Opine I will

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

CCSS feedback memorialized

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is conducting a review of the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. Several groups including NYSUT and Superintendents are asking for our feedback on the current standards.

Since I am a 5th grade teacher I have reviewed each 5th grade standard and made comments on the what should be changed. I will be forwarding my feedback to the appropriate groups.  I am also posting them here as a way to memorialize my feedback. Hopefully this will lead others to do the same as proof that we tried to work within the system.

Our particular comments must be made public. We have no assurances from NYSED that all comments will be read. Therefore let’s use a little grassroots activism to post our specific objections to each and every standard.

Here’s mine:

Suggested changes to 5th grade ELA and Math Standard

Reading Standards for Literature K–5

2-  Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

 ( not age appropriate very subjective)

3-Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

( poor example leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

6-Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described. a. Recognize and describe how an author’s background and culture affect his or her perspective.

(Not age appropriate- student lack necessary schema)

7- Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

(Not appropriate—who decides what beauty is? )

9- Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

(redundant and leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

Responding to Literature

  1. Recognize, interpret, and make connections in narratives, poetry, and drama, to other texts, ideas, cultural perspectives, eras, personal events, and situations. a. Self-select text to develop personal preferences regarding favorite authors. b. Use established criteria to categorize, select texts and assess to make informed judgments about the quality of the pieces.

( Too subjective. Students lack schema to judge quality)

Reading Standards for Informational Text K–5

  1. Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

(quickly and efficiently are too subjective -leads to misinterpretation of the standard )

10-By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

(high end? Should be in the grade band)

Writing Standards K–5

  1. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.) a. Produce text (print or nonprint) that explores a variety of cultures and perspectives.

(Not age appropriate)

6- With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.

(How long is a sitting? Too subjective- leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Create and present an original poem, narrative, play, art work, or literary critique in response to a particular author or theme studied in class. a. Recognize and illustrate social, historical, and cultural features in the presentation of literary texts.

(Students lack schema- leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

Speaking and Listening Standards K–5

1-Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. c. Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others. d. Review the key ideas expressed and draw conclusions in light of information and knowledge gained from the discussions. e. Seek to understand and communicate with individuals from different perspectives and cultural backgrounds. f. Use their experience and their knowledge of language and logic, as well as culture, to think analytically, address problems creatively, and advocate persuasively

( not age appropriate- students lack schema)

Language Standards K–5

3-Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening. a. Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style. b. Compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems.

(To what extent?  Not age appropriate, students lack schema)




Number & Operations in Base Ten 5.NBT

  1. Find whole-number quotients of whole numbers with up to four-digit dividends and two-digit divisors, using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the relationship between multiplication and division. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.

(Strike “and”– area models are not mathematically sound in all situations- leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals to hundredths, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used.

(Strike ‘and” and replace with or- )

Number & Operations—Fractions 5.NF

  1. Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole, including cases of unlike denominators, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem. Use benchmark fractions and number sense of fractions to estimate mentally and assess the reasonableness of answers. For example, recognize an incorrect result 2/5 + 1/2 = 3/7, by observing that 3/7 < 1/2.

(the entire concept of reasonableness is too subjective.. using visual fraction models as an example leads to a misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Interpret a fraction as division of the numerator by the denominator (a/b = a ÷ b). Solve word problems involving division of whole numbers leading to answers in the form of fractions or mixed numbers, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem. For example, interpret 3/4 as the result of dividing 3 by 4, noting that 3/4 multiplied by 4 equals 3, and that when 3 wholes are shared equally among 4 people each person has a share of size 3/4. If 9 people want to share a 50-pound sack of rice equally by weight, how many pounds of rice should each person get? Between what two whole numbers does your answer lie?

( examples shown lead to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction or whole number by a fraction. a. Interpret the product (a/b) × q as a parts of a partition of q into b equal parts; equivalently, as the result of a sequence of operations a × q ÷ b. For example, use a visual fraction model to show (2/3) × 4 = 8/3, and create a story context for this equation. Do the same with (2/3) × (4/5) = 8/15. (In general, (a/b) × (c/d) = ac/bd.) b. Find the area of a rectangle with fractional side lengths by tiling it with unit squares of the appropriate unit fraction side lengths, and show that the area is the same as would be found by multiplying the side lengths. Multiply fractional side lengths to find areas of rectangles, and represent fraction products as rectangular areas

