August 13th, 2013

LISTEN: John King, Commissioner of Education for New York State

( Click here to download the podcast )

Learning Matters Producer Cat McGrath met up with Commissioner King in June to talk about the new standards, why New York decided to test them this year and whether the “Common Core” is an act of federal intrusion.

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Because the Common Core State Standards were misconceived from the beginning with the mythical goal of a single “college and career readiness” in mind; because the individuals leading this initiative have an excessively limited grasp of educational assessment; and because, more disastrously, they have an approach to teacher appraisal foolishly yoked in from for-profit business management schools, wise parents will have no alternative to doing everything they can to withdraw their children from our states’ high schools before they ever get to the 11th grade, and to pressing their political representatives to withdraw their money from the misconceived state education system now arising so that they can finance independent schools that can actually deliver on providing their children with educations that will enable them to compete with the best in the world in their own chosen careers.

What exactly is this mystical “college and career readiness”? Many counties here on Long Island send almost 100% of their student population to college. Why would a high school with students achieving well above the national average have to align to this “college and career readiness”? The kids ARE college material! It makes no sense, unless you want to lower the standards and even the playing field. Furthermore, who says that EVERY person has to go to college? A person can have a wonderful career in plumbing, carpentry, business, sales, flipping houses, making pottery , so many things don’t require a 4 year degree.
Finally, I submit to you that the main problem with any “change” in pedagogy is that there can be NO change. The basic paradigm called “constructivism” reigns supreme underlying all instruction in our public schools.(Please research this and look into the many junk curricula we are using to teach our kids, including: Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Workshop, Terc Investigations, EveryDay Math, Envision Math, Balanced Literacy, Reading Recovery…) Constructivism is sold to parents as “21st Century”, “progressive” education. Pedagogue eschew traditional teaching methods and promote constructivism as the most forward thinking approach to teaching. This has been going on for decades in our schools.
Sit in any 1st grade class in many elite neighborhoods and you will see, kids sitting in groups, no one faces the board anymore because we want our kids to work in “groups.” The basics such as grammar, handwriting, decoding, reading, reading comprehension, addition and subtraction are getting put to the side because we have to be new age about how our kids are educated. Our kids have to learn to “Turn and Talk”, “Agree or Disagree.” “Create” and so on. School is so ridiculous. Yet parents in these wealthy neighborhoods who see their kids struggling, will have their kids tutored privately and continue to send their kids to these stupid public schools. Some parents however, are getting smart and homeschooling their kids. Homeschooling is typically traditional learning and guess what? Our homeschooled population of kids are SO much brighter than our public schooled kids. It’s a wonder that the pedagogues don’t take any notice of this trend. Our homeschooled kids taking scholarships right and left from the public schooled students. The homeschooled population will probably not pay any mind to the babble of Common Core, “college and career readiness” junk. Why should they? Their kids are ready!

I hope the governor of New York State and the New York State Legislature will hold the New York State Commissioner of Education accountable for forcing our students to take the new common core tests when the teachers were unable to teach the material covered by these tests because they were never trained to teach this material. If I gave my students a test on material I never taught and knew that 60% of my students would fail the test, I would deserve a “U” rating!

Dear Commissioner King:

My name is Russell Payne and I am a grandparent in the Frewsburg Central School District, 26 Institute Street Frewsburg, NY 14738. I am writing you to say that as a grandparent and tax payer I DO NOT accept any of the NYS Assessment scores given to any of the children in my community. The scores on those tests given in the spring of 2013 are invalid. Those scores may not be used to measure my grandchildren, the children of my community, nor the educators of my school district. Furthermore, they do not accurately reflect my community as a whole, nor the learning that takes place in it. I am proud member of this community and will not have you or anyone else in a position of power, bully our community, our teachers, our parents and OUR children! Especially with invalid data and unsound “formulas.” Due to the fact that your data is skewed, unreliable, and invalid your conclusions are baseless, unfounded, and unacceptable. They are fervently rejected. Consider the following regarding your “data:”

* Flawed test construction:

• Tests were too long; even high achieving students did not finish
• Vague questions and reading passages full of commercial logos and distracting product placements
• Passages from test maker Pearson’s text books used, thus giving some students an advantage

* Formula used to determine “cut scores” is flawed and not supported by scientific research: (“cut scores” are the cut-off scores for determining proficiency)

• Cut scores for the assessments were not developed until AFTER the tests were administered and scored. THIS SUGGESTS THAT THE DATA IS HIGHLY VULNERABLE TO MANIPULATION.

• NYSED identified the top 8-20th % scores on the NAEP, SAT and PSAT and used these scores to work backwards and determine the scores a child must receive on state assessments in grades 3-8 to eventually meet these benchmarks. In other words, in order to be proficient on a NYS test, ALL students must achieve scores comparable to the top 8-20% of students in the country. This is too high and sets children up for failure.

• Research that shows that high scores on these tests are not effective indicators of performance in college. High school grades are in fact a better indicator of college performance.

• Tests like the NAEP and the SAT are not curriculum measures and therefore, are not appropriate for determining cut scores on the NYS ELA and Math tests.

*No oversight or transparency in scoring or test construction:

• The tests were not and will not be made available in their entirety for public inspection, and were destroyed after being scored and sent back to the state.

• Teachers involved in scoring the tests and those hired to make recommendations to the Commissioner of Education regarding the formulation of cut scores were made to sign non-disclosure agreements.

* Not designed to improve student learning:

• Due to test secrecy and the fact that scores are received after the school year has ended, there is no opportunity for teachers to review the tests and provide students with extra support in areas of weakness.

*Test scores vary too much to be considered valid:

• Over the past seven years, proficiency scores on the NY math and ELA have been characterized more than once by fluctuations of almost 30 points. When scores vary this widely, the reliability of the data is questionable.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter. Please do not insult me, my community, or my GRANDCHILDREN any further by sending a form letter.

Respectfully submitted,

Russell L. Payne
34 Frew Run Street
Frewsburg, NY 14738




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