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The Power of Culture: The the Specialized High Schools Admittance Test (SHSAT) Roots are Embedded Deeply in the Past

We visit our favorite Dim Sum restaurant every few weeks and the maitre’d knows we’re teachers. She asked us, “My kids go to Chinese language classes after school every day and all day tutoring for the specialized high schools on Saturday, do you know of a tutoring class after church on Sunday?” You might say: a classic Tiger Mom, yes; however, far more typical among Chinese parents.

An examination system has been at the core of Chinese culture for more than a millennium.

 In China, a system of competitive examinations for recruiting officials that linked state and society and dominated education from the Song dynasty (960–1279) onward, though its roots date to the imperial university established in the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). Candidates faced fierce competition in a series of exams dealing primarily with Confucian texts and conducted on the prefectural, provincial, and national levels. Despite a persistent tendency to emphasize rote learning over original thinking and form over substance, the exams managed to produce an elite grounded in a common body of teachings

 And,

 The civil service examination system, a method of recruiting civil officials based on merit rather than family or political connections, played an especially central role in Chinese social and intellectual life from 650 to 1905. Passing the rigorous exams, which were based on classical literature and philosophy, conferred a highly sought-after status, and a rich literati culture in imperial China ensued.

Today the exam system is still at the heart and core of Chinese culture, it is the pathway to a prosperous life.

The Chinese examination, the gaokao is widely considered to be the most important exam which can make or break a young person’s future. It is intended to help level the playing field between the country’s rich and poor … [it is] the academic qualifying test for almost all high school gradates hoping to receive an undergraduate education.

 … their scores in large part determine their future – whether they can go to university, which institutions they will be admitted and consequently what careers await them.

Candidates must perform well in the gaokao to gain admission to the better universities, where graduation guarantees a bright future with status, wealth and even power.

For most Chinese, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, a high score in the gaokao is their only means to significantly alter their fate.

 When electeds or elites or progressives or civil rights advocates tell Chinese families that an examination system, a thousand years old, will no longer be a path to a prosperous life, you can anticipate opposition, vigorous opposition.

In fact, our nation has a long history of antipathy towards Chinese. From the beginnings of Chinese immigration in the mid-nineteenth barriers were erected to immigration, for example the Chinese Exclusion Acts, it wasn’t until the 1940’s that these barriers were lifted; we needed China as an ally. The Chinese laborers who built the transcontinental railroad were virtual slaves, and thousands died and lie in nameless graves.

Chinese are now the largest immigrant group coming to New York City each year. Of the 3.1 million foreign born New Yorkers 10% are Chinese (only Dominicans are a larger group).There are nine “Chinatowns” scattered throughout the city and for the last few years Chinese new immigrants led the list of new arrivals.

The SHSAT fight has mobilized the Chinese community; they have become a political force.

The examination system is embedded in the Chinese psyche, the national culture, and a plan to deprive Chinese students of perceived pathways to prosperity is viewed as Sinophobia.

Chinese aren’t the only supporters of the examination.

Back in my union representative days I worked with a high school with mostly Caribbean students and many Caribbean teachers. The school rep called, a crisis, she was concerned about her state certification. I checked the website, no problems she had passed all the required exams.

Yes, she passed all the required exams, she was dissatisfied with her scores; they were too low, it was embarrassing  and she wanted to take the exams again: she was Jamaican.

The Caribbean population in New York City has been quite successful economically. Many professionals and have moved through the civil service system, teachers, transit authority, nurses, medical technicians, others are small business owners; and, they have been both active and successful in politics. From the City Council to the Albany legislature there are many with Caribbean roots.

And, there are excellent high achieving high schools with students with Caribbean backgrounds.

Medgar Evers High School and  Bedford Prep High School are high achieving screened schools with many students with Caribbean heritage.

At an Assembly hearing on Friday over the SHSAT Jumaane Williams, the newly elected Public Advocate, a specialized high school graduate (Brooklyn Tech), with Jamaican roots clashed with Assemblymember Charles Barron, an Afro-American with Black Panther roots  – it was hot and heavy.