( Not age appropriate, children often lack fine motor skills to perform the rectangle task above, and examples shown lead to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Interpret multiplication as scaling (resizing), by: a. Comparing the size of a product to the size of one factor on the basis of the size of the other factor, without performing the indicated multiplication. b. Explaining why multiplying a given number by a fraction greater than 1 results in a product greater than the given number (recognizing multiplication by whole numbers greater than 1 as a familiar case); explaining why multiplying a given number by a fraction less than 1 results in a product smaller than the given number; and relating the principle of fraction equivalence a/b = (n × a)/(n × b) to the effect of multiplying a/b by 1

( not age appropriate, should be in an upper grade)

  1. Solve real world problems involving multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem.

(Overreach – telling how to solve is a curriculum not a standard)

  1. Apply and extend previous understandings of division to divide unit fractions by whole numbers and whole numbers by unit fractions.1 a. Interpret division of a unit fraction by a non-zero whole number, and compute such quotients. For example, create a story context for (1/3) ÷ 4, and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient. Use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that (1/3) ÷ 4 = 1/12 because (1/12) × 4 = 1/3. b. Interpret division of a whole number by a unit fraction, and compute such quotients. For example, create a story context for 4 ÷ (1/5), and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient. Use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that 4 ÷ (1/5) = 20 because 20 × (1/5) = 4. c. Solve real world problems involving division of unit fractions by non-zero whole numbers and division of whole numbers by unit fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, how much chocolate will each person get if 3 people share 1/2 lb of chocolate equally? How many 1/3-cup servings are in 2 cups of raisins?

(visual models should be a strategy than MAY be used not must be used)

Measurement & Data 5.MD

  1. Relate volume to the operations of multiplication and addition and solve real world and mathematical problems involving volume. a. Find the volume of a right rectangular prism with whole-number side lengths by packing it with unit cubes, and show that the volume is the same as would be found by multiplying the edge lengths, equivalently by multiplying the height by the area of the base. Represent threefold whole-number products as volumes, e.g., to represent the associative property of multiplication. b. Apply the formulas V = l × w × h and V = b × h for rectangular prisms to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with whole-number edge lengths in the context of solving real world and mathematical problems. c. Recognize volume as additive. Find volumes of solid figures composed of two non-overlapping right rectangular prisms by adding the volumes of the non-overlapping parts, applying this technique to solve real world problems

( V=bxh is misleading.. it should be V=lxwxh  in the first example lower case b represents the area of the base when finding the area of a triangle A=1/2bh   it confuses the  student and is not needed)

Elia’s misdirection campaign.

New York’s recently appointed Commissioner of Education Mary Ellen Elia has concluded her fraudulent “listening tour” and has now embarked on a massive misdirection campaign.  Much like the sight of hand I wrote about here, she continues to drive her misguided agenda.

Elia has set up a new initiative called  AIMHighNY.  ( Nice name, I wish Cuomo would have aimed higher when searching for a Commissioner )

Fresh off her listening tour she has  created a website that contains a survey on the Common Core. She states,

 “NYSED is conducting a survey in order to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the standards.”  That’s what we hear.. but this is what she goes on to say.. The survey’s intent is to Improve what already exists; don’t start over.”

She is supposedly going to ‘listen’ to public comment but refuses to start over. Her survey  is cumbersome, time consuming and designed to make us all fall in line.  Elia tells us,

that this survey is  not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.

Today I learned about her latest move. She set up this website called “Assessment Toolkit” which is nothing more that a public relations campaigned that provides school superintendents, politicians, and others with ‘talking points’ to sell high stakes testing.

The little credibility Mary Ellen Elia may have had is now shot to Hell. She claims to be listening to parents, teachers, and educators,yet at the same time developing talking points to push her agenda. And she promises more to come! That’s not listening, that’s attempting to pull a fast one.

Elia we are on to you.. watch the opt-outs soar!

“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.”

Frank Luntz  is famous for his focus groups and language testing, and was behind phrases like the death tax (instead of the estate tax) and the GOP’s Contract with America. He is also behind the moniker

“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” 

Remember the “ Patriot Act”? Do you really think true patriots would have supported a law that violated our Constitutional Right to privacy?

While Luntz is not responsible for ‘ No Child left Behind” ,  “ The Common Core”, and  “ Race To the Top”, each phrase can be described the same. The phrase has nothing to do with what we hear. It’s a purposeful misdirection, much like a magician’s sleight of hand.  Say one thing, but mean another that will drive an agenda that cannot survive in the daylight of public opinion.

