Public Hearing - October 01, 2013

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       2      ------------------------------------------------------

       3                         PUBLIC HEARING


       5      ------------------------------------------------------


       7                       Syracuse City Hall
                               Common Council Chambers, 3rd Floor
       8                       233 Washington Street
                               Syracuse, New York 13202
                               October 1, 2013
      10                       11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.



      13      PRESIDING:

      14         Senator John J. Flanagan


      17         Senator John A. DeFrancisco

      18         Senator Elizabeth Little

      19         Senator Thomas F. O'Mara

      20         Senator James L. Seward

      21         Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk

      22         Senator David Valesky





              SPEAKERS:                               PAGE  QUESTIONS
              John King                                  9       24
       3      Commissioner
              New York State Education Department
              Anthony S. Bottar, B.A., J.D.              9       24
       5      Vice Chancellor
              New York State Board of Regents
              Rick Longhurst                            72       77
       7      Executive Administrator
              Aimee Rogstad Guidera                     82       98
       9      Executive Director
              Data Quality Campaign
              Reginal J. Leichty                        82       98
      11      Attorney/Partner
              EducationCounsel, LLC
              Kevin Ahern                              107      121
      13      President
              Syracuse Teachers Association
              Stephen Allinger                         107      121
      15      Director of Legislation
              New York State United Teachers
              Corliss Kaiser                           145      157
      17      Superintendent
              Fayetteville-Manlius School District
              Diana Bowers                             145      157
      19      Superintendent
              Hamilton Central School District
              David Syracuse                           174      188
      21      Science Teacher
              Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES





              SPEAKERS (Continued):                   PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Sharon Contreras                         204      214
       3      Superintendent
              Syracuse City School District
              Jennifer Pyle                            204      214
       5      Deputy Director
              Conference of Big 5 School Districts
              Michael Cohen                            228      245
       7      President
              James Viola                              249      260
       9      Director of Government Relations
              School Administrators Association of NY
              Paul Gasparini                           249      260
      11      Principal
              Jamesville-Dewitt High School
              Timothy Heller                           249      260
      13      Principal
              Groton Elementary School
              Russell Kissinger                        249      260
      15      Principal
              Mount Markham High School
              Maureen Patterson                        249      260
      17      Assistant Superintendent
                   Instruction - K-12
      18      Liverpool School District

      19      David Little                             282      292
              Governmental Relations
      20      New York State School Boards

      21      Bill Phillips                            293      306
      22      Northeast Charter Schools Association

      23      Anthony Brindisi                         312      315
              Legislative Member
      24      New York State Assembly

      25                            ---oOo---


       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Good morning.

       2             Good morning.

       3                  (Audience says "Good morning.")

       4             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Good morning.

       5             All right.

       6             Welcome to everyone.

       7             I said to Senator Valesky, I'm totally

       8      unaccustomed to being -- I think I'm on a perch

       9      here.

      10             But, it's very nice to be here, and this is

      11      my first time in this building, having been to

      12      Syracuse a number of times, but I feel like --

      13      I almost feel like I'm in church, with the way the

      14      pews are setup.

      15             So, I know Commissioner King is behaving

      16      already, so we look forward to hearing his

      17      testimony.

      18             But, let me start by welcoming everybody.

      19             And there is a -- there's a lady outside.

      20      Actually, I don't know her last name, but I do know

      21      her first name, and it's Carmelita.

      22             Carmelita has been extraordinarily helpful in

      23      putting everything together for us to be here today.

      24             And for anyone who does these types of

      25      events, including all my colleagues, you know that


       1      these things don't happen without the support and

       2      help of a lot of people; our media services people.

       3             A lot of planning goes into these things, and

       4      we are very happy that all of you are here today.

       5             And I want to explain a couple of different

       6      things, introduce my colleagues, and then get

       7      started, and I apologize for the delay.

       8             We are scheduled to be here from 11:00 to

       9      3:00.

      10             We had our first hearing on Long Island, and

      11      that was scheduled from 10:00 to 2:00.

      12             We started at 10:20, we got out at 3:20, so,

      13      we ran an hour over, but I think, on the whole, we

      14      had a very good reception.

      15             We had excellent testimony from a lot of

      16      different people, including State Education

      17      Department, who is here as well.

      18             And I'm going to begin by introducing my

      19      colleagues, and I'm going to start, not to my

      20      political left, but just to my left here, with

      21      Senator Valesky and Senator DeFrancisco, both of

      22      whom reside in Syracuse and represent this great

      23      community.

      24             And, we are also joined by

      25      Senator Betty Little, Senator Jim Seward,


       1      Senator Tom O'Mara, and, Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk,

       2      who is our newest member in the Senate.

       3             Some of our colleagues up here are members of

       4      the Education Committee; others are not.

       5             But, I'm going to put this in

       6      parenthetically:

       7             Chairman DeFrancisco has been the Chair of

       8      the Finance Committee for a number of years, and he

       9      has been to about 500 more hearings than probably

      10      any of us, so one of the things that he is very

      11      adept at is, brevity, being succinct, and asking

      12      people to be, accordingly, essentially, act the

      13      same.

      14             So, here at the basic components:

      15             We are -- we have four hearings scheduled.

      16      We are probably going to add a fifth hearing.

      17             We have been on Long Island.

      18             We're in Syracuse.

      19             We're going to be in Buffalo in two weeks,

      20      the city of New York two weeks thereafter.

      21             And there's probably an excellent chance that

      22      we will be in Albany for our final hearing.

      23             The premise of what we're doing here, there's

      24      no predisposition or any kind of agenda, for anyone

      25      who may think that.


       1             We are endeavoring to listen to people who

       2      are in the field, at the professional level, at the

       3      parent level, at the teaching level, at the

       4      administrative level, to see what is going on with

       5      the Reform Agenda that's being advanced by State Ed

       6      and the Regents.

       7             And our expectation is, that we will get a

       8      wealth of information.

       9             That we will probably conference on a lot of

      10      this stuff at the end, and figure out what

      11      recommendations we may advance, if any.

      12             And as many of my colleagues know, the

      13      primary obligation of the Legislature is to, in

      14      essence, provide a very broad framework and the

      15      financing of education.

      16             Educational policy is set by State Ed and the

      17      Board of Regents, and we respect that distinction,

      18      but we also know that we have to be responsive to

      19      our constituents.

      20             I have spoken individually and collectively

      21      to all of my colleagues.

      22             Senator Valesky's office has been extremely

      23      helpful, as has Senator DeFrancisco, in getting this

      24      list together.

      25             I want to be clear:  No one should feel that


       1      someone is being included or excluded by design.

       2             We have had requests to testify.

       3             We have tried to match up a broad

       4      cross-section of different people.

       5             For example, today, we have charter schools

       6      testifying.  They did not testify on Long Island.

       7             Today we have the PTA, who I believe is

       8      clearly and fairly representative of parents.

       9             We have NYSED who is testifying again, having

      10      done so on Long Island.

      11             So what we are really shooting for is to get

      12      the best input possible.

      13             We had a good exchange on Long Island.

      14             I expect that we will have the same today.

      15             And I do know we have -- on Long Island we

      16      had a little glitch.  We did not have a flag in the

      17      room.

      18             So I'm going to ask Senator Valesky to stand

      19      and lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

      20                  (All persons say:)

      21                  "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the

      22        United States of America and to the republic for

      23        which it stands, one nation under God,

      24        indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

      25             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator, thank you very


       1      much.

       2             And one last thing before we bring up the

       3      State Education Department and the Regents, I will

       4      do this politely, and I will do it diplomatically:

       5             No one is going to read their testimony.

       6             We're all intelligent people, to an extent,

       7      and we can read things that have been submitted.

       8             Everything that's been submitted has already

       9      been up online.  It's available for people to see.

      10             If you want to summarize, fine.

      11             If you want to speak ad lib, fine.

      12             But, we're going to try and keep it as tight

      13      as possible, and I'm sure that my colleagues are

      14      going to have questions.

      15             And as we ask you to summarize and be

      16      succinct, certainly, I know my colleagues will do

      17      the same.

      18             And having said that, I'd ask the

      19      Commissioner and the Vice Chancellor if they would

      20      come up and start us off.

      21             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  Good morning,

      22      Senators, Chairman.

      23             Thank you for the opportunity to present a

      24      few remarks to you this morning.

      25             It's my intent to provide you with a broad


       1      overview of the action that the Regents have taken

       2      over the past decade or so to set the stage, so to

       3      speak, for some more specific comments that will be

       4      delivered by Commissioner King.

       5             As you well know, one of our responsibilities

       6      in supervising the State Education Department is to

       7      oversee K-12 education, and the education that is

       8      provided to approximately 3 million students

       9      throughout the state.

      10             The topic for today, the Regents Reform

      11      Agenda, from our perspective, is a continuation of

      12      work that began many, many years ago.

      13             It wasn't too long ago, and probably within

      14      the memory of many people in this room, that a local

      15      diploma was something that was granted by a local

      16      school district using local school standards.

      17             And in the late '70s and '80s, we

      18      realized as a state that that did not provide

      19      students with enough of an education for the world

      20      that existed then.

      21             So about 30 years ago, the Regents began a

      22      process of elevating the standards for all students,

      23      and one of the first steps was the adoption and

      24      implementation of a Regents competency test, which

      25      was administered to all students as a prerequisite


       1      for obtaining a local diploma.

       2             The Regents diploma that most of you are

       3      familiar with continued on a parallel track.

       4             That stayed in place for quite a while, and

       5      then in the '90s, we realized that that Regents

       6      competency test was not adequate.

       7             At that time I had served on a local school

       8      board, and I remember feeling proud when we received

       9      reports from the administration that we had pass

      10      rates and graduation rates in the low 90s and

      11      high 80s.

      12             We felt very proud of ourselves.

      13             But then we realized that the Regents

      14      competency test, which was an avenue that about

      15      40 percent of the students used, really only met

      16      about a seventh- or eighth-grade level of

      17      achievement.

      18             And so the Regents said, "Well, that's not

      19      sufficient," and we started to make some changes

      20      that were phased in over a decade, which result in

      21      the system that is in place now, where students are

      22      required to take five Regents examinations to

      23      graduate.

      24             As that process evolved, we continued to

      25      speak with parents and teachers, business leaders,


       1      and it was clear to us that that system was not

       2      adequate; that even though we had pass rates on a

       3      statewide basis in the 70s -- excuse me,

       4      graduation rates, that the students really were not

       5      prepared for the next level, either in college, a

       6      two-year college, or working in the community.

       7             So we developed at the time, I'm not quite

       8      sure we used the phrase "Reform Agenda," but we were

       9      thinking then about making changes to what we

      10      required.

      11             And one of the things that we thought of is,

      12      Well, are these students really prepared?

      13             The students who graduate from high school

      14      with a Regents diploma, which is based on completing

      15      five, are these students really prepared?

      16             And the Commissioner and his colleagues, they

      17      did some back-mapping, and they looked at

      18      achievement in state university and city university

      19      and New York schools.

      20             And what we learned, and it was eye-opening

      21      for some of us, that many, many students who

      22      graduate from high school are not prepared to take

      23      college-level courses for credit; they require

      24      remediation.

      25             The percentages, I believe, are not


       1      percentages that the wider community understands.

       2             Here in Onondaga County, it's my

       3      understanding that approximately 60 percent of the

       4      students who attend OCC, the local community

       5      college, require some type of remediation before

       6      they are able to take credit-bearing courses.

       7             Those percentages vary around the state, but

       8      somewhere -- and the Commissioner can give you more

       9      specifics -- between 40 and 60 percent of

      10      high school grads require some type of remediation.

      11             Now, some have criticized us for focusing

      12      exclusively on college, but that hasn't been our

      13      focus.

      14             We meet regularly with business leaders.

      15             In fact, this Friday, the Commissioner will

      16      be in town at a leaders meeting out at Welch Allyn.

      17      About 200 business leaders will be in attendance,

      18      along with students.

      19             And the main topic for our discussion, is

      20      that the business community does not have students

      21      who are prepared to learn the specific skills needed

      22      in the business community.

      23             I've heard the same thing to the east in the

      24      Utica area, where a member of the Assembly,

      25      Anthony Brindisi, is working with a group, trying to


       1      raise the standards for high school grads; not

       2      college grads, but high school grades, so that

       3      they're able to learn the skills.

       4             So that was the predicate, the background,

       5      for the Regents Reform Agenda.

       6             It has several parts.  The Commissioner may

       7      talk about them.

       8             If you strip it all down, it's higher

       9      standards, a stronger curriculum, an assessment

      10      system, that provides us with feedback on whether

      11      the students are learning, and, an evaluation system

      12      for the educators.

      13             Now, as part of this, the way this was

      14      rolling out, was also at that point in time when the

      15      economy was in serious trouble.

      16             And if you look at our Regents Reform Agenda

      17      and compare it to the Race To The Top, they fit

      18      together rather well.

      19             So New York, along with a number of other

      20      states, applied for the Race To The Top, and we were

      21      successful in securing a substantial sum,

      22      approximately $700 million.

      23             At the time we applied, many people supported

      24      that application.

      25             Legislation was adopted to strengthen the


       1      application, and school districts around the state

       2      saw, I believe, 90, 91 percent buy-in to the Race To

       3      The Top applications.

       4             So we were all moving in, generally, the same

       5      direction of raising the standards, a process that

       6      had started many, many years ago.

       7             We are using that money to strengthen our

       8      data system, to make sure we understand how students

       9      perform so that it will inform instruction.

      10             We're using it to help us strengthen teacher

      11      performance, leadership performance at the principal

      12      level, and we are optimistic that this process will

      13      yield the results, which is, a citizen who is

      14      prepared and able to move on in life, to either

      15      function at a high level in college or to function

      16      at a high level in the workplace.

      17             We believe that there are many challenges.

      18             I'm quite sure that we will hear some of

      19      those today.

      20             But we believe with your support, we'll

      21      accomplish the objective in front of us.

      22             Thank you very much, Senator.

      23             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you.

      24             Commissioner, I wanted to ask if you would

      25      direct your remarks in a couple of areas, and I know


       1      you're going to have some comments.

       2             For anyone who is interested, there is an

       3      extensive PowerPoint presentation from the

       4      department, which I know the Commissioner is not

       5      going to go through slide by slide.

       6             But, one of the things that came up yesterday

       7      was test scores, and the delay in the release of

       8      those test scores.

       9             So if you could touch on that, AIS, and the

      10      implementation as it relates to Regents in

      11      particular, because those are things that have come

      12      up, and I know you're aware of them.

      13             But, if you would speak to those components

      14      in your remarks, I'd appreciate it.

      15             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Sure.

      16             Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the

      17      members of the Senate who have gathered today.

      18             I appreciate the opportunity to talk with

      19      you.

      20             I want to try and build first on the

      21      Vice Chancellor's remarks, to say that the work that

      22      we're doing at the department is squarely focused on

      23      this very clear objective of ensuring that our

      24      students who graduate from high school graduate

      25      ready for college and career success.


       1             The work that we're doing on the Common Core

       2      standards reflects that straightforward goal, and

       3      the Common Core standards were developed by mapping

       4      back from college and career success, asking:  Given

       5      what students need for college and career success,

       6      what does that mean that they need to know at

       7      tenth grade, at seventh grade, at fourth grade, all

       8      the way back to kindergarten?

       9             Higher education:

      10             The business community and K-12 educators

      11      from around the country joined with governors and

      12      chief state school officers in constructing those

      13      standards.

      14             And we have been engaged since the Regents

      15      adoption of those standards in 2010, in supporting

      16      the work of schools to move forward that

      17      implementation.

      18             It's important to emphasize that the

      19      standards are not about testing.  They are also not

      20      about a national curriculum.

