Hudson Valley Parents Strongly Object to Appointment of Disgraced NYS Commissioner of Ed John King to Interim US Secretary of Education Post

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For more information contact:
Anna Shah (914) 475-8889

Hudson Valley Parents Strongly Object to Appointment of Disgraced NYS Commissioner of Ed John King to Interim US Secretary of Education Post

Washington officials announced today that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will step down from his post in December. While news of Duncan’s departure brings relief for Hudson Valley parents, it is juxtaposed by the disgust and outrage parents feel having learned  that the person chosen  to replace Duncan is none other than disgraced former New York State Commissioner of Education, John King.

“As New York Education Commissioner, John King was a tireless advocate for the Common Core, high-stakes testing, and the EngageNY modules. At the same time, he sent his own children to a private Montessori school that does none of these things. Our concern is that John King will continue to advocate for education reforms for other people’s kids that are unacceptable for his own,” said Nicholas Tampio, Fordham University Professor and Hudson Valley public school parent.

Commissioner King’s tenure was plagued by a clear disconnect between him and the very stakeholders and public school children impacted by his decisions. Parents know that replacing Arne Duncan with John King, even on a temporary basis, will lead to more emphasis on common core testing, more privatizing and  more disregard for the voice of parents and teachers across the nation as these concerns have been validated by King’s actions to date.

“King was successful in shutting down dialogue on important education policy matters such as common core, high stakes testing and student privacy but was good at building a chinese wall between himself and parents. In his short reign as Commissioner, King was successful in mobilizing and forcing parents, educators, and concerned citizens to call and write state politicians demanding the he resign or be removed from leadership. The notion that he will now serve to lead the country on education policy is utterly alarming,” said Anna Shah, co-founder Hudson Valley Alliance for Public Education and Dutchess County public school parent.

Lauren Isaacs Schimko, Rockland County  public school parent said: “The announcement of U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan’s resignation initially seemed to be a slam-dunk. Unfortunately, a foul shot was perpetrated on the American public with his replacement, John King. NYS parents remember him all too well. As the NYS Commissioner of Education and puppet of Regent Merryl Tisch, his “reign” was fraught with contentious public forums and non-listening tours promoting poorly written high stakes tests and the cognitively inappropriate Common Core Learning Standards. What else is there to say other than “in a country of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.”

“The replacement of Arne Duncan with John King is truly mind boggling. Mr. King did nothing but contribute to the demise of public education in New York State. He consistently refused to acknowledge the concerns of parents and forged ahead with promoting CC and high stakes testing. We need to make certain the rest of the country is well aware of what’s happening,”  said Suzanne DiAngelo Coyle, Hudson Valley public school parent and administrator of Stop Common Core Rockland County.

“John King entered the US Dept. of Education with the title of “Senior Advisor,” which allowed him to bypass THE congressional approval process. Now he is being elevated from that position to Acting Secretary, our highest federal education position — and again, he bypasses any congressional approval process. This creates a very concerning precedent” said Lisa Eggert Litvin, Co. President, Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA and Hudson Valley parent.

Hudson Valley Alliance for Public Education encourages parents to voice their disapproval about King’s appointment by calling the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414  as well as a special White House telephone line dedicated to public comments at 202-456-1111 in order to urge the White House to reconsider.

Hudson Valley Alliance for Public Education, is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of parents and public school children against harmful testing practices in the Hudson Valley. To join the Alliance or to learn more, please visit us here:


Cuomo’s Common Core Commission: Lipstick on a Pig

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Conceding that “evidence of failure is everywhere”, Governor Cuomo recently announced his fifteen member 2015 Common Core Commission convened to “review and reform” the common core.

Welcome to the 2015 season featuring Cuomo’s Triple C: Common Core Commission. This year’s reality TV episode of public education policy theater stars:

Responding to fears due to the growing opt out movement in New York State, the Triple C was convened with the Governor calling for a “total reboot” and making promises to “revamp”, “overhaul” and review the common core standards from the bottom up.

The new 15-member panel is led by Richard Parsons, a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners and former Citigroup board chair who chaired the governor’s education reform commission in 2012.

But, who the heck is the man leading the 2015 Triple C anyway?

The plot thickens. In stunning irony, Richard Parsons, the man set to lead the education process and tasked with implementing sound education poicy and college and career readiness, is a HIGH SCHOOL dropt out who opted to earn his GED instead of finishing school.

According to Daily Banter:

“Dick Parsons’ biography can be summed up in two phases of his life: before meeting Nelson Rockefeller, and after meeting Nelson Rockefeller.