In 2012 President Obama charged the nation with the following  in his State of the Union ,

Teachers matter.  So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.  Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  And in return, grant schools flexibility:  to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.  That’s a bargain worth making. “

Since then as we raced to the top, more teachers have lost their jobs, resources are being diverted towards test prep, good teachers are not able to really teach, schools and teachers are following test prep scripts, and high stakes testing is out of control.

Yesterday President Obama called for a 2% cap on testing! It sounds good and already the NEA and others are applauding this statement has a huge shift in policy.  Well those of us in New York know it’s just another case of  “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” 

We know Obama was given this talking point by new acting Secretary of Education John King. King was basically run out of New York when, as our Commissioner of Education , he doubled down on high stakes tests, then tried to blame local districts for over testing. He then declared his own 2% cap.

We now test for 9 hours in New York and  if we actually went to 2% our test time would soar to approximately 25 hours! Is that what they are saying? Test for 25 hours?

We also have another devastating 2% cap in NY. A 2% tax cap that has resulted in  an increased class size, many being programs cut, thousands of teachers to lose their jobs, school districts to be thrown into  financial distress, and children to lose out on a full education. Perhaps John King forgot to mention to Obama that using a 2% threshold may not be a good talking point.

In New York, our new Commissioner of Education Elia has set up a new initiative called  AIMHighNY.  Remember,  “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” 

After over 250,000 opt outs of state tests, Commissioner Elia, fresh off her listening tour (“It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” ) has  created a website that contains a survey on the Common Core. She states,

 “NYSED is conducting a survey in order to provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the standards.”  That’s what we hear.. but this is what she goes on to say.. The survey’s intent is to Improve what already exists; don’t start over.

I spent 3 hours today attempting to go through the 5th grade standards on this survey. The survey is cumbersome, time consuming and designed to make us all fall in line.  Elia tells us,

that this survey is  not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.

I bet she will use it as her own referendum.  Watch for her upcoming comments after the flawed results are in.

When Elia, Duncan. King, or Obama say.

 …we want the best possible standards as we continue to move forward on the progress that has been made in academic achievement.

As we watch the political fiasco surrounding presidential candidates, ask yourself a simple question, does what I am hearing really jive with what they are saying?

Is this just another sleight of hand ruse?

Is the pendulum really swinging or are we just part of a sleight of hand ruse?

3 card Monte

As a deadline creeps closer and school districts all across New York State huddle in negotiations with local teacher associations to agree on a new evaluation plan, under the threat of a loss in state aid, a prominent Regent and Governor Cuomo have either come to their senses or are imitating Penn and Teller.

Regent Tillis of Long Island said to a forum of teachers,  “I oppose the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and principals,” and  “not admitting a mistake is making a bigger mistake.” He also called for an end to the use of the state’s so-called “growth scores,” and he recommended changes in state law that would allow more emphasis on local measures of achievement. These would include “Student Learning Objectives” — assessments adopted by school districts — as well as teacher-written tests and “portfolios” of students’ classwork. He also made a point to say he was speaking as an individual and not for the Board of Regents.

At the next meeting of the Board of Regents on Sept. 16-17 they will be voting to make the new teacher-principal evaluation rules permanent. The question remains, will Tilli’s vote reflect his bold statement to teachers or will he say once again he has no choice but to continue the status quo? Are his words just a distraction from the criticism he has been receiving, much like a Penn and Teller trick? I hope not.

New York Governor Cuomo issued a press release today stating ,

 “The fact is that the current Common Core program in New York is not working, and must be fixed. To that end, the time has come for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns. I am taking this action not because I don’t believe in standards, but because I do.”

He promised to ask  a representative group from his former Education Commission, including education experts, teachers, parents, the Commissioner of Education and legislative representatives to perform a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns.

Cuomo’s sleight of hand has been exposed before. I don’t trust him anymore than I would trust the guy on the corner playing 3 Card Monte.

Cuomo states, in his press release, that he believes in the standards and he blames the NYS Education Department for its faulty implementation, even though he held state aide hostage until his vision for implementation was adhered to.  Cuomo goes on to say he sympathizes with the frustration of parents yet he refuses to visit with them at the schools where their children go.

Cuomo refuses to meet with teachers, refuses to visit our classes, and he knows full well that he continues to hold state aide hostage today, until teachers agree to his faulty rollout of Common Core.  Notice he is not calling an immediate halt of his new evaluation plan!

What do you think? Is that pendulum swinging or are we the target of a sick magic trick?

Preparing for Another Year

This is my last week of summer vacation.  It used to be a time of pure excited anticipation of a brand new school year. It used to be a great time of year. But all that has changed.

Today, I prepare for another year.