      21             They are about a common definition across

      22      states, and 45 states have adopted these standards,

      23      along with the District of Columbia, the Department

      24      of Defense schools, because they represent an

      25      indicator of college- and career-readiness.


       1             Curriculum decisions still remain at the

       2      local level, and that's important to emphasize;

       3      although, we are building an extensive set of

       4      resources at the department to support districts'

       5      implementation of Common Core.

       6             It's important to say that what the

       7      Common Core asks for is a set of changes in

       8      instruction:

       9             For students to read more challenging texts

      10      that will ensure that they're on a trajectory to

      11      college- and career-readiness;

      12             That students write more frequently, not just

      13      in English-language arts, but across the curriculum;

      14             That students learn to use evidence from

      15      texts to support their arguments;

      16             That students do more problem-solving in

      17      mathematics.

      18             And the work that we're doing on professional

      19      development is in support of those shifts in

      20      instruction.

      21             This year, in third through eighth grade, we

      22      had our first assessments that reflect the

      23      Common Core.

      24             Students were required to use more evidence

      25      from texts, to write more, to do more


       1      problem-solving in mathematics.

       2             The scores were indeed lower than they had

       3      been previously.

       4             That was similar to the experience of

       5      Kentucky that was a year ahead of us in

       6      implementation of the Common Core.  And,

       7      undoubtedly, similar to the experience of the other

       8      states as they transitioned their assessments to the

       9      Common Core.

      10             But the fact that the scores were lower is an

      11      indicator of a new baseline; a new set of standards.

      12             It doesn't mean that schools taught less or

      13      that teachers taught less; but, rather, that we

      14      raised the standards to better reflect college- and

      15      career-readiness.

      16             Going forward, the Regents exams were also

      17      changed to reflect the Common Core.

      18             This year, beginning with the algebra exam,

      19      which we required of students, and will reflect the

      20      Common Core.

      21             And students will be able to opt to take the

      22      English-language arts Common Core exam as well.

      23             Those requirements will phase in over the

      24      next four years, such that, the students who

      25      graduate in 2017 will be the first students required


       1      to pass Common Core Regents exams.

       2             The Regents adopted the standards in 2010.

       3             Again, the first students required to pass

       4      Common Core Regents exams for graduation will be the

       5      class of 2017, so, a 7-year phase-in process for the

       6      Common Core.

       7             It's important to say, on those Regents

       8      exams, we will continue to have two score levels, as

       9      we have for some time: one that is the passing

      10      standard, and one that reflects college- and

      11      career-readiness.

      12             And the challenge for us as a state is to

      13      close the gap between those two things.

      14             Last year in the state, we had a 74 percent

      15      graduation rate for those students who started in

      16      ninth grade, four years earlier, but only 35 percent

      17      of those students actually met the bar for

      18      college- and career-readiness, and that leads to the

      19      remediation problem that the Vice Chancellor

      20      described.

      21             Turning to AIS, one of the challenges now,

      22      with a larger percentage of students scoring at the

      23      1 and 2 level -- we have four levels of performance

      24      in the state test, 1, 2, 3, 4 -- with a larger

      25      number of students scoring at the 1 and 2 level,


       1      districts have to reassess how they provide support

       2      to those students who are performing at the lowest

       3      levels.

       4             What the Regents' action at their last

       5      meeting requires, is that districts serve roughly

       6      the same percentage of students in intervention

       7      services as were served previously under the old

       8      standards, allowing districts to continue to focus

       9      their intervention resources on those students who

      10      are lowest-performing.

      11             Finally, on the issue of the test-score

      12      release, this first year of new assessments means

      13      that we had to do a process called

      14      "standard setting."

      15             Anytime you have a new assessment system, you

      16      have to bring in educators from across the state to

      17      look at the assessment, to look at information on

      18      student performance, and to advise the department on

      19      the standards to use to identify student performance

      20      at the proficient level on that exam.

      21             "Standard setting" meant that the test scores

      22      were released somewhat later this year than they

      23      will be in future years, but not particularly late.

      24             There also were some districts that, because

      25      of a technology issue, got their scores turned over


       1      to parents a little bit later than had initially

       2      been projected.

       3             I think that's the issue that was touched on

       4      in a newspaper article yesterday.

       5             Just -- the place where I'd end, is just that

       6      there -- change is always hard.

       7             Anytime you try to raise standards, there

       8      will be anxiety around that, and there will be the

       9      challenge of bringing the whole community through

      10      the change process.

      11             I was here in the Syracuse area a couple

      12      weeks ago for a "back-to-school," and I visit school

      13      districts a lot --

      14             I had the pleasure of visiting schools with

      15      Senator Flanagan earlier this year.

      16             -- and was in Fayetteville-Manlius.

      17             You'll hear from the superintendent there

      18      later in the hearing.

      19             And what you see in Fayetteville-Manlius is a

      20      district where they committed early to the work on

      21      the Common Core.

      22             Even when the standards were still in draft

      23      form in 2009, they began having teams of teachers

      24      and administrators getting to know the standards,

      25      and integrating the standards into their curriculum


       1      and instruction in the district.

       2             I met with teachers and principals,

       3      school-board members, as well as visited classes,

       4      when I was in Fayetteville-Manlius, and I was struck

       5      that their early engagement around the Common Core

       6      meant that there was a clear understanding across

       7      their community about what the standards would mean;

       8      a clear commitment to integrate the standards with

       9      good work that was already happening in the

      10      district.

      11             And I'm sure that

      12      Superintendent Corliss Kaiser will talk about the

      13      work that's going on in the district.  The way they

      14      focused on writing, for example, which we know is an

      15      area where many of our students are underprepared

      16      when they leave high school.

      17             And Fayetteville-Manlius is committed to

      18      intensive work across the curriculum on writing, and

      19      integrating that work with the work of the

      20      Common Core.

      21             So what we know, is that there are districts

      22      that are making huge strides, based on these new

      23      higher standards.

      24             And our task at the department is to support

      25      that work throughout the state.


       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Commissioner, thank you

       2      very much.

       3             I will probably have some comments and

       4      questions, but I'm going to start with

       5      Senator DeFrancisco, and go to Senator Valesky, and

       6      then Senator Little, and any of my colleagues who

       7      I'm sure would like to make inquiries.

       8             Senator DeFrancisco.

       9             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Tony, how long have you

      10      been on the Board of Regents?

      11             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  1996.

      12             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  So you're -- well, you

      13      started, about, when you were 12?  Is that what --

      14                  [Laughter.]

      15             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  The reason I ask that,

      16      the Board of Regents -- the members of the Board of

      17      Regents do not get paid.

      18             This is a commitment by a Central New Yorker,

      19      right here, one of our members of this community, to

      20      education in the state of New York.

      21             And, I just want to thank you.

      22             I mean, you don't get the thanks.

      23             The other part that you'd normally get, along

      24      with the Commissioner, on an hourly basis, is

      25      criticism.


       1             And, to me --

       2             I get criticized.  I got criticized a couple

       3      times along the way.

       4             -- and my theory about criticism, is that the

       5      only people who don't get criticized are people that

       6      don't do a damn thing.

       7             Okay?

       8             Those are the ones who will never get

       9      criticized.

      10             And the amount of time that you've put into

      11      this transition, which is monumental, needs to be

      12      congratulated, first of all.

      13             Second of all, in any transition, there's

      14      going to be bumps in the road.

      15             Obviously, if the curriculum is going to be

      16      more of a challenge, there's going to be lower test

      17      scores for a while.

      18             But, do you not make that transition so that

      19      everyone feels good when they get a diploma, and

      20      don't have the skills, and are one of the 60 percent

      21      that go to a college, a community college, that need

      22      remediation?

      23             That's criminal.

      24             So, although there may be bumps in this road,

      25      I support this transition 100 percent, and I'll


       1      continue to do so.

       2             Now, with respect to some questions, the

       3      questions I had go more to the Core curriculum.

       4             Just for my own edification, how was the

       5      actual -- how were the tests for the Core curriculum

       6      actually created?

       7             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  So the

       8      test-development process --

       9             Thank you for your comments.

      10             The test-development process starts with the

      11      standards; and so you take the standards, and then

      12      you begin to build items from those standards; so,

      13      at each grade level, using the standards to

      14      construct items.

      15             And there's a multi-stage review process for

      16      the items that include educators from around the

      17      state.

      18             You build the items.

      19             You then field test the items; you try them

      20      out with students in the state.  You see how the

      21      items performed with actual students.

      22             And then you make adjustments to the items to

      23      construct the eventual test.

      24             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Who actually created

      25      the tests?


       1             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  So the vendor for

       2      the test creation is Pearson.  That's the company

       3      that builds the test, but with tremendous oversight

       4      from, both, department staff, and our technical

       5      advisory committee, which is a committee of

       6      measurement experts from around the country who

       7      advise us on the construction of the tests.

       8             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Are the tests the same

       9      in Kentucky as they are in New York State?

      10             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Not yet.

      11             So, Kentucky created their own tests to

      12      reflect the Common Core.

      13             New York did so.

      14             We are also participating in a consortium of

      15      states, 20 states, that are working together to

      16      build a future generation of assessments that would

      17      be common across states.

      18             Because, one of the flaws in past standards

      19      efforts around the country, particularly No Child

      20      Left Behind, was that every state was given the task

      21      of defining their own standards and assessments, and

      22      what you had was very different standards between

      23      Massachusetts and Mississippi, for example.

      24             And, now, the federal government has put

      25      resources into the work of developing a potential


       1      future common assessment, and the Regents will

       2      consider that assessment down the road.

       3             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  All right, because --

       4      and I'll quit after this, because others have

       5      questions, but, I have grandchildren.

       6             It's hard to believe, because I look so good.

       7                  [Laughter.]

       8             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  But I have

       9      grandchildren, and those grandchildren are taking

      10      these tests.

      11             And there was a question -- I got several of

      12      them, but I'm just going to ask you one.

      13             "Use pictures, numbers, and words to explain

      14      another way to say '6500.'"

      15             Numbers and words I could probably figure

      16      out, but how does somebody describe "6500" in

      17      pictures?

      18             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  So there are a

      19      number of ways --

      20                  [Laughter.]

      21             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  -- but one is, that

      22      you might draw figures that represent thousands, and

      23      then you would draw the figures that represent

      24      hundreds as a tenth of the thousands.

      25             It's another way of helping students,


       1      particularly in the earlier grades, visualize the

       2      concepts behind the mathematics.

       3             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Oh, and that's the

       4      theory, to visualize?

       5             Well, I'd recommend that you scrap the

       6      pictures --

       7                  [Laughter.]

       8             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  -- and let them learn

       9      the math in the traditional ways that I think will

      10      be more helpful to them, rather than trying to grope

      11      with a picture of some type.

      12             But, that's the type of thing that really has

      13      to be dealt with as we develop this further.

      14             But, I think there are some valid concerns of

      15      the testing, and that those concerns have to be met

      16      as we go through the process.

      17             Thank you.

      18             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you,

      19      Senator DeFrancisco.

      20             Senator Valesky.

      21             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you.

      22             Well, it's always tough to follow

      23      Senator DeFrancisco, that's for sure.

      24             But let me, first, I know we didn't have an

      25      opportunity, all, because we're running a little


       1      late, to make opening comments.

       2             I just want to thank the Chairman of the

       3      Committee, Senator Flanagan, for being here today,

       4      and for convening this set of hearings around the

       5      state.

       6             We, as individual members of the Senate, hear

       7      on a daily basis from those who are either involved

       8      in the formal education of our children, or, in some

       9      way, shape or form, connected to it.

      10             That's an awful big part of our job as

      11      members of the Senate.

      12             So thank you, and welcome to Syracuse.

      13             We appreciate your outstanding advocacy that

      14      you have shown for all of the years that you've been

      15      Chairman of the Committee.

      16             I'm just going to ask one, sort of, broad

      17      question, and I'm basing this upon the comments that

      18      I receive, and have heard about the Reform Agenda,

      19      and I guess it's -- it's really a question for you,

      20      Vice Chancellor.

      21             And, again, thank you for your service, and

      22      longevity of it, on behalf of the people of

      23      Central New York.

      24             But, you had mentioned in your comments, in

      25      describing the Reform Agenda, and the time frame,


       1      and the financial resources, particularly from the

       2      federal government, the Race To The Top application

       3      that was filed back in 2009 or '10, somewhere in

       4      that time frame, you also reminded us that, at that

       5      same time is when we were hit with a pretty severe

       6      recession.

       7             So my question to you, and on behalf of the

       8      Board of Regents:

       9             There are two overarching concerns that

      10      I have heard from the education community --

      11      administrators, teachers, parents, and so on, and

      12      those questions involve the allocation of resources

      13      to implement the Reform Agenda, and the time frame

      14      in which the agenda is expected to be met, or

      15      benchmarks along that path, towards implementation.

      16             I hear all the time, the resources are

      17      insufficient, and the time frame is not what it

      18      potentially should be.

      19             From the perspective of the Regents --

      20             And I understand that all of us here have a

      21      very significant role to play when it comes to

      22      resources, obviously.  That's part of the budget

      23      process.

      24             -- but, has the Reform Agenda been given

      25      sufficient, and have school districts, in


       1      particular, been given, sufficient resources to meet

       2      the expectations of the Regents in the time frame

       3      that you have established?

       4             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  I suspect

       5      that my former colleagues in the school-board

       6      community and superintendents would say that there's

       7      never enough money to accomplish the change that we

       8      have set out.  And I respect that.

       9             I remember, clearly, struggling with budgets

      10      as a school-board member.

      11             The dilemma we have, is that if we wait until

      12      everyone agrees that there is enough money to

      13      accomplish everything, then very little change will

      14      occur.

      15             There's a certain urgency about this at our

      16      table.

      17             We are mindful of the budgetary constraints

      18      on school districts.

      19             We understand how difficult it is for a

      20      superintendent to present a budget with the

      21      limitations that are in place.

      22             But from our perspective, saying that we

      23      should slow down or back off because there isn't

      24      enough money to do everything, takes the focus off

      25      of the real objective here, which is to make sure


       1      the students are prepared for either credit-bearing

       2      work at the college level, two- or four-year degree,

       3      or ready to work any job that will pay a decent

       4      wage.

       5             So we're mindful of it, but we don't see a

       6      way to slow it down.

       7             If we prioritize, you know, our objectives,

       8      I believe we will find a way to do this.

       9             SENATOR VALESKY:  Commissioner, do you have

      10      anything to add to that?

      11             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  I have two points:

      12             One is, that the Regents have long advocated

      13      for greater equity in school finance.

      14             And I think one of our challenges, is that

      15      resources are not evenly distributed.

      16             And that's a challenge, not just in New York,

      17      but around the country, and something I know you all

      18      will grapple with in the upcoming budget process.

      19             But a second issue is, I don't think we, as a

      20      state or as a country, are very clear on how dollars

      21      get spent.

      22             We have conversations, particularly in

      23      legislatures, not only our own, but across the

      24      country, about how resources are distributed.  But,

      25      there is, in a sense, a black box of


       1      local-expenditure decisions.

       2             And, so, every district has a

       3      professional-development line item of some sort, and

       4      the question becomes, How is that professional --

       5      how are those professional-development dollars used?

       6             Now, some districts prioritize the work on

       7      the Common Core in their use of

       8      professional-development resources; others less so.

       9             Some districts use creative scheduling

      10      strategies to make sure that teachers have time to

      11      meet in grade-level teams or departments to talk

      12      about the work on the Common Core, to look at

      13      student work together.  Other districts struggle

      14      with that.

      15             And so I think there's work to do to ensure

      16      that we identify those districts that are going

      17      about this in the best way, and really use them as a

      18      model to inform the work in other districts, and

      19      support those districts that aren't innovating.

