Friday, June 28, 2013

The NYS Senate and Governor Cuomo Fail to Take Action to Protect Student Privacy During the Last Few Days of Legislative Session

In the last few days of the legislative session, two bills to protect student privacy were approved by the NY Assembly.  They approved A.7872, introduced by Education Chair Cathy Nolan, which would allow parents to opt out of their children’s personal identifiable information from being shared with third parties, and A.6059A, introduced earlier by Assemblymember O'Donnell, that would block re-disclosures (as inBloom plans to do) to third parties without parental consent. 
Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on either of these bills, or a similar bill to protect student privacy, introduced by Senator Grisanti, S.4284, that had strong bipartisan support. Despite the fact that nearly 3,000 parents had signed a petition to the Governor, asking him to intercede on their behalf earlier in the year, and  our meeting with Cuomo's top Education aide, De' Shawn Wright, about this, the Governor did nothing on this issue either.
At this juncture, the NY State Education Department continues to ignore the protests of parents and the concerns of elected officials, and is going ahead with a risky and unethical plan to share the most confidential, sensitive information of ALL New York’s public school students with inBloom Inc., to be uploaded onto a vulnerable data cloud and provided to for-profit vendors without parental consent.  They are requiring that all districts sign up for “Education Data Portals” or data dashboards by the fall, provided by three different vendors, that will draw personal student data from the inBloom cloud. 
We will be continuing our fight to protect student privacy and parental rights.  If you live in districts represented by Senators Jeff Klein, Dean Skelos or John Flanagan, please contact us at ; please also contact your school board about this issue.  We will have sample letters soon.
The press release put out by Speaker Silver about the passage of the Nolan bill is here.    Here is a letter from Lisa Rudley, a parent leader that appeared last week, about this fundamental violation of student privacy, exhorting the Senate to allow parents to protect their children.  Here is a recent article, called “School Data Profiteering” from Dollars and Sense about inBloom.  For more newsclips, check out our website here.
Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
Copyright © 2013 Class Size Matters, All rights reserved. 
You were a member of our "Class Size Matter updates" Yahoo email listserve, or you signed our anti-inBloom petition. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New Paltz Parents Implore School District to "Please help us help our children and schools!"

 June, 2013
Dear Superintendent Rice, New Paltz CSD Administrators and the NPCSD BOE,
We understand that a result of New York State’s new teacher evaluation plan (APPR) our teachers must conduct assessments based on their Student Learning Objectives or SLOs.  We also understand that as administrators, you are following directives and complying with mandates from New York State. However, as parents, we do not take directives from New York State and it is our obligation to protect our children’s emotional and educational well being. Assessment that is lacking in educational value for our children and serves only to evaluate a teacher is not in their best interest. Our children are not employees of New York State and therefore may not be used as instruments for teacher evaluation. We hereby request the following information:
·      *A comprehensive list of SLO assessment that have been or will be administered to students
·      *SLO assessment administration dates
·    *Learning standards to be assessed
·     * Amount of time allotted for each assessment
·     * The format of each assessment (computer based, timed test, written test, multiple choice, etc)
·      *Whether or not testing accommodations as specified on 504 Plans and IEPs are being implemented
As taxpayers and as parents, we do not believe that this request is unreasonable. A lack of transparency in this matter undermines the trust and collaborative partnership between parents, teachers and school administers and serves no one, especially not the children. Access to this information will allow us to advocate for the needs of our schools and our children. Students have already been subjected to hours upon hours of state testing and this June some of our children were be compelled to participate in the experimental NYS field tests. Please help us help our children and schools before a test driven education becomes a way of life.
Thank you for your continued communication and support of student needs.
Concerned Parents of New Paltz

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Principal Carol Burris Follows up on Questions Raised by Her Original Piece That States Her Position Against The Common Core

March 11, 2013, Washington Post

Principal Carol Burris’ recent post on why she is no longer a fan of the Common Core stirred wide interest and lively debate — enough that Carol decided to follow up with a piece that addresses some of the questions voiced in the comments following the piece, as well as in the emails she received after its posting. Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York, was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is one of the co-authors of the principals’ letter against evaluating teachers by student test scores, which has been signed by 1,535 New York principals. Here’s her first post.

