“Governor Cuomo and his controversial education agenda vows to bust public education. However, we remain in control because Cuomo and his agenda place extreme weight on Common Core tests. Seven of the eleven flawed education points in Cuomo’s State of the State address rely almost entirely on Common Core tests. When parents refuse the tests in large numbers, we will stop Cuomo,” said Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent, founding member of NYSAPE.
Now, as the next round of excessive state testing approaches, it is time to stand together. NYSAPE has several events and resources for parents to learn more about the flaws in Governor Cuomo’s Agenda and how they can fight back and reclaim classrooms of learning and inquiry for their children. Now is the time to stand as one and reject, once and for all, classrooms that have become Governor Cuomo’s politically motivated compliance factories for testing. Parents and educators are coming out in droves to make their voices heard against reforms that harm children and denigrate our public schools. The refusal movement is on fire and has been set ablaze throughout the state. Here is how you can do your part. Attend a Forum: Learn More and Take Action! – Thousands of Parents Stand Together to Reject Governor Cuomo’s Education Reform Debacle
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.
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 was interviewed by the Kingston Times regarding Cuomo’s Education Reform Agenda. Read the article on the Kingston Times website here.
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.”
“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.”
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.
But please remember…it’s not JUST THE TESTS or JUST A NEW MATH or JUST THE POOR IMPLEMENTATION!!!
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.
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. – nysut.org 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.
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.
The Bennett School PTA in the Onteora School District is joining parents around the state in refusing the state tests this coming April.
There is growing frustration with the amount of testing our young children are subjected to. I have noticed a significant loss of instruction time, an increased level of stress in the classroom and a poor message to our children about the importance of tests.
The average fourth-grade student is 9 years old and is required by the state Department of Education to prepare for three state exams in the spring: English Language Arts, math and science. These tests total eight days of administration, as well as three to six weeks of test preparation. In total, our children are losing four to six weeks of in-class instruction time per test.
Our children also take ELA and math tests three times a year to monitor their progress. They also take pre- and post-assessment tests in art, music, library, physical education and social studies, totaling 21 standardized tests annually. The numbers are the same for grades three to six, with the exception of the state science test.
It is no wonder we are seeing a loss of hands-on, inquiry-based learning in our classrooms. With the emphasis on math and ELA testing, we are witnessing the erosion of science and social studies from the curriculum.
Excessive testing teaches our children that there is only one right answer in academics and in life. It takes the joy out of learning and minimizes the value and importance of taking a test when it really counts. And it is ruining public education.
As an immediate solution, members of the Bennett School PTA are encouraging our parent body in grades three to six to refuse the state tests in ELA, math and science this spring. These tests are inappropriate for our children, are unfair to our teachers, take away valuable classroom time and are not part of our child’s overall grade or individual assessment.
We intend to send a message to the state.
Heather Roberts, Vice President
Bennett School PTA
Last year over 60,000 parents across New York State refused the state tests. The number is expected to be much higher this year as more and more parents come to understand the issues associated with testing that are so clearly articulated in the Bennett School PTA letter.
Kingston Action for Education is encouraging Kingston parents to refuse the state tests as well (read details here).
Statewide information may be found at NYS Allies for Public Education.
Kingston parents – please participate in this petition asking our New York State legislators to get rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. The GEA continues to take money away from our students ($31 million loss for KCSD) and needs to be eliminated.
Read more and sign the petition here.
Kingston Action For Education is joining NYSAPE and other parent and teacher organizations from around New York State in support of the “I Refuse” Movement to oppose high stakes testing.
Across NYS, Parents and Educators are combining forces to push back against harmful “reform” policies and to preserve equitable and child centered public education in New York State. Parents and Educators will continue to insist to Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Tisch that our children and their teachers are more than a score and that we reject their attacks on public education. – Read more here
If you are a parent in the Kingston City School District, please join us in refusing the New York State standardized ELA and math tests this April for your grade 3-8 students. If you are a part of a parent or teacher group in another school district in Ulster County, please consider supporting a similar resolution within your group and encourage your members to refuse the state tests in April as well.
Kingston Action For Education (KAFE) Resolution to Support “The I Refuse Movement” to Oppose High Stakes Testing
WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely prepare that populace for college and career; and
WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and
WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and
WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and
WHEREAS, the state assessments are not transparent in that–teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available; and
WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it
RESOLVED that 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; and be it further
RESOLVED, that KAFE advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research; and be it further
RESOLVED, that KAFE joins NYSAPE in lobbying the NYS Board of Education to eliminate the use of high stakes testing; and be it further
RESOLVED, that KAFE will encourage all of Kingston City School District’s parents to have their own children refuse to take the Grade 3-8 assessments: and be it further
RESOLVED, that KAFE will encourage other parent groups in Ulster County to increase opposition to high stakes testing; and be it further
RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution will be sent to the NY State Board of Education, the Governor of NYS, and all members of the NYS legislative branch.
Signed by Kingston Action For Education (KAFE) Co-founders Jolyn Safron, Maria Maritsas, Tory Lowe
January 21, 2015
The Ulster County Legislature voted 23-0 on Tuesday November 18, 2014 to pass Resolution No. 350 in support of repealing common core and race to the top!
Resolution No. 350 – Supporting The Reintroduction and Passage Of New York State Assembly Bill 07994 and Senate Bill 06267, An Act To Amend The Education Law, In Relation To The Common Core State Standards Initiative And The Race To The Top Program
Please thank your county legislator for standing in support of our children. Here is a list of the Ulster County legislators with their contact information to assist you in contacting your county legislator.
Press release – Ulster County Legislators Voice Opposition to Federal Common Core Initiative
Video from the legislative session on November 18, 2014
Kingston Action For Education (KAFE) needs your help. Ulster County Resolution 350 will be going to the full Ulster County Legislature next Tuesday November 18, 2014 – just a few days from now. We need people to contact their county legislators and let them know that we want to repeal Common Core in our area!!
If chosen: You win the basket, your friends each get a cute holiday snowman pot holder!
For more information on Ulster County Resolution No. 350, click here.