      20             So here in Syracuse, for example, there's an

      21      innovation zone that Sharon Contreras, the

      22      superintendent, has worked out with her bargaining

      23      units, where the schools have extended learning time

      24      for students and extended professional-development

      25      time for teachers.


       1             That's a promising innovation.

       2             We'll see how that translates into changes

       3      and results, but we've got to do more of that.

       4             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you both.

       5             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you,

       6      Senator Valesky.

       7             Senator Little, and then she will be followed

       8      by Senator Tkaczyk.

       9             SENATOR LITTLE:  Thank you very much.

      10             Thank you, Commissioner.

      11             As been stated before, the Common Core is a

      12      change, and change is difficult, but, one of the

      13      things that I question, and am concerned about, is

      14      I understand that, when the scores are returned to

      15      the school districts, there's an analysis of how the

      16      students did on that.

      17             As a former teacher, I'd really want to know

      18      how my students did.  I'd really want to see the

      19      test's result, and how they answered the questions.

      20             And as to Senator DeFrancisco's example,

      21      I'd want to know which ones of my students were able

      22      to visualize "6500," just so that you really could

      23      get to the core of what their teaching needs are.

      24             And I just think the test would have much

      25      more value if the teacher could see the results, and


       1      not just an analysis that's out there, that

       2      such-and-such a percentage did this, and that, and

       3      the other thing.

       4             So if we could accomplish that, I don't know

       5      if that's -- is there any reason not to give them

       6      the results of the tests?

       7             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Sure.

       8             So, it's important to say what resources are

       9      available for educators in the state.

      10             So, one of the things that we've made

      11      available is actually the test-design documents.

      12             The most transparent the State has ever been

      13      about assessment design -- the actual criteria that

      14      are used to evaluate each of the questions, the

      15      actual criteria that are used to select each of the

      16      passages -- to inform teachers' understanding of

      17      what the assessments intend to measure.

      18             With the announcement of the scores, we

      19      provided item-level analysis.

      20             So, the "RICs," or, the data centers, in each

      21      of the big five could develop for teachers, item

      22      analysis that would say, at the level of standards

      23      and groups of standards, how students did on the

      24      different question types.

      25             We also released about 25 percent of the


       1      items from every test, and with those items, an

       2      analysis of -- an explanation of what the correct

       3      answer was, and an explanation of the misconceptions

       4      that may have been responsible for students choosing

       5      the incorrect option;

       6             As well as, for the open-ended questions, the

       7      rubric that was used to score those open-ended

       8      questions, and samples of student work at the

       9      different levels of performance.

      10             Now, we can't release all of the items

      11      because some of them are for the item bank for

      12      future tests.

      13             Depending on the state, the [unintelligible]

      14      and the number of items, the percentage of items

      15      ranges that are released each year.

      16             We would like to be able to release more

      17      items.

      18             The challenge is, that items come with a

      19      cost.  There's an item-development cost.

      20             And, it's important to make sure that you

      21      have an item bank for assessments, going forward.

      22             New York is on the -- actually on the low end

      23      of expenditures for assessments costs; the

      24      per-student assessment cost.

      25             And one of the constraints that that imposes,


       1      is that we are -- we need to have a limited number

       2      of items released so that we have items for future

       3      item banks.

       4             SENATOR LITTLE:  But aren't these tests, are

       5      they just disposed of when this company just throws

       6      them away?

       7             Or, couldn't they just return the same tests,

       8      so the teacher got to look at how Mary did and how

       9      Johnny did, and who needs what kind of help, in

      10      order to progress?

      11             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  So, again, for each

      12      student, the teacher will get an analysis --

      13             SENATOR LITTLE:  An analysis.

      14             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  -- of which

      15      questions they got right and wrong, related to each

      16      of the standards.

      17             But the tests themselves, the items, some of

      18      them are saved for future test administrations.

      19             So, that's why the tests are secure, and all

      20      of the items are not distributed each time.

      21             Some of the items are saved for future

      22      assessments.

      23             And that's the challenge, and that's a cost

      24      trade-off around assessment development, and all

      25      states grapple with this.


       1             Again, all states release a different

       2      percentage of items, based on the number of items

       3      they need to keep back for the item bank for future

       4      test administrations.

       5             SENATOR LITTLE:  So this company would charge

       6      more to release the entire test?

       7             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  If you don't have

       8      items for the bank, yes, the development of the test

       9      will cost more.

      10             SENATOR LITTLE:  One other thing that I hear

      11      a lot of, and I represent 48 school districts, many

      12      of them rural, is that the Common Core, and with the

      13      changes, and with the lack of resources, many of the

      14      schools are doing away with their business

      15      departments.

      16             And while, you know, everyone likes to see a

      17      lot of children and a big percentage go on to

      18      college, it's almost necessary today, there are

      19      children who don't to go college; and, yet, we're

      20      not really preparing them to go out into the

      21      workforce at the local levels?

      22             Is there any encouragement for these schools

      23      to keep their -- some part of a business program?

      24             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Yes, I'll let the

      25      Vice Chancellor add, but, we are very committed,


       1      that we're not just focused on college-readiness,

       2      but also career-readiness.

       3             Business teachers have an important role to

       4      play there, as do to career- and technical-education

       5      teachers.  There's an important role for the BOCES

       6      there.

       7             The Regents are engaged in a discussion that

       8      we've been having for some time now, about how we

       9      might better incorporate career-readiness into the

      10      graduation requirements to create multiple pathways

      11      for students.  And that's a conversation I expect we

      12      will continue.

      13             And, that, to the extent that there is a

      14      viable career pathway that is clearer for districts,

      15      that may result in them prioritizing resources for

      16      things like business teachers and career- and

      17      tech-ed teachers.

      18             But, I'll let the Vice Chancellor answer.

      19             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  One of the

      20      challenges we have is trying to find a way to offer

      21      a rich alternative to a so-called "college track."

      22             And we're concerned that we do not develop a

      23      two-tier system, where some students prepare for

      24      college, and then the rest are prepared for, quote,

      25      "a job," or whatever that might mean.


       1             So we have been working on this for a while.

       2             And that's one of the purposes of the meeting

       3      on Friday here in Syracuse, is to talk about that

       4      some more.

       5             We want to make sure that if there are

       6      multiple pathways to graduation, and to college and

       7      career success, that we've mapped that out well so

       8      the districts will have something to really offer

       9      the students.

      10             And we hear about the comments that you're

      11      hearing as well.

      12             In districts that do not have the resources,

      13      they're stripping away from certain programs and

      14      just offering, you know, what their vision is of

      15      college-readiness.

      16             So, hopefully, when we have this in place, it

      17      will provide districts with options.

      18             And it will also help the places where

      19      teachers are prepared, something more than they have

      20      right now.

      21             I mean, right now, career/technical education

      22      is kind of ephemeral, and not many education schools

      23      offer enough courses in that area.

      24             So once we have this in place, we hope it

      25      will help address the supply of teachers.


       1             SENATOR LITTLE:  Well, I think it's really

       2      important, because some of the -- I have paper mills

       3      and some large companies, medical-device things, and

       4      everything's done by computer, so it's not just

       5      "show up at the door and you can work here."

       6             So I am encouraged that you will continue on

       7      that, because I think it is necessary.

       8             And thank you very much.

       9             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  Thank you,

      10      Senator.

      11             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Little, thank you.

      12             Senator Tkaczyk.

      13             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Thank you.

      14             I just wanted to, first of all, thank you,

      15      Senator Flanagan, for holding this hearing.

      16             I think it's timely, because we're getting a

      17      lot of questions and concerns from parents and

      18      teachers and administrators.

      19             And I appreciate your being here.

      20             I represent a 5-county wide district, and

      21      I have about 28 school districts, many of them

      22      rural, and many of them stressed because of the lack

      23      of resources, because, not only have we implemented

      24      changes, we've also, over the years, reduced State

      25      aid.


       1             And to my school districts, that's been a

       2      huge -- a huge challenge.

       3             My -- the concerns that were raised at a

       4      public forum that I held in the Albany area, with

       5      some of my colleagues, were mentioned by

       6      Senator Valesky, which is, there's a big concern

       7      about, we -- the teachers and administrators haven't

       8      had the time to implement the Common Core standards

       9      before the kids were getting tested on them, and

      10      that schools may not have the resources to implement

      11      those testing systems.

      12             Do you -- and I know you've gotten concerns

      13      and feedback from tons of people.

      14             Are you making -- planning to make any

      15      changes to how we're implementing the Common Core?

      16             And I just want to reiterate, no one has said

      17      to me, We don't want to do the Common Core.

      18             Everyone agrees, getting kids more prepared

      19      for college and career, we're all on board.

      20             Everyone wants to implement the Common Core.

      21             I think how we do it seems to be the biggest

      22      hurdle.

      23             And one more comment, and then I'll let you

      24      respond, is, when you have a school district that's

      25      struggling to pay for kindergarten, and you have to


       1      divert so much of your resources to the testing

       2      component, that may not make sense to them locally.

       3             And there may be other ways for local

       4      districts to improve the educational program for

       5      those kids to be college- and career-ready.

       6             So I'm thinking, is there a way for those

       7      schools to be -- to have some flexibility in their

       8      version of being college- and career-ready?

       9             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  Well, I don't

      10      have a crystal ball on what we might do.

      11             I can share with you our experience with the

      12      roll out of the Regents diploma.

      13             I mean, that was adopted as a policy item

      14      back in, I believe, '97.

      15             And we still have some adjustments that we

      16      made, or accommodations, are still in place today.

      17             So, with respect to that reform, which we

      18      believe raised the level of students graduating

      19      with, you know, at least a tenth-grade education, by

      20      about, 35, 40 percent.

      21             We had a long phase-in period, where, if we

      22      ran into a problem, if there was a hurdle, there was

      23      a bump, you know, we would step back and make

      24      adjustments.

      25             Now, I'm not sure this is going to be as easy


       1      for us as that was, because there are more pieces

       2      moving now than there was then.

       3             But we -- you know, there is a track record

       4      there of us making adjustments, as needed, to make

       5      sure that we are were able to stay on track.

       6             But to give you a specific right now, it's

       7      too early, because we just don't have enough

       8      information.

       9             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Two thoughts I would

      10      share, and I appreciate the question:

      11             One is, that we've still got to grapple --

      12      the point I was making with Senator Valesky earlier,

      13      we've got to grapple with how the money is spent

      14      that's already allocated.

      15             You know, since 2010, when the standards were

      16      adopted, in federal and state resources alone,

      17      there's some, billion, billion and a half, maybe

      18      more, that's been allocated to

      19      professional-development activities.

      20             So the question becomes:  Were those dollars

      21      used as effectively as possible in each district?

      22             And I think we at the department need to do a

      23      better job of highlighting where those resources

      24      have been well-used, and supporting models of good

      25      practice.


       1             We also have used a portion of the Race To

       2      The Top dollars that came to the department, to

       3      build professional-development resources; curriculum

       4      materials that are not required, but are optional,

       5      can be a resource for districts; a video project,

       6      videotaping excellent teaching practice reflecting

       7      the Common Core from around the state; a variety of

       8      tools for professional development, for engaging

       9      parents around the Common Core.

      10             We made all of that available through

      11      training that we've done in Albany, that we've had

      12      upwards of 10,000 educators participate in over the

      13      last three years; as well as a website we launched,

      14, that now has had, I think, nearly

      15      30 million page reviews, and has become a go-to

      16      resource.

      17             But, it's never enough.  There's always a

      18      need for more professional development.

      19             And I think across the education spectrum of

      20      stakeholders, not just in New York, but around the

      21      country, everyone is focused on the need for more

      22      professional development around the Common Core

      23      standards, but, really, the underlying instructional

      24      shifts: the work on math problem-solving, the work

      25      on building academic language and vocabulary, in the


       1      early grades, and so forth.

       2             So we're committed to that.

       3             And I think in this year's budget process,

       4      one of the considerations should be, How do we make

       5      sure there are adequate resources to support

       6      professional development throughout the K-through-12

       7      system as we move towards higher standards?

       8             The other point I'd make on flexibility is,

       9      we've got to do a better job communicating to

      10      districts the flexibility that they have.

      11             So, for example, the evaluation law leaves

      12      80 percent of the decisions about the evaluation

      13      process to local districts and their bargaining

      14      units.

      15             And districts have a lot of flexibility

      16      around whether they add assessments, how many, what

      17      kinds.  And I think sometimes districts have not

      18      leveraged that had flexibility as well as they

      19      might, and that's something that we're working with

      20      districts on.

      21             We know there are certainly districts that,

      22      this fall, as they look back on the first year of

      23      implementation of the evaluation system, have made

      24      adjustments to their approach to assessment:

      25             Districts that are deciding to use prior


       1      academic history rather than pre-tests to set goals

       2      for particular courses;

       3             Districts that have decided to scale back the

       4      number of interim assessments that they give on a

       5      particular subject;

       6             Districts that have realized that they were

       7      giving multiple assessments that assessed,

       8      essentially, the same thing, and weren't necessarily

       9      giving them good additional information for

      10      instruction, and are scaling back.

      11             So -- and we support those, and I think we

      12      can do a better job providing technical assistance

      13      to districts as they do that kind of review.

      14             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Does the department track

      15      how much of -- part of the budget is going to

      16      implementation of the Common Core and the testing

      17      assessment?

      18             Like, can you give us a sense of how much of

      19      the education budget is being consumed by that

      20      activity?

      21             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  At the state level,

      22      you know, we have a set of assessment contracts,

      23      but, again, they're fairly modest, compared to other

      24      states, at the low end of spending.

      25             For example, I think our 3-through-8 test


       1      development is some $32 million over a 4- or 5-year

       2      period, something like that.

       3             So, the per-student costs of assessments at

       4      the state level is relatively low.

       5             At the district --

       6             SENATOR TKACZYK:  What -- I'm sorry.

       7             What is the cost per student?

       8             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  The per-student cost

       9      is probably somewhere on the order of $12 per

      10      student.

      11             Many states are more on the order of $30 per

      12      student.

      13             At the local level, it's hard had to identify

      14      resources spent on the Common Core separate from the

      15      core work of the school.

      16             I mean, if you're gathering teachers for

      17      professional development, hopefully, that

      18      professional-development time is focused on the

      19      Common Core.

      20             The State has spent hundreds of millions of

      21      dollars in textbook aid and software aid over the

      22      last few years.

      23             Sensibly, that would be a set of resources

      24      that would go towards the purchase of Common Core

      25      materials.


       1             So it's difficult to parse out the cost of

       2      Common Core separate from the costs of doing

       3      English-language arts and mathematics and literacy

       4      across all subjects.

       5             SENATOR TKACZYK:  I just, with that, because

       6      I'm a parent, and a former school-board member,

       7      I want to echo what Senator Little said about

       8      getting the assessments and getting the test results

       9      to the teachers.

      10             And as a parent, I looked at what my son went

      11      through this year, and there was a test that he just

      12      totally bombed.  And to me, as a parent, like, well,

      13      I want to see the test, so I can go over it with my

      14      son, and so he can understand what he didn't do well

      15      at.  And that was not an option.

      16             And I just think that that's -- you know,

      17      we're all in this together, to improve the education

      18      for our kids.  And, if we don't understand what

      19      they're missing and not connecting with, we can't

      20      work with them on those aspects.

      21             So I just find that the whole aspect of,

      22      you're taking a test, but you don't have the ability

      23      to see how you did, the child, kind of strange.

      24             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Again, just to be

      25      clear, there's a lot of information about how


       1      students did on the test items.

