|Lisa Rudley of NYSAPE interviewed by News12|
You can send your own comments on the proposed plan through June 16 by emailing ESSAComments@nysed.gov
A few remaining hearings remain, including in Queens on June 10. For more information visit the NYSED ESSA page here.
The auditorium was nearly full at the New York State Education Department's ESSA hearings in Brooklyn last night; especially with students and teachers from the transfer schools, who spoke passionately about how their schools would be unfairly targeted for intervention given the current ESSA proposal to rate schools largely on their test scores, graduation rates, and attendance.
Students from the S. Brooklyn Community HS, E. Brooklyn Community HS, James Baldwin, and Brooklyn Frontier, all transfer schools, plus Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning school, which like Baldwin is also a performance-based assessment school -- all testified about how these schools had literally saved their lives, but would be at risk of closure or radical disruption given all the challenges the students at these "second chance" schools face.
|Students from S. Brooklyn Community HS|
This is because many students at transfer schools enter these schools undercredited after two or three years of high school or more. Many also enroll students who must have part-time jobs to support themselves and their families, may have children themselves, have recently come out of the criminal justice system, or suffer other life challenges that make a rigid assessments of school quality based on graduation rates or attendance unfair.
One after another, students at spoke of how they had dropped out of large overcrowded NYC high schools where no one knew their name, and had finally found their way to transfer schools which had given them a second home, provided counseling and small classes with the attention they needed to learn, and had put them on the road towards success.
One student spoke to how she had come out of a psychiatric ward and had luckily found her way to the Brooklyn Community High school, which welcomed her, gave her the support she needed and now she's in college to become a counselor. Another student said, "Wouldn't it be ironic if the Every Student Succeeds Act worked against allowing every student to succeed" by unfairly labeling his school as "failing" even as it had provided him the opportunities he needed to thrive. Another student said, "I don't need to cite evidence for the value of transfer schools; I am the evidence right here. My school works."
I spoke about how their testimony further revealed the need to measure schools by Opportunity to Learn factors -- including small classes, number of counselors, and a well-rounded education -- which all too few NYC schools now provide, with more than 350,000 students crammed into classes of 30 or more. Not only would these factors more fairly judge the quality of these particular schools, but if the high schools in which these students were originally enrolled exhibited these qualities in the first place, perhaps these students wouldn't have dropped out. My full testimony is here.
We would also save thousands more students who fail to graduate to this day or those who receive a second-class education which does not give them the instructional feedback and emotional support they need to succeed in college or career. Moreover, by including a range of factors rather than merely one or two high-stakes indicators, the state would lessen the risk that relying on any single factor would unfairly judge schools or cause them to "game" the system, by excluding or pushing out the neediest students. As one of the transfer school principals said, if you judge our schools by these rigid metrics, you will be discouraging us from admitting the most at-risk students.
Many Brooklyn parents, including those from D15 Parents for Middle School Equity, also spoke about how rating schools in such a reductionist way may lead to even more inequities and segregation, as the indicators proposed by NYSED are intimately correlated with students' socio-economic status. Below is a video of Tracey Scronic, a Brooklyn parent and educator, making the point that the current ESSA proposal will discriminate against her ESL students. As she said, New York stands at a cross-roads and has the opportunity to lead and promote equity-- rather than further undermine schools and the disadvantaged students that they serve.
Under the video of Tracey is the NYSAPE/CSM press release we put out at the end of the evening, with quotes from parent leaders throughout the state, as well as Kelley Wolcott, a teacher at South Brooklyn Community High school. It was an inspiring evening; let's hope the Commissioner and the Regents were listening!
Tracey Scronic at ESSA hearings 6.6.17 from Class Size Matters on Vimeo.
For immediate release: June 6,2017
Contact: Kemala Karmen 917-807-9969 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelley Wolcott, a teacher at South Brooklyn Community High School, a transfer school that serves over-aged, under-credited students--at least a dozen of whom spoke movingly during the hearing about the lifesaving role the school played--agreed. "The proposed accountability measures would devastate our ability to serve the needs of diverse learners. For true accountability, the state needs to focus on and incentivize supplying the resources necessary for students to thrive, including small class sizes, less emphasis on high-stakes testing, fair funding, and a vastly reduced student-to-counselor ratio for students with a history of trauma. Very few schools in NYC still have nurses, let alone a real school-based support team. Without these things--and with the change in graduation requirements mandated by ESSA--we’ll see the destruction of the safety net provided by transfer schools for students who are pushed out of charter schools or drop out of large underfunded public schools where they are no more than an OSIS number."
Kemala Karmen, the parent of children who attend a 6-12 school in New York City, served on the Standards and Assessments work group of the Think Tank. “NYSED seemed intent on perpetuating the narrow strictures of NCLB. The nonpunitive plan (i.e., ask districts to analyze participation to ensure that students had not been systematically excluded, as per the intent of the law) that the majority of my work group proposed to address ESSA’s 95% testing participation mandate was rejected by the NYSED group leader who said it wouldn’t align with the Commissioner’s expectations. This decision to reject the plan was not reflected in the official notes sent later. Leadership insisted that parents just needed to be ‘educated’ about the assessments, rather than acknowledging that the test refusal movement grew out of legitimate concerns with how testing is reshaping classrooms. Moreover, I couldn’t believe that research-based evidence was never shared or apparently considered during our deliberations.”