Tag Archives: NYSED

A Parent’s Fear

I had an interesting conversation tonight with a parent whom I was CERTAIN was planning to have her child refuse the tests this spring. This is what she said to me: “I just love my daughter’s teacher, and when I think that I could do something that might hurt her, I get worried.”  This is a common thread of conversation that I’ve been hearing lately among the once-certain, once-defiant parents who were completely committed to test refusals last summer.

I think I understand where their hearts are. I think I do “get it” when they say that their WORST FEAR is that something that they or they child could do would possibly have a negative effect on a teacher that is beloved, a teacher whom they recognize as one who cares deeply for their child and has done everything in her power to make sense of all the CCSS nonsense in NYS.

I also think that I understand in their heart of hearts, these parents aren’t afraid of rocking the boat, or afraid of standing up to NYSED. What they do fear, however, is that personal connection – how it would affect someone that they have come to trust and respect and admire.

Despite the many gains made in my little school district, this one fear still exists. It is driving decisions that are truly based in a concern for the well-being of an individual PERSON – one that they care about so very deeply.

So …….. to all of you out there that are living with this fear, I want to tell you:

1. You must do what is BEST for YOUR CHILD.

2. Your child’s teacher – that person that you have grown to respect and trust and admire – will not be ‘hurt’ by a test refusal. In fact, if enough of you refuse – a score cannot even be generated! And, truly, how unique is that – that your child’s teacher would not be defined by a number and neither will your child!

3. Teachers support you in your refusals, and you know what else? Even IF somehow your refusal “hurts” us – we know that you have our backs. That means more than anything that a test could ever tell us.

http://www.nystoptesting.com/2012/08/what-opt-out-is-not.html

Would I Lie to You?

This week, a very personable “professional developer” from BOCES came to my school to “guide” the K-6 teachers in the use of the Tri-State Quality Rubric – a rubric that is to help us all align our lessons to the CCSS and is to be used as a “learning tool”. We have been assured that this exercise is in no way evaluative. In fact, the goal is to help become more “thoughtful and reflective” as we plan lessons.

I can deal with this – professional development is not a bad thing. I have no problems with learning about new tools and strategies that will improve my teaching.  However, what I cannot deal with is the bag of lies that comes along with this professional development.

“The modules on the engageny web site are just resources.” This lie was repeated over and over so much that I believe the folks at NYSED think if they just get enough folks to say it, teachers will eventually believe it.  If this is true, then why, oh why, dear BOCES Staff Specialist when I go there are the modules listed under “NYS CURRICULUM”?

“The CCSS were developed by teachers.”  OK – so much has been written that by now I can’t believe that anyone honestly thinks I would believe this one, but go ahead and keep repeating it because obviously if you say it enough, it must be true right?

“This will strengthen your lesson planning, and it is not an evaluative tool about your teaching.”  I may not be the brightest bulb in the bunch, and I am in no way a “Staff Specialist”, but I fail to see how we can discuss my lesson planning, have an observation of the execution of the lesson plan and NOT talk about my teaching. Now, it is very well true that my teaching will not be evaluated – but how on earth do you evaluate my lesson planning WITHOUT making any comment about my teaching?  Of course, in my humble opinion this is exactly the problem with the CCSS and NYSED’s scripted curriculum – what is written on a piece of paper doesn’t necessarily translate to what is good teaching practice taking into account the unique make-up of my classroom.

I can stand a lot of things – among them the lies that are repeated over and over again about the CCSS – but I cannot stand for the lies that are being told to my child!

My child is a junior in High School, which this year gives him a “unique opportunity” as he and I have been told. He gets to take the “old” English Regents exam twice and he gets to take the “new” CC-aligned ELA test. Best of all, the highest of all three scores will be the one that “counts” as his final exam score.

He has been told by his Guidance Counselor and his English teacher that he SHOULD take all 3 tests. That is an outright lie!! Of course, they try to work their magic of telling him what a great chance this is to keep taking the tests to get the highest grade possible.