While Williams and Barron agree on a wide range of progressive issues they disagree, rather vehemently on the SHSAT question. Barron argues the test is racist, Williams defends the test and advocates for more gifted schools.

David Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center for Equity and the Transformation of Schools at NYU and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are friends and on the same side of most social justice issues, not the SHSAT

David E. Kirkland‏ @davidekirkland May 13

I supported @JumaaneWilliams from jump. He’s smart and has a righteous commitment to justice. While I support the brother, I couldn’t disagree with him more on the issue of specialized high schools but hold out hope that he (and others) will reconsider their positions on #SHSAT

I doubt Jumaane will change his mind.

The SHSAT inequities have been allowed to fester for years and blame can be attributed to mayors and chancellors; the challenge is how to work within cultures and not require that deeply held cultural beliefs be abandoned.

The New York State Board of Regents and State Education Department Should NOT Allow Charter Schools to Expand Beyond the Eighth Grade (A “Back Door” to Exceeding the Cap).

The cap on the number of charter schools in New York City has been reached and it appears unlikely that the legislature will increase the current cap. At the May, 2019 Board of Regents meeting a question was raised: if an existing charter school plans to extend its grades beyond the eighth grade, in essence creating a high school, would the new configuration constitute a new school and violate the cap?  The State Education attorney did not think so; the extended school would remain as a single charter entity.

The extended charter would essentially be creating a new high school, and, I believe, would not comply with the spirit and intent of the charter school law.

While the extension may, or may not, exceed the cap the extension does not comply with the reasons for the granting of a charter

The law lists specific reasons for the creation of charter schools,

 The purpose of this article is to authorize a system of charter schools to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently of existing schools and school districts in order to accomplish the following objectives:

 (a) Improve student learning and achievement;

(b) Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure;

(c) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;

(d) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, school administrators and other school personnel;

(e) Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system; and

(f) Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the school

 Charter schools have primarily been located in geographic areas with low-achieving public schools offering parents an alternative to traditional public schools.

In New York City traditional public high schools are not “neighborhood schools.” The application process to high schools applies to all high schools and allows students to make twelve choices and matches students to schools; over 90% of students receive one of their top three choices.

There are 419 high schools and educational option programs within high schools. The choices of schools are extremely broad; the vast majority of schools are theme-based, from law to health sciences, to vocational subjects to culinary arts, the list is enormous and all encompassing In addition forty schools, the Consortium Schools, offer a portfolio system in lieu of regents examinations. The over 100  innovative PROSE schools  offer a wide range of alternative scheduling, from longer periods and fewer daily periods to trimesters instead of annual or semester systems, (See appendices on the link above for specific school innovations) The Internationals Network (16 schools) only accept students who have been in the country for less than four years, with extraordinary successes and far exceed student performance in charter schools. There are fifty Transfer High Schools for students who are overage and under-credited.

The current high school system provide(s) parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities, as well as encourage(s) the use of different and innovative teaching methods and provides schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.

 The current elaborate system of high schools provides, within the current system, the goals that the charter school law lists.

There is no need for the creation of further charter high schools.

The adding of a ninth and additional grades in a current charter school is simply an attempt to bypass the cap,  is unnecessary, and antithetical to the law.

High school graduation rates have been steadily increasing. The school performance dashboards offer comparisons of schools as well as school specific data with a few clicks.

I would encourage the Regents and the State Education Department not to entertain any requests to expand grades beyond the eighth grade in any existing charter school.

The Gentrification of Schools: Creating More “Gifted Schools” Must Not Diminish Schools Serving All Students

School segregation/integration, whether in the elite high schools (Stuyvesant, etc.,), the over 100 screened high schools and middle schools or the elementary school Gifted and Talented programs haunts the educational and political establishment.