Before meeting Nelson Rockefeller, Dick Parsons was a self confessed clown from a middle-class African-American family in Brooklyn. “Left to my own devices, I don’t feel any compulsion to strive,” he told to the New York Times. Race was never an issue with Parsons either: ”I don’t have any experience in my life where someone rejected me for race or any other reason.’

So Parsons dropped out of high school with a “C” average, earning a GED certificate. He enrolled in the University of Hawaii for reasons he could never really explain, joined a frat, and became their social chairman. As one of Parsons’ frat brohs recalled to journalist Nina Munk, “Here’s this guy who’s at the bar sixty-seven days in a row and, as you can imagine, he did very poorly in school.”

Parsons did worse than poorly: He flunked out of U. Hawaii. Without earning a degree.

And then slacker Dick Parsons met oligarch Nelson Rockefeller, and from here on out, Parsons lived out a Cinderella fairytale for the One Percenters. As luck would have it, Dick Parsons’ grandfather was once a favorite groundskeeper at the famous Rockefeller Compound in Pocantico Hills and lived in a hut on in the shadow of the oligarchs’ mansion. Soon, Dick Parsons and his wife would move into one of those same groundskeepers huts under Nelson Rockefeller’s patronage.

As Parsons later admitted, “The old-boy network lives…I didn’t grow up with any of the old boys. I didn’t go to school with any of the old boys. But by becoming a part of that Rockefeller entourage, that created for me a group of people who’ve looked out for me ever since.”

And so, magically, despite failing out of Hawaii without a degree, Dick Parsons was accepted into the Albany University Law School program. Nelson Rockefeller happened to be in Albany too at the time, serving as governor of the state of New York. Dick Parsons was chosen to be an intern for Rockefeller.

Whereas before, when Parsons didn’t study he failed out, now, after meeting Nelson Rockefeller, by some magical twist of fate, he was the law school’s valedictorian. Sandy Stevenson, a fellow law school classmate of Parsons’ who became a professor at Albany Law, recalled: “He didn’t study hard. He played a lot of bridge. He was so smart he didn’t have to study, and he was in the cafeteria playing bridge a lot.”

Parsons took the New York state bar exam, and scored the highest in the state, beating out all the high-achieving Ivy Leaguers that year. It may have been a complete coincidence, but Nelson Rockefeller’s right-hand man, Harry Albright, was in charge of both the law school internship program with the governor, and in charge of scoring the New York state bar exams.

Well, color me amused.

Here is another interesting tid bit about the heavy hitting business mogul and Cuomo Common Core Commission leader Richard Parsons.

According to this Bloomberg article, Richard Parsons never bothered to complete his college education and does not even have a college degree.

From the article:

“The son of an electrical technician and a homemaker, Parsons grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn and didn’t do much schoolwork as a youngster. It apparently didn’t hurt him. He skipped a grade in elementary school and another in high school. “I TEST WELL,” he says by way of explanation.” (my emphasis)

“He went to the University of Hawaii, where he partied more than he studied. After four years, he still needed six credits to get his diploma, but he discovered that if he aced his pre-law exams he could get into law school in New York state without a college degree. He did well on the test and was accepted to Albany Law School, where he graduated at the top of his class.

The articles above also raise eyebrows as to the integrity of Parsons bar exam score and paints Parsons out to be more of a talented “schmoozer” than a shrewd businessman.

Is it just me, or is this all just a tad ironic that the man charged with leading education panel in New York State doesnt even have a basic education yet he is making imoprtant decisions that will affect the lives and futures of New York State public school children?

The Governor’s reaction to the strength of opt out speaks volumes. Cuomo attempts to diffuse the situation by making grandiose promises to the public and appointing a man who clearly is not qualified to serve, but this just illustrates that the Governor is running scared. He has not staffed the panel by using sound judgment but is just attempting to appease parents in order to gain control over a growing protest movement that has exceeded all expectations.

Billed as an opportunity to cure an “implementation” problem, parents across the Hudson Valley are not buying the  Governor’s plan nor the illusion of good faith that the Governor is trying to sell.

Despite his attempts to quell and appease public school parents, failure of the experimental Common Core Learning Standards comes as no surprise. Over 220,000 public school children chose to refuse NYS Common Core tests in the spring of 2015 to protest while  complaints and concerns over the quality of Pearson tests aligned to the common core prompted the Department to oust Pearson from its payroll.

