 hours, while those in grades 3-4 were given nearly 7 hours to complete the exams.
The State Education Department reduced the overall lengths of the 2014 tests by 20 minutes, but the group wants the tests cut down to three hours, claiming that the longer tests only serve to drive up profits for tech and data storage companies.
“Parents have tried in so many ways to ask for change, but they haven’t been heard,” Deutermann said.
What's become known as the opt out movement began last year with the introduction of the new Common Core-based state exams.
According to the state, about 6,000 parents in 2013 refused the tests on behalf of their kids in grades 3-8. In order for their children to be excused, the refusals had to be submitted to school officials in writing. If that wasn't done, the student would be asked to make up the test. 
Nearly 70 percent of students who did take the tests flunked them. State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. responded by saying that the results would be used to set a “new baseline for testing.”
This year, about 55,000 students opted out of the tests. King said those who took the exams in 2014 made “incremental” gains over the results from the previous year.
Math scores inched up slightly so that nearly 36 percent passed, while reading scores remained flat with only about 31 percent passing the exams.
NYSED pointed out that the tests are required under federal law and the federal Race to the Top program.
“State assessments offer an opportunity for educators and parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward the standards,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for NYSED. “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how well his or her child is doing?"
NYSED also has its share of supporters, including a new statewide business and community coalition called High Achievement New York.
“Preventing children from measuring their problem solving and critical thinking skills is the wrong path,” said John Collins, the coalition’s spokesman.
pliu@th-record.com
- See more at: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/News/141019385#sthash.LcsR178M.dpuf
By Pauline Liu
Times Herald-Record

Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 7:39 pm
Updated Oct 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM


A revolt over excessive testing is heating up in New York.
Parents groups who've been "opting out" their kids from state tests have set a new goal to have 250,000 students boycott the next round of the exams - compared to 55,000 students who didn't take the standardized tests this year. 
More than 1 million students in grades 3-8 are scheduled to take the math and English tests when they’re offered next spring.
The boycott is gaining ground here in the mid-Hudson. Advocacy groups say that the tests are too long and shouldn't be tied to teacher evaluations.
“We feel it’s important for parents to refuse the tests because it’s a very powerful way for parents to send a message,” said Nancy Schniedewind of the New Paltz-based group Re-thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region. “Education has been taken out of the hands of communities, school boards and parents. It’s now in the hands of corporations, politicians and high-level educational administrators and they should not be making these decisions.”
Schniedewind, who is also a professor of Educational Studies at SUNY New Paltz, described the state tests as “developmentally inappropriate and unfair to all students, especially those in elementary school.”
The boycott has also won the backing of some school administrators. Most vocal is Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood, who has called Common Core testing “a failure.”
“All the parents are doing is protecting their children from test results that are premature, false indicators of what has been learned and, in any other world, an act that disregards student dignity and potential,” Eastwood said.
New York State United Teachers, one of the state’s largest unions representing more than 600,000 teachers, is supporting the boycott.
Legislation passed over the summer has placed a two-year moratorium on the use of state test scores to evaluate teachers.
“It’s important to use those two years to try to fix what’s wrong with testing and evaluations,” said Carl Korn, NYSUT spokesman.
Leading the charge to boycott state testing is the statewide advocacy group New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE).
Why 250,000?
“That’s the number of students that we think we need in order to put an end to high-stakes testing,” said Jeanette Deutermann of NYSAPE, a mother of two from Long Island.
NYSAPE is calling on the state to stop using student test scores for teacher evaluation, because the group claims that too much of classroom time is spent teaching to the tests in an effort to improve results.
NYSAPE is also demanding shorter tests. A lot shorter. 
The exams were given over six days. The actual time scheduled for students in grades 5-8 to take the tests was nearly 9 hours, while those in grades 3-4 were given nearly 7 hours to complete the exams.
The State Education Department reduced the overall lengths of the 2014 tests by 20 minutes, but the group wants the tests cut down to three hours, claiming that the longer tests only serve to drive up profits for tech and data storage companies.
“Parents have tried in so many ways to ask for change, but they haven’t been heard,” Deutermann said.
What's become known as the opt out movement began last year with the introduction of the new Common Core-based state exams.
According to the state, about 6,000 parents in 2013 refused the tests on behalf of their kids in grades 3-8. In order for their children to be excused, the refusals had to be submitted to school officials in writing. If that wasn't done, the student would be asked to make up the test. 
Nearly 70 percent of students who did take the tests flunked them. State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. responded by saying that the results would be used to set a “new baseline for testing.”
This year, about 55,000 students opted out of the tests. King said those who took the exams in 2014 made “incremental” gains over the results from the previous year.
Math scores inched up slightly so that nearly 36 percent passed, while reading scores remained flat with only about 31 percent passing the exams.
NYSED pointed out that the tests are required under federal law and the federal Race to the Top program.
“State assessments offer an opportunity for educators and parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward the standards,” said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for NYSED. “Why wouldn’t a parent want to know how well his or her child is doing?"
NYSED also has its share of supporters, including a new statewide business and community coalition called High Achievement New York.
“Preventing children from measuring their problem solving and critical thinking skills is the wrong path,” said John Collins, the coalition’s spokesman.
pliu@th-record.com
- See more at: http://www.recordonline.com/article/20141019/News/141019385#sthash.LcsR178M.dpuf

