Tag Archives: Test Refusal

Dissatisfaction with Cuomo common bond among local educators

Article from Kingston Times about the Ulster County Defends Public Education forum on February 23, 2015

With the refusal to supply school districts with aid runs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s position on educational funding this year is unpopular with many people involved in public education. Cuomo has tied this year’s state funding for public schools to adoption of his “reform” package. Feb. 23’s education forum at the M. Clifford Miller Middle School in Kingston brought together often-disparate groups who seemed to realize that they’re in this together more than they might have previously thought. They all have in common the thought that the governor is trying to coerce them to get what he wants.

Bianca Tanis spoke at the forum.  She is a founding member of NYSAPE, NYS Allies for Public Education, who is co-hosting a forum with KAFE on March 16, 2015.

According to Tanis, the grassroots approach is what that may have the greatest chance of success. Herself a New Paltz parent of an elementary-school student with a learning disability, Tanis said she and her husband brought concerns about how standardized testing might emotionally impact their son to school officials. When that proved unsuccessful, she said, they attempted to move higher and higher up the hierarchy.

“I went down every avenue to every person in power I could for help, and I was told, We recognize it will probably be very traumatic for him, but it’s the law and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Tanis said. “What changed that was the mobilization of parents. It wasn’t lawyers, it wasn’t people in power. It was parents and grassroots activism that changed this. New York State still does not have a legal refusal provision, but it’s my right.”

Locally, groups like Kingston Action for Education (KAFE) are helping push back. Last November, the Ulster County Legislature voted 23-0 for a resolution supporting the discontinuation of common-core implementation until the standards can be evaluated and improved at the state level.

KAFE was very proud to work with Ulster County legislators to help pass this resolution and we are continuing to work to bring about changes in education needed for our children.

Padalino said the district will continue focusing its efforts internally on the academic success of its students, even as its administrators, teachers and parents continue their efforts to have their voices heard by the Cuomo administration. “This might not be a popular thing to say, but if we’re not doing our job we need to be held accountable for that,” Padalino said. “If there’s someone who can do it better, they should do it better. But if we’re doing our job and 100 percent of our kids are walking across that stage and graduating from high school, we’re not going to have those problems.”

Tanis said that her group will continue its push to have parents opt out of standardized tests on behalf of their children. “Focusing on high-stakes testing is hurting public education,” she said. “It narrows the curriculum and students are less engaged in their education. There’s absolutely no evidence or research that correlates increased academic achievement to standardized testing. Most of these reforms, they’re not really based on evidence. There’s nothing that proves that these reforms that governor Cuomo is putting out there will be in any way effective.”

NYSAPE and KAFE are co-hosting a forum about high-stakes testing and public education at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 16 at the Kingston Alliance Church at 90 Millers Lane in Kingston.

KAFE Demystifying Testing flyer

KAFE asks BOE to inform parents of their right to refuse state tests

At the Kingston Board of Education meeting on March 4, 2015, Maria Maritsas asked the board the following:

My name is Maria Maritsas from Kingston Action For Education. I am here tonight to ask the board to support the parents in this district. I am asking you to inform parents of their right to refuse or take the Common Core grades 3-8 assessments. Parents in this district are getting conflicting information as to what their rights are. Today, Assemblyman James Tedesco filed the Common Core Parental Refusal Act legislation in the Assembly. This bill will mandate that schools notify parents of their right to refuse. It has over 30 sponsors to this bill.

There is no doubt that the refusal numbers for testing will increase. Parents are fed up with the Governor’s systematic dismantling of our public schools. He is holding the budget hostage by tying aid to proposed changes, we are losing local control of our schools, he is proposing that 85% of the teacher evaluations be taken out of district hands-50% tied to out comes of testing, 35% by an outside evaluator, and a mere 15% by this district. With such an emphasis on testing it most definitely creates a teaching to the test atmosphere. We will be churning out good test takers that aren’t good at much else. The tests are developmentally inappropriate and abusive for our most needy students and we will be losing some of the best teacher with his proposed evaluations. Governor Cuomo is using our children to vilify their teachers.

Enough is enough. I will be refusing the tests for my daughters. I am tired of hearing about planes being built in the air while it’s flying. Our children’s education is not an experiment. The testing was created not to help my child but to evaluate their teacher. That is wrong. The only rabbit we as parents can pull out of a hat is refusal. We need to send a clear message to Albany that our children are not their guinea pigs to use. The tests do not lead to furthering their instruction that school year. Again I am asking the board to consider informing parents of their rights. Thank you.


The Freeman reported on the above statement in this article:

Members of watchdog group Kingston Action for Education have found an ally in school district Superintendent Paul Padalino regarding a possible loss of local control of teacher evaluations.

Padalino has avidly supported using tests to evaluate programs, but said he agreed with the parents group that the district should retain control over evaluations.