While state education officials claim that the appointment of new test maker, Questar resolves parent concerns, the opposite is true. Many questions still persist.

Putting a panel together for show will not resolve the problem. Until New York State takes action to scrap the Common Core Learning Standards and halts the invalid use of discriminatory test scores to evaluate schools and teachers, parents like myself will encourage opt out to grow.

In fact, this is not the first time Cuomo has convened a statewide commission in response to parent outrage.  In January 2014 New York State Education Reform Commission issued a 92-page “action plan”  while a separate Common Core Implementation Panel hand picked by Chancellor Tisch issued yet another report in March 2014. Each has proven unsucessful.

Additionally, the State Education Department is also reviewing Common Core standards Commissioner Elia has promised to deliver a report by year’s end so that Cuomo can tack on the Department’s reccommendations in his State of the State address if he so chooses.

So, how many “do overs” does Governor Cuomo get to get things right?

The instant Triple C, like each one before it,  is unlikely to make a difference. Indeed, while the Governor casually tosses around promises like “revamp”, “reboot” and overhaul,” those promises are disingenuous New York State public school children will likely get the same standards basically with a name change.

Truth be told, as the Governor’s advisory body, the Triple C does not have the power or authority to actually change the CCSS, for one thing, the standards are copywritten. Only 15% is subject to modification and that 15% is what is ignored because they’re not tested. The ONLY way to substantially change them is dump them completely.

Another caveat that has gone unsaid, is that the Governor does not have the authority to craft education policy, that power belongs to the Regents. The Regents do not have financing authority, that power belongs to the Governor and legislature. Therefore, the Governor’s plan to “overhaul” education policy in New York State is disingenuous.

So, what power does the Triple C panel members really have? Well, none really and that can illustrated by looking closely at the commitee’s charge.

With that in mind, the Governor has charged the Task Force to:

“Review and reform the Common Core State Standards;
Review New York State’s curriculum guidance and resources;
Develop a process to ensure tests fit curricula and standards;
Examine the impact of the current moratorium on recording Common Core test scores on student records, and make a recommendation as to whether it should be extended;
Examine how the State and local districts can reduce both the quantity and duration of student tests, and develop a plan whereby districts include parents in reviewing local tests being administered to analyze those tests’ purpose and usefulness; and
Review the quality of the tests to ensure competence and professionalism from the private company creating and supplying the tests.

The Governor has directed the Task Force to conduct its process as transparently as possible and to solicit and consider input from regional advisory councils comprised of parents, teachers and educators across the state.
The Task Force’s report will be issued publicly by the end of the year so that it can be reviewed by all and changes can be implemented quickly and effectively.”
Lastly, the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers hold the copyright on the Common Core State Standards.

While the Governor claims that the Commission will “review and reform” and he has stated in the press that the panel will “reboot” common core, the reality is likely to be much different. At best, I am fairly confident we can expect the panel will do nothing more than “tweak” Common Core.

This is where they purport the opt out leaders input comes in. Task Force members may hold meetings, Town halls or such to “solicit and consider” advice and reccommendations from the public. We know this is a farce as these public input sessions are typically pro forma but do not yield results because the panel already has their charge in mind.

Cuomo’s Common Core Commission is a bit confused.

The Governor charged the panel  to basically tweak common core withIN the confines of the existing scommon core state standards adopted by New York State and so he staffed it with the people he could count on to do just that.

This charge is important because if a panel member were say to challenge the common core and reccommend or push for a repeal, for example, Commission leadership ie: Dick Parsons could quickly object and redirect the panel  back to the task at hand by offering the argument that such a reccommendation strays from the Governor’s charge and they cant do that, the Triple C are bound to follow the charge.

So what better way to maintain status quo then to stack the panel with common core proponents who are not likely willing to stray from the charge at the outset.

Lets face it, most opt out leaders  would likely be considered a thorn in the Governor’s side. So, why bother dealing with people who offer dissent? The Governor does not have the time to deal with such nonsense, he chose to just exclude opt out leaders and parents from the Commission altogether.

The panel is all smoke and mirrors.

While NYS can only add 15 percent to the common core that was adopted verbatim, there are also licensing and use requirements as part of that adoption.

Achieves Chad Colby concedes, that “states can make subtractions and changes but they do so at their own peril”, “as assessments aligned to common core are nationally normed” the tests are based on the 85% of the common core adopted nation wide, and does not include the 15% that is unique to New York State.

At a time where what gest tested is what gets taught, it easy to see why adding much more the common core is virtually pointless.

