Core Correction

NY Senate report calls for testing ban and data-collection delay

A combination of education policy revisions and new state laws would ban early grade testing, delay student data collection and help school districts change their evaluation plans to eliminate testing, according to recommendations released in a report this afternoon by Republican State Sen. John Flanagan.

Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who chairs the State Senate’s education committee, held five hearings this fall to discuss some of the sweeping policies taking shape in classrooms around the state, such as teacher evaluations and new learning standards. The recommendations are a culmination of feedback from the hearings, one of which took place in New York City.

The report takes some policy advice from the New York City and state teachers unions, two political heavyweights that regularly spar with Republican senators like Flanagan come election season. It also calls for legislation to require the state officials to accelerate their review of local evaluation plans to see where an abundance of student testing can be reduced, something that district officials have taken upon themselves to fix this year.

The report reflected testimony from United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who called for a statewide ban on standardized tests in kindergarten through second grades at New York City’s hearing in October. Flanagan proposes that the state enact a law to prohibit schools from administering “bubble tests” in the early elementary school grades, a requirement for more than 30 city elementary schools this year.

Flanagan also recommended passage of the “Truth-In-Testing Bill,” which is a top legislative priority for the New York State United Teachers. The bill would require the state education department to release reports on the quality of its new Common Core-aligned tests, as well as independently audit the testing program.

The state teachers union said the report validated concerns that they’ve been raising.

​“Clearly, the voices of students, parents and educators are being heard,” said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi.

But the report stops short of calling for the kinds of significant changes that the union and other advocates have called for. There is no mention, for instance, of a moratorium on high-stakes tied to Common Core-aligned tests.

The report recommends that the state delay by one year its plans to deploy a student data collection system that has raised concerns from parents and school administrators around privacy. It also advocates for legislation to strengthen privacy protections around student information that would be stored on a privately managed data portal.

The privacy recommendations don’t go far enough, said Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, who wants parents to have the option to opt out of the data collection. She added that it wasn’t clear if the one-year delay would also prevent the department from continuing to upload student data to the portal, called inBloom, as part of its “data portal roadshow” presentations to school districts.

“Unfortunately, the report’s recommendations as written are ambiguous, and his bill is an inadequate response to the furor aroused by the state’s plan to share public schoolchildren’s personal and highly sensitive student data with the corporation called inBloom Inc,” a Class Size Matters’ press release read.

Some of the policy suggestions already have population support and were likely to happen anyway. The top recommendation, to obtain a waiver on federal testing requirements for students with disabilities and English language learners, is already being submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. Increasing the state’s budget for professional development is already a top funding priority for the Board of Regents, Chancellor Merryl Tisch said this week.

“While we have concerns about some aspects of the report, it’s clear that Senator Flanagan has put together some strong recommendations that we look forward to working collaboratively to address,” Tisch said, adding that the state would make “necessary changes in implementation [of the Common Core], but we cannot change course.”

A press release from Flanagan’s office summarizing the report, and the report itself, is below.

 Senator Flanagan Calls For Immediate SED Action on Common Core and Unveils a Package of Legislative Actions

Today, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District), Chairman of the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Education, issued a report of findings and recommendations related to the Education Committee’s recent series of statewide public hearings entitled: The Regents Reform Agenda: “Assessing” Our Progress.

The five hearings – held in Long Island, Syracuse, Buffalo, New York City and Albany – gathered extensive testimony from a broad cross-section of educational stakeholders around the State on concerns related to the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) by the State Education Department (SED).

The Committee heard a variety of concerns from witnesses that included the over-testing of students, inadequate professional development funding for teacher training, incomplete and missing modules (i.e., curriculum), the use of test questions that were neither age-level nor developmentally appropriate, and the security of student, teacher and principal data that will be stored on the statewide Education Data Portal (EDP).

Common Core Learning Standards were adopted in New York by the Board of Regents in 2010.  In the 2012-13 academic year, the State Education Department began aligning curriculum and assessments to the implementation of these new learning standards in all grades, Pre-K through 12.  The implementation has been admittedly flawed and a significant subject of controversy and criticism for parents, teachers and administrators.

The Senate Education Committee was the first official body to hold public hearings to allow stakeholders to express their concerns and offer recommendations for making improvements.  The five hearings produced over thirty hours of testimony, 115 witnesses and close to 1000 pages of written testimony which were all included as part of the official record.

During the hearings, the Committee heard heartfelt, emotional testimony from parents about their children experiencing severe stress, anxiety and frustrations as they struggled to understand the new curriculum, while also trying to learn in a whole new way.

Teachers expressed exasperation over the lack of time and resources given to professional development training in order to adequately prepare
lesson plans before teaching and testing their students.

Privacy experts and school administrators raised serious concerns about the ability of unauthorized third-parties to access personally identifiable information (PII) of students, teachers and principals that will be collected on the state-wide EDP.

“There was no shortage of opinions from the witnesses testifying at these hearings,” stated Senator Flanagan.  “It was a robust and thoughtful
discussion on the many important issues and problems related to the implementation of the State’s new learning standards.  Some of the most passionate testimony came from parents who, at the end of the day, all want the same thing for their children regardless of where they live – a good education.  Our state’s most basic obligation is to provide the funding and resources to ensure that every student has the best chance at success.”

The report being issued today will include an overview of the testimony heard by the Committee and strong recommendations of administrative action that can be taken immediately by the State Education Department (SED) to address concerns regarding the Department’s flawed implementation of Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).  Those administrative actions include:

·    Expediting waivers from the Federal government (US Department of Education) to relax onerous and rigid testing restrictions placed on certain students, such as Students With Disabilities and English Language Learners (ELL);
·    Producing all missing or incomplete curriculum modules immediately;
·    Aligning assessments proportionally to curriculum actually implemented;
·    Delaying operation of the Education Data Portal (EDP) for one year; and
·    Increasing funding for the professional development of teachers.

The report will also include action that the State Legislature can take on several pieces of legislation, including:
·    “P-2 Bill” – which would ban standardized testing on students in Pre-K through 2nd grade;
·    “Unnecessary Testing” Bill – which would require the Commissioner ofEducation to expedite a review of APPR plans solely to eliminate unnecessary student assessments;
·    Privacy Bill – which would strengthen protections of personal information stored on the state-wide data portal, establish significant civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized disclosure of personal information and create independent oversight within SED on matters related to privacy; and
·    Truth-In-Testing Bill – would require the Commissioner of Education to report on the effectiveness of common core tests and require an independent audit to review and evaluate the common core testing program.

“The recommendations contained within this report are a good first step in addressing the concerns heard by the Committee which overwhelmingly revolved around the issue of over-testing,” stated Senator Flanagan.

“Setting rigorous academic standards to ensure that all students are college and career ready should always be an important goal to attain.

 

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.