Dear Board of Regents – Testing

Dear Members of the Board of Regents,

There is too much testing .

Student Learning Objectives

SLOs, or Student Learning Objectives are taken in the beginning of the year to see “how much they know” to be compared with an SLO at the end of the year to see “what they learned”.   Back in the day, we used to call this GIGO or “garbage in garbage out.”  Have you ever met a middle school or high school student?   Sure, some students will take it seriously, but most won’t.  This is not a totally terrible idea, if it was not tied into VAM, but does not take into account the human factor.

Most of your educational initiatives do not take human behavior into account.

Field Testing

Field testing is where Pearson gets to send potential test questions to select school districts for select subjects for students to take so Pearson can validate the questions.  School districts pay Pearson for these tests that the students to take in the spring.   Would you have a company come into schools and have students make oven mitts so that company could then sell said oven mitts to the school cafeteria? No, that would be unpaid child labor.  Field tests are unpaid child labor so Pearson can sell school districts more tests for profit.

There is very good information in this piece on field testing, that they are not “mandated” yet they are pushed onto school districts regardless.


English Language Arts Assessments

There are also sorts of issues with the ELA assessments.   Product Placement;  poorly worded questions; developmentally inappropriate subject matter, etc.  Many parents breathed a sigh of relief when the NY Times published Liz Phillips opinion piece  but nothing anyone says seems to sway you from your agenda.

Why the secrecy with the tests? NYSED made every state exam publicly available up until 2010 whenPearson took over.   We already have a pretty good idea we are paying for badly written tests for no reason.

Math Assessments

Reports are that the Math tests were easy, almost too easy.  That makes the parents of NYS wonder if the Math tests were purposely easy.  We cannot see the tests, so we can not judge for ourselves.  The data is meaningless without being able to review why each child performed the way they did.

The interesting thing about the ELA and Math assessments is that the students have come to the realization that they do not matter.  Or, if you do not like your teacher, you should purposely do badly.

They are uncoupled from teacher evaluations; we cannot see them;  the students realize that they do not matter and they are an unnecessary financial burden on school districts.

It should be noted that some school districts factor in NYS assessment results in honors or middle school placement.   Student grades and over all performance are better indicators for placement than one test score.


Yes, the graduation rates are up over 3% across all school districts  over the last five years.  Obviously, that is very good.  Here is a prediction.  Next year the graduation rate is going to drop 4% because the students graduating in 2013 are the last group where special needs students were able to substitute RCTs for Regents exams.  I have a theory as to why they are up over all.  The group graduating this year were lucky enough to benefit from the most research on special needs accommodations and have access to Regents Competency Tests.

Governor Cuomo and Assemblyman Nolan have stated that the Common Core implementation, and all the problems, are the Regents’ responsibility.    The parents would like to hear thoughts from the rest of the Board of Regents.

Thank you,

Christine Zirkelbach




Open letter to Kirsten Gillibrand re: USDOE and students with disabilities.

Senator Kirsten Gillebrand
Washington DC Office
478 Russell
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Gillibrand:

I am writing to you to express my continued disappointment in your support of Common Core over all, and recently, in your silence regarding Arne Duncan’s latest policies for students with disabilities.

Arne Duncan’s latest policy revolves around the following, quoted from an article on NPR’s website:

School officials must show that these children are getting instructional support in a timely manner and that they have full access to the curriculum and everything else that goes on in school.

Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he’ll require proof that these kids aren’t just being served but are actually making academic progress.

“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” Duncan said.

Arne Duncan once again proves that he has no idea what he is talking about.  This policy will be harmful to many special needs students.  Forcing students to handle more than they are capable is an abusive policy.  How does Arne Duncan know that students with disabilities can achieve when held to high expectations? Which students? What disabilities?

I am tired of Congress sitting idly by while Arne Duncan and the USDOE ruins public education in this country.

Congress should revise 20 U.S. Code § 7861 – Waivers of statutory and regulatory requirements to put control of NCLB waivers under Congressional authority and not the Secretary of Education.  Next, Congress needs to repeal NCLB completely.



