Protect Our Schools Statewide Demonstrations

Oneonta will be participating in a statewide campaign to promote unity amongst parents, teachers, students, administrators, and other members of our communities. The Oneonta event will begin at 4:30 pm on March 26 at the Center Street School Building, 31 Center St. Oneonta. Join hands with members of our communities to encircle the building in a symbolic gesture of protection! While no longer used as a school, Center Street School is a well-known landmark and a symbol of the loss of local schools across the state. Via invited media and through social media, we will make a statement that we stand together to protect our beloved local public schools. Upload your pictures using the hashtag #protectourschools. All members from all districts are invited to participate.

It is essential that in this critical period of reform, parents and educators come together for the common cause of protecting public education.  We are participating in the Protect our Schools Campaign in order to demonstrate solidarity with educators and to display our commitment to protecting what matters most: children and schools with local control. —Kjersti VanSlyke-Briggs, co-founder Oneonta Area for Public Education and Associate Professor of Secondary Education, SUNY Oneonta.

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Oneonta Area for Public Education is an affiliate of the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE). NYSAPE is coordinating demonstrations across the state. We encourage supporters of public education to gather on Thursday March 26, 2015 to join hands in a “Protect Our Schools” event. To find a list of participating schools and gathering times, visit http://www.nysape.org/protect-our-schools-campaign.html.

The concept is simple and the benefit huge: gather stakeholders at participating schools to join hands in a symbolic gesture of protection. The need to protect our schools has never been more urgent. Governor Cuomo continues to paint public schools and teachers in a negative light in an attempt to centralize power and strip away local control all while failing to provide adequate and fair funding. As we know, local schools are under threat due to excessive testing, teacher evaluations tied to test scores, lack of funding, charter school expansion, privatization, school closings, and state takeover of our schools are some of the many concerns shared by stakeholders.

Seeing stakeholders unite to literally circle their schools sends a strong and powerful message to Albany that community members support their public schools. Via invited media and through social media using the hashtag #protectourschools, we have the opportunity to change the conversation and put an end to the Governor’s damaging reform agenda. A noncontroversial demonstration such as this will be a much-needed positive outlet for all stakeholders in our schools’ communities.

The reason we (S-E/Community) feel it is important to participate in the “Protect Our Schools” campaign is we need, as parents, grandparents, teachers, and administrators, to raise our collective voices across NYS and let our representatives in Albany know that Governor Cuomo’s misguided educational agenda is unacceptable. If we do not speak out against these unfair education reforms that will de-stabilize local control of schools and fundamentally damage our public school system in NYS, public education as we know it, will cease to exist.  —Sherburne-Earlville Teachers Association President Jennifer Moore.

If you are interested in involving your school, get started now using the resources at NYSAPE.org.  You can download a flyer template that you can customize with your school and gathering time; letters you can send to your school administration and teachers association to get them involved; and a checklist to guide you every step of the way.

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Reminder: Education Rally today at 4:30

Don’t forget to attend the Because I Care rally this afternoon at 4:30 in Muller Plaza, Main St. Oneonta.  Hosted by Oneonta Area for Public Education, Worcester Community for Education, Oneonta Teachers Association, Unatego Teachers Association, Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton Teachers Association, Worcester Teachers Association, and NYSUT.  For more information, click here. Bring a rally sign and a brief statement that begins, “Because I care…”  We hope to see you there!

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Is There School Tomorrow, Mom?

The following was written by an area mother.  It describes her second grader’s gradually hatred of school.

Is There School Tomorrow, Mom?

I am becoming increasingly frustrated, disillusioned, agitated and very sad at how much school has changed over the course of two years for our son. This is the child who in kindergarten received the “love of learning” award and “hard worker” award. He came home almost daily and insisted on working on his sight words, spelling words and drawing pictures. I begged him to watch T.V. if even for 15 minutes or play on his iPad for 15 minutes, but nope, he wanted to “practice” his words. The first semester of first grade was fine, math became a little harder but he managed. The last half of first grade he began to have more tests at school and the “new” math was introduced. Bobby, my husband and I put on our “boots” and began our walk through the Common Core. Now Bobby is in second grade, and it is muddier. We need bigger and thicker boots this year to muddle through all the tests and Common Core crap.