My year will start with the grand presentation of new teacher ratings based on last year’s tests. What will our ratings be? Are we highly effective or ineffective? Did last year’s students score well or not? If they didn’t do well, I won’t ever find out which questions they got wrong.

As our Teacher Association President, will I be able to help any of my colleagues that may be at risk due to these tests? How do we appeal results based on questions we cannot even review? Is this mysterious data based on a value added method even valid?

Last year, we informed parents that our Association supported a parent’s decision to opt out. Our district had about 26% of our students opt out. Did this skew the data? I think so. I also think it should invalidate the data.

Our new NY Education Commissioner, Mary Elia, said last week that teachers were unethical for supporting the Opt Out movement. I question her ethics.  Her unethical rant last week, condemning a parent’s right to avoid inappropriate and abusive testing for their children warrants her immediate removal.

So as I prepare for the coming year, I will be thinking about our new Commissioner.  I will be meeting with my colleagues to discuss how we should defensively negotiate a new evaluation plan imposed on us, even though our collective bargaining rights were slashed when it comes to our evaluation plan.

I will be discussing how we must be ready for a possible devastating decision by the Supreme Court. I will be discussing how to make our association stronger and how we must strengthen our partnership with parents and other community members.

I will be discussing how there are Presidential candidates who want to punch us in the face, close our faculty rooms to keep us from each other, take away our pensions, sell our schools and destroy our unions.

I will be also discussing how we will navigate with or around yet another Language Arts and Math curriculum supposedly aligned with the Common Core that is geared towards even more tests.

And somehow, I will be ready to meet these challenges and provide what is needed for every single one of my students, which is best done by closing my classroom door ignoring the distractors and doing what I know best, teach!

Swimming upstream

salmonAs a local union leader I often feel as though I am swimming upstream,often struggling against the current to accomplish a task that is needed for the survival of my local. Unlike salmon who swim upstream to propagate their species then die each year, union leaders struggle many years then ultimately hand over the reigns to another to continue on the never ending trek against the current.

Last year the current was particularly strong for me, as I negotiated a new labor agreement for my members. I had to deal with man made obstacles such as New York State Governor Cuomo’s tax cap, the rise in health care costs, APPR, and the public’s yen to make teachers our national scapegoats. I successfully navigated my way through those obstacle and ensured that my local will continue to thrive.

As I look upstream I see rapids ahead that are unlike any I have ever seen before. The Supreme Court may add an insurmountable  obstacle in our way. Friedrichs v California Teachers Association could be the death knell for our union. But unlike the salmon, we have legs. Our legs are our members that can get us out of the strong opposition current and lead us along a portage around the deadly obstacle.

The really bad news though is, the salmon are dying before they even have the chance to battle the current. They can not handle the hot waters due to climate change. And just like the salmon we could die as well unless our union sisters and brothers resist the urge to sit back and hope someone else will take the lead.dead salmon

Apathy will sap our strength and destroy us as the public climate heats up all around us. We may never have the chance to use our legs and sidestep the obstacles around us.

Get involved.

About to get bowled over!

I just don’t get it. Just when we seemed to slow down that pendulum of education deform, just when it looked as though it may actually stop  swinging menacingly at us, it seems as though a collective “heave ho!” could be heard all across New York. That menacing pendulum was given a huge unanimous push by the newly revised Board of Regents with help from NYSUT and the AFT. The question remains, which direction was it pushed?

When the Regents appointed former Hillsborough, Florida, schools chief MaryEllen Elia to become New York’s education chief,is the pendulum being push towards deform or away from it? Will public schools be bowled over or will the reformers be knocked out of our path?

Which way?

Will we get the Elia that is for VAM, Common Core, high stakes testing, firing 5% of teachers every year, merit pay, and Gates’ poisoned carrot on a stick mentality? Will we get the Elia that was fired from her former gig that three of the seven elected Hillsborough County School Board members lost confidence in her for reasons that included her response to two student deaths in 2012. Will we get the Elia that embraced the magnet school movement aggressively, became known for her extensive use of student performance data.Perhaps we will get the Elia that aggressively supports charter schools.

Will we get the Elia that NYSUT touts as having a background as a high school teacher and reading specialist, and her deep roots in Western New York, make her a welcome voice in the discussion about how to improve New York’s already strong public education system?

NYSUT somehow sees a silver lining in this storm cloud.

Well,I don’t!

I see a tornado that is about to push that pendulum and knock us all down like we are pins in a “Skittle Bowl” game!skittle bowl

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.



                                                                                JACK M. MARTINS


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.

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