Washington Post Post: How to Start Cleaning Up the Common Core

This article is at the following link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/06/how-to-start-cleaning-up-the-common-core/

Even the strongest supporters of the Common Core State Standards would likely admit if asked that the initiative has not so far turned out as well as hoped. Implementation of the standards has been severely troubled, the testing regime that is supposed to be aligned with the Core is falling apart and increasingly people from different parts of the political spectrum have distanced themselves from the enterprise.
So now what? Where does the Core go from here? In the following post, award-winning New York Principal Carol Burris offers three first steps toward cleaning up the Core mess. Burris has been writing about problems with the controversial school reform efforts and the Core for some time on this blog. (You can read some of her work here, herehere,  here, and here.) Last month she participated in a debate about the Common Core, which you can read about here. She was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State.

By Carol Burris
Joey Garrison of The Tennessean recently reported that after three years of implementation, support for the Common Core among Tennessee teachers has dramatically dropped.   If Common Core familiarity breeds contempt, the proof can be found in the Volunteer State.
Garrison reported on a Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education and Human Development survey which found that only 35 percent of the teachers “believe that teaching to the standards will improve student learning — compared with 60 percent who said the same last year.”
What was even more surprising was that this was not a case of “we need more assistance with implementation”—56 percent of the 27,000 who responded wanted the state to walk away from the Common Core. An additional 13 percent wanted implementation slowed.
The Tennessee survey mirrors a national trend. An Education Next poll found a drop of 30 points among teachers in one year. Even a Scholastic/Gates Foundation sponsored poll, the only one that finds a majority of teachers still support the Common Core, shows that support has declined.
Those who dismiss this trend as political pushback are wrong. Many teachers are not only the deliverers of the Core, they are the indirect recipients of Common Core instruction as well. They see its effects on their own children, and their frustration with the Common Core is real.
Here is an email I received from one of my teachers whose young children attend a neighboring school district that heavily relies on the Engage NY modules. Commenting on my Answer Sheet post, she wrote:
“Carol,
This is excellent.  Thank you for hitting the nail on the head. I went to my daughter’s back-to-school last night.  On the board was the day’s schedule.  Other than going to music and lunch, the entire day was some form of either reading or math instruction.  When science and social studies were discussed as other curricular items in third grade, the parents were told that they would be covered essentially through reading passages as part of the ELA prep. Ugh.”
This email captures one of the many consequences of the Common Core—teachers narrow curriculum as they push students to reach unreasonable “proficiency “ cut scores, which, in New York, were benchmarked to SAT scores that total 1630.
And yet we are told we must forge ahead. The most recent argument given by Common Core supporters, such as the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli, is that “the chaos in the classrooms will be great.” And therefore we must “follow through on what we started.”
I remember hearing the same rationale when parents and teachers challenged Whole Language. Luckily, Whole Language was a reading program that districts could modify or abandon. Even so, damage was done. Two of my assistant principals whose children experienced purist Whole Language, still lament the difficulties their now adult children had learning to read. And yes, even as with the Common Core, there were staunch Whole Language defenders. We were told that all teachers needed was the right professional development.
No matter what investments in time or materials have been made, here is the bottom line. The Common Core is a lemon and no amount of professional development will make it run right. As Mike Schmoker recently wrote in an Education Week commentary,
“Nothing could be more futile than doubling down on training, testing, and lesson planning based on the still-bloated, misconceived lists of standards.”
The question that states face, then, is what should they put in place of the Common Core.  The logical option of going back to former standards and gradually revising them will earn the wrath and punishment of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as Oklahoma found out after it pulled out of Common Core this past summer and the Education Department decided that the state would lose its waiver from No Child Left Behind. Ohio lawmakers have put forth a bill to adopt the former Massachusetts standards; whether Duncan will approve what were considered the most challenging standards in the United States is anyone’s guess. Logic has not distinguished the Duncan Department of Education.
That does not negate the moral and ethical obligation of state lawmakers and Chief School Officers from doing what is right by students and taxpayers. If I were charged with the task of cleaning up the Common Core (and thankfully I am not), this is how I would begin. While there would be more work to be done, especially in mathematics, these are three relatively simple first steps.
Step 1: Insist that the State Education Department translate each standard into clear language that the public can understand. If the standard can’t be written so that the average parent can understand it, throw it out.
To see what clarity looks like, read the mathematics standards of Finland. You can find them here beginning on page 158. They are clear, concise and jargon free. They explain what students should know, while refraining from directing instruction. These standards are a fine model that has produced outstanding results.
English Language Arts standards also need review. Consider this Grade 8 standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.6, which Schmoker points out in his commentary:
Analyze how the points of view of the characters and audience or reader (e.g. created through the use of dramatic irony) create effects like suspense or humor.
What does it mean and why does it matter?

