12/13/13 3:30pm
12/13/2013 3:30 PM
COURTESY PHOTO | State Senator John Flanagan during his press conference in Brentwood on Thursday.

COURTESY PHOTO | State Senator John Flanagan during his press conference in Brentwood on Thursday.

State Senator John Flanagan is calling on the state Department of Education to delay using a controversial method of storing student data electronically for one year and proposing legislation to ban standardized testing for students in pre-K through 2nd grade.

Mr. Flanagan (R-East Northport), who chairs the senate’s Standing Committee on Education, is also sponsoring legislation to create independent oversight, as well as establishing civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized disclosure of personal information stored on the state’s student data portal received from public schools.

The actions are based on his committee’s report, “The Regents Reform Agenda: ‘Assessing’ Our Progress,” which Mr. Flanagan unveiled Thursday during a press conference in Brentwood.

[Scroll down to view the complete report]

In the report, privacy experts and school administrators raised concerns about the ability of unauthorized third-parties to access personally identifiable information, or PII, of students, teachers and principals that are collected on the state portal.

Many parents and educators have protested an agreement the state has made with inBloom, Inc. to store student data because they fear personal records could be compromised.

Strengthening public school privacy protections is one part of a series of legislative actions Mr. Flanagan is proposing.

The report includes testimony given during five public hearings Mr. Flanagan has held in recent months that sought public feedback on the state’s implementation of Common Core.

Merryl Tisch, the Board of Regents chancellor, issued a statement Friday in response to Mr. Flanagan’s report.

“While we have concerns about some aspects of the report, it’s clear that Senator Flanagan has put together some strong recommendations that we look forward to working collaboratively to address,” Ms. Tisch said in a press release.

The Common Core State Standards has been nationally recognized and adopted by most states across the country that claims to better prepare students for college and careers by requiring instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans for teachers to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate that schools use these lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.

Earlier this year, and as part of Race to the Top requirements, the state did direct New York school districts develop their own teacher evaluation systems, known as annual professional performance reviews plan (APPR), lest the districts risk losing additional available state aid.

The state Department of Education has been heavily criticized by school officials across New York for pushing the new mandates before districts were ready for them. While many educators embraced Common Core when it was first introduced, they’ve since demanded that the state hold off on implementing the new student assessments based on Common Core and the APPR plan until the rigorous curriculum is properly implemented inside the classroom.

Some of the concerns raised in Mr. Flanagan’s report include: over-testing of students, inadequate professional development funding for teacher training, incomplete and missing modules and the use of test questions that were neither age-level nor developmentally appropriate.

Mr. Flanagan’s committee also heard testimony from parents about their “children experiencing severe stress, anxiety and frustrations as they struggled to understand the new curriculum, while also trying to learn in a whole new way.” The committee also hear about teachers’ “exasperation over the lack of time and resources given to professional development training in order to adequately prepare lesson plans before teaching and testing their students,” according to a press release issued by his office Thursday.

As a result of the testimony given, the report recommends the state Department of Education immediately address several concerns, such as expediting waivers from the U.S. Department of Education “to relax onerous and rigid testing restrictions placed on certain students,” especially with English as a Second Language students and students with disabilities; producing all missing or incomplete curriculum modules; aligning assessments proportionally to curriculum actually implemented; and increasing funding for the professional development of teachers.

As for the state Legislature, Mr. Flanagan is proposing several bills for approval, including requiring state Department of Education commissioner John King to review APPR plans and eliminate unnecessary student assessments. If approved, Mr. King will also be required to report on the effectiveness of Common Core tests and programing with an independent audit.

Mr. Flanagan described the recommendations contained within the report as “a good first step in addressing the concerns heard by the committee, which overwhelmingly revolved around the issue of over-testing.”

“Setting rigorous academic standards to ensure that all students are college and career ready should always be an important goal to attain,” he said. “However, it must balanced by a fair and even implementation of those new standards to allow our children to adjust and adapt appropriately.”

The report will be submitted to the Board of Regents, Mr. King and Governor Andrew Cuomo, officials said.

jennifer@timesreview.com

The Regents Reform Agenda: ‘Assessing’ Our Progress,

12/10/13 10:28pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Phillips Avenue Elementary School principal Debra Rodgers giving a presentation Tuesday night about Common Core practices within fourth-grade English Language Arts and math.

Angry Riverhead School District parents and residents are expressing their frustration over new Common Core materials for elementary school students, particularly new math curriculum.