The UCLA Civil Rights Project, in a detailed report, found New York City to be one of the most segregated school systems in the nation and the city continues to struggle to address the albatross. Chancellor Carranza was the superintendent in San Francisco and faced a similar issue: a plan to integrate schools; rather than integrating schools the San Francisco plan further segregated schools. “San Francisco Had an Ambitious Plan to Tackle School Segregation. It Made It Worse,”

“Parental choice has not been the leveler of educational opportunity it was made out to be. Affluent parents are able to take advantage of the system in ways low-income parents cannot, or they opt out of public schools altogether. What happened in San Francisco suggests that without remedies like wide-scale busing, or school zones drawn deliberately to integrate; school desegregation will remain out of reach.”

There are no “easy” or obvious answers; gentrification and intense poverty as well as alternatives to public schools, i. e., charter, private and religious schools complicate finding solutions.

In New York City the electeds, advocates, alumni, unions all have entered the fray; all offer “solutions.”

At the top of the agenda the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), namely, the test to gain acceptance to Stuyvesant, Bronx School of Science, Brooklyn Tech and the five small schools added by Bloomberg.

The entrance examination to the “specialized high schools” is embedded in state law and only a handful of Afro-American students are admitted, in other words, passed the test.

Mayor de Blasio raced ton Albany in the waning days of the session last June and introduced a bill to eliminate the Specialized High School Admittance Test, the de Blasio plan was dead on arrival. The Mayor’s current plan is an enhanced Discovery Program, extensive tutoring of students who fell just below the cut score and admit students who successfully complete the Discovery process.

.The leader of the New York State Assembly will be holding public hearing in May. Corey Johnson, the leader of the New York City Council, and a contender for mayor in 2021 is appointing a commission and has already proposed spinoffs of the Specialized High Schools across the city. The Alumni Associations of the legacy specialized schools have hired high clout lobbyists. A new set of players are heavyweights, Ronald Lauder and Richard Parsons, who have created their own advocacy group, backed by heavy dollars with a set of specific recommendations.

* Double the Number of Specialized High Schools
* Improve the Middle Schools
* Invest in Free SHSAT Prep for Every Student Citywide
* Ask Every 8th Grader to Take the SHSAT
* A Gifted and Talent Program in Every District

These are terrible ideas! The gentrification of schools: “gifted schools” pushing out public schools. All schools should provide education for all students, high achieving, “average” students, “struggling” students as well as students seeking a Career and Technical Education pathway.

WEB DuBois, in 1903 essay coined the term “Talented Tenth,” the Lauder/Parsons plan is in the spirit of De Bois,

“The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.”

The Lauder/Parsons plan would further segregate schools, this time by academic ability and depress achievement in the remainder of schools; it would create a tale of two school systems.

“Free SHSAT prep for every student” would turn middle schools into test prep mills, antithetical to everything we believe about education.

So, what should we do?

* Align the SHSAT with State Standards, in other words test kids on what is taught in day-to-day classrooms
* Set a numerical quota for each Middle School (based on school size) and select the highest scorers on the revised SHSAT
* Half of all students would be admitted by the traditional method and half by the method described above

The SHSAT is not an intelligence test; in fact, the psychometric approach to defining intelligence has been thoroughly refuted.

Robert Sternberg challenged the psychometric approach to defining intelligence, Sternberg argues,

* Training of intellectual performance must be socio-culturally relevant to the individual
* A training program should provide links between the training and real-world behavior.
* A training program should provide explicit instruction in strategies for coping with novel tasks/situations
* A training program should provide explicit instruction in both executive and non-executive information processing and interactions between the two.
* Training programs should actively encourage individuals to manifest their differences in strategies and styles.

Unfortunately the SHSAT has remained unchanged for almost half a century.

Over a thousand colleges and universities no longer use a test, the SAT or the ACT, it “optional” in many schools and totally abandoned in others.

In the screened middle and high schools we should move to an Education Option-type system. In the first year 25% of students would be admitted by “blind choice,” a lottery of student with achievement in the 15-67-16 (16% more than .5 standard deviations below the mean and 16% .5 standard deviations above the mean) range using combined reading and math scores; the percentage of kids in the “blind choice” group can be increase over time until the student selection process is 50-50.

