Send Your Comments on N.Y.’s ESSA!

Send your comments to NYSED today – don’t punish schools for high opt out rates! Deadline for comments on the new ESSA regs Aug. 17. 

Mine is below, borrow what you’d like:

August 13th

To the Commissioner:

It is the job of schools to administer the test to all students, not sell parents on the value of tests at a time when the state’s true commitment to the education of their children is questionable. If you want “opt out rates” to decrease, and let’s be honest, “opt out” is weak, it is a refusal rate in New York, then you need to convince parents of your loyalty and commitment to better outcomes first-not to your own reputation and coerced and enforced testing requirements. That being said, the suggestion that Title I funding might be impacted by refusals is the wrong way to go at this time. It’s doubling down on a rushed and misguided course and an anti-public education mindset.
Instead, examine closely and expand on some of the promise there actually seems to be in the ESSA draft:
School Accountability Methodologies and Measurements
(Under “what will be different”):
-Inclusion of new indicators: college, career and civic readiness (detail what, other than  standardized test scores, these are)
-Data dashboards for transparent reporting of results and indicators not part of accountability/support system (use for collection of the “indicators” in an ongoing student portfolio, not for dissemination of private student data)
-Advisory group to examine different indicators of quality for accountability (Stakeholders on the ground who can guide content/scope/intent/use of the portfolio)

Supports and Improvement for Schools:
-Examination and addressing of resource inequities in low-performing schools
-Incentives for districts to promote diversity and reduce socioeconomic and racial isolation
-Parent voice in some budget decisions in low-performing schools
-Improving access to all programs for students who are homeless, in neglected facilities…migratory

Accountability seems to be the current priority, and I would agree that there needs to be more accountability for student outcomes, but be honest about testing as it exists: the quality of the tests has not been established following years of verifiable examples and concerns (content, level, vendor…) and during what may end up being state-wide shift to computer-administered tests. To draw a sword and threaten the schools of parents expecting more consistency and a demonstration of the state’s will to commit to creating better outcomes (not just demand and measure them) will not inspire parent participation. Instead, require tests as before, but push for more of a shared accountability for things described already in the ESSA:

IN THE NYS’s APPROACH TO ESSA PLANNING SECTION
-More equitable distribution of resources and student access to programs and “effective teachers”
-Build an accountability and support system that is based on multiple measures of college, career and civic readiness (use that “dashboard” to build a digital, developing citizen portfolio that belongs to and travels with the student)
-Recognize the effect of school environment on student academic performance and support efforts to improve climates of all schools

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Four steps to better education reform (Introduction to MEGA)

This will be the first installment of several in a “Better Education Reform” series. As I continue, I will be linking to associated definitions and explanations between installments, and at the end will include a glossary for some of the more colloquial-type terms I use. I try to tone it down a little, but hey-I can only water it down so much.

Introduction:

America needs to be better at educating its citizens. I say this for a couple of reasons. Mainly, the disparity in outcomes in our population is concerning-especially when that disparity is linked to race, gender and socioeconomic status.  It suggests either systemic ineffectiveness, intent, and possibly both. Secondly, the political mechanisms that drive this disparity are almost wholly owned and operated by the most privileged class and their nearly as privileged agents. This has led to a situation where the vehicle we call democracy is like some eyesore the losers next door park on the lawn and tear up and down the street in at all hours. We can’t really deny democracy exists, I mean it’s parked right there. But it’s right to wonder if it works, worry about how safe it is and what might happen to us, our property and our children with those losers behind the wheel. Seriously- all they ever do is a crappy touch-up with some spray cans and tint the windows so you can’t see what the $#%& is going on inside of it!

Donald Trump is that eyesore. Who the hell knows what goes on in his head? And our “elected” leaders and the system preserving them are driving him around. But guess what? Trump is the president. That doesn’t happen absent a decline in the character, practical intelligence, and moral commitment in the citizenry and the system. And those things-character, practical intelligence, depend on an effective comprehensive education. A real education.

That’s quite different than schooling, which uses the sterile and dehumanizing language of industry (e.g. standards, tests, achievement, proficiency…) and is focused on the task-mastering of academic skills-an approach that supports control of the masses below by the few above. Real education reform should be an honest effort, and provide much more in terms of a foundation of soft skills and a content of character that allow a person to pursue, communicate, exercise their civic duties and responsibilities, connect effectively with the world, achieve, adapt, cooperate…Basically, education imparts the qualities that shape the person who applies the academic skills acquired through schooling.

By acknowledging, legislating and working through this more comprehensive approach to education, and a more shared accountability for the components that are required, the nation can improve outcomes for traditionally underachieving groups.

Part 1: the four steps

One of the primary roadblocks to better outcomes is the bipartisan cooperation in refusing to do what is right. In other words there is a lack of the political will to do right in our leaders. I will get more deeply into practical intelligence, quality, comprehensive education, and political will in just a bit. I’ll also address the concepts of systemic ineffectiveness and intent-“intent” meaning that some of the ineffectiveness might be purposeful and used by those in power to suppress those with less in order to preserve an inequitable system.

But first things first.

The key to better education reform, more equitable outcomes and reaching for that effective, comprehensive education is informing, preparing and activating the citizenry. Once that happens, education and reform can be freed from the tightly defined box constructed by and for the wealthy and powerful establishment who ironically use it as a tool of suppression. That paradigm of suppression has led to stagnant or unimpressive societal and academic improvements. Changing the paradigm and making education great again (that’s MEGA, folks- I’ll trademark it and begin making the red hats soon) won’t be easy, but here are the four things I suggest to get us moving in the MEGA direction towards improving outcomes:

Four steps to MEGA:

1) Admit that accountability is shared for education outcomes, between policymakers, community, families and schools. Have mechanisms for measurement, evaluation and accountability that are collaboratively created by these stakeholders and keep all stakeholders involved and accountable.

