Will the Testing Keffuffle Bring Down the Commissioner? Angering Parents is Juggling Dynamite.

Does New York State test too much? Did you know that New York State used to give Regents exams in 42 different subjects? Or, in the 1930’s the state rewarded students with the highest scores on Regents exams with scholarships? Or, in the 50’s and 60’s the state offered a statewide exam and gave Regents Scholarships to high performers?

By the 70’s the state offered an alternative to the traditional Regents exams, the 8th grade level Regents Competency Exam (RCT), the RCT exams was sufficient for admission to CUNY and SUNY schools.

Beginning with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965 the state tested students in grades four and eight in English and Mathematics. The scores were listed in the New York Times, in order, with widespread coverage of the scores. A school on a tree-lined street in Bayside would lead the city and a school in Soundview in the Bronx would be at the bottom of the list.

The passage of the Ted Kennedy-sponsored No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 required testing in Grades 3-8

In 1997 the Regents began the phase out of the RCT exams – it took fifteen years as the Regents, fearing sharp declines in graduation rates, keep postponing the full implementation.

The Obama-Duncan administration required testing on steroids and New York State was quick to jump on the performance-enhancing bandwagon.

While parents and teachers opposed the hyped up testing regimen it wasn’t until the spring, 2013 that the sans culottes rushed the Bastille.

The release of the New York State Grades 3-8 test scores created a tsunami – the scores dipped 30%, kids who had high scores for years suddenly saw their scores drop below the “proficiency” level, they failed the test.

The new tests were based, for the first time, on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a substantially different kind of test.

[Commissioner] King said that, as expected, the percentage of students deemed proficient is significantly lower than in 2011-12. This change in scores – which will effectively create a new baseline of student learning – is largely the result of the shift in the assessments to measure the Common Core Standards, which more accurately reflect students’ progress toward college and career readiness.

The state teacher union (NYSUT) and a few members of the Regents asked that SED declare a moratorium on the impact of the test – the commissioner demurred.

New York’s teachers’ unions are demanding that state Commissioner John King work to establish a three-year moratorium on using common-core-aligned test results for judging schools, students, or teachers—and imply that they will join calls for his removal if he doesn’t.

Hostility to the testing regime has grown throughout the state among teachers and parents. The anger bubbled over at the parent meeting in Poughkeepsie (watch the U-Tube here). After speaking for an hour and forty minutes the commissioner responded to parents for twenty minutes – the parents were seething – the U-Tube has garnered over 50,000 views.

King blamed “special interests” for his raucous reception and refused to identify who he was referencing.

Capital Confidential, a widely read blog, reports,

State Education Commissioner John King refused Tuesday to identify the “special interests” whose raucous behavior at a Poughkeepsie town hall on the new Common Core school standards led to cancel four other meeting …
“Google it,” King told reporters who asked him to identify the special interests he blamed for wrecking the planned sessions.

The disaster in Poughkeepsie led to calls for resignation from parents across the state.

In an effort to win back the proletariat the commissioner issued an October 24th letter. The letter avers, “… the amount of testing should be the minimum necessary to inform effective decision-making.”

The letter goes on the describe a few alterations,

* Students can substitute the Algebra Regents for the 8th Grade Math test
* Eliminate field testing for multiple choice questions and reduce time for field testing of constructive response questions.

The changes are minor, very minor, and whether or not the commissioner will agree to a review of the Common Core Standards is to be decided – teachers and principals have complained that a number of standards in the early grades are “age inappropriate.”

Hovering in the background are the PARCC tests – not only Common Core tests, tests without any curriculum, basically a national test. At the October Regents meeting deputy commissioner Ken Wagner gave an upbeat presentation of the PARCC testing agenda (See Power Point here).

While the Regents voted not to move to the PARCC tests in the 2014-15 school year – the commissioner clearly intends to move to PARCC at some point. The PARCC assessments greatly increase the number of assessments and the length of the assessments.

We all know what happened on July 14th, 1789 (or, should know); maybe the Poughkeepsie incident was our Bastille?

The parent anger will continue and grow, the legislators, responding to parent anger, will flex their muscles, the commissioner will continue to flit around the state trying to quell the parent fires.

Barrack Obama, Arne Duncan, David Coleman, John King all bought in, American education is subpar and the only way to “raise the bar” is to create a new “passing” score based on aspirational standards, and, creating brand-new exams, with new much higher cut scores.

Parents saw a commissioner who was telling them that Johnny and Mary weren’t as smart as they had been last year, and the years before; telling parents that principals and teachers had been fooling them into believing that their kids were doing fine, that the many thousands of dollars in school taxes were being wasted or, was it the commissioner who was wrong?

You can mess with a lot of things; you can’t mess with someone’s kids.

Louis XVI did not fare well after July 14th.

10 responses to “Will the Testing Keffuffle Bring Down the Commissioner? Angering Parents is Juggling Dynamite.