So although these folks were convened and charged with “reforming” common core, please recall, since the common core standards are copy written and NYS can only personalize 15% of the standards,  compounded by the fact that the Governor does not have the power to make education policy under the New York State Constitution, its pretty clear that the Tiple C does not have alot of wiggle room to adjust and maneauver the common core at the outset and will likely be making some minor esthetic changes rather than “overhaul” the same.
Unlike prior processes and standard writing that permitted states to add and subtract, this is not the case. If states  make subtractions and changes to this copyrighted set of standards, they do so at their own peril as common assessments are aligned to the common core as it’s written. Practically speaking, if it is not tested, will any state changes really matter?

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Basically, the governor’s “commission” to revamp common core is a farce. More likely, the panel has been implemented not to revamp common core but to change when a standard is taught and how its taught in the classroom. Thats about it.
Colby explains, for example, a third grader that had already mastered all of the Common Core’s grade-level expectations could begin learning fourth grade content.
In other words, shifting standards a grade earlier presents no problems. However, delaying the teaching of a standard to a later grade (for example if the standard is developmentally inappropriate and is being taught too early which is the case with the common core in many cases) could hurt the student’s progression towards college- and career-readiness because it deviates from the benchmark that the student is required to know by such and such date and time and undermines the pace at which the lesson is requried to be taught by the teacher in the classroom in order for that teacher to meet her targets as well.

That’s why most states, and New York State have not been able to change the problems that are happening in our classrooms in our school. NYS can only only add to the Common Core and this can only be done after the standards were adopted verbatim we cannot logically remove aspects of common core that are troubling or developmentally inappropriate for young learners.

So, when all the smoke clears in the fog is lifted the Governors contention that the panel intends to “revamp” common core is misleading.

If the governor is truly interested in “reviewing”, “conducting a reboot” and “overhauling” the common core standards to make them unique and developmentally appropriate for New York, then perhaps the commission should team up with the Regents and SED to simply replace the crappy common core standards authored by David Coleman, Susan Pimental et al, and replace the ELA/ESL piece with the homemade, developmentally appropriate, rigorous lost standards developed by a panel of teachers, child development specialists and our very own New York State Regents led by Regent Saul Cohen years ago.

You see in 2009, New York needed to write new educational standards, and Regent Cohen had agreed to lead the project.

Officially known as the “Regents Standards Review and Revision Initiative”, the project addressed and resolved many of the concerns that drove Common Core’s primary goals. They crafted the ELA/ESL piece and started the rest.

Regent Cohen brought in veteran educator Walter Sullivan and they put together a team of New York State public-school teachers and child development experts Who worked with the regents on this project.

Over two years, Cohen and Sullivan led the team of New York educators who created what may have been the country’s best standards for English/language arts and English as a second language.

When all of a sudden, on a pitch by David Coleman, architect of common core, who was eager to sell his defective product to NYS and to advance investment interests, Chancellor Tisch set up a meeting and the rest is history.

All of the hard work conducted by Regent Cohen and his panel was scrapped and replaced by the common core in one fell swoop.

Regent Cohen was understandably distressed, angry because , as he asserts, the common core was simply not as good as the standards.

According to Cohen, they were well underway in developing the nation’s best standards when, according to Cohen, the state “grabbed the (federal) money” and “tossed out all of the work we had done.” He adds, “I was very upset, because the national standards weren’t as good. Now we have this mess.”
The “lost standards” were infinitely better than Common Core. They relied on multiple methods of measuring student progress — not just standardized testing. And many educational decisions were left to local school districts.

Three commissions before it have already attempted to revive the common core standards, it is time that they are dumped once and for all. The Governor and the commission has the Power to work with the Regents/Education Department  to correct the common core  blight which is a repeating and reoccurring problem. Think about how much money, time and effort officials and your state tax payers are putting towards trying to “fix” what is clearly a defective product. It’s time to recall this defective product and replace it with something better.
The Lost Standard for ELA/ELS is the model the Governors commission should pursue, its a step in the right direction.


Click to access HB5078testimony.pdf

Please review these standards here:

Anna Shah is a parent & public education advocate who moonlights as a member of the bar. She blogs at Schools of thought Hudson Valley New York and is a co-founding member of  Hudson Valley Alliance for Public EducationFollow Anna @SOTHVNY  

HV Alliance for Public education, is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of parents and public school children against harmful testing practices in the Hudson Valley. To join the Alliance or to learn more, please visit us here:

Governor’s Common Core Commission is a Farce

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2015
For more information contact:
Anna Shah (914) 475-8889

Governor’s Common Core Commission is a Farce

After conceding that “evidence of failure is everywhere”, Governor Cuomo recently announced his fifteen member 2015 Common Core Commission. Billed as an opportunity to cure an “implementation” problem, the commission is notably lacking in any representation of elementary school parents, let alone critics of the Common Core.  Parents across the Hudson Valley reject yet another pointless commission that ignores the concerns of parents and educators.

