Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Updated: Video Speech from LI Stop Common Core Rally by the Most Courageous Superintendent in America- Transcript Included


Thanks to the folks at What is Common Core: Scroll to Superintendent Rella's speech transcription. Note how he closes with a call to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Regents (which are led by Merryl Tisch) and Education Commissioner John King, albeit without naming them, to withdraw the Common Core implementation and its testing regimen. What a brave Superintendent! This shows the autonomy he can exercise when he is not chosen by yes-people. A PDK-Gallup poll has shown that two-thirds of surveyed Americans have not heard of the Common Core. With more protest such as this one, the word will get out and it is not flattering for the Common Core boosters. More supportive news: nearly 60 percent of the surveyed sample oppose using student test scores to evaluate teachers.
Here is the blogpost that What is Common Core posted as "Video Speech of the Most Courageous Superintendent in America at His Stop Common Core Rally"
Dr. Joseph Rella, Superintendent of Comsewogue School District in New York State, spoke to about two thousand parents on Saturday at a rally [in Port Jefferson, Long Island] the superintendent called for, in order to stop Common Core.
Parents cheered wildly throughout the speech. One voice shouted out, “You’re our hero, Dr. Rella!” and the crowd broke out into loud cheers and applause over and over.
Countless parents in other school districts all over America are praying that their own superintendents will show the kind of courage and leadership that Dr. Rella displayed on Saturday. Thank you, Dr. Rella.
Here is the video of the speech Dr. Rella gave at the history-making event.
At minute 00:30 Dr. Rella said:
“To a greater or lesser extent, all of us have felt helpless, demoralized, frustrated, scared, angry, frightened for our children’s futures… Things have changed so much; they have, haven’t they? Well, remember. We– all of us– have been passengers on a plane being built in mid air, as our commissioner described his APPR initiative, but it applies to so many other things that are happening. There are a lot of planes. The Common Core plane, the PARCC plane. Well, none of that sad stuff today. None. No long faces because today, we are cancelling our flight reservations.
…Today’s message is a very simple and very important one. The New York State Common Core Initiative, its implementation and testing regimen is hurting our children and it must stop now.
… Any test designed to have 70% of the children taking it, fail, is abusive. We have to ask the question: what’s right about it? What’s right about any initiative that puts families in turmoil, puts dedicated people in fear of losing their livelihoods, and now the ultimate… damaging a child’s self-image and altering perhaps permanently a child’s self-definition? They should be ashamed of themselves.
… If you want to know how your child is doing in school, ask your child’s teacher. Ask your child’s principal.
…The Common Core Initiative is hurting our children. It must be examined by educational professionals, not businessmen.
…I would like to put this as a motion before this magnificent assembly, a motion to approve the following resolution:
Whereas, the New York Common Core Initiative, implementation and testing regimen hurts children, and whereas, we believe that our children are a light, a beacon, and that this light is in serious jeopardy of being extinguished by this abusive initiative, now therefore be it resolved; we call upon the Governor, the Regents, the Commissioner of Education, and the state legislature, to call a halt to it immediately and have it examined by educators.
If it’s capable of being fixed, fix it. If it is not, then throw it out. Stop it, fix it or scrap it. Do I have a second for that motion? All in favor say Aye. [Cheering- AYE!] All opposed? [silence] The motion carries.”
The clincher to the story is that Dr. Rella cited the Common Core test results and said that if they were valid he should be removed, so said he in a letter to his state senator, Ken LaValle.

This comes soon after another brave administrator speaking truth to power, Katie Zahedi, principal of the Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York. Her letter appeared in Diane Ravitch's blog. She also called into question the legitimacy of a test that had such a high percentage of students failing.
Days before the release of embargoed New York Common Core test scores, laced within comments/double talk about “higher standards”, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Commissioner John King in assuring New Yorkers that lower scores on the Math and English Assessments were expected. The NYSED claims to have formulas to account for all sorts of nuanced variables so maybe they will produce one for the testing fiasco called the Bunkum Conversion Table!

What the public may not understand in the midst of today’s controversy is that when a test yields 80% (of a particular cohort) of students passing over a 5 year span, and scores suddenly drop to below a 35% passing rate, that the problem is probably unrelated to student performance. In fact, the last two years of tests produced by the NYSED have been rife with mistakes, missing tables needed for computation, and confusing and misleading questions.

The failure rates on the NYSED site are dissimilar to reported numbers in the 8/6/13 New York Times, leaving principals unsure how the data is being or will be manipulated for public reporting. What is immediately clear is that the NYSED is out on a limb with its political machinations of student test data.

Historically, up to 15% of my students have been scheduled for Academic Intervention Services (AIS) for remedial help. Now, thanks to “higher standards”, those students’ needs are obfuscated by the new facts that nearly 70% of my students have been identified (by a state test) to be in need of remedial math.

