Repost: PARCC Test Exposed


The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

Posted by Leonie Haimson at 5/14/2016 05:20:00 PM ShareThis

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Labels: 4th grade exam, Celia Oyler, censorship, PARCC, twitter


Freedom or Donald Trump: America’s Choice in 2016

Dr. Malcolm L. Rigsby's Weblog

I can’t believe what Donald Trump is at least indirectly if not directly advocating in his Charleston, South Carolina Rally held February 19, 2016. Or yes I can! Donald Trump is advocating … Listen beginning at 33 minutes into the following video coutesy of YouTube.

As a lawyer folks, speech that advocates imminent serious bodily injury or death is not protected under the US Constitution as Free Speech. This is the same hate Mongering that Adolph Hitler gradually employed in his campaign of restoring German Nationalism. It is a dangerous pivot point for the US. We are in a time of potential demise of Democracy and beginning of either autocracy or plutocracy, I am unsure which because of the blending of forms I am seeing in Trump’s campaign. I know he wants an autocracy, but it may require a power structure that includes other power figures than just he alone…

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The New SAT: All Pomp?

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 2.33.29 AM
 The College Board plans to release its redesigned SAT on March 5, 2016.
With the backlash against high-stakes standardized tests growing, more colleges and universities are discarding the SAT as a requirement. In that vein, Fairtest has been keeping a great list of SAT optional schools here and its been growing by leaps and bounds.
Whether the SAT is an accurate predictor of college success is one main reason. Colleges also cite efforts to draw diverse and more well rounded applicants, among other reasons as the basis for doing away with SAT admission requirements altogether.

Built to ferret out talent, the tests have become, for some students at least, barriers to higher education.


Harvard law professor and civil rights scholar Lani Guinier explains that the SAT is fundamentally flawed.”Scores are highly correlated with family income,” she posits. Dr. Guinier refers to the SAT as a “wealth test.” See here.


In Lani Guinier’s controversial new book, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America (Beacon Press, 2015) she describes how higher education has drifted from a mission-driven to an admission-driven system, focused almost exclusively on the predictive value of the SAT-type tests for success in the first-year of college. In fact, as she notes, the SAT only has a modest correlation with freshman-year grades, whereas grades in the four years of high school are a much stronger predictor of academic success. Guinier asserts that the SAT’s most reliable value is as a proxy for wealth in its norming to white, upper-middle class performance, as shown by the average SAT test scores based on ethnicity.


Alluding to the “Volvo effect” in Andrew Ferguson’s book, Crazy U Professor Guinier refers to the inordinate amount of funding and effort placed by wealthy parents on preparing their children for college entrance exams. As she explains, “Aptitude tests do not predict leadership, emotional intelligence, or the capacity to work with others to contribute to society” (p. 26).


Professor Guinier calls for a “culture shift” in terms of how we evaluate merit in terms of “democratic values” rather than “testocratic machinery.” (credit).


College Board Prez – and the man most notably and nefariously known as “common core architect” David Coleman  – claims that the redesigned SAT is easier and will “help remove barriers to college.”

Not all share Coleman’s enthusiasm.


Some believe the new SAT will actually be harder than its predecessor.
See here and here, for example.

Whether students can overcome inherent obstacles of the SAT exam and whether the new” SAT “removes barriers to learning,” as Coleman purports it will do, remains yet to be seen.  The reality is that there are persistent  obstacles that tend to challenge disadvantaged youth from entering higher learning arenas, such as poverty, and this has to be acknowledged, addressed and resolved in order for us to truly and genuinely achieve  equity in public education.

To my knowledge, Coleman and his reformer ilk have no such plan to actually tackle the issue of poverty they seem, at least to me, more interested in exploiting students that serve as guinea pigs for private business and investors in the public education and higher learning markets. But, I digress.



The new version of the SAT is slated to be released in just a few days.
In the meantime, leave it to David Coleman to craft a highbrow statement to introduce his latest common-core-testocratic-brainchild.
Coleman’s Press Release is an interesting read:
The College Board Elegizes Anachronistic Verbiage with Recondite Panegyric; Celebrates Final Administration of the Extant SAT® on Jan. 23
New York — Throughout its 100-year history, the abstruse vocabulary words of the SAT® have engendered prodigious vexation in millions of examinees annually. On Saturday, Jan. 23, students across the country participated in the terminal transpiration of the SAT in its habituated gestalt.
To adumbrate the changes to be manifest in future administrations of the assessment: The new SAT will be more trenchant and pellucid, and the format will no longer pertinaciously reward students who punctiliously engage in the antediluvian praxis of committing idiosyncratic words to memory.
College Board President David Coleman promulgated, “Your invectives and maledictions have been heard. Clemency has been granted.”
Many within the College Board and the academic community expressed a paucity of maudlin or mawkish emotion in response to the announcement.
“This is a new beginning for the SAT. Gone are obscure vocabulary words and tricky logic questions that are disconnected from the work students do every day,” said Stacy Caldwell, vice president of the SAT Program at the College Board. “Moving forward, students will encounter a test that focuses on the few things that matter most for college, work, and life. We believe these changes will benefit students and educators alike.”
The redesigned SAT will debut on March 5, 2016.
Gee, Im impressed with Coleman’s torrent of verbiage.
You  may have needed to look one or more of those fancy shmancy words up. I know I did.  A link to Merriam Webster Dictionary is here for your convenience.
So, will the new SAT truly “remove barriers to college” and are we embarking on a culture shift or is all the hullabaloo nothing but “pomp” with very little circumstance?
The new SAT will be released March 5, 2016.

In he meantime, here is a  list of SAT optional schools courtesy of Fairtest:


Name City State
Academy College3 Minneapolis MN
Academy of Art University San Francisco CA
Academy of Couture Art West Hollywood CA
Adventist University of Health Sciences1 Orlando FL
Agnes Scott College Decatur GA
AIB College of Business3 Des Moines IA
Albright College Reading PA
Alcorn State University1, 3 Alcorn MS
Allen University Columbia SC
Alliant International University San Diego CA
Amberton University Garland TX
Ambridge University Online
American Academy of Art Chicago IL
American Baptist College Nashville TN
American Indian College of the Assemblies of God Phoenix AZ
American InterContinental University Multiple Sites
American Jewish University Los Angeles CA
American Military University Charles Town WV
American National University Multiple Locations
American Public University System Online
American Sentinel University Online
American University Washington DC
Amridge University Online
Andrew University Online
Angelo State University3 Angelo TX
Anna Maria College 4 Paxton MA
Anthem College Online
Antioch University – Midwest Yellow Springs OH
Apex School of Theology Durham NC
Argosy University Multiple Sites
Arizona State University3 Tempe AZ
Arkansas Baptist College Little Rock AR
Arlington Baptist College1 Arlington TX
Art Institute of Atlanta Atlanta GA
Art Institute of California Multiple Sites CA
Art Institute of Charlotte Charlotte NC
Art Institute of Colorado Denver CO
Art Institute of Dallas Dallas TX
Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale Ft. Lauderdale FL
Art Institute of Houston Houston TX
Art Institute of Las Vegas Las Vegas NV
Art Institute of Michigan Novi MI
Art Institute of Philadelphia Philadelphia PA
Art Institute of Phoenix Phoenix AZ
Art Institute of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA
Art Institute of Portland Portland OR
Art Institute of Seattle Seattle WA
Art Institute of Tucson Tucson AZ
Art Institute of Washington Arlington VA
Art Institutes International Minnesota Minneapolis MN
Ashford University Online
Aspen University Online
Assumption College Worcester MA
Atlantic University College Guaynabo PR
Augustana College Rock Island IL
Baker College Multiple Sites MI
Baldwin-Wallace University Berea OH
Baptist Bible College Springfield MO
Baptist Missionary Ass’n Theological Seminary Jacksonville TX
Baptist University of the Americas San Antonio TX
Barber-Scotia1 Concord NC
Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson NY
Bard College at Simon’s Rock Great Barrington MA
Bates College Lewiston ME
Bay Path University Longmeadow MA
Bay State College Boston MA MA
Bayamon Central University Bayamon PR
Beacon College Leesburg FL
Beckfield College Florence KY
Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid Far Rockaway NY
Bellevue College Bellevue WA
Bellevue University Omaha NE
Belmont Abbey College3 Belmont NC
Beloit College Beloit WI
Bemidji State University1, 3 Bemidji MN
Benedict College3 Columbia SC
Benedictine College3 Atchison KS
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology Boston MA
Bennett College Greensboro NC
Bennington College Bennington VT
Berkeley College Multiple Locations NY
Berklee College of Music Boston MA
Beth HaMedrahs Shaarei Yosher Brooklyn NY
Beth HaTalmud Rabbinical College Brooklyn NY
Beth Medrash Govoha Lakewood NJ
Bethesda University of California Anaheim CA
Beulah Heights University Atlanta GA
Black Hills State University3 Spearfish SD
Bluefield State College3 Bluefield WV
Boricua College New York NY
Boston Architectural College Boston MA
Bowdoin College Brunswick ME
Brandeis University Waltham MA
Brandman University Online
Brazosport College Lake Jackson TX
Brevard College Brevard NC
Broadview University Orem UT
Brooks Institute Santa Barbara CA
Brown College Mendota Heights MN
Brown Mackie College Multiple Sites
Bryant & Stratton College Multiple Sites
Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr PA
Burlington College Burlington VT
Cabrini College 4 Radnor PA
California Christian College Fresno CA
California Coast University Online
California College4 Multiple Sites CA
California College of the Arts San Francisco CA
California Institute of Integral Studies San Francisco CA
California Institute of the Arts Valencia CA
California Intercontinental University Online
California Maritime Academy3 Vallejo CA
California Miramar University San Diego CA
California National University for Advanced Studies Northridge CA
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 3 Pomona CA
California University of Management and Sciences Anaheim CA
Calumet College of St. Joseph Hammond IN
Cambridge College Cambridge MA
Cameron University Lawton OK
Capella University Minneapolis MN
Caribbean University Bayamon PR
Carlos Albizu University Miami FL
Carolina Christian College Winston-Salem NC
Carrington College Online
Carver College Atlanta GA
Catawba College Salisbury NC
Catholic University of America, The Washington DC
Cazenovia College Cazenovia NY
Central Penn College 4 Summerdale PA
Central Pennsylvania College Summerdale PA
Central Washington University3 Ellensburg WA
Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim-Lebavitch Brooklyn NY
Chadron State College1 Chadron NE
Chamberlain College of Nursing Multiple Sites
Chaparral College Tucson AZ
Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science Los Angeles CA
Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary Charlotte NC
Charter College Anchorage AK
Charter Oak State College Newington CT
Chatham University Pittsburgh PA
Chipola College Marianna FL
Christopher Newport University3 Newport News VA
Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science Cincinnati OH
City College Ft. Lauderdale FL
City University Multiple Sites WA
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College Pineville KY
Cleveland Institute of Music4 Cleveland OH
Cogswell Polytechnical College Sunnyvale CA
Colby College5 Waterville ME
Colby-Sawyer College New London NH
Coleman University San Diego CA
College America Multiple Sites
College of Biblical Studies Houston TX
College of Health Sciences Roanoke VA
College of New Rochelle: School of New Resources New Rochelle NY
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas NV
College of St. Joseph in Vermont Rutland VT
College of St. Mary Magdalen Warner NH
College of the Atlantic Bar Harbor ME
College of the Humanities and Sciences Tempe AZ
Collins College Tempe AZ
Colorado College5 Colorado Springs CO
Colorado Heights University 3 Denver CO
Colorado Technical University Colorado Springs CO
Columbia Centro Universitario Caguas PR
Columbia College Multiple Sites MO
Columbia College Hollywood Tarzana CA
Columbia Southern University Orange Beach AL
Columbus College of Art & Design Columbus OH
Concordia College Selma AL
Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico San Juan PR
Cornell College Mount Vernon IA
Cornish College of the Arts Seattle WA
Cox College 6 Springfield MO
Creative Center Omaha NE
Crossroads Bible College Indianapolis IN
CSU Bakersfield3 Bakersfield CA
CSU Channel Islands 3 Camarillo CA
CSU Chico3 Chico CA
CSU Dominguez Hills3 Dominguez Hills CA
CSU East Bay3 Hayward CA
CSU Fresno3 Fresno CA
CSU Fullerton3 Fullerton CA
CSU Long Beach3 Long Beach CA
CSU Los Angeles3 Los Angeles CA
CSU Monterey Bay3 Seaside CA
CSU Northridge3 Northridge CA
CSU Sacramento3 Sacramento CA
CSU San Bernardino3 San Bernardino CA
CSU San Marcos3 San Marcos CA
CSU Stanislaus3 Stanislaus CA
Culinary Institute of America Multiple Sites
Curtis Institute of Music 1 Philadelphia PA
Daemen College Amherst NY
Dakota State University1, 3 Madison SD
Daniel Webster College Nashua NH
Darkei Noam Rabbinical College Brooklyn NY
Davenport University Multiple Sites
Daytona State College Daytona Beach FL
Dean College Franklin MA
Denison University Granville OH
Denver School of Nursing Denver CO
Design Institute of San Diego San Diego CA
DeVry University3 Multiple Sites
Dickinson State University1, 4 Dickinson ND
Digital Media Arts College Boca Raton FL
Divine Word College Epworth IA
Dixie State College Saint George UT
Donnelly College Kansas City KS
Drake University 3 Des Moines IA
Drew University Madison NJ
Dunlap-Stone University Online
Dunwoody College of Technology Minneapolis MN
Duquesne University3, 4 Pittsburgh PA
Earlham College Richmond IN
East Central University3 Ada OK
East Tennessee State University3 Johnson City TN
East Texas Baptist University 3 Marshall TX
East-West University Chicago IL
Eastern Connecticut State University3, 4 Windham CT
Eastern Oregon University 1, 3 LaGrande OR
Eastern Washington University3 Cheney WA
ECPI University Multiple Sites
EDP University of Puerto Rico Multiple Sites PR
Elizabethtown College 3 Elizabethtown PA
Ellis University Chicago IL
Elmira College Elmira NY
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Multiple Sites
Emporia State University2, 3 Emporia KS
Endicott College4 Beverly MA
Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico San Juan PR
Evangel University Springfield MO
Everglades University Fort Lauderdale FL
Ex’pression College6 Emeryville CA
Excelsior College Albany NY
Fairfield University Fairfield CT
Fairmont State College Fairmont WV
Faith Evangelical College & Seminary Tacoma WA
Family of Faith College Shawnee OK
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Los Angeles CA
Fashion Institute of Technology New York NY
Ferris State University3 Grand Rapids MI
Finlandia University Hancock MI
Florida Career College Multiple Sites FL
Florida Memorial University 1 Miami Gardens FL
Florida National University Multiple Sites FL
Florida SouthWestern State College Fort Myers FL
Florida State College Jacksonville FL
Florida Tech Online
Fort Hays State University1 Hays KS
Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster PA
Franklin Pierce University Rindge NH
Franklin University Columbus OH
Fremont College Online
Friends University Wichita KS
Friends World Program of Long Island University Brooklyn NY
Full Sail University Winter Park FL
Furman University Greenville SC
George Mason University3 Fairfax VA
George Washington Universirty Washington DC
Georgia Gwinnett College 6 Lawrenceville GA
Gettysburg College Gettysburg PA
Glenville State College3 Glenville WV
Global University Springfield MO
Globe Institute of Technology New York NY
Globe University Multiple Sites
God’s Bible School and College1 Cincinnati OH
Goddard College Plainfield VT
Golden Gate University San Francisco CA
Goldfarb School of Nursing St. Louis MO
Goodwin College East Hartford CT
Goucher College Baltimore MD
Grace Bible College1 Grand Rapids MI
Grambling State University1 Grambling LA
Grand Canyon University3 Phoenix AZ
Granite State College Concord NH
Grantham University Online
Gratz College Melrose Park PA
Great Basin College Elko NV
Green Mountain College Poultney VT
Guilford College Greensboro NC
Hamilton College5 Clinton NY
Hamilton Technical College Davenport IA
Hampshire College Amherst MA
Hampton University3 Hampton VA
Harrington College of Design Chicago IL
Harris-Stowe State University 1 St. Louis MO
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Harrisburg PA
Harrison Middleton University Online
Hartwick College Oneonta NY
Haskell Indian Nations University3 Lawrence KS
Heritage Christian University Florence AL
Heritage University Toppenish WA
Herzing University Multiple Sites
Hickey College St. Louis MO
Hilbert College Hamburg NY
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Geneva NY
Hobe Sound Bible College1 Hobe Sound FL
Hodges University Naples FL
Hofstra University4 Hempstead NY
Holy Apostles College and Seminary3 Cromwell CT
Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary Jordanville NY
Hood College3 Frederick MD
Horizon University San Diego CA
Humboldt State University (CSU)3 Arcata CA
Humphreys College Stockton CA
Huntington College of Health Sciences Online
Huntsville Bible College Huntsville AL
Hussian School of Art Philadelphia PA
Illinois College Jacksonville IL
Illinois Institute of Art Multiple Sites IL
Independence University Online
Indian River State College Fort Pierce FL
INSTE Bible College Online
Institute of American Indian Arts 6 Santa Fe NM
Institute of Computer Technology Los Angeles CA
Inter American University of Puerto Rico Multiple Sites PR
Interior Designers Institute Newport Beach CA
International Academy of Design and Technology Multiple Sites
International Baptist College Chandler AZ
International Business College Fort Wayne IN
Ithaca College Ithaca NY
ITT Technical Institute Multiple Sites
Jamestown College Jamestown ND
John F. Kennedy University Multiple Sites CA
John Paul the Great Catholic University 3 Escondido CA
Johnson & Wales University Multiple Sites
Johnson State College Johnson VT
Jones College Jacksonville FL
Jose Maria Vargas University Pembroke Pines FL
Juilliard School New York NY
Juniata College Huntington PA
Kalamazoo College Kalamazoo MI
Kansas State University2 Manhattan KS
Kaplan University Multiple Sites IA
Kehilath Yakov Rabbinical Seminary Brooklyn NY
Keiser University Fort Lauderdale FL
Kendall College3 Chicago IL
Keuka College Keuka Park NY
King’s College Wilkes-Barre PA
King’s University, The Van Nuys CA
Knoxville College1 Knoxville TN
La Sierra University3 Riverside CA
Laguna College of Art and Design Laguna Beach CA
Lake Erie College Painesville OH
Lake Forest College Lake Forest IL
Lake-Sumter State College Leesburg FL
Lamar University1, 3 Beaumont TX
Landmark College Putney VT
Langston University3 Langston OK
Laurel University High Point NC
Le Moyne College Syracuse NY
Lebanon Valley College Annville PA
Lees-McRae College Banner Elk NC
Lester L. Cox College of Nursing and Health Science Springfield MO
Life Pacific College5 San Dimas CA
Lincoln College of New England Multiple Sites CT
Lincoln University1 Jefferson City MO
Lincoln University, Oakland Oakland CA
Lindsey Wilson College1 Columbia KY
Logan University Chesterfield MO
Loma Linda University Loma Linda CA
Long Island University 4 Brooklyn NY
Longy School of Music Cambridge MA
Louisiana State University1, 3, 4 Shreveport LA
Louisiana State University — Alexandria Alexandria LA
Lourdes University Sylvania OH
Loyola University Maryland Baltimore MD
Luther Rice University Lithonia GA
Lycoming College 3 Williamsport PA
Lynn University Boca Raton FL
Machzikei Hadath Rabbinical College Brooklyn NY
Maharishi University of Management Fairfield IA
Maine College of Art Portland ME
Manhattan Christian College3 Manhattan KS
Manhattan School of Music New York NY
Manthano Christian College Westland MI
Marist College Poughkeepsie NY
Marlboro College Marlboro VT
Martin Methodist College3 Pulaski TN
Martin University Indianapolis IN
Marylhurst University Marylhurst OR
Marymount California University Rancho Palos Verdes CA
Marymount University 3 Arlington VA
Mayville State University1 Mayville ND
McDaniel College (Western MD College)3 Westminster MD
McNally Smith College of Music St. Paul MN
McNeese State University Lake Charles LA
Medgar Evers College (CUNY)4 Brooklyn NY
Mercy College Dobbs Ferry NY
Mercy College of Ohio 4 Toledo OH
Mercyhurst University Erie PA
Merrimack College North Andover MA
Mesivta of Eastern Pkwy Rabbinical Seminary Brooklyn NY
Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem of America New York NY
Mesivta Torah Vodaath Seminary Brooklyn NY
Metropolitan College of New York New York NY
Metropolitan State College of Denver3 Denver CO
Metropolitan State University3 St. Paul MN
Miami International University of Art & Design Miami FL
Miami International University of Art and Design Miami FL
Miami-Dade College Miami FL
Michigan Jewish Institute Oak Park MI
Mid-America Christian University1 Oklahoma City OK
Middle Tennessee State University1, 3 Murfreesboro TN
Middlebury College5 Middlebury VT
Midland University3 Fremont NE
Midstate College Peoria IL
Midwestern State University3 Wichita Falls TX
Miles College1 Fairfield AL
Miller-Motte College Multiple Sites
Mills College Oakland CA
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design Milwaukee WI
Minerva Schools at KGI San Francisco CA
Minnesota Bible College1 Rochester MN
Minnesota School of Business Multiple Sites MN
Minnesota State University1, 3 Mankato MN
Minot State University1 Minot ND
Mirrer Yeshiva Brooklyn NY
Mississippi University for Women1, 3 Columbus MS
Mississippi Valley State University1, 3 Itta Bena MS
Missouri Southern State University Joplin MO
Missouri Tech6 St. Charles MO
Missouri Western State University3 St. Joseph MO
Mitchell College New London CT
Monroe College New York NY
Montana State University: Billings1, 3 Billings MT
Montana State University: Bozeman1, 3 Bozeman MT
Montana State University: Northern1, 3 Havre MT
Montclair State University Montclair NJ
Montserrat College of Art Beverly MA
Moore College of Art & Design Philadelphia PA
Moorehead State University3 Moorhead MN
Morris College Sumter SC
Mount Angel Seminary St. Benedict OR
Mount Holyoke College South Hadley MA
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John Sheffield for New York Board of Regents

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

Below is a guest post by Yvonne Gasperino, co-founder of Stop Common Core in New York State. Gasperino composed this post, an effort to feature John Sheffield, candidate for the New York Board of regents, at my request.