By Carol Burris

My recent blog post, which was critical of the Common Core, surprised some of my friends and critics. I still hold the ideal of the Common Core—to prepare all students for college and career—as my goal as a principal.  But I have concluded that the standards, as they are being implemented, are potentially harmful to students.  The best way that I can explain my trepidation is with the following analogy.

Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New York and New Jersey at high tide when there was a full moon, a time when tides were 20% higher. It was a Category One hurricane of no great fury—its winds were “only” about 74 miles per hour.  However, Sandy became a super storm due to a Canadian cold front, which wrapped around the hurricane, making the storm larger and more ferocious.

Think of the Common Core standards as the high tide—the tide intended to lift all boats. Testing is the hurricane—a strong storm that blows through each year and affects our every action as educators.  Now add the cold front, the ever-increasing high stakes, wrapping around the tests. Those high stakes—school closings, grade level retentions, and the evaluation of teachers by student scores—have given the hurricane additional fury and strength.  High tide, which in and of itself is benign, now becomes a destructive force.

As a New Yorker who saw the tide of a nearby bay fill four feet of our home, I have new respect for what occurs when strong forces converge.  Like the high tide that rushed through our neighborhood, the standards are not merely seeping into Grade 2 and rising through the upper grades as our students progress. Instead, they are rushing in all at once, throughout all K-12 classrooms. And because the testing is immediate, with high stakes for individual teachers and higher demands for student learning, districts are buying materials without time for full review, and frantic test prep is occurring.

Some readers said that principals should “stop the test prep” – that students do not need it for the tests.  However, the “handbook” that New York principals are supposed to use is called “Data Driven Instruction.” It was written by an author who happens to come from the same charter school chain, Uncommon Schools, as New York’s education commissioner, John King.  The book was purchased in bulk by the New York State Education Department and given to administrators through BOCES [Boards of Cooperative Educational Services] training for teacher evaluation.  I wrote about the training and the book here.  Today’s reformers know full well that educators will react by teaching to the test.

Other readers of my earlier blog commented that the standards themselves, apart from implementation, are deeply flawed.  Because my expertise is in secondary education, I do not have the knowledge base to make that judgment for Grades K-8.  However, I have found some evidence that supports their concern.  Let’s start at the beginning—kindergarten. The Common Core Standards expect that four- and five-year-olds will count to 100 by ones and tens and will write the numbers from 0 to 20.

However, childhood learning experts not only stress that each child will develop differently, they set counting skills for five year olds not from 1 to 100, but to 20 at age 5 and to 30 between the ages of 5 and 6. Please see here and here. While some students will master all this by age five, many will not – nor should we demand that they do.

In looking at the English Language Arts standards for kindergarten, I also found that according to the Common Core, kindergarteners are supposed to name the authors and illustrators of books that they read and discuss their role in the text.  I find this to be odd and of little value to youngsters who should, developmentally, be learning to sound out words.

Educators and parents are expressing worry.  Kindergarten teacher, Dr. Eric Gidseg, is concerned that the standards are making unreasonable demands of his students, labeling them “as failures just as they embark on what should be a journey of confident discovery”.  Many of the same concerns are expressed by parent and college professor, Mark Rice, whose thoughts can be found here,

The disconnect between the standards and childhood development is not difficult to explain. The standards were developed through backwards mapping, that is, standards for college readiness were established and then skills were walked backward through the grades.  However, children move forward not backward through development, and as any pediatrician will tell you, they do so at individual, unique paces.

Parents and teachers understand the effects of inappropriate demands and testing on young children, but do the bureaucrats get it?  The Department of Education of New York City recently put out a parent guide for the standards and the upcoming tests. Here is what it advises parents to say to their children about the tests: “Let your child know that these tests are meant to be really hard. That’s because they are designed to measure whether students are on track for college and a good job when they finish high school”.