During the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday night, parent Yolanda Thompson said she’s upset because she and her husband have been unable to properly assist their third-grade daughter with the new homework. She said she fears students aren’t exposed to building a strong foundation in math before moving onto more complex arithmetic.

“As parents, we’re wondering if we’re further confusing our children,” said Ms. Thompson, who provided the school board with handouts of her daughter’s homework. “There’s tears. There’s frustration.”

School board member Amelia Lantz said she’s concerned about her daughter’s fifth grade math homework that’s sponsored by the state because she has found it to be riddled with misspellings and errors.

Like Ms. Thompson, Ms. Lantz said she’s frustrated that she can’t help her daughter with her homework.

“Myself or my husband are trying to teach this to a child the way we learned it,” she said. “Now you’ve got three things going on in there and you’ve got one very frustrated child. That’s the gap that really concerns me.”

The Common Core State Standards has been nationally recognized and adopted by most states across the country that claims to better prepare students for college and careers by requiring instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans for teachers to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate that schools use these lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.

The public discussion came after Phillips Avenue Elementary School principal Debra Rodgers gave a presentation about Common Core practices within fourth-grade English Language Arts and math.

She said fourth grades teachers district-wide are collaborating together and combining current curriculum with state lessons plans Riverhead educators have deemed will be beneficial to students.

As for math, Ms. Rodgers conceded parents are most frustrated with not knowing how to help their children with math homework and suggested they contact the student’s teacher as soon as possible. Notifying the school will help to let the teacher know if the lesson needs to be repeated in class, she said.

“Close the book and send it back to the teacher,” Ms. Rodgers said.

Superintendent Nancy Carney reiterated that the district hasn’t “blindly adopted” the state’s recommended curriculum and is moving in a “slow and careful manner” when developing curriculum aimed at achieving the Common Core standards.

She also asked parents to be opened minded to new learning methods and gave an example of how children are able to use technology more readily than their parents.

“There are going to be new ways of learning, thinking and doing,” she said. “We need to be sure as parents and educators that we don’t frustrate kids. That’s very important to us.

“Please keep articulating to your building principals and your classroom teachers what your kids are struggling with so we can have those conversations and figure how to move forward.”

jennifer@timesreview.com

12/05/13 2:30pm
12/05/2013 2:30 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  Educators packed a forum at Eastport-South Manor High School last week to express their displeasure over Common Core.

Our local teachers and administrators are sounding an alarm.

They’re the “canaries in the coal mine,” says Terry Kalb, a recently retired Eastern Suffolk BOCES special education teacher. And they’re sensing something toxic.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

While nonprofits such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and political lobbyists like Students First flood statehouses with cash and bombard the Internet with buzz-word-laden propaganda in pushing for the Common Core State Standards, Long Island teachers are appalled by what they’re experiencing in classrooms.

Related: Numbers-driven Common Core initiative ignores life’s realities (more…)

11/27/13 8:22am
11/27/2013 8:22 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO

About two dozen educators as well as students took to a podium at Tuesday night’s Common Core forum in Manorville to, for the most part, poke holes in the state’s rollout of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Click on the video below to see what they, and state education commissioner John King, had to say.

11/27/13 6:00am
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at Tuesday night's forum.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at Tuesday night’s forum.

Long Islanders outraged over New York’s direction with education in public schools took their concerns directly to state education commissioner John King Tuesday night during a public forum in Manorville.

When Mr. King first walked onto the stage in the Eastport-South Manor High School auditorium, he was greeted with a large portion of the 1,000-person crowd, mostly teachers, quietly holding up green and white signs that read, “We are all more than a score.”

Several area high school students also asked questions and made statements.

Connor Sick of Rocky Point High School wanted to know “why failure is being used as a weapon” to try to get children to perform better in school.

“As a student who takes his studies very seriously, failure  is not motivational,” he said. “It hurts.”

He received a standing ovation.

Throughout the three-hour meeting, attendees often became disruptive , jeering as the commissioner attempted to respond to audience questions. Then, as he began to give his final remarks at the conclusion of the meeting, almost half the crowd walked out, with one heckler shouting: “You’re not listening! Goodbye!”

Mr. King continued to defend New York’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which requires, among other things, instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

He also championed the state’s lessons plans designed to support the new curriculum, known as “modules,” as well as new, state-mandated teacher evaluations and a contract with inBloom, Inc. that will store student data and personal information.

But Mr. King acknowledged some adjustments are needed, such as reducing student testing requirements, especially with English as a Second Language students and students with disabilities.

“Disagreeing isn’t the same as not listening,” he said as residents started to leave during his closing remarks.

Frustrated parents criticized Mr. King, who was joined on stage with Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents Meryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles, throughout the meeting and asked that the state scrap the new education mandates.

Many parents told stories about how test anxiety has hurt their children. Others expressed how they are annoyed by how the state Department of Education rolled out the new requirements for public schools.

Recently retired teacher and Wading River resident Terry Kalb said she’s “alarmed” about the current teacher evaluation system, especially for special needs teachers.

“Even if they have perfect scores on their observations in the classroom, because they teach students that are physically, cogitative or emotionally impaired, the test scores are going to be low,” she said. “Those teachers are rated ineffective — by mandate.”

But two people who took to the podium spoke in favor of Common Core, to the displeasure of the crowd.

The Common Core standards were created by nonprofit organizations, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, as a way to better prepare students from across the U.S. for college and careers after high school.

Along with the federal government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the Common Core initiative. Pearson, a worldwide publishing and educational company, is the primary producer and seller of Common Core instructional materials.

In 2009, through the “Race to the Top” program, the federal government offered $4.35 billion in competitive grants to states that adopted Common Core standards and developed plans to improve state test scores and teacher evaluation results.

The following year, New York adopted the Common Core in order to qualify for a $700 million portion of the federal grant, and later published lesson plans for teachers to help students meet the new standards.

Earlier this year, and as part of Race to the Top requirements, the state did direct New York school districts develop their own teacher evaluation systems, known as annual professional performance reviews plan (APPR), lest the districts risk losing additional available state aid.

The state Department of Education has been heavily criticized by school officials across New York for pushing the new mandates before districts were ready for them. While many educators embraced Common Core when it was first introduced, they’ve since demanded that the state hold off on implementing the new student assessments based on Common Core and the APPR plan until the rigorous curriculum is properly implemented inside the classroom.

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who hosted the meeting, told Mr. King he believes a moratorium on the state’s plan is needed.

“We need a delay so we can get everyone in synch,” said Mr. LaValle, himself a former educator and school administrator.

Other local residents with ties to the North Fork that addressed Mr. King included Riverhead School District parent Catherine Callaghan, Shoreham-Wading River school board president Bill McGrath, Aquebogue Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Shelly Walker, Mattituck-Cutchogue High School math teacher Kathleen Scholand, Riverhead Middle School English teacher Mindy Benze, Riverhead High School librarian Kim McGurk, Shoreham-Wading River Teachers’ Association president and special education teacher Lucille McKee and Southold School District Superintendent David Gamberg.

jennifer@timesreview.com

11/26/13 10:30am
11/26/2013 10:30 AM
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS PHOTO | New York State Education Department commissioner John King.

A public forum with New York Department of Education commissioner John King is set for 6 p.m. tonight at Eastport-South Manor High School in Manorville.

While the forum will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, state officials said speakers will be chosen prior to the meeting.

State Senator Ken LaValle(R-Port Jefferson)  has asked local superintendents to meet with their school’s community members — including parents, students, teachers, and PTAs — to organize their comments and questions relating to Common Core, teacher evaluations, standardized testing and student privacy, and submit them to his office by last Thursday.

Riverhead School District officials have said only one question from each school district will be allowed based on submittals, and a seat at the event will be reserved for each of the speakers chosen.

Tonight’s forum comes about a month after Mr. King was criticized for canceling some previously scheduled meetings, which he said at the time were being “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal was to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a new set of standards that requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age. The Common Core standards were created by nonprofit organizations, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, as a way to better prepare students from across the U.S. for college and careers after high school.

While the state has claimed the Common Core program aims to better prepare students for college and careers, many educators have criticized the initiative because they believe it forces teachers to abandon true learning and “teach to the test.”

Check back later for live coverage.

jennifer@timesreview.com

 

11/20/13 6:00am
11/20/2013 6:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Diane Ravitch talking with Long Island educators in Hauppauge Tuesday morning.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Diane Ravitch talking with Long Island educators in Hauppauge Tuesday morning.

Education expert and influential author Diane Ravitch is calling on school administrators and teachers to halt standardized testing within their districts to regain control of quality education.

More than 150 Long Island educators — including administrators and school board members from Shoreham-Wading River, Riverhead, Mattituck, Southold and Greenport — attended a breakfast meeting Tuesday with Ms. Ravitch at the Hyatt Regency Long Island at Wind Watch Golf Club in Hauppauge.