What is required in NY for graduation is to PASS the ENGLISH REGENTS EXAM – PERIOD!! So, my son has a plan: He will take the exam next week IF he’s satisfied with his score, he will NOT take any more ELA exams. He is fully prepared to “sit and stare” if need be, although I told him he could just stay home sick on those days. He wants them to know that he’s buying the LIE – he wants to make a statement and I couldn’t be prouder of him!

Tri State/EQuIP Rubric

http://www.engageny.org/resource/tri-state-quality-review-rubric-and-rating-process

So, this little gem is finally making its way to my school, and I can’t contain my excitement!! Finally, all those folks at Achieve (http://www.achieve.org/contributors) have developed a rubric to let me know how well my lesson planning aligns to the “shifts and rigor of the Common Core.”

Of course, we all KNOW that the folks at Achieve have years of educational experience in writing and delivering lesson plans for students.

For me, the very best part is the fact that my prep time will be used for training in the rubric, writing lessons, and then having BOCES employees come and evaluate my lesson planning and my lessons! Again, this makes perfect sense to me because those folks that have been trained at one of NYSED’s “Network Training” sessions are absolutely experts! 

My concerns about being ‘evaluated’ by a BOCES employee were immediately dispelled when I was told through NYSUT that everyone is doing it.  Of course, NYSUT would be on the lookout for my welfare as a dues-paying union member right?

Silly old teacher that I am – thinking that my lesson planning should be tailored to meet the needs of the students in my classroom RIGHT NOW – no matter their development and abilities. How ridiculous that I would plan lessons based on their needs and interests. How absolutely crazy that I would consider using the upcoming Winter Olympic Games as a theme for teaching math, science, reading, writing, and social studies. Of course, it makes much more sense that I be on the same “page” as every other second grade teacher in NY State – following those beloved scripted lessons in the other lifesaver NYSED has provided me in MODULES.

Second Grade – Skills Strand Lesson 1: Thanks Engageny

So, today, I did the Core Knowledge Skills Strand Lesson 1 from Module 1. This is the lesson that SHOULD HAVE been taught on Day 1 of Second Grade.

There were many materials that I didn’t have – flip picture cards (hat, cat, sad, etc), and some things I didn’t do – the word dictation and “word chaining” (at — cat—bat—bad–mad–map). I think the “word chaining” was meant to be written as I read, but I looked at that and decided to skip that too.

I thought “Let’s get right to the reading bit.” I passed out the workbooks (printed by our BOCES Center and sold to us) and had my students open to Lesson 1.1. There was a story for them to read and on the following page 4 questions to answer. I had great confidence that most of them could this in about 5 minutes or less – I know them well as they were my first graders last year. I anticipated which students may struggle and was prepared to pull them as a small group to work at the table with me nearby, but still doing most of it on their own.

When nearly all of my class asked me to identify the word “Skipper”, I was honestly stunned. This shouldn’t have been a difficult word -even as names go. I took a closer look at the text they were reading, and this is what I saw:

010004

So, apparently, in “real world texts”, words have little dots separating the syllables? Have you ever read anything like this? Of course not! Why on earth would second graders be given text that looks like this? This does NOT look like anything they read anywhere else. Well, no wonder my “kids” didn’t know what they were reading! Yeah, thanks engageny for THAT!

Then, the questions:
005

Now, of course, in all the wisdom that engageny possesses (yeah, I’m being sarcastic) the words in the questions do NOT have those little dots. Thanks engageny for THAT too!

Following this lesson (remember which was to be taught on the first day of school) there’s this gem of a parent letter that they were supposed to take home. My students? NOPE – they didn’t take it home, but Thanks engageny for THIS too because you know, I am unable to write my own parent letter.

011012

And………..coming up in lesson 9 we’re going to work on compound words with this little gem of a worksheet:
013

Yeah, because it makes sense to teach compound words with words that aren’t even real. Thanks, engageny!

Tomorrow we tackle lesson 1 of the Listening and Learning Strand …… I am so

EX-CIT-ED! 

Mixed Messages?

Today, my inbox had two very interesting bits of information.

