Monday, April 29, 2013

Dear NYS Parents,

from Bianca Tanis @ The Chalk Face Knows Schools Matter –
Here is another terrific guest post from Bianca Tanis, Hudson Valley Parent and Educator.
An Open Letter to NYS Parents,
I’m sure that you have heard about some of the drama that is going down in public education and I’m sure that you have been overwhelmed by the mixed messages from teachers, reform groups, anti-reform groups, and the state. It’s a lot to process, and if you are like me, your brain is probably starting to turn off right about now. But I am going to ask you to stick with me for a few more minutes because there are some things that you need to know about the reality of your child’s education.
This month, students in grades 3-8 took the new NYS Math and ELA Exams. The state promised more rigor, and I suppose that they delivered on that promise. Over the past two weeks, your son or daughter was forced to sit for 9 hours of testing. And if he if or she required extra time, you can make that 13 to 18 hours. I would say that’s pretty rigorous. By the way, here is how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines rigor: harsh inflexibility in opinion; the quality of being unyielding or inflexible; an act or instance of strictness; severity; or cruelty.
I would like you to ponder how sitting for a 90 minute to 3 hour testing session at the age of 10 affects your ability to maintain focus and answer questions to the best of your ability. As an adult who has voluntarily sat for the SAT, the GRE, and multiple licensing exams, I can attest to the fatigue and “brain drain” that sets in after about an hour. Also consider the fact that children are not allowed to eat or drink while taking the test, for fear that they may soil the testing protocol, and that for many children, testing cuts into lunchtime and specials.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alfie Kohn at SUNY New Paltz tomorrow, Thursday, April 25, 2013

An important reminder:

Re-Thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Chapter invites you to a talk with author Alfie Kohn tomorrow Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 4:30PM at SUNY New Paltz in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium

Asking Core Questions about "Common Core" Standards:  The Latest Version of Top-Down School Reform

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Please Read This Important Information Regarding ELA/Mathematics Test Book Review

Protesters Against New State Tests Rally in Albany

ALBANY -- A small contingent of local parents, students and activists who object to new state testing for grades three through eight gathered at the foot of the Capitol Building Tuesday in protest.
About 35 people, many from the New Paltz area, stood near the looming edifice of the New York State Department of Education Building on the first day of the new tests.
Starting Tuesday, students in grades three to eight will, for the first time, take assessments that reflect the state Common Core Learning Standards.
KT Tobin, an organizer for the New Paltz group ReThinking Testing: Mid-Hudson Region, said the group came to Albany to make it clear to legislators that the new tests were bad for both students and teachers. Tobin said students take the math and English tests first in the beginning of the school year and then again in the next few weeks to see how they've improved. Because students aren't prepared for the first tests, it's setting them up for failure, said Tobin.
"This is their entry into school - this is a test you're supposed to fail," said Tobin.
Protesters planned to go to the offices of local legislators to explain to them that the new tests were being rolled out to fast and bringing too much testing into the classroom of younger students.
Melanie Cronin, a New Paltz parent, brought three of her children along for the trip despite them having scheduled tests Tuesday.
"For a variety of reasons we don't want our kids to experience the anxiety of the tests," she said.
Cronin said the tests were not fair to students, teachers or school administration.
State Education Department Commissioner John King has said the new tests, part of which will count towards teacher evaluations, are necessary to see how the new Common Core standards are working.
"Only about 35 percent of our students graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary to be called college- and career-ready," King said in late March. "Quite frankly, our students are not doing well enough on those real world tests."
The new tests have also met with resistance from teachers' unions. The New York State United Teachers this month passed a resolution this month criticizing the state's "rocky implementation of new Common Core standards and demanding that this year's test results not be used for high-stakes decisions affecting students and teachers."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Important Information Regarding Student Privacy from Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, NYC

As NYS has agreed to share confidential teacher and student data with a Gates-funded corporation, inbloom Inc., now  is our chance to convince NYS to protect student data from inBloom's data base.  

Please read this message from Leonie Haimson and take steps to help protect student data!

From Leonie Haimson:

Huge news: Louisiana Superintendent John White pulls back student data from inBloom, because of protests of parents and state board. Louisiana was the only state sharing student data statewide except for NY -- at least in phase 1. We need to email the NYS Regents who are meeting on this on Monday.Here are their emails; please email them this weekend and urge them to pull student data out of inBloom like Louisiana immediately!;;;;;;; regentcottrell@mail.nysed.go

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Important Privacy Information from Class Size Matters

Parents beware! New York State is planning to share your child’s confidential information with private corporations

New York State has agreed to share confidential student and teacher data with a Gates-funded corporation called inBloom Inc.
  • This confidential data will include your child’s personally identifiable information, including name, address, grades, test scores, detailed disciplinary and health records, race, ethnicity, economic status, disabilities and other highly sensitive information.

