Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What about school funding?  Will we lose our Blue Ribbon Status?:  A report from the front lines of the NY Opt Out Movement

NYS has a robust opt out movement.  Last year over 260,000 students refused the NYS tests in Grades 3-8.  Each year some NY Boards of Education, Superintendents, and Principals try to use scare tactics to get parents to opt back into testing. Two scare tactics are that the school will lose funding (NO school in NYS has ever lost funding due to opt out) or the school will not be eligible for the Blue Ribbon Award (aka   a NY  Reward School).  Here is a bit of information for NY parents and educators.  Don't believe the scare tactics and don't sell your child out for a blue ribbon that steals their education and childhood!

NYC Opt Out member Tracy Peel -

But what about school funding?

It’s a favorite line of people who want your kid to take the test, but so far, no NYS school has ever lost any of its funding due to the number of kids who opted out of testing. The next time someone tells you this, ask them which school lost any of its funding. For each of the past two years, more than 200,000 kids in NY State have opted out of the state tests and their schools did not lose funding because of opt-out.

So, where does the rumor come from?

The NYS Department of Education names “Reward Schools” each year based on test scores. For most schools, the only “reward” is being named to the “Reward School” list. Gee, thanks!

For the past several years, the NYSDOE has announced a grant application for Reward Schools that are also Title I schools (schools with lots of poor kids.) These schools must have at least 95 percent testing to apply for the small grant. So, if a Reward School has less than 95 percent test participation, it can’t apply for the grant.

But wouldn’t it be great to get more money?

The application for “Reward School” Title I grants takes a lot of staff time, with no guarantee the school will get money, many strings attached, and little to no benefit to the applying school.  The NYS DOE has never publicized its grant winners, just the grant application, and it is possible no eligible school has ever applied for this money!

NYC DOE, desperate to keep down opt-out, has pitched that not getting to apply for these small potatoes, strings-attached grants is a “penalty.” They have been forwarding around an article from last year. The article is deceptive (not because of the reporter) but because of the DOE's misleading statements to the reporter.

In past years the use of the grant money was restricted so the money had to be used for the school that got the grant to share its techniques for achieving high test scores with other Title I schools.  The old grant application is not available (links are broken or send you to the current grant program), but the grant was only to a district with a Reward School, and was only “up to” $75,000 per successful applicant school, some of which could have gone to the school, to, say, cover costs of substitutes while their teachers were out there disseminating their high-scoring test prep to other Title I schools.

It looks like this year's grant application would give a district “up to” $50,000 for the school’s successful application. Like past years, grantees would be limited in how they could spend their money. Most of the permissible uses of the money are, once again, disseminating high scoring test prep strategies to other Title I schools. Unlike past years, this year the grant could be used to help some teachers at the school achieve a higher certification, NBE certified. Like past years, the application requires a lot administrative and staff time to prepare, and once again would have to go through the school district, with the actual school getting only a portion of the grant. http://www.p12.nysed.gov/funding/2016-17-title-i-reward-schools/home.html

NYS should be sending NYC schools the $1.63 billion it owes them under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, not forcing poor schools to jump through hoops pennies for test prep. http://www.aqeny.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/AQE_StudentsvStateofNY.pdf

The Race For The Ever Elusive Blue Ribbon Status
Jeanette Deutermann, Founder Long Island Opt Out; Co-Founder NYSAPE
A principal publicly admitted spending 60 hours on the application for this incredible status symbol, only to be thwarted at the finish line by a group of involved parents... I mean radicals. Two Long Island schools are dangerously close to being morally decimated by the loss of this shiny, blue strip of priceless art. Why? Opt Outs, of course. It's those pesky, selfish parents and teachers who keep denying our schools these hollow displays of grandeur, just so they can "save public education" (insert eye roll). I wish these parents would stop thinking about preserving their kids education, returning the joy of learning to the classroom, bringing back a rich, child-centered curriculum, and saving the very foundation of our society, and start thinking about how that beautiful blue ribbon would look against the red brick backdrop of their school. That ribbon alone will fill children with so much pride, that they will forget all about the test prep packets and monotonous modules. Losing our children, schools, and communities are a small price to pay to be recognized by such a well respected corporate empire; the U.S. Department of Education. According to the USDOE, here is what these meddlesome parents are standing in the way of:
*Shining (possibly with glitter, or a metallic spray paint)
"Each year, National Blue Ribbon Schools shine under a national spotlight for all the right reasons."
*Validation (only accessible through the USDOE)
"The award acknowledges and validates the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for—and attaining—exemplary achievement."
*All of our hopes and dreams finally realized (Especially true for elementary school children- what else is there to live for?)
"For many, attaining the National Blue Ribbon School award is the realization of a long-held dream."
*Bling (options of having it made into jewelry adorning key figures in the district)
"Each school receives an engraved plaque and program flag with the official seal, which signifies its status and the year of its award."
As you can plainly see, we must all put aside our selfish aspirations and focus on what really matters most; recognition, winning, ranking, status, ribbons, and plaques. What would this society become if we all turned outward and stood in solidarity with our fellow man to preserve our children's future at the costly expense of bragging rights? If you ask me, the future is, well, too far off to think about. Why bother when we can think of the here and now. Today's blue ribbon award is what really matters. So parents, please, get your priorities straight. Say it with me..."Blue or Bust"!!!!!!!!
-Jeanette "The Blue Eyed" Deutermann

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