Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Cuomo and Tisch- Guilty !

The New York State Education Department and Governor Andrew Cuomo should be held accountable for abusing their authority and the children of our state.

Over the past two weeks, I was ordered to administer New York States Common Core assessments to 44% of my 5th grade class, while 56% of my students refused to take the test. They were all in the same room during the assessments, so I designed a quiet independent Language Arts activity for those not taking the test. I didn’t want to waste any potential ‘learning time’ for any of my students. They worked silently, without disturbing those struggling with the test, and afterwords they reported to me that they enjoyed the assignment and they were excited to share what they learned.

A parent complained and I was advised, after the first portion of the test,  to not have the other students working on anything else because it may be a violation of testing rules and that the Superintendent stated we couldn’t. So, for the last 4.5 hours 56% of my class was told that they can only read silently from their own novel while the others in the room struggled with the assessment. Under these conditions, I observed many of the students had a difficult time remaining silent and often disturbed those struggling with the tests.

Those children, who I had to order to sit quietly for 9 hours the past week while their peers struggled with their purposely confusing questions, were basically under arrest. Metaphorically handcuffing them to their desks, they were forced to sit quietly for an extremely long time (even those with attention deficit issues or hyperactivity issues). How many adults would subject themselves to that nonsense?

Those taking the test struggled with questions, day after day, that were unfair assessments of their capabilities. The Language Arts section of the tests consisted of way too many boring reading selections and were above a typical 5th grader’s reading level. The questions focused on minutia, lacked clarity, and played with the nuances of plausibility.

Over the past several years the Language Arts portion of the assessments always had poetry included in them. Often poems that were difficult and could be interpreted in many different ways were part of every assessment. Poetry has always been an integral part of my Language Arts curriculum.  I thought I met the challenge and that my students were well prepared to analyze just about any poem place in front of them. After all, that is part of our curriculum.  I was shocked to see that this year’s 5th grade assessments had no poetry in it. Why?

My students were prepared, but the evidence is mounting that these assessments are not about seeing if my students were prepared or are learning. There is a more sinister reason coming into focus.

The Math portion of the tests included multi- step problems that were beyond the capability of most 5th grade students. My students are capable of doing a typical 5th grade multi-step problem, but these questions were purposely misleading, often included a misdirecting clause and were often nonsensical and unrealistic.

We know that a student needs to use some background knowledge to understand a word problem.  I wonder how many students were confused when the star of a softball team hit the softball  a towering 2 yards and the others measured their distances against his.  Realistic? Hardly!  I wondered if my students really thought that knowing the fraction of the volume of a cubby used to store a teachers’ papers was a really something adults calculate.

A typical 5th grade math word problem in Pearson’s own Common Core aligned textbook has 3 or 4 steps that must be completed to solve. This year’s Pearson’s tests blew the lid off that. Students had to complete many more steps to solve these test questions. About as far from fair as you can get.

More evidence that these assessments are not about seeing if my students were prepared or are learning, that a sinister reason is coming unto focus.

I have been shouting that these tests are institutional child abuse and this week Cuomo confirmed my declaration that yes, the New York is using our children in a sinister way.

Read these excerpts from a Times Union Article:

“The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City.

“Cuomo said he believes they haven’t done a good job of publicizing the fact that the tests, for at least the next five years, won’t count at all for the students.”

“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count.”

Meaningless? Children subjected to headaches, anxiety, upset stomachs, a feeling of failure for meaningless tests!

Cuomo also says these tests are supposed to be used to evaluate teachers. That is using 9 hours of a child’s labor to do an adult’s job. Let’s not forget the imbedded field test items that Pearson sneaks in there to help them boost their corporate profits.

The evidence is overwhelming. The New York State Education Department and Governor Andrew Cuomo are guilty of abusing their authority and the children of our state.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch, are guilty as charged and should be forced to resign.

I will not be ashamed this year!

