How much do you know the mandated state exams administered to elementary school students in New York State? What do you know about these tests and their significance? Have you heard about Assemblymember Jim Tedisco’s bill proposal to allow parents to “opt out” of the required tests? If these three questions were on a test you were taking right now, how would you do?
As a teacher and a parent, my interest in these exams is pretty intense. Although there was initially the threat of my being required to test my population of students, I don’t have to administer tests in my “subject” area because I’m a secondary (grades 7-12) librarian and we have been given an alternative assessment rubric. At present my annual professional performance review (APPR) doesn’t include a student test component.*
That fact that I am currently exempt from delivering tested curriculum does not mean I am unaffected by the exams. I see the impact of these tests on my colleagues, my students, and of course, my own child. Last year, when my then-third grader came home the first week of school talking about “the tests,” I was dismayed. This year, I’m disgusted.
I’ve heard about a dozen different “facts” related to opting out of the tests. Things like “if less than 16 children in a given class or 95% of a building’s population take the tests the results can’t be counted against the teacher of the school” and “students must sit for the tests even if they refuse to participate, yet will be given a score if they so much as mark the answer sheet.” I just don’t know what is accurate information and, believe me, contacting NYSED with my questions is probably about the last thing I’d consider doing.
This Thursday, March 12th at 6:30, the Bethlehem Public Library is hosting a forum presented by the NYS Alliance for Public Education on the topic of the excessive use of testing in New York State. A portion of the forum will be devoted to Opt-Out and I hope that many of the questions I have will be addressed. If you have questions of your own this may be just the opportunity to get some answers.
*It also doesn’t include any evaluation of how I manage a budget, a sizable collection in multiple formats, or a facility (or two).
Governor Cuomo has released a report which concludes that many of New York State’s public schools are failing. As I skimmed the lengthy document online, I noticed a consistency which, to me, was critical in understanding why these schools are struggling. With only two exceptions (Amsterdam and Buffalo’s South Park), the schools which have been deemed failing are attempting to educate populations in which the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and the percentage of minority students both exceed 50% of the total enrollment. In most cases, those two figures both reside firmly in the 90th + percentile.
In my mind, this failure lies not at the hands of educators, but instead with the lack of services and support that New York State’s poor residents receive. I’ve worked in an urban school district and witnessed the lack of resources provided to poor children by parents who are unable to do much more than get by as they contend with meeting their family’s most essential needs. Of course, education is an essential need but try telling that to someone who never attained a diploma and is struggling to feed, clothe and shelter their family.
Why doesn’t this report include charter schools? Since the Governor wants to add an additional 100 charter schools to our state shouldn’t we be privy to how they’re performing?
This governor’s attack on public education and teachers must stop. His focus on rigorous standardized testing for elementary age children is developmentally inappropriate and my child will not be participating any longer. Will yours?
I think it’s interesting that his report was published on Scribd, yet I couldn’t locate it on the state education department’s website. Speaking of publications, if you’re not one of the few people who purchased a copy of Cuomo’s recent autobiography, you can purchase it online as an eBook. I’m sure it is just coincidental that Cuomo’s administration backed a “bill that created a special sales tax break for online-only publications that charge for subscriptions,” like Scribd and for eBook publications.
Yep, New York State – the State of Opportunity.
Last weekend’s New York in Bloom flower show at the NYS museum is the ultimate harbinger of spring’s impending arrival. Click through for my Seen gallery on the TU site. As always, the museum and the exhibitor’s did us proud while raising funds for a worthy cause!
- I’m angry that Sheldon Silver was given the courtesy of sitting in a position of prestige at this week’s State of the State address when the state’s teachers are not invited to sit at the table and truly participate in education reform and improvement.
- I’m angry that Sheldon Silver, along with the governor and other elected officials, is responsible for the educational, social and financial policies of NYS, a task with which he doesn’t deserve to be trusted.
- I’m angry that for the last 5 years or so my profession has been under constant attack while Speaker Silver has been profiting from illegal business deals for decades.
- I’m angry that Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly maligned the teachers of this state while protecting those he promised to prosecute.
- I’m angry that dedicated and experienced educators have been made to feel like criminals when, in fact, the real felons are drafting absurd policies to evaluate how we are doing our jobs. I’ve been a librarian for nearly twenty years and the measure of how well I do job is going to be based upon a test that I give students who want to check out a book or need research help? How about that facility I manage?
- I’m angry that 7 of the 12 charter schools in my district have closed, yet the governor has tied an increase in educational state aid to an increase in the number of charter schools permitted, along with the removal of limitations regarding how many such schools can be placed in a particular region.
- I’m angry that other sitting New York State Democrats have not expressed their commitment to eliminating corruption and ridding our government of politicians who think that holding public office means that they are somehow above the law.
- I’m angry that more people don’t vote.
Three day weekends should leave those fortunate enough to have had 3 consecutive days off feeling relaxed and satisfied. There definitely were some moments during the 72 hours which prompted some pretty positive emotions, but the overwhelming sensation I’m experiencing right now is simple exhaustion.
As I am inclined to do, I scheduled the weekend pretty tightly. My agenda included a ski, some yoga, a house party or two, and a whole lotta driving the Lilly boys where they wanted to go. All in all, the weekend was a success, but not everything went as planned. I mean, really, does it ever?
Lesson 1. Plans need to come with alternatives, options and flexibility. Sometimes the unexpected is welcome, like running into someone special at a party. Those are the moments we’ve got to hold on to.
