Tag Archives: Long Island Opt Out

When Will You Feel Comfortable Sending Your Children Back to School?

It is increasingly looking like the powers that be are taking steps, albeit baby steps, to re-open the economy.

The President, reversing himself, has pushed re-opening decisions to the states; the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recommends a phased return to normalcy.

State-by-State Reopening in Phase II. Individual states can move to Phase II when they are able to safely diagnose, treat, and isolate COVID-19 cases and their contacts. During this phase, schools and businesses can reopen, and much of normal life can begin to resume in a phased approach. However, some physical distancing measures and limitations on gatherings will still need to be in place to prevent transmission from accelerating again.

Governor Cuomo, issued another Executive Order extending PAUSE until at least May 15th, and, coordinating decisions with a multi-state consortium of states (NY. NJ, Conn, RI, Maryland, Delaware).

Denmark is the first European nation to re-open schools, with social distancing in schools and a NY Times article reports trepidation among parents.

Parents have tough decisions.

Should I send my child to an out-of-town college? Take a gap-year? Transfer to a college near home? Colleges and parents are mulling the options  and colleges are preparing for returning to on campus classes as well as continuing remote learning.

School districts across the state are facing dramatic budget reductions. How will your district respond to the reductions? Will class size be increased? Fewer course offerings? Reductions in sports and other after school activities?  In New York City the budgeting process is in full swing. The Mayor outlined cuts in school budgets, the Mayor’s budget must be reconciled with the City Council; the budget must be in place by the end of June. School budgets will be available on April 23rd.

The New York Times points to a disturbing study,

The study projects that students who lack steady instruction during the coronavirus school shutdown might retain only 70 percent of their annual reading gains compared with a normal year. Projections for the so-called Covid slide in math look even bleaker. Depending on grade level, researchers say, students could lose between half and all of the achievement growth one would expect in a normal academic year.

 And goes on to suggest specific policies,

A learning reversal of this magnitude could hobble an entire generation unless state leaders quickly work to reverse the slide. Any reasonable approach would include: diagnostic testing to determine what children know when they return to the classroom; aggressive remedial plans and an expanded school calendar that makes up for lost instructional time;

 Long Island Opt Out, with over 25,000 Facebook followers opposes any addition to the testing regimen.

Let’s not forget that little event on November 3rd, the presidential election. The President is pushing as hard as he can to end re-open the economy.  The scientists worry about moving too quickly and watch a “second wave” of coronavirus “hot spots.”

How do you decide? Possibly a life altering decision for families.

In a year or two we should have a vaccine and more effective treatments as well as the ability to test everyone.

I have no advice; every parent will have to decide for themselves.

Graduation Requirements: Should We Move the Bar Upwards?

Occasionally at the end of a class when a kid was leaving room s/he would say, “Gee Mr. G; that was really hard.” I smiled; I knew I was doing my job.

I knew if students came to my class every day, and stayed engaged, the Regents Examination would be a breeze.  In my first period class I would bring a box of donut holes, enough for half the class, first come, first served: I had surprisingly good attendance at 8 am.

The Board of Regents (BOR) and the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) are engaged in a lengthy review of high school graduation requirements, called Graduation Measures: view the webpage here.

Regional Meetings will be held across the state from now until April, see the date, time and location of the meetings here.

The format of the meetings will be tables of attendees, facilitated by the host district, discussing five questions. Read a thorough description of the process here,

The five questions:


  1. What do we want students to know and to be able to do before they graduate?


  1. How do we want students to demonstrate such knowledge and skills?


  1. How do you measure learning and achievement (as it pertains to the answers to #2 above) to ensure they are indicators of high school completion?


  1. How can measures of achievement accurately reflect the skills and knowledge of our special populations, such as students with disabilities and English language learners?


  1. What course requirements or examinations will ensure that students are prepared for college and careers or civic engagement?


Unfortunately the public debate has almost entirely dealt with Regents Examinations.

Should the exams be continued? Abolished? Reduced in importance? Should portfolios replace the exams? Should the exams be part of a composite grade, and, if so, how much should the exams count?

The five questions supra have pretty much been ignored.

I wrote supporting retaining Regents Examination here  as did Alan Singer here.

Marc Korashan, an experienced educator demurred here and, the former # 2 at the New York City Department of Education, Eric Nadelstern commented,

The single most devastating condemnation of American education is that our high schools haven’t changed since 1968 (or 1896 more likely). However, schools such as those in the Consortium have developed time-tested structures and instructional approaches for the past 35 years. It’s long overdue that we’ve finally decided to pay attention to our successes with an eye toward how these break the mold schools can infirm systemic secondary education reform.

What dies “break the mold” schools mean?

 Jeanette Deuterman, the leader of Long Island Opt Outs argues that Regents scores should be part of a composite score, and a minor part, she calls the process, “Do Not Harm.” (Read here)

I fear limiting the discussion to Regents Exams is short sighted. Is the primary goal to increase graduation rates or to prepare students for the world after high school?