Almost a year ago I wrote ” Ashamed to be a Teacher” because I just finished administering the sixth day of New York State Common Core assessments. I was a facilitator in a process that made my 10 year old students struggle,to the point of frustration, to complete 6 days of 90 minute tests. I sat by as I watched my students attempt to answer questions that were beyond their abilities. I knew the test booklets I put in front of them contained questions that were written in a way that 95% of them had no chance of solving. I even tried to give my students a pep talk, in hopes of alleviating their angst, when I knew damn well they didn’t stand a chance. That day last year I knew I was part of the problem.I pledged  to double my efforts to stop this form of institution abuse.

And I did..

I attended the New York State United Teachers ( NYSUT) leadership institute. I made sure I attended as many  workshops, meetings, conferences and protests as I physically could. I helped plan Nassau County’s “Stand Up Speak Out for Education” forum. I reached out and educated parents who formed their own alliances. I increased my presence on social media, relentlessly driving the message that high stakes testing was institutional test abuse. I educated the members of my local to ensure that they knew and understood that we were at war with those who are looking to destroy public education for all.

I was not silent when my local elected officials tried to persuade parents that they were for public education while casting votes that have dire consequences for our schools.I confronted them, hounded them, and continue to do so.

But I am not alone..

All across New York State thousands of teachers, parents, and citizens are doing the same thing. I predict hundreds of thousands of parents will refuse to let their children take New York State’s Common Core tests next week. Parents and teachers have been standing arm in arm with a single voice exclaiming that it is time to stop this madness.

On April 1st, New York State adopted a new budget that failed to fully fund schools. This budget also provided provisions that doubled down on high stakes testing, eroded due process rights, and took aim at the livelihoods of every public school teacher. It also put every public school student smack dab in the middle of a political agenda fueled war.

Parents from across the state have been swarming to their legislators who voted for this budget and are demanding that they fix it. I have never witnessed this much vitriol and outrage at state senators in my lifetime.

Even though, I will be forced to administer these abusive tests this week, I will not be ashamed this year. I am proud of the many students in my class,  and across the state that will be refusing to take it. I am proud of the parents who stood up and demanded that we need to end this madness.  I am proud of my union sisters and brothers who have tirelessly educated their communities that our nation’s most important assets are under attack.

Yes, the tests will go on this year, but the data will be meaningless. Thanks to the multitudes that have put their shoulders into this battle, the pendulum is beginning to move in the direction we need it to go, ‘excelsior’!

I will not be ashamed this year, I am fired up and ready to win this war.

Outright lies, inaccurate information, and confusion

New York State Republican Senators and the Board of Regents Chancellor  are beginning to push back against the tsunami of parents and educators who are collectively calling their recent comments and vote a disaster.

During yesterday’s interview on the Brian Lehrer Show, Chancellor Tisch labeled parental and educator comments as nothing more than ‘noise and nonsense’ and attributes the many cases of anxiety in children to the rhetoric, language and tone of their concerned parents. She  doubled down on former Commissioner Kings comment that special interests are behind the recent uproar and that only the State Education Department is capable of having a ‘grown up’ conversation regarding reform. She claimed high stakes testing is the only way to identify income inequality and that the Common Core Standards actually designed to reduce the amount of testing given to children and she told us to calm down. She also warned us that it could take 10 years to get this right.

Senators all across the state chose yesterday to also push back. There have been reports of calls, letters and e-mails being sent to constituents and they all seem to have the same message. Don’t believe what you are being told, we voted for this bill because it is the best we could do.

Here is the e-mail I received from my State Senator Jack Martins followed by my response:

 Thank you for expressing your concerns about the education budget which was adopted by the legislature.  However, there has been confusion, inaccurate information, and in some cases outright lies reported by others about what this legislation actually entails.  For the record: 

  • The adopted budget rejected the evaluation system proposed by Governor Cuomo.  It DOES NOT require, stipulate, or even support his proposal that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on standardized testing results.  Rather than have the Governor or the Legislature, most of whom have no experience in the field of education, set evaluation criteria, we placed that in the hands of the State Education Department (SED) and the Board of Regents.  SED will develop recommendations by June 30th, which will ultimately be reviewed and considered by the Board of Regents.  They are the professionals responsible for setting all education policy in this state; they should be setting this as well. Importantly, they are independent agencies which the Governor does not control; he does not appoint the members of the Board of Regents nor the Commissioner of Education.  Taking politics out of this process is an important protection.