2) Apply electoral and non-electoral leverage strategically to affect policy and distribute resources based  on needs. That means targeting policymakers, communities, families, and schools with transparency, honesty and a purpose that is learner and future-focused.

3) Shift the stale paradigm for how schooling works and how outcomes are defined, and provide real opportunities to pursue both collective priorities (public education should serve the public, the same way public spaces, utilities and services do) and individual goals. This is a shift from the current impersonal demands for a standardized version of “proficiency”.

4) Effectively advocate not just for the literal lives of children, but their quality of life as well. The key word being “effectively”.

Next, “The four steps explained”.

Evaluations That Make Sense

Did I actually get an email from NYSUT asking for money for the “No NY Convention Fund”, or is it scam email? I know shady people are out there pulling email scam stuff like that. Anyways, I know my union leadership would be motivated to advocate for more respect of my colleagues and inclusion of them in the process of education and constructing/collaborating on a new and more sensible evaluation. That’s why when I saw the “give us more money” I thought it was for a campaign to raise awareness of efforts like Assembly Bill A04016, submitted in January. I hadn’t gotten any emails about it, but it looks promising.

Here is the justification text:

“This bill repeals the current teacher and principal evaluation system.The current method needs to be overhauled as it ties much of a teacher and principal’s evaluation to an admittedly flawed curriculum and high stakes testing regime. This bill empowers the Board of Regents to create a new method for evaluating our state’s teachers and principals and makes sure that they will do so in a manner that takes into account all tried-and-true methods of evaluating an individual’s success. Continue to link our children’s educational future to a flawed system is wrong.”

Go to the NY Assembly page and check it out. Here’s the first ten lines. I’ll donate to get this passed and I believe that many, many teachers that would get behind this.

1 Section 1. Section 3012-d of the education law is REPEALED and a new
2 section 3012-d is added to read as follows:
3 § 3012-d. Teacher and principal evaluation system. 1. The board of
4 regents shall establish a new annual teacher and principal evaluation
5 system.
6 2. The new evaluation system shall be established with requisite input
7 from education experts, school administrators, parents, and teachers.
8 3. The new evaluation system shall be presented to the commissioner,
9 legislature, and governor as a report by no later than January thirty-
10 first, two thousand nineteen.

I’ll be raising awareness to oppose the convention, and I’m assuming dues are already partially spent in that direction. What about this legislation that could make a huge difference and inspire collaboration among all stakeholders?

A Coleman Blank? UPDATE

I am doing some research and am reading David Coleman’s 2011 talk to NYSED regarding the common core standards.
This is the nysed.gov link to the full transcript I am using. When I get to the part where he says
But it also involved quite wonderfully several other teachers of every stripe from every organizational background who are involved in developing these standards and also of course the NEA and other groups. But if there’s one voice that is loud and clear here, it is the voice of teachers. And let me tell you what we learned as we listened to those voices. (p.4-5)
 
It is followed by a large blank area before going on to the next section, with no mention of what David learned as he listened to actual educators. Did he not learn anything, or was it like the “listening tours” that happen from time to time-where people were talking but it didn’t really impact the process?
If he did learn something, I would like to know what it was. If there is a better link, or more information, please share it with me.

Thank you,
Dan McConnell
I contacted NYSED, and heard back pretty quickly Took me some time but it’s been busy. Daughter graduated, parties, family visits and whatnot. Still confusing, though. Read and see what I mean. 
Me (June 18th):
I am doing some research and am reading David Coleman’s 2011 talk regarding the common core standards.
This is the nysed.gov link to the full transcript I am using
When I get to the part where he says
But it also involved quite wonderfully several other teachers of every stripe from every organizational background who are involved in developing these standards and also of 5 course the NEA and other groups. But if there’s one voice that is loud and clear here, it is the voice of teachers. And let me tell you what we learned as we listened to those voices. (p.4-5)
 
It is followed by a large blank area before going on to the next section, with no mention of what David learned as he listened to actual educators. Did he not learn anything, or was it like the “listening tours” that happen from time to time-where people were talking but it didn’t really impact the process?
If he did learn something, I would like to know what it was. If there is a better link, or more information, please share it with me.
NYSED (June 19th):

Hi Dan, this transcript is complete, although the way it is formatted is a little misleading. If you listen to the video (available athttp://usny.nysed.gov/rttt/resources/bringing-the-common-core-to-life.html) , at 13:19 he ends with “…what we learned as we listened to those voices.” The next thing he says starts with the text on page 5. However, whoever created the transcripts added the extra space and added the section headings which makes it seem like there was a break in what was spoken even though there wasn’t. So the text of the transcript is complete and it is not missing anything in this section.

 

If you have any other questions about this, please let me know.

 

Thanks,

Ron

 

I haven’t listened to the video, not this part anyway. I’ve seen the “world doesn’t give a shit” part a dozen times, but not this part. Ron’s word is good enough for now, because why would he lie and then give me the link? My issue, then, is the total disconnect from A) Saying “…let me tell you what we learned from listening to those voices.” to then going on some more about your own ideas and understandings. Very little teacher voice or input seems to come out of what Coleman expresses. In going back to the transcript to see if giving anyone else any credit for informing his thinking comes out…I’m still coming up empty.