When it comes to the education of children in the state of New York, the Board of Regents holds a lot of influence, power and control. They supervise all educational activities within the state and preside over the State University New York (SUNY) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).  Board members and chairs are appointed by the Regents chancellor, also, Regents includes 17 members elected by the state legislature for five-year terms: one from each of the State’s 13 judicial districts and four members that serve at large.

New York State (NYS) legislators (most of whom are not educators) dictate the election process. However, a very few were former educators, for instance…

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John Thompson: Opt Out is Frightening the Politicians 

Diane Ravitch's blog

John Thompson, historian and teacher, writes that parents have shaken up the education landscape:

“February has always been a time when blizzards keep blowing across the nation but, too often, it now marks the end of meaningful learning in our classrooms. Long before Spring arrives, the test prep season begins, followed by the annual testing ordeal. During the last few years, however, the grassroots Opt Out movement has risen to the occasion, and fought to restore authentic teaching and meaningful learning to public schools.

The refusal of parents and students to participate in the test, sort, reward, and punish season has knocked the corporate reform movement back on its heels. It has undermined the imposition of Common Core and value-added evaluations, which were top-down mandates enforced by High Stakes Testing. The assertion of families’ democratic rights to choose engaging and respectful instruction, and reject soul-killing teach-to-the-test, has predictably prompted some…

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NY Times: 8 Experts Censure Moskowitz SA Methods

Diane Ravitch's blog

The New York Times asked eight education experts to review and evaluate the video of a teacher at Success Academy charter school humiliating/chastising a first-grade child. All of them agreed that the teacher’s actions were inappropriate. The child had not misbehaved. She gave a wrong answer. The teacher ripped her paper and sent her away to sit in a “calming” corner. The child was not agitated and in need of calming; the teacher was.

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Review of Withholding Penalty History Confirms Threats Are Punitive And Improper: USDOE Is All Bark. No Bite.

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USDOE Is All Bark. No Bite.

In response to escalation of the opt out movement in New York State, now-former U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Secretary Arne Duncan and others at the USDOE have advanced a litany of threats, warning that they will withhold Title 1 funding from states if they fail to comply with federal testing mandates, with the States, in turn, threatening to withhold Title 1 aid from school districts with high opt out numbers.

In the 2014-15 school year, about 20% of eligible New York students refused the grades 3-8 State math and ELA assessments being administered by public school districts across the State. In total, about 200,000 students refused the assessments, with some districts experiencing opt-out rates well above 50%.

MaryEllen Elia is the new Commissioner of the New York State Education Department (NYSED or SED).  Despite her various statements that acknowledge a parent’s right to opt out (refuse) the grades 3-8 State assessments (see video at minutes 02:00 to 02:25, and 10:55 to 11:14); despite her statements that teachers CAN speak to parents (under certain circumstances) about the state  assessments and whether to refuse them (see video at minutes 02:25 to 04:50); and despite her statements that NYSED does NOT have any unilateral legal authority to withhold Title 1 funding from schools with high opt out rates (see video at minutes 04:50 to 06:55); she nevertheless has been vigorous in her efforts to intimidate school districts and discourage test refusals. “Let me say this very clearly: I think opt-out is something that is not reasonable. I understand that it came about as a result of people wanting to become involved in what they thought was the political way to approach it. If any educator supported or encouraged opt-outs, I think it’s unethical” she said here

As American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently pointed out here, USDOE’s threats fly in the face of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and penalties for opting out are beyond USDOE’s reach.

Yet, Commissioner Elia has shown no interest in pushing back against USDOE’s tyranny, notwithstanding that she has an army of well-informed, brave parents and even the law behind her. In fact, Elia warned that while there would be no penalties for districts with large opt-out numbers in 2014-15, such as the withholding of federal funding, for the 2015-16 year – she warns districts could be sanctioned if the movement continues.

The department created a “tool kit,” to discourage opt outs which included rhetoric filled presentations, fact sheets and even social media tag lines and strategies, for district superintendents to use to “communicate” more effectively with parents.

The federal government did not sanction New York State for its high 2015 opt out rates, and some believe that USDOE left that decision up to the State. Given the barrage of threats now coming down from USDOE and Commissioner Elia’s response, many worry New York State may not be so lucky in 2016 – that Title 1 funding loss could be a possibility.

Despite several threats from USDOE, it is still not clear what legal “range of enforcement actions,” if any, the USDOE has at its disposal vis-a-vis the opt out rates, nor has plenary authority to withhold Title 1 funds been adequately explained by State and/or federal officials.

A review of USDOE withholding penalty cases confirms what opt out parents already know: USDOE is all bark, no legal bite, when it comes to low participation rates based on high opt out numbers. USDOE’s threats to stymie opt outs are punitive and improper.

Withholding Penalty

Procedurally-speaking, under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the USDOE has the power to conduct withholding hearings in the event a state fails to comply with federal requirements.

Although states that do not substantially comply with NCLB (and ESSA) may be subject to enforcement actions, USDOE’s case history shows that they have rarely exercised this option and, in the rare instances that they have done so, the cases are no slam dunk.

The USDOE  has sent opt out warning letters to New York and 12 other states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin. To read each states warning letter, see here. States on USDOE’s opt out warning list must demonstrate what efforts they are taking to comply with NCLB. USDOE has asked, and NYSED has reported to USODE personnel, demonstrating how and that NYS has “substantially” complied with federal testing statutes.

For example, on page 9 of an April 2015 memo to the New York State Board of Regents, NYSED explained the importance of “full participation” in the State assessments. 

Meanwhile, USDOE has been relentless in hounding NYS in order to stymie test refusals. In a letter dated December 22, 2015, USDOE’s Ann Whalen (previously employed at Peter Cunningham’s “Education Post,” a nefarious reformer rag) advised states to penalize their school districts if the districts fail to deliver 95% participation during the Spring 2016 assessments. 

On December 22, 2015, Commissioner Elia sent a letter to USDOE in which she outlined the steps that she planned to take to promote the 95% participation rate and impede test refusals state-wide. Commissioner Elia’s December 22, 2015 letter is not directed to USDOE’s Ann Whalen; rather, it is directed to Acting Director of State Support Patrick Rooney, in reply to USDOE’s Monique Chism’s October 19, 2015 letter — which apparently was also threatening.

From Monique Chism’s October 19, 2015 letter to Commissioner Elia:

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Commissioner Elia’s letter in reply to Chism provides “information about how New York is addressing deficits in meeting the participation rate requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.” 

According to Ann Whalen and other USDOE employees, states must deliver scores and ensure that all students take the grades 3-8 assessments; USDOE ignores the reality that many well-informed New York State parents object to such assessments, and will not allow their children to be forced to take federally-mandated assessments.

In fact, parent advocates denounce USDOE’s tactics and have assured the USDOE that parents will not be swayed by idle threats and will continue to opt out en masse in order to protect their children from governmental harm.

Withholding Penalty Cases

In a 2014 letter to the Colorado Education Department, USDOE claims to have withheld Title 1 funds from several states for failure to comply with the assessment requirements. Interestingly, the statute cited by USDOE in support of the penalty was NOT the section from NCLB that addresses the 95% participation rate.  Note, also, that administrative funds — not program funds — were at issue in that withholding case:

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After researching USDOE’s case history, I was not able to find evidence that USDOE had withheld funds from several states as they claimed.  Although it is possible that other cases may exist in another arena, research of USDOE’s records yield only two instances in which USDOE filed and adjudicated a case that resulted in a withholding penalty against a state.

According to USDOE’s website Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA), the OHA “provides an independent forum for the fair, impartial, equitable, and timely resolution of disputes involving the U.S. Department of Education and recipients of Federal Education Funds.” The website publishes decisions issued by OHA and by the USDOE Secretary, in searchable form.

In a 1995 case, USDOE threatened to withhold funds from the State of Virginia based on a violation of the IDEA. In that case, Virginia’s regulations, as implemented, did not comply with the IDEA.  In other words, there was malfeasance on the part of the State of Virginia.  The USDOE Secretary ruled to withhold IDEA funds from Virginia. However, the decision clearly stated that the ruling was stayed pending appeal; the reality was that Virginia had access to its IDEA money for a time despite the ruling.

The Department urges the Secretary to uphold the Initial Decision and to order that Part funding to Virginia be withheld until such time as Virginia complies with the IDEA noting that although Virginia argues it is harmed by a withholding decision, Virginia continued to have access to its FY 1994 funding and will, as the Assistant Secretary has recommended in this matter, have access to its FY 1995 funding pending any appeal of my decision in this matter. Thus, I will not disturb the Hearing Officer’s ruling that the withholding of unobligated FY 1995 IDEA PartB funds and any future funding under IDEA-B is the appropriate remedy in this matter, but that such ruling be stayed pending any appeal of this matter. “

It is not clear what happened in Virginia after said ruling was issued.

With regard to withholding proceedings regarding education matters/assessments, there is a very interesting 2008 withholding penalty case in which the USDOE threatened to withhold $1 million in Title 1 administrative fees from the State of California based on the allegation that the State of California had decided to administer allegedly inappropriate assessments to some of its students — in other words, again based on alleged malfeasance on the part of the State.  In the legal papers there is much discussion about the withholding penalty, Congressional intent, and the Secretary of Education’s penalty powers. But, complications ensued with the USDOE’s case, leading to the petitioner, USDOE, being lambasted by an Administrative Law Judge and USDOE’s action blocked for bending the law, impropriety, and other bad conduct.