  • During the development process, SED is required to have a public comment period so that you and all other stakeholders have the opportunity to voice concerns, before any recommendations are finalized.  

  • The legislation specifically requires SED to come up with recommendations about how to reduce the amount of state and local testing for students.  These recommendations must be developed by June 1st.  

  • Unlike in the Governor’s original proposal, we allowed for local control to be part of evaluation guidelines through collective bargaining. Additionally, we stopped his plan requiring teachers to be evaluated by someone completely independent and outside of their school district.  Each school district can collectively bargain who, in addition to the regular observations by building principals, will perform classroom observations (e.g. other principals or personnel within the district).  The law requires evaluators to be trained to prevent someone lacking knowledge in public education from determining an educator’s fate. 

     As a parent, I understand that anything dealing with our children’s education is oftentimes an emotional issue, because we all want the best for our children.  We want them to get a great education and have every opportunity to succeed.  It’s untrue, and quite frankly offensive, for anyone to suggest otherwise. 

     Governor Cuomo’s proposal was wrong for both students and teachers.  That’s why we pushed back and negotiated what I believe is a far better alternative than what the Governor proposed.  Had we not done so by the April 1st budget deadline, the state constitution would have allowed the Governor to force us to choose between accepting his proposal in its entirety or shutting down the government.  For me, that option was unacceptable.

     Should you wish to review these components in greater detail, I have attached a copy of the bill sections dealing with these issues for your convenience.  If you have any questions, I’m happy to discuss them with you.

                                                                                Sincerely,

 

                                                                                JACK M. MARTINS

Jack,

For the record I agree, there have been outright lies. inaccurate information and confusion by those who have voted yes to the Governor’s budget.

For the record:

  • 100% of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on standardized test results. If you read the legislation, if a teacher gets an ineffective or developing score on the test portion of the evaluation, it does not matter what they receive on the other parts.  Thereby making the test 100% of the evaluation. That’s a fact, that’s why your vote was the wrong one.
  • You state that the SED will set evaluation criteria. So effectively you voted on an unknown. Just today Chancellor Tisch was questioned about the concerns raised on these evaluations. She claimed that the concerns were just “noise and nonsense” by ” special interest groups”. Your vote effectively passed the buck, but your constituents now see through this.
  • You claim the public will have input. How can we have input when Tisch refuses tio recognize the anxiety and stress put on children. She blames their anxiety on “rhetoric”. More like our input will be met with the same blank stares we witnessed during the forum you moderated in Mineola last year. Not promising and yet another reason why you should have voted no.
  •  The new legislation also allows outside evaluators as well as trained administrators from other buildings who may no nothing about the children in the classroom and peers from within. The legislation provided no funds to pay for the training or compensation for the evaluators. It also allows districts to choose yet another state exam ( some districts may choose this if it is a cheaper option).  This weakens the role of the building administrator as the instructional leader in their building and it has no pedagogical benefit. It merely will create ‘dog and pony shows’.
  • Let’s look at the state aid component, which you have left out. You promised us a complete elimination of the GEA. Our district will only be getting about 39% of the GEA lifted this year. That is 61% short of your promise.
  • The Senate, Assembly and the Regents all recommended anywhere from $1.8B-$2.2B in state aid. You settled for anywhere between $1.4B and $1.6B. Well short of our needs. Yet you gave yacht owners  tax breaks, claiming it creates jobs. Wouldn’t it be better to create jobs in education rather than cut jobs?
  • The budget also failed to address the damaging tax cap which has forced many districts into precarious financial difficulty.
  • To claim the deadline forced you to vote for this terrible budget, makes one wonder why the legislature allowed late budgets ( sometimes months late) in the past. Your argument doesn’t fly Jack.