This strikes me as something a character from a Dickens novel would say to an eight-year old: “Go and take this really hard test and if you don’t get a good score, you might not go to college and get a good job”.
Finally, there were those who commented that without the hard tests that students were expected to fail, change would never happen.  In other words, without a whip and a ruler we would have only the status quo.  I disagree.  In the last piece, I referred to the research of Michael Fullan, a far more knowledgeable expert on successful reform than I.  In his work on the conditions under which reform can work, he explains that the United States is on the wrong track, and he offers a successful alternative that you can read about here [] and here and here.

Common Core Standards author, David Coleman, once told a reporter how disappointed he was that the poor youth of New Haven, with whom he briefly worked, were not ready for Yale.  Certainly this son of a Manhattan psychiatrist and a university president could count to 100 by kindergarten, probably in French.  But to expect that every child, especially those without the same privilege, run the same race at breakneck speed is vanity at its worst.

We can only hope that parents and educators will have their voices heard before the storm of reform washes away a generation of student learning.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Please Call to Urge Members of the NYS Senate to Protect the Privacy Rights of Students and to Prevent the Sharing of Students' Data with For-Profit Vendors



This is the last week of the state legislative session. A bill, A. 7872, that would allow parents to opt-out of the risky student data-sharing scheme called inBloom Inc. was approved by the Assembly Education Committee last week.

Please call these three Senators today and urge them to pass the same bill in the NYS Senate:

Senator Dean Skelos: (518) 455-3171
Senator Jeff Klein: (718) 822-2049
Senator John Flanagan: (631) 361-2154

These three men could save your children from having their most private information shared with for-profit vendors and protected from data breaches that could permanently damage their futures.

More about inBloom Inc. and how the state’s plan to share your child’s most sensitive data violates student privacy and parental rights is attached and posted here. Please call your Senators today!

Thanks, Leonie

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Newsday Article: "Boycott of Latest Round of Standardized Tests Gets Push from Hudson Valley Parents"

Originally published: June 3, 2013 6:46 PM

Some Long Island school districts are dissatisfied with
Photo credit: istock | Some Long Island school districts are dissatisfied with the state's new standardized test.
Elementary school students across New York state this week will take field tests, basically experimental tests designed to help Pearson Education assess the validity of questions it is using on tests that count. Different school districts are assigned varying grades and subjects in which to administer the field tests.Hudson Valley parent groups are pressing to get the word out that the latest round of standardized tests for students is optional -- and that students can boycott with no consequences.
The Central Hudson Region PTA -- which represents schools in Orange, Sullivan and Rockland Counties -- sent a message to all local PTA leaders last week suggesting a boycott as a way to let legislators know that parents are fed up with tests taking time away from learning. A group of parents called ReThinking Testing MidHudson are also urging parents to boycott the tests.

"I feel like our concerns and suggestions are not being taken seriously," said Central Hudson PTA legislative chairwoman Jen Marraccino, of Nyack. "It's just too much testing. So we're feeling that we need to take some stronger action to get our legislators to really listen."
Marraccino said a group of parents and fifth-grade students in Nyack will meet in Memorial Park Thursday morning and walk to their school with posters trumpeting the boycott.
State officials say that field testing is a longstanding and valuable practice to assure the quality of tests.
"Our goal is always to require the least amount of testing necessary to build high quality assessments that provide accurate information about student achievement," said Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Education Department. "Field tests can be administered to students in a single class period of approximately 40 minutes -- certainly a worthwhile investment of time to help ensure the integrity of our testing system."
South Orangetown Central School District Superintendent Ken Mitchell said the exams are drawing more attention lately because parents are seeing the effects of the state's new requirement to evaluate teachers based on student scores.
Generally speaking, teacher evaluation plans instituted this school year for third through eighth grades have added new local assessments for students -- and the necessary tests -- at the beginning and end of the school year. That's in addition to the state standardized tests, which occur over six days in April and May, and the stand-alone field tests for some districts in some grades.
"There is clearly unrest in the ranks of the parents as well as the professionals," Mitchell said of the amount of additional testing for teacher evaluations. "This is happening across the nation. Improving teaching and learning should not have to create such dissension."
Some school districts allow students to quietly read at their desks - or make other accomodations - if they choose not to take field tests.
Bianca Tanis, a New Paltz mom, said she objects to students being used as "test subjects." She works with the group ReThinking Testing MidHudson, which is informing parents about the use of field tests.