Sunday, December 6, 2015

Alternatives to High Stakes Testing and Evaluations.

The outline below is from my presentation to the Cuomo Common Core Task Force.  Several parent advocates from around NYS were invited to provide information to the task force.  My category of testimony was requested to be on assessment.  Other parents comment on testing and standards. Will the Task Force and Governor Cuomo listen to the concerns that parents from all corners of the Empire State have raised about the flawed education reforms forced upon our schools?  We will see.

My testimony focused on solutions, not just criticisms, as some of the corporate reformers have painted the Opt Out Movement as the party of "no',  In reality we have solutions that can actually provide a well-rounded educational opportunity for all children.

(*Please note that my testimony was given several weeks before the Federal ESEA bills have been close to final approval in Congress. )

Advisory on Assessment to NYS Common Core Task Force

Dear Task Force Members,

I have been involved in education for virtually my entire life, heading off to public school every fall since I was five years old through this August at the age of forty-five.  I can state with full confidence that I have never seen such uproar about the direction of Public Education in New York State than I have witnessed over the last few years.  Educators, parents, and most importantly students, have lost faith in our education system.  I view education from several angles: parent, teacher and school board member. In all three of these important roles, I am very troubled about the direction of state and national education reform.

Do reforms need to occur in education? Yes, but many of the current changes are not research-based and did not include the voices of the true stakeholders: parents and educators.  We can drive positive change if those who hold political power listen to people at the grassroots, local levels of education instead of those in legislative halls or corporate boardrooms.  All parents want their children to receive a challenging, appropriate, and well-rounded education that will enable their children to be flexible and “life ready” after they graduate from high school.   The current education reform movement is preventing public education in New York from achieving those parental goals.

I realize you have heard about many of the problems that have surfaced in New York State, so I will focus primarily on alternatives to the current direction of education reform. 

 (apologies for formatting when pasted from a word document)

I. Alternatives to current NYS Assessment System:

     A. Portfolios to assess student learning, teacher effectiveness, and school quality.

  1. Community input, evaluation, and review of student work to determine if students are getting an education that fits the needs of their community.
  2.  Local district professional and community review of educator portfolios to determine effectiveness and on-going professional growth.
  3. Community stakeholder review of educational goals of local districts using several local measures determined by community wants and needs.

     B. New York Consortium High Schools- show that alternatives to standardized testing exist and can achieve positive outcomes for students. 
 (*possibility under ESSA that NYS could apply for alternatives? )

     C. Portfolios sound costly and time consuming.


  1. This process can be done cheaper than current state assessment and APPR systems.
  2. More reliable and detailed results then current systems that label students, educators and schools with a number.
  3. Provides community voice and input- which are lacking in current systems.
  4. Allows for flexibility to meet diverse needs of districts throughout NYS.

     D. Decouple educator evaluations from testing to fullest extent possible under Federal law. (*this Federal mandate looks to change under the ESSA)

  1. New 3012-d law places test scores on a range of 50-100% for a teacher’s evaluation. 
  2. Places too much emphasis on test scores over creativity and critical thinking.
  3. Value Added Modeling growth scores are not a reliable measure of educator effectiveness and should not be used for employment decisions.
  4. Advocate removal of typing educator evaluation to test scores at all levels of government.

       E. Replace punishment for struggling schools with supports such as community school and whole child models.

       F. Ensure that each local district addresses a well-rounded educational experience with local input.

  1. Many schools under current test/punish model have narrowed elementary level curriculum to tested subjects of ELA/math.
  2. History, science and arts are neglected.
  3. Physical Education, recess and free play have been reduced or eliminated in an era where childhood obesity is a serious public health crisis.

II. Construction & design of any state-wide assessments that would be required by Federal or State law.
         A. Created by current NYS educators.
         B. Questions, answers, passages written at grade-level reading levels.
         C. Time on testing appropriate for age level.
         D. Advocate for grade-span testing or sampling with Federal Gov’t.

  1.  Sampling can be similar to NEAP testing and accomplish goal of assuring that all children have an appropriate educational opportunities.