 

Bottom line.. your vote on the budget was wrong. Your rationale on teacher evaluations is wrong. In 6 days the children in your district will be beginning 540 minutes of exams that are above their reading level, not age appropriate, and if past years is any indication they will be full of errors. You had the chance to end the abusive testing that does nothing to assess the child, drive instruction or improve education. It only abuses children.

 

I do appreciate, the dialogue and hopefully I can get you to change your mind and introduce real legislation that will end this madness. I am still willing to meet with you. Just give me a call.

 

Ralph Ratto

Today there will be many parents, children and educators standing in front of Jack Martins office calling him out for is vote. I am confident that other state senators will be hearing the same message from their own districts as well.

It’s time to end this madness.

Stand Up and Speak Out for Public Education

All across the Empire State thousands upon thousands of parents, students, business leaders, and teachers are standing up and speaking out for public education.  The message is clear. We will not let Governor Cuomo destroy public education in New York.9/11 Memorial Run/Wall in Manhattan

Andrew Cuomo, our ‘self-proclaimed student advocate’, is holding school funding hostage in his maniacal quest to sell off public education to the highest bidder. An integral part of his plan is to falsely proclaim our schools and teachers as failures.

We have all witnessed Cuomo do the following;

  • shifting needed funding towards the private sector.
  • handing over public schools buildings room by room to privately own charter schools.
  • wrenching local control away from communities.
  • demanding unfunded mandates that are driving public school districts into fiscal distress.
  • destroying teacher preparation programs.
  • whittling away at teacher education centers.
  • demanding standards that are not age appropriate for students.
  • forcing children to undergo hours and hours abusive high stakes tests.
  • labeled public sector unions as an evil force.

Let’s not forget, Cuomo was not endorsed by the New York state AFL-CIO and NYSUT. There is a reason this Democrat was shunned by labor. His agenda is anti-labor and is driven by his hedge fund millionaire campaign donors. That’s why he lost just about every county and every region in the state except for where his hedge fund millionaires poured in tons of cash.

His agenda is quite clear, he has a vendetta against those who turned their backs on him and squashed his presidential aspirations. He is willing to sacrifice the futures of the children, of the Empire State,  all the while handing parts of  a multi-billion dollar public asset to privateers.

As evident in his decisions to end any oversight on ethics he has ordered  all of his administrations e-mail and correspondence to be purged on a regular basis. Cuomo is counting on a world of darkness and despair as he slams the door on open government.  We are on to him, and he won’t get away with this.

Cuomo wants us to believe the sun in New York State Seal is setting on the era of public education and open government. It is time to stand up and speak out and tell the governor that the citizens of the Empire State will not allow that sun to set on our most important assets, our children and our public schools.Seal_of_New_York.svg

Stand Up, Speak out for public education. Let the sun shine as we share the successes of public education in New York.   Nassau County’s forum- “Stand Up and Speak Out for Public Education” is on March 12 at Westbury High School. More information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/StandUp4PublicEducation.  #allkidsneed you to be there.

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Cuomo is an ignorant thug

New York State Governor Cuomo latest tantrum is yet another move in his billionaire campaign contributors’ playbook. Unfortunately, the children of the Empire State will become his sacrificial pawns in his warped war against public school teachers. Cuomo refuses to visit our schools or even have a discussion with teachers. Those are the actions of a ignorant thug, not a governor.

Cuomo is now demanding that Long Island teacher evaluations be reviewed by the state education department (NYSED). He ignores the fact that NYSED has already extensively reviewed every teacher evaluation plan and has ordered just about every district to modify their plan before they would approve it. He ignores the fact that each district had a limited number of plans to choose from because his NYSED created a limited approved list to choose from.

Cuomo chooses once again to ignore his own words when he held school funding hostage back in 2012 and forced a compromise on teacher evaluations. Remember when he said,

“Today’s agreement puts in place a groundbreaking new statewide teacher evaluation system that will put students first and make New York a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement,” Governor Cuomo said. “This agreement is exactly what is needed to transform our state’s public education system, and I am pleased that by working together and putting the needs of students ahead of politics we were able to reach this agreement.”