Step 2: Ask experts on childhood development to review the Pre-K to 3rd grade standards. Standards should be rewritten based on their consensus.
The Common Core has pushed down topics traditionally taught in later grades because of its backwards design approach. States should recruit early childhood learning researchers, psychologists who specialize in early cognitive development, and pediatricians to review the standards and recommend any needed revisions. Children deserve standards that respect their cognitive growth.

Step 3: Reduce the emphasis on informational text, close reading and Lexile levels.
There is no evidence that reading informational text in the early grades will improve reading. Informational text in primary school should be read as a one means of delivering content or included based on student interest. Ratios of 50/50 (informational text/literature) in elementary schools and 70/30 in high school are based on nothing more than breakdowns of text type on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, not on reading research. The force-feeding of informational texts in the primary years is resulting in the decline of hands on learning in science and projects in social studies, as my teacher’s email attests.   At the high school level, literature is being pushed out of English Language Arts to make room for informational text. For example, take a look at the readings of Common Core Engage NY curriculum modules for 9th grade. Literature is minimal, replaced by texts such as “Wizard of Lies,” a biography of Bernie Madoff, and articles that include “Sugar Changed the World,” “Animals in Translation” and “Bangladesh Factory Collapse.”
And then there is the overemphasis on close reading in the standards. As Professor Daniel Katz in his carefully developed critique of the Common Core English Language Arts standards notes, “in Common Core, all literary roads lead to close textual analysis.”
According to Professor Katz,
“What Common Core does is take reading literature and purpose it entirely to close textual reading, which is a tool of literary criticism, especially for the New Criticism school of analysis.  In New Criticism, the text is treated as self-contained, and it is the job of the reader to investigate it as an object to be understood via the structure of the text and without reference to external resources such as history, culture, psychology or the experiences of the reader.”
There should be a variety of strategies in the readers’ toolbox and students should have varied experiences with text—including (horrors!) reading for pleasure.
Finally, let’s put Lexile levels in perspective. Lexiles are measures of sentence length and word frequency, as determined by a computer program. They do not measure the literary quality and depth of a text. The Common Core obsession with grade level reading is unwarranted. According to lexile level, The Grapes of Wrath and The Sun Also Rises should be read in third or fourth grade. But please wait until 5th grade to read Bubble Homes and Fish Farts.
Enough said.

Correction: Earlier version had incorrect first name of Professor Katz. It is Daniel.
Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What big drop in new standardized test scores really means





From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/07/what-big-drop-in-new-standardized-test-scores-really-means/

           New standardized test scores are  out today in New York, and here’s a post that tells you what to make of the results. This was written by award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York, who has for more than a year chronicled on the test-driven reform in her state (here, and here and here and here, for example). Burris was named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010,  tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here. 

