Friday, April 17, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Historic opt out levels, media today & join us Sunday to give a report card to the Mayor!

Today (Thursday, April 16, 2015) I'll be on the national public radio show, To The Point at 2PM EST & Inside City Hall on NY1 at 7 & 10 PM EST talking about testing and opting out. Please listen and watch!
This week, the opt-out movement reached historic levels across the state. The unofficial count shows more than 150,000 kids have opted out of the NY state Common Core ELA exam with only 53% of districts reporting, according to a spreadsheet posted by United to Counter the Core. The best reporting on this has been done by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News,  who writes, " The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany's fixation with standardized tests..."
Many teachers, students and parents have also told us that the ELA exams this week are too long, full of outmoded vocabulary and ambiguous questions, with convoluted reading passages at a difficulty level many grades higher than the students being tested. You can read their comments or post yours on the blog here.
The state math exam happens next week; we encourage even more parents to opt out. Sample opt out letters are on the NYSAPE website. Despite wild speculation, there is no legal basis in either federal or state law for schools or districts to be punished with budget cuts if large numbers of students refuse the test. The best discussion of this is by the NYS Superintendents. In the US Senate, an amendment just passed unanimously in committee, barring the feds from penalizing any state or district for allowing parents to opt out.
On Sunday at noon, in front of Tweed, 52 Chambers St., parent leaders, NYC Kids PAC and Class Size Matters will be releasing a report card to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, grading him on whether he has fulfilled his campaign promises on education after more than a year in office. Please join us and bring your kids! You can respond to this message or email for more information.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How did the ELA exams go today? Please let us know!

How were the NYS ELA exams today at your school?  Please use this blog as a discussion board.  We first found out about the infamous Pineapple passage on the 8th grade ELA exam in 2012 from a comment on this blog. 

I have heard second hand from my NYSAPE allies about opt out figures upstate and in Long Island at 70-80% at many schools, and at least one school in NYC.  I also heard secondhand that the 6th grade ELA exam had at least one reading passage at a 14.8 level on the Flesh Kincaid index -- which according to Wikipedia, indicates it is "best understood by university graduates." 

Feel free to post below opt out figures at your schools, or if you're a teacher, student, or principal, anything you found strange, incomprehensible, erroneous or not-so-unusual about the test today.  Thanks!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

NYSED official agrees: state ELA exams given to English Language learners provide no useful information to their teachers or parents

Tomorrow at 11: 30 AM, Sunday April 11, I will be appearing on Tiempo, on ABC, hosted by Joe Torres, talking about why all kids but especially English Language Learners should opt out of next week’s ELA state exams.  The program taped last week.  English Language Learners make up 14.4% of the total NYC public school population.

I appeared with Angelica Infante-Green, NY State Associate Commissioner of the Office of Bilingual Education.  To my surprise, Ms. Infante-Green immediately agreed that the state ELA exam is useless in terms of the information they provide about ELL students to teachers, parents or schools.  She also said that because the test was so difficult, it could not show "growth" and thus was an invalid measure to evaluate teachers with ELL students. Yet she strongly opposed opting out of the test, and continued to argue that it could hurt the school’s funding if too many students opted out – a point that has been refuted by other NYS Education officials.

Ms. Infante-Green revealed that NYSED had sent in a waiver request to the US Department of Education, asking if they could exempt English Language Learners from the test for at least two years after they enter this country, instead of only one year, which is the mandate now. She said that they really wanted to exempt such students from the ELA exam for at least three years, but didn't think they could possibly get such a waiver.

Below is some of the research I did in advance by asking teachers and professors, expert in this area.  This is important information to share, especially as I didn’t have the time to make all these points

Please also read Katie Lapham’s terrific list of reasons to opt out, and the oped in the Daily News today by Arthur Goldstein, a high school ESL teacher.

Katie Lapham: first grade dual language teacher, previously 5th grade ESL teacher:

Children take the grades 3-8 ELA test after just one year in the system (even though it takes a lot longer than that to become fluent in academic English). Looking at test score data for ELLs highlights how unreliable and misleading the scores are. Only three percent of ELLs "passed" the 2014 ELA. It's ridiculous to make the claim that 97% of ELLs are "failing" in ELA. 

The scores are useless to me and do not reflect the growth ELLs make in the classroom.

The tests are abusive: ELLs get extended time (time and a half) on the tests; instead of 90 minutes per day for six days (3 days for ELA, 3 days for math), 5th grade ELLs, for example, are entitled to 135 minutes each testing day. That’s a total of 13.5 hours! 

Our ELLs are subjected to even more tests afterwards. Following the NYS ELA and math tests, ELLs are mandated to take the 4-part NYSESLAT which assesses their proficiency in the reading, writing, listening and speaking of English. The reading and writing sub-tests resemble the NYS ELA test.   This means hours and hours more of testing.

Laura Kaplan, Adjunct Professor of bilingual education at Hunter College:

All research in the field suggests that it takes English language learners 5-7 years to develop Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) in English, the kind of academic knowledge that is tested on standardized tests (Cummins, 1979, 1981, 1984). 

This is quite a different kind of knowledge than conversational English (Basic Interpersonal Communication - BICS) which can be picked up in 1-3 years.  Just because a student is conversationally proficient in English, this proficiency should not be confused with academic mastery that a native English speaker might be expected to have at the same age.

The testing is totally antithetical to all research on English language learning. It is inhumane and cruel and shows us absolutely nothing.  Testing negatively impacts instructional time which could be productively spent learning English, not test-prep, and fosters resentment, decreased motivation, and the highest dropout rates of any other population (ELLs). Shame on the SED for propagating tests which have no educational value.

Watch my appearance on Tiempo with Joe Torres here- April 12th, 2015 show

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A message from Governor Cuomo: It's that time of year again!

By New Paltz based artist, Matt Maley

Come learn about threats to student privacy at NPE conference April 25-26 and much more!

The Network for Public Education is having our second annual national conference April 25-26 in Chicago.  Last year’s conference in Austin was a blast, and this year promises to be even better.  Check the NPE website , and the full schedule of events here.

You can see the keynote addresses will feature terrific speakers such as Karen Lewis, Yong Zhao, and Jitu Brown. Panels will include Nancy Carlsson-Paige Deborah Meier, Jesse Hagopian, Mercedes Schneider, Monty Neill, Dr. Kevin Welner, Carol Burris, Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig,  bloggers Jennifer Berkshire (Edushyster) and Peter Greene, and many more.

Diane Ravitch, NPE's President and co-founder, will moderate a conversation with NEA president Lily Eskelson and AFT President Randi Weingarten. I expect Diane will ask some probing questions in her inimitable fashion.

We will also discuss student privacy.  Last July, after inBloom was defeated, Rachael Stickland of Colorado and I formed a new national group called the Parent Coalition to Protect Student Privacy.  (You can join our mailing list by signing up here.) Rachael and I will be speaking on a panel about the continuing threats to student privacy and autonomy posed by the sharing of personal information with ed tech vendors, along with high school student Nathan Ringo of Minnesota, who challenged his school’s use of computers to monitor students,  and Cynthia Liu of K12 Network, who helped lead the battle against Los Angeles school’s billion dollar IPad purchase, which is still under investigation by the FBI and contributed to the departure of Dr. John Deasy, LAUSD superintendent. 

For hotel accommodations, rooms are still available at both the Drake ( where the conference will be held, and Residence Inn ( nearby.  There may be some group discounts still available.  Check the registration link here.  If that doesn't work, you can try the reservations desk at 866-596-7890, and request the Network for Public Education room block. But in any case, please come!