All schools providing an appropriate education for all student; be they Gifted or Special Education or English Language Learners.

The charter cap must not be raised; we don’t want parents flocking to the equivalent of screened schools to escape public schools.

I believe the result would be far more integrated schools, and far better schools.  You can have schools with Advanced Placement classes and vocational classes in the same school. Heterogeneous classes, classes  kids with disparate reading scores requires different pedagogy, and, there is a ton of research that says heterogeneous classrooms increases academic outcomes for all kids.

Am I hopeful?

We live in a highly politicized world; electeds may put their finger in the air and respond to this electorate, others protecting powerful institutions.

Bills currently pending in the Assembly:

  • A02173Relates to admission to a specialized high school in the city of New York
  • A03223Relates to establishing the commission on diversity in specialized schools
  • A03944Requires the New York city department of education to study and report on students who would likely pass the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test
  • A03981Relates to the creation of a pre-specialized high schools admissions test and preparation program

At a Medgar Evers College event a few years ago an Afro-American high school student asked, “Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?”

I’m always hopeful.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on the 2020 Census Citizenship Question: Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for New York State in Danger

Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution requires an “enumeration;” a census every ten years,

Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons (meaning slaves). The actual Enumeration shall be made … every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct

For the first time since 1950 a citizenship question was added to the census.

The administration budgeted one billion dollars less than requested, and, the major point of contention: a question dealing with citizenship status which could discourage participation in the Census even though the census professional staff ruled the citizenship question inappropriate the Secretary of Commerce included the citizenship question.

The citizenship question was challenged in the federal courts and, in a scathing decision the courts sustained the appellants and ruled the question inappropriate.

Plaintiffs proved at trial that, if the citizenship question is added to the 2020 census questionnaire, they will suffer serious harm in the form of lost political representation, lost federal funding, and degradation of information that is an important tool of state sovereignty.  And at least two of those injuries, the loss of political representation and the degradation of information would be irreparable, without any adequate remedy at law.

 Measured against these standards, Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census —even if it did not violate the Constitution itself —was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside. To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition —central to the rule of law —that ours is a government of law and not of men.” And it would do so with respect to what Congress itself has described as “one of the most critical constitutional functions our Federal Government perform” (Read entire decision here)

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today.  The issues before the court:

Issues: (1) Whether the district court erred in enjoining the secretary of the Department of Commerce from reinstating a question about citizenship to the 2020 decennial census on the ground that the secretary’s decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act;; (2) whether, in an action seeking to set aside agency action under the APA, a district court may order discovery outside the administrative record to probe the mental processes of the agency decision maker — including by compelling the testimony of high-ranking executive branch officials — without a strong showing that the decision-maker disbelieved the objective reasons in the administrative record, irreversibly prejudged the issue, or acted on a legally forbidden basis; and (3) whether the secretary’s decision to add a citizenship question to the decennial census violated the enumeration clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Census will determine representation in the House of Representatives, New York State could lose two seats if the undercount is the same as in 2010, and, fifty-five federal programs are determined by population, New York State could lose hundreds of  millions in federal dollars. The State receives 1.6 billion in federal education dollars.

Maya Wiley, an MSNBC contributor and a Professor at the New York School University made a troubling presentation a few weeks ago.

The 2020 Census will be the first on-line Census. It is grossly underfunded and the federal administration in Washington has raised significant concerns for immigrants, legal residents and other vulnerable people. The New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory has been working on a project to support greater collaborative work between libraries, community leaders and city governments in the New York region to support a fair and safe Census.

 The CUNY Mapping Service  lays out the data and the challenges: “low response scores,” “population groups with increased risks of being undercounted,” “households with no computer or inadequate internet access,” by neighborhood.

The Bureau of Census, the advocates and the newly appointed New York City Census Director, Julie Menin are planning to work with libraries, and community organizations, an excellent plan; however, why aren’t schools at the center of the plan?

I e-communicated with Julie Menin, and did receive a thumbs up.