“A panel of advisors hand picked by  Chancellor Tisch made recommendations about the Common Core Learning Standards to the Regents in February 2014 and the Governor himself was responsible for putting together a Common Core Implementation Panel who made  recommendations in March 2014. Now, over a year and half later, the Governor admits that “failure is everywhere”. The Governor keeps asking for time to make common core work but my children have no more time to give. Their most formative years are being wasted and abused by this deeply flawed and developmentally inappropriate education reform which focuses on standardized testing and eliminates authentic teaching” said Joanne Tumolo, Mahopac public school parent and co-founder Putnam, Northern Westchester, Southern Dutchess Refuse the Tests.

Failure of the experimental Common Core Learning Standards comes as no surprise to the 220,000 families of public school children who chose to refuse NYS Common Core tests in the spring of 2015. While state education officials claim that the appointment of new test maker, Questar will address the public concerns, parents know that this is simply more of the same. Until New York State takes action to scrap the Common Core Learning Standards and halts the invalid use of discriminatory test scores to evaluate schools and teachers, opt out will grow.

Christine Zirkelbach co-Administrator of Hudson Valley Parent Educator Initiative said: “The Governor continues his charade of listening to the parents of New York State students by appointing a commission to review Common Core State Standards where the majority of the members are not professional, life time educators at all. Parents are not going to be appeased by another commission or rebranding of CCSS. Parents will continue to advocate for our public schools until local control is restored and the Governor and NYSED no longer mandate the corporatization of our children’s education.”

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County Public School parent and co-founder of  New York State Allies for Public Education said “While the task force includes business leaders with no pedagogical knowledge, it does not include a single parent of an elementary school child. And of the 15 person panel, there are two teachers, only one of whom is an elementary school teacher.  The panel is a sham and disgrace. Union leaders and politicians claiming to support the best interest of children should refuse to participate until the parents and teachers of the young children harmed by these experimental learning standards are represented.

“The Governor’s selected panel is very disappointing. There is not a single member who is an expert or a teacher of Math or English. The exclusion of parents of Special needs students and Special Educators is alarming. This task force is a farce and it’s another failed attempt by the Governor to mend a system that is failing miserably” said Suzanne DiAngelo Coyle, Rockland County public school parent and administrator of Stop Common Core Rockland County.

Ava Sanel, public school parent, Carmel Central School District said “On the surface the task force is a great idea and its goals appear to be good ones. However, I wonder why a corporate executive was chosen to head the review and not an experienced educator. Parents’ suspicion that the common core standards and the testing that is irrevocably entangled with them are more about corporate profit than educating children, may have just been validated.”

“Parents will continue to refuse the test until they get it right: dump the Common Core standards, reduce state testing to pre-2010 levels or less, decouple student test results from teacher effectiveness ratings, craft test questions that are age and grade appropriate and stop collecting data on our children” said Tim Farley public education advocate and Columbia County public school parent.

Hudson Valley Alliance for Public education, is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of parents and public school children against harmful testing practices in the Hudson Valley. To join the Alliance or to learn more, please visit us here:


Close Reading of NYS Audit Reveals Risks Tied to APPR

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A recent report issued by the New York State Comptroller’s Office on student scores, raises concerns about tying teacher and principal evaluation and student growth measures to tests.

The audit found students grades were changed from failing to passing in five school districts — Arlington, Elmira, Fairport, Freeport and Saratoga Springs Districts. According to the report, auditors found there was no written explanation for the grade changes and lax policies. IT SHOULD BE NOTED: Although policy deficits and lax controls were found at each of the school districts featured in the report, none of the schools were accused of intentional wrongdoing or cheating.

According to DiNapoli: “When proper controls are not in place, there is the possibility of student grades being inappropriately altered.”  He further opined that “When grades are changed, there needs to be a record justifying the changes. These lax policies could easily be manipulated and graduation rates, college placement and teacher performance could be compromised by these system weaknesses.”

And while much brouhaha has been publicized in the media criticisizing districts for these “lax” controls, what has not been said, is that the Comptroller’s office also pointed to New York State’s controversial teacher and principal evaluation regulations as the likely impetus behind unauthorized score changes in New York State public schools with a stark warning of problems likely to come in the future.