Christine Zirkelbach

Open Letter to the Members of the Board of Regents on CDOS

Members of the Board of Regents,

The unintended consequence of the regulations for a CDOS and the changes to the requirements for receiving a local diploma is that a significant number of students who are challenged academically, but able to complete the required course work, will face many more obstacles in life then they would had they been able to earn a local diploma with the Regents Competency Tests.
First, a student who is issued a CDOS, and no diploma, is marked as a special needs student, which violates the student’s right to privacy and confidentiality.
Second, a CDOS is currently not recognized as a valid credential for admission to college, trade school, the military, civil service or the federal government.  Currently, there is no reference to a CDOS on the New York State Department of Labor web site.
Third, by creating an NYS only high school credential, NY students are barred from applying for jobs in states that would not recognize a CDOS as anything.
I ask that you bring these issues to the Board of Regents meeting on Monday.
Four percent of my school district’s class of 2015 will only qualify for a CDOS under the current regulations implemented by the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department.
These students are capable of passing the classwork and earning the required credits but are barred from earning a diploma because of their inability to pass a standard regents exam.
Their options are to either remain in school until they are 21, placing an additional burden on the school district, or to be coded as a drop out after completing four years of high school.
This is happening in every school district in New York State.
It has been well documented in the press that there have been issues with the new tests aligned with the Common Core curriculum.
According to the NYSED answer key for the ELA regents, it is 72 pages long.   How difficult do  the Members of the Board of Regents need to make it for these students to earn a basic diploma?
I look forward to your response.
Christine Zirkelbach

CDOS Continued

I put together a quick explanation of CDOS, (Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential), a challenge as the person I spoke to at NYSED provided information that was inconsistent with the information provided by a Special Education teacher in my school district.

The CDOC program is another example of the NYS Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department believing that all students can be fit into the same mold and will meet the same standards because the teachers and the school district should be able to have all students meet the same criteria.

Many years ago, students would earn a local diploma if they passed all the course work, but did not pass all the required regents exams.  More recently, students (more specifically, student with an IEP) could earn a local diploma if they passed the required course work, earned at least 22 credits, and could pass a combination of 5 Regents or 5 Regents Competency Tests.

Students entering the 9th grade as of 2011 will no longer have the option of the Regents Competency Tests.  They must take Regents exams, earn at least a 55 on them in ELA, Math, US History, Global History and Science.  There is a Compensatory Safety Net option, but I have received a few explanations on this option.  It has something to do with you can substitute a 45 on some Regents if you get a 65 on ELA and Math.

That puts most of these students in the 11th grade,  which means they are probably taking both the 2005 Standards English Regents and the English Common Core Regents per this memo from NYSED.

I believe we are all familiar with the problems with the Common Core aligned testing to date.  The sample exam is 42 pages.

I am not able to obtain a sample of the CCSS ELA regents, but the scoring key indicates it is 78 pages long.

So, students who may not fully comprehend Shakespeare, or be able to plow through a treatise on “The Formation of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project” will now never get a diploma.  Passed the coursework?  Sorry, not good enough.  You are not college and career ready so no more local diploma.

The math regents? It has been reported that  students with out IEPs who took the Algebra 1 Common Core regents can pass with a 33.  It was reported to be difficult.  A contraband copy was posted and I will append if I can find it, but I did find this blog.

If anything, the math regents should not be intentionally tricky.

So, what does a CDOS mean to the average person?  Well, there are a number of unknowns.  It is not a diploma, so students who can only earn a CDOS are not counted as a 4 year graduate.  They can remain in school until they are 21, to keep trying to pass those pesky Common Core regents.  At an average cost of  $18,825 in New York State, that puts an additional burden on a school district of $56,475 per student, should a student opt to stay for three years.  My unofficial survey indicates that several school districts will end up with about 4% of the student population  falling into the CDOS rabbit hole.  Class size varies greatly from school to school, so lets say we have a school with a population of 2,000, with 500 students per class.  If 4% only qualify for a CDOS, that will add 20 extra students to the population, who could have received a local diploma only a couple of years ago.  And, that adds $376,500 for the school budget.