1. Commissioner King’s “News and Notes” showed up telling me:

 “As you know, the Common Core will not just arrive in the mail in a shiny, new box. (The truth is, the CCSS show up at schools in brown cardboard boxes emblazened with PEARSON!) The Common Core is a comprehensive set of research-based and internationally-benchmarked standards that demands critical shifts in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Since the Board of Regents adopted the Common Core in 2010, the State Education Department has provided extensive and unprecedented resources and supports, including an abundance of instructional materials on EngageNY.org.”

Well, how very lucky for me – these are INTERNATIONALLY BENCHMARKED STANDARDS – and here I was becoming worried that they were national! Additionally, I am so lucky that EngageNY.org exists – because you know, I have no clue with my years of experience about how to read the standards and develop lessons. 

2. Randi Weingarten also sent me a lovely email telling me:

“We are committed to the success of getting the transition to Common Core right. To do that, we must help teachers and students master this new approach and not waste time punishing people for not doing something they haven’t yet been equipped to do. Can you imagine doctors being expected to perform a new medical procedure without being trained or provided the necessary instruments?That’s what is happening right now with the Common Core.”

What the what??? This is a NATIONAL UNION LEADER telling me that we need to get the “transition” to CCSS right. Hey, wait a minute – who even said that the CCSS are RIGHT? Where were the educators in developing these standards? Where is the ‘evidence’ that these standards are in some way better than the NYS Standards? Where is the PROOF that once we transition to them, reform will be done?? 

NYSUT, for their part, is FINALLY coming to the party and hosting a rally on June 8. I hope beyond hope that parents, students, and teachers show up and DEMAND TO BE HEARD! I hope that they shout “NO MORE!”

NO MORE HIGH STAKES TESTING! NO MORE CHILD ABUSE IN THE FORM OF HOURS UPON HOURS OF TESTING! NO MORE JUDGING STUDENTS, TEACHERS, PRINCIPALS AND SCHOOLS ON SECRET TESTS! NO MORE DECISIONS BEING MADE BY THOSE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT EDUCATION!

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 HERE………….well, some of them anyway……..

I stopped by the Principal’s office today for a quick social visit. I had no big agenda or concern. His door was open and I knocked to say hello.

I noticed, lying on his table, some interesting looking books – very pretty sprial bound books with the words “3rd Grade Math Module 5” printed on them. I asked if I could take a look. They were emblazoned with “engageny” and our local BOCES logo. The engageny caught my eye and asked if I could take a look. I was told “Sure, but just so you know, it IS scripted.”

UGH………..well, I already knew that because I’ve been to the engageny website looking for Primary Grades Modules. Not that I WANT them, but I do know that they’re coming and I do know that I’ll be asked to be trained to in “unpacking” them. You can visit engageny for yourself see a Third Grade Module here

So, I flipped through the “Teacher’s Guide” to find the scripted parts:

T: What is the length of the first string shown?

S: 4 cm

T: Correct.

I am NOT kidding when I tell you that is EXACTLY what is in the Teacher’s Guide! I laughed and said “Well, you know, we need that because TFA teachers need that, and now Buffalo has fallen, so who knows where they’ll show up next.”

So, here’s the deal………..our district can buy these Teacher Guides for $14 and the Student books for about $8. Not a big deal, actually, when you consider how small we are – but there are MANY MANY Modules for each grade! And………there are MANY MANY Modules for Math AND ELA! So, it gets a little pricier.

This led to a discussion of the “PreK-12” book list that is also available at engageny. (Have I mentioned before how much I detest that website?) I have printed that list – it’s about 170 pages long! You can take a look at it for yourself:  p-12-ela-text-list The premise is that all of NYS will be on the SAME PAGE on the SAME DAY! So, who is getting rich publishing all these books that are now apparently required?  And, by the way, if our BOCES is printing these suckers up, why do they cost us anything? Plenty of RTTT money and each school’s COSERS go to BOCES now! Shouldn’t this stuff be FREE?  Additionally, BOCES has told us that they will NOT buy the multiple copies of the books that are ‘required’ even as they train us all to use them!  Wow – the cost of implementing the Common Core just skyrocketed – well beyond what we’ve spent on all the required TESTING!