        E. IEP/504 students receive all modifications and supports.
        F. Diagnostic design that truly assesses student strengths and weaknesses.
        G. Any required assessments are scored by each student’s classroom/subject teacher(s).
        H. Completely transparent as NYS did prior to Pearson contract- entire test released within a few weeks of completion of testing window.

III. Online Assessments – allow local choice for any required testing.
       A. Cost.

  1. Is online testing the primary reason Smart Schools Bond Act was proposed?
  2. Need to purchase and constantly update technology will go far beyond bond act dollars and will stress budgets in an era of education cuts.

         B. “Digital divide” for areas were many families do not have computers or access to high-speed internet.
               1. Will online testing create a further educational gap between haves and have-nots?

         C. Will computer instruction and typing become the next test prep? It is already occurring in many districts.

          D. Many logistical issues for school-wide online testing.

                1. Cannot test all students at same time.
                      a. Computer labs, portable computers, and library media centers will become testing locations instead of learning and research hubs for weeks, denying educational opportunities for classrooms not being tested.

                2. Reliability of technology.
                      a. Computers need constant updates and compatibility checks - expensive and time                                   consuming.

                      b. Reliability of internet connection and speed.

                3. Student learning styles.

                       a. Not all students comfortable using a computer to type or read information.

                       b. Typing and editing via an online test form is challenging for some students.

It is my hope that the Common Core Task Force will listen to the voices of students, parents, and educators from across New York State.  We have reached a precipice that requires serious change in direction in education policy in our state and nation.  An unprecedented event took place last spring when over 220,000 students boycotted the 3-8 NYS State Assessments.  Small, cosmetic, or superficial changes in our education system or policies will not satisfy the families across the Empire State who have brought their concerns to local and state officials.  It is time to change, we are not asking to reverse course, but head in a different direction.  Will you help lead that charge?

Respectfully submitted,
Chris Cerrone

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Won't be fooled again.....more meaningless anti-testing banter. #optout

Yesterday President Obama and outgoing Secretary of Education announced a plan to reduce over-testing of our children. On the surface this was a "whoa" moment as the POTUS and Mr. Duncan's prized Race to the Top initiative doubled down on the Bush administration's NCLB test and punish model of education reform. A closer look shows this statement is another attempt, this time at the highest level, to save the test-based education system that has caused harm to our children and their public schools.

The two percent suggested limit on state testing and encouragement to "discourage and limit the amount of test preparation activities" are vague statements that show little knowledge of the reality in our classrooms.  How many other types of test-based assessments are needed to meet the requirements for teacher evaluation, RTI, and student data?  What about types of test-prep that are less obvious such as history and science topics embedded in short-canned ELA readings that look like real learning but match standardized tests in style and substance?  History and science have often become relegated to second class status in elementary education because of this practice. Veteran Middle School Social Studies and Science teachers have noted in recent years how their students have a "random" knowledge of their subject matter due to the abandonment of history and science curricula at the elementary level in favor of the tested subjects of ELA and math.  So much more time is lost to other types of test prep including classwork and homework that mirror the format of standardized assessments when students could be doing creative and critical thinking tasks that are more meaningful, fun and challenging.

If our elected leaders and education bureaucrats think a few talking points and vague edu-speak banter that will not bring about meaningful change and will get families to find value in the current test-based accountability system of education they need to step out from their ivory towers and actually listen to those on the front lines of our schools.  As someone who has the pulse of the opt out movement from the various discussion groups, I can tell you that parents are not fooled by this nonsense.

We should know better as much of detail from the USDOE statement from yesterday is recycled from education reform groups so there really is nothing new here. But the fact that the testing situation is being discussed at the highest levels of our government is a sign that the parent led rebellion against high-stakes assessments is making waves.

What can parents do to continue to fight for our children's right to a well-rounded education: follow New York's led: OPT OUT.  The corporate reformers, state education bureaucrats and many politicians are running scared.  They have the money but we have the power--in numbers.  Let's make the Spring of 2016 the largest testing rebellion in history.

 Here are a few other looks at the misleading testing statements coming from President Obama and Secretary Duncan:

Teacher Peter Greene does a great job of breaking down the USDOE's statements.

       More from Peter Greene on Arne Duncan's recycled talking points.

