Sunday, May 21, 2017

David Rosenberg's testimony on what should be included in the state's accountability system

I was at the Manhattan ESSA hearing yesterday, to testify on what is wrong with the NYSED’s proposed accountability system and how it could be improved. There were 27 people who spoke, which Commissioner Elia said was the most at any of the state's ESSA hearings so far.  Amazingly, about half of them were administrators, teachers, parents, students and alumnae from a tiny NYC transfer HS called Harvey Milk School that was founded for LGTBQ kids who are marginalized and bullied in their regular high schools – although now the school is open to all.

Several others who were there to testify were teachers at portfolio assessment schools.  All of them were concerned that the current NYSED proposal might further stigmatize their schools by relying too heavily on test scores and four-year graduation rates.  Most students don't even enter transfer schools until they have been enrolled in other high schools for one or two years.  A teacher from Harvey Milk movingly pointed out how at most NYC high schools, the class sizes are too big – and that students need to know that “they are seen, that their voices are heard, and they matter.  He concluded that his schools does not merely educate, "it saves lives."

I asked a graduate from Harvey Milk sitting next to me, now attending college, what his class sizes were at the school; he said 8 to 10 students per class.  And yet sadly, in about half of NYC high schools class sizes are three times that size, at 30 student or more; and there is nothing in the proposed NYSED accountability plan that will help ensure that at any time in the future, these students will truly be “seen” and understand that they matter -- because the system as it exists now does not allow for that to occur.   

Below is the terrific testimony of David Rosenberg, a District 2 parent, who testified as well. For more on how the NYSED proposal for school accountability may undermine both equity and the quality of our schools, see the CSM/NYSAPE summary here.

Dates of future hearings are here: including Brooklyn on June 6 and Queens on June 10.

Comments on ESSA implementation in NYS

My name is David Rosenberg. I have a 7th grader in district 2. She is an excellent student who is appreciated by her teachers, garnering much praise from the school administration. She makes us proud every day.  She does not participate in the ELA or State Math Test. She does not participate in Field Tests. Next year she won’t even participate in the MOSL. And this is because she is not a 1, 2, 3, or 4. She is much more than the simplistic and wrong-headed measures that you use to sort children and schools. 

The business of testing students in order to rank them is limiting, unfair, and racist. It punishes low income, ELL’s, and children of color, and any who lack the opportunities enjoyed by white, affluent, and entitled kids. Even entitled kids are not served by the testing regime, they just have the resources to game the outcome. NYSED has an opportunity to right a number of the wrongs committed over the last decade. I am not hopeful that you will, but I’ve shown up on a Saturday in the hopes that you might.

So far what I’ve heard is that:

             1. That NYSED has proposed to determine a school or district’s accountability status based on school’s state test scores. This is one of the reasons my child opts-out.
            2. NYSED’s proposed formula appears to assign any student who opts out of the 3-8th grade tests a score of “1” on the 1-4 scale (with 1 as the lowest possible score). How come my opt-out child isn’t a 3? How about you count her as the average of the school children who are actually taking the test? Counting opt out’s as a 1 makes the NYSED appear to have an agenda, and if the agenda is to suppress the opt-out, you will fail. I have a suggestion. Try being fair.
            3. NYSED has proposed that chronic absenteeism be the sole school quality indicator for elementary and middle schools, and indicators of “college, career, and civic readiness” as the additional school quality indicator in high schools, including access to advanced coursework. I don’t believe that these benchmarks reflect a successful school system or educational model. What I’ve found that what produces successful careers are ideas, drive, passion, curiosity, confidence, purpose, and exposure to a myriad of viewpoints and disciplines. You can’t measure any of these with a test score or in school attendance.
            When NYSED surveyed parents, teachers and other members of the public about what additional indicators should be, the most popular responses were factors related to students’ opportunity to learn.
            As a public-school parent, this is what I want to see from an ESSA accountability system:
            A robust Opportunity to Learn (OTL) index in the accountability system with several different evidence-based Opportunity to Learn factors – because while the state would encourage schools to pay attention to these factors, not any one of them would be excessively high stakes. This would tend to minimize the risk of further narrowing the curriculum, causing other negative impacts, and/or gaming the results through the well-known mechanism of Campbell’s Law.
           You have an opportunity to improve the life and learning of public school children in New York State. I hope you have the bravery. You’d find out what great allies we public school parents can be.
            Thank you.
            Campbell’s Law:
            "The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."                          

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