Tag Archives: Andrew Cuomo

The Many Faces of NYSUT

I am really confused by NYSUT these days.

A letter was printed in the Albany Times Union by the TEACHER OF THE YEAR whose face graces the cover of NYSUT UNITED. You can read his letter using this link: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Academic-excellence-to-the-core-4463752.php

But, wait……..isn’t NYSUT planning a RALLY on June 8? Why yes, indeed, Dick tells us : “It’s time to raise all our voices in unison to support public education. Educators, parents, students and community members will have the opportunity to speak as one.” 

So, NYSUT which is it? Do we LOVE the CCSS? Do we want parents, educators and students to support public education WITH the CCSS? Do we agree with Randi that there should simply be a moratorium on the testing? Do we think the CCSS were just “rolled out wrong?

What about the memo famously sent from Dick Iannuzzi telling teachers that we should be wary of discussing “opt out” with parents?

What about the news that was tweeted out of a listening tour that suddenly NYSUT’S crack legal team is looking into the confidentiality agreement that teachers had to sign before scoring tests?

What about Dick standing proudly with Andy when NYSUT agreed to the hell that is NY’s APPR?

What is NYSUT going to do about the impending destruction of completed tests – tests that will be used in that APPR to determine growth scores for its members?

Which face of NYSUT will we see tomorrow, the next day, the next week? Sorry, but this is NOT the way to instill confidence in your members, Dick!

Would I Lie to You?

Apparently, If you are a Commissioner of Education, the answer is YES! Lies abound from the offices of NYSED.

The lies are scary – intended, one can only imagine, to stop the recent vocal resistance through REFUSALS of the State Exams slated to begin in mid-April. The good folks at WNYers For Public Education ( http://www.wnyforpubliced.com/index.html)  have done a great job of exposing the lies told to Superintendents, Principals, Teachers and Parents. (See FAQ)

They have also created a great “Tools” section which includes what_you_need_to_know_about_refusing_state_tests.

As a teacher, let me tell you one of the BIGGEST lies being told, being bought, and being argued as PROOF that we actually NEED and should LOVE High Stakes Testings. The lie is that:

“These tests and the results help teachers inform and improve their instruction for all children.” 

My beautiful, funny, intelligent, inquisitive, creative first graders have taken both the STAR Reading and the STAR Math tests twice this year, unless of course, they have been “identified” as needing intervention – those poor kids have taken the tests MANY, MANY times. After the test, each student’s score is available to me immediately, you know, so that I can inform and improve my instruction. For my convenience, there is even an “Instructional Planning Report” for each child! Well, hallelujah, because you know – without it I wouldn’t have a clue where each child has room to improve!

These are direct quotes, taken from multiple “planning reports” for both Reading and Math:

“Understand that nouns can also be verbs”  “Identify the topic of a text”  “Recognize playful uses of language such as riddles and tongue twisters”  “Identify how words or phrases in literary text appeal to the senses” “Apply the vocabulary of position or direction” ” Count back by ones between 20 and 100″ “Count objects to 20”

Guess what?? I already know those things about the students that these comments were generated for! I knew most of it within the first month of school, and I could have predicted for the makers of the STAR tests, which of my students would score in the “watch” “intervention” or “urgent intervention” bands of their lovely color-coded charts. Additionally, I have already planned my instruction based on my DAILY INTERACTION with my students!

For those who teach grades 3 and up, the idea that a test score helps them plan and inform instruction is even more laughable. Test scores are not returned until mid-summer – by then isn’t it just a little too late to plan instruction?

They’re Starting to Feel It!

This is another of the many Messages from the Commissioner that just makes my blood boil!
I have deleted much of the message, and left this part all about the new COMMON CORE TESTS.
One has to ask, Why this sudden “push” to tell everyone that these new tests are so amazing?  Could it be that the powers in Albany are starting to HEAR US when we talk about having our children REFUSE to take the tests? Could it be that they are sort of like the Wizard that was just a sad fraud when the curtain was pulled back and not the “Wonderful Wizard” at all?
Reading this passage, on the heels of NYSUT’s “Listening Tour” and our own WNY4PE “Opt Out Forum” this past weekend, I’m guessing that we are finally being heard and taken seriously in Albany! Notice how the “Commish” reminds us that we all expect student scores to fall, but that no one expects it to adversely affect teacher, principal or school ratings.
Notice how he tells us (teachers, principals and anyone who subscribes to his updates) that he understands our stress. Notice how he makes a point about the CCSS being part of “Local Control”.
These are all LIES! Since APPR is in effect, the declining scores will most certainly affect ratings! How can they not, when it’s someone in Albany determining VAM scores? Local Control? That’s a lie too – there is NO MORE LOCAL CONTROL with the adoption of the CCSS! In fact, NYSED is producing a state – wide curriculum of “Modules” that are scripted an paced, and by the way even include a list of the books you’re supposed to have your students reading. To everyone who says “What’s the problem with Standards?”, I say – THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE CCSS!! NYSED has, in fact, made them a curriculum – with no local input, no teacher input!!
Message from Commissioner King

So, what do Common Core assessments really mean? Here are five key points – emphasized in a recent field memo from Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education Slentz – that should help address some frequently asked questions about the transition to the Common Core.