Reading between the lines: Obama's "Testing Action Plan"

USDOE: "Sorry/Not Sorry" on testing.

Anthony Cody: President Obama (Again) Blasts All the Tests His Administration Has Sponsored

NY Principal: How much testing is too much?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

High Achievement NY & AstroTurf Groups -- out of touch

I have not had the time, energy, or inspiration to blog much lately due to my hectic schedule balancing family, teaching, and school board duties, along with education advocacy for NYSAPE and locally.  Recent false and misleading editorials and statements regarding the 'opt out/refusal" movement have raised my ire to new levels and hence this post...

This letter to Governor Cuomo from High Achievement New York, a group of mostly business officials which advocates for the Common Core, has many misleading statements about those who are fighting the new standards and the connected state assessment system. 

I will break down some of the ignorant remarks to better clarify what our grassroots movement truly stands for.

Unfortunately, the opponents of higher learning standards respond to each improvement in implementation with one word – ‘No.’ They are not interested in making the standards and assessments better for children and more worthwhile as methods for increasing college and career readiness. No concessions or improvements will meet their expectations. Instead, their interest is in simply doing away with higher learning standards altogether.  

The absolutist statements in the quote above from HANY are very troubling. The leaders of the opt out movement and the many families who have joined the boycotts are much more knowledgeable and informed than this insulting and simplistic statement.  Opt out parents want their children to be challenged, experience critical thinking, and have opportunities for creativity.  Yet, parents see how tying high-stakes for schools and educators to the state assessment system has limited their children's educational growth.  Many elementary schools have narrowed their primary focus to the assessed subjects of ELA and math in order to raise test scores.  History, science, the arts, physical education, recess and free play are being pushed aside.  If we want our children to be "college and career ready"  they should receive a well-rounded education. (as if testing an 8-year old can determine if he or she is on the path towards success in college and who can predict what skills and knowledge would be needed in a decade or more) I want my children to be "life ready"- flexible and adaptable when they graduate and I do not think a test can be constructed to determine those important qualities either.

"Renaming the Standards: Several states have dropped the “Common Core” moniker to put their own stamp on the standards"
So if New York were to rename the Common Core the "Empire State Standards" parents would be fooled in supporting this education experiment?  Hardly.  Regardless of name, families would see  developmentally inappropriate standards in early childhood promoted by the Common Core.  (Of course  no early childhood experts were part of  CCSS  creation).  Many early childhood experts question if pushing too much too soon will actually have a detrimental impact on our children.  Students would still be bored with the tedious nature of close reading non-fiction novels as treasured classic literature is left on the shelf.  Parents employed in STEM fields would continue to ask how questionable mathematics methods would apply to the real world jobs where they find employment.

"Public Comment and Review of Individual Standards ......Third Party Review of Recommendations and Assessments"
Do standards and assessments need to be analyzed thoroughly?  Yes.  But the task-force set up by Governor Cuomo is wholly inadequate to take on this herculean task.  A committee compromised of expert, experienced educators from all levels PK-12, and including Special Education and English-Language Learners, along with parent representation as well, would be the only way to move New York education forward.  We do not need another group of business leaders and those politically connected trying to muddle through education policy. 

"Shortened State Assessment Time"
The letter mentions the PARCC assessments, strange because New York does not look to be using PARCC at anytime in the near future.  Commissioner Elia mentioned the state assessments will shorter, but while the length of the current assessment system is certainly an issue, the flawed construction is more of a problem.  A better question would be: are there alternative methods to assessing our children's educational progress than high-stakes standardized tests? 

As someone connected to the heart and soul of parents across New York, I can firmly state that a few snarky talking points and misleading statements will not change the tide of revolution in the Empire State.   These so-called reformers will not win the hearts and minds of NYS families because they are not connected to our schools.  Are they PK-12 educators?  Do they have children currently in PK-12 impacted by the Common Core?   How can they even conceive what is occurring in our schools and kitchen tables when most of the signatories have no connection to our public schools as a current parent or educator?  These groups, with their funding from the Gates Foundation and other big business interests, will not defeat the grass-roots, parent led revolution against the corporate education reform movement.   

