Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Witness to an Education Forum in New York
By:  Mary Ralph

Mary Ralph’s notes from “Where Do We Go from Here? A Common Core Forum” hosted by Assemblyman Brian Curran on January 28th at South Side Middle School in Rockville Centre, New York 

Assemblyman Brian Curran
            Brian Curran was proud to say that he never supported what was legislated by New York in terms of teacher evaluation and Common Core. He put together the forum to help educate the public about what is currently happening in terms of Common Core and testing.
            There was a handout that provide information on school aid and the NY State Assembly Republican Policy Fact Sheet. The Fact Sheet was eight pages of information about the Common Core Timeline, Opting Out of State Assessments, the Apple Plan, and relevant legislation. 

Assemblyman Ed Ra (Assembly Education Committee Ranker)
            Ed Ra said that we need to bring teachers, parents, administrators, and other experts in to reevaluate the goals of Common Core. He said that the governor’s task force has admitted to the problems, but now the legislature needs to undo the parts that were created by it. Opting out is still needed because some changes have been made, but “there’s a long road to go”.

Rockville Centre Superintendent Dr. William Johnson
            Dr. Johnson said that while Common Core is the standards for NY State, the Pearson test has not matched Common Core. It was impossible to prepare for the tests. Many of the Common Core standards are inappropriate for younger students such as the shift to less fiction texts and more nonfiction. The math Common Core standards are a problem. They do not make the children College Ready because they do not prepare children for the work they need to do in high school. The sequence does not get the kids where they need to be. Dr. Johnson said that the people who originally worked on Common Core testing did not intent it to be used for teacher evaluation in any way. He believes that the NWEA was is a good diagnostic test because it takes approximately 45 minutes to administer and teachers get information back the next day. That allows the test to inform instruction.
            Dr. Johnson said, “No parent in the state of New York should have their child sit for the exams this year.” Now that the test will be untimed, children could sit there for six hours or two weeks. He asked, “How can teachers and principals predict how long it will take? Smarter students will take all day to get it perfect.” We were urged to tell the state to not put together another test that isn’t right for our children. The Federal Government has said that states will lose money if there are too many opt outs, but Dr. Johnson said, “It is a threat without any teeth.”
            The evaluation of teachers has been built on the relationship between the teacher and the administrator. The rubrics we are using have lead to meaningful conversations. Teachers and administrators share information on what is happening day to day. Dr. Johnson said that we do not need to have anything get between teachers and administrators.

Valley Stream District 13 Superintendent Ms. Constance D. Evelyn
            Ms. Evelyn said that teachers were asked to review Common Core, but were not asked to help develop it. She also said that the skills being tested are not the ones being taught in Common Core. She believes that we need to protect students who need our protection from over-testing. Ms. Evelyn does not expect the Opt Out movement to waiver.

Assemblyman Dave McDonough
            Dave McDonough said that Common Core was a good idea, but educators were not involved in the test creation. 70% of the students in his Assembly District opted out last year. He believes we have been damaging students. He wants Common Core to be changed into common sense. Outside evaluators will not be able to assess teachers. They will not be able to give everyone a good evaluation or they will be considered bad evaluators.

Executive Director of the Network for Public Education Carol Burris
            Carol Burris started her talk with the question, “Do we need national standards?” Her answer is that she does not think we do. As a principal, when students came to her from other states, there were much more important things for her to consider when working with the new student. Dr. Burris said that poverty, the size of the former school, family matters, and other factors were much more important to the success of students coming to a New York school from another state than the academic standards. Dr. Burris said that smaller countries can have national standards, but not larger ones.
            The problem with Common Core is not only with its implementation. Common Core is very close to a curriculum. Dr. Burris said that close reading only prepares children for multiple choice questions. She believes that OPVL is a much better reading technique to teach children. It requires them to use their background knowledge. Close reading was created for poetry reading.
            Dr. Burris said, “There comes a time when something is bad and you have to suck it up and get rid of it.” She wants the state to go back to the old Regents tests. The elementary Common Core does not prepare children for high school.
            She said, “Shame on any superintendents who use fear mongering” to convince people to not fight back. Ms. Burris said, “Dr. Johnson and I were not sent to Regents’ jail.”
            Although it is good that the Regents said that the test will not be used for teacher evaluation, the law still says that 50% of teacher evaluations are based on test scores. The law needs to be changed.

Covert Principal Darren Raymar
            Darren Raymar said that “Good teaching is good teaching is good teaching.” It is when teachers use Blooms Taxonomy when creating lessons. Common Core is not important. Good teachers facilitate and do not just lecture. He asked, “Why put a test in front of kids that’s above them?” Mr. Raymar said, “That’s not high standards, that’s torture.”

Long Island Opt Out Founder Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann
            Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann asked why would so much money, time, and resources be used for something that cannot work. She said, “This is a system set to dismantle public schools. This was designed as a system of punishment – not support.”
            This year’s test will still be a Pearson test. Next year we will have the new company. Because of what came out of the governor’s task force, tests that used to be used diagnostically will now have to be used for assessment since 50% of teachers’ evaluations will be based on assessments. The law says that teachers test scores will be averaged over three years. Ms. Brunelle Deutermann pointed out that this year’s test scores can be kept and used for the three-year average even if we are being told that they will not count.
            “We are not opting in on promises,” is what Ms. Brunelle Deutermann tells people who ask her if she is still calling for opt outs. She is calling for a boycott of Newsday for its misinformation. Newsday said that the State Education Department can take 200 million dollars from districts, but this is untrue. GEA is not tied to participation. That money was taken from and is owed to NY schools. The new ESSA lets states decide on participation rates.
            Betty Rosa is Ms. Brunelle Deutermann’s choice for chancellor. She urges every one to contact Tiles and tell him to vote for her. She also urges us to make sure that we elect school board members who understand the importance of opting out.

            Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann said that, “The best way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.”

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