       2             It's -- the question is:  What percentage of

       3      the actual items themselves; the actual math

       4      problems, or the actual text and multiple choice, or

       5      written-response questions, are released?

       6             Again, we're at about 25 percent.

       7             Other states are in a range from, probably,

       8      25 percent to, anywhere, 60 percent or more.

       9             Most states keep some number of items for

      10      future test banks so that they have items that can

      11      replenish over time.

      12             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Okay.

      13             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you,

      14      Senator Tkaczyk.

      15             Senator Seward.

      16             SENATOR SEWARD:  Well, thank you,

      17      Mr. Chairman.

      18             I, too, want to thank you, Senator Flanagan,

      19      for sponsoring this series of hearings around the

      20      state to assess where we are in terms of the

      21      Regents Reform Agenda, giving various stakeholders

      22      an opportunity to have their say in front of our

      23      Senate Education Committee.

      24             And I, too, want to just go on record as

      25      saying, I think the objective of making sure that


       1      every student that graduates from a New York State

       2      high school is, in fact, college- and career-ready.

       3             That is the objective that I think we all

       4      share, and, how we get there, obviously, is a matter

       5      of discussion; and, in particular, the rollout and

       6      the implementation in terms of the Regents Reform

       7      Agenda is a subject for discussion, which is,

       8      I assume, why we're here today.

       9             You know, I'd note, in terms of timing, just

      10      at the time the Regents Reform Agenda was adopted --

      11      being considered and adopted, was, at the same time,

      12      because of the recession, and what particularly hit

      13      us here in New York State, just at the time when the

      14      gap-elimination adjustment was implemented, and even

      15      though we have been, in the years since, crawling

      16      back from that.

      17             And, in fact, the Senate, I'm very pleased to

      18      say, is going on record in our Senate-only budget

      19      this year, we want to eliminate the gap-elimination

      20      adjustment for all school districts in

      21      New York State, and that will help them in terms of

      22      meeting these objectives.

      23             But there's been a lot happening at a time

      24      when many districts have had fewer resources.

      25             I wanted to just zero in on two areas,


       1      getting back to that question of flexibility.

       2             One of the important concerns that I have

       3      heard from my many educators in my district is, with

       4      these New York State learning modules associated

       5      with the Common Core, that there's a very scripted

       6      approach now in the classroom.

       7             Some of our best teachers are innovators, and

       8      create a very, not only an interesting, exciting

       9      atmosphere in the classroom, but, also, you know,

      10      really help those students learn in very innovative

      11      ways.

      12             And the concern I'm hearing, that with the

      13      Common Core and these learning modules, that ability

      14      to be innovative in the classroom is out the door.

      15             A very scripted approach is being taken,

      16      because they feel they need to take that approach in

      17      order to -- you know, we have those tests looming at

      18      the end.

      19             And Senator Little mentioned business courses

      20      being canceled in some schools.

      21             I've even heard of recess being canceled in

      22      some of the lower grades in the elementary schools

      23      in my district.

      24             Once again, just not time to -- for recess.

      25      Toys being taken out of the kindergarten and


       1      first-grade rooms, because there's just no longer

       2      time to allow some of those young students to blow

       3      off steam through recess and that physical activity

       4      that goes with that.

       5             How would you -- how would you address those

       6      concerns, in terms of the ability of local districts

       7      and local teachers in the classroom, to have that

       8      flexibility and allow for that innovation even with

       9      the Common Core?

      10             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  I really appreciate

      11      the question.

      12             I can't emphasize enough, the modules are

      13      there as a resource for districts to adopt, adapt,

      14      or ignore, and for teachers to adapt to the needs of

      15      their students.

      16             We actually say on our website where the

      17      modules are posted, this is not -- you know, some

      18      version of "This is not a script."

      19             The idea is to provide resources that people

      20      can use.

      21             Now, we do, in the modules, lay out an

      22      approach to how one might teach the given text or

      23      the given math problems as a

      24      professional-development resource, but those modules

      25      are for districts to use as they see fit.


       1      Curriculum is locally determined.

       2             I will say, the modules emphasize

       3      application.

       4             For example, the English -- many of the

       5      English-language-arts modules were developed in

       6      partnership with Expeditionary Learning, which has a

       7      long history around project-based learning.

       8             Now, if people like those, they can use them.

       9             If they don't like them, they can make other

      10      decisions.  Again, curriculum decisions are made

      11      locally.

      12             In terms of the breadth of the curriculum,

      13      one of the challenges we have is that, too often,

      14      there is a mistake made, that if we spend more time

      15      on test prep and less time on learning, students

      16      will do better.

      17             And the department has given very specific

      18      guidance on this.

      19             We don't think that rote test prep is the

      20      best way to help students achieve.

      21             Indeed, you want students to have experiences

      22      with art, music, have time for physical education,

      23      so that they are well-rounded, so that they develop

      24      well as young people; so that they develop, not only

      25      to be college- and career-ready, but to be good


       1      citizens.  And, the work in art and music also

       2      supports students' success in other aspects of the

       3      curriculum.

       4             So, you know, these curriculum decisions are

       5      made locally, but I take the challenge that we need

       6      to make sure that people understand the flexibility

       7      that they have around the modules, that they are not

       8      required.  They are a resource for districts to use.

       9             SENATOR SEWARD:  One final question, which

      10      would lead to the testing; the student testing

      11      aspect of this, and the changes that have been

      12      occurred there.

      13             I think one of the reasons that many

      14      educators feel they need to stick with the scripted

      15      approach that's being presented, rather than just an

      16      option or a resource, but, you know, as their

      17      so-called "bible" in the classroom, is that --

      18      because of the test at the end.

      19             And, you know, the first round of testing,

      20      you know, we're still awaiting additional data

      21      regarding that.

      22             The early signs, as -- if I understood your

      23      testimony correctly, is that there are lower test

      24      scores with the changes in the testing, which is

      25      causing a great deal of concern, certainly among


       1      parents, educators, and school boards, and

       2      administrators...everyone.

       3             What -- and the impact on the teacher

       4      evaluation, just in a -- and a reflection on the

       5      local school district.

       6             What conclusions do you take from these lower

       7      test scores?

       8             And what impact do you feel they should have,

       9      in terms of evaluating a teacher at this stage of

      10      the early -- early stage of the implementation of

      11      this Common Core?

      12             And, in terms of reflection on the students

      13      and our quality of education in New York State?

      14             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  I think it's

      15      important to emphasize that these assessment results

      16      this spring set a new baseline match to college- and

      17      career-readiness.

      18             In many ways, they tell us something we

      19      already knew at the upper grades.

      20             So if you look -- I mentioned in my

      21      testimony, if you look at our statewide graduation

      22      rate, 4-year graduation rate, it's 74 percent.

      23             But if you look at the percentage of students

      24      who are performing at the level where they would be

      25      able to enroll in credit-bearing coursework, that's


       1      actually 35 percent.

       2             If you look at our NAEP performance --

       3             The "NAEP" is a national assessment that's

       4      given to samples of students in every state, and

       5      often considered the gold standard for comparing

       6      student performance across states.

       7             -- if you look at the percentage of students

       8      in New York who are scoring at the college- and

       9      career-ready level, at the proficient level, on the

      10      NAEP, it's, roughly, 35 percent.

      11             If you look at performance on the PSAT and

      12      SAT by New York State students as a predictor of

      13      college performance, you again get to a number

      14      somewhere between 35 and 40 percent.

      15             So, in many ways, the fact that our

      16      proficiency rate on third-through-eighth-grade

      17      assessments is now in the 30s is more a reflection

      18      of the assessments giving us a more accurate picture

      19      of where students are in that trajectory to

      20      readiness.

      21             And, again, this is similar to what other

      22      states will see as they transition to the

      23      Common Core standards.

      24             Because it was a new baseline, we made sure

      25      in our waiver from No Child Left Behind that no new


       1      schools would be identified as priority schools in

       2      the accountability status, no new districts would be

       3      identified as focus districts, based on this new

       4      baseline of results.

       5             And in the teacher evaluation, it's important

       6      to say that the state tests represent 20 percent of

       7      the evaluation for, roughly, 20 percent of the

       8      teachers whose students take the test in grades 4

       9      through 8.

      10             And in calculating the growth scores for the

      11      portion of the teacher evaluation, the growth scores

      12      look at how similar students did on the test that

      13      they took last year versus this year; and, so, the

      14      percentage of students scoring at the 3 or 4 level

      15      actually doesn't affect those growth scores.

      16             The growth scores reflect relative

      17      performance.

      18             And the percentage of teachers, for growth

      19      scores, identified as ineffective, developing,

      20      effective, or highly effective, this year were

      21      virtually identical to last year.

      22             But that is clearly something that is not

      23      well understood, and it's something that we have to

      24      work to make sure we communicate fully.

      25             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you, Senator Seward.


       1             Senator O'Mara.

       2             SENATOR O'MARA:  Thank you, Senator Flanagan,

       3      and thank you for hosting this hearing here in

       4      Syracuse today; coming up from Long island to be

       5      with us.

       6             Thank you, Commissioner and Vice Chancellor,

       7      for sharing your time with us today.

       8             I fully share the sentiments of

       9      my colleagues, and the anxiety over implementation

      10      and change.

      11             It's never easy in anything we do in

      12      government, or anything in life.

      13             So I understand the challenges in regards to

      14      that; and, therefore, I had some questions on that,

      15      that I don't need to reiterate, because they've been

      16      fairly well covered here already.

      17             One area I wanted to follow up with you on

      18      was with regard to getting the test results back to

      19      the teachers, and you mentioned the test bank in

      20      keeping materials back.

      21             Can you explain that to me?

      22             I mean, I'm just visualizing a copy machine,

      23      and being able to copy these things, or scan them,

      24      and give them back to the teachers.

      25             So what are you actually withholding that you


       1      can't get back to the teachers?

       2             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  And so this is an

       3      issue, again, not just for New York State, but for

       4      all the states and all large-scale assessment

       5      systems.

       6             There are, essentially, four types of

       7      questions on an assessment.

       8             One set of questions are the operational

       9      questions that students will take, they're scored,

      10      and that you release.

      11             A second set of questions are field-test

      12      questions, embedded field-test questions; questions

      13      that don't count towards the score, but you're,

      14      essentially, trying out for future versions of the

      15      test.

      16             If you think back to taking the SAT, for

      17      example, or the -- or something like that -- LSAT,

      18      there's a set of questions that are just field-test

      19      questions.

      20             You don't know, as the test taker, which are

      21      field tests and which are real, but the field-test

      22      questions are for the development of future tests.

      23             A third category of questions is questions

      24      that appear in multiple years so that you can have

      25      what's called "linkage" between the tests, so you


       1      can figure out, Was this year's test similarly

       2      difficult to last year's test?

       3             And then the fourth category are operational

       4      questions that you may not release because you're

       5      going use them again in future years.

       6             And if you assume some level of cost to the

       7      development of each item, there is a judgment that

       8      every state has to make on the percentage of

       9      operational items that you release, and the

      10      percentage of operational items you keep for use in

      11      future years.

      12             The tests are secure, so they're not to be

      13      photocopied or kept locally.  They come back to the

      14      State or are destroyed.

      15             And, so, the goal is to have a set of

      16      questions that you might use again, as a way of

      17      managing the cost of test development.

      18             You also have a risk that happens when you

      19      release all items, in the history of, sort of,

      20      testing in the country.

      21             When you release all items, you also have the

      22      risk that people then reduce the curriculum to the

      23      items.

      24             And, so, rather than teaching fractions, they

      25      teach a version of fractions that's reflected in


       1      Questions 6, 7, 19, and 24 from the prior year.

       2             So, there's, both, a pedagogical reason to

       3      not release all the items, which is to not make the

       4      tests the curriculum;

       5             But more relevant for most states, including

       6      New York, is the cost judgment on what portion of

       7      the items you release.

       8             But, again, we have 25 percent of the items.

       9             There are a lot of items that are available,

      10      and they're annotated with, again, why the answers

      11      are -- why the correct answers were correct, why the

      12      wrong answers were wrong, samples of student work.

      13             And that body of resources will grow over

      14      time.

      15             And again, locally, they can do a very

      16      detailed item analysis for students.

      17             So they can say, this student struggled with

      18      fractions questions that involved mixed numbers, for

      19      example.

      20             SENATOR O'MARA:  Thank you.

      21             That really did help clear it up for me,

      22      believe it or not.

      23             But -- I appreciate that.

      24             Now, the final question I have is, I've

      25      gotten a lot of criticism of the Common Core, the


       1      tests, from constituents, and I'm assuming you're

       2      getting it at the state level as well, with regard

       3      to, not the subject matter of the curriculum, but

       4      the subject matter of the fact patterns used in the

       5      questioning on the exams that is, somehow,

       6      politically motivated or directed, or what have you,

       7      from a variety of different viewpoints that you may

       8      have.

       9             And I wonder if you could address that, if

      10      you're hearing that at the state level, that I am

      11      from my constituents, and what goes into the process

      12      to avoid that type of a concern.

      13             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  So, yeah, I have

      14      heard that, maybe less in New York, actually,

      15      nationally.

      16             I think two things are going on there:

      17             One is, some conflation between standards and

      18      curriculum.

      19             So, for example, the Common Core has an

      20      appendix that lists texts -- books, articles, so

      21      forth -- that could be used at each grade level to

      22      teach the Common Core.

      23             And in some states, and including some of the

      24      web traffic in New York, the focus has been on those

      25      texts, to say, Well, if this text is taught, that's


       1      offensive.  Or, I wouldn't want my child to read

       2      that text.  And so forth.

       3             The Common Core isn't a curriculum.

       4             Curriculum decisions remain local.

       5             So, that text list is a resource, as are the

       6      modules that we're publishing.

       7             And, so, if people don't want to teach a

       8      given text that we have included in the modules,

       9      they don't have to.

      10             If people don't want to teach a given text

      11      that's included in that text list that was an

      12      appendix to the standards, they don't have to use

      13      it.

      14             The second piece is on the test itself, and

      15      the passages that are selected.

      16             There's a whole process in test development

      17      around sensitivity and trying to avoid any evidence

      18      of bias.

      19             The challenge, as you know, is that,

      20      particularly in a heated political climate, text can

      21      easily be politicized.

      22             So, there are some who would argue that an

      23      excerpt, for example, from Huckleberry Finn is

      24      perfectly appropriate because it's an important

      25      piece of American literature that reflects its time.


       1             There are other communities around the

       2      country that have decided not to allow the teaching

       3      of Huck Finn.

       4             So anytime you are developing a test, you

       5      have these judgments about the content that you

       6      choose.

       7             We have a process with New York State

       8      educators of reviewing the items, to try and ensure

       9      that there is not bias, but we also say, both in

      10      describing the modules and the tests, that some

      11      passages will address topics that will be

      12      challenging.

      13             You know, there are some states, for example,

      14      and districts, that have had policies to not allow

      15      mention of divorce, let's say, in a text.

      16             You know, we feel like that's part of the

      17      reality of American life, and so it may come up, and

      18      it's -- in a particular text, the issue of divorce.

      19             And that's sort of natural to the process of

      20      having a breadth of texts used for the tests, or for

      21      a given curriculum.

      22             SENATOR O'MARA:  Thank you very much.

      23             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Commissioner --

      24             Thank you, Senator O'Mara.

      25             -- I'm going to try and ask questions that


       1      would elicit yes and no responses, as best as

       2      possible.

       3             It is fair to say that New York State, in

       4      essence, does not -- SED does not mandate

       5      curriculum?

       6             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  That is correct, we

       7      do not mandate curriculum.