Saturday I dropped my middle son off at the train station in Poughkeepsie. I resisted the impulse to get out of the car and walk inside with him to help him get his ticket and find the right track for NYC. Griffin’s independent trip to Grand Central Station was the second leg on his journey to his first show at the Beacon. Upon his arrival in the city, he met his older cousin and he went to see a jam band that his father assures me I would have hated. He loved it.
Lesson 2. My children are growing up and I need to encourage the pursuit of entertainment and adventure, even if the thought of sending my 15 y/o son to Manhattan solo is scary. It’s time.
Sunday, my oldest child took the train from Albany to meet me in Poughkeepsie (I had spent the night with friends nearby). We immediately got on the road for an epic trip to Elmira College for a Monday morning tour. The roads were insanely icy as the rain fell on highways that were ever so cold and the drive took much longer than expected. After our visit on Monday, Liam decided that while Elmira had a lot to offer, it was probably too far away from his family for him to continue considering it as an option for the fall.
Lesson 3. Often the road to where we want to get to is treacherously slippery. Sometimes, once we arrive we find that the place isn’t really where want to be. The thing is, you’ll never know unless you make the trip.
It takes a lot to get me out of the house on a Monday, especially when it is cold and dark. Last night though, thanks to the thoughtfulness of Louise McNeilly, I made my way to Page Hall (for the first time in decades) to attend the premiere of a local movie, The Neighborhood That Disappeared. This film tells the story of the residents and neighbors whose homes were seized under the guise of Eminent Domain by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and his ambitious project, The Empire State Plaza.
I’ve considered Albany to be my home for many years, yet I truly knew nothing about the building of, and controversy surrounding, the South Mall. After last night’s showing, I am belatedly incensed about the arrogant treatment of the residents of what appeared to have been a vital community in our city. Seven thousand citizens or 9% of the total city population were forced to vacate their homes and relocate. Established businesses such as Cardona’s Market and Roma Importers were able to successfully make the leap into new areas of the city, but one is left to wonder how many families were forever impacted by the loss of their homes and livelihoods.
Filmmaker Mary Paley, according to this article, was inspired by photographs taken by her late father, a photographer for the now defunct Knickerbocker News. Using these images as a foundation, she tells the story, or “a collection of family stories,” about the families who previously resided in Albany’s South End, an “ethnic mosaic” of Italians, Germans, Irish, Jews, Blacks, and Greeks.
Despite Rockefeller’s perception of this area as “mundane, dirty and ugly,” it was a true community with stoops and the neighborhood’s St. Anthony’s church as “their piazza.” It was wonderful to “meet” through the film, some of the families who called downtown Albany home and I appreciated that they shared their stories with an audience who may have previously been as ignorant as me. Many of the folks featured in the film were also in the audience and there was still a discernible warmth among them. Some notable local faves of mine such as Mayor Kathy Sheehan, city advocate Susan Holland of the Historic Albany Foundation and writer Paul Grondahl also appeared in the film.
See it yourself when it airs both Friday and Saturday on WMHT. I don’t think you’ll ever look at the Empire State Plaza the same.
When I think back to my teen years two things stand out distinctly – and I’m not talking about sex and cheap beer. No, in the small town where I grew up, a place with limited transportation options and even fewer entertainment opportunities, cruising (or walking) around listening to the radio (or cassettes) was our recreational past time. During my recent visit home, I discovered the familiarity I once had with the roads, be it on my two feet or four wheels, remains.
Decades have passed since I last resided in Greenwood Lake, yet the curves of the road continue to be as familiar to me as my own hand. I consciously approached the village from the east. I wanted to go over the mountain, the same mountain I had walked, hitchhiked and driven for years. While there have been some changes along the side of the road, particularly in Sterling Forest, the twisting and curving path of that black ribbon snaking through the woods and between rocks, hasn’t changed.
Driving over the mountain flooded me with memories. There was a fogged in night when my mother managed to negotiate the road with an open driver’s side door and the assistance of the double yellow line. I remember a late night return from work in a blinding snowstorm which caused my coworker (who was driving) to slide off the road and into a ditch. We were eventually rescued by a passerby whom we rewarded with bags of candy pilfered from the gift shop on the thruway rest stop where we worked.
At the top of the mountain there used to be a pull off spot to take in the view – and hang out partying. We used to claim that on a clear night the lights from NYC’s skyline were visible from that vantage point. I still like to think that they were. One of my most vivid recollections is from a wild night of drinking with a large group of people from town. When it was time to head back down the mountain, one of the guys decided he didn’t want to be in the car, he wanted to be on top of the car. I watched in horror, from the car immediately behind, as he climbed out of the moving vehicle and stretched his body long, arms extended, gripping the lip of the roof while traveling 50+ mph down the narrow and winding road. While he survived that escapade, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot a few short years later. In retrospect, maybe he was trying to kill himself even then.
I turned off the mountain prior to approaching the village. I wanted to drive down a different road, one I had frequently taken when I was in the mood to walk instead of hitchhike. It was a good decision. I was pleased to see that the area had remained essentially free of development and that the trees which stood vigil beside the road remained the most prevalent residents. I wondered who else might remember the year those same trees were devastated by gypsy moth caterpillars, the sound of the leaves being munched impossible to drown out even with my Walkman blasting Van Halen’s Eruption.
In my head, I can still hear both.