This year, my six year old “returns” every Friday at 2:50 p.m. Friday’s are most definitely Bobby’s favorite day of the week. The minute he buckles himself in the car, he starts grinning and states, “It’s the weekend mom, two days off!” He starts smiling and giggling again. I see the stress drain from his face. His face regains color. I swear he is reborn the same day and time each week! He wants to go outside and play and continue working on the hole he is digging out back– the hole to get to China. He is very relaxed and calm but, most important— he is happy. He is back to being Bobby – my happy go lucky kid. This elation only lasts 24-36 hours and when it gets to be Sunday afternoon he starts asking the dreaded question,

“Is there school tomorrow Mom? Yes honey there is.”

Followed by, “Is there school the day after that?”

“Yes, Bobby you have school Monday through Friday.”

“Mom is there any half days this week?”

“No honey not this week.”

He is cringing at the thought of school and it’s only Sunday afternoon. The last question I answered from him was,

“Can you pick me up early then”?

“I really cannot. Besides you are having tacos tomorrow! Your favorite lunch. “

At this point I have to find the silver lining in any way I can, anything to motivate him to have a good day at school. The knot in my stomach begins as Bobby asks the dreaded Sunday question (“Is there school tomorrow, Mom?”). It doesn’t stop on Sunday with the questions; it’s actually every single day. Every morning half crying he says, “Is there school today, mom?” Some mornings he cries and says, “Can I stay home today?” I ask if he is sick and he says no, but school makes him feel sick. Several tests have come home the last few weeks with grades in math and reading ranging from 40 to 60. He is failing most of his tests, he feels sad and overwhelmed. He loved school less than two years ago but now I have to find the silver lining in any aspect of school that I can.

Bobby has had some recent dental issues that have involved several dental appointments. Halfway through, he had to change dentists. It has been a tough road correcting his dental problems (shots, Novocain, fillings, etc.). He has gone so far to ask if he could go to the dentist instead of school. That is how much he has grown to dislike school. School has become having to take a test or get ready for a test. The last dental appointment was not good – he felt the drill and hopes not to return to the dentist. The clincher is that he has one dental appointment left and when I ask him whether he wants to go to the dentist next Tuesday to finish up his dental work or go to school I already know the answer – he will choose the dentist even though it may hurt.

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Refusing the Common Core Tests

Oneonta Area for Public Education, with support from Worcester Community for Education, will be hosting a Refuse The Test Informational Forum on Saturday, March 21 from 2-4 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta at 12 Ford Ave.  This event is free and open to the public.  Families with children are welcome to this casual event.  Hear from a teacher, a principal, and parents on the benefits of test refusal.  Learn about the role testing plays in education and about your rights to refuse testing on your child’s behalf.

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The grades 3-8 NYS Common Core tests in ELA and math will once again reign supreme over the educational environment for students and teachers in public schools across New York State, stealing instructional time through hours and hours of testing and many weeks of unbearable test preparation. The stress, already present for many, will increase and come home through the sobs and frustrations of children overburdened. With teacher evaluations already tied to student test scores and the looming possibility that the weight of these test scores will be increased if Governor Cuomo gets his way, it has never been more important for parents to exercise their right to refuse to allow their children to participate in these high-stakes tests.

The ELA portion begins on April 14 and will encompass three days of testing with three more days set aside for make-up testing.  The math tests begin April 22 and will take away just as many days away from regular school.

2013 New York State Principal of the Year, Carol Burris’s recent blog at the Washington titled Principal: ‘There comes a time when rules must be broken… That time is now’ illustrates how important opting out can be.

The only remedy left to parents is to refuse to have their children take the tests. Testing is the rock on which the policies that are destroying our local public schools are built. If our politicians do not have the courage to reverse high-stakes testing, then those who care must step in.

Last year more than 60,000 parents boycotted the state tests. The time to end the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing is now. Each refusal punches a whole in the data used to unfairly label our schools as failure factories and our teachers as incompetent. By refusing to allow your child to participate, you are starving a punitive system of the data it needs to unfairly discredit student performance, teacher effectiveness, and school quality.

PunchingHoles_OAPE_NYSAPE

Refusing NYS testing is easy and starts by sending the following letter to your school:

Dear Administrator,

Thank you for all that you do for our school.

I am writing to respectfully inform you that my child, (name), under my guardianship and advice, will be scored as a “refusal,” with a final score of “999” and a standard achieved code of 96, on all State testing including ELA, Math and Science as described in the 2014-2015 NYS Student Information Repository System (SIRS) Manual version 10.2 on page 63.  Please note that a “refusal” is not the same as “absent” as they are defined differently and scored with different standard achieved codes on page 63 of the SIRS Manual.  Also note that on page 27 of the 2014 Edition School Administrator’s Manual it is explained that “The makeup dates are to be used for administering makeup tests to students who were ‘ABSENT’ during the designated administration dates.”  My child will specifically be scored as a “refusal,” not “absent,” and therefore my child will continue to receive a free and appropriate public education in his/her regular classroom environment during the administration of all makeup test periods as this letter provides written verification of a “refusal” for all tests.