Cuomo tends to do that, promises one thing to appease his critics then ignores his promise. Remember his promise to the Working Families Party and his promise to sign HIS legislation that would hold off on the consequences of faulty teacher evaluations this year?  Both promises ignored and thrown out the window, this is not a governor; this is the workings of a thug.

Cuomo uses a recent biased article in Newsday to once again attack public school teachers, specifically Long Island teachers while ignoring the fact that 91% of all Long Island students graduate, outperforming every state in the nation.

Cuomo is a vindictive thug who has lined his campaign war chest with thousands of charter school backers’ dollars. He is positioning NYS to sell off our most valuable assets, our public schools.

Cuomo’s ignorance is in full view of the nation and the world. This is a guy who has been labeled as having presidential aspirations. Can we even fathom what a disaster that would be for this nation?

My Dad

I usually opine on this blog on education issues but not today.  Today’s post is dedicated to my dad who taught me to stand up for what you believe in. Rest in peace dad.

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My father is a remarkable man who taught me to work for what I believed in, no matter what others thought or said and the importance of family. At times we misunderstood his stubbornness, and like all families we argued and disagreed. I am sure many of you know first-hand what I am talking about.

Yet despite those arguments at times, he was always there when his family needed him.

When we look back with today’s lens, at my father’s life, we see that he grew up in a time of unfathomable hardship, poverty and despair. Yet my father told us stories of his life through the eyes of a child who fondly looked at these times as one of good memories, and family.

He was born into a typical immigrant family that lived in the poorest tenement, where families and rats shared a toilet in the hall, took baths in the kitchen sink, and slept on fire escapes in the summer.  Yet he always described these living conditions fondly to us.

At 8 yrs old he was sent to a Catholic orphanage with his brothers Augie and Carmine because his parents just couldn’t take care of them. Imagine what that must have been like. Living in a dormitory that wasn’t heated very well, wearing too thin of a uniform, in conditions that would never be allowed today. Yet when my dad described these times to us, he told us of good times with his brothers and Father Kenny teaching him to swim and looking forward to his mother’s visits.

At 10 yrs old he began working to help his family. He sold paper bags on Park Avenue, and the Daily News on the Subway at night. Can you even imagine sending your 10 year old to Times Square to sell newspapers on the subways? Even at 10 yrs old he helped support his family.

At 12 yrs old he was still working to help his family by delivering furniture on a pushcart, or delivering ice. He would shine shoes in the bars along 3rd avenue and would eventually make his way to central park where he would shine the shoes of sailors on leave after Pearl Harbor

He would always give his mother most of the money he earned, because even despite the hardships then he knew the importance of family. He eventually began working with his brothers in a printing shop, until he joined the army. Again family working together.

There were times when his home life was not a happy one. His father was a heavy drinker and often abusive to his mother and the family. So, he joined the army to escape that, yet he continued to send most of his pay home.  After his service in Korea and Germany he returned home to find that things were not much better, so he went to live with his Army buddy Walter’s family in Ohio. In Ohio he once again scrapped together a living until finally coming back home. Because he knew deep down that family was important.

He may not have shown it all the time but he always remained loyal to family values despite times of bitter turmoil. His home was always open to family, whether you needed a place to live there for a while, stop in for a drink or 3, or just a place to sit and chat. My father’s door was always open to family.

As his own family started to grow he always taught us family came first. We never went without, even when he had to work two or more jobs to make sure my sisters and I had what we needed. He was always there when we needed him, whether it was fixing a pipe, painting a wall, or trying to fix our cars. He was a fixture at all of our children’s plays, concerts, and especially ball games. Even when his health was failing, he would be there, cheering and rooting for his grandchildren to give that ball a ride.

You see, spreading his love and joy for family was his life’s mission. In his last days he assured us that he will always be there for us, and I believe he is and always will.

