The North Country Alliance for Public Education held a forum on the progress of implementation of New York’s Common Core education standards last night. The meeting was intended to update the public about emerging information on the standardized test controversy.
The North Country Alliance for Public Education was formed over concerns about changes in New York’s public schools and the impacts on students. Alliance member Doug Selwyn says the goal of this second forum is to bring in people who have been researching the issue and update parents and the public. “The state is insisting that we stay the course. They continue to be impervious to the experiences of the people actually involved in delivering or getting the education. We know that the schools have been silenced, and so we don’t know as much as we should about what’s happening. This is a way to help people learn a little bit more.”
Four featured speakers appeared by video conference since severe weather prevented them from reaching Plattsburgh.
New York City parent and Executive Director of Class Size Matters Leonie Haimson offered revelations regarding New York State’s contracts with a company called inBloom, a non-profit formed by the Gates Foundation. The data collection contractor, she says, will be allowed disturbing access to student records, from kindergarten throughout their academic career, without parental knowledge or consent. “If the exact same data, for example your child’s disabilities or 504 conditions, were in your child’s medical files it would be completely illegal to share them with any third parties without parental consent. And the person doing that could go to jail. But the exact same medical records, if they’re in your child’s educational files, there are essentially no limits on who it can be shared with.”
In protest, more than 40 school districts in the state returned Race to the Top money tied to the inBloom data collection, but the state will upload the data regardless. Doug Selwyn is among those outraged to learn that New York will begin uploading student data in July. “inBloom is something that most people don’t know about. To have something that applies to every child in public schools and to have that be a stealth issue, I think, is indefensible and unethical. To have parents and families not know that their children’s data is being collected and made available so that private companies can sell products without that being something that parents and families have control over I think is indefensible.”
Presenters also provided information on parents’ ability to refuse to allow their children to take the Common Core exams. Eric Mihelbergel from Tonawanda, near Buffalo, is a parent and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education. He began questioning standardized testing when his children were given bubble tests in art, music and gym. He described crucial opt-out strategies. “Make the school teacher and the school principle your best friends. The teacher, especially, will help you through this process of opting your child out and refusing the test.”
Valatie’s Ichabod Crane Elementary and Middle School Principal Tim Farley described the Common Core curriculum as “horrible.” The Albany-area principal refuses to allow his four children to participate in the testing. “The effects of common core and the high stakes testing and the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) on the kids has not been good. And on teachers, they’ve lost the academic freedom that they’ve one had. They’re demoralized. I tell my teachers don’t teach to the test.” That prompted someone to shout “How have you kept your job?” Farley’s response “I don’t care what happens to my job.” garnered applause from the crowd.
Congressman Chris Gibson, a Republican from the Hudson Valley, introduced a House bill Wednesday to reduce testing requirements at the federal level. A New York Senate bill would bar re-disclosures of personal data without parental consent. A second bill passed by the Education committee would allow districts to opt out of inBloom data collection, but it contains no parental consent provision.