edTPA Storm Clouds Brew In NY State

Sepehr Ehsani via photopin cc
Sepehr Ehsani via photopin cc

In the Media

From the Albany, NY Democrat & Chronicle:

‘…the implementation of [the edTPA] has been problematic because it has come so quickly and it has made people very, very anxious about what is it they have to do as student teachers,” Veve said [Margaret Veve, coordinator of student teaching at SUNY New Paltz]. “It’s a double-edged sword — it can be positive, but with the difficulties of implementing it, the benefits are not outweighing what I’ve seen so far.’

Student teachers say they are having a hard time trying to figure out how to put together their portfolios and submit them to Pearson, the international testing giant administering the assessments.

Read the entire article at the Democrat & Chronicle

From Long Island, Newsday:

“To put together edTPA while student teaching is absolutely ridiculous,” [student, Tom] Pinto said. “I’m worried about passing.”

“I have never seen a level of anxiety approaching this,” said Ken Lindblom, director of a training program for English teachers at Stony Brook University. Lindblom, an associate English professor, emphasized that he was speaking for himself, not the university.

Read the Newsday coverage→

Student Teachers’ Concerns

From SUNY Cortland math students:

You’ve likely heard rumors that the new edTPA exam is some big scary project that is time intensive,
difficult to pass, and expensive. Well, I’m here to tell you that those rumors are absolutely true.

  • First, it’s big. The assessment comes in a 50-page booklet explaining the assessment. The edTPA is made up of three tasks (Planning, Instruction, Assessment), each task is evaluated under five rubrics of five points each for a total of 15 rubrics….
  • Second, it’s scary. The edTPA is one of the new certification exams much like the CST, EAS, and  ALST. Teachers cannot get their initial certification until they pass all four certification exams….
  • Third, it’s time intensive….
  • Fourth, it’s difficult to pass…. 
  • Fifth, it’s expensive….

Read the student perspectives (on page 2)

From the Ithaca College Ithacan:

Melissa Howard, senior education major at SUNY Cortland, has been circulating a petition online urging the State Education Department to suspend the implementation of edTPA until more details of the system have been fully worked out. The petition cites issues with the language of the rubric, the video portion and the fact that the test is administered by Pearson.

“Basically, a textbook company is deciding if we get to become teachers, which I think is not really fair,” she said. “I think it’s another way for them to make money off of public education as a private company.”

Read the student perspectives→


Common Core Creators Use the US Chamber of Commerce to Fight “Misinformation”

Carissa Miller, the Deputy Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is worried about the documentary, Building the Machine (which we wrote about here). In a letter obtained before its release date, she notifies the Common Core Chief State School Officers that the video is coming. Her attached “messaging and response tips” as well as a list of Tweets will help them counter the movie’s supposed “misinformation.”

The producers of those “tips”? None other than the US Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber is also in the midst of creating its own documentary. If these seem like unlikely projects for the Chamber of Commerce, the document below, courtesy of Anne Gassel, should make things a teensy bit clearer. 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 1.26.51 PM

And, here’s the leaked letter, bolding added for emphasis.

From: Carissa Moffat Miller
Subject: Anti Common Core Movie, embargoed materials
Chiefs, Deputies, Federal Liaisons and Communication Directors:

Many of you are likely aware of an anti-common core movie slated to be released in a few days. The Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based organization opposed to the Common Core, has produced a film called “Building the Machine.” The film’s anticipated online release date (which has changed several times), is currently set for March 31, 2014. The film implies that the Common Core was created through politics, misinformation and corruption. Using stark graphics and ominous music, the film features interviews with Common Core opponents arguing against the standards’ development and implementation—interspersed with misleading snippets of interviews from Common Core supporters.  You can watch a trailer for the film here.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fordham have put together the attached two documents that can be used to clarify the vast amount of misinformation that will be circulated as a result of the movie. Please note – these are EMBARGOED until Monday, March 31st. Please do not distribute.

In addition to these two documents, the U.S. Chamber is in the final stages of producing their own Common Core mini-documentary. This will provide the pro-Common Core side and will also be ready early next week. In collaboration with organizations from all over the country, the video will feature education reformers, teachers, chamber leaders, and business representatives, showing the unified support for Common Core across generations, political lines, and states.”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any specific questions or needs. Below we’ve include some tips for messaging and responding to the critical questions this film may generate in your state. We will send out the Chamber video when it is released.


Thanks to  Christel Lane Swasey, Renee Braddy and Alisa Ellis for calling this to our attention. Read more details on their blog, here–>

Thanks also to Anne Gassel for the information about the US Chamber of Commerce. You can read more on her blog, here->

In Depth: What’s the Long-Term Health Impact on Kids?

On April 12, Colorado TV station KKTV reported on a teacher, Pauline Hawkins,  who has decided to leave teaching. What makes Hawkins noteworthy is not that she posted her resignation on her blog— many other teachers have done so–but that a television station covered the story.

What’s especially worrisome about Hawkins’ blog is something that has not yet been considered in the press: the long-term effects of high-stakes testing on our kids. In her resignation letter, Hawkins writes (emphasis added), 

I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.