I would ask that the school please provide an alternative activity for my child during administrative sessions of testing (not makeup tests, as my child will be in his/her regular classroom environment during makeup tests).  However, I understand that an alternative activity is not required on the part of the school.  If you are unable to provide an alternative activity for my child I would ask that you please utilize the provision of the NYS Educator Guide to the 2015 Common Core ELA (Math) Tests which, on page 9 (page 7 for Math), explains “When Students Have Completed Their Tests….that student may be permitted to read silently.”  I am reserving the option of removing my child from school during the test administration session depending on the emotional anxiety state of my child on the day of refusal and whether or not the school will provide an alternate activity for my child.

In addition, my child will not participate in any stand-alone field testing administered through the NYS Education Department.

Thank you very much.  I look forward to a great end of the school year.

Sincerely,

More resources about test refusal can be found at the New York State Allies for Public Education website.

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Because I Care Rally in Oneonta

BecauseICareRally

On Thursday, February 5, 2015, approximately 200 people showed up at the 11th Annual Legislative Forum at the Catskill Regional Teacher Center.  This annual forum has never been so successful.  Last year less than 30 were present.  A horde of parents and teachers packed the auditorium at the Bugbee School on State Street, filled the stage behind the table of legislators, and overflowed out into the hallway.  Congressman Chris Gibson, Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, Assemblyman Pete Lopez, Assemblyman Bill Magee, and aides from the officers of Senator James Seward and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand were present to answer questions.

Many attendees came as guests of Oneonta Area for Public Education, and were asked to prepare a statement for the forum that began with “Because I Care…”  Unfortunately, time was limited and we were not given the opportunity to read these statements.  Fortunately, the energy of the attendees was high and the calling clear: We must stand united to defend public education from the onslaught of Governor Cuomo’s reform agenda. Our schools are under threat due to lack of funding, excessive testing, teacher evaluations tied to test scores, the potential for school closings, state takeover of schools, loss of local control, and the expansion of charter schools.

We invite you to maintain your energy and the spirit of togetherness and join us in Muller Plaza on Main St. Oneonta at 4:30 pm on Thursday, February 26, 2015 for a “Because I Care” rally!  All who attend will be given a chance to speak their because I care statements. Grab a hot drink at one of Oneonta’s locally-owned coffee shops, and dress warmly!  Bring your family.  Bring your kids.  The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy.  This will be a real life lesson in civics and a call to end the complacency in the fight to preserve quality public education!

Bring a rally sign that is not attached to a stick (or it could be viewed as a weapon). It does not have to be elaborate and can be as simple as a print-out on plain white paper.  Add a short “Because I care” statement of your own … or use one of these:

Because I Care,

  • My children will opt out of state exams.
  • I want the Gap Elimination money restored to schools.
  • I want my child’s education to be developmentally appropriate.
  • I want to teach fiction.
  • I want my child to be prepared for life, not a test.
  • I don’t want my child’s teacher to be evaluated on test scores.
  • I don’t want testing to dominate education.
  • etc.

If you are willing, we will take a picture of your sign (with or without you in the picture) and post them on Facebook and Twitter. ‪#‎becauseicare‬

The event promises to be exciting!  We hope to see you there.

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REMINDER: Event 2/5

BecauseICare_Feb5

Attention ALL Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Taxpayers!

JOIN Oneonta Area for Public Education at the 11th Annual Legislative Forum at The Catskill Regional Teachers Center (crtc@oneonta.edu) on Thursday, February 5th to be held at the Bugbee School Auditorium in Oneonta from 4:30 – 5:30 PM.

Let your elected officials hear WHY THEY SHOULD VOTE NO on Governor Cuomo’s billionaire friendly education agenda that hurts children and schools in NYS. Prepare a short comment that starts “I care because….”

CUOMO’s Agenda:

  • Said he was going to “break” public schools (Daily News 10/24/14)
  • Wants to tie state aid to ramped up teacher evaluations that increase the weight of state test scores and bring in outside evaluators to observe teachers.
  • Wants to raise or eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools, which are privately run schools paid for with taxpayer dollars.
  • Wants to double down on the Common Core.
  • Wants to reward teachers with high performing students by doling out merit pay.
  • Wants to increase the amount of technology in public schools.