My next question was “When do they expect to have any Primary Grade stuff available?” The answer: before September! Let’s get just a little more vague shall we? So, Primary Grade teachers will, in all honesty, have to be trained in the summer – something that the District cannot COMPEL me to attend and something they would have to PAY me to do since I am, after all, ONLY a 10 month employee.

I do not LIKE the CCSS – in fact, I rather despise the CCSS. I don’t believe that just by saying “Well, if we ask them to do more, read more complex texts, and expect it – they’ll do it.” This is pedaled as one of the big LIES of the CCSS – you know, we teachers just haven’t been expecting ENOUGH of our students. The truth is……….no matter what you shove at them, if they aren’t ready – they won’t be able to do it! I could have expected to have my infants talking and walking and toilet trained at 6 months – but that sort flies in the face of what we know about babies right? Same thing – if they aren’t developmentally ready, it’s not going to matter how sweetly I ask them to do something! I can tell them and their parents all I want that this is the expectation, but if they aren’t ready for the concept, it won’t matter.

So………..when your child enters PreK, K, First or Second Grade next fall………just know that his or her teacher has NOT had the ‘required’ material nor has the teacher had adequate time or training to have a CLUE! We will be “building the plane while we fly it”. Would YOU put your child on that plane? I know I wouldn’t!

PRESSURE!!

Well, it’s done………..the lesson plan, the pre-observation conference form and all the materials for my formal observation are finished.

When I heard last week that some of my colleagues had spent upwards of 10 hours on this ONE lesson, I thought that they were going a bit overboard. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would spend that much time on a plan for a 40 minute observation. Well, I didn’t spend 10 hours, but my estimate is that I spent about 6 hours on mine.

Why? Well, it’s not necessarily because I’ve planned something more elaborate than anything I would “normally” plan to do……… in fact, my observation will be during a period when my students are working through some Math Centers – mostly games! I will not be the “sage on the stage” – instead I will be walking around watching them play the games, guiding them, and pretty much keeping some order to the classroom. I figure that this will either kill me or make me some sort of “hero”………it’s a gamble I suppose.

And, let’s get one thing STRAIGHT…… I don’t want to be “hero”! I just WANT TO TEACH!  I want to do what’s FUN and MEANINGFUL……..not what some stupid rubric calls “highly effective”. I want to do what I KNOW is developmentally appropriate for each and every one of my students. I want to guide them to their fullest potential while they’re in my classroom. I want to be in a school where there is actually TIME for free play, exploration, and things that I miss so much – like putting on Fairy Tale plays for parents.

Why did I spend so much time on THIS ONE PLAN? Well, there’s pressure – the pressure (or fear) to get a “good grade”. There’s the pressure to fill out all the paperwork ‘correctly’, and since this is the first time working with these forms, there’s the pressure of not knowing exactly what to expect. In my heart of hearts, I KNOW that I’m a good teacher, but it is nice every now and then to have that validated – and this is my ONE SHOT at getting that validation.

So, I came up with the games that will be the Centers. I made the sheets where my students will record their work. I have everything set to go, and on any other day I would go through these with my students bit by bit, piece by piece and it would all be very relaxed and FUN! We would work out the kinks together – with me getting their input on what games are fun and which ones are “boring”. BUT – this time I want it to all go as perfectly as possible. And while I know that isn’t going to happen, I’m already stressing over what I imagine could go wrong…….the thing that could sink me.

The paperwork was not difficult to complete – heck, I KNOW what my goals are, I KNOW what I want the students to do, I KNOW how it fits into my ‘big picture’, but there is pressure to put it all on paper perfectly. I had to: describe the lesson content, explain where it fits in my curriculum, tell the ‘big idea’ of the lesson, explain how I would differentiate and actively engage the students, list my criteria for success, describe the feedback I will give my students, and tell what examples of student work I will bring to my post-conference. That’s just the Pre-observation form! On the lesson plan, I had to list my objectives, tell which standards I’m aligning with, describe connections with prior and subsequent learning, list all the materials, give all the academic vocabulary, provide class data, give my success criteria, detail my assessments, describe my learning activities, and list possible adjustments to my lesson.

