Never Knowing Which Way to Turn

I started this blog a few months ago at my husband’s suggestion.  I comment and tweet frequently on education issues and he suggested that I put some effort into consolidating my thoughts and reference materials into one concise area.  I did start, I put out a few posts, hit over 100 readers for one which seemed like a good start.  Everyday, I would see a story or two that would cause me to bang away angrily at my keyboard. Then another one, then another.  Soon, I had 20 blogs started but was not getting anything finished.  If you are following education issues, particularly in New York State, it is overwhelming.

Just this week, heck, just in the last couple of day.

Charter schools bussed students and parents to protest in favor of charter schools in NYC.

Parents protested against a potential charter school in Peekskill.

A member of the BOE in New Paltz brought to light very compelling information on some ethical flim-flam going on with the New York State School Boards Association.  Steve Greenfield was gracious enough to let me republish his findings  https://workingmomfromnys.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/concerns-about-nyssbas-independence/ here.

There was a spirited discussion on the TACKLING EXCESSIVE STANDARDIZED TESTING (TEST) ACT which is supposed to ease testing and append or amend ESEA (the parent legislation to NCLB) Short story, it is legislative slight of hand to make the voters think Congress is addressing education and testing concerns.

New York State schools have had to take in unaccompanied minors, with the heaviest intake on Long Island.  1014416_10152721736592866_8911823709027855314_n

This report does not list Putnam County, but I have been told that my school district has been impacted.   This is a huge issue for New York State schools.  Budgets are crushed by unfunded mandates, we have a 2% tax cap, and now students who will not be able to pass the minimum required Regents to graduate will be eligible to stay in school until 21 to keep trying.  I am all for seeing people fleeing tragic circumstances coming to the USA to build a better life, but how exactly are New York State taxpayers supposed to pay for this?  Or, what are our school districts going to have to cut to be able to pay for this?

A new program, SUNY Bridges, is under development.  “The Bridges Program is a program being developed by SUNY Orange at both its Newburgh and Middletown campuses to accommodate children with special needs that are either aging out from high school or are ready to graduate from high school, and are not likely due to their disabilities of successfully completing a 2 or 4 year college degree program, even with appropriate supports. The Bridges Program will fill a gap that doesn’t currently exist in the Hudson Valley.”   This sounds like a promising endeavor.  But, then I read this line.  “The idea is to work together with organizations like Occupations, Inc. and the business community to combine a college level program, work experience and independent living skills to avoid the need to place these kids in group homes or other institutional type programs, because they have no alternative after High School.”    And there it is.   If you are unable to pass 5 Regents and can only earn a CDOS and/or age of of high school without a diploma, why is the option a group home?  Humm.. how about, give them a path to a diploma so that they do have alternatives after High School?

So, there it is.  The issues in education today are tremendous.  Mistake after mistake, over powered by special interests, more facets and complications.  I am going to try to concentrate on issues related to CDOS and high stakes testing for graduation requirements as there are other bloggers out there with a much stronger voice then mine.  The best advice I have received on this endeavor, find your focus and stick with it.

Arguing in Circles.

25 days ago, I typed a response to a comment on an article promoting “One Parent’s View of Common Core”.  It was written by a shill from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who is a known paid supporter of national Common Core standards, not good standards, not Indiana’s pre-Common Core standards which graded better then Common Core.  So, the Thomas B. Fordham institute is to Common Core what the Marlboro Man is to cigarette smoking.

http://edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/common-core-watch/seeing-common-core-from-a-parent%E2%80%99s-perspective#comment-1428406502

Me:  One article with references about the age inappropriateness of Common Core. http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/… There are many more. It is a relatively simple concept to understand that children in the early years of education can be 12 months apart in age with in the same grade. This is a significant gap in development in those early years, but now children will be “failing” just because they were born on the wrong day.

