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

The Common Core is Tough on Kids with Special Needs

"The purported goal of the Common Core is success for all students. But success for all requires openness towards cognitive diversity, and isn’t so easily standardized."

A recent article in The Atlantic argues that the Common Core has a negative impact on education for all students but especially students with disabilities AND precocious students.

You can read the article here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Staten Island Regent Christine Cea is NOT "the Voice of Disabilities"

By Bianca Tanis

As of Tuesday, 2/11, Members of the NYS Assembly completed interviews of both new and incumbent candidates for the 4 positions that are up for re-appointment on the NYS Board of Regents. In light of the failure of the Board of Regents to heed parent concerns, coupled with a Regents Task Force Report that is at best misinformed and at worst duplicitous, the legislature must elect new leadership to the Board. When the legislators vote to decide who will fill these 4 spots on March 11th, parents and educators will be watching.

Parents of students with disabilities have been vocally opposed to not only the flawed implementation of the CCLS, but also the deep flaws within the standards themselves and the ways in which they promote poor instructional practice for special education students.  One of the Regents up for reappointment is Christine Cea, the Regent from Staten Island who calls herself the “voice of disabilities.” You can watch her interview with members of the Assembly Education Committee here.

There is little doubt that as a parent of a child with a disability and a researcher for the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities , Regent Cea has the best intentions. However, after watching her interview, it is difficult to believe that she is the most qualified person to represent the educational needs of students with disabilities in New York. 

Regent Cea side stepped questions and gave vague, general answers. When asked where in her opinion, special education is going and what direction it should take, Ms. Cea offered the less than insightful response, “We are seeing great strides in getting people independent and doing more and more.” When asked what she hopes to accomplish in her next term if elected, Regent Cea responded, “I moved very comfortably into the spot of being the disability voice and I just hope to do more…I hope to take this transition piece (transition to the CC) and make it into something special.” Special?

Perhaps most disturbing was Regent Cea’s complete and utter lack of understanding of the ways in which the CCLS are impacting students with disabilities in the classroom. Consider the following exchange between Assemblyman Ed Ra and Regent Cea:

Assemblyman Ra: “How can we better facilitate for our parents and teachers how the Common Core is supposed to mesh with the IEP?”

Regent Cea: “I visit the Hungerford School on Staten Island that is all disabilities, quite severe disabilities. I haven’t seen them do the Common Core yet, but I see how they adapt whatever kids are learning. I have a health curriculum that they are using, and they adapt it to every level and every kid, every student participates”

“I think that teachers are very creative in the field of disability and know their students wonderfully. So I think that the common core is just a set of standards that needs to be adjusted by the teacher for the certain student (sic). Our students with disabilities…there’s such a great variability of ability and disability that it’s very difficult to ‘one size fits all (sic).’ “

“I think that the IEP and the standards are the same because the IEP has standards on it already. The standards that we are proposing are a little different, but they can be adapted because the IEP is individualized.”

Regent Cea has a very naïve perception as to just how much impact and influence the standards have. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say that she has no understanding of how tying a teacher’s evaluation to test scores based on the teaching of “just a set of standards,” a test that does make allowances for a teacher’s judicious “adjustments,” truly is. Even more mind-boggling is Regent Cea’s assertion that “the IEP and the standards are the same because the IEP has standards on it already.” First and foremost, while the IEP can be individualized, the standards cannot. Secondly, an IEP is not made up of standards, but of individual learning goals, with emphasis on the word individual.

Parents of students with disabilities have serious misgivings about an individual calling herself “the voice of disabilities,” while simultaneously signing off on something as discriminatory and offensive as New York State’s new CDOS Commencement Credential. This credential automatically identifies its bearer as a person with a disability -- in order to use it, a young man or woman must be willing to sacrifice their privacy and dignity. Regent Cea, “the voice of disabilities,” finds this acceptable. As a parent of a child with special needs, I do not.

I hope that more parents will take the time to watch these interviews. Our elected officials must be made aware that these videos are a part of the public record, and that IF they vote to keep these four individuals, their constituents will be watching. We will know exactly who and what they voted for.  