Key Points For Your Comment:

  • Children are not factory products. One size fits all curricula that ‘drill and kill’ ELA and math at the expense of arts, social studies and science are bad for learning and bad for kids.
  • Common Core State Standards are developmentally inappropriate and hold teachers responsible for factors over which they have no control. 46% of New Yorkers are opposed to the CCSS while only 23% support them.
  • “College and career readiness” is a false bill of goods. Proficiency rates are based on ARBITRARY CUT SCORES, not on any objective measure, put in place by John King in 2013. Children who underperform suffer from food insecurity, troubled communities, and unstable homes. Poverty is the problem, not schools and teachers.
  • Bumping up teacher evaluations to 50% based on state test results means more teaching to the test. Bringing in outside evaluators to do teachers observations is a waste of time, tax dollars and robs schools and communities of local decision-making and autonomy.
  • State aid to schools is distributed unfairly. Schools in poorer districts spent $8,733 less per pupil last year than schools in wealthier districts. The GAP Elimination Adjustment amounts to parasitism on small rural and poor schools.
  • Legislators are being held hostage to Cuomo’s demands. If they go along with his plan, state aid to schools will amount to a $1.1 billion increase. If legislators refuse to be bullied, schools will be punished with only a $377 million increase in state aid.
  • Teacher morale is at a 20 year low. Students enrolled in teacher education programs have dropped 22% in the last two years alone. We face the very real possibility of a teacher shortage. Taking away teachers professionalism and blaming them for problems beyond their control is not the way to attract the best and brightest to this essential profession.
  • Every child deserves a high quality public school. More charters means more profits for billionaire hedge fund managers but leaves public school children, especially those with special needs or who are English language learners, in the dirt.
  • School consolidation hurts small communities and the children and families who live in them. Small rural schools have proven records of achievement. Consolidated schools have been shown to increase transportation costs, raise drop out rates and lower involvement in extra curricular activities.
  • Merit pay incentivized teaching to the test, punishes teachers who have students who are poor, English language learners or who have special needs, and creates tension and negativity in schools.
  • More technology in schools means more profits for moguls in the $8 billion dollar     education technology sector but new research shows that children need less rather than more screen time for healthy learning and development.

For more detailed information on these crucial points visit NYSAPE at

http://www.nysape.org/press-release—response-to-governors-letter-on-public-education.html

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Oneonta EVENT–Attendance Needed

February 5, 2015. 4:30-5:30 pm.
11th Annual Legislative Forum at the Catskill Regional Teacher Center. 4:30-5:30 pm to take place in the Bugbee School Auditorium, 1 State St. Oneonta–parking and entrance in rear. Teachers, faculty, administrators, education students, and other education focused groups have the opportunity to meet with their area legislators (Assemblyman Crouch; Assemblyman Lopez; Assemblyman Magee; Congressman Gilbson’s District Director Steve Bulger; Senator Gilligbrand’s District Director Colleen Deacon; and Senator Seward’s Education Director Duncan Davie) representing the Central New York region.

Oneonta Area for Public Education, with support from regional NYSUT, Worcester Community for Education, and several local teachers’ associations, invite you to participate in speaking out.  This is the first event in an important series of events that are part of our “Because I Care” campaign.

In light of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address, it has never been more clear that public education is under attack! We need your participation to help send a message that the current direction of education is unacceptable.

This is the perfect opportunity for us to show up en masse with respectful rally signs and prepared statements of your personal concern(s). You don’t have to speak, but your presence will add to the impact and to our collective voice.

We ask that you limit your statement to not more than a minute. Introduce yourself, then begin your statement with “Because I Care….” You can talk about what matters most to you as a parent, as a teacher, as a taxpayer, etc.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

–excessive testing: effects on children, on teachers, on families, etc.
–parents opting out, why it’s important
–teachers refusing to administer tests, that we’re starting to see this and we support it
–Cuomo’s APPR proposal, takes away local control, focuses even more on test scores, unrealistic, an attack on teachers
–lack of funding for our schools; Cuomo’s bully tactics & threats (more funding, but only if you do as I say)
–lack of local control in general
–teachers unfairly evaluated
–poverty, the real cause of student failure
–fear of schools closing, facing consolidation & regional/ county schools

To RSVP at our public Facebook event, click here.

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