We know that students who barely pass Regents do poorly in community colleges. The retention rates are abysmal. We also know that City College and Baruch, two CUNY schools lead the nation in moving students out of poverty into the middle class.(See Raj Chetty research here) and both entrance requirements and coursework are rigorous.

The My Brothers Keeper (MBK) initiative in  a number of unscreened Hudson Valley high schools have produced impressive results for Young Men of Color. (Read description of practices here).

Success in the MBK schools:  rigorous is instruction, access to advance coursework including Advanced Placement classes, in other words keeping  the bar high.

I fear we are edging towards moving the bar lower.

At a New York City Council hearing an invited guest asked, “Why did I have to take Algebra 1, I was never going to use it,” to applause from the audience.

As I review data on the New York State data portals and the New York City school performance dashboards fewer and fewer students move up ladder. After passing Algebra 1 fewer students take the Geometry Regents and fewer still take the Algebra 2 Regents. How many schools even offer pre-calculus, or, heaven forbid, Advanced Placement Math courses. The same can be said for science, after Living Environment fewer take Chemistry and very few take Physics, in fact, how many schools even offer Physics?  Do high schools offer Computer Science courses? How about basic computer skills, such as, Power Point, Excel and other basic computational skills?

Is Accounting offered in any high schools?

The debate should move away from the narrow discussions about the future of Regents Examinations and move to the first question at the Regional Meeting,

What do we want students to know and to be able to do before they graduate?

A just released research paper from Education Next, “End the ‘Easy A’: Tougher grading standards set more students up for success might move us in a better direction.

Seth Gershenson writes,

My results confirm that “everyone gets a gold star” is not a victimless mentality. Not only do students learn more from tougher teachers, but they also do better in math classes up to two years later. The size of these effects is on the order of replacing an average teacher with one near the top of her game.

 Parents faced with stressed-out children and an increasingly competitive college-admissions process may resist calls for more-rigorous grading. Educators and school leaders may be tempted to satisfy them, which is part of how the grade-inflation problem was created to begin with. But policymakers and other decision-makers would deserve a genuine A if they reminded parents, principals, and teachers that they aren’t doing students any favors by depriving them of appropriate academic challenges or an accurate picture of their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

It’s twenty-five years since we discussed graduation requirements: we better get it right!

The Battle Over the Reauthorization of NCLB and 2016 Presidential Politics.

Hours after the November election talking heads began musing: why did the Democratic voters abandon the party? A large chunk of the Democratic voters are teachers, the heart and core of the party and living in each and every congressional district. The Duncan-Obama policies have angered and alienated teachers for years; however, a Democratic strategist told me, “Where are teachers going to go? Not the Republicans.” He was wrong, they had someplace else to go, they could stay home.

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party leads the education reform movement; Arne Duncan became the archangel, the spear carrier of the federal assault on public schools, parents and teachers. Annual high-stakes testing, punitive teacher evaluation and Duncan’s cheering the Vergara decision to strip teachers of tenure, all from the Obama administration playbook.

2014 was a Democratic disaster, record low turnouts and teachers staying home or voting for a third party.

Across the nation there is a cyber-revolution, blogs and tweets and Facebook pages reach millions of readers, teachers and public school parents. Long Island Opt Out (See Facebook page) has over 20,000 members, the Network for Public Education (NPE) has over two hundred bloggers who spin out post after post and tweet after tweet. What is so fascinating is this cyber-revolution was not organized by teacher unions; it is truly a grassroots movement, blog by blog, tweet by tweet.

Education moved from the back burner to become the darling of the progressives and the reaction, the pushback, has grown from an annoyance to a tsunami.

Millions of angry teachers and parents, locally organized on cyber platforms: where will they go in 2016?

Suddenly the long simmering reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has major political implications.

Should the Republicans pass a bill that the president can sign, or, craft a bill that he is likely to veto?

Should the Democrats support Republican bills or urge the president to veto a bill that erodes key sections of NCLB?

Politico muses,

… eventually Republicans will have to decide whether they can come to an agreement with the White House.

Alternatively, they could pass a hardline conservative rewrite of NCLB and reap the political points as the 2016 elections move into full swing.

That’s the most likely outcome, the president vetoes a long-awaited rewrite of NCLB, “and Republicans have a bill that they could run on.”

A little history:

As criticism of NCLB continued to grow in September 2011 the Republicans rolled out a plan to reframe NCLB,

The accountability bill would instruct states to establish college-career standards, without telling them what that entails. It would continue to require annual assessments in reading and math in grades three through eight, and once in high school, as well as in science, and it would maintain disaggregation reporting requirements. States would be required to maintain a uniform system of accountability, which could incorporate growth rates or graduation rates or other measures, and to identify at least the lowest performing 5 percent of Title I schools. The law would require states to use one of six turnaround models for those schools (a modified version of the four current models, a rural model which offered leeway, and one that states could devise with an okay from ED)

The proposal consolidates based on fiscal year 2011 spending levels, collapsing 59 programs into two pots and give states and districts near-total leeway in spending those funds.

The Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), the leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and strong cheerleaders for Obama-Duncan policies lambasted the Republican proposals which died in the Senate without White House support.

The Obama victory in 2012 moved the parties further away from a bipartisan NCLB bill; a Democratic bill in the Senate, Republican bills in the House, and, the administration taking the waiver route, granting state-by-state waivers allowing Duncan to bypass Congress.

Monte Hall, the leader of Fairtest, bemoans the approaches of both parties,

Both houses of Congress are starting to take another crack at rewriting the flawed No Child Left Behind law through the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. However, the Democratic bill … and likely bills from House Republicans will be so different that chances of final passage approach zero.

With the 2014 midterms out of the way and the Republicans in firm control of both houses, the incoming chair of the Senate Education Committee Lamar Alexander is aggressively crafting a bill and hoping to gain the support of now ranking member, Democrat Patty Murray.

A week after the November midterms Alexander responded in an interview,

What’s your first priority?
Our first priority is to fix No Child Left Behind. The Republican proposal to fix NCLB would give states the option — not mandate — to take federal dollars and let those dollars follow children to the schools they attend. We want to expand choice, but my view is that the federal government shouldn’t mandate it. … Republicans would [also] transfer back to states the responsibility for deciding whether schools are succeeding or failing. Tennessee, Texas or New York would decide what the academic standards would be, what the curriculum would be, what to do about failing schools and how to evaluate teachers.

Do you support the Common Core State Standards?
I support giving states the right to decide whether to [adopt] the Common Core or not.

Civil rights organizations are already campaigning against any changes in NCLB that will eliminate the disaggregation of scores and will rigorously oppose the rolling together of the almost sixty separate titles within NCLB; proposals that give states wide discretion for the expenditure of federal funds at the state and local level.

Politico reports,

Part of the difficulty in rewriting the law is that the most hated parts of the bill are deeply intertwined with its heralded civil rights provisions: The testing requirements, for example, allowed the government for the first time to spotlight the achievement gaps between white students from higher-income families and their peers when those test results were broken down by race and socioeconomic status. NCLB put a public spotlight on schools and districts that were falling flat when it comes to helping disadvantaged students — and pressed them to improve when no one else would.

For the most vocal critics of NCLB the testing requirements and teacher evaluation based on student tests scores are the most toxic elements of the law.

[Alexander] and [House Ed Committee chair] Kline have said they’re open to scaling back annual testing, though some suspect they’re capitalizing on the chance to grab hold of an issue they can use as a bargaining chip down the line.

Anti-testing advocates say tests cut into instructional time, forcing teachers to teach only tested content and taking creativity out of learning for students. They see a number of solutions: Students could be tested every other year or a handful of times throughout their school careers, or a sample of students could be tested rather than an entire class.

Congress is back, and in the Senate the Education Committee will move quickly to craft a bill, perhaps as early as February.

The House is more complicated, while the Republicans hold an overwhelming majority, the largest since the post WW 2 majorities, the Republicans are divided. Two dozen Republican members voted against Speaker Boehner and will support bills that oppose the Common Core, oppose testing and support dramatic cuts in education funding, for some the only “acceptable” bill is one that dismantles the US Department of Education. A Tea Party influenced bill would mean enormous cuts to the poorest schools and school districts in the nation.

In spite of Republican majorities in both houses the bills coming out of the House and the Senate will differ, and, probably differ substantially. The conference committee will have to combine the bills, which leads us to the 2016 presidential strategizing.

Six years into his remaking of the education system across the nation Duncan will fight as hard as he can to fend off any attempts to erode his policies. Democratic campaign planners are mulling the options, allow the Republican bill to pass, and claim credit for stark changes in NCLB, or assuaging the civil right advocates, the minority voters and the progressive wing of the party and urge a presidential veto. Perhaps the Democratic game plan should be to remove the issue from the table and urge the president to sign the bill and move on.

Senator Lamar Alexander has been deeply involved in the education for decades and clearly sees the reauthorization of NCLB as capping his illustrious career.

Gary Herbert, the Utah Governor was a guest on C-SPAN this morning, the callers asked education question after education question. Herbert, a Republican is also Vice Chair of the National Governors Association. Herbert is not necessarily a supporter of the Common Core; he is a supporter of high standards that are developed at the state level; his answer to every education question centered on federalism, the “partnership” between Washington and the states and the expansion of federal powers at the expense of states.

I believe it is likely that the final bill will ease the annual testing requirements and push many of the accountability measures to the state level, as well as consolidating the many titles and grant states wider discretion in the expenditure of fed dollars. Unfortunately the bill will probably reduce fed funding and may change the allocation formula.

You may say, why is everything politics, why can’t the Congress do what is “best for children”? How do you define “what is best for children”? And, from the 1789 Congress to the current 214th Congress it is always about politics.

Parents and teachers will not go away, if the feds push greater authority to the states the blogs and tweets will simply concentrate on the local legislators. Politics has changed, and I believe, for the better.