My observation is on Thursday, and already today, the familiar stress-induced ache in my left shoulder reappeared today. I know this feeling well – I’ve had it a lot this year. So, I’ll spend the days up until Thursday losing sleep, obsessing over this ONE lousy period, popping Advil for the shoulder, and in general being on edge.

I still have the “unannounced” observation to look forward to. This is not a time when my Principal comes in and takes a look at what happens in first grade. Unfortunately, this is a time when my Principal comes with a clipboard and a form and checks off any items for which he can find “evidence” of my teaching ‘skill’ and then gives me a score. More PRESSURE!

AND………..before June, I have to collect 18 “artifacts” of my professional conduct – parent communication, evidence that I’m involved in Professional Learning Communities, evidence that I’m involved in the school community – you know, that I actually do something other than work from 8-3 for 180 days, and evidence of my continuing professional development. These items have to be submitted for another score. More PRESSURE!

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean a damn thing if you get rated “Ineffective” based on student test scores – because in NY, 40% (the student test score portion of your evaluation) actually equals 100% of your evaluation- you’re simply “Ineffective”. PRESSURE!

Now, imagine yourself as a 6 or 7-year-old coming to school this week to a teacher who is already feeling anxious about something that’s going to happen on Thursday.Do you think this teacher will be the same carefree, high-fiving teacher you left on Friday? I doubt it. Try as I might to NOT let my anxiety overtake me, I’m sure that I will be short-tempered – fearing that “normal” 6 and 7-year-old behaviors are going to somehow affect me.

Imagine that you are 6 or 7 and every day is like this – teachers on edge, information coming at you at break-neck speed. There is no time to PLAY (which is what you really want to do) and hardly anyone at school smiles any more…………and YOU feel the PRESSURE too – take this test, read this book, solve this math problem, read another book, but please read it faster this time, memorize your math facts, learn your sight words, take another test……..wouldn’t your inner child be screaming “STOP IT!”? Wouldn’t you have stomach aches and headaches? Wouldn’t you cry? Wouldn’t you want to stay home?

And just when you think that maybe, just maybe, you can shield your students from some of this – it’s BUDGET TIME! Get those requisitions done! PRESSURE! We may be cutting teachers – what do YOU think could go? PRESSURE! There may not be electives for your high school aged child next year – what do you do as a parent? PRESSURE! Your friends and neighbors go to the school board meetings and name the names of teachers that they feel should go. PRESSURE!

Maybe that’s the goal – to put so much PRESSURE on veteran teachers that we’ll just go away……at this point, I don’t know any more…….I just know that the PRESSURE will increase until June. Then I’ll have a few weeks to get over it and jump back into the PRESSURE COOKER……..

I’m So Tired………..

I’m not just tired……….I AM EXHAUSTED!