Directly from the NYS Comptroller’s report:

“Increased emphasis on teacher performance and demonstration of student growth in recent years may likely increase the risk of unauthorized grade changes in New York State.”

As part of the 2015-16 budget bill as it relates to education, the State increased the impact of the value-added measure (VAM) on teacher and principal evaluations to a whopping 50% (and, in some cases, more than 50%). From the get go, parents and advocates have expressed grave concerns about the impact that the teacher and principal evaluation policy will have not only on teacher and principal effectiveness outcomes as tied to student assessments but also on the classroom experience for  New York State public school children. Now, as the NYS Comptroller’s office points out, pressure and competition tied to APPR could drive schools to resort to unauthorized score changes.

Parents have become increasingly frustrated with the alarming changes happening to their children and their education. Concerns lodged by parents to State and education officials about the devastating impact that tying test scores to teacher and principal evaluations have had in public schools have been ignored and rebuffed. Realizing the danger,  parents exercised their parental rights to have more than 220,000 children refuse the 2015 state assessments, and “teachers of conscience” bravely defended their profession from flawed, harmful testing practices and bad policies sanctioned by the State.

So, who is directing the show? Governor Andrew Cuomo whose current big money politics under the guise of education reform has been siphoning money and resources from public education, forcing students to test, test test and blaming teachers for not being able to show improvement despite lack of resources and funding.

While the Governor takes the position that state assessments must be tied to teacher evaluations for accountability purposes, New York State’s APPR scheme is neither a reliable nor accurate way to assess New York State teachers yet the pressure to show good test scores and student growth is insanely intense.

In its current form, the teacher and principal evaluation scheme subjects New York State public school children to an egregiously flawed testing regime that not only harms public school children and teachers but threatens the very fabric of our public schools. And, as the Comptroller points out, it is the regulation itself that could be to blame for creating a climate which makes cheating a seem like, in some cases,  the only option.

Get ready, the school wars are about to begin.

Like President Snow, who starves the Districts, tests the residents with the Hunger Games competition, and then sets out to destroy them, the Starve, Test, Destroy mantra has created a Hunger Games climate in New York State public schools. Budgets are cut severely leaving teachers and student with no resources form which to learn, tests reveal “poor performance,” and then public schools, having been thus gutted, are replaced by privately managed charters or are subject to recievership.

Indeed, there have been accounts of widespread cheating in dozens of cities across the United States including Atlanta, Philadelphia, Toledo, El Paso, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, and St. Louis all are tied to high stakes testing and the insane pressure to show good test scores and “improvement” at all costs.

While cheating is certainly wrong, in a high-stakes culture that does not provide low-income students access to the same resources of higher performing schools in wealthy districts, school personnel are still expected to meet targets  despite not having the resources to do so.

Teachers are under inordinate pressure to meet targets set by the district and face severe consequences such as a negative evaluation or termination if they don’t. Poverty, lack of funding and home life are critical components to student learning. While there is absolutely no excuse for cheating, the reality is these variables cannot be controlled. Yet, teachers must show improvement somehow or else they will lose their jobs.

The reality is that teachers who have a sense of humor, show their love and enthusiasm for teaching, express class pride, show their excitement and their interest in students as individuals are not being honored or valued because those qualities cannot be measured. Children are reduced to a number and, although there is no excuse for cheating, it is no suprise that some schools will stoop so low as to change scores to meet the bottom line because the Governor has made it very clear that public school children dont count, our teachers dont count – only test scores matter.

Anna Shah is a parent & public education advocate who moonlights as a member of the bar. She blogs at Schools of thought Hudson Valley New York and is a co-founding member of  Hudson Valley Alliance for Public EducationFollow Anna @SOTHVNY  

HV Alliance for Public education, is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of parents and public school children against harmful testing practices in the Hudson Valley. To join the Alliance or to learn more, please visit us here:

New York State Parent Opt Outs Will Make History in 2016

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How are we going to make history when you are not here with me? Let’s make history right now, together.


At a time when harmful testing practices, inequitable school funding, and profit-driven reforms that seek to dismantle public education and silence the voices of parents, students, educators, and communities,  parents are opting out in droves in order to protect public school children from state sanctioned harm.

Faulty education reforms and common core tests tied to teacher and principal evalution have reached critical mass.  Although opt-outs have made news in several states: Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, to name a few, no state can compare to New York State, where the opt out movement has been on fire thanks to the hard work and dedication of parents throughout the state.

