New York’s diplomas leave too many kids out

This opinion piece says a lot about what is going on with our kids in New York and their diplomas. Many kids who would have gotten a diploma now will be left with a CDOS. That is basically a certificate of attendance, stating that the student took a course of study in a particular field. What it also does do is point out that the student has a disability and that is discriminatory. No community college or employers view this certificate as a credible means for schooling or employment.

By 2022, students will not only have to pass five Regents Exams to graduate, they’ll have to score at least 75 percent on the English exam and 80 percent on the math exam. Get set for graduation rates to fall even further.

And the new Common Core exams are even more difficult, with reading material usually encountered in college, if not graduate school. Fair enough for the university-bound — but our schools are full of fine kids who aren’t.

Not every student wants or needs to attend a four-year liberal arts college to enjoy a successful career or a meaningful life.

Read the article for the details of how regular-ed students who can’t pass the Regents exams and special ed students will both be left with no diploma.

Are you a candidate for the KCSD Board of Education?

Kingston City School District Board of Education elections will be coming up again soon.  For those interested in running, please review the requirements you need to meet in order to do so.

Being on the BOE is no easy task.  However, with the current state of public education we need strong and brave people to step up and fight for our kids, our teachers and our taxpayers.

Are you that person???

Demystifying Testing & More

Kingston Action For Education (KAFE) and NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) are hosting a forum for parents, educators, students, and concerned community members regarding testing and the current state of education.

Demystifying Testing & More

Monday March 16, 2015 6:30pm

Tim Farley – NYS Allies for Public Education, Education Advocate
Arielle Chiger – Public School Parent, Elementary School Teacher
Anna Shah – NYS Allies for Public Education, Public Education Policy Advocate
Dr. Elizabeth Ten Dyke – Former Data Administrator

Location:  Kingston Alliance Church  90 Millers Lane   Kingston NY 12401

KAFE Demystifying Testing flyer

Kingston Action For Education has issues with Cuomo’s Agenda

KAFE was interviewed by the Kingston Times regarding Cuomo’s Education Reform Agenda.   Read the article on the Kingston Times website here.

Kingston Times Feb 12 2015 page1

Kingston Times 2 12 2015 page2

For information on how to refuse the New York State tests for grades 3-8 in April, click here.


Text of article:

Reform and dissent

Kingston Action for Education has issues with Cuomo’s agenda by Crispin Kott

LATE LAST MONTH, GOV. ANDREW CUOMO’S Administration broke with the long standing tradition of providing school districts across New York State with runs,the projected aid increases, based on the governor’s education funding proposal, which district officials use to help shape their own budgets. Administration officials confirmed the school runs were being withheld because the governor’s education reform agenda has not been met favorably by the state legislature. Some parents in the Kingston City School District aren’t too happy with the governor either.

Kingston Action for Education (KAFE)is a parents’ advocacy in education group founded in March 2014 by Jolyn Safron, Maria Maritsas and Tory Lowe. KAFE has been leading the charge in opposing the controversial Common Core curriculum which are still working their way into the public school system. Last November, the Ulster County Legislature voted 23-0 on a resolution supporting the discontinuation of Common Core implementation until the standards can be evaluated and improved at the state level. Safron lauded the decision at the time, and local lawmakers joined others across the state in questioning Common Core and other elements of the governor’s educational plan.

Among the governor’s proposed education reforms are stricter teacher evaluations, an extended period of time to earn tenure, the expansion of charter schools and an increase in state oversight of struggling schools and districts. Presently, 25 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on the results of standardized testing; Cuomo’s plan would double that.

At a meeting of Kingston’s Board of Education last week, KAFEs cofounders read a prepared statement opposing the governor’s education package.

“His proposal has made it abundantly clear that he supports an increased emphasis on high-stakes testing and that he supports a reduction in local control of our schools,” said the KAFE statement. “He does not support a fair and appropriate education for our students but instead is holding school aid hostage to force the legislature to implement his education proposals.”

Already opposed to the increase in standardized tests KCSD students are asked to take, KAFE expressed concern that relying more heavily on the results for teacher evaluations “will undoubtedly intensify the teaching to the test atmosphere in the classroom.”

“KAFE opposes standardized high-stakes testing that is currently pushed by the federal and state governments because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children,” read the statement.