  1. Early in my career I came across an allegory entitled The Animal’s School Curriculum. It described a scenario in the forest, where all the forest animals had to attend school and partake of the same curriculum, (what we call Common Core). There was no particular concern for skill sets that some animals excelled in when compared to others. Every animal had to take the same subjects and pass with minimum passing grades. Thusly the duck who was an excellent swimmer, was required to take track and field gym classes. After a while his webbed feet became bruised and torn,, and he could barley use them. But he managed to pass track and field and barely passed swimming. if you project the rest of the allegory you get the picture that attaining mediocrity was the panacea for success in that forest school system. In Common Core, we see or will see the same end game. Ultimately, it will be watered down and new passing grades will be established. They of course will align (thats our newest catch word) with whatever scores define mediocrity in this latest craze. The root cause of all this consternation, parent unrest, new teacher angst, will be the legacy that a would be union busting Mayor should be best remembered for. I really am hard pressed to think of any other reason to remember him. What stumps me is the fact that our Gov who comes from a family of educators, so willingly got on board with Commissioner King, and The Mayor to impose the Common Core on NYC?NYS. Core being the center of things, as defined in most dictionaries, is the most inappropriate of terms to describe what is happening to our schools. Does anyone believe that our kids are going to be more acceptable to college recruiters, because they went to a school that had a common core based curriculum.Its a hoax..Common core is what we once upon a time referred to as integrated curriculum. It was a behavioral teaching objective that was taught to teachers by their supervisors, wherein, a teacher of one subject area would use relevant facts from another curriculum to effectuate a learning realization op for her /his students. The degree by which some students, vs all students were participating learners was a criteria that has always been pushed in PDs and department meetings and post observation conferences.
    Certainly, thought provoking questions were the goal of the developmental aspect of a lesson, we knew this when Ms. Danielson was a rookie teacher. What she calls Learning Rich, we call classroom decor. So if its mediocrity that has become the new norm, you all know who to thank.


  2. Eric Nadelstern

    There’s nothing wrong with a curriculum that departs from rote memorization and gives kids an opportunity to think, make connections and apply what they’ve learned. However, the rollout was botched miserably by politicians disguised as educational leaders.

    Rather than attempt to uniformly force this curriculum on schools, we need to give teachers and principals the same opportunities we wish to afford our students; that is, to think about this tool, make connections to what they know students need, adapt the materials so they can own and adopt them, apply what they’ve learned in their classrooms and reflect together on the results.

    The only place where innovation occurs in school systems is at the point where teachers and their students interact in classrooms. The rest of us need to stand back, observe how schools make use of the curriculum, learn from this work, and identify and generalize successful practices.

    There’s nothing wrong with the Core Curriculum, but nothing right about how the State and City have rolled it out.


  3. Information/subject testing for which there is no curriculum available should be outlawed. They have repeatedly paved the way to misuse abuse and ligations because of the unfair nature of these results. Why is the REGENTS in the business of creating non-curriculum based testing opportunities? Shouldn’t they be the ones encouraging learning, standards and the development of curriculum. What is wrong with the NYS REGENTS EXAMS? They are based on curriculum and are standard throughout the state. teachers, students and parents can respect their content and their legitimacy.


  4. Pingback: Will John King Destroy Common Core in New York By Alienating Parents? | Diane Ravitch's blog

  5. Michael Fiorillo

    How odd: not a word about AFT/UFT/NYSUT participation in this nightmare.

    None this would have happened if the union misleadershp had refused to sign off on Race to the Top, which has mandated this sadistic testing regime. It was clear to anyone who cared to look at the time that the RttT funds were a Trojan Horse that would soon cost far more than the chump change used as a bribe to get districts accept the Bill Gates’ Common Corporate Standards, PARCC and all the rest.

    As usual, Unity Caucus spin masquerading as analysis.


  6. Reblogged this on CNY Teacher.


  7. “American education is subpar and the only way to “raise the bar” is to create a new “passing” score based on aspirational standards, and, creating brand-new exams, with new much higher cut scores. ” In other words just move the goal posts and hobble the refs in the middle of the game.


  8. The bill of goods sold as Race to the Top was not close to what was delivered. What had been presented to educators was tossed out when the Regents sided with King after educators were apparrently flat out lied to throughout the entire Race to the Top application process. King has no respect for anyone. He often credits his teachers with saving his life. One has to wonder if it wasn’t because of advice they gave him to leave New York and go to Peurto Rico because his dismissive atitude and inability to work with others was so poor that he was setting himself up for some disasterous encounters…now the children of New York have to suffer from their disasterous encounter with King.


  9. Pingback: In a New York Minute… | Stop the Tennessee Testing Madness

  10. Pingback: The Reading Wars: Balanced Literacy v Phonics, Rekindled | Ed In The Apple

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