It t was during the 2015 State of the State address that Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced that teacher and principal evaluations would become a lot more “rigorous“.

Truth be told, what Cuomo should have admitted, is that teacher and principal evaluation would become alot more “ridiculous“.

As part of the 2015-16 budget bill as it relates to education, the Governor raised the impact of Value Added Measures (VAM) on teacher and principal evaluation to a whopping 50 percent.

That move was a game changer. Gov. Cuomo had thrown down the gauntlet igniting conflict with teachers’ unions AND  parents over the controversial and developmentally inappropriate common core tests.

Since then, the Governor has been playing cat and mouse with the lives of public school children much to the dismay of horrified parents. He has doubled down on high stakes testing by placing additional burdens on public schools such as receivership and has siphoned money from schools in favor of charters.

In a 5 way staring contest between the Regents, SED, parents and teachers, Cuomo markets reformer gobbledygook and spews “college and career” rhetoric without blinking an eye.

However, while Cuomo’s eyes are wide shut, rest assured, parents see right through all the politics.

Approximately 220, 000 public school children opted out of state tests during the Spring 2015 state assessment season. That’s an impressive climb from preceding years. Consider, it was widely reported that there were approximately 5000 opt outs state wide in 2013 however by spring 2014, parents of 60,000 students in New York state had refused to let them take the Common Core tests.

One can only surmise that the Spring 2016 testing season will yield opt outs that are nothing short of spectacular.

With even small numbers of opt outs in some district, refusing the test has had a tremendous impact on public perception of the education reform agenda and education policy.

The growth and strength behind opt out movement has been remarkable.

What’s been most striking is the fact that parents from all walks of life are getting involved, speaking out, and performing, essentially, civil disobedience for the cause of public education. Parents understand that when test scores are to so tightly wound to teachers’ livlihood and liberty and when the common core tests themselves are so bad, sound pedagogical practices and whole child learning experiences are compromised and replaced by narrowing of the curriculum and test prep.

The shotgun marriage of teacher and principal evaluation to student test scores is educationally unsound and puts parents in a most untenable position. The only way to protect children is to refuse to participate in the grades 3-8 New York State testing program altogether, and this is becoming more widely understood.

And like any protest movement, this movement will likely be the impetus behind political participation: Hudson Valley parents, NYC parents and parents across New York State can’t be bought, can’t be bullied and, rest assured, they vote.

But, the success of the opt out movement and all that it stands for cannot be guaranteed unless parents across the State out do themselves in the year to come. We  cannot just exceed 220, 000 opt outs, we must double if not triple that number.

In a comment posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog on September 19, 2015 (which you can read here) NYS Teacher shares some profund thoughts and insight on what will have to happen for opt outs to “succeed.” NYS Teacher writes:

September 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm
Basic facts we need to have in the very front of our consciousness over this school year:
– if opt out numbers are lower than ’14-’15: victory for Cuomo/Tisch/Elia/etc….and don’t think for a second they won’t explode with rhetoric about it.
-if opt out numbers remain the same for this school year, as they were for ’14-’15: victory for Cuomo/Tisch/Elia/reformers, again with rhetorical explosion of said victory.
-if opt out numbers for this school year are limited to single digit growth over last year: victory for Cuomo/Tisch/Elia/reformers. They will loudly say their efforts agains opt out limited its growth and they will sharpen up further for next year.
-if opt out sees SIGNIFICANT growth this school year (20-100% growth): opt out will remain the only significant and viable force on the field and will remain relevant to keep pushing for the next school year.
We have to be clear here. In the above possible outcomes, 3 of the 4 are absolute awful options for our side and only 1 allows the fight to continue apace. That we are in such a position, no matter how likely that 4th possibility is, is a real indictment of our (organized teachers) handling of the reform movement over the last decade or so.
If opt out is our front line, then it MUST live up this year to its claims. While I do believe that it probably will, I must say that as teachers this is the problem with allowing opt out to shoulder the entire burden of fighting the reform movement. We are heavily beaten if opt out looses its force and potency. It is sad that opt out doesnt have a co-equal partner in the fight with NYSUT. Parents fighting for teachers is a wonderful, strong, and enormously sad statement about the deep irrelevancy that was THE PATH CHOSEN by union leadership.
Lets be clear that this year is essential for our side with opt out.