By Carol Burris

       The release of New York Common Core tests scores brings to mind the opening of Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times”:
With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature and tell you what it comes to…
          This is setting the stage for Chapter 2, entitled “Murdering the Innocents.” School Master Gradgrind, obsessed with data and facts, humiliates “Girl number 20” who cannot “define a horse.”  The humiliated young girl is quickly measured and done, deemed to be “possessed of no facts.”  In Gradgrind’s class, each child is a numbered vessel into which knowledge must be poured — faster and more efficiently from the pitcher of fear.
          The chapter is a chilling and uncanny allegory for the data-driven, test-obsessed reforms that are now overwhelming our schools. This week, New York’s “hard times” measures were made public. There was no surprise when the new definition of “proficiency” was about 30 points below the old one. That’s what the system was designed to do. Yet the new, imperious Gradgrinds will predictably use the results as the rationale to propel their reforms. They have built their careers, reputations and, in some cases, their fortunes, coming up with inventive ways to show public school teachers as inept and to present the vast majority of public school students as below par.
While the fingers point and the blame is assigned, “The Innocents” are forgotten.  New York’s students labored through days of testing so that the ignorance of the “number 20s” could be exposed for all to see.  The question is: To what end?
        Their failure, of course, was preordained. This drop was predicted by Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz in March before any bubble was filled and by Commissioner John King who declared that scores would “likely drop by 30 points” before the last test was sealed in its packet.  If a teacher in my school told me that he designed a test that was so hard that the passing rate would drop by 30 points and the majority of his students would fail, I would walk him to the door.
           The rationale here is muddled at best, but the detriments are obvious. For instance, young students in New York State who are developing as they should will be placed in remedial services, forgoing enrichment in the arts because they are a “2” and thus below the new proficiency level. That is where the vast majority of students fall on the new scales — below proficiency and off the “road to college readiness.”  Students, who in reality may not need support will be sorted into special education or “response to intervention” services.  Parents will worry for their children’s future. The newspapers will bash the public schools and their teachers at a time when morale is already at an extreme low. The optimism teachers first felt about the Common Core State Standards is fading as the standards and their tests roll into classrooms.
            Because of the Common Core, our youngest children are being asked to meet unrealistic expectations. New York’s model curriculum for first graders includes knowing the meaning of words that include “cuneiform,” “sarcophagus,” and “ziggurat.” Kindergarteners are expected to meet expectations that have led some early childhood experts to worry that the Common Core Standards may cause young children harm.  If we are not careful, the development of social skills, the refinement of fine motor skills, and most importantly, the opportunity to celebrate the talents and experiences of every child will be squeezed out of the school day.
          What is equally disconcerting is that these reforms are being pursued with little or no evidentiary grounding. There is, for instance, zero sound research that demonstrates that if you raise a student’s score into the new proficiency range, the chances of the student successfully completing college increases. New York’s new cut scores are an attempt to benchmark state scores to the proficiency rates attached to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or, NAEP. Yet the connections between NAEP scores and college performance are so spurious that researchers have yet to claim that NAEP scores have any predictive value at all when it comes to college and career readiness.  In addition,  the NAEP proficient level is very high, not at grade level at all.  In fact, most analysts consider the NAEP Basic level to be at grade level.  You can read about the problems with using NAEP as a benchmark here.
          In light of all of the above, my advice to parents is this. Remember that these tests are hardly a measure of your child’s value or promise as a student. Be outraged if she is now labeled “below proficient” based on tests that were designed to have scores drop like a stone.  Your conversations with your child’s teacher or principal can give you far better insights into her academic and (just as importantly) social and emotional growth.
In fact, in the upcoming months, there will be far more important issues to worry about than our children’s test scores.  As schools and their teachers are hammered due to the score drop, there will be tremendous pressure to further narrow the curriculum and cut out all of the enrichment that can make young children smile with anticipation on Monday mornings. Don’t allow your schools to become the Dickensian places that are “in all things regulated and governed by fact” and where teachers are obliged to “discard the word Fancy altogether” as the government officer in “Hard Times” directed Gradgrind and his students to do.
            If you think I am exaggerating, I suggest you read the Metrics and Expectations found here and ask, “Is this the way I want my neighborhood school to be run?” See how infrequently the words “parent” and “student” are mentioned.  If you think that parents and students matter, you will be disappointed.  Local control has no place in “metrics and expectations.”
             The bottom line is that there are tremendous financial interests driving the agenda about our schools — from test makers, to publishers, to data management corporations — all making tremendous profits from the chaotic change. When the scores drop, they prosper. When the tests change, they prosper. When schools scramble to buy materials to raise scores, they prosper. There are curriculum developers earning millions to created scripted lessons to turn teachers into deliverers of modules in alignment with the Common Core (or to replace teachers with computer software carefully designed for such alignment). This is all to be enforced by their principals, who must attend “calibration events” run by “network teams.”
            We who are inside schools have been sounding the alarm, although perhaps not as loudly as we should. But in the end, it will be parents, speaking with each other and with their local school boards and legislators, who will insist that sanity prevail and local control and reason be restored. It will be parents who insist that school not be a place of the continual measurement of deficits, instead standing as places that allow students to show what they know beyond a standardized test. Parents won’t “buy the bunk” and they will tire of data driven, rather than student driven, instruction. Then the “Hard Times for These Times” will end.

 Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog for the Washington Post.

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,