  1. In 2013, New York State, for the first time, will be reporting 3rd through 8th grade student grade-level expectations against a trajectory of college- and career-readiness as measured by tests fully reflective of the Common Core. As a result, the number of students who score at or above grade level expectations will likely decrease.
  2. As mentioned above, we expect the assessment scores will decline. But we also expect that decline will have little or no impact on principals’ and teachers’ State-provided growth scores. Based on New York’s approach to measuring growth relative to demographically similar students, similar proportions of educators will earn each rating category (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective) in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12.
  3. The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance. The results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well-prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school.
  4. No new districts will be identified as Focus Districts and no new schools will be identified as Priority Schools based on 2012-13 assessment results.
  5. Local policies and practices should balance the need for increased rigor against legitimate student expectations for access to educational programs, including local promotion and admission policies.

There’s much more information about the Common Core and the new assessments below and on EngageNY.org. Take a moment to check out what’s posted there. 

Again, I understand how stressful change can be, especially when you’re asking students to read more challenging texts, to better support their arguments with evidence drawn from text, to write from sources, to achieve deep conceptual understanding of the most important math concepts of each grade, and to apply their math skills to real-world problems. But 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.

Thank you for your dedication and perseverance over these last three years and now as we continue to move forward to implement the Regents Reform Agenda. Our students, schools, communities, and state are all the better for the work you do every day.

 Dr. John B. King, Jr.

Interestingly, I also found out that today, this NYSUT Ad is running across the state. So, folks, now is the time to REALLY put the pressure on Albany. Go to http://www.nysut.org/testing and sign the petition. While you’re there……..take the opportunity to “Tell It Like It Is” – no worries if you don’t consider yourself an “educator”, you have the chance to let the “man behind the curtain” know that you’ve pulled the curtain back and see him for what he is – NO FRIEND OF PUBLIC EDUCATION!

NY’s Education Reform Commission Report

Well, after months of “hard work” Governor Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission has issued a 92 page report that details how NY will suddenly be “Putting Students First.” Does that title have anyone besides me noticing the similarities to Michelle Rhee’s “Students First” group?

What are the “grand plans” of our Governor to improve education in NY? Well, you can read the  full report, but I recommend skipping right to page 86, where the summary is show with a handy dandy Venn Diagram!

Allow me, if you will, to interpret just a few phrases in the report:

1. Raise the bar for entry into the profession. and Hold programs accountable to prepare teachers and leaders for the classroom and school.  – Randi’s idea that there be a “bar exam” to become a teacher is taking hold. Besides all the other costly testing and renewable certification that teachers now have to endure, there will be a ‘bar exam’. Get ready professors – they’re coming after YOU now! If your program doesn’t sufficiently prepare the next teachers, my guess is that you will have a negative VAM rating or perhaps could even be shut down. Of course, why worry – we have TFA and the Broad Foundation with their “boot camps” to train those teachers and leaders, right?

2. Recognize and reward teachers and principals – You got it – MERIT PAY! And I’m guessing that it will be based on student test scores. So, if you teach a grade or subject without a test, there are two possibilities: You will NEVER get merit pay OR the more likely – there will soon be a state test for you too!

3. Begin to restructure the school day and year by extending student learning time. –  Hey, I almost ‘get’ this one. We all know that there is some regression over the summer months, and that typically our students from low SES families regress the most. I honestly don’t have a problem with restructuring the school year to minimize this, BUT, I do wonder – where will all the air conditioning come from? Will this mean that our schools will no longer be saunas beginning in May? Will we have infrastructure changes so that students and teachers can be in a comfortable environment? Unless you’ve tried to teach in a room where the temperature is pushing 90 or 100, you probably don’t see the need for this.

4. Promote increased access to educational opportunities by encouraging school district restructuring through consolidation and regional high schools. – If you have ever visited any small K-12 rural school in NY, you know that there is indeed, something different about them. It is a tight-knit community of teachers, students, parents, administrators, and community. These schools are the jewels of many a small town in NY. No, they may not offer 15 AP classes, but for the most part, there are plenty of opportunities for students to explore a wide variety of classes and extra-curricular activities. Additionally, it is almost always the small, rural schools that pass their budgets with tax increases that some suburban schools find shocking. Why? Well, the school IS the town – without the school, the  identity of an entire community is gone.

I will leave the rest for you, dear reader, to interpret on your own. Perhaps you’ll find something “good” in this report. Perhaps you’ll be outraged. Whatever the case, if you have kids in schools in NY or teach in NY, you really SHOULD read this report.

Here is the official NYSUT response. Of course, I would be remiss to not include the AFT responsehttp://www.aft.org/newspubs/press/2013/010213a.cfm   as well.