There are 1800 schools, 1.1 million kids and over 100,000 highly motivated teachers and paraprofessionals. Schools have staff members to match the language of their students, and close relationships with families.

Why isn’t the Department of Education at the center of a census outreach plan?

The teacher union is enthusiastic and understands the vital importance; an undercount means loss of jobs and vital services to children and families.

In addition every high school senior must take a course entitled, “Participation in Government,”

This course aims to provide students with opportunities to become engaged in the political process by acquiring the knowledge and practicing the skills necessary for active citizenship. Content specifications are not included, so that the course can adapt to present local, national, and global circumstances, allowing teachers to select flexibly from current events to illuminate key ideas and conceptual understandings. Participation in government and in our communities is fundamental to the success of American democracy.

The course can engage students in census field work across the state, a powerful tool to maximize participation in the census, a powerful activity to involve students in civics, in real live activities.

While the Census is a year away now is the time to create an inclusive plan.

The Specialized High Schools and the admittance test and grades 3-8 Standardized Testing dominate the news cycle while the Census is barely acknowledged.

I hope that State Commissioner Elia instructs her staff to post Census lessons on the EngageNY website as well as instruct school district leaders to provide Census outreach in each and every school in the state.

I am hopeful that Chancellor Carranza will appoint a Census Coordinator, a vital position considering what’s at stake.

Let’s be honest, the citizenship question is a direct assault on “blue” cities and states intended to reduce their political clout by reducing their electoral votes as well as “punishing” them with fewer dollars: the ultimate cynicism

Will the five conservatives on the Court cast “political” votes?  I fear another Bush v Gore, a decision that ignores the rule of law, a decision that tries to entrench political power from the anti-democratic right.

The decision is due in June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Governor Cuomo Succeed in Increasing/Eliminating the New York City Charter School Cap?

The New York Post, a pro-charter school daily newspaper reports that Governor Cuomo is pursuing increasing the New York City charter school cap.

Gov. Cuomo on Sunday urged the Legislature to back a new law that would raise the cap to allow more charter schools to open in New York City before the legislative session ends in June.

“We support raising this artificial cap, but the legislature needs to agree as well,” Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi told The Post.

And, Ray Domanico from the conservative Manhattan Institute follows up with a NY Post op ed, arguing that charter schools raise all boats,

[Charter school] success at creating educational opportunity hasn’t come at the expense of the city’s traditional public schools. Over the last 20 years, as charter schools have grown in the city to the point where they now educate 10 percent of all public-school students, the city’s traditional public schools have seen historical improvement.

Meryl Tisch, the deputy chancellor of SUNY (and former chancellor of the Board of Regents) jumped on the train, also calling for the raising of the New York City cap.

State law sets a statewide cap on the number of charter school and a subcap on the number allotted to New York City. The SUNY Charter Institute approved a number of charter schools at their last meeting reaching the New York City cap.

The cap has been increased twice, each time the increase was included in the state budget. The budget process in New York State is unique; the governor can add non-budgetary items to the budget.  Two convoluted court decisions sustained the right of the governor to add items not germane to the budget, the only power the legislature has is not to approve the budget, not a viable option. .

In the past the governor used the budget to increase the cap; this time he made no efforts to use the budget.

The legislature will return on April 29th and will adjourn in mid-June, with many outstanding issues; there are twenty-five legislative days remaining in the session. While both houses in the legislature are controlled by Democrats the newly empowered Democratic majority in the Senate is aggressive, and, outspokenly hostile to charters; John Liu, the chair of the New York City Education Committee has been especially negative towards charters

On the Assembly side the new chair of the Education Committee, Michael Benedetto, is a retired New York City teacher.

Marcos Crespo, a Bronx Assembly member, as well as the chair of the Bronx Democratic Party is one of the few Democratic charter school supporters in the Assembly.

Can the pro-charter school folks stir the pot and generate political pressure to increase the cap?

There is a bill, introduced 3/29/19 that, “Requires the state comptroller and the comptroller of the city of New York to coordinate the scheduling and performance of audits of charter schools in the city of New York.”  A bill vigorously opposed by the network charters. Philanthropy is the “dirty little secret,” the charter school networks (Success Academy, etc.,) receive large sums of philanthropic dollars, from hedge funds and national ant-union organizations. For example, Guide Star, the site that give access to the IRS 990 reports lists over 200 million dollars in contributions to the Success Academy Network,  the dollars are not subject to audit.

There aren’t any bills so far to increase the cap.

In 1866 Gideon Tucker, a New York judge, wrote in a decision of a will case: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” and little has changed.

Why didn’t the governor add an increase in the cap to the budget bill?

  • The maneuvering for charter school PAC dollars

The charter school political action committees (PACs) have poured dollars into the campaign of Republicans in the Senate – they lost. Where should the PAC dollars go?  The governor’s actions says, “I’m one of your few friends.”

  • De Blasio v Cuomo

The de Blasio-Cuomo antipathy is unabated. From the governor’s seat in Albany he is the alpha progressive. At every opportunity he has made life difficult for de Blasio: from budget to space for charter schools to mayoral extensions, nothing has come easily

As perhaps Cuomo is seeking powerful allies in the Assembly

  • Marcus Crespo

With the Bronx Borough President term-limited Crespo may be looking at the Bronx Borough President as his next step, and, charter school dollars are as good as anyone else’s dollars.

I believe it is unlikely that Cuomo wants to alienate the UFT, the New York City teacher union. Cuomo and Mulgrew have had a “professional” relationship. After the Supreme Court issued the Janus Decision; the governor quickly issued regulations strengthening union membership rules basically thwarting the impact of Janus. The bill signing took place at UFT headquarters.

Rent regulations expire in New York City on June 15th and the Democrats in both houses are seeking sweeping changes, the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor have to agree, and,  if there is no agreement rent control sunsets, totally unacceptable.

The last days in Albany are called “the big ugly;” deals are made, I’ll support this if you support that, no one has a political future if they allow rent control to expire while the real estate industry pours dollars and lobbyists and promises of anonymous independent expenditures. Could the charter school cap get caught up in the last minute deal-making?

The Democratic primary debates begin on June 26th and 27th. As candidates fade the next tier of candidates will emerge, are de Blasio, Cuomo and/or Bloomberg possible late entrants?

Presidential politics, deal-making during the “big ugly,” charter school PAC dollars, all impacting the race at the end of the legislative session.

Would charters exchange agree to the “audit” bill in exchange for increasing the cap?  Probably not.

You might say that I’m cynical, why can’t decisions simply be made on their merits?

Somewhere around 15,000 bills will be submitted during the legislative session, and, a few hundred will become law. Legislators concentrate on bills they introduced, aside from the budget, education bills are well down the list.

The 1787 Constitutional Convention that produced our Constitution was a series of compromises, aka, “deal-making.”

I see no enthusiasm in the legislature; unless the governor decides to lean on the legislature; then again, it’s Albany.

The Grades 3-8 Testing Disaster (Yet Again!): Can the Commissioner/Regents Satisfy the Demands of Anti-Testing Folks?

If you happened to be watching TV in the Albany area Monday night and saw the demonstration on the steps of the State Education Building (in the rain) I was one of the guys/gals holding “CorrecttheTest.org” a sign (wearing a the red jacket).

This was a bad week, a really bad week for the commissioner, the state education department and the regents. Last week was the first round of grades 3-8 testing, the English Language Arts (ELA) test and state ed encouraged districts to choose the computer-based testing (CBT) option; a lot less expensive than paper/pencil tests – a computer glitch ensued and thousands of kids had to re-take the test. See SED timelines, numbers of kids impacted and plans going forward here

Regents Rosa, Young and Tilles all expressed outrage, as did the commissioner, at the testing company, Questar/ETS, the Educational Testing Service acquired Questar a year ago. ETS provides the SAT and the AP exams; however, they failed us, and this is the second time the test administration had serious glitches; this is the fourth year of a five year contract. In spite of the “outrage” SED is committed to CBT; whether the Regents member are committed is an open question.

