Voice of dissent

Teacher on Cuomo's Common Core panel criticizes report

One of the two teachers on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Common Core panel said Tuesday that its report was released without his approval or a chance for him and other members to provide their feedback.

“The report – and the process that produced it — is incomplete,” Todd Hathaway, a history teacher at East Aurora High School, said in a statement emailed by the state’s teachers union on Tuesday morning. “The report was released suddenly, even as final comments were still being solicited.”

Hathaway said the report, released Monday night, left out critically important recommendations that he said are necessary to correct the way the state has implemented the Common Core learning standards. The governor’s office “ignored my concerns” about the state’s testing policies, Hathaway said, saying that he opposed tying test scores to performance evaluations and that teachers cannot currently use the test scores to inform their instruction.

“The result is that some of the report’s conclusions and suggestions do not hold up to scrutiny,” Hathaway said. “I wouldn’t accept this kind of work from my students and I don’t accept it here.”

Cuomo’s panel did tackle several testing issues, recommending that the state limit the amount of classroom time that teachers should focus on test preparation and administration. It also suggested a ban on some types of standardized testing in early education grades, and a process to make it easier for district to reduce tests administered for teacher evaluations.

But Hathaway said those changes didn’t go far enough, arguing that the state should delay using tests in high-stakes decisions about teachers. “But that issue was never fully explored,” he said.

Cuomo has said that untying state tests to teacher evaluations is off the table.

Hathway was one of 11 members to serve on the panel. The other teacher, Nick Lawrence, is a eighth grade teacher at East Bronx Academy for the Future. In a statement put out by Cuomo’s office last night, Lawrence said the panel’s put forward “several recommendations that parents and educators can stand behind right away to start reforming the way Common Core is put in place here in New York.”

Hathaway’s full statement is below:

“The report – and the process that produced it — is incomplete. The report was released suddenly, even as final comments were still being solicited.  I had indicated the likelihood I would dissent and not allow the report to be spun as “consensus.” Nevertheless, the report was issued with my name attached. I am very concerned that the report tries to make it seem like all the discussion had been completed.  In fact, the Executive Office repeatedly ignored my concerns and the legitimate concerns of others about inappropriate state testing, the misuse of invalid tests for evaluations and the lack of transparency in state testing. The result is that some of the report’s conclusions and suggestions do not hold up to scrutiny. I wouldn’t accept this kind of work from my students and I don’t accept it here.”

“The failure to address testing and evaluation issues in a comprehensive way suggests the dynamics of the classroom will not change.  The report seems to blame everybody else for the problems of the Common Core learning standards without adequately addressing the appropriateness of some of the standards and the testing that goes with it. This report should have addressed serious deficiencies in state testing. It should have discussed the lack of transparency in tests; the lack of diagnostic and prescriptive worth to teachers; the unacceptable delays in returning scores to school districts and the insanity of pretending there is validity to teacher ratings that are derived from student scores widely acknowledged to be invalid.”

“Finally, this panel should have recognized the need to pause in the use of assessments for high-stakes decisions for students and teachers. This would have allowed the State Education Department, as well as school districts, to refine the tests and testing materials; teachers to engage in the standards and develop a variety of lessons to meet them instead of just relying on modules; parents to understand the role and utility of data in education; and for teachers to receive the necessary professional development. Implementing massive curriculum changes do not just happen overnight. They take time.  I fully support a delay in the use of tests in high-stakes decisions for students and teachers, but that issue was never fully explored.  You can’t put students first if you put their teachers last.”

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.