And, where does this student go?  Is a CDOS recognized by other states or the federal government as a valid credential?  I could not find any reference to a CDOS on the NYS Labor Department site.

Try and find a job without a high school diploma?  Would you like fries with that?

Part of the reason for unions and the civil service was to provide living wage jobs and benefits to those who are not strong academically, but want a good job and are willing to work.  There is no accommodation for a CDOS in this scenario.

The Board of Regents has put students with disabilities, learning differences, academic challenges, whatever you would like to call it, in a box with no options.  The unintended consequences?  Higher welfare rolls?  More unemployment?   Higher school budgets?  More High school dropouts?

Maybe, the Board of Regents will finally listen to the people of New York State and fix this before it is too late.






Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential

The New York State Regents are not able to point the finger at any other group for this particular education reform issue under the Common Core umbrella.  The Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential is supposed to be an “important new exiting credential for students with disabilities.”  In reality, it is a door slam in the face.  What the Regents fail to grasp is that there are so many different types of disabilities.  The CDOS ends up being a door shut in the face of about 4% of students in school districts as per parents and teachers that I have talked to since Common Sense Lobby Day.  It is in full effect for students finishing school in 2015.


The New York State Board of Regents now requires 5 Regents for a local diploma (regardless of disability).   A passing grade of 65 per one conversation with NYSED and 55 per another conversation with a Special Ed teacher is required for Math and ELA.  A passing grade of 55 is required  for Global, US History and Science. (There is a convoluted Compensatory Safety Net of a 45 pass for Global, US History and Science of which I have received different explanations).*

A Regents diploma still requires passing 5 Regents exams with a 65 or better.

The New York State Board of Regents has eliminated the Regency Competency Tests, which were acceptable for a local diploma.  These exams used easier language and asked basic, straight-forward questions.

If a student, for whatever reason, cannot pass the required Regents (Math, US History, Global History, ELA, Science) then they cannot earn a diploma, even if they have the required number of credits (22).

A student can earn a CDOS in conjunction with a Regents diploma, but if they cannot pass the required Regents exams they will only earn a CDOS as of enrollment in 9th grade in 2011.

As of now, it is unclear as to whether a CDOS would be recognized for any type of employment, civil service. college, trade school, or for anything outside of New York State.  The Board of Regents says they recognize it for eligibility for employment but I was unable to find any information on the NYS Department of Labor regarding CDOS.

If you can only earn a CDOS, students, regardless of disability, are eligible for a free appropriate public education until they are 21.  According to one source, students who only earn a CDOS will be counted as drop outs, even if they have completed all other course work and earned 22 credits.  This may actually be that they will not be counted in the 4 year graduation rate.

*updated from the original post

Common Core Realizes All Potential

Here is an interesting piece about High Achievement New York, a new Common Core advocacy group (because we need more of those) consisting of businessmen in New York anxious to spread the word about the wonder of Common Core. They need money to spread the word of Common Core and so….

“A spokesman for High Achievement New York would not disclose information about the nonprofit’s finances. The spokesman said the bulk of the funding will be grants from philanthropic organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Helmsley Charitable Trust. The group has applied for grants and expects to recieve them.

These foundations have granted millions of dollars to organizations nationwide that aim to boost the standards, including a fellowship program at the State Board of Regents in which employees are developing Common Core-aligned curricula. Rich McKeon, director of Helmsley’s education program, wouldn’t say how much money the group applied for, arguing it was inappropriate to talk numbers before the request was approved by the charity’s board.’

How altruistic of the members of High Achievement New York to want to apply for grants to help spread the word of how great Common Core is and how crazy parents are who want great education and not unproven standards and a ten year experiment with their children’s education!

So, I have realized that I am a total idiot.  I could “apply for grants” too if only I got on the Common Core bandwagon.  So, I am forming Common Core Realizes All Potential or CCRAP.  I will use my grant money to stay at nice hotels and travel to nice places and tell people all about CCRAP.  I will spread the word of CCRAP far and wide to all who will put up with my talking CCRAP.

Just my luck, Bill and Melinda Gates will realize that all of those who are using the Gates Foundations money to support Common Core just want the grant money.