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.