You can see a side by side comparison of Regent Cea’s interview and the interviews of several new Board of Regents applicants hereWho would you choose to make decision for your child’s education?

Bianca Tanis is a parent and a special education teacher in the Hudson Valley.

8 Million Dollars for Testing, 8 Million Dollars less for Classrooms

While the Board of Regents included very little actual change in their recent task force report, they do make one costly recommendation that would require the state to spend more on testing and less on students.

"In one recommendation sure to please many parents and school staff, the Regents called for an elimination to stand-alone field testing and increased access to questions on the state tests. This change boils down to a funding issue, said King. He and the Regents are asking for $8.4 million to print more forms of the state tests and expand the state’s “item bank” of test questions."

You can read the rest of the article here

New Yorker's Outraged by Governor Cuomo's Flawed Common Core Panel


The leaders of the NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of more than 45 parent and educator groups from throughout the state, expressed their outrage at Governor Cuomo's choice of appointees to his Common Core Panel. 

As Lisa Rudley, Ossining public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “As a parent I am offended that the Governor's Panel is stacked with known supporters of the Common Core, eliminating the chance for an objective evaluation.  The chair, Stanley Litow, Vice President of IBM, has already written an Op-ed saying full speed ahead with its implementation.  Dr. Charles Russo is one of the very few Superintendents in the state to publicly support the standards, including the flawed NYSED modules known to be rife with errors and questionable content.”  

As Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters pointed out, “Several members selected by the Governor belong to organizations that are heavily dependent on funding from the Gates Foundation, which has spent more than $170 million on developing and promoting the Common Core. These include Dan Weisberg of The New Teacher Project, which has received $23 million from the Gates Foundation, including $7 million in the last year alone.  Nick Lawrence is a prominent member of Educators for Excellence, which received more than $3 million from the Gates Foundation in 2013.  This evident conflict of interest undermines their credibility not only concerning the Common Core, but also the highly controversial issue of whether the state should go ahead with sharing personal student data with inBloom Inc., a corporation established by the Gates Foundation with $100 million."  

“Parents are tired of having education policy in this state hijacked by deep-pocketed billionaires who do not send their own children to public school and would never consider having their education stifled by a rigid regime of instructional text, scripted modules, test prep, and their personal data provided to for-profit companies without their consent,” said Eric Mihelbergel, Ken-Ton public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.  

Bianca Tanis a New Paltz public school parent and special education teacher noted, “Experts in special education, early childhood development and elementary school teachers have all noted that the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate, were created without their input and need significant reform.  And yet not a single individual from any of these groups was selected for the Panel, ensuring that their recommendations will be profoundly deficient.”

"I am astounded that the governor would fail to include any teachers of younger students and those with special needs, especially since many of the criticisms and concerns surround the issue whether the standards are appropriately designed for these children,” pointed out Lori Griffin, a Copenhagen public school parent and educator.

“The Governor argues that no decision should be made on the Common Core until this Panel has come up with its recommendations.  The fact that this Panel is so heavily stacked only reinforces our conviction that there is no reason to wait for the Panel's conclusions.    The Common Core standards must be immediately pulled back and revised, with input from educators and parents, the over-testing must come to a halt, the teacher evaluation system scrapped, and the contract with inBloom cancelled,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Bellmore public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out. 

Jessica McNair, New Hartford public school parent concluded, “Our children are suffering and cannot wait. If Commissioner King does not immediately stop the runaway train, call a halt to the standards and the testing, and withdraw his agreement with inBloom, the Legislature must act in his place.” 

Carol Burris: It's time to hold NY education leaders accountable for the Common Core mess.

Carol Burris explains here how the New York Board of Regents hoaxed the public into thinking they had agreed to major changes when they actually changed nothing. 

Burris writes:

The New York Regents are the masters of the non-response response.  The day after they published their recommendations entitled Adjustment Options to Common Core Implementation, this was the Newsday headline: Pullback on Common Core: Regents Delay Tougher NY Test Requirements for High School Students Until 2022. That headline on Tuesday came from the Regents’ third recommendation: “Give students more time to meet the Common Core standards.”
That sounds impressive until you discover that nothing was pulled back at all. 

You can read the entire piece here.