The Assistant Secretary had issued an Order to Show Cause letter informing the State of California that USDOE sought to withhold $1 million, and alleging that California failed to comply with various requirements of NCLB and ESEA. 

An Assistant USDOE Secretary hit the State of California with a withholding penalty notice without an opportunity to be heard on the matter. California requested a violation of due process hearing before an Administrative Law Judge who found that the USDOE conduct was “without legal authorization.” The Administrative Law Judge sharply criticized USDOE’s handling of the California case and found that the Assistant Secretary had acted improperly by attempting to prosecute the case while adjudicating as trier of fact.

in that case, the Administrative Law Judge scolded USDOE:

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Notwithstanding USDOE’s hanky panky, the Administrative Law Judge in the case made it clear that Congress intended for the States to have due process — fair notice and an opportunity to be heard — before a withholding penalty could be issued and imposed… a requirement that USDOE tried to skirt. 

To be clear, the funds at issue in the California withholding penalty case were Title I Part A Administrative funds (as opposed to actual Title 1 Program funds). 

At the end of the day, the case was remanded to the USDOE and former Secretary Duncan adjudicated the case to a resolution, but it was not the outcome USDOE wanted. Of import, in his decision Secretary Duncan declined to approve the Assistant Secretary’s application for $1 million in  withholding and instead reduced the penalty amount to a “mere” $50,000. 

The reasons behind that decision are very compelling.

In ruling to reduce the withholding penalty, former Secretary Duncan opined that the Assistant Secretary had erred in setting the amount at $1 million.  Beyond that, Duncan conceded that there were mitigating circumstances that warranted a penalty reduction with $1 million wildly excessive as such a penalty would greatly prejudice the state’s ability to close achievement gaps and also harm the economy, among other things:

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Remember —  the $50,000 ordered withheld from the State of California was drawn from its Title I, Part A allocation for administrative activities, and it was due to conduct specifically attributable to the State.

It goes without saying that withholding penalty cases are very rare.  It also seems that in the case of opt outs, a withholding penalty is indefensible by the government.  First, USDOE must prove that the state failed to substantially comply with the statute; in this case, tens of thousands of NYS parents chose to refuse the test despite the State’s efforts to achieve a 95% participation rate.  Second, there are many mitigating factors that would make a large withholding penalty egregiously improper if not prejudicial.

Mitigating Factors

Title 1 money is automatically granted based on the number of impoverished and/or at-risk children in a given school district.  The entire intent, spirit, and purpose behind NCLB Title 1 funding is to raise the achievement of, and bridge the achievement gap between, these low-income and at-risk students, and the rest of the student population.  Based on this formulation, USDOE provides the supplemental funding to states that, in turn, disburse that money to its local school districts to meet the needs of their respective at-risk and/or low-income students.   The basic principles of Title 1 state that schools with low-income and/or at-risk students will receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting students’ educational goals.  Low-income students are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program.

This policy is committed to closing the achievement gap between low-income and/or at-risk students and other students and its purpose “is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments”, per USDOE website

Title 1 funds typically support supplemental instruction in reading and math and the funds can be used in many ways to provide help and support to impoverished and at-risk children.

Indeed, balancing equity, parent engagement, and involvement is the cornerstone of Title 1.  This then begs the question, what better way to participate in your child’s education than by making a well-informed decision to refuse to allow your child to participate in state-sanctioned abusive testing practices?

Beyond that, as is evident from the OHA California case discussed above, then-Secretary Duncan clearly recognized that withholding $1 million was unreasonable and would greatly prejudice students and the State of California.

According to the Congressional Equity and Excellence Commission report of 2014 ,   Title I, the centerpiece of the original 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was designed as Lyndon Johnson’s compensatory education program and intended to help equalize resources for school districts the rationale being that school districts with children living in poverty also tend to lack local property wealth that can be taxed.  

As to Title 1, the Commission members opined that:

“The common situation in America is that schools in poor communities spend less per pupil—and often many thousands of dollars less per pupil—than schools in nearby affluent communities, meaning poor schools can’t compete for the best teaching and principal talent in a local labor market and can’t implement the high-end technology and rigorous academic and enrichment programs needed to enhance student performance. This is arguably the most important equity-related variable in American schooling today.  Let’s be honest: We are also an outlier in how many of our children are growing up in poverty… We are also an outlier in how we concentrate those children, isolating them in certain schools—often resource-starved schools—which only magnifies poverty’s impact and makes high achievement that much harder.” 

Interestingly, acting USDOE Secretary Jon King (formerly NYSED Commissioner) served on the Congressional Equity and Excellence Commission. The nefarious and former Commissioner King is well known for playing the “equity” card in support of flawed reforms. One has to wonder how it is possible for Acting Secretary King to advance “equity” when USDOE is threatening to withhold funds from disadvantaged students who desperately need said funding the most?

It cannot be disputed that school funding formulas tend to ignore inequality in the capacities of local school districts to raise revenue hence the need for Title 1 funds.  Wealthy districts (which tend to be suburbs) provide the latest in offerings and equipment and staff-student ratios, while impoverished districts (that tend to be urban/city and rural areas)cannot afford to augment their services or provide a sound basic education.  Title 1 is the one federal law that was intended by its 1965 sponsors to help level the playing field in order to close the gap in disparity for that very purpose: equity in education.

Acting USDOE Secretary King and his ilk throw around the term “equity” but then idly and callously threaten to withhold the very same funds that were dispersed to support that very need. Threats by USDOE to withhold such funds from the neediest of districts due to opt outs flies in the face of the statute’s intent and purpose not to mention it is incredibly punitive.

Moreover, I would argue that in making a decision as to how much money should be withheld, if any, the trier of fact must consider mitigating circumstances and elevate the needs of impoverished and vulnerable students above federal “policy” interests in order to comply themselves with the spirit and intent of federal laws.

The state is already derelict in failing to provide adequate funding to public school students, as lawsuits aptly show.  Thanks to the trifecta of Gap Elimination Aid, frozen Foundation Aid and the Real Property Tax Cap and a reform based privatization agenda, New York public school children have been consistently denied their Constitutional right to a sound basic education. 

To add insult to injury,  USDOEs threats continue to confuse  –  after the New York State Governor and Commissioner of Education have already agreed that the existing Common Core and testing regimen is fatally flawed and parents making informed and difficult decisions are in the best position to decide what is best for their children.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia concedes, “Parents can choose whether or not to take the test…if parents understand [our rationale for testing] and they still want their child to opt out, that certainly is their right.”

Likewise, Governor Andrew Cuomo admits, “At the end of the day, parents are in charge and parents make the decisions.”

It stands to reason, parents should not have the added burden of coercion or intimidation by school personnel or the state when it comes to subjecting children to the draconian high stakes nature of the Common Core tests.

In New York State, officials have acknowledged that parents have the right to refuse the test.

Threatening to withhold Title 1 money from New York’s disadvantaged students due to high opt outs is a misrepresentation of the facts, a miscarriage of justice and has got to be one of the most egregious, ill-conceived threats ever against public school children. Consider this as well: impoverished and at-risk children did not comprise the majority of the children opting out yet the withholding penalty will strike them hardest.

Compounding an already dire problem, unfunded mandates such as Common Core add to the burden that already weighs heavily on school district taxpaying parents at the expense of public school children.

State and federal officials must not intrude when parents seek to make choices about what is best for their own children. There are aspects of the NYS Testing program that parents may find questionable and objectionable for educational, political, social, ethical and/or religious reasons. The decision to refuse the test does not come lightly. It is a family decision that is simply beyond the control of administrators and teachers.

The law provides penalties when 95% participation is not met due to systematic exclusion, but USDOE has no legal bite when public school children refuse in an act of civil disobedience.  Attaching “penalties” to opt out  is not only  beyond the USDOE’s reach, but is incredibly punitive and improper.

USDOE Is All Bark.

No Bite.


This blog post was researched and written by Anna Shah for informational purposes and should be construed as opinion, not legal advice. Special thanks to Deborah Brooks for contributing to this piece.

Competency Based Ed- the culmination of the common core agenda.



Competency based learning (competency based education) is the new buzz word. Below are a collection of pieces showing the new direction common core and standardized testing is taking. The USDOE and Nydoe are attempting once again to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting Americans by saying that they are reviewing testing, due to the enormous backlash from both parties. This is not what is actually happening. Tests are going to be year round, computerized, embedded, and much more stealth to offer the appearance of “listening to the parents and teachers who demand less testing.” Teachers are going to be mere tech facilitators for students to spend the majority of their day doing online tasks. The technology costs will skyrocket, and as planned, big money will be changing hands.

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Anna Shah, Hudson Valley Alliance for Public Education and SOTHVNY Blog shares…

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Connecting Reformer Dots: Competency Based Education Initiatives – Sound Pedagogy or Ploy to “Reboot” Common Core in New York State?


Connecting Reformer Dots:  Competency Based Education Initiatives – Sound Pedagogy or Ploy to “Reboot” Common Core in New York State?


I have been asked to provide a digested version of this important blog piece for all parents who are interested in understanding where NY public education is heading. I realize the piece is long, but it was important to cite facts and evidence (consider it common core aligned ;-). This is NOT rocket science you don’t need a translator to get through it all – all you have to do is just connect the dots to understand that NYS officials have been setting the stage for a shift from traditional learning to Competency Based Education and Computer Based Technology to replace teachers and real learning in our classrooms.

So, what does Governor Cuomo and NYS have in store for public school children?
-more data collection,
-more testing not less,
-more sharing of personal student information,
-less interaction between students, teachers and classmates
-larger class sizes, phase out teachers replace with facilitators who serve as “warm bodies” in the classroom more or less
-more standardization under the guise of personalized learning and
-a phase out of teaching and learning to be replaced by technology instead of live instruction.

Questar Assessments, a computer based tech testing company hired by NYSED last Spring, fits perfectly into the “master” plan.

According to Questar the shift to computer based testing and CBE is as follows:

“First, eliminate the one-to-many teaching approach. Students can’t receive personalized instruction and personalized learning when a teacher has to teach to the most common denominator. We can solve this problem with technology by giving every student a tablet device that wirelessly connects to adaptive software in the cloud — and treat them as the students’ own, personal whiteboards, with lesson plans that target their level of mastery; instruction tailored to their individual learning styles and capability levels; and learning modules presented just to them. A single assessment when students first enter the school, regardless of their age, would easily determine at what level of instruction these on-the-tablet lessons would begin.