Let’s review some basic questions:

 Why does New York State continue to give annual tests in grades 3-8?

The 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law requires that all students are tested and the feds hold the purse strings – New York State receives $1.6 billion in annual education funding. The 2016 reauthorization of the law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continued the annual testing requirement in spite of pushback from teacher organizations. A coalition of civil rights organizations  insisted that annual testing continue in the law,

“Removing the requirement for annual testing would be a devastating step backward, for it is very hard to make sure our education system is serving every child well when we don’t have reliable, comparable achievement data on every child every year,” Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, said in recent testimony before the Senate education panel. Her group joined 20 civil rights organizations to lobby Congress to keep the requirement to test all children each year in math and ­reading.

 Can’t parents simply opt out of taking the state tests?

In the New York State the answer is yes, and about 20% of parents opt their children out of participating in state tests, the opt outs are concentrated on Long Island, about 50% of families on Long Island opt out, and other more affluent suburban communities; in New York City the opt out numbers are very low and concentrated in a few higher achieving schools.

What if New York State, or, a school or school district decides to not offer the test? Are there sanctions?

The law  leaves the opt out question to the states,

ESSA affirms states’ authority over the policies governing parents “opting” their children out of state standardized tests, but it maintains the requirement that 95 percent of children in each school, as well as 95 percent of students in each subgroup, be tested. The big change from NCLB is that schools will not be subject to federally prescribed corrective action if they fail to meet the 95 percent participation rate. Instead, states will establish their own consequences for schools that fail to meet this requirement.

 SED has been leaning on school districts to provide plans to increase the participation rate, with considerable pushback from opt out parent organizations; from 2017 to 2018 the state opt out rate decreased by 1%.

Can the feds take actions against New York State if the opt out numbers don’t decrease?

A very sensitive question: does New York State law prevail, namely, the parental right to opt out, or, do the feds have a right to withhold federal dollars if a state does not take actions, satisfactory to the feds, to increase participation rates?

New York State is walking a tight rope, urging school districts to increase the participation, without alienating electeds and keeping the feds at arms length.

If the feds withheld federal funds, the state would challenge in the courts, and dollars that provide services to the poorest student would be at risk.

Can states use alternative assessment tools, such as portfolios or performance-based assessments in lieu of the traditional tests?

The law, ESSA, does have a provision that invites states to apply for permission to establish alternative assessment pilots in addition to the standard assessments, no dollars were provided. Two states have been approved, New Hampshire is utilizing performance-based assessments and Louisiana using content-based instead of common core-based tests, a few other states will be applying for minor changes. Forty high schools, mostly in New York City, have had waivers from state ed for decades, students only take the English Regents, the other subjects, a “portfolio/roundtable” system replaces the regents exams, the schools are referred to as the Consortium schools.

A few Regents members have asked about state-supported alternative assessment pilots, the commissioner has not been enthusiastic, quoting the lack of funding.

 How are the test results used? For state ed? For schools?

The ESSA law requires states to identify low performing schools, in New York State called Targeted School Improvement (TSI) and Comprehensive School Improvement (CSI), the lowest achieving schools on the grades 3-8 ELA and Math tests and high schools with graduation rates below 67%. The schools have three years to show improvement or face sanctions that could result in the closing of the schools. Unfortunately aside from identifying the schools the state does not have the capacity to assist the schools. The state uses a diagnostic tool to identify underlying issues, a checklist; the responsibility to improve the schools is left to the school district. Schools districts that have failed to appropriately support the schools in the first place.

Schools can use the results; an error matrix identifies most common incorrect answers, the school can disaggregate the “errors” by category, provide to teachers who can target these particular standards in lessons. BTW, teachers have always used “errors” to guide future instruction.

At this point I do not see any pathways to changes: the opt out parents will continue to opt out and advocate for eliminating the tests, or, at least making testing at the discretion of the district: highly unlikely. The commissioner will continue to satisfy the feds and opt out parents, not likely. Legislators will try and “satisfy parents,” whatever that means.

The governor has avoided the issue.