It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement twelve years ago–and it’s only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top.

I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths.

Why Else We Should Be Worrying About the Kids 

smokershighlife via photopin cc
smokershighlife via photopin cc

The pressures around testing and test prep are often mentioned in the media. There are other, significant, issues that haven’t (probably because the current situation is so dire and these are not perceived as urgent). Let’s put them on the table here:

Drugs.   Suicide.


Drug abuse is already considered to a public health epidemic in the United States.

There are four main reasons why people misuse substances: 1) to feel good, 2) to feel better, 3) to do better, and 4) out of curiosity or because others are doing it.

When asked about why they use drugs, kids get specific: Boredom. Coping. Feeling disconnected from family, peers, and school. (To be fair, they use for other reasons, too, such as to feel pleasure or feel more creative. )

April Gredder DeFrancesco, mother of a third grader, writes about her observations of the harmful testing effects on her child. There are many similar reports in traditional and web-based media.

While recent federal studies indicate that there have been declines in the use of certain kinds of drugs, we predict that with the increasingly standardized teaching (to the test) and pressure on students to perform (on tests), we can expect to see a rise in drug use and a decline in the age when young people begin to use. In fact, a recent New York Times article reported an already-increasing use of marijuana among teens.

What about suicide?

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds .

For every teen suicide death, experts estimate there are 10 other teen suicide attempts.

While the risk factors for teen and child suicide are complex, they include everything from hopelessness and life stressors, especially interpersonal losses and legal or disciplinary problems, to parent psychopathology, bullying, exposure to the suicide of a family member, friend, or other significant person, a history of physical or sexual abuse, etc. 

Hopelessness. Life stressors. Pauline Hawkins talks about these in her letter of resignation. In newspaper articles and blog posts, so do parents and teachers.

Maureen Hallinan, writing in Sociology of Education, delivers a simple messagekids who like school do better.

It used to be that doing better meant getter higher grades. As testing and related stresses continues to grow, doing better might be as simple as staying away from drugs. Maybe even staying alive.

Watch the KKTV coverage here–>

Read Pauline Hawkins’ resignation letter in its entirety here–>

Hankins also writes a blog, Education Reformation–>


Dow, S. & Kelly, J.F. (2013) Listening to youth: Adolescents’ reasons for substance use as a unique predictor of treatment response and outcome.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology. (2008). Facts for Families: Teen Suicide ( No. 10). Retrieved from http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Teen+Suicide&section=Facts+for+Families

National Alliance on Mental Illness. Suicide in Youth. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Illnesses/Suicide_Teens.htm

O’Connor, A. (2013, November 18). Increasing marijuana use in high school is peported. New York Times. NY. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/growing-marijuana-use-among-teenagers-spurs-concerns/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (May 13, 2010). The DAWN Report: Emergency Department Visits for Drug-related Suicide Attempts by Adolescents: 2008. Rockville, MD.

Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research. (2013). Monitoring the Future. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/

Take_Action_in_Yr_Community_MarchApril2010 This newsletter appears courtesy of SAMHSA News, Volume 18 – Number 2, March/April 2010. SAMHSA News is the national newsletter of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA News may be accessed at http://www.samhsa.gov/samhsaNewsletter.

Syracuse NY Teachers Sue NYSED Over Teacher Evaluation System

Last year, when the new state-mandated teacher evaluation system went into effect, a portion of each teacher’s “grade” was based on the improvement of their students’ test scores. 40% of  Syracuse teachers received a rating below “effective;” about 80% of Syracuse students are impoverished enough to qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program.

Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via photopin cc

This year, on the 16th of April, the Syracuse Teachers Association filed a suit against the NY State Education Department, saying that “the Education Department failed to recognize the full impacts of poverty on students when it set the standards on student improvement on the state’s fourth- through eighth-grade math and English language arts tests.”

We hope the documented unreliability of correlating teacher effectiveness and student test scores also happens to come up in the conversation.

Read the whole story as reported on Syracuse.com –>

State teachers leader called Syracuse the poster child for rushed evaluations –>

More on the impact of poverty on literacy –>

Building the Machine: The Common Core Documentary

This is must-watch documentary.


“Building the Machine” introduces the public to the Common Core States Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and its effects on our children’s education. The documentary compiles interviews from leading educational experts, including members of the Common Core Validation Committee. Parents, officials, and the American public should be involved in this national decision regardless of their political persuasion.

See more here->

Is the movie having an effect? Check this–>

Share this film widely! Here’s a link: http://bit.ly/1tm4ijU

Hidden Tests You Don’t Hear About

You are hearing more and more about the problems of Common Core testing. What you don’t hear about is the reckless high-stakes testing being forced on teaching candidates in New York State. The tests are obtuse and costly, the portfolio candidates create so overwhelming and convoluted that completing it well on the state’s short timeline amounts to hoop-jumping. The process is called the edTPA and it is being driven by Pearson, with both the state education department and the Stanford Center (called SCALE) that developed it taking no responsibility for the damage the implementation is doing to the spirit and professionalism of our future teachers.  Learn more here.