Second, seamlessly integrate assessment with the instruction presented to each student on his or her tablet. Educators know that best-practice teaching involves instructing for five minutes, asking students a few questions to determine if they’ve understood the material, backtracking if necessary, and then moving on to the next topic. Yet most teachers don’t teach this way for two reasons: pedagogical momentum and a lack of technology that integrates instruction and assessment seamlessly so it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the class. With tablets and the right software, this approach is possible on an individualized basis: after every five minutes of individualized tablet-based instruction, students would be presented with a brief series of questions that adapt to their skill level, much as computer-adaptive tests operate today. After that assessment, the next set of instructional material would be customized according to these results. If a student needs to relearn some material, the software automatically adjusts and creates a custom learning plan on the fly. The student would then be reassessed and the cycle would continue. With both the instruction and the assessments integrated into the same software and presented as a continuous “flow” to each student, THERE IS ALMOST NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INSTRUCTION AND ASSESSMENT IN THE MIND OF A CHILD.

Third, assuming that all instructional material and formative assessments are aligned to achievement standards, there is no longer a need for students to take standard end-of-chapter tests. The formative assessments that are interwoven with their instructional materials provide sufficient data for teachers to gauge student progress through, and mastery of, each topic. Furthermore, these results are available in real time throughout the day and across days and weeks. In reality, there would be little need for interim progress reporting, since the software would reteach topics as needed to ensure full and complete mastery of subjects. However, it would be useful for teachers to know if students are falling behind significantly so they can take alternative remedial steps. Given this model, there is also the logical conclusion that real time data, when aggregated across an entire district, can also reduce or eliminate the need for district benchmark tests. There is no need for interim benchmark tests if an administrator can see, in real time, the aggregate and disaggregated performance of students across the district and their predicted performance on end-of-year summative assessments.

Fourth, eliminate grade levels. Because students progress through subject material at their own pace, they can be grouped by ability instead of grade level, similar to competency-based learning approaches currently being tried in various schools and districts. In this idealized model, grouping students by ability supports the project-based learning that is a key component to academic and social development and is used to complement the individualized learning plan provided by students’ tablets.

It would be naïve to think that such a holistic change to classroom structure and pedagogy would be easy. A number of significant funding, process, training, and political challenges would need to be addressed. But embracing a holistic change instead of trying to fit individual improvements within the current classroom structure offers us our best opportunity for true, impactful change in the learning environment.

To paraphrase Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, we must be “willing to lose sight of the shore” and make uncomfortable changes to make a significant leap forward in education”.…/

All this begs the question, are NYS officials really listening to opt out parents or just barreling forward with the common core plan?

Technology to replace teachers? Do we want our kids sitting at computers all day and being tested every 5 minutes via embedded assessments?

NYS is and has been developing a switch to CBE right under our very noses. Once you connect the dots , its very easy to see the big picture. Pay attention parents and teachers – do not be fooled. Stay vigilant, we must resist the  changes being forced on our children and hold public officials accountable for these bad decisions.

Please read the SOTHVNY piece below in full to connect the dots yourself.


Please be advised, the National Governor’s Association  recently issued an advisory that expressly urges state leaders to adopt and implement Competency Based Education measures in order to augment Common Core.

From the NGA report dated Fall 2015:

Communicating the Change: A policy change to a CBE system is unlikely to occur unless a governor who supports a move toward CBE can communicate the need for change, the potential value of CBE, and strategies to overcome the associated challenges. The basic message a governor can communicate is that a CBE system is responsive to the learning needs of individual students. CBE would benefit students and families, teachers, communities, and businesses. Wellprepared
individuals have a greater potential to be productive members of society who better use taxpayer money by staying in the education system only for as long as necessary to meet their professional goals. Despite the appeal of CBE and its potential benefits, the structure does not fit within society’s current entrenched vision of education and existing policies.

State policymakers and the public at large habitually picture desks, a blackboard, and students facing a teacher at the front of the classroom when thinking of a typical K-12 educational environment. Higher education produces a similarly traditional vision of 18-year-olds in ivy-covered buildings. These systems do not work for enough of today’s students. CBE is one way to respond to the evolution in the demands of current students and offers a new way to overcome existing shortcomings. Governors are well positioned to lead and encourage a discussion on the potential value of a move toward CBE.”

“K-12 Policy Environment  – If governors want to discuss the benefits of CBE for K-12 students, they should emphasize the ability to provide more personalized instruction so that farmore students can meet more rigorous and relevant standards, regardless of background, ability, or stage of development. CBE is designed to meet students where they are and get them the help they need when they need it so that they can master the defined standards of learning. In a CBE system, the support and incentives are in place to increase the likelihood that students have mastered content and are ready for the next step. Maine produced several communication resources to educate the public about its progress toward a CBE system. The Maine Department of Education home page prominently features the state’s plan, Education Evolving, for putting students first and a separate Web site devoted to CBE in the state.  In addition to providing easy-to-navigate resources, the state created several informational videos that explain what CBE is and how it is benefiting Maine’s students. Governors in other states can use similar resources and work with their departments of education to develop plans and tools to publicize the benefits of CBE to students, families, educators, and state and local policymakers.”

Governors who seek to move their states toward a CBE system should consider several policy changes to overcome the barriers embedded in the current system. In a CBE program, the role of the educator and how he or she delivers the content can look different from current practice. Educators must be able to guide learning in a variety of ways, not simply supply content. Changing the role of the teacher has significant implications for teacher-preparation programs, certification, professional development, labor contracts, and evaluation. Computer-based learning is likely to be even more important in a CBE system than in the current time-based system. In addition, robust assessment is a key element of CBE, designed to facilitate more flexible and better testing of students’ learning. Assessment is frequently tied to accountability in K-12; therefore, policymakers might have to reconsider what they want their accountability systems to measure.

Finally, policymakers who want to implement CBE will need to figure out how to fund the transition to such a system and create the right incentives
for educators and administrators. If policymakers want to pay for student learning instead of seat time, they will have to fundamentally change the way they budget and allocate dollars to school districts and higher education institutions.”

“K-12 Policy Environment
To deliver high-quality instruction in a CBE model, educators require access to assessments that measure learning progress along the way so that they can modify their teaching based on each student’s progress toward mastering the desired content and skills. To draw on the power of those assessments in a CBE system, assessments should be offered on a flexible timeline instead of during one window at the end of the semester or school year. No state has yet figured out how to make the switch to such a model at the K-12 level, but New Hampshire is working toward that goal.

This development is very timely as the US Department of Education supports Competency Based learning and issued similar advice just this week. From the USDE website:

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The Obama administration also just issued a Testing Action Plan that it says should help reduce over-testing in public schools. That plan includes a cap of 2 percent on the classroom time students spend on mandated standardized tests.

The Testing Action Plan says:

Time-limited: While it is up to states and districts how to balance instructional time and the need for high-quality assessments, we recommend that states place a cap on the percentage of instructional time students spend taking required statewide standardized assessments to ensure that no child spends more than 2 percent of her classroom time taking these tests. Parents should receive formal notification if their child’s school exceeds this cap and an action plan should be publicly posted to describe the steps the state will take to review and eliminate unnecessary assessments, and come into compliance. States and school districts should carefully consider whether each assessment serves a unique, essential role in ensuring that students are learning.

The Testing Action Plan (TAP) also says:

New York has worked to limit the amount of time students spend on required state- and district-level standardized tests – no more than 1 percent of instructional time for state-required standardized tests, and 1 percent for locally required standardized tests. To support this work, New York also established a “Teaching is the Core” competitive grant which supported teams of administrators and teachers in reviewing all assessments given, eliminating unnecessary ones, and improving the quality of assessments by making them more performance-based.

Further along, the TAP also provides an option for Competency Based testing, as also discussed in the Governor’s report:

Providing flexibility for innovative assessment practices: The Administration will invite states that wish to request waivers of federal rules that stand in the way of innovative approaches to testing to work with the Department to promote high-quality, comparable, statewide measures. For example, the Department granted a temporary waiver to New Hampshire to pilot a competency-based assessment system in four districts. This flexibility allowed the state to give students locally developed tests – in lieu of the statewide standardized test – that will assess students’ progress based on their ability to apply what they know through a series of complex, multi-part tasks. This flexibility was accompanied by a commitment to continue to report results to parents for every student in the state and to transition back to a single statewide measure of student learning against academic standards once the pilot is complete.

It should be noted, according to a blogger named Education Alchemy, CBE is part of an agenda that goes well beyond “reducing” testing time for students.

In the Common Core and Corporate Colonization: The Big Picture, the blogger explains:

“Common Core was, and is, an agenda crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It was never about “communism,” or “socialism.” It was the state and federal governments serving as the delivery boys for the privatization of public education at the hands of global corporate interests (think: Trans Pacific Partnership).

What are the outcomes?

Outsourcing K-12 education, eliminating teachers (union busting), eliminating Colleges of Education, data mining, creating for-profit alternative certification programs, and outsourcing teacher preparation to online corporations.

How: 1) Create a set of “common”standards, 2) break standards down into modules called student learning outcomes (SLO’s), 3) use SLO’s to manufacture Competency-Based Education (CBE) framework, which..4) can be provided by private/corporate entities via online education and technology-driven resources (no classroom or teacher…or school, required).

In Reading Between The Lines: Obama’s “Testing Action Plan, the blogger goes on to explain that CBE is part of a plan to outsource ed tech for profit among other things:

Obama’s “Testing Action Plan” declares a reduction in standardized testing! Is less testing a good thing? Yes, of course it is! But what are we getting in its stead? The privatizers are hoping we aren’t asking that, or hoping we won’t look. But we are looking and we are asking. These are the same folks who are driving the policies to privatize public education. What do they gain for reducing testing? Our trust? It makes them look good. And they hope it gets “us” off “their backs.” But what are we getting in exchange for this?

Remember…the same folks crafting test and punish want to privatize public education. That is their goal. We are getting rid of over-testing – yes….that is good. BUT … In lieu of that we are now going to have states outsource the “innovative” outcomes-based assessments to the edu-tech industry. Their mission accomplished. Federally mandated testing was getting too much heat. So they’ve built a better mouse trap. One they hope we will not recognize.

If you have not already done so, please read the two blog pieces I mentioned by Education Alchemy as they provide the backstory regarding Common Core, ALEC, privatization agenda and connects the dots to CBE and beyond. But, I digress.