Bottom line:  I doubt we will see any changes, unless the Regents decide to abandon computer-based testing.

Census 2020: Political Clout and Dollars at Stake: A Lot of Dollars: How is New York City and State Responding?

Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution requires an “enumeration,” a census every ten years,

Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons (meaning slaves). The actual Enumeration shall be made …  every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct

 On April 1, Census Day (minus one year) the Bureau of Census rolled out the plans for the 2020 census. An upbeat presentation by the Bureau of Census, the major change is that the bureau expects a significant percentage of census takers will respond online. The Bureau acknowledges the problem of an undercount, indigenous peoples, the poor, immigrants, hard-to-reach areas all present issues. Watch the presentation here .

The press conference was a lot less upbeat.

The administration budgeted one billion dollars less than requested, and, the major point of contention, a question dealing with citizenship status which could discourage participating in the census.

The citizenship question was challenged in the federal courts and, in a scathing decision the courts sustained the appellants and ruled the question inappropriate,

Plaintiffs proved at trial that, if the citizenship question is added to the 2020 census questionnaire, they will suffer serious harm in the form of lost political representation, lost federal funding, and degradation of information that is an important tool of state sovereignty.  And at least two of those injuries, the loss of political representation and the degradation of information would be irreparable, without any adequate remedy at law.

 Measured against these standards, Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census —even if it did not violate the Constitution itself —was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside. To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition —central to the rule of law —that ours is a government of law and not of men” (John Adams, Novanglus Papers, No. 7 (1775).  And it would do so with respect to what Congress itself has described as “one of the most critical constitutional functions our Federal Government perform” (Read entire decision here.

The question may be decided by the Supreme Court later in the spring.

The Census will determine representation in the House of Representatives, New York State could lose two seats if the undercount is the same as in 2010, and, 55 federal programs are determined by population, New York State could lose a hundred  million in federal dollars. New York State receives 1.6 billion in federal education dollars.

Maya Wiley, an MSNBC contributor and a Professor at the New York School University made a troubling presentation.

,The 2020 Census will be the first on-line Census. It is grossly underfunded and the federal administration in Washington has raised significant concerns for immigrants, legal residents and other vulnerable people. The New School’s Digital Equity Laboratory has been working on a project to support greater collaborative work between libraries, community leaders and city governments in the New York region to support a fair and safe Census.

 The CUNY Mapping Service  lays out the data and the challenges: “low response scores,” population groups with increased risks of being undercounted,” “households with no computer or inadequate internet access,” by neighborhood.

The Bureau of Census, the advocates and the newly appointed New York City Census Director, Julie Menin are planning to work with libraries, and community organization, an excellent plan; however, why aren’t schools at the center of the plan?

I e-communicated with Julie Menin, and did receive a thumbs up.

There are 1800 schools, 1.1 million kids and over 100,000 highly motivated teachers and paraprofessionals. Schools have staff members to match the language of their students, and close relationships with families.

Why isn’t the Department of Education at the center of a census outreach plan?

The teacher union is enthusiastic and understands the vital importance; an undercount means loss of jobs and vital services to children and families.

In addition every high school senior must take a course entitled, “Participation in Government,”

This course aims to provide students with opportunities to become engaged in the political process by acquiring the knowledge and practicing the skills necessary for active citizenship. Content specifications are not included, so that the course can adapt to present local, national, and global circumstances, allowing teachers to select flexibly from current events to illuminate key ideas and conceptual understandings. Participation in government and in our communities is fundamental to the success of American democracy.

 The course can engage students in census field work across the city, a powerful tool to maximize participation in the census, a powerful activity to involve students in civics, in real, live activities.

While the census is a year away now is the time to create an inclusive plan.

The Specialized High Schools and the admittance test dominate the news cycle while the census is barely acknowledged.

I hope that State Commissioner Elia instructs her staff to post Census lessons on EngageNY as well as instruct school district leaders to provide census outreach in each and every school in the state.

I expect that Chancellor Carranza will appoint a census coordinator, a vital position considering what’s at stake.