Kingston Superintendent Paul Padalino called the governor’s office withholding state aid runs “a little childish” last month, and he encouraged an ongoing dialogue about education reform as the way forward.

“There are some parts of what [Governor Cuomo] is talking about that are absolutely dead on, but there are different ways of doing it,” Padalino said. “Let’s get a statewide professional review rubric, a statewide system thats a real look at what testing should be counted on for teachers, and a reasonable amount of testing for our students. Let’s talk about that. Let’s have a productive conversation instead of this going to the extremes and creating hurdles that no one can jump over. If the governor’s goal is to improve education, these extremes aren’t going to be the way to do it.”

For KAFE, that dialogue is something that’s been sorely lacking, especially from the governor’s office.

“Parents and educators have been trying to convey the manyconcerns that we have concerning the state of education for the last two years and Governor Cuomo has not been listening” said Safron. “And it’s become blatantly obvious with this education agenda that he’s doing what I feel is exactly the opposite of the things that need to be done. It feels like a slap in the face”

Maritsas agreed, adding that the voices are only going to grow louder the more they’re ignored.

“It seems as though the governor hasn’t been listening to what has been going on throughout New YorkState,” she said. “With his increased emphasis on standardized testing, it has caused teachers’ unions to speak out against his reforms that parents have been in an uproar about for the past couple of years. Many more teachers and school district employees have become vocal about the current state of education and are starting to come out of the shadows and not fear the repercussions of speaking out from their districts.”

The governor’s reform agenda is also making waves elsewhere, with a critical open letter penned by seven New York State Teachers of the Year and published in the Albany Times Union being widely circulated through social and traditional media. “Education is our life” closes the opening paragraph. “For this, you have made us the enemy. This is personal.”  The letter touches on many of the same points as KAFE’s statement, and it further suggests that the governor’s reforms aren’t likely to succeed.

“Merit pay, charter schools and increased scrutiny of teachers won’t work because they fundamentally misdiagnose the problem,” reads the letter. “It’s not that teachers or schools are horrible. Rather, the problem is that students with an achievement gap also have an income gap, a health-care gap, a housing gap, a family gap and a safety gap, just to name a few. If we truly want to improve educational outcomes, these are the real issues that must be addressed.”

FOR MARITSAS, THE INCREASED EMPHASIS ON high stakes testing is of the utmost concern. “I am a parent of a classified student and [Governor Cuomo’s] proposal does not take into consideration children’s level of ability within the high stakes testing environment,” she said. “Children who are not functioning at grade level, who are working with goals set on their IEPs, also not grade level, are forced to take exams well above their level of functioning. It is unfair not only for the children who have to take these exams above their functioning but also unfair for the teachers who choose to work with the most needy of students to have their evaluation be based 50 percent on the outcome of one test.”

Safron agreed.

“That is what I see as the area that directly causes so much pain to many kids and is driving so much of the damage that is being done in our schools” she said. “I am incredibly concerned about Common Core as a whole, and I do view Common Core as a whole package with the standards and the testing and the teacher appraisal system. If it’s raised to 50 percent, they can’t help but teach to the test. That test is going to be the deciding determinant of their job.”

Some parents and educators are optimistic that there may be further discussion and a greater sense of local unification as a result of the governor’s reform agenda, along with the withholding of state aid runs and the increased opposition to the Gap Elimination Adjustment, enacted in the 2010-11 fiscal year to help close New York’s budget deficit. Under the GEA, a portion of the state’s funding shortfall is divided among all school districts in the state based on a formula and each district’s state aid is reduced accordingly. According to a September 2014 report by New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the Kingston City School District has lost out on an estimated $31 million over the past five years.

“It is my hope that school districts and opponents of the reform draw closer together throughout this process,” said Maritsas. “We may not agree on everything, but both sides need to come together as one and work towards what is best for our children and the district. The end result is ultimately the same, the best education for students with fair funding for our district.”

But while conversations are happening locally, some members of KAFE feel the best way of getting their voices heard further up the chain is through action. Safron said she was hoping parents of students in grades 3-8 will opt out of standardized tests planned for April of this year.

“If we can stop the data that is being harvested from our kids, if we stop that pipeline, it’s our only hope to make change. Because we are being ignored. It feels like we are being pushed to drastic extremes. We have to act this year. With everything Governor Cuomo is doing and the direction he’s taking, we can’t continue this way in New York.”


NYSUT supports Test Refusal

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)  came out with a strong stand against state tests and in support of test refusal for parents as part of their reaction to Governor Cuomo’s education agenda presented in the January 2015 State of the State address.

We at KAFE are happy to see NYSUT taking a stand now and encouraging all local unions to do the same.


Common Core as the entire package needs to go!!!!

Here is a post by NYSUT hi-lighting their statement of January 27, 2015 supporting parents’ right to choose to refuse state tests as well as NYSUT’s support of teachers who speak out about the harmful effects of high-stakes tests.

NYSUT Opt-out message Jan 28 2015

 Parents and teachers share deep concerns about over-testing resulting from the state’s botched implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). Concerns include: stress on students, appropriateness of tests, erosion of learning time and lack of state transparency on test content. Parents who decide it is not in their children’s best interests to take these assessments are part of an ―Opt-Out‖ movement that is growing nationally and in New York state. NYSUT fully supports parents’ right to choose what is best for their children— including NYSUT members who decide as parents to opt their child out of state tests. In addition, NYSUT encourages members to exercise their rights as professionals to speak out against the harmful effects of high-stakes tests — and will vigorously defend members if a district brings disciplinary charges in that event. Fact Sheet on Opting-Out of State Tests January 27, 2015

NYSUT’s Fact Sheet on Refusing/Opting-Out of State Tests (for grades 3-8) attempts to clear up misinformation by reviewing the federal requirement for participation in the state assessments and potential consequences of test refusal/opting-out for districts, students and teachers.

NYSUT Fact Sheet Opt-Out of State Tests


Challenging the Attack on Public Education – postponed to March 4, 2015 7pm

**  Postponed to snow date – March 4, 2015  **

Announcement from Rethinking Testing (March 3, 2015):

Due to inclement weather, Challenging the Attack on Public Education has been rescheduled for tomorrow, March 4th at 7pm. Please spread the word! Looking forward to a great panel tomorrow.

***  Original posting below ***

Don’t miss the opportunity to attend this presentation!

Challenging the Attack on Public Education
Tuesday March 3, 2015 7pm
SUNY New Paltz, Coykendall Science Building Auditorium

While corporate education policy makers claim to be advocates of civil rights, their policies have instead undermined the civil and human rights of students, parents, educators and local communities.

The legacy of the civil rights movement to challenge injustice calls on people today to oppose high stakes testing, inequitable school funding, and the privatization of public education. Speakers will discuss this legacy and today’s movement to reclaim public education.

Speakers will include Dr.Yohuru Williams, Beth Dimino and Dr.Nicholas Tampio.

Challenging the Attack on Public Education flyer

KAFE concerned by education reform proposal presented by Governor Cuomo

Kingston Action For Education presented the following statement/request at the Kingston City School District Board of Education meeting on Wednesday February 4, 2015:

KAFE is very concerned about the education reform proposal presented by Governor Cuomo. His proposal has made it abundantly clear that he supports an increased emphasis on high stakes testing and that he supports a reduction in local control of our schools. He does not support a fair and appropriate education for our students but instead is holding school aid hostage to force the legislature to implement his education proposals.

The impact of the proposed increased emphasis on state testing will undoubtedly intensify the “teaching to the test” atmosphere in the classroom. KAFE opposes standardized high stakes testing that is currently pushed by the federal and state governments because this testing is not being used to further instruction for children, to help children, or to support the educational needs of children. KAFE encourages all parents throughout NYS to refuse grades 3-8 assessments. It is our fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of our children.

We request that the Kingston school board partner with Kingston parents by proposing ways that we can advocate with Governor Cuomo and the legislature to abandon this set of harmful educational proposals. We are thrilled by the partnership forged with the Fair Funding for our Schools petition on the Kingston City School District website and ask for additional partnering so that we can exchange information and concerns and come together as a district advocating for our children.

The board discussed Governor Cuomo’s withholding of state aid information from the school districts during the meeting.  Efforts to eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment act were also discussed.  Dr. Jacobowitz requested permission to reinstate the board legislative action committee to discuss these issues as they need to be addressed quickly.  She volunteered to chair the committee and Mr. Shaughnessey and Ms. Guido volunteered to sit on the committee.

The Daily Freeman reported on Governor Cuomo’s withholding of state aid information and comments from the board of education meeting here.