       8             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay, so in light of some

       9      of the comments that we've heard here, and in other

      10      forums, there -- there is some concern about -- it

      11      seems like there was some, almost a false

      12      expectation, and it's not a criticism, but, the

      13      state of New York, because of Race To The Top,

      14      listening to Ken Wagner and some of the folks who

      15      work with you, they were trying to help school

      16      districts, and one of the things that came up was

      17      the development of these modules.

      18             I'm not sure I still totally understand it,

      19      but I know there was talk about 250 modules.

      20             There's only, like, 25 of them out.

      21             And one of the criticisms is, that it's

      22      well-intentioned, but not necessarily well-executed

      23      in providing that guidance.

      24             It seems like school districts kind of

      25      waited, hung out a little bit, expecting that they


       1      would get more from the Regents and SED, and that's

       2      been one of problems that has exacerbated some of

       3      the concerns.

       4             Is that a fair assessment?

       5             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Yeah, I mean, I'd

       6      say that the -- there are a lot of modules available

       7      now, covering many grade levels in ELA and math, but

       8      more to build, we add new modules almost every week

       9      now, as -- again, as a resource for districts.

      10             It's fair to say that some districts may have

      11      waited on purchasing curriculum materials because

      12      they wanted to use the modules.

      13             On the other hand, it's important that people

      14      don't see the Common Core as something that arrives,

      15      you know, in a shiny box.  Like, the Common Cores

      16      arrive on your doorstep.

      17             Even once you have the modules, the

      18      Common Core is really about changing instruction and

      19      changing teaching practice, and so districts didn't

      20      have to wait for the modules to do the Common Core.

      21             And, obviously, as you talk with districts

      22      across these hearings, you'll hear from some

      23      districts that didn't, and started right away to

      24      implement the shifts in instruction in the

      25      Common Core, and are using the modules selectively


       1      as fits their local discretion.

       2             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  So separate, but related,

       3      there's been a lot of talk about companies, like

       4      Pearson, inBloom, and, sort of, vendors or

       5      subcontractors of the State Education Department.

       6             I have represented, when people talk to me

       7      about this stuff, that, in essences, while they are

       8      all aligned with the State Education Department,

       9      that none of these tests, none of these issues, none

      10      of these regulations, or whatever ultimately comes

      11      out to schools and to the public, while they may be

      12      a subcontractor, everything is signed off by

      13      State Ed before it goes out the door.

      14             So whether there's credit or blame, it rests

      15      at, ostensibly, your doorstep?

      16             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Yes, and I have

      17      received both.

      18                  [Laughter.]

      19             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Fair enough.

      20             Going back to the questions, and particularly

      21      what Senator O'Mara said, and I hope this is artful,

      22      but, I'd suggest this:

      23             I recognize the cost limitations.

      24      I recognize why you're not going to necessarily

      25      release every test.


       1             However, it seems to me that if you're going

       2      pick a number, 25 or 30 percent, that what you

       3      should probably be doing, is taking the questions

       4      that are the most problematic, and you would know

       5      that, and the department would know that, better

       6      than anybody, don't take the 25 percent of the

       7      easiest questions where everyone does well; pick the

       8      25 percent where everyone's kind of screwing up.

       9             And if we're going to learn from that, it

      10      would seem to me that's probably -- take that as a

      11      subset, again, if the number's going to be

      12      25 percent, and use that.

      13             Do you do that now, or is that something

      14      you're contemplating?

      15             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  We tried to have a

      16      range that was reflective of the test.

      17             So the test has a range of difficulty across

      18      the questions, and we tried in the sample to have a

      19      range of difficulty.

      20             And over time, that bank of sample items will

      21      grow each year.

      22             We had some that we put out before the test,

      23      we had some that we put out after the test, and

      24      we'll continue to grow that bank.

      25             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay.


       1             And, finally, one of the things we all

       2      endeavor to do is communicate with our constituents.

       3             I believe that State Ed has done some very

       4      laudable things, but I also believe that they're not

       5      communicating as well with people in the field; and

       6      in particular, I'd say in terms of educational

       7      professionals.

       8             Now, I know, based on information that's been

       9      provided by the department to the public, that you

      10      have a wealth of educators who are involved in the

      11      process.

      12             I don't think that's getting out there.

      13             I don't think that's getting out there so

      14      people understand.

      15             And I've heard the number, there were

      16      95 educators who were part of a team.

      17             People say, Yeah, they may be

      18      well-intentioned, but we don't really know who they

      19      are, we don't know how they're directed, and are

      20      they true, legitimate people who are, quote/unquote,

      21      "in the classroom."

      22             You don't need to comment.

      23             I'd just very strongly and respectfully

      24      suggest that, in terms of marketing, and letting

      25      people know who is part of the overall team, and


       1      even the subcommittees, that it would be extremely

       2      important for parents, as much as anybody else, that

       3      that information be put out time and time and time

       4      again.

       5             Mr. Vice Chancellor, thank you for your

       6      service, and your time, and your patience.

       7             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  Thank you,

       8      Senator.

       9             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  And, Commissioner, really

      10      appreciate your input.

      11             COMMISSIONER JOHN KING:  Thank you.

      12             ANTHONY S. BOTTAR, B.A., J.D.:  Thank you.

      13             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Next is Mr. Rick Longhurst

      14      from the PTA.

      15             RICK LONGHURST:  Senator Flanagan and members

      16      of the Education Committee, I want to thank you for

      17      this opportunity to speak with you.

      18             We've shared our full testimony with your

      19      office, including some backup material, and probably

      20      500 pages of comments that we've received from

      21      recent surveys.

      22             The conclusion that we've drawn from much of

      23      the work that we've done with our membership, is

      24      that, while many of our members support the promise

      25      of the Common Core, the extraneous issues that are


       1      perceived as being linked to the Common Core

       2      actually are beginning to threaten the parents'

       3      support, and, potentially, the ultimate success of

       4      the reform.

       5             Just to give you some sense as to what we

       6      see, and what we welcome, as the promises of the

       7      Common Core, let me just offer a couple of comments

       8      that seem to repeat themselves.

       9             We welcome instruction that asks students to

      10      not only learn important facts, but to be able to

      11      apply them to everyday life;

      12             We welcome instruction that seeks to leverage

      13      pride that Americans have in their ability to think

      14      independently and to exercise creativity;

      15             We welcome shifts in instruction that help

      16      our children to better compete with their

      17      international counterparts;

      18             And we welcome the increased rigor that

      19      builds essential pre-college and career skills in

      20      our children before they graduate from high school.

      21             I have some notes in front of me because

      22      I think I can be more succinct using the notes than

      23      if I were just to speak off-the-cuff.

      24             On the other hand, what our members perceive,

      25      the extraneous issues, and many of these are


       1      test-related, are inappropriately shifting

       2      instruction away from the positive promises that

       3      benefit the education of the whole child.

       4             Negative perceptions can become reality.

       5             Because that reality is linked to

       6      Common Core-based reform, the result that we fear is

       7      that support of the Common Core could be replaced

       8      with opposition.

       9             And what do we do about that?

      10             Quite simply, we need to keep our eye on the

      11      prize, and the prize is that support and the promise

      12      from the Common Core.

      13             We look at what the Education Department has

      14      done over the past years, and we commend them for

      15      the job that they have done in building technical

      16      resources that are necessary to implement a positive

      17      change; yet, successful implementation must also

      18      include a strategy that builds family and community

      19      commitment, and it's here that we see a gap.

      20             For some parents, the benefit -- and I stress

      21      the word "some" -- for some parents, the benefits of

      22      the technical efforts are dismissed because they're

      23      perceived as being linked to issues that are

      24      perceived as negative.

      25             For those parents, Common Core becomes


       1      indistinguishable from these extraneous factors.

       2             If "some" parents becomes many or most

       3      parents, we fear that the entire reform effort could

       4      be placed in jeopardy.

       5             What have we done to encourage collective

       6      support?

       7             Over the past several months, New York State

       8      PTAs worked closely with other members of the

       9      Educational Conference Board to propose a five-point

      10      plan that would move Common Core reform toward a

      11      positive track.

      12             And we strongly support that plan, and

      13      I believe that others will speak to it.

      14             New York State PTA is working with the

      15      Education Department to schedule five town hall

      16      meetings across the state to give parents an

      17      opportunity to engage department staff with

      18      essential questions and concerns about testing and

      19      about the Common Core.

      20             We have partnered with the New York State

      21      United Teachers, to prepare a simple-language

      22      brochure that educates parents in some of the basic

      23      elements of the Common Core.

      24             And, finally, we're educating, and we're

      25      encouraging, our members to ask questions of school


       1      staff and boards of education that can only be

       2      answered through the observation of the

       3      implementation process, so that they are provided

       4      with feedback and forms, growth and understanding,

       5      for, both, the educators in the schools, and also

       6      for families.

       7             In the end, we acknowledge that the process

       8      of implementing reform will be difficult, but the

       9      process really is simple.

      10             We need to be in the business of developing

      11      people: educators, families, and students; not just

      12      skilled test takers.

      13             Does this mean we oppose testing?  Absolutely

      14      not.

      15             We need tests to measure what our students

      16      learn, and as one aspect of supporting our efforts

      17      to improve learning.

      18             We cannot, however, allow the perception that

      19      we are obsessed with only one part of our

      20      accountability system, to take our eye off the prize

      21      by threatening, not only good what is good, but also

      22      essential to our children's future.





       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much.

       2             I do appreciate it, and we, obviously, have

       3      your written testimony.

       4             The EngageNY website --

       5             RICK LONGHURST:  Yes.

       6             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  -- you talk about

       7      technologies, and advances in technology.

       8             I think this is probably characteristic of

       9      life, generally, professionally and personally,

      10      that, you know, sometimes people need to keep

      11      hearing things or seeing them before they get a

      12      level of comfort.

      13             Certainly, the communities that I represent,

      14      there seems to be more consternation, and there's

      15      more talk about things like, opting out, which

      16      I don't necessarily think is a prudent exercise.

      17             RICK LONGHURST:  Nor do we.

      18             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  So how do you deal with

      19      parents in that regard?

      20             And there's been a lot of talk, you know, we

      21      need -- someone said that there are no parents

      22      testifying today.

      23             I'm fairly sure that you're a parent --

      24             RICK LONGHURST:  I am a parent.

      25             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  -- and I'm fairly sure


       1      that "PTA" stands for Parent-Teacher Association.

       2             RICK LONGHURST:  Yes.

       3             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  So, what are you doing,

       4      sort of, at the field level?

       5             And I just said to Senator Valesky, those

       6      five town hall meetings, if you pull them off, those

       7      would be quite interesting in and of themselves.

       8             What are you doing at the street level to,

       9      not only hear what your parents are saying, but,

      10      sort of, taking that and reporting back to people

      11      like us?

      12             RICK LONGHURST:  We have a website.

      13             We have a blog.

      14             We're on Facebook.

      15             We're on Twitter.

      16             We communicate regularly with the, roughly,

      17      2,000 PTA units and councils throughout

      18      New York State, to provide them with encouragement

      19      that says that they must be partners in this whole

      20      process.

      21             We're seeking to work with parents and with

      22      schools to provide a welcoming environment for

      23      parents, to share the responsibility with schools

      24      for the development of their children, but I think,

      25      in the end, recognizing that reform is not just a


       1      technical or content-based effort.

       2             It represents a change in the way that we

       3      instruct our children, and that change needs to be

       4      understood by our parents, by our schools, by our

       5      communities.

       6             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  And one other question:

       7      If you had the opportunity to, in essence, say to

       8      the State Education Department, We have a lot of

       9      concerns, here are our issues; but, if you were able

      10      to tell them one thing to do in relation to these

      11      issues, what would you suggest that they do?

      12             RICK LONGHURST:  Okay, and I've already said

      13      this to a number of people in the department.

      14             As I listened to the comments here this

      15      morning, I hear a great deal about testing.

      16             What I don't hear as much about is the

      17      question:  How do we know that schools are actually

      18      implementing Common Core instruction?

      19             And what I would say, is that the best way to

      20      determine if Common Core instruction is actually

      21      being implemented, is that our administrators and

      22      our principals need to be in the classrooms and

      23      observing what teachers are doing, and assuring that

      24      the transition that is offering all this promise is

      25      actually being implemented in the classroom.


       1             And the results from that, we see as being a

       2      necessary precursor to measuring results in terms of

       3      student performance.

       4             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  So, very quickly, on a

       5      scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most effective, if

       6      you were to pick a number, your assessment, by your

       7      organization, of where State Ed is in terms of what

       8      you were just describing, what number would you

       9      give?

      10             RICK LONGHURST:  Probably somewhere in the

      11      middle.

      12             Not -- we would give them high marks for the

      13      technical work that they have done.

      14             We would give them less high marks for their

      15      success in communicating with parents, with

      16      communities, with school districts, in spite of huge

      17      investments that have been made in seeking to

      18      promote those efforts.

      19             It's a very big lift.

      20             We can't underscore that enough.

      21             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  So is that a "5" or a "6"?

      22             RICK LONGHURST:  We'll say a "6."

      23             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay.

      24             Senator Tkaczyk.

      25             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Just a quick question:  You


       1      mentioned the five town hall meetings?

       2             RICK LONGHURST:  Yes.

       3             SENATOR TKACZYK:  I'd love to know if you

       4      have one in my area, or --

       5             RICK LONGHURST:  We do.

       6             SENATOR TKACZYK:  -- if you could just share

       7      with us, where they are and when you have them

       8      planned.

       9             RICK LONGHURST:  I don't have that right in

      10      front of me.

      11             In your area, at the Shenendehowa High School

      12      West on October 16th, which is a Wednesday.

      13             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Great, thank you.

      14             RICK LONGHURST:  There is a meeting -- a

      15      town-hall meeting the day before that on

      16      Long Island.

      17             The first town-hall meeting is in the

      18      Spackenkill High School on October 10th.

      19             Then there's also one in New Hartford, and

      20      one in the Buffalo area in Williamsville.

      21             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Thank you.

      22             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Mr. Longhurst -- oh,

      23      I'm sorry.

      24             Senator DeFrancisco.

      25             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  I just want to make a


       1      comment.

       2             I really want to thank you for helping the

       3      communication process, because, I was on a school

       4      board for 4 years, president for 1 year, about

       5      35 years ago, and, the communication with parents is

       6      extremely essential.

       7             And it's -- your organization can either help

       8      make or break this process, because once parents

       9      feel comfortable in the process, it's going to move

      10      in a positive direction.

      11             So, thank you.

      12             RICK LONGHURST:  Thank you.

      13             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much.

      14             Next we have, addressing data privacy, we

      15      have Aimee Rogstad Guidera, executive director of

      16      Data Quality Campaign, and, I believe, Reg -- as

      17      opposed to Reginal -- Reg Leichty from the

      18      EducationCounsel.

      19             Thank you very much for being here.

      20             AIMEE ROGSTAD GUIDERA:  Thank you so much,

      21      Chairman Flanagan and other distinguished Senators.

      22             I'm Aimee Guidera.  I'm the executive

      23      director of the Data Quality Campaign, and I run an

      24      organization this is a non-profit advocacy

      25      organization that is trying to change the culture


       1      and the conversation about using data in education.

       2             I am a passionate proponent of using data to

       3      improve student achievement in New York, and in

       4      every state in this country, and for that reason,

       5      I am so pleased and honored to be here today.

       6             So, thank you for having this hearing.

       7             In my short seven minutes I have with you,

       8      I'd like to really hone in on three key points.

       9             The first is, that New York cannot afford not

      10      to use information more effectively if you want to

      11      reach the goal that the Commissioner just talked

      12      about, and which all of you have mentioned and

      13      endorsed, which is, ensuring that every single

      14      New York child graduates from high school ready for

      15      the knowledge economy.