This year is essential for our side with opt out! While Long Island’s accomplishments are impressive, there is plenty of room to grow opt outs elsewhere. Thus, it is vital for parents and advocates in these areas to mobilize,  dedicate time, energy and resources on advocating and supporting one another in order to reach critical mass necessary to make this work.

There are aspects of the NYS Testing program that parents may find questionable and objectionable for educational, political, social, ethical and/or religious reasons. The decision to refuse the test does not come lightly. It is a family decision that is simply beyond the control of administrators and teachers. The right to refuse the test is something all parents should be aware of and exercise without fear. Lets pledge to do what we can to get the word out.

Parents will do anything to see their children smiling again. Hence, through the use of social media, traditional media and speakers forums, parents will continue to inform, educate and advocate to refuse the test in order to restore the joy of learning in our classrooms for our children’s sake.

I have no doubt that New York State parents will make opt out history. Thanks in advance to all those who dedicate their time to help make this happen.

Anna Shah is a parent & public education advocate who moonlights as a member of the bar. She blogs at Schools of thought Hudson Valley New York and is a co-founding member of  Hudson Valley Alliance for Public EducationFollow Anna @SOTHVNY  

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Regents Vote Assures Opt Outs in the Hudson Valley Will Grow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 18, 2015
For more information contact:
Anna Shah (914) 475-8889

Regents Vote Assures Opt Outs in the Hudson Valley Will Grow

Parents across the Hudson Valley are dismayed by yesterday’s vote by the Board of Regents to adopt teacher evaluation regulations that will double down on high stakes testing and the harmful effects of test-prep driven education. While we applaud the courage of those Regents who voted no, Hudson Valley parents are disappointed with Regent Finn’s failure to protect public school children in our area.

“Under Chancellor Tisch’s leadership, the Regents majority have failed to challenge flawed legislation that harms public school children” said Carol Newman Sharkey, Orange County public school parent.  “It is clear that Chancellor Tisch must be removed from her position when her term is up this year.”

“The Regents failed to rise up against the Governor’s tyrannical demands and instead have allowed  bad education policies to displace whole child and sound pedagogical practices. They have stood idly by while Cuomo makes a mockery out of public schools putting cronies, political ambition, and charter schools above children” said Tory Lowe, co-founder of  Kingston Action for Education and Ulster County public school parent.

“This vote ensures that the opt out movement will continue to grow. Parents seeking to protect their children will not back down or be appeased by false promises of better tests. At the end of the day, you cannot measure teaching and learning with a test score. Until there is real change, parents will continue to reject a corrupt system that destroys authentic teaching and learning” said, Bianca Tanis, New Paltz public school parent.

Since the adoption of the Common Core-aligned assessments, the Regents have voted to limit the number of students entitled to extra support in the form of Academic Intervention Services while simultaneously labeling teachers and students as failures.

“Once again, NYSED seems to talk out of both sides of its mouth.  The message that SED continues to spread is that almost 70% of the students in grades 3-8 aren’t “proficient”, but yet schools don’t have to provide AIS (i.e. – “flexibility”) if their level of failure isn’t low enough. Either our children who are scoring ‘1s and 2s’ on the state tests are struggling and they deserve to get the academic support to help them meet the standards, or the standards themselves are inappropriate.  They cannot have it both ways” said Tim Farley, Columbia County public school parent.

Stacey Kahn, Ulster County public school parent said “We suggest that Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner stop insulting the intelligence of the public. We will refuse the tests until the Regents majority starts making decisions that put children before politics and corporate sponsors.”

“What took place at the Regents meeting only underscores what parents and educators have known for quite some time – Chancellor Tisch must go. It is critical that parents, educators, and concerned community members turn their eyes towards our state legislators who have the power to amend destructive education law and remove Chancellor Tisch and some of her colleagues as they seek reappointment in the new year. New York students deserve responsible and informed leadership that will ensure an equitable, community-driven, and child-centered education. We will accept nothing less” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent.

“The 10 NYS Board of Regents members who lacked the courage to vote against Governor Cuomo’s public school privatization agenda have now emboldened parents towards increased activism. Through the use of social media, traditional media and speakers forums parents will continue to inform and educate. They will forge ahead against these harmful policies using their best weapons…involvement in the political process (our eyes will on our legislators) and of course the 500,000 test refusals for Spring 2016,” said Lauren Isaacs Schimko, public school parent, Rockland County educator & Administrator of “Pencils DOWN Rockland County” on Facebook.

HV Alliance for Public education, is a grassroots organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of parents and public school children against harmful testing practices in the Hudson Valley. To join the Alliance or to learn more, please visit us here: