Saturday, August 13, 2016

How are NYS Testing and the Film Groundhog Day Related?
By:  Marla Kilfoyle

A week ago in New York State the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the test scores for 2016.  Just a reminder, the opt-out rate in NYS last year was over 200,000 students.  It does not seem that this movement will be losing steam anytime soon.  NYSED, as well as some well-funded education “reform”  groups, conducted a full-court press this year to break the opt-out movement in NYS. 

It didn’t work!

Just a little history - Remember the Common Core was launched in 2009.  Mercedes Schneider does a good job of breaking down the fact that it was NOT created by teachers but by Gates-funded fellows and testing companies.  NY adopted the standards in 2010 and rolled them out with very little training.  In 2011, John King (the current USDOE Secretary) became Commissioner of Education in NYS.  In 2013, the first CC tests were given in NY.  Under  King, a failure narrative was manufactured for NYS in 2013 and over 70%  of the children failed the CC tests. 

NYS Parents educated themselves and learned of this manufactured crisis and the fact that their children were set up to fail.  55,000-65,000 chose to opt out in 2014.  

King and Tisch listening to NYS 
After that, one would think that NYSED would have gotten their act together?  Nope, it was full steam ahead, even as King and Merryl  Tisch (the former Chancellor of the Board of Regents, who set education policy in NYS) toured the state listening to parents, teachers, and children tell their Common Core disaster stories.

The 2014 tests were given in April.  Carol Burris and Bianca Tanis do an excellent job discussing the debacle that followed in 2014

Burris and Tanis noted

Why would policymakers create tests that are designed to mark as failures two out of every three children?  For the second year in a row, that is the question that New York parents are asking. The 2014 New York State Common Core test scores were recently released, and there was minimal improvement in student performance. Proficiency or “passing” rates went up 0.1 in English Language Arts (ELA) and 4.6 percentage points in math, despite the rollout of the $28 million, taxpayer-funded curriculum modules, and greater familiarity with the tests. Proficiency rates continued to be horrendous for students who are English Language Learners—only 11 percent “passed” math, and 3 percent “passed” the English Language Arts tests. Results were equally dismal for special education students; whose “passing” rates were 9 percent in math and 5 percent in ELA.

From all the “Listening” forums that King and Tisch held during 2013 into 2014, in which they listened to parents and teachers share their stories, they didn’t listen.  A few tweaks here and there were made – tests wouldn’t count on a child's transcript and NYSED promised to release some of the test questions but by 2014, NY parents were in full revolt.  All they wanted, and still want, is a testing program that is NOT about setting their child up to fail or using it so that test companies can profit.

What do parents want?  They want a testing program that can tell them in a fair, research-based way, how their child(ren) are doing.   They want a testing program that is HONEST!

What do parents want?  They want test scores returned to the teachers and schools so that programming and help can be provided to their children.  They want the testing to mean something FOR CHILDREN, and they want high stakes testing gone.

So, as forums were held all over the state by opt out parents, and parents attended them in droves, getting educated, asking questions and getting things explained to them in a truthful, transparent way, NYSED was planning the 2015 test season.  Parents and children have had to endure two years in a row of manufactured failure; they know the tests are awful, and they are in full blown revolt.  They have attended education forums, spoken with lawmakers, made appointments to meet with Board members, principals, and union leaders.  They are educated, and they are angry, but in 2015 parents are given a ripple of hope when John King leaves and Merryl Tisch announces she will be resigning.

 In 2015 children fail the CC tests again in high numbers, as Diane Ravitch notes, this impacts mostly special needs and ELL students.

The New York State Allies for Public Education, NYSAPE,  is a grassroots coalition of over 50 parent and educator groups across the state noted in their scores press release (2015).

Yesterday, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released the results of the 2015 3-8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) & Math exams. ELA scores were essentially flat, and the small increase in Math scores (less than 2 percentage points) was smaller than last year’s modest jump. There was also an increase in the percentage of Level 1 students in ELA, and an unchanged percentage of Level 1 students in Math, suggesting that the ratcheting up of high-stakes is leaving our most struggling students behind.   - See more at:

Newsday grossly miscalculates the 2015 opt out numbers!
The difference in the testing regime from 2014 to 2015 is that 20% of students opt out of the test (as noted by NYSAPE 240,000). Opt out went from 55,000 to 65,000 in 2014 to 240,000 in 2015. A strong referendum towards the test and punish agenda created by NYSED.  Here is NYSAPE’s press release after this massive opt-out rate in 2015. It details all that NY parents ask for   MaryEllen Elia is brought in as the new Commissioner of Education in NYS.   NYSAPE met with her.  Here are the meeting notes and handout that they gave to Commissioner Elia There are seven points that NYSAPE asked of Elia.  It seems she didn’t listen.

As NYS rolls into the 2016 testing season, Elia traveled around listening to parents and teachers and created a “squash” the opt-out movement toolkit.   
Newsday begs parents to give reform a chance!

Parents did NOT say #YestoTheTest in April of 2016,  in fact, 22% of them said NO again.  Over 265,000 students in grades 3-8 refused to take part in New York State's 2016 Common Core assessments a  10% increase over 2015. 

NYSED stated that the test scores for 2016 were not comparable to previous years due to changes in the tests (shorter exams, and untimed tests) but then they proceeded to state in the papers and press releases that the scores had grown substantially over the previous year (a comparison).   NYSED and NYC DOE then went on to celebrate the drastic rise in scores.  They got caught!

Leonie Haimson summed it up best in the NYSAPE press release about Inflate Gate 2016

“Between 2003 and 2009, the NY State Education Department engaged in rampant test score inflation, by making the tests and the scoring easier, without admitting this. After that, the bubble burst and the scores fell radically with the introduction of Common Core-aligned exams, when our Commissioner was intent on proving to parents their children and their schools were failing. I fear that state officials are still manipulating the scores for political ends. It is no wonder that New York parents do not trust these exams to give an accurate picture of their children’s learning.”   
Leonie lays out Inflate Gate 2016 pretty clear in these two blog posts.

Susan Edelman of the NY Post ran a great article on Inflate Gate 2016.  Make sure you look at the chart titled “inflate” gate in the article.  It is damning evidence something stinks!

NY Parents know the game is rigged.  They know the testing agenda in NYS is NOT about helping children.   To these educated parents, it feels like a bad showing of the film Groundhog Day only it involves damage being done to children and their education.  NYS parents and teachers understand that the fake rhetorical statements of education “reform” that have bellowed for three years are not about children and excellent education.  They know that statements from "reformers" such as  “we need testing so we know our children are college and career ready", or “we need testing to make sure we remove all those horrible teachers out of the classroom”, or “we need tests to close those failing schools”,  are spewed because of the promise of millions of dollars in foundation money.   NYS parents KNOW it is about politics and profit and they will continue to refuse the test until it becomes about children and education. 

Marla Kilfoyle is the mother of a 13 year old who attends public school.  He has been an opt out student for 5 years.   She will be entering into her 30th year of public school teaching.  She is also in her third year as the Executive Director of The Badass Teachers Association (BATs).  You can follow her on twitter  @marla_kilfoyle 

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