      16             We won't get there, we won't be able to make

      17      the decisions about how do we invest scarce

      18      resources and what works, we won't be able to

      19      personalize learning and to tailor instruction to

      20      every New York child, unless we change how we use

      21      information.

      22             Second of all, citizens of this state, and

      23      across the nation, and especially parents, as we

      24      just heard, are raising legitimate concerns about

      25      how this data is being used, how it's being


       1      collected, how it's being safeguarded.

       2             We must do everything possible to build their

       3      trust and their understanding in how this data is

       4      being used to help their own kids.

       5             This hearing is an important part of this

       6      process at building an openness and a transparency

       7      about this information, and more must be done.

       8             And that leads to my third point:

       9             As legislators and the state policymakers,

      10      you are in the driver's seat of ensuring, not only

      11      that the right data gets to the right people in the

      12      right time, especially to parents and teachers, but

      13      you're also in the driver's seat of ensuring that

      14      this information is kept private, secure, and

      15      confidential.

      16             New York, like the rest of the nation, has

      17      made unprecedented progress in building its

      18      capacity, to not just collect information, but --

      19      and to use it.

      20             This progress, which is documented in many of

      21      the materials that I included in your packets,

      22      really documents this change in culture that's

      23      happening across the country, of changing using data

      24      only for compliance purposes and bureaucratic

      25      box-checking, to really this change of thinking


       1      about using data for the really important process of

       2      continuous improvement of making informed decisions.

       3             And the true power of data comes, not when

       4      it's collected and it's sitting in some fancy state

       5      data warehouse, which is really important, but the

       6      real power of data comes when we turn it into

       7      actionable information, and we get it into the hands

       8      of end-users; most importantly, students themselves,

       9      parents, families, educators, school-board members,

      10      and, yes, legislators, so each of those users can

      11      make informed decisions.

      12             Because, the dirty little secret in education

      13      is, we've made decisions in education for a long

      14      time, and we've made it on anecdote, we've made it

      15      on hunch, and we've made it on what we did when we

      16      were kids, or what feels right.

      17             The bottom line is, now, and today, we don't

      18      have to make those decisions without great

      19      information, because we have that data, but we have

      20      to have a culture change that allows people to trust

      21      that this information's useful, that it's valuable,

      22      and it's going to be protected.

      23             With the education -- with the launch of the

      24      education data portal here in New York, your state

      25      will be on the cusp of ensuring that every single


       1      student, educator, and parent in this state has

       2      timely access to this information.

       3             This is noteworthy, and New York is on the

       4      cusp of being a leader in the country.

       5             Only five states at this point have that

       6      ability to communicate that information to every

       7      student, parent, and teacher.

       8             If we really want to get to the point of

       9      every child, every student, every family, and every

      10      parent having equal access to information, the State

      11      role is critical in doing that.

      12             Without is the State role, only those

      13      districts are high -- that have high capacity or are

      14      better resourced have the ability of communicating

      15      that information with their families.

      16             If our goal is to have every single child

      17      prepared for the knowledge economy, then we have to

      18      ensure that every educator and every family has

      19      access to that information.

      20             With this greater focus on education's vital

      21      use in education, there is an increasing -- and a

      22      need to also personalize learning, there's been an

      23      increased attention on, How do we protect this data?

      24             This is a legitimate and important

      25      conversation that needs to be prioritized.


       1             Building the trust of all citizens, but

       2      especially that trust of parents, is critical to

       3      ensure the effective use of data.

       4             People won't use data that they don't find

       5      valuable, and that they don't trust won't be used to

       6      hurt them or hurt their kids.

       7             What we need to do is, to make sure that the

       8      public in general, and parents in particular,

       9      understand what data is collected, for what purpose,

      10      how it's being used, who has access to it, and how

      11      it is being protected.

      12             Hearings like this one provide a critical

      13      step in this process of openness and transparency,

      14      but much more needs to be done.

      15             We need to continue to seek input, get

      16      clarifications on facts, but the State has a

      17      critical role in ensuring that this information's

      18      protected.

      19             As legislators, you are in a unique position

      20      to lead this conversation about how we not only

      21      ensure that data is used effectively, and that the

      22      systems are in place to do that, but equally

      23      important, that this data is protected.

      24             For too long, the general sense was that

      25      FERPA, the federal education privacy law, was enough


       1      to protect data.

       2             I'm telling you today, it is not enough.

       3             FERPA is a floor to ensuring that data is

       4      protected.

       5             New York citizens, New York parents in

       6      particular, must know that New York policymakers,

       7      New York practitioners, are doing everything

       8      possible to protect the data of New York students.

       9             That's your role; you need to do that, and

      10      build on the floor that FERPA provides.

      11             There's now a growing list of exemplary state

      12      laws across the country that are showing how

      13      legislative leadership can really lead the

      14      conversations on safeguarding data across the

      15      country.

      16             Rather than putting together a laundry list

      17      of prohibitions that really don't solve anything,

      18      but merely create implementation problems, and

      19      oftentimes get in the way, we're seeing in states,

      20      like Maryland and Oklahoma, examples of them playing

      21      a constructive, productive role in laying out and

      22      clarifying for the public, what data's collected,

      23      how it's being protected, and building governance

      24      structures that ensure that this data is part of a

      25      conversation that is very transparent and open, and


       1      that people understand who's in charge; who's making

       2      the decisions about what vendors of access to this,

       3      what are the privacy assurances that we have.

       4             I've put links to both of those laws in the

       5      materials that I sent you.

       6             And I also want to draw your attention to a

       7      piece that the Data Quality Campaign put out a

       8      couple years ago, a policymaker roadmap for

       9      protecting privacy, security, and confidentially

      10      while supporting the use of data.

      11             And in that, we really -- we hone in on the

      12      best practices from other sectors, such as the

      13      Generally Accepted Fair Information Practices, and

      14      we've tried to then create a road map for

      15      policymakers, like yourselves, of how we can apply

      16      that to education, so that in the education sector,

      17      we apply the best practices that are being used in

      18      every sector across the world, to ensure that we

      19      build trust and understanding about how data is

      20      corrected -- uhm, collected and protected.

      21             We each have a moral and legal responsibility

      22      to respect the privacy and confidentiality of

      23      students' personally identifiable information.

      24             To do this, we must mitigate the risks of not

      25      just the intentional, but also the unintentional


       1      risks of misuse of data.

       2             And, we also need to ensure the clarity of

       3      roles and responsibilities around data collection,

       4      access, sharing, and protections.

       5             You as legislative leaders here in New York

       6      are critical to making these steps a reality.

       7             This is not an either/or proposition.

       8             We must support the use of data, as we just

       9      heard this morning, but we also must ensure that

      10      we're protecting this data.

      11             Before I turn the microphone over to Reg, who

      12      can talk a lot more about the privacy pieces as a

      13      lawyer, I want to leave you with one critical piece

      14      as you think about the role of data in education.

      15             Our tag line at DQC is, "How do we change the

      16      culture from thinking about data as a hammer to

      17      using it as a flashlight?"

      18             And when you think about the conversation

      19      that these hearings are really focusing on is about,

      20      "How do we make sure, if our goal here in New York

      21      is to get every New York kid ready for the knowledge

      22      economy?" we need to have clear standards that are

      23      based on the realities of today's economy and

      24      tomorrow's economy.

      25             We need to make sure everyone understands


       1      those high standards.

       2             Second of all, we need to provide progress

       3      reports in a timely way to parents, to educators, to

       4      taxpayers, to citizens, to lawmakers, on how well

       5      individual kids and groups of kids are doing against

       6      those standards.

       7             And, lastly, and I would argue, as equally

       8      important, is how do we make sure that we then are

       9      guiding our decisions based on what the data tells

      10      us; not just out of those test scores, but also out

      11      of all the other data points that New York is able

      12      to connect to a child?

      13             I would argue that we will not meet our goal

      14      of making sure that every child in New York

      15      graduates from high school college- and career-ready

      16      if we only pay attention to one or two of those legs

      17      of the stool.

      18             If we need to be -- if we're going to be

      19      successful in our goal, we can't just pay attention

      20      to the first two.

      21             You can't just have great standards and great

      22      tests if you don't use the information that comes

      23      out of those tests to then change what you do and

      24      guide your decision-making, whether it be as a

      25      parent, whether it be as a teacher, whether it be as


       1      a student, whether it be as a lawmaker.

       2             We have to make a commitment to using that

       3      data, and that is what is so important now.

       4             We have to help change the conversation so

       5      that data isn't the end of the conversation, but

       6      it's the beginning of the conversation.

       7             Yes, we need to keep working hard to protect

       8      the privacy, security, and confidently of this data,

       9      but what we really need to do, is to do that in this

      10      larger context of ensuring that parents, students,

      11      teachers, and policymakers in this state have the

      12      information that they need to help ensure that every

      13      child is on track for success.

      14             We can't afford not to.

      15             Thank you very much, and I'm happy to turn it

      16      over to Reg, and then answer any questions.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you.

      18             And, Reg, if you can be brief, it would be

      19      very helpful, your testimony is.

      20             And I've never heard, "hammer and a

      21      flashlight."

      22             I've heard "shield and sword," and a lot of

      23      other things, but "hammer and a flashlight," is a

      24      new one.

      25             So, Reg, please go ahead.


       1             REGINAL J. LEICHTY, ESQ.:  No, thank you.

       2             Again, my name is Reg Leichty.  I'm with

       3      EducationCounsel.

       4             We are a law-and-policy team that works

       5      closely with not-for-profits like, Aimee's team at

       6      the DQC, to promote education reform, and help

       7      people understand how to protect student data.

       8             And, quickly, just to echo Aimee's comments,

       9      my testimony is going to focus primarily on the

      10      federal law that primarily focuses on ensuring that

      11      student data is protected.

      12             It's called the "Family Educational Rights

      13      and Privacy Act"; or, "FERPA."

      14             You know, with the right state practices and

      15      policies in place, innovative data use, like those

      16      instances that Aimee talked about, can be really

      17      effectively balanced with strong protections for

      18      students.

      19             And we think that the first step in ensuring

      20      that you have great state policies in place to

      21      protect student data is really having a firm

      22      understanding of what FERPA does at the federal

      23      level, so that you can effectively implement it and

      24      build on it, as Aimee said, to ensure that your

      25      students' data is protected to the best of your


       1      ability.

       2             So I just want to run through a few elements

       3      of the law at the federal level, for your, kind of,

       4      future consideration.

       5             First, the purpose of FERPA is to limit the

       6      disclosure of personally identifiable student data

       7      by educational agencies and institutions in the

       8      state.

       9             It also provides parents a right to inspect

      10      and challenge student records.

      11             So, it's a two-part process, but the primary

      12      focus of the law is really ensuring that there's a

      13      floor in place to ensure that privacy protections

      14      are being implemented by states and districts.

      15             First off, the primary requirement that all

      16      educational agencies in your state, including your

      17      institutions of higher education that receive

      18      federal dollars from the U.S. Department of

      19      Education, is to not share any personally

      20      identifiable information, except for a few limited

      21      exceptions that I'm going to run through.

      22             Non-personally identifiable information, this

      23      aggregated data -- or, aggregated data, data that's

      24      been anonymized, that's been de-identified, can be

      25      shared without limit, that's okay.


       1             But when it comes to personally identifiable

       2      data, you want to have a strong strategy in place to

       3      ensure that it's only being used in appropriate

       4      purposes.

       5             There are a few educational and public-safety

       6      and health exceptions that allow personally

       7      identifiable data to be shared.

       8             For example:

       9             Data can be shared to evaluate federal,

      10      state, and local educational programs;

      11             Personally identifiable data can be shared to

      12      support studies that are designed to improve

      13      instruction;

      14             Data can be shared to deliver educational

      15      services by a district or school;

      16             And it can also be shared in situations --

      17      emergency situations where it's important to

      18      protecting the health and safety of a student or

      19      other students in a school.

      20             The Departments of Education's regulations,

      21      though, very carefully balanced those sharing

      22      exceptions with a number of privacy protections that

      23      are focused on ensuring that, whenever sharing

      24      occurs, it's only used for an authorized purpose.

      25             They have to put procedures and processes in


       1      place to ensure that the data is not further

       2      disclosed for an unauthorized purpose.

       3             And, when the data's no longer used, it has

       4      to be destroyed.

       5             Lastly, there are some penalties in place to

       6      ensure that these rules are followed, and two key

       7      ones are, first of all, the educational agency in

       8      the state or state institution of higher education

       9      could lose access to the U.S. Department of

      10      Education funding if the department finds that it

      11      has violated FERPA;

      12             And outside entities that have access to

      13      personally identifiable information under one of

      14      those allowable exceptions can be debarred from

      15      having future access to data for no less than

      16      five years.

      17             So, the penalties are very strict.

      18             And, lastly, in conclusion, before we turn to

      19      questions, I just want to make a few, sort of,

      20      recommendations for you to think about as you're

      21      considering state policies to build on FERPA.

      22             First, ensuring that you are strategically

      23      and coherently developing a plan for implementing

      24      the federal requirements around privacy and

      25      confidently.


       1             And that includes establishing appropriate

       2      roles for data stewardship, and defining and clearly

       3      communicating, which has been a big theme today, to

       4      stakeholder groups, including educators and

       5      school leaders and parents and the public about the

       6      need to protect student data, but also the processes

       7      that are in place to do that.

       8             Second, ensuring that you've got

       9      comprehensive policy documentation and public

      10      transparency, and strong enforcement of the rules

      11      you have.

      12             And, third, and I think most importantly,

      13      ensuring that there's strong organizational capacity

      14      at the state, district, and school level to

      15      implement these privacy protections.

      16             Having great laws is important, having great

      17      policies in place are important, but, you have to

      18      communicate them to the stakeholders at each of

      19      those levels of government that are responsible for

      20      delivering them, and you have to empower them to be

      21      successful in executing on them.  And that includes

      22      investing in the technology needed to protect the

      23      data, on the security side.

      24             So, lastly, I just would respectfully, you

      25      know, urge the State to ensure that all of the


       1      individuals and officials responsible for

       2      implementing your privacy laws have those resources

       3      at their disposal;

       4             That they've taken the time to develop

       5      comprehensive policies to implement FERPA and your

       6      state requirements;

       7             And then ensuring that they're communicating

       8      effectively with people on the ground, in the

       9      classroom, in the school, at the district level,

      10      about these rules, and how to, actually, effectively

      11      implement them.

      12             Thank you.

      13             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much.

      14             Senator Tkaczyk.

      15             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Just a quick question:  Do

      16      you think we have, in the state, the laws in place

      17      to protect privacy for students?

      18             REGINAL J. LEICHTY, ESQ.:  Yeah, so, I'm not

      19      an expert in New York law.

      20             FERPA has been in place for decades, and so

      21      there is institutional policy and practice in place

      22      in virtually every school district in the country,

      23      that's designed to ensure that student-data privacy

      24      and confidently are protected.

      25             I think one important consideration that you


       1      should evaluate, is ensuring that you're not

       2      overreaching.

       3             As Aimee said, ensuring that data is

       4      available to stakeholders, to really make a

       5      difference from kids, is hugely important.

       6             And, too often, we overreach with privacy

       7      protections.

       8             So I think you need to harmonize and create a

       9      balance between these two important public goals.

      10             So, I'd urge you to really think about, What

      11      are our policies in New York, and are they crafting

      12      the right balance between appropriate sharing, and

      13      ensuring that students and their families are

      14      adequately?

      15             AIMEE ROGSTAD GUIDERA:  If I may add to that,

      16      one of the pieces are, I think, technically,

      17      probably, sure, you know, in compliance with FERPA.

      18             We heard the Commissioner talk about that

      19      today, that everything's in compliance with state

      20      law and federal law.