Governor Andy Cuomo is not #whatkidsneed!

Andy Cuomo, our sophomoric New York State Governor, claims to be the only student advocate, yet he is willing to hold the children of our state hostage as he pushes his vendetta campaign against public school teachers across the Empire State.

New York State United Teachers ( NYSUT) has begun a #whatkidsneed campaign to highlight what is at risk with Cuomo’s education destruction agenda. Keeping in that spirit I thought I would list things that kids don’t need from Andy Cuomo.

  1. Doubling the weight of high stake tests that will “break our students backs” is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  2. Making 9 year old children sit through 540 minutes of tests is NOT#whatkidsneed!
  3. Using the release of vital school budget information as a weapon is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  4. Keeping state aid below 2008 levels is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  5. The New York State Regents recommended a budget increase of $2.2Billion, Andy’s 50% reduction down to $1.1Billion is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  6. Andy Cuomo’s tax cap which has pushed many districts into fiscal distress is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  7. Andy Cuomo’s inflammatory language about public schools is certainly is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  8. Andy Cuomo promoting the agenda of his hedge fund billionaire campaign supporters is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  9. Allowing Charter schools to siphon need funds away from public schools is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  10. Programs that are being eliminated due to Andy’s tax cap is a trend that is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  11. Andy Cuomo’s continued use of the Gap Elimination Adjustment that is driving class sizes up and destroying programs for kids is NOT #whatkidsneed!
  12. Demonizing dedicated professionals that are vital for our children’s future is NOT #whatkidsneed!!
  13. Supporting standards that are based on political rhetoric and not real research is NOT #whatstudents need!
  14. Eliminating due process which will hamper a teachers effort to speak up for their students is NOT #whatkidsneed!

As we begin the second term of Andy Cuomo, it is clearer than ever that this is a governor that is NOT #whatkidsneed!

The Liberal Lion and the Snake in the Grass

Mario Cuomo was our Liberal Lion. He was a governor of the people, all the people.During his 1983 inaugural address he said,

“I believe government’s purpose, basically, is to allow those blessed with talent to go as far as they can on their own. But I believe that government also has an obligation to assist those who, for whatever inscrutable reason, have been left out by fate—the homeless, the infirm, the destitute—to help provide those necessary things which, through no fault of their own, they cannot provide for themselves. Of course, we should have only the government we need. But we must have, and we will insist on, all the government we need.”

Powerful words from our beloved Liberal Lion! During his tenure as our governor he increased spending on education because he knew and insisted that we must have “all the government we need”.

Fast forward to today and we now have his son, Andrew, aka “The Snake in the Grass”. Our miserable Snake in the Grass refuses to fully fund education and he set in place legislation, with Republican help, that makes it virtually impossible for local communities to make up the difference and fully fund their own community schools.

He allows hedge fund billionaires to raid our states most important asset, our schools, by evicting public schools from parts of our community public school buildings.

Our venomous Snake in the Grass, is now holding our necessary state aide hostage until he gets his way. Only a slithering Snake in the Grass would use a funding for children’s programs as a weapon. Even though  one million children live in poverty in his state, he refuses to give children what they need.

Unlike his father, Andrew Cuomo does not believe we must have all the government we need. This Snake in the Grass follows the tune of his campaign donor snake charmers.

The time has come for New York State residents to chop the head off this snake, his venom is poisoning our children’s future.  Contact your local legislator today and demand that they abandon this snake and his ideals.

Duncan’s Line in the Sand

Building anything on sand will lead to an eventual collapse. Sand is constantly shifting and provides little foundational support. Yet legislators often make policy decisions based on the shifting sands of political agendas. So, be wary when policy makers declare they are, “drawing a line in the sand”.  That line will often shift or even disappear due to the winds of political donors and lobbyists.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is about to build upon his education reform agenda and promises to “draw a line in the sand” that will continue abusive high stakes standardized tests in reading and math. Public education in our nation is about to collapse as Duncan’s continues to use tests as a cornerstone of education reform. He just doesn’t understand that when you build anything on sand it is doomed to fail.