In addition to promoting her newest book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” Ms. Ravitch, a New York University professor, former U.S. assistant secretary of education and Southold resident, said she believes schools need to join together in order to deter what’s come to be known as high-stakes testing.

She also said the current teacher evaluation system tied to student scores is particularly unfair to teachers whose classrooms include English as a Second Language students and students with disabilities.

“It’s time for civil disobedience,” she told the crowd. “If they tell you to do something you know is wrong, don’t do it.”

When asked after the meeting if she believed the crowd would reject standardized testing within their schools, Ms. Ravitch said she hopes “they have the backbone” to go through with it.

“I wish they would,” she said. “That would be wonderful. I think it would send a message to the nation.”

Watch: Diane Ravitch appearances on The Daily Show

Although Southold Superintendent David Gamberg — who organized the event with Ms. Ravitch — and Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney declined to give definitive answers afterward about whether their schools would refuse to administer standardized testing, they agreed Tuesday’s talk with Ms. Ravitch has sparked a much-needed dialogue among educators and communities.

“She’s inspiring us to really think critically about the impact of this agenda on children,” Mr. Gamberg said. “Her strongest point made was that we report to our communities, not to [state Department of Education Commissioner John King].”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a new set of standards that requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age. The Common Core standards were created by nonprofit organizations, including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, as a way to better prepare students from across the U.S. for college and careers after high school.

Along with the federal government, Ms. Ravitch said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded the Common Core initiative. She also said Pearson, a worldwide publishing and educational company, is the primary producer and seller of Common Core instructional materials.

In 2009, through the “Race to the Top” program, the federal government offered $4.35 billion in competitive grants to states that adopted Common Core standards and developed plans to improve state test scores and teacher evaluation results.

The following year, New York adopted the Common Core in order to qualify for a $700 million portion of the federal grant and later published lesson plans for teachers to help students meet the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate that schools use these specific lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River and Riverhead school officials at Diane Ravitch's meeting on Tuesday in Hauppauge.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River and Riverhead school officials at Diane Ravitch’s meeting on Tuesday in Hauppauge.

Earlier this year, the state did mandate that New York school districts develop their own teacher evaluation systems, known as annual professional performance reviews plan (APPR), or risk losing additional state aid.

Ms. Ravitch said she believes the country’s biggest problem with education isn’t test scores, but rather poverty levels, because there’s a direct correlation between low family income and low test scores.

She also believes funds should be allocated for student programs instead of evaluation and data collection systems.

“There are a number of billionaires trying to fix public education, even though their own children attend private schools,” she told the crowd.

While the state has claimed the Common Core program aims to better prepare students for college and careers, many educators have criticized the initiative because they believe it forces teachers to abandon true learning and “teach to the test,” which raises ethical questions.

Ms. Ravitch said she also seeks to help people outside education understand that the current system of rating teachers provides “false” results.

“You can have a superb teacher who one year has disruptive kids and then the scores go down, and another year has a cooperative group and the scores go up,” she said.

“The public needs to be educated that what the test scores reflect is who is in the classroom, not the quality of the teacher.”

jennifer@timesreview.com

11/18/13 12:00pm
11/18/2013 12:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle will host the Common Core forum.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Senator Ken LaValle will host the Common Core forum.

Residents planning to comment or ask questions during the Nov. 26 public forum with New York Department of Education commissioner John King will need to contact their school district and make prior arrangements, according to staffers in state Senator Ken LaValle’s office.

While the forum will be open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, state officials said speakers will be chosen prior to the meeting.

Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has asked local superintendents to meet with their school’s community members — including parents, students, teachers, and PTAs — to organize their comments and questions relating to Common Core State Standards and curriculum, teacher evaluations, standardized testing and student privacy, and submit them to his office by Thursday, Nov. 21.

“In light of our time constraints, questions will be reviewed ahead of time to eliminate duplication,” Mr. LaValle said in his letter. “Remember to keep any questions/comments to two minutes. Speakers will be chosen and notified ahead of time.”

Riverhead School District officials said Monday only one question from each school district will be allowed based on submittals, and a seat at the event will be reserved for each of the speakers chosen.

Mr. LaValle said the arrangement is needed because his legislative jurisdiction includes more than 30 school districts. The First Senatorial District contains the most amount of school districts on Long Island, he said.

In addition to the meeting being be held in the 1,000-seat auditorium located at Eastport-South Manor High School in Manorville, officials said there will be an “overflow room” where people can watch the forum via closed-circuit television. The event will also be live streamed on the senator’s website, www.senatorlavalle.com.

jennifer@timesreview.com