  • This information is to be collected into an electronic “data store” with an operating system built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corporation. News Corp is owned by Rupert Murdoch and has been found to have illegally violated privacy in Great Britain and in the US.

  • The “data store” will be placed on a vulnerable data cloud managed by inBloom Inc. has already stated that it “cannot guarantee the security of the information stored…or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.

  • inBloom Inc. intends to make all this highly confidential data available to commercial vendors to help them develop and market their “learning products.”

All this is happening without parental knowledge or consent, and the NYS Commissioner King has refused to allow parents to opt out.

Please ask your Assemblymember and State Senator to sign onto the Student Privacy bill, A06059 and S04284, to block this violation of parental rights.

Call your elected representative now! You can find them at and

You can also reach them through the Senate switchboard at 518-455-2800 and Assembly switchboard at 518-455-4100.

Please also contact NYS Assembly Speaker Silver at 518-455-3791 or 212-312-1420; and Senate Majority Leaders Dean Skelos at 518-455-3171 and Jeff Klein at 518-455-3595. Urge them to support A06059 and S04284 NOW!
For more information, check out or email us at

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

District Pushes Back Against State Testing-Article by Scott Waldman of Times/Union (4/07/13)

  • The state's testing requirements are being criticized by school districts and unions.  (Paul Buckowski / Times Union) Photo: Paul Buckowski / 00014514A
    The state's testing requirements are being criticized by school districts and unions. (Paul Buckowski / Times Union)
Saratoga Springs
The city school district wants the state to stop relying so much on standardized exams.
The school board will vote Tuesday on a resolution that urges the state Education Department to back off the tests students in third through eighth grade will take over a few days later this month. The board says the tests cut into student learning time, narrow the curriculum and erode teacher morale.
The resolution will not be binding, and won't exempt the district from the state's requirement that every child take the English and math exams. But the public push-back against the state is a highly unusual move for a school board.
"Every kid has his own way of learning," said Ernest Gailor, the board's vice president. The tests "make them nervous as the dickens; it takes away from the results of real world experiences."
If the measures passes, Saratoga Springs' board would be one of just a handful of school boards around the state that have passed measures calling on the state Education Department to find other, more reliable ways to measure student progress.
Superintendent Michael Piccirillo said other districts will likely voice opposition to the tests because they try to condense an entire year's worth of learning into a single exam. He said student portfolios, community service and everyday classroom observation are a far more accurate way to gauge what a student has absorbed in the classroom.
"We don't want kids to feel overly stressed about the assessment and recognize it's not the only way to measure their progress," he said.
The resolution states that research recommends multiple measure to assess student learning. It also states that the tests discriminate against children with disabilities and who are English language learners.
A small but growing number of parents across the state are choosing to opt out of the state tests, even though the law is not clear on whether they are allowed to do it.
Recently, the New Paltz school board passed a resolution criticizing the tests, and a teacher in Syracuse publicly resigned over an increased emphasis on the tests because he said they interfered with learning.
New York State United Teachers, the state's largest teachers union, is urging members and parents to call on the state Education Department to stop implementation of this year's tests, which will be more challenging, because schools have not received all of the necessary curriculum.
"If we want our children to be ready for college and meaningful careers, we need higher standards — and a way to measure whether those standards are being met — and we need them now," Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said.
School board members share the concern about too much testing, but also recognize that the data from tests is used to make important decisions about student learning and teacher effectiveness, said Tim Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. Still, he said school boards are increasingly being asked to respond to parents who want to opt their children out of the exams.
This week, he said, the association will publish a legal guide on how to handle those who are pushing back against testing. • 518-454-5080 • @518Schools

Read more:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Some Educators, Parents Give Failing Grade to New State Tests-Times Herald Record

A kid, a No. 2 yellow pencil, a list of test questions and a piece of paper for the answers.
That's the kind of tests kids have been taking for centuries, but come test time next week, the stakes are higher than ever before.
For the students, it means not just eventually whether they get a high school degree, but if they will get into advanced classes or extra-help programs.