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Amazing! Opt Out percentages from 2015

Only 27 districts (some of which are a single small specialized schools) out of approximately 700 made the Federally mandated 95% participation rate for the 2015 NYS ELA Assessment & Math Assessment.  

(click the links above for a list of each NYS district's refusal percentage)

Amazing efforts which are resulting in State Education officials scrambling to get parents to "Opt-IN" to the assessment program.  Pearson will give its final 3-8 assessments in the spring of 2016 as Questar will be the new vendor(and moving towards computerized testing).  Commissioner Elia has recently stated the tests will be shorter.  Great, but.......

There are so many issues that need to be resolved before parents will "Opt-IN" again:

  • Are tests an accurate measure of student achievement?
  • Tying educator evaluation and school ranking/standing corrupts the testing system and causes test-prep and narrowing of the curriculum.
  • Since the NYS Assessments have been part of Common Core implementation, concerns about the age/grade level inappropriate content and reading levels have been raised.
  • The Common Core is a significant issue as educators had virtually no voice in the development of the standards resulting in serious questions about age/grade level inappropriate standards.
  • The impact of the current test system on special education students and English-Language Learners needs to be addressed.
  • Do we really think testing an 8-year old can determine that child's college-readiness?
Refusals will continue to rise unless NYSED, the Governor and the State Legislature address ALL of the flaws in our testing program.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

2015-16 Refusal Letter #optout

Here is my family's 2015-16 Refusal/Opt Out letter.  Why are we sending in our letter at the beginning of the school year?  The massive boycott in the spring of 2015 that resulted in about 220,000 students refusing the NYS Assessments had many districts with a high percentage of opt outs. Parents in the opt out movement have been fighting the need to "test-prep", which in the long-run is more harmful then the assessments themselves.  If enough parents in a school, grade-level or classroom were to present their Refusal Letters in September, would this reduce or eliminate the need to prepare a class, grade-level or school for the assessments?  Would a significant statement by families alleviate the pressure on schools, administrators, and teachers?  Could teachers bring more creativity, creative thinking and imagination into the classroom?

We based our 2015-16 letter on the letter created by the NYSAPE Opt Out committee.  The actual letter we sent to our children's schools eliminated some of the check off lines that do not apply to our children's grade levels.

You can copy and paste the words below or use this link to view/copy or edit your own letter.

2015-2016 NYS Refusal Letter

Student:   ______________________
School:     ______________________
Teacher:   _____________________
Grade:      ______

Dear Educators,

We are writing today to formally inform the district of our decision to refuse to allow our child __________________, to participate in:

______ the 2016 New York State grade 3-8 ELA assessment

______ the 2016 New York State grade 3-8 math assessment

______ any stand-alone New York State field testing in the 2015/16 school year (grades 3-12)

______ any local/benchmark assessment
used in the New York State teacher evaluation system administered in the fall, winter, and spring (may include STAR, AIMSweb, MAP/NWEA, SLO's) in the 2015/16 school year  (excluding middle school local assessments being used as a final grade)

______ the 2016 grade 4 New York State science assessment

______ the 2016 grade 8 New York State science assessment

Our refusal should in no way reflect on the teachers, administration, or school board. This was not an easy decision for us, but we feel that we have no other choice. We simply see these tests as harmful, expensive, and a waste of time and valuable resources.

We refuse to allow any data to be used for purposes other than the individual teacher’s own formative or cumulative assessment. We are opposed to assessments whose data is used to determine school ranking, teacher effectiveness, or any other purpose other than for the individual classroom teacher’s own use to improve his or her instruction.

We hope that other parents will join our efforts here at __________ so we can reduce the need to prepare for the state assessments and allow our teachers to focus on creativity and critical thinking. 

We are aware that NYS Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia will direct you to talk us out of this decision in an effort to push forward the corporate takeover of public education.  We decline any such meeting or phone call.  Do not contact us for that reason.   Commissioner Elia and Chancellor Tisch have attempted to paint families who boycott high-stakes testing as uninformed, when we completely understand the harm that such assessments have done to our children’s public education.  To protect yourself and our district, keep this letter as proof to Commissioner Elia that we have declined.  Instead, we invite you and other district officials to attend an educational seminar detailing the expert research and reasons that have led parents to refuse participation in this harmful testing program.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

How far we have come... taking back our schools.  The politicians are starting to listen, hopefully 2015 will be the turning point.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Field Testing 2015: Take a Stand.