The news coming down from the White House compounded by the National Governor’s Association report raises many questions about the trajectory of education policy in New York State. What does Cuomo’s Common Core Commission have planned for New York State public school children? Are the Commission members genuine about listening to parents and educators willing to “fix” Common Core, or are they just fronting and going through the motions in order to conjure up legislation to further the next steps of the Common Core agenda? Could the NYS Commission simply be going through the motions? Is Cuomo planning to  “overhaul” education policy in New York State in order to “unleash the Common Core’s full potential” via a Competency Based Education model? Was CBE the Common Core plan all along? This post will  take things a few steps further by connecting the dots to demonstrate that New York State is already well on our way to implementing CBE in our public schools as a matter of policy. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, it is clear that NYS is  moving toward adopting and implementing CBE and/or a variation thereof,  through legislative, waiver and/or other measures at a rapid pace in our public schools state wide.

New York State recently contracted with Questar Assessments to provide computer based testing content to public school students. These specific assessments are based on computer based testing and are designed to be CBE compatible.  Indeed, on August 4, 2015, I, along with a group of advocates, had the opportunity to meet with NYS Commissioner of Education Elia for a private meeting at which time Elia confirmed that SED planned to  offer “embedded” assessments –  a key component of CBE. The CBE plan, to be fully implemented however, requires a complete overhaul in ed practices and experiences*:

Reimagining the Classroom Experience

Most educators agree that the current lecture-style approach to teaching is flawed. Almost all classrooms remain stuck in the same centuries-old paradigm of one-to-many instruction: a lone teacher lecturing to a classroom filled with 30 or more students. Admittedly, there are some benefits of the lecture paradigm — examples of which can be found in “Study and Analysis of Lecture Model of Teaching”. In general, though, this approach limits the teacher’s ability to adapt his or her classroom to meet a number of 21st century teaching needs such as individualized and personalized instruction, personalized learning, competency-based grouping and progression, seamless blending of instruction and assessment, and timely impact of assessment results to affect instruction.

While all of these best practices are widely thought to enhance student learning, individually they each present their own set of implementation challenges. And imagine the additional effort of having to fit any of them into today’s fixed-format classroom structure! It’s no surprise that there have been pockets of success in these areas but no widespread adoptions.

There are two key reasons each of these changes have been difficult to implement: first, they have been attempted within the current one-to-many teaching structure, and second, they have been attempted as individual initiatives instead of as a whole set of interdependent next-generation learning practices. Although it takes fortitude, grit and a lot of support, a wholesale implementation of these changes offers the best chance for a successful new paradigm. We need to reimagine the entire classroom model and address many of these needs at the same time so they become mutually-supporting components.

A Four-Part Implementation Process 

  • First, eliminate the one-to-many teaching approach. Students can’t receive personalized instruction and personalized learning when a teacher has to teach to the most common denominator. We can solve this problem with technology by giving every student a tablet device that wirelessly connects to adaptive software in the cloud — and treat them as the students’ own, personal whiteboards, with lesson plans that target their level of mastery; instruction tailored to their individual learning styles and capability levels; and learning modules presented just to them. A single assessment when students first enter the school, regardless of their age, would easily determine at what level of instruction these on-the-tablet lessons would begin.
  • Second, seamlessly integrate assessment with the instruction presented to each student on his or her tablet. Educators know that best-practice teaching involves instructing for five minutes, asking students a few questions to determine if they’ve understood the material, backtracking if necessary, and then moving on to the next topic. Yet most teachers don’t teach this way for two reasons: pedagogical momentum and a lack of technology that integrates instruction and assessment seamlessly so it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the class. With tablets and the right software, this approach is possible on an individualized basis: after every five minutes of individualized tablet-based instruction, students would be presented with a brief series of questions that adapt to their skill level, much as computer-adaptive tests operate today. After that assessment, the next set of instructional material would be customized according to these results. If a student needs to relearn some material, the software automatically adjusts and creates a custom learning plan on the fly. The student would then be reassessed and the cycle would continue. With both the instruction and the assessments integrated into the same software and presented as a continuous “flow” to each student, there is almost no difference between instruction and assessment in the mind of the child.
  • Third, assuming that all instructional material and formative assessments are aligned to achievement standards, there is no longer a need for students to take standard end-of-chapter tests. The formative assessments that are interwoven with their instructional materials provide sufficient data for teachers to gauge student progress through, and mastery of, each topic. Furthermore, these results are available in real time throughout the day and across days and weeks. In reality, there would be little need for interim progress reporting, since the software would reteach topics as needed to ensure full and complete mastery of subjects. However, it would be useful for teachers to know if students are falling behind significantly so they can take alternative remedial steps. Given this model, there is also the logical conclusion that real time data, when aggregated across an entire district, can also reduce or eliminate the need for district benchmark tests. There is no need for interim benchmark tests if an administrator can see, in real time, the aggregate and disaggregated performance of students across the district and their predicted performance on end-of-year summative assessments.
  • Fourth, eliminate grade levels. Because students progress through subject material at their own pace, they can be grouped by ability instead of grade level, similar to competency-based learning approaches currently being tried in various schools and districts. In this idealized model, grouping students by ability supports the project-based learning that is a key component to academic and social development and is used to complement the individualized learning plan provided by students’ tablets.

It would be naïve to think that such a holistic change to classroom structure and pedagogy would be easy. A number of significant funding, process, training, and political challenges would need to be addressed. But embracing a holistic change instead of trying to fit individual improvements within the current classroom structure offers us our best opportunity for true, impactful change in the learning environment. To paraphrase Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, we must be “willing to lose sight of the shore” and make uncomfortable changes to make a significant leap forward in education.

The Smart Bond will provide districts with what they need to meet the needs for innovation learning, which technology is a key component of CBE.

Further connecting the dots, news that the Common Core Commission leader Richard Parson’s ed tech firm is a major supplier to state ed raises eyebrows. This info was not disclosed to the public and leads me to believe that a move to CBE is a very strong possibility for NYS because such a move would likely benefit ed tech investors such as Parson’s.

Additional CEB dots are connected through Commissioner member Heather Buskirk, a Master Teacher who also happens to be a NY Ed Voice Fellow, a fact conveniently omitted from her Commission bio. She specializes and teaches in a PTECH school that boasts a project-based learning model, a key component of CBE. Her Superintedent Pat Michel boasts that he has managed to reduce special-education resources and costs via implementation of “Google Class Rooms” in stead of traditional learning environments also a key CBE component. In another vein, I note that Super Michel admits the Regional HS is “illegal”. While Michel claims that things are  going very well in his Google school environment, to the contrary I have personally heard a number of reports from educators who feel that SPED students are not being provided the supports and resources that they need and are entitled to at Buskirk/Michel’s  school due to the change from a traditional learning environment to a PBL/ Google based one. Whether this “Google class room” learning environment is working for disadvantaged/ELL/SPED students is arguable. Listen to Michel speak about the  unconventional Google Class room starting at minute 19 to hear him “boast” of his success.

 Moving on, a little about Competency Based Education measures.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 1.35.42 AM

Competency-based education, also known as perfromance mastery, once designed as a whole child intitiative is now gaining traction among reformers who believe the measures can be implemented in economies of scale. It is also found in federal policy initiatives, like Race to the Top; in district innovation zones and turnaround schools; and in  afterschool programs and expanded learning models and is known to be a reformer based initiative as a key component is data collection and testing.

It may sound simple, but to meet the vision of competency-based education actually requires a complete overhaul of almost every aspect of the public education system from seat time to student accountability to financing and beyond. (Hmmm, I cannot help but wonder, could a shift to CBE from a traditional education model be the “complete overhaul” Cuomo speaks of? Connect the dots.)

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There are many facets to Competency Based Education, but this blog post will explore CBE and NYS’s readiness for such measures in the reformer context.

NYSED has already admitted that they are NOT undertaking a major re-work of the standards despite the fact that the Governor, in stark contrast, claims that he will overhaul and reboot Common Core in New York State. With that admission in hand, it is more likely than not that changes to education policy will have to be done legislatively. I spoke to a high level and a low level official in Cuomo’s office. Both confirmed that Cuomo intended to make any changes  to ed policy via “legislative” action as opposed to SED making changes at the Regents level. Althoug a slight nuance, CBE is most notably considered a legislative measure  as opposed to a “policy” one.

New Hampshire was the first state to pilot CBE, but other states are considering similar measures such as Rhode Island (hmmm, didnt former NYS Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner take the reigns in RI?) From  New Hampshire:

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Indeed, CBE has been piloted and is already poised for development on  a wide scale in New York State.

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NYC Izone portfolio districts are based on the CBE model framework:

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Click to access wp_crpe_NYCiZone_Jan11_0.pdf

(It should be noted, CBE Izone schools  aka “innovation” schools in NYS are NOT the same as NYS Performance Standards Consortium schools aka “anti testing” schools.)

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According to the website, the NYC Department of Education established the iZone in 2010,

“an office dedicated to supporting a community of schools in personalizing learning environments to accelerate college and career readiness for students. We are the nation’s first district to drive public sector innovation from the inside out. iZone started with 81 schools, but now includes nearly 300. Over the past three years, we’ve made great strides in enhancing the education system for students and teachers.”

Connecting the dots, the CBE schools are tied very tightly with the Ed Tech and start up industry:

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Innovate NYC School projects supports schools by connecting educators and students, who understand school and classroom needs, with edtech companies who are developing innovative teaching and learning solutions.
Innovate NYC Schools was established through the USDOE Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program to foster a thriving edtech ecosystem for NYC schools.

Connecting the dots further, in August 2015, the North East Comprehensive Center/RMC  conducted a study to examine how NYS could implement CBE in large scale. It should be noted the NECC consists of States: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Title: Online Learning on a Broad Scale
Date: August 18, 2015
This Solution-Finding Report provides information, requested by the Northeast Comprehensive Center/RMC Research on behalf of one of the states in its region, for any information on “the experience of other states, in particular Maine and New Hampshire, in using online learning, including competencybased education, on a broad scale. The experiences of other states, especially larger ones, would also be of interest.” Among other things, the request asked for guidance for use of state online and blended learning network, best practices and model school district policies to inform implementation of online and blended learning program, academic programming for online and blended learning, partnerships
with institutions of higher education and other relevant stakeholders for workforce opportunities using online and blended learning, and review of teaching and professional development policies and practices.

It asked for answers to such questions as: “What has been the impact of this change in the learning and achievement of students? What have been the successes and challenges of this introduction? What kind of pushback has there been? What can New York learn from their experiences?”

Meanwhile, Rochester School Districts have already implemented a CBE program:

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Click to access ParentGuide_Pamphlet13-06-11.pdf

Additionally, on December 17, 2014, the New York State Senate passed Bill 5509, which “Directs the commissioner of education to establish an online learning advisory council to make recommendations for establishment of a statewide online and blended learning program” in furtherance of the CBE agenda.