Assessing student growth, once provided teachers with the mortar that allowed teachers to build upon lessons that provided what was necessary to help their students grow. Today, assessing student growth, with Common Core tests, has been transformed into a wrecking ball that is destroying teacher’s ability to adapt to the needs of individual students.

Duncan  is about to double down on his wrecking ball strategy as Congress revisits No Child Left Behind (NCLB).   Insisting high stakes tests be performed every year and using these tests to evaluate teachers erodes the foundation of public education in our nation.

I believe standardized tests should be used to drive differentiated instruction for every child in our classrooms. Common Core tests do not do that. They are used to force teachers to get every student walking lock step or else. The or else part is the threat that if a teacher does not get their students marching together in time, then the nation will declare that teacher ineffective and they must be discharged.

I believe teachers should be evaluated every year. The method of these evaluations should be collectively bargained at the local level and the local community should be deciding who should teach their children, not federal or state bureaucrats driven by political agendas.

As Congress revisits NCLB this week, they must abandon the NCLB legislation that was built on sand and is destroying our schools. They must build on the bedrock of our nation, the legacy of our public schools. They must fully fund public education and beat back those who are turning our schools into business ventures.

NCLB, CCSS, and RTTT are nothing more than flimsy acronyms that camouflage the fact that they are policies built on sand. Education should not be a race to the top, our diverse nation is anything but common and our children should not be judged that way, and all children should be allowed to progress individually. Once we get back to those basic principles then we are truly building on firm footing.

End of Year

It’s that time of year when we start seeing end of year lists in review. We become inundated with lists of everything from soup to nuts. Especially nuts this year!

Here is my list of questions,  still unanswered, as 2014 comes to a close. Feel free to provide an answer if you can or pass them along.

  1. Why are graduation rates at historic levels ( high school, college and post secondary) if our public schools are failing?
  2. The stock market is at an all-time high, so why are public schools underfunded?
  3. In New York State and many other states, property values are driven by the quality of the school district, so why is Governor Cuomo tying the hands of local communities to fully fund their local schools?
  4. New York State is no longer in financial trouble, so why does Governor Cuomo continue to use a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scheme ( Gap Elimination Adjustment) that robs public schools of budgeted school aid?
  5. Why is New York State funding schools below 2009 levels while giving tax breaks to casinos?
  6. Where is the evidence that Common Core State Standards are age appropriate?
  7. Just what does the term “college and career ready” really mean. Especially when it is used to assess kindergarten through 6th grade children?
  8. Why does the New York State Education Chancellor and Governor Cuomo continue to state that our teachers are failing students when 93.8% of all high school graduates ( excluding NYC) are earning a ‘Regent’s Diploma”?
  9. Where is the evidence to support the underlying requirement of the Common Core that all students should be at the same level of understanding at the same time?
  10. Where is the research that supports the current practice of having elementary age children take hour upon hour of tests to measure teacher, administration, and district effectiveness as well as their own level of understanding?
  11. Why is it acceptable to dismantle and hand over our communities’ most important assets ( our schools) to private entrepreneurs?
  12. Why do our legislators do so little for the social needs of our communities while at the same time blaming our schools?
  13. How do states justify reducing the number of teachers while at the same time proclaim all students deserve a good education?
  14. Why have our public school teachers become the nation’s scapegoat for poor public policy?
  15. Why are special needs children being denied special education services?
  16. Just where is the evidence that supports the ideal that Charlotte Danielson and her contrived rubric should be the standard for teacher evaluation?
  17. Why are teachers’ unions unfairly labeled when the evidence shows that where they exist student achievement is higher?
  18. Why has President Obama been silent on high stakes testing since his State of the Union 2 years ago when he said testing should be limited?
  19. When will states be up front and honest and inform their residents that Lotteries do not increase funding for schools?
  20. When will all public sector unions join together and demand in a collective voice, “workers’ rights, pay, benefits and pensions for all”?

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