I shouldn’t complain since I serve as principal of a high performing middle school. Last year our 8th graders (the same cohort described above) won the New York State Math League Award for 1st place in Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Rockland Counties, which is the reason that up to 70% of my students will require special pull-out classes designed to work on “their weaknesses”. After all, that is much better than many New York schools having 80-90 % failure rates.

Sitting around a table with my fellow administrators, our astonishment was somehow normalized in the run-off of a year saturated in convoluted, nonsensical, time-consuming and expensive directives from the NYSED. After disbelieving stares, I said “people, we have a responsibility to directly address the individuals responsible for this fiasco”. Educators are a hearty bunch so after a brief pause we got back to work on compliance.

While not representing the views of my school district, I submit that we ought to take a look at the core problem. We have a duty to speak truth to power (and his best friend: money) and hold the NYSED “accountable” for the failures that they are producing. The NYSED is need of internal reform. Straight up, my school is not in need of full scale revision and neither are most schools in New York. All schools should run in a constant state of improvement led by experienced principals and struggling schools need investment, support and a team relationship with a partner school that is successful.

Mistakes like the fiasco of the NY State Assessments are to be expected when individuals who are scarcely qualified to apply for an assistant principal role in a district like mine are appointed to lead the state and federal education departments! Unsurprisingly, much time and public money will be wasted by well-meaning people who are appointed to important posts based on political association and/or possession of inordinate amounts of money.

The NYSED is a stately and dignified building that is waiting for benevolent and wise leadership. Doing his best, John King is working hard, holed away with privately hired “fellows” who are young, overpaid and fabulously confident considering their profound lack of experience in teaching and school administration. Regardless of the plausibly good intentions of NYSED leadership, it is objectionable for New York State to allow the normal process of schools to be interrupted and for principals and teachers to be distracted from their important work with students to try out the half-baked ideas of politically appointed newbies. Whether on the state or federal levels, the appointment of individuals with insufficient experience in public education, should be discontinued.

If the name of the game is accountability for higher standards, let’s require that all appointees to state and federal leadership roles possess the education and experience required to serve with wisdom and dignity.
Just in: Rockville Centre's superintendent chimes in with his opposition, from the Long Island Herald:
Last year, an average of about 81 percent of Rockville Centre students passed the state exams, which are given in grades 3 through 8 in English Language Arts and math. This year, with the new tests the state gave, the passing rate in Rockville Centre plummeted to 48 percent. The state average was slightly over 30 percent.
“Our conclusion, after reviewing this with my staff in the central office and talking to a number of colleagues, is that we’re just going to put it on a shelf someplace and just leave it there,” said Dr. William Johnson, the district superintendent. “We’re not going to use this information to make any kind of determination about what kind of services we need for children, and we’re not going to use it in any capacity whatsoever to make informed decisions about our staff.”
. . .
He has been a vocal opponent of the tests since they were administered in April, believing that they did not properly assess what children had learned. “Never at the end of the day could you, as a result of what you saw with a child’s actual performance on these tests, know what they know and what they don’t know,” Johnson said in April.
The data that the tests provided the district, Johnson said, is “uninterpretable and unusable.” He gave an example: in eighth grade, Rockville Centre students take the algebra Regents exam, which is usually administered in ninth grade. This year, about 95 percent of students passed it. The eighth-grade state math exam is supposed to determine how prepared students are to take algebra, yet only 39.5 percent of them passed that exam.
“To hell with these scores,” Johnson said. “They do not matter. They’re not informing us in any way; they’re not giving us any new information. In fact, what they’re doing is serious damage. Kids who had a [Level] 3 last year and ended up with a [Level] 1 this year, how do I tell them they can’t read, when in fact we know they can?”
Not too surprisingly, Rockville Centre is the base of the highest rate of parents' opting their students out of the state tests: 20 percent of students opted out of the state tests there. " . . . those parents that opted out can easily turn to their neighbors and say, ‘I told you so,’” Dr. Johnson said.
Never forget who the state-level architects of these policies are: Commissioner John King and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the latter being the chairwoman of Bill Thompson's New York City mayoral campaign. King is the main architect of the notorious state-imposed teacher evaluation system. Tisch is someone fixated on the notion that the public dislikes teachers. Yer, as Perdido Street School blog points out, poll after poll --even after steady media campaigns against teachers-- show that the public actual likes teachers.

Brooklyn's Zahedi spoke of confident young upstarts working under King's tutelage. This brings to mind the mode today: self-annointed "experts" having little actual classroom experience leading school systems. On this note, Jersey Jazzman reported in "Christie Appoints VERY Young Former Wall St. Analyst as Camden Superintendent" that Camden, New Jersey's first state-appointed superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard, had a mere two years of classroom experience, straight out of college, beginning in 2003, as a Teach for America recruit. Chaz's School Daze often speaks to the double standards benefiting school supervisors. Aside from Rouhanifard's relative inexperience. Here's another doozy: he held TWO chief level assignments simultaneously for 10 months, in Newark Public Schools as Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer and in the New York City Department of Education as Chief Executive Officer, Office of Portfolio Management. Talk about moonlighting!