According the website of the New York State Education Department (NYSED)
(, “NYSED has launched a statewide virtual learning initiative to support the growth of effective online and blended instruction. Through regulations and supporting policy guidance, research and surveys, webinars, and other opportunities in the Regents
Reform Agenda, NYSED will support the growth of a statewide virtual learning network. This network including BOCES [Boards of Cooperative Educational Services], district, and charter school programs, will harness the capacity and needs of all school districts and BOCES, and connect with higher education and cultural education to create expanded learning opportunities.”

According to the NY State Commissioner of Education:

“A school district, a charter school, a registered nonpublic school or the chief administrator of an educational program administered by a State agency…may provide its students with an opportunity to earn units of credit towards a Regents diploma through online and/or blended course study, pursuant to the following: (a) To receive credit, the student shall successfully complete an online or blended course and demonstrate mastery of the learning outcomes for the subject, including passing the Regents examination in the subject and/or other assessment in the subject if required for earning a diploma. (b) The school district, registered nonpublic school or charter school shall ensure that: (1) courses are
aligned with the applicable New York State learning standards for the subject area; (2) courses provide for documentation of student mastery of the learning outcomes for such subjects, including passing the Regents examination in the subject and/or other assessment in the subject if required for earning a diploma; (3) instruction is provided by or under the direction and/or supervision of [a certified teacher]; (4) courses include regular and substantive interaction between the student and the teacher providing direction and/or supervision…; and (5) instruction satisfies the unit of study and unit of credit requirements…” New York State’s Virtual Advanced Placement (VAP) Program, funded through federal Race to the Top dollars, awarded grant funds to increase the successful participation of low-income students in virtual learning (online and blended instruction) Advanced Placement (AP) courses and tests. By supporting
increased access to AP courses and tests, the VAP program provides greater opportunities for lowincome students to demonstrate college- and career-readiness and mastery of the New York State Learning Standards. The program goals are to: enable larger and more diverse groups of students to participate and succeed in virtual learning AP programs and receive AP credits, provide enhanced professional development to teachers offering the courses, increase the number of virtual learning AP courses available to students statewide, and help build increased capacity at the district level to participate in available and expanding virtual learning opportunities. (

Connecting more dots, AP exams are considered a “competency based learning program” apparently. Tom Van Der Ark explains how to make AP more accessible for economies of scale while strategically noting how the College Board’s David Coleman would greatly benefit from buying a college and offering AP classes directly:

“AP may be the world’s largest competency-based learning program.  It has expanded access to college credit opportunities for million of students (and has proven far more scalable than other efforts like early college high schools).  Both are enormous contributions. But there’s an opportunity to make three big contributions in the balance of this decade:

  1. Move the tests online.  Not many students write by hand anymore; it’s crazy to make them do it on a test.
  2. Make multiple testing windows available (e.g., 6-8 times annually) to support competency-based learning.
  3. Encourage the development of personalized and adaptive content with a prize aimed at advances in the most popular courses.
  4. Encourage the development of flex programs that expand access and support increased success (see When Glee Meets FIRST for Coffee and Leaves With an AA & 10 Reasons Every District Should Open a Flex School) by offering program leader bootcamps.
  5. Incorporate automated scoring to drive down test administration costs and improve the quality of performance tasks.
With all of the colleges going bankrupt, College Board could buy one and offer credit directly.  They could even offer an AA degree–making it a massive online early college program available (one way or another) to almost every student in the US.
Add upgrading AP to David Coleman’s list of opportunities as the incoming CEO and another reason his selection was abig deal.”

Moving on, NYSEDs Virtual Learning Program Rubric supports CBE and was created to:

• Provide administrators within Local Education Agencies (LEAs) a powerful tool for evaluating virtual programs to ensure high quality and rigor in virtual programs within a school’s curriculum. Using the Guiding Definitions, VLP Standards, VLP Review Guide and VLP Rubric principles, administrators can support high-quality virtual instruction and make well-informed decisions that will help increase accountability and ensure consistency in virtual program evaluation.

• Offer criteria-based evaluation tools to evaluate State Education Agencies (SEAs) current virtual programs, as well as virtual programs developed by vendors that they may be considering including as part of their curriculum.


On June 11, 2011, the New York State Education Department and the International Association for K– 12 Online Learning (iNACOL) issued an Online Learning Needs Assessment Report that strongly supports CBE:

The purpose of this Needs Assessment was to collect feedback from district and high school leaders from across participating BOCES and large city school districts regarding their awareness and experience in
using online learning options. The survey also provided a forum for respondents to identify specific courses and academic services that they feel would be most beneficial to their students and staff if offered in an online learning environment.


On September 14, 2011, in furtherance of potential for CBE, the New York State Education Department and the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL), with support from Intel, sponsored the New York State Online and Blended Learning Summit II in Albany, NY. It included open and closing sessions by NYSED, a presentation by iNACOL on the state of online education in the United States, and panels on “Creating Educator Capacity for Online and Blended Learning” for Pre-service and In-service Teacher Education, In-service Teacher Professional Development, and Course/Instructor Evaluation in an Online Environment. The webpage for the Summit II ( contains videos and all files of the sessions, FYI.

Supporters of CBE allege that there is a clear link between the new Common Core Standards, technology, online learning, and  the rapid spread of “proficiency based learning”.

Moreover, it is argued that friendly policies have passed at the federal, state and district level, making it possible to establish CBE programs in schools, programs and districts particularly thanks to changes in FERPA laws which allow for more free disclosure of student information without parent consent.

Schools and districts are developing increasingly mature competency-based
pathways and approaches that others can study and potentially replicate state to state.

Indeed,  in 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation created the Project Mastery grant program to support competency-based education initiatives in large school systems that serve a high proportion of disadvantaged youth. The grants supported the development and implementation of technology-enabled curricula, online learning management systems, and teacher professional development during the 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 academic years. The three recipient organizations—which included two large school districts and one intermediary organization—carried out their pilot programs in a total of 12 public secondary schools distributed across five school districts in four states. The Foundation asked RAND to evaluate these efforts in terms of implementation, students’ experiences, and student performance. The report presents final results from that evaluation and concludes with six lessons for policy, partnerships, and practice which presumably should be of interest to educational policymakers and practitioners interested in competency-based education models as an approach to K–12 education reform. The study was undertaken by RAND Education, a business unit of the RAND Corporation, on behalf of  – who else – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Meanwhile,  Common Core’s Achieve group urges States to adopt and implement CBE learning models.

In 2014, Achieve issued an advisory to State leadership stating that Competency Based Learning pathways is an imperative in furthering the Common Core.

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How Can CBP Help More Students Achieve College and Career Readiness?

It is essential that states have a clear and broadly shared understanding of how CBP could help them meet their collegeand career-ready goals and aspirations for students.

Achieve has been hosting meetings on CBE for the past few years. They’ve created a working group that includes 11 states from the American Diploma Project and 11 organizations including NGA, CCSSO, and iNACOL. Achieve published policy guidance to states on assessments, accountability, and graduation requirements specifically advising  Common Core  states to implement Competency Based Learning models in public schools.
According to Achieve, “the shift from units of time to units of learning, and the shift from birthdays to demonstrations of learning as the key to matriculation a profound change–in many ways more challenging than the shift from print to digital. It will be difficult, but competency-based education it is key to dramatically increasing the percentage of students leaving school ready for college and careers.”

Connecting the dots even more, Achieve strongly supports competency based education plans and connects them to the success of Common Core:

This state policy framework, focused on graduation requirements, assessment, and accountability, is designed to assist states in building a policy structure that contributes to statewide adoption and implementation of competency-based pathways (CBP) that support all students in reaching college and career readiness, as defined by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). CBP can help all students reach college- and career-ready standards through the following strategies: students advance upon demonstrated mastery; competencies are designed to include learning objectives that empower students; assessments that are meaningful learning experiences; rapid and differentiated support for students; emphasis on the application and creation of knowledge, and learning processes that encourage students to develop skills and dispositions important for success in college, careers, and citizenship. It recognizes that there is no one-size-fits all strategy to advancing policies that support CBP, that everything does not have to happen at once, and that both the vision and approach to implementation will vary across states. In particular, it anticipates that states’ visions will fall along a continuum from keeping the current system largely intact to reimagining the traditional, time-based education system. It also anticipates that the path that they will take to implement this vision will vary based on state priorities and policy context, as well as preferred scale and rate of change.

(See the America Diploma Project piece here:

There are many  who believe that switching from a traditional education model to a Competency Based model will actually help save Common Core.

The shifts—from print to digital materials, seattime measures to demonstrated competency, and age-based cohorts to individually paced progress—will redesign learning for students. Shifts from a reliance on annual evaluations to instant feedback, and from individual teaching roles to shared and distributed teaching, will redesign teaching for educators. Traditional boundaries
of teaching and learning will continue to stretch and break as increasingly mobile, untethered environments facilitate the shift from a placebased
to a service-based education system.

When these types of practices and policies are in place, it is clear that many reformers believe that schools can more easily connect Common Core State Standards. The Asia Society furthers that “students need to be successful in the global innovation age; leverage community partnerships and “anywhere, anytime” learning experiences to expand student knowledge and skills; and award credit based on performance assessments and demonstrated mastery of the competencies”.

But, there are some who see CBE as a compromise of politics. According to Janet S. Twyman, Ph.D., Center on Innovations in Learning CBE Competency-based Education, Supporting Personalized Learning:

In this era of federally mandated educational reform and concurrent state and local resistance to top-down government directives (e.g., the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, the Common Core State Standards), a surprising consensus has arisen among state, local, and even federal education agencies in support of “competency-based” initiatives. Competency-based education (CBE) supports students’ progression through their academic work toward proficiency and mastery—regardless of time, method, place, or pace of learning (U.S. Department of Education [USDOE], n.d.). For the purposes of this publication series, a competency may be defined as “a combination of skills, abilities, and knowledge needed to perform a specific task,” which is tied to a specific goal or standard. As noted by Redding (2014b), competency entails a “general and evolving accumulation of related capabilities that facilitate learning and other forms of goal attainment” (p. 8); thus competency-based education stresses acquisition and demonstration of targeted knowledge and skills. Perhaps CBE garners advocates from all sides of the education debate because it fosters individualization and personalization (see Redding, 2014a, 2014c) while still requiring evidence of learning and accountability.

So, is New York planning to “overhaul” education practices and reboot Common Core by adopting Competency Based Education?

As set forth above, it would appear that NYS is well on our way to a CBE model or at least a strong variation of the same!