Thanks to Maude M for this image.
Once again our children will be subjected to a loss of instruction time as standardized testing forces our schools to stop learning, creativity and fun in order to feed the testing machine.

School districts across NYS have been assigned to conduct field testing to "try out" possible future test questions for mega-corporation Pearson (which produces NYS 3-8 Assessments).  Yes, your children are doing work for a multi-national corporate monster without compensation.

NYSED has assigned certain grades in each district to conduct the field tests in early June.  Check out this list to find your child's school.  (The list is alphabetical including ALL NYS schools list individually, not by district)

NYSED Field Test page

Contact your school and request:

1.  Your district not waste time and send the field tests back to Pearson without administering the tests.   Many districts across NYS did not administer the field tests last year and more will stand up for their students this year.

2. If your school will not stand up for their students,  state that your child will not take the field tests.  Send a letter or email to your principal and teachers.  Many parents included this request in their refusal letters in the spring.

3.  Organize parents in the grade levels impacted in your child's school to boycott the field testing.  Even parents who choose not to "refuse" the regular state assessments will see the field tests as a waste of time and loss of instruction.

Are the Field Tests mandated?  NO

1. The NYS Board of Regents was considering mandating that districts give the field tests, but tabled the vote to require districts to give them.

According to NYSED spokesperson Jeanne Beattie (Journal News 2/18/2015), the Board of Regents is seeking $8.4 million in the state budget to increase the number of versions of the operational assessments so more field test questions can be embedded, so "the board will not act on the proposed regulation(mandating field testing) at this time"

2. Fairport Superintendent on Field Testing not mandated:

3. Attorney & NYSAPE member  Anna Shah on field testing mandates:

4.  More from my blog:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Turn down that noise... on Brookings teacher evaluation study.

A few media outlets posted a study that claims that if a great number of students opt out of testing it would create "noise" in the educator's evaluation.  It is true that when there are fewer student scores used in a teacher's evaluation the results would be more volatile- basically the evaluation score could more dramatically go up or down-  the "noise" that Brookings refers to in its study.

A closer look at other specific items relating to New York State teacher evaluations will negate any worries from the Brookings study:

  • Teachers are already hurt by the NYS Growth Score formula.  Teacher growth scores calculated by NYS  have varied widely amongst educators.  Some have gone from low to high scores or the complete opposite.   Do we really believe that a teacher could be high-effective one year and be failing the next?  Or the opposite?

  • The American Statistical Association has stated the VAM style growth scores, similar to the one forced on local schools by NYS, is not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness and should not be used for employment or salary decisions.

So in reality teachers are hurt by students who take the test as the growth score numbers are really voodoo math.  If enough students boycott the test, teachers who have a state test tied to their grade-level or course would revert to the local SLO measures that other teachers use for the APPR scores.  This system is a much fairer system and restores local control of the educator's evaluation. The key number is 16 scores-- below 16 removes the flawed and invalid state growth score from the teacher's evaluation.  Your child will not longer be used as a weapon against his or her teacher!!  

From NYSED APPR training documents per E2CC BOCES

The Brookings study also looked at the impact if mostly "high-performing" students opt out.

First of all there is a myth that mostly the top scoring test takers boycott the assessments.  That is far from reality as students from across the academic spectrum have families who boycott the assessments.  Just because a family is involved in their children's education and aware of the harm of high-stakes testing does not mean their children are the honor-roll high scoring students.  In my own experience as a teacher, and as a parent, I have witnessed students of all achievement levels opt out. In fact, in my own classes, students with IEP's have had the highest rate of opt out.  Why?  Those students see the greatest harm from the inappropriate reading levels and cut scores forced on children.