  • It’s observation time for me and that means aligning a lesson to the Common BORE Standards, completing all the required paperwork, preparing the lesson, and using a prep period for my Pre-Observation Conference. Let me make this very clear: I am NOT opposed to observations at all! In fact, I wish that my Principal had the TIME to stop in my classroom on a regular basis and get to know my students, me, and see us all in action – even on my worst days. I am opposed to a contrived “dog and pony show” simply for the purpose of getting a “good” score.
  • I’m TIRED of hearing that teachers will NOT live in “Highly Effective” – only visit there once in a while, and on the other hand being told that EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students should be a pre-determined level if there is any hope of them doing “well” in school and on state tests.
  • I’m TIRED of watching GREAT teachers retire at their first chance because they just can’t take the beatings any more. Teachers with 20, 30 years of experience who still have plenty of “good years” in them and who WANT to teach are kissing it good-bye because of constant demoralization.
  • I’m TIRED of watching NYSUT play catch-up with their “Listening Tours” and “Member Action Center” begging members to inform them of the problems with CCSS, APPR and excessive testing. You know, if they had LISTENED to begin with – they would have heard us screaming to NOT give in to King Andy’s ridiculous demands.
  • I’m TIRED of the stories of parents being intimidated by NYSED and School Administrators when they decide to OPT their children OUT of unnecessary high stakes tests!
  • I’m TIRED of the outright THREATS coming from Albany, Commissioner King, and Governor Cuomo to hold back funding increases for schools that don’t just jump on their bandwagon.
  • I’m TIRED of engageny.org being touted as the “go to” place for CCSS aligned lessons, learning modules, and information, only to find that ONE UNIT of MATH for second grade is a scripted 300 page mess. There are NO ELA modules for PRE-K – 2 yet, and those trainings are set for AUGUST! Way to go NYSED – leave us hanging and then use your incompetence to somehow prove that teachers of young children aren’t “up to the challenge” of implementing CCSS.
  • I’m TIRED of school budget battles where programs for students and teachers are the ONLY things cut.
  • I’m TIRED of being encouraged to present material to my students that is developmentally inappropriate – for crying out loud – LET THEM BE KIDS!!
  • I’m TIRED of Response to Intervention – a process that has, in effect, withheld services from a student that I KNEW in October needed services – because we had to have DATA to prove what I KNEW about 6 weeks into the school year.
  • I’m TIRED of my years of experience and my Master’s Degree counting for NOTHING!
  • I’m TIRED of watching another district – this time Buffalo, NY – inviting TFA in while qualified and properly trained teachers sit waiting for the chance to TEACH!

UPDATED MAY 18

  • I sat at the Commencement Ceremonies of American University last Saturday and watched a young graduate with 2 degrees (in Political Science and Environmental Studies) win “The President’s Award” – the most prestigious award given at Commencement be applauded for “continuing a committment to public service” by signing up with TFA. I am tired of watching qualified EDUCATION MAJORS march across the stage wondering if they will get a chance to teach.
  • I am sick and tired of school district leaders who say “if one more teacher retires, we’ll be in really great shape financially.” WHAT THE HELL? Since there is no plan to replace the teacher, apparently financial concerns trump educational concerns.
  • Our district has a plan to move teachers into different classrooms. This wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I’m quite certain that it happens to lots of teachers every year, but in our little school – this is rare. This proposal – which was sort of dumped on us – is now up for debate and modification, but that means one more after school meeting where we will be asked to “leave our emotions at the door”. Sorry, but we aren’t robots – we have valid, developmentally appropriate concerns that have, so far, been brushed aside because they don’t fit with the “PLAN”.
  • As it always goes in our PreK – 12 school, I’m tired of the students in grades 7-12 being released from school on June 10, while the elementary kids come for full days until June 20. That, in itself, isn’t a horrible idea. However, we elementary teachers have the same amount of “work” to do – which could now include packing up our entire classroom to be moved while having students in those rooms all day. I’m tired of giving my time away for free – like somehow because I teach first grade, I don’t need time to complete grades and reports and folders and portfolios and pack without students in my room.
  • I’m tired of hearing that “PreK – 2” modules MIGHT be done by September, and being told that is what we’ll be using next year – and having no training (except training that I could volunteer to attend in August).

 

News from Commissioner King

And……….as if things couldn’t get any worse………….this was in my school email inbox on Friday! These are the kinds of “encouraging and thankful words” you too can receive if if you sign up for the Commissioner’s updates. I haven’t replied, but if I took the time to reply, my responses are in RED for PUBLIC ED! 
Message from Commissioner King
Dear Colleagues, That would imply that you ever were, in fact, a public school teacher – sorry you are NOT one of my colleagues! 

I hope your New Year has gotten off to a great start. Thanks for noticing, but it’s mid-February. I’m guessing you mean you hope that we got off to a great start with mid-year high stakes tests, test prep and January Regents exams. 