      21             But what we're finding in states, like

      22      Oklahoma and Maryland and other states that are

      23      taking up legislation, it's to create the

      24      data-governance structure.

      25             So the Oklahoma law -- which, again, I put


       1      into the materials I sent you -- you can, literally,

       2      see that they spell out and they test -- they

       3      task -- the legislature and the law task the

       4      State Board of Education with very specific things

       5      to do:

       6             That there's an annual announcement of every

       7      data point that is collected on Oklahoma students;

       8             That there is a governance policy that --

       9      that the stated -- all points, every year, needs to

      10      review its privacy -- all privacy policies and

      11      security policies, and post them publicly;

      12             That every parent can go to -- that anyone

      13      can to go a website and, literally, find the privacy

      14      and security protocols on the Department of

      15      Education website.

      16             So there are very specific pieces.

      17             And I think what has been the tenor of the

      18      conversation thus far this morning, has been this

      19      need to, you can have laws, you can have policies,

      20      you can have standards, you can have tests, but if

      21      nobody knows about them, and people have questions,

      22      then you have a whole lot of problems.

      23             And I think that that's the piece with the

      24      privacy and security and confidently.

      25             Our number one piece we say in here is, start


       1      with communicating to people with why we're

       2      collecting this data, and then help them understand

       3      why it's critical; the "What's in it for me?"

       4             And then to go to next piece, which is then,

       5      And this is how it's being safeguarded and

       6      shepherded so that it can be useful.

       7             So I think there's always more you can do.

       8             Protecting data, and, especially, as the

       9      technology continues to change, our privacy policies

      10      need to continue to keep up to speed with that.

      11             And so this is -- we're never going to be

      12      done protecting data.

      13             It's not something we can legislate this year

      14      and say, We're now done about it.

      15             We need a process and a governance structure

      16      in place that will keep up and continually find ways

      17      to safeguard data, and always.

      18             SENATOR TKACZYK:  I have your testimony, but

      19      I don't have your backup material, so if you

      20      could --

      21             AIMEE ROGSTAD GUIDERA:  I will get packets to

      22      you.

      23             And, also, in all the -- in the testimony,

      24      the links are all live, so all the material's on the

      25      website as well.


       1             But, I'll get you hard copies.

       2             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  I have a couple of quick

       3      ones, and I look at this through the prism of a

       4      parent.

       5             You know, my kids are out of elementary and

       6      secondary education, but, it strikes me that there

       7      are a couple of basic things.

       8             One, the people who are critical of the

       9      dissemination, or potential dissemination, of

      10      student data, they seem to be focusing a lot more on

      11      perspective, that now there's a lot more data being

      12      collected, it's going through a central warehouse,

      13      if you will, that warehouse being the State of

      14      New York.

      15             And I would -- if you have it, in it terms of

      16      submitting it to us, it would be very helpful -- I'm

      17      not aware of a series of egregious violations to

      18      date.

      19             It seems that there's much more concern about

      20      where we go prospectively.

      21             And I don't know if you've seen this stuff,

      22      but there's a lot of stuff coming from parents now

      23      saying:  Why the heck do you need by kid's

      24      disciplinary records?  What does that have to do

      25      with their education?


       1             Is that record going to be now available to a

       2      college or an employer who, because my kid was a

       3      truant in third grade, now they're going to be

       4      summarily dismissed from potential future

       5      employment?

       6             Do you -- is that something you focus on?

       7             AIMEE ROGSTAD GUIDERA:  Yes.

       8             So in this document, like I -- your -- we --

       9      the Data Quality Campaign, every year, does an

      10      annual survey.

      11             We've done it now for nine years, and we do

      12      an annual report every year, on every state.

      13             So, literally, you can go to the

      14 website and find exactly

      15      where New York is.

      16             And I'll send you a state profile on that.

      17             And it says exactly what data is being

      18      collected and warehoused at the state agency.

      19             The question about discipline records, and

      20      things, again, in the Oklahoma legislation, the law,

      21      right now, it spells out exactly how that

      22      information will be dealt with, and what's part of a

      23      permanent record versus what's not.

      24             And, again, these are decisions that you as

      25      legislators can lead in the conversation, and also


       1      have the authority to task the Regents and the

       2      Board of Regents to create those guidelines that can

       3      assure the public at large with what is happening

       4      with this data.  What is -- rather than the miss

       5      and -- misperceptions that are so now a part of

       6      social media and conversations that we're hearing

       7      about, is be very clear about what the current

       8      status is.

       9             And if people don't think that that's the

      10      right process, "What's the process for changing

      11      that?" and having a conversation about it.

      12             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  On that point, if we have

      13      legislation, I understand that, but, in your

      14      opinion, right now, is the availability and the

      15      access to the present state of data in New York, do

      16      you believe that it is transparent, or not?

      17             AIMEE ROGSTAD GUIDERA:  I think it will be

      18      much -- much better when the portal is live.

      19             From my limited understanding of knowing

      20      what's happening, as I said, this is the part that

      21      every single state is struggling with.

      22             It's the provision of, one, "What data -- how

      23      do we share with parents and the public at large

      24      what data is being collected?" and states are

      25      struggling with that.


       1             And this focus right now is very much getting

       2      states to put that information up and be much more

       3      transparent.

       4             New York needs to do more on that.

       5             The second piece, in terms of ensuring that

       6      parents, teachers, educators, have data on specific

       7      kids that they need to help make decisions on,

       8      New York will be a leading state if this education

       9      portal goes live and is implemented as planned.

      10             As I said, this is this hardest piece.

      11             It's not just collect -- it's not building

      12      the data systems that collect the data; it's how do

      13      you create the tools, the resources, the portals, to

      14      get it into the hands of people when it's actionable

      15      information.

      16             And that part of it, that second part,

      17      New York will be a leading state if this goes as

      18      planned the next four months.

      19             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Reg, one last quick

      20      question:

      21             On the -- in your testimony, you speak to, if

      22      there's a violation that -- through the federal

      23      office, that you -- basically, you go to the guilty

      24      party and give them a chance to correct.

      25             And I may be oversimplifying, but it strikes


       1      me that parents would be, like, Wait a second.

       2             And as a legislator, I want to -- you know,

       3      if you violate the law, you should be smacked.

       4             It shouldn't be, like, Oh, I'm sorry, you

       5      know, I disseminated all these social security

       6      numbers.

       7             Do you believe that sanctions at the federal

       8      level are strong enough?

       9             REGINAL J. LEICHTY, ESQ.:  Yes.

      10             So, let me answer the first question first,

      11      because it's a good one.

      12             So FERPA has, for many years, had these two

      13      remedies:

      14             The first is, withholding federal funds that

      15      are provided through the Department of Education;

      16             And the second is, debarring agencies, that

      17      are not school districts or schools or institutions

      18      of higher education, from having access to student

      19      data for five years.

      20             The law says, that before those penalties can

      21      be levied on a violator, the Department of Education

      22      has to give them a chance to voluntarily remediate.

      23             And the purpose of that approach, is to

      24      balance the important values of ensuring student

      25      privacy with ensuring that there are federal


       1      resources that are primarily dedicated to at-risk

       2      kids in poor communities are still flowing.

       3             So rather than smack them down in one fell

       4      swoop with removal of greatly needed resources, the

       5      department says, We're going to give a chance to

       6      remediate.

       7             There have not been, to my knowledge, major

       8      problems with educational institutions and

       9      educational agencies honoring their requirements

      10      under FERPA, so that tells me that the requirements

      11      are probably stiff enough.

      12             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much.

      13             Appreciate the time.

      14             AIMEE ROGSTAD GUIDERA:  Thank you.

      15             Next we have the New York State

      16      United Teachers.

      17             We have Steve Allinger back, for the second

      18      time, having come to Long Island;

      19             And we're joined by Kevin Ahern, who is the

      20      president of the Syracuse Teachers Association.

      21             KEVIN AHERN:  Good afternoon, Senators.

      22             Senator Flanagan, I wanted to thank you for

      23      providing us with this opportunity to be heard.

      24             I have been fascinated by much of the

      25      testimony coming out of Long Island, and what I've


       1      heard so far today.

       2             I do want to talk a little bit about -- today

       3      I'll talk a little -- provide you with some context

       4      about how the Reform Agenda is playing out in our

       5      neck of the woods up here in Syracuse, and

       6      specifically in the Syracuse City School District,

       7      but I do -- I will also talk about the larger

       8      context, and in talking with my colleagues

       9      throughout the county and throughout the state, and

      10      some of their impressions with what's going on.

      11             I'm president of the Syracuse Teachers

      12      Association.

      13             We represent, here in Syracuse, 2500 people

      14      who work with the students of Syracuse every day.

      15             Over 1400 of them are actual classroom

      16      teachers working with kids in classrooms every day.

      17             In Syracuse, also, we are fortunate to have

      18      an organization called "Say Yes" working here --

      19             We are partnered with them, the district is

      20      partnered with them.

      21             -- who has managed to bring together a

      22      tremendous community-wide effort to really help our

      23      kids in poverty.

      24             We believe it's a strategy that needs to

      25      continue and be supported throughout.


       1             Say Yes has managed to create unprecedented

       2      collaborations between the city government, the

       3      county government, the universities, community-based

       4      organizations, throughout Central New York.

       5      Certainly, the school district and the teachers

       6      association are involved.

       7             And I will talk a little bit more about them

       8      later, but we are -- we really believe that that is

       9      a reform strategy here in Syracuse that is worth

      10      hearing about.

      11             Unfortunately, the efforts -- the things that

      12      are happening now that we see with the Reform Agenda

      13      threatens these efforts, and I will talk a little

      14      bit more about that.

      15             I was interested to see -- to read the

      16      Long Island testimony.

      17             And I think, you know, it was very consistent

      18      throughout, and you had, again, a broad swath of

      19      stakeholders who testified, and their thoughts

      20      really echo pretty much what we hear up here, too.

      21             I think the message is very clear coming out

      22      of that, that the Regents Reform Agenda, as

      23      currently implemented by State Education Department,

      24      is not working, and, in fact, may be doing more harm

      25      than good.


       1             This agenda has really -- and I'm not going

       2      to go through all the comparisons or similarities

       3      that we're having here with folks down there.

       4             Suffice it to say, we are struggling with

       5      this agenda in many, many ways.

       6             We're struggling with the implementation of

       7      the Common Core, the lack of resources to support

       8      that, the overreliance on testing, lack of adequate

       9      resources again, demoralization and

      10      de-professionalization of our members, our teachers.

      11             It's all happening right here, right now.

      12             The impact of this agenda has been

      13      devastating here in Syracuse because we have an

      14      already-struggling school district.

      15             And this -- the mandate -- unfunded mandate

      16      on top of unfunded mandate on top of unfunded

      17      mandate, when you have a district that is already

      18      struggling, it can send it into crisis, and we are

      19      beginning to feel a sense of that now.

      20             I want to talk about the demographics of this

      21      school district, because they're important when we

      22      talk about, What are we doing for kids, and how are

      23      we helping kids be successful?

      24             80 percent of our students in this school

      25      district are eligible for free and reduced lunch.


       1             50 percent of the children who live in

       2      Syracuse, "50 percent," live below the federal

       3      poverty line.

       4             The implications of that are vast.

       5             So when we talk about a school system, and

       6      the success of a school system, we must look at the

       7      children in context in that school system.

       8             Since 2009, education funding cuts in this

       9      district have caused us to reduce 25 percent of our

      10      employees.

      11             Hundreds of them are teaching assistants and

      12      teachers working directly with kids every day.

      13             With the student population of nearly 20,000

      14      that has remained consistent over that time, the

      15      amount of adults available to work with those kids

      16      has dramatically increased.

      17             So it's this context, a high-needs student

      18      population and a chronic lack of funding to support

      19      them, where the negative impacts of this

      20      Reform Agenda are felt most acutely.

      21             The flawed tests administered without

      22      necessary curricular support, the Common Core test

      23      last year, when you give those to kids who already

      24      struggle with standardized tests, many of whom

      25      struggle to get to school every day, that is not, as


       1      somebody once said, ripping off the Band-Aid.

       2             That is actually pouring salt on the wound.

       3             It is demoralizing to those children.

       4             It's demoralizing to those of us who work

       5      with them every day.

       6             Add to that, the challenge of developing and

       7      implementing SLOs, or alternative measures of

       8      growth, on a scale in a district where we have

       9      1400 classroom teachers, a couple hundred

      10      administrators, and 20,000 kids, the stress placed

      11      on our internal systems here in the district is

      12      tremendous.

      13             It is at the breaking point, where, as all

      14      the goodwill and all the good intentions of this

      15      Reform Agenda can undermine -- can be undermined,

      16      and our collective desire to help these kids and

      17      improve outcomes for kids can be undermined, because

      18      of the stress on the system that has been

      19      unaccounted for financially.

      20             In addition to this, there are punitive

      21      measures that come with the Reform Agenda via the

      22      Race To The Top.

      23             Schools that don't perform well on tests get

      24      punished in this environment.

      25             We have an entire district that does not


       1      perform particularly well on tests.

       2             19 our schools in this district have been

       3      identified -- 19 out of 32 have been identified as

       4      what they call "focus schools."

       5             That is another word for failing schools.

       6             Those schools are required to go through

       7      four turnaround models, and I won't list them all

       8      for you, but I can tell you this, two of them are

       9      simply not feasible in a district like this.

      10             Another one, we have used up our allotment,

      11      per Race To The Top.

      12             We are now forced to use a model that

      13      requires 50 percent of staff and the principal be

      14      removed from that school, and then reconstituted

      15      from there.

      16             When the Commissioner talked about the

      17      I-zone, the I-zone is something we worked on, with

      18      the superintendent, to try to do some innovative

      19      things within the context of these schools being

      20      forced into a turnaround strategy that says you have

      21      to remove 50 percent of the staff.

      22             There is no science behind the "50 percent"

      23      number.

      24             This is an arbitrary number, completely made

      25      up by people who don't work in education, or who


       1      oversee education but are not educators.

       2             There's no science behind 50 percent.

       3             Why not 25 percent?

       4             Why not 30 percent?

       5             There's no science behind it.

       6             It is the idea that a lot of activity will

       7      somehow create achievement.

       8             The communities that these schools exist in,

       9      we have to do five of them -- we are doing five of

      10      them -- we did five of them over the course of last

      11      summer, and into the fall.

      12             We moved hundreds of teachers throughout the

      13      district in order to accommodate this.

      14             We pulled teachers who had been in schools,

      15      some of them for well over 20 years, had taught

      16      generations of families, had relationships with many

      17      of the children and parents in these neighborhoods.

      18             Because of this, they were moved out of those

      19      schools.

      20             It's disruptive to a neighborhood.

      21             It is disruptive to children, to parents.

      22             It's certainly disruptive to the

      23      professionals who work in those schools.

      24             And I would also say this:  It destabilizes,

      25      to a certain extent, that community.


       1             It is a very, very unfortunate set of

       2      circumstances, when we are -- when we have

       3      state-mandated disruption and destabilization.

       4             I would also suggest this:  When you look at

       5      the demographics of these neighborhoods, and that we

       6      have state-mandated disruption and unscientific

       7      methods being forced upon us to, quote/unquote,

       8      "reform that school," if that were happening in some

       9      of the suburbs surrounding this area where the

      10      demographics are significantly different, and the

      11      people who live in those suburbs are middle-class or

      12      upper middle-class, there is not a parent or a

      13      legislator in this state representing those people

      14      who would stand for this.

      15             It happens in poor neighborhoods.

      16             The focus schools throughout the state have

      17      one thing in common:  The kids are poor.  They don't

      18      have the resources.