So what if the "high-performers" opt out?  That actually helps the teachers.  High test scores no longer help teachers get a better rating.  A child must show growth from last year's assessment to this year's exam.  High scoring students have limited opportunity to improve their scores so having children that are good test takers actually hurts a teacher.   I know a few teachers who were switched to accelerated or honors classes get lower growth scores because of the "ceiling" that high-scoring students have in improving their test results.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Desperate times... call for misinformation on #optout. #RefuseTheTests

New York State is on the eve of the largest standardized testing boycott in our nation’s history.  Last year’s protest of over sixty-thousand students will very likely be overshadowed by a significant number in a few days.  Leaders in the New York State Education Department and Board of Regents who subscribe to using a flawed testing program to evaluate our children and their teachers are feeling the pressure as the assessment dates approach.  In an obviously coordinated plan to save their test and punish reform, state officials are using superintendents, school boards, NYS School Boards Association, BOCES officials, and media editorials to try to scare parents from joining the opt out movement.  The talking points, which border on misinformation and even propaganda, used by the various officials and media are virtually identical in their wording.

 Unfortunately many uninformed parents and the general public may take the scare  tactics employed by NYSED as their only source of information. The public should  understand the need for districts to comply with the law, but school administrators can  still fulfill their legal obligations without providing false or misleading information.   

Why do local administrators give out such statements? FEAR.  

Let's look at some of the misinformation that is being spread:

Misinformation #1: The State Assessments help inform instruction for educators.

Misinformation #2: Why would a parent not want to know if their child is on the path towards College & Career Readiness?

Answer to #1:

In order to "inform instruction", educators need actually useful and detailed information, the NYS Assessments do not provide such data.

Answer to #2:

First of all, do we really think a test will determine if an eight year-old is on track for college? Secondly, parents receive virtually no information other than a number on their child's score report.

More detail on misinformation contained in arguments #1 & #2

From New York's Secret Test by Bianca Tanis:
Education leadership would have us believe that parents who choose to refuse the tests are doing their children a disservice; without the tests, they say, how will we know where students stand on the road to career and college readiness?  Left unspoken is the fact that rather than engaging in sound pedagogical practice, and allowing teachers, parents, and students to access the tests and utilize them as a teaching tool, the state has empowered corporate interests to dictate policy, and sadly, they have put our children’s interests last. Teachers are prohibited from discussing the exams with parents, even in vague terms.
From my opinion piece in the Buffalo News:
Families receive a score report months after the testing that contains little information to determine their child’s specific strengths or weaknesses. More shocking is that educators receive only a vague set of data from the state assessment results. Teachers and families cannot see the entire test or the students’ actual answers to assist them in helping children. Educators are not allowed to discuss the actual test questions or they could be fired. How does this secretive assessment system help our children’s education? It does not.

Misinformation #3: Parent or students cannot opt out or “refuse the tests”. 

Answer to #3: Parents cannot use the generic term “opt out”, but students (via their parents) can “refuse” the test using language from NYSED manuals:

Refusal: Students who refuse to take the entire test must be reported at the local level with a final score of "999" and a standard achieved code of 96, indicating refusal. These records do not move to Level 2 of the Student Information Repository System. These students will be considered to have "no valid test score" and will be counted as not tested.

 Students with a final score of “999” will be counted as not tested in calculating a school’s participation rate. A final score will be “999” only if one of the following occurred:
·            The student was absent for the entire test,
·            The student refused the entire test,
·            The student was absent for any session,
·            The student was present for all sessions but did not respond to                                                  even on question on the test            

Misinformation #4:  Schools can be punished for participation below 95%

Answer to #4: 

Failure to make AYP?  NO.  NYS is under a NCLB waiver- no new schools will be labeled failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  

Funding Lost? NO.
No school in New York State has lost funding because of refusals. NYSED officials have even stated schools will not lose funding:
According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), under the ESEA waiver there is NO direct negative financial impact on a school district that does not meet the 95% participation rate if it is in good standing. In the worst-case scenario, a school in good standing that fails to meet the 95% rate for three consecutive years may be labeled a Local Assistance Plan (LAP) School. While the school will then be required to craft a plan detailing how it will seek to increase test participation, there is absolutely no impact on state aid or Title I monies, and the school district would continue to remain in good standing. These facts have been confirmed by Joseph Shibu of the NYSED Office of Accountability, and were recently reconfirmed in a March 24th, 2015 interview with Senior Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. You can read that interview here.