About the tests

The federally mandated English tests will be held on April 16 through 18 this month. The math tests go from April 24 through 26.
For 90 minutes each day, students will mull over the tests and try to answer questions meant to determine how much they've learned since the beginning of the year. Students took similar tests at the beginning of the year.
The tests measure how students are meeting specific Common Core Standards, adopted by New York state in July 2010 and meant to prepare them for college and careers. They're also aligned with international benchmarks.
All students in grades three to eight must take the exams, which are a combination of multiple-choice, short response and extended response questions.
The results are reported at four levels: 4 is exceeding proficiency, 3 is meeting proficiency, 2 is meeting basic standards and 1 is below standard.
Preliminary results, whether students met or didn't meet standards, are released in June.
It means how they learn and what they learn, and the tests are at the heart of it.
For teachers, the stress on the new testing will guide their classroom instruction. It also means their livelihood; the new "high-stakes" tests link their jobs with how well their students score.
Some call the new paradigm accountability and long overdue; others call it mind-numbing and a distraction from real learning.

Time to opt out?

On the evening of April 2, a small group of parents and educators gathered in the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz to plan a bit of civil disobedience: Having students "opt out" of the state's new tests.
Through their Facebook page and word of mouth, the New Paltz-based group — Re-Thinking Testing: Mid-Hudson Region — has been sounding the alarm on what they say are the negative consequences of the state's new teacher evaluation system — what they call high-stakes testing.
In a few weeks, after three years of work on implementation by teachers and administrators supported by Race to the Top-funded Network Teams, students in grades three to eight will, for the first time, take assessments that reflect the state Common Core Learning Standards.
So on April 16, when thousands of students in the region are mandated to sit for the tests, the group is asking parents to consider having children opt out and join their parents at a rally against the tests on the steps of the Capitol in Albany.

"It's important for parents to be vocal and make a big stink about this," said Bianca Tanis, a Re-Thinking member. "It's really about public awareness and the court of public opinion."
Boycotting the tests could be risky, members of the opposition group said. Kids who take off may — may — lose access to accelerated programs. They also weren't sure how boycotting would affect teachers' evaluations.
Re-Thinking Testing member Cynthia Listort, a New Paltz parent and Kingston City School District teacher, said she's unhappy with all the time her children are sitting for tests that aren't measuring their abilities.
Her kids are opting out.
"These tests are crowding out everything we know about multiple intelligence," said Listort.
After the meeting, New Paltz parent Elsie Gold said she would have her child opt out of the test. She said she thinks the tests are a way for large testing corporations to make money and don't test the full abilities of a child.
"To me it's corporate greed that's taking precedence over education. It's teaching to the test as opposed to doing problem-solving and critical thinking," said Gold.

School boards, officials weigh in

The Re-Thinking Testing group isn't alone. Boards of education from Kingston, Rondout and New Paltz school districts have all passed resolutions against the testing.
Middletown School District Superintendent Ken Eastwood issued a letter last month calling on state and education leaders to not weigh the test grades in teachers' evaluation formulas, which he said count toward 25 percent of their evaluation as per state law. The Middletown school board voted last week to urge an end to the overreliance on tests.
Eastwood said student results will still fall largely along socioeconomic lines, regardless of the new standards, tests and evaluations.

"People are finally getting totally disgusted with what's going on here," said Eastwood.
Cost of implementing the tests in the next few years will also increase, according to the New York State School Boards Association. The Association said the cost will exceed the federal Race to the Top money to fund it. That will put the onus to pay for the changes on cash-strapped local districts, said the Association.
Districts will eventually be required to take the new tests online, Eastwood said. "When we have to tell parents that we're going to cut music, art, sports or other programs because we have to implement online testing, that's when people are really going to go berserk," he said.

Shifts in testing are stressful

In a letter in late March, State Education Commissioner John King said he expects students to score lower on the tests this year due to the changes in how they're scored — yet doesn't expect teachers' evaluation scores to be impacted because either way, similar proportions of educators will end up in each of the state's four rating categories.
In King's letter to educators, he acknowledged how stressful the new changes can be, especially with the tough new goals and standards of the new tests.
But, he said, "We owe it to our students to move forward. Opportunity awaits them and it's our responsibility to make sure they're equipped to seize that opportunity."

Re-Thinking Testing events

April 11: 7 p.m. - At SUNY New Paltz, Coykendall Science Center Auditorium - Four panelists will be speaking on the effects of high-stakes testing, called "Cheating our Children."
April 16: 11 a.m. - Opt-Out Day 2013 - Parents and children opt out of testing and head to the steps of the Capitol in Albany, then meet with legislators.
April 25: 4:30 p.m. - At SUNY New Paltz, Coykendall Science Center Auditorium - A Talk by Alfie Kohn called "Asking Questions About Common Core Standards: The Latest Version of Top-Down School Reform"