Deputy Commissioner Slentz and I have spent a lot of time on the road this school year, visiting classrooms across the state. It’s so impressive how so many teachers have thoughtfully integrated the Common Core into their lesson plans. From Webster to Goshen to the Bronx, teachers and principals have responded to this challenge in remarkably inventive ways, engaging their students and teaching them the valuable skills they’ll need to graduate ready for college and careers. Not sure how engaging mindless test-prep and Pearon worksheets are, but for many of NY’s school children, that’s what they’re engaged in EVERY SINGLE DAY! College and careers – well, who can afford college and where in NY are the careers? 

As you probably know, the deadline for having an approved principal and teacher evaluation plan was January 17. The Governor and Legislature included language in the state budget that required districts without approved plans in place by that date to forfeit their 2012-13 state aid increase.

Remarkably, more than 99 percent (685) of the state’s 691 school districts met the deadline.My deepest respect is for the 1% that DID NOT submit to the Governor’s threats!  It wasn’t easy; every district and local union had to negotiate the specifics of the plan and submit it to the State Education Department (SED) in time for review and approval. SED staff worked literally around the clock, right up to midnight on the 17th, to make sure every plan we received was thoroughly reviewed.Word has it that most of NY’s RTTT money was spent hiring non-qualified “temporary workers” to review such plans. In fact, a neighboring school had their sent back because the person reviewing it didn’t understand the words “highly effective”. How did that money spent on things other than PROGRAMS for children work out for you? 

Unfortunately, the state’s largest district, New York City, didn’t submit a plan and missed the deadline. Steps are underway to bring the City Department of Education, the UFT, and CSA back to the table in time to avoid jeopardizing further funding, including federal Race to the Top dollars.

But the failure of New York City and its bargaining units to reach agreement does not diminish the success of school districts and unions across the state that got the job done. Their success means teachers and principals will have the information and professional development they need to improve their practice. In turn, our students will have a better opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers.  It’s a great step forward for our schools, our students and our state. Let’s all be honest here……….APPR is a way to get rid of what you and your pal Andy would consider “dead wood” – veteran teachers. By the way, the BEST information I get about my students comes in my every day interactions with them – not from a computerized test! Professional development?? Well, I suppose if you consider the fact that all I’ve been “developed” in is how to complete MORE PAPERWORK for a flawed evaluation system, then that’s what Iv’e been getting! 

In January, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the last of three reports about its Measures of Effective Teaching Project (MET). The MET Project, unprecedented in its scale and scope, was designed to determine the best ways to assess teacher effectiveness so that teachers can receive the feedback and support they need to improve. Pardon my language…….but honestly this is BULLSHIT! It was undertaken to further promote the corporate takeover of public education! Andy , Billy, and Mindy are most likely licking their chops counting the dough they’re making, while NY’s school children lose the ARTS and RECESS!  The findings strongly validate New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) approach and the hundreds of school district evaluation plans we’ve approved. In my best “Church Lady” voice: “Isn’t THAT convenient?”The study endorses the use of multiple measures, including a mix of classroom observations, student growth on State tests The parents in NY who are opting their children OUT of these insane tests are my heroes!!  and other measures. Many of the MET findings about what works best are either required by New York’s new APPR system (multiple observations, careful training of observers around use of a rigorous rubric) or permitted (student surveys, multiple observers including peer observers, and observations conducted using video). This latest MET report presents strong evidence that teachers with the best results on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness in one year will produce better-than-expected student outcomes in future years. You can read the results for yourself atwww.metproject.orgSorry, but I have better things to do with my time.

I hope the New Year finds you and your students healthy and learning. Don’t forget to visit EngageNY.org for new information and instructional tools. Meaning……….don’t forget to visit the site to find 300 page “modules” of paced instruction on just ONE UNIT of study, which are clearly an insult to my education and my intelligence. I do NOT need a script to teach – only your TFA pals need that because after all, they aren’t really certified teachers are they?
Thanks for all you do to help our students learn. Yes, despite YOUR efforts to make sure that I give up and give in……….I am helping my students learn WITHOUT Pearson workbooks. I am helping them learn not only skills, but how to be members of a caring community of learners where each of us is supported and respected for our UNIQUENESS! I will NOT allow you to standardized my students!! 

John B. King, Jr.