  From FairTest's Monty Neil:  Will schools lose funding? NO.

  From NYSAPE on funding.

  From NYSAPE on LAP Schools labels.

Misinformation #5: Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch in speaking to the NYS Council of School Superintendents recently said:
“I believe that test refusal is a terrible mistake because it eliminates important information about how our kids are doing. Why on earth would you not want to know whether your child is on track for success in the fifth grade or success in college? Why would you not want to know how your child and your school are doing compared to other children in the district, region, and State? Why would you not want to know the progress of our multi-billion dollar investment in education? Why would you not want to know whether all students are making progress, not just the lucky few? I do not pretend that test results are the only way we know, but they are an important piece of information. They are the only common measure of progress we have. We are not going to force kids to take tests. That’s not the New York way. But, we are going to continue to help students and parents understand that it is a terrible mistake to refuse the right to know. We don’t refuse to go to the doctor for an annual check-up. Most of us don’t refuse to get a vaccination. We should not refuse to take the test.”
Answer to #5: 
Insulting rhetoric from Chancellor Tisch. 
·        Do we really think snapshot in time, the state assessments can help parents determine if a 10-year old is on track for college? 
·        When high-stakes have been attached to the assessments, comparison of test results from district, the most vulnerable students have faced the consequences of narrowed curriculum towards tested subjects.
·        Comparing not getting regular medical care for children to boycotting flawed assessments is insulting to all families.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our 2015 Refusal Letter

A few notes:

  • This is our fourth year refusing the state assessments.
  • Last year our district allowed children to read in a separate location, so we are thanking school administration for respecting families who are standing up for their children's education. 

March 15, 2015

Dear Administrators & Teachers,

Thank you for all that you do for our school.

We are writing respectfully on behalf of ______________ (Grade __) and _________ (Grade ___) to refuse the New York State Assessments in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science(4th grader) this spring. As we have expressed numerous times in the last four years, our family is very concerned about the direction of education in our state. The increased importance of mandated standardized testing is having a significant negative educational impact on children and contributes to the financial crisis facing districts across the Empire State. Governor Cuomo’s education agenda and attacks on public schools have only intensified our concerns and advocacy.  We feel a mass boycott of the New York State Assessment system is the primary vehicle to reverse the wrong-headed education policies that are already federal and state law as well as halt the damaging education proposals from Governor Cuomo.  Thank you once again for listening to our concerns.

We have no issue with properly written tests that monitor our children's progress but the current assessment system does not help parents or educators achieve that goal. Despite what state education officials repeat ad nauseam, teachers are provided with very little data from the state assessments to “inform instruction”. Parents receive a vague score report that does not assist families in assessing our children's academic progress. The secretive nature of the state assessments contributes to the need for significant reversal in education policy in our state and nation. It short, the current New York assessment system has no educational value for the students of our state.

In addition, we please request that our children do not take any practice tests that are designed for the sole purpose of preparing students for the state assessments.  Please give our children an alternative activity or assignment during any practice testing, which could include reading, homework completion time, or any academic assistance they may need.

We would like to thank the {school name} administration for once again allowing our children to read in a separate location while other students are testing.   We look forward to a great end of the school year.


Sunday, March 1, 2015


Feel free to print and hand out to friends, at events, and school functions.

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Download full image here.

Download full PDF with refusal letter here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A tale of two educators

Here we have great leadership from a Superintendent who is standing up for his students against the harmful testing.

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And a Principal who needs to examine his educational priorities.

Story here:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Top Test Takers?

My child scores well on standardized tests, so why should I boycott?

via the Real Mr. Fitz comics.  Visit his site for more great education cartoons.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

"Yeah, about the test..."

“Yeah, about the test... The test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and in places of worship. You will be tested on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football, and while scrolling through your Twitter feed. The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric, and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context. The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, will make your life yours. And everything, everything, will be on it. ...I know, right?” 

 ― Author John Green

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Kindergarten & Early Childhood Education should be.

Enough already with the rigor and "college and career readiness" talk,  listen to the experts in early childhood education.  What should Kindergarten & Early Childhood Education look like?