According to the the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks, an important step toward CBE is for the state board and/or legislature to, “Redefine Carnegie Units or credits as competencies aligned to state academic standards.” The Great Schools Partnership, the same organization who issued the report on testing cited by the White House, has supported movement towards “proficiency-based diplomas” in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont. Is New York next?

Not everyone believes the CBE model is promising for public school students. A new study suggests that online courses could also widen achievement gaps among students in different demographic groups.

Maria Worthen, of iNACOL clarifies that New Hampshire, who adopted and implemented CBE via its PACE system, must continue to administer the SBAC in three grade spans to evaluate and validate the new system of assessments and this is far from “fewer assessments” actually.

Click to access iNACOL-State-Policy-Frameworks-5-Critical-Issues-to-Transform-K12-Education-Nov2014.pdf

If assessments are not reduced, then what is the point?

And like the Common Core standards which contain a disclaimer, the CBP is also NOT without risk. Achieve provides a 3 page manifesto on risks associated with the Competency Based Education method:

There are risks, however, that shifting to this approach could fail to further equity aims, worsen current disparities or create new ones. To mitigate these risks, states should take actions through whatever means are most appropriate for their context to address seven major risks (see sidebar). Some of these considerations are specifically related to CBP (such as pacing), while others also are critical in a traditional system. These issues are highly interrelated and should be considered as a whole. For example, standards, performance expectations and accountability have many common threads and interdependencies, as do learning, pacing, support and intervention, and effective instruction.

One of the most significant risks to equity emerges from use of performance-based assessments/tasks, where there is a risk of variation across teachers in how proficiency or mastery is defined, with a serious risk that teachers of traditionally
underperforming students employ the lower bar. Variation in the quality and alignment of the assessment/task itself also is a substantial risk. Mitigation strategies for this risk could include having teachers collaboratively set proficiency/mastery definitions with norming across as many teachers as possible, as well as approaches in which states facilitate teachers in developing tasks according to common rubrics and protocols to ensure alignment and quality. This also is an opportunity for states to support schools and districts in ensuring that teachers have opportunities within professional learning communities
to look at student work as part of good reflective practice and feedback loops/routines. In addition, teachers can create protocols to monitor and adjust expectations based on external review and feedback. Instructional roles can be separated so only external content experts grade/evaluate performance-based tasks. States also can leverage accountability and public reporting, incorporating additional measures that do not depend on teacher definition of expectations to identify disparities and make outcomes transparent (e.g., postsecondary enrollment and success rates).

Another significant concern frequently cited is about how the unique needs of students with disabilities and ELLs will be addressed in a competency-based system. States should take great care to set policies and practices for their competencybased systems (or support districts and schools in doing so) with these students’ unique needs in mind, from instructional strategies such as direct instruction or small-group projects, to flexibility in demonstrating mastery, to specific supports needed in the classroom, to accommodations and modifications and other considerations such as pathways to graduation.

States should be clear that students with disabilities have diverse characteristics and that instructional strategies and supports should be designed to meet each individual’s needs. The National Center for Learning Disabilities has issued
policy recommendations regarding competency-based education for students with learning or attention issues. States should have a clear sense of how they will encourage teachers to balance direct instruction with project-based learning
for students with disabilities and ELLs, encourage learning groups that provide opportunities for ELLs to work with English-proficient students, and promote inclusion of special education students. States should be able to say how the
system will allow students, particularly students with disabilities, to make progress even when they struggle on one ormore standards. States should help schools and districts support teachers through robust and ongoing professional
development, particularly in techniques to assist ELLs and students with disabilities with demonstrating mastery of standards. It also is critical for states to consider the complex relationships among federal, state and district policy and practice and the law, regulations, guidance and funding streams for which each is responsible.

In the mean time, as backlash over the Common Core continues,  New York State is well on its way to adopting CBE and/or variations of the measure under the guise of conducting an “overhaul” of bad testing practices.

Is the Cuomo Commission planning to  “reboot” Common Core via CBE?

CBE, to be or not to be?

That is the question.

In the meantime, do NOT be fooled. While the press may be reporting that the powers in NYS are listening and are responsive to parent and educator concerns, they are not. United Opt Out’s Peg Robertson provides some sage advice and  us aptly warns us to be wary:

“Regarding Obama and the whole conversation around limiting testing – there won’t be less testing. The federal testing remains and now the feds will help the states implement the final blow – the testing that cannot be clearly seen or truly understood – like a stealth bomber – moving slowing and without sound through our public schools – and yes, engaging us – their enemy – as they blend in and take us out data point by data point until our public schools have vanished.  The states will finally seal the deal in taking full ownership and full leadership in destroying their own public schools.  A few years from now folks will look around at the destruction, the charter schools with 150 kids in a classroom being facilitated by a person with no teaching experience and/or REAL teaching degree – folks will wonder – how did this disaster occur? How did we not see it happening?

It’s happening now.
Folks will say….but I thought they were with us ??
No. They were never with us. Never. The privileged and the powerful will not stand with The People. It would defeat their entire purpose in being – to maintain and preserve and INCREASE their power and privilege.
Revolution continues to be the only answer. If the test and punish system remains in any shape or form – then the structure remains for them to move silently forward with a new paradigm shift that will appear – at first – almost invisible to the public. Any sort of weak stance on our part that accepts any part of their plan allows them to move more quickly. The current federal dept. of ed. mainstream media testing campaign – which is occurring just in the nick of time – to support the peer reviewed state testing system process, is their latest attempt to cause us to hope and be appeased.
Educate. Revolt. And remember. Remember what you know about public schools and the true possibility of a paradigm shift that includes fully-resourced public schools with democratic classrooms for ALL children and social policies which support our families and our communities. Remember that it is possible. Remember. Because right now, they are doing everything they can to make us forget. Solidarity.

Additional CBE States/Measures:

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New Hampshire – The state is initiating high school redesign that replaces the time-based system (Carnegie unit) with a competency-based system focused on personalized learning, strong teacher-student relationships, flexible supports, and development of 21st century skills.
Michigan Seat Time Waiver –Michigan passed legislation in 2010 providing a seat time waiver to districts that want to offer pupils access to online learning options and the opportunity to continue working on a high school diploma or grade progression without actually attending a school facility. Additional links here and here.
Ohio’s Credit Flexibility Plan – This plan, adopted by the State Board of Education in 2009, allows students to earn high school credit by demonstrating subject area competency, completing classroom instruction, or a combination of the two. Under this plan, subject area competency can be demonstrated by participation in alternative experiences including internships, community service, online learning, educational travel, and independent study.
District efforts

Chugach School District – This rural Alaska district developed a performance-based learning system by creating, implementing, and fine-tuning thematic units, tools, assessments, and instructional approaches, and replacing replace the Carnegie unit and grade levels with 10 performance levels. This system lead to the creation of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC) model, a standards-based approach to learning that is not tied to seat time, is flexible, and promotes student ownership over learning. The RISC model is currently in use in 16 districts and schools across the country. Additional link here.
Adams County School District 50 – This rural Colorado district has implemented the RISC model and created a system of learner-centered classrooms by replacing grade levels with 10 learning levels that students work through at their own pace. This approach is designed to give students the time and help they need to reach the standards at one level before advancing to the next. Additional link here.
Big Picture Learning School – This model seeks to provide a personalized learning experience that challenges and supports students, engages families in the learning process, and encourages students to take ownership over their own education. Each student works with an academic advisor and their parents to develop an individual learning plan that addresses their needs, skills, and interests.
Young Women’s Leadership Charter School – This Chicago school has moved away from tying credit to seat time and instead awards credit for specific competencies demonstrated at any point in a student’s high school career. Students earn credit for classes in which they demonstrate proficiency on at least 70 percent of academic course outcomes.
Alternative/credit recovery schools and programs

Diploma Plus – This model is a student-centered high school alternative for youth who are over-age and under-credited, re-entering high school, or placed at risk of dropping out. The goal of this school is to graduate students ready for college or career by enhancing student engagement and college and career preparation, and creating positive learning experiences for students. Diploma Plus works in partnership with school districts and communities in seven states.
Communities in Schools’ Performance Learning Centers – Communities in Schools has developed Performance Learning Centers to serve students who have fallen behind in credits. These alternative high schools are designed to help students earn credit and graduate on time by providing them with a rigorous academic environment, self-paced curriculum, project-based learning, and flexible schedules.

References/Additional info:

State Approaches to Competency-Based Education to Support College and Career Readiness for All Students

Click to access AsktheTeam_CBEbrief.pdf

Competency Based Education, Christensen INst based in Michigan (Questar is also based in Michigan)

Hand outs 2013 CBE

Early 2010, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation asked Susan Patrick from iNACOL and Chris Sturgis of MetisNet to scan the field of competency-based approaches and identify avenues for philanthropic investments:
CBE saves cc


Some college leaders say that by focusing on what people learn, not how or when they learn it, and by taking advantage of the latest technology, they can save students time and lower costs.

It is also reported by reformers that CBE will increase learning and lower costs.

Click to access CBE_Paper.pdf

Funding article:
Put simply, the current system funds input-driven programs that are managed
by districts and implemented by schools. Such a system precludes many kinds
of innovation, including technology, as well as redesigned staffing structures,
student choice, and more. There’s a new opportunity to align funding with objectives for improved achievement and completion
as education is redefined as a “place” to a bundle of student-centered,outcome d riven services.

Click to access Funding-Paper-Final1.pdf

Additional resources:

Reading Between The Lines: Obama’s “Testing Action Plan”

Education Alchemy hit the nail on the head with USDEs plan, reblogged on @SOTHVNY.

In the next day or two, @SOTHVNY will take it a step further and show that NYS has already begun the transition to Competency Based Education. In fact, the outcome of Cuomo’s Common Core commission, in my opinion, has already been decided.

The purported “overhaul” of common core in NYS is less about being responsive to the needs of parents and educators and more about pursuing the next step in a 5 – 10 year business plan surrounding the common core initiative and its related testing.

Stay tuned.



Is Obama’s Testing Action Plan, like Fruit Loops, part of a nutritious breakfast? Don’t believe the hype.

This has been over a decade in the making. In 2000 Business Week listed the companies benefiting from the new boon in online education stating, “Dozens of new companies are springing up to serve the emerging K-12 market for digital learning. Investors have poured nearly $1 billion into these companies since the beginning of 1999, estimates Merrill Lynch.”

Obama’s “Testing Action Plan” declares a reduction in standardized testing! Is less testing a good thing? Yes, of course it is! But what are we getting in its stead? The privatizers are hoping we aren’t asking that, or hoping we won’t look. But we are looking and we are asking. These are the same folks who are driving the policies to privatize public education. What do they gain for reducing testing?…

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