Thursday, May 18, 2017

Testimony of Eduardo Hernandez at Bronx ESSA Hearings

Here is the testimony of Eduardo Hernandez on the state's proposed accountability plan that he presented to Chancellor Rosa, Regent Reyes and Commissioner Elia at the Bronx ESSA hearings on
Tuesday night.

For more on how the NYSED proposal for school accountability may undermine both equity and quality in our schools, see the
CSM/NYSAPE summary here

Future hearings throughout the state available here: for those upcoming in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn click on the table to the right.  

Good evening, I'm Dr. Eduardo Hernandez, a parent of three daughters who attend NYC public schools and a member of the Community Education Council from District 8.  Tonight, I’m speaking on behalf of Class Size Matters and NYC Kids PAC.

Congress passed ESSA in response to the millions of parents who were asking for alternate ways to measure school performance other than test scores and graduation rates and to ensure that all kids receive an equitable and high-quality education.

When NYSED surveyed parents and other members of the public about what these additional indicators should be, the most popular responses were factors related to students’ opportunity to learn, including a well-rounded education with access to art, music, science, health, and physical education, as well as reasonably small class size, access to bilingual services, and more. 
Yet the current proposal put forward by the NY State Education Department ignores these factors and adds only one school quality indicator in addition to the academic factors – chronic absenteeism.
Including chronic absenteeism as the single school quality indicator in the accountability system would unfairly schools with large populations of disadvantaged, homeless students and those with strong family ties in the parents’ home countries where families return periodically for visits during the school year. Travel is usually done before and after the breaks to save a few hundred dollars in airfares.
My district, district 8 in the Bronx, has several homeless shelters and a large number of transient students.  Some of our schools have a 30% to 40% population of transient students.
Using absenteeism as an indicator of school could not only unfairly penalize those schools, but could also lead to unintended consequences, like causing schools to exclude or try to push out these students.
For high schools, the chosen factor was advanced course work as part of what is called college, career and civic readiness.
Adding advanced coursework as the only additional school quality factor for high schools could cause schools to narrow their curriculum and further reduce access to art, music, physical education, health etc.
Many of our schools in the Bronx already fail to provide the minimum coursework in art, music and physical education that state regulations require – and omitting these factors from the system could send the message that the State Education Department and the Regents do not really care if they ever do. 
Too many children in NYC and the Bronx also suffer from class sizes of 30 or more – and insufficient access to bilingual services that together doom our children to failure, despite laws and regulations from the state that should have addressed these substandard conditions years ago. 
I urge the Board of Regents and the NY State Education Department to revise this proposal and ensure that it includes a wider range of Opportunity to Learn factors, such as the ones that Class Size Matters and other stakeholders have proposed.

Thank you, Chancellor, Commissioner, members and staff, for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today.

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