Response:  NYGal–I have read many references to the age inappropriateness. However, most seem to derive directly from the omission of early childhood experts from the writing of the standards. While this is regrettable (as they have much to add), I am not certain that this sets CCSS apart from any of the many other standards/curriculum excursions on which we have previously relied. Nor do I believe that this necessarily adds up to “developmental inappropriateness.” There seems to be an assumption that every child is somehow hardwired to only be able to learn the alphabet from some magical age of readiness–different for each child, and to count when some switch turns on internally and so forth and so on. If this is truly the case–then our schools are and have been poorly organized to meet student needs for a very long time, if not forever. Further, any movement to be MORE accommodating of a variety of hard-wired developmental rates would require an enhance ability to assess students at every point–something that is actively being fought by many of the same people who claim developmental inappropriateness. When you speak of not differing patterns of development as “gaps,” I begin to suspect that you would be all right with the kinds of thinking that fall along the lines of poor children arriving at the school house door “behind” their peers, and structuring schools in which the never “fail,” but in fact continue to be “behind” their peers, by a gap that increases over the years of their education.

Me:

Actually no. I have real world experience with children who were behind in reading in the first grade, who received additional help along the way, that was appropriate to their level at the time and these students were guide by a team of special ed and regular ed teachers to improve over the years. These same students are now achieving AP English and AP US History at the high school level.

Standardized tests to common core standards had nothing to do with how these students were able to achieve. Under Common Core, all students have to be at the exact same place at the exact same time. It is a floor and a ceiling. If you are in third grade, you will read at a third grade level, regardless of whether you are ready for it or not. Why do you think areas with high levels of ESL students do not do well on ELA tests? Chronological age has nothing to do with what their English reading level would be, yet CCSS forces them into standards that they are yet not ready to handle.

I actually do trust a team of qualified and dedicated teachers to be able to assess and help a student to achieve and progress far more so then some canned test. That is actual, real world regular assessment. If you have any practical experience in special education you would know that there are tests given to students one on one to see where they are and what needs to improve.

Chronological age, especially in the early years does make a difference, but all children reach different mile stones at different times, have different strengths and weaknesses. And, what about the students who developmentally will never meet “standards”? Forcing them to read high school level texts, which is now happening, makes no sense. Further more, there has been no evidence that setting “standards” has a direct bearing on achievement across the population.

Finally, since these standards are both a floor and a ceiling, and the CCSS standards for higher level math

are either gutted or non-existent, what are the gifted math students supposed to do?

What we have now is a top-down, societal experiment on the entire education system with no remediation.

 

Let’s see if she answers in another 25 days.

 

 

 

 

 

One Mom’s Journey through Education Reform

Just about a year ago, I happened to attend a Board of Education meeting.  I had taken my son and a friend who were working on scout merit badge requirements and had not been very involved in school issues.  Our then superintendent stood up to talk about the recent NYS Assessments, and how the scores were poor (only 30% scored proficient) and that the NYSED knew that this would be the case.   At the time, I remember thinking to myself, “It sounds like someone in the education department was trying to help out his brother-in-law’s software company by giving them a contract to write crappy tests.”   The meeting continued, and it was prior to the budget vote, so there was the usual discussion about unfunded mandates.   I naively asked “What unfunded mandates should we be asking to be repealed?”   I look back on that now, and boy, did I sound like an uninformed un-involved  parent.  (I am being nice to myself, I rated this blog “G”).

By fall, my son is a junior, so we are well past the assessments stage and the moms that I am most friendly with are as well.   I might have remained oblivious to the changes that were going on all in education.  Then something wonderful happened and if you have been involved in any way in education reform and the stop common core movement, you have probably already guessed.  Arne Duncan said the backlash against Common Core was “white suburban moms are discovering that their children are not as brilliant as they thought”.

There is something very wrong when a policy maker, and one who yields as much power as Arne Duncan does, says something so, well, dunderheaded, and keeps his job.   (Insert any word you would like for dunderheaded, I am keeping my “G” rating.

So, I started doing some research.  I attended a Common Core meeting sponsored by State Senator Greg Ball.  I joined a Facebook group, then two, then three.  At first, I could not believe some of the things that I was reading.  Now, I think many of my friends and acquaintances think I sit in my kitchen wearing a tin hat.     I am not a professional educator, I do not make money from the school systems or the government.  I am a mother, wife, employee, volunteer.  I have my opinions, and I have the research that I have found to form my opinion.  My plan is to take those of you who are interested through some of my experiences.  My hope is to be a place for parents new to the realization of what education reform has become in this country.

Next time I will talk about the Fordham Institute.  I hope you join me.

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