“What he (Cuomo) just did was really reinforced or helped the people who want to opt out gain more momentum,” he said.

“I think the tests have value and using the tests to assess what we do and how we do it and how we can do it better in the future is useful,” Padalino said. “I think assessing our students is something we need to do and 80 percent of that assessment is done here locally. That’s an appropriate proportion, but…having 80 percent controlled by someone else, that’s not.”

Parents Stand Together to Reject Governor Cuomo’s Education Reform Debacle

Kingston Action For Education is proud to be standing with NYSAPE and parents across the state to reject Governor Cuomo’s education debacle.

“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

Join us for the Demystifying Testing forum we are hosting with NYSAPE this coming Monday March 16, 2015 6:30pm to learn more about the testing and what you can do to take action!

KAFE Demystifying Testing flyer

Dr. Joseph Rella exposes the Common Core Reform Agenda

This is a superintendent from Long Island, Dr. Joseph Rella. He exposes the education reform and what it is really about, the dismantling of our public schools. He discusses many issues in our districts. I hope all BOE members, parents, concerned citizens take the time to listen to this presentation. He presents an entire picture of the problems currently at hand with this education reform. Parents are the key to help solve this problem. Refuse the tests!  – Maria

Common Core Parental Refusal Act

This is a bill being presented that makes it a LEGAL REQUIREMENT for school districts to notify parents/guardians that they have the LEGAL RIGHT TO REFUSE THE TEST!!!

Right to Refuse law
Contact your rep’s and ask them to sign on and support!!!

March 4, 2015

Jim Tedisco

Today, I filed the Common Core Parental Refusal Act legislation in the Assembly. I should have a bill number in a few days which I will share with you. Thanks to all your continued advocacy, calls, letters, emails, tweets and posts about this legislation to ensure all parents are informed of their rights to have their children refuse to take the Common Core standardized tests in grades 3-8. The bill provides a notification for schools to send to parents informing them of their right to refuse to have their children take the Common Core tests along with a response form that parents can complete and return to the schools. These notices can be sent via email, letter or home with children in their school bags.
The legislation protects school districts and individual schools from having state aid withheld or any other punitive measures by the state. The bill protects teachers from being penalized due to a lack of student participation or performance on the exams. It also ensures that students are not punished or rewarded for their participation or lack thereof in the exams and would set-aside alternate study activities for those who refuse the tests so they are not forced to “sit and stare” in the same room as their peers who are taking the tests.
Thanks to your efforts we have over 30 sponsors in the Assembly. Senator Terrence Murphy and Senator Rich Funke are carrying the bill in the state Senate. Here are a list of Assembly members who are co-sponsoring the Common Core Parental Refusal Act:Will Barclay, Charles Barron, Joe Borrelli, Karl Brabenec, Marc Butler, John D. Ceretto,Cliff Crouch, Assemblyman David DiPietro, Janet Duprey, Christopher Friend, Andrew Garbarino, Andy Goodell, Al Graf, Steve Hawley, Mark Johns, Stephen Katz, Michael Kearns, Kieran Michael Lalor, Peter Lawrence, Pete Lopez, Chad Lupinacci, Nicole Malliotakis, Dave McDonough, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, Dean Murray, Bill Nojay, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Edward Ra, Andrew Raia, Claudia Tenney, andRay Walter. If you don’t see your legislator on this list, please contact them and ask them to sign on and I will gladly sign them up. Thanks!

Ulster County Defends Public Education Forum Recap

KAFE attended the Ulster County Defends Public Education Forum held at Miller Middle School on February 23, 2015.

Ulster County Defends Public Education Tory

Video coverage by our friend Mert Melfa.  Please take the time to watch and listen. This is the first time you are going to be able to hear PUBLICALLY from our teachers. You will also hear straight from Dr. Padalino himself (from KCSD) his thoughts on Test Refusals and that he DOES NOT support informing parents of their legals rights and will NOT allow our teachers to have open dialogue with parents/guardians about such.

(Oh, and you’ll hear me, Tory, during the Q and A as well!)

Full video of the forum:


Video clips:

Kristina Flick, veteran teacher.   Broke my heart listening to her because this hit very close to home…especially when she talks about young children getting so upset and frustrated and depressed about their school work that they start talking about suicide!!! – Tory

Tory Lowe during Q&A.  Hear it for yourself. KCSD Dr. Paul Padalino refusing and denying parents information that they have a legal right to…  Tory

Kingston Times article about the forum – Dissatisfaction with Cuomo common bond among local educators – March 6, 2015

Test Refusal Resources

NYSAPE Refusal Letter 2015 English

NYSAPE Refusal Letter 2015 Spanish

NYSAPE BW Quick Fact Sheet

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.   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.

NYSUT Fact Sheet Opt-Out of State Tests


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.