      19             So when I refer to Say Yes as a reform model,

      20      Say Yes actually looks at the things that matter

      21      most to the kids in the circumstances we find them

      22      in here in Syracuse.  They look at, you know,

      23      providing the kinds of supports kids need.

      24             Social, emotional supports; after-school

      25      activities, more learning in the summer; those are


       1      the kinds of things Say Yes and our school district

       2      has been interested in since we first began that

       3      journey with Say Yes, because we recognize, as urban

       4      educators working in a poverty-stricken district,

       5      the things that our kids need.

       6             I grew up in these schools.  I graduated from

       7      Nottingham High School in 1976, and I'm a very proud

       8      graduate of that school.

       9             But I will tell you right now, the

      10      demographics of this city, and the student

      11      population, is significantly different than it was

      12      in 1976.

      13             "Significantly different."

      14             So the outcomes for kids have changed

      15      dramatically as a result.

      16             None of the Reform Agenda really addresses

      17      any of this.  It doesn't address any of these kinds

      18      of needs.

      19             We talk about a need to go to the

      20      Common Core, and, you know, I'm fine with the

      21      Common Core.

      22             I think most teachers are relatively

      23      supportive of it.  Some are very supportive; some

      24      are less.

      25             They're willing to do the work to do that.


       1             That's instructional; it's important that we

       2      provide the best instruction.

       3             Teachers need support in that.

       4             And we'll talk a little bit more about that.

       5             But, there is no support, it seems, or nobody

       6      seems to be really be listening, when we talk about,

       7      there's this broad statement out there that our

       8      schools are failing, that has been out there for a

       9      long time.

      10             And the Commissioner points out, you know,

      11      the ready-for-college rate, and all of those kinds

      12      of numbers.

      13             All our schools aren't failing.

      14             Kids in the suburbs, generally, are doing

      15      fine.  They're graduating over 90 percent of their

      16      kids.  They're doing well on state tests, and

      17      they're going to the college of their choice, or the

      18      college that their parents can afford.

      19             The schools, if you did an overlay of

      20      education achievement, by whatever standard the

      21      state has, take that map and lay it over, the

      22      pockets where kids aren't doing well are in ZIP

      23      codes where poverty exists.

      24             None of this Reform Agenda addresses that in

      25      any meaningful way.


       1             As we talk about the State's rolling this

       2      out, and their support, it's not just our district

       3      where we haven't felt terribly supported.

       4             Virtually, all my colleagues I talk to about

       5      the implementation of all this feels that State Ed

       6      has missed the opportunity to do this the right way.

       7             And it could be a tragic misfire, because it

       8      will create, and has created, a problem of

       9      credibility for state -- New York State education.

      10             Under-resourcing, and over-mandating, and not

      11      giving the appropriate amount of time, has led to a

      12      lot of doubters.

      13             Teachers feel that this evaluation system is

      14      really only about putting them in one of four

      15      categories, and sorting them out.

      16             Parents are feeling that the testing is

      17      obsessive and it's bad for kids.

      18             So when that's happening, the credibility of

      19      the entire system is brought into question.

      20             And, again, good intentions, we understand

      21      that.

      22             You'll never hear a teacher stand up and say,

      23      I don't want to be evaluated.

      24             You'll never hear a teacher, not this teacher

      25      or teacher leader, ever stand up and say, The system


       1      as it existed before was something that we should

       2      hold up as exemplary.

       3             It wasn't.

       4             There are -- there's a framework in -- that

       5      we can work within in the new evaluation system that

       6      has some real promise, that can actually do the

       7      things for teachers to improve their practice that

       8      it should.

       9             We're not dismissing it.

      10             The same is true for the need for testing.

      11             Teachers test all the time.  They use

      12      assessments all the time.

      13             But the obsession with testing, connecting it

      14      with kids and teachers in a high-stakes way, and

      15      school districts in a high-stakes way, has gone too

      16      far, and too fast.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Kevin, can I ask you to

      18      kind of wrap up --

      19             KEVIN AHERN:  Yes.

      20             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  -- because I know my

      21      colleagues have questions.

      22             KEVIN AHERN:  Yes, absolutely.

      23             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you.

      24             KEVIN AHERN:  And, again, I don't mean to

      25      prattle on.


       1             I do -- I do want to, you know, get to the

       2      ask here, so, if you'll let me do that.

       3             I would urge you to join teachers and parents

       4      and call for best practices in measuring student

       5      achievement.

       6             That means ensuring our youngest students are

       7      not forced to take tests that are developmentally

       8      inappropriate.

       9             That means requiring transparency and the

      10      State's use of standardized test.

      11             I ask you for the time, for students and

      12      teachers need to gradually implement the new

      13      learning standards in order to get it right.

      14             That should include postponing the

      15      implementation of the Common Core Regents' exams as

      16      a graduation requirement.

      17             It should include a three-year moratorium on

      18      the high-stakes aspect of the consequences for

      19      students and teacher who are doing everything

      20      possible to keep up with this work, despite great

      21      odds working against them.

      22             I urge you to provide the full resources

      23      districts need to ensure all students have an equal

      24      opportunity to master the state's new learning

      25      standards.  Our students' challenges are only


       1      worsened by the State's hyper-focus on testing

       2      instead of the supports and services they need.

       3             Finally, students living in poverty need

       4      State-sponsored support, not State-sponsored

       5      disruption.  They need safety nets, not sanctions.

       6             The Reform Agenda should be supporting the

       7      development of state-of-the-art community schools

       8      and efforts by organizations, like Say Yes, that not

       9      only provide scholarships, but also create

      10      unprecedented collaborations between stakeholders,

      11      to bring the resources to our kids, and their

      12      families.

      13             If New York is really interested in providing

      14      every student with a first-class public education,

      15      and the fundamental issue of poverty, access,

      16      equity, and opportunity must be seriously addressed.

      17             Thank you for listening.

      18             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Kevin, thank you very

      19      much.

      20             I know that's consistent with what we had

      21      heard from Nadia, your colleague on Long Island,

      22      from Middle Country.

      23             But, I believe Senator DeFrancisco has a

      24      question.

      25             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Yes, the -- I was


       1      listening to your asks just now, and I reread them.

       2             None of the asks was to get rid of the

       3      concept of the Core curriculum, get rid of the

       4      reforms.  It's, basically, postponing the

       5      effectiveness.

       6             Is that fair to say?

       7             KEVIN AHERN:  Yes.

       8             I think, we're not asking to get rid of the

       9      Common Core.

      10             We're asking for a sensible, timely rollout

      11      with the appropriate resources.

      12             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Okay.

      13             Now, with the appropriate resources, you

      14      mentioned that there was less and less State aid,

      15      especially for students in schools that have a high

      16      level of poverty; is that correct?

      17             How much is enough?  What's enough?

      18             How much per pupil should the state be

      19      providing that will solve this problem?

      20             Because, the resources seem to be the main

      21      issue, and they've been since I was on the school

      22      board 36 years ago.

      23             KEVIN AHERN:  Well, there was a --

      24             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Tell me, how much is

      25      enough?


       1             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  Senator, there was a

       2      process to develop estimation of what was required

       3      for every child to have a sound basic education

       4      provided in every school.

       5             It was a costing-out study that was part of

       6      the resolution of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity

       7      lawsuit, and that was embedded in the foundation

       8      formula that was overwhelmingly adopted by the

       9      Legislature.

      10             In the first two years, 2008, 2009, it was

      11      implemented, generally, according to the plan, and

      12      it resulted in real dollar investments in high-needs

      13      schools, that made a difference for kids, and there

      14      was an improvement in scores, and a closing of the

      15      achievement gap.

      16             But as the Great Recession took hold, that

      17      was, first, frozen, and the gap elimination applied.

      18             So I -- we would submit that you go back to a

      19      full implementation of the foundation formula, based

      20      on the best estimates that the State could get from

      21      experts, and what is the foundation amount needed to

      22      educate every child to high standards.

      23             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  My question is, what is

      24      the amount?

      25             I mean, do you remember from that decision?


       1             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  In those dollars, in 2007

       2      dollars, that was about 7 billion.

       3             There was a plan to reestimate, because

       4      technology change, standards change, every several

       5      years.

       6             That plan was shelved, the promise not kept.

       7             I can't give you an instant Cream-of-Wheat

       8      answer, but I would be glad to have -- with some

       9      time, get back to you with information on how to

      10      estimate the sound and basic education full funding.

      11             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Do you have an estimate

      12      as to whatever that "billion dollar" number --

      13             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  We're several

      14      billion dollars short of the plan.

      15             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Excuse me, I could

      16      finish the question?

      17             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  Sorry.

      18             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  That -- whatever the

      19      number of billion dollars, and how much we're short,

      20      do you have an estimate as to the dollars per child

      21      in the school district that's high poverty?

      22             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  It's a few thousand short,

      23      but we will -- rather than just doing it off the top

      24      of my head, I will get that information to you.

      25             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Well, I asked for this


       1      number, because I don't remember the number, but --

       2      and there has been a very difficult financial time.

       3             But just so that people here know, as far as

       4      the Syracuse School District is concerned, the State

       5      aid; not federal aid, State aid alone, for

       6      2011-2012, was $12,264 per child.

       7             The following term, following year, 12,986.

       8             And this past year, 13,293.

       9             Now, I know that the numbers were going up

      10      during the implementation of that increase in

      11      foundation aid, but not that dramatically.

      12             So, I don't think -- what I'm getting at,

      13      I don't think money is the only issue here.

      14             And, Kevin, you had mentioned many other

      15      issues, poverty level, and the like.

      16             And one of the things I'd like to hear from

      17      the teachers, because this is a concern of mine,

      18      that, in some districts, and I've heard many parents

      19      in the Syracuse School District -- there was just a

      20      report in today's paper, I think -- that there's

      21      disruptions in the classroom that makes it very

      22      difficult for teachers to teach.

      23             And, apparently, what's occurred recently, is

      24      the report today said that it's too racially biased,

      25      or whatever it may be.


       1             Well, whoever's doing it, is there a solution

       2      to make the job of teachers better, so that students

       3      who want to learn can learn?

       4             You know, what's the solution, if you can't

       5      suspend someone and get the disrupters out of the

       6      classroom?

       7             What do the teachers want with respect to

       8      that issue?

       9             KEVIN AHERN:  Teachers want to be able to

      10      teach.

      11             Right?

      12             So, I think there's a couple of issues here.

      13             One, as I noted earlier in my testimony, we

      14      have eliminated 25 percent of the staff of this

      15      school district.  Those are adults who supervise

      16      kids all day.

      17             So as a consequence, you know, and I don't

      18      have any scientific research on this, but common

      19      sense would tell us all, there are less adults

      20      supervising the same amount of kids in the same

      21      buildings, so, that can lead to lots of issues.

      22             Right?

      23             So I think that's one significant factor.

      24             Another -- I do think this is an important

      25      issue, and it's certainly not for a huge discussion


       1      here, but I think it's a community-wide issue, and

       2      I think it needs to be -- I think we need to find

       3      solutions within the community.

       4             And by "the community," I mean parents,

       5      teachers, lawmakers...I think everybody needs to

       6      address this issue of safety in the schools.

       7             And I think last night's discussion of

       8      suspension rates is an interesting topic, and an

       9      alarming number, but I think the solution will be

      10      much more complicated than simply looking at those.

      11             And to your earlier point, Senator, about the

      12      finances, and all of that, I don't have chapter and

      13      verse on those numbers, but, as you know, budget

      14      season approaches.

      15             We will bring a delegation in, and I can

      16      guarantee you -- I know that Suzanne Slack, CFO for

      17      the school district, can give you chapter and verse

      18      on the impact of the lack of CFE funding.

      19             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  One last issue, because

      20      I don't want to monopolize it, but one last issue --

      21             And I'd like to get together with you on the

      22      disruptions in the classroom.

      23             KEVIN AHERN:  Absolutely.

      24             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  -- because I don't see

      25      how any teacher -- my wife was a teacher -- how you


       1      can possibly teach in a classroom without getting

       2      rid of the kids who don't want to learn, somehow.

       3             Whether it's putting them in a separate

       4      classroom and teaching them with less teachers, or

       5      whatever.

       6             But -- because you can't prevent those who

       7      want to learn, learn; and teachers who want to

       8      teach, teach, in an atmosphere they can teach.

       9             Lastly, Say Yes, and I was involved at the

      10      beginning of that, I learned something that just

      11      totally shocked me, and I want to get your opinion

      12      on this; and that is -- because I was going into

      13      this remediation issue, and the hundreds of millions

      14      of dollars that are spent by kids using their

      15      money -- their tuition money for remediation, for

      16      colleges paying dollars upon -- millions of dollars

      17      on remediation, because kids aren't ready for

      18      college.

      19             Now, it's a wonderful concept, in my

      20      judgment, that if a kid in poverty has the incentive

      21      of a pre-college education --

      22             And by the way, the suburban districts don't

      23      get this.  It's only the city of Syracuse, so there

      24      are things that go to the poverty districts.

      25             -- but, I was shocked to learn that all a


       1      student needed to get a free college education under

       2      the Say Yes program, was to get a city

       3      school-district diploma.

       4             They don't have to be ready for college.

       5             KEVIN AHERN:  Well --

       6             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Now, let me just, last

       7      point.

       8             KEVIN AHERN:  Go ahead.

       9             Sure.

      10             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  It seems to me, whether

      11      you're in poverty or not, and if a parent knows that

      12      their kid has got to be college-ready to get that

      13      education, there ought to be some parental support

      14      to make sure the kid is ready; not just getting a

      15      piece of paper pushed on to learn how to read more

      16      proficiently in college.

      17             You know, what -- is there something, a

      18      disconnect there, or am I wrong?

      19             KEVIN AHERN:  Well, I -- I would say this:

      20             There certainly are students who graduate,

      21      and certainly will struggle as freshmen in college.

      22             That is another one of the areas that Say Yes

      23      actually does focus on.

      24             They have a tremendous program, in

      25      conjunction with the local community college, that


       1      really brings kids up in the summer, prior to their

       2      freshman year, to help them get ready for the work

       3      they will do in their first semester.

       4             And, all of this, Senator, focused on

       5      retaining those kids once they're in college, and

       6      getting them through to graduation, which is another

       7      challenge.

       8             So we -- you know, we've the challenge of

       9      getting kids ready to graduate high school, and

      10      actually graduating.

      11             Then when they do, there's another challenge,

      12      getting them to graduate.

      13             When you have kids -- you mentioned, you

      14      know, we do have kids who don't have strong parental

      15      support at home.

      16             So, Say Yes recognizes that, and is working

      17      on that.

      18             So, I think it's something useful that you

      19      pointed out, but I do think Say Yes is working on

      20      it.

      21             But, you know, Say Yes needs -- school

      22      districts like ours need Say Yeses, and they don't

      23      all have them.

      24             And the State needs to look at that model and

      25      find ways to support that kind of interaction


       1      between all the players.

       2             You know, Senators, as well as anybody,

       3      getting state and city governments to work together,

       4      and to get things done for kids, and to eliminate

       5      red tape, and various constituency issues, is a

       6      really enormous challenge.

       7             And Say Yes has managed to make that happen

       8      here in Syracuse in a way that I think is

       9      unprecedented throughout the state.

      10             We're hoping to see similar cooperation in

      11      Buffalo as Say Yes moves in there.

      12             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Valesky.

      13             SENATOR VALESKY:  Just a follow-up.

      14             And, first, Kevin, thank you for your

      15      testimony.

      16             KEVIN AHERN:  My pleasure.

      17             SENATOR VALESKY:  I appreciate that very

      18      much.

      19             Steve, just a follow-up, I think one of the

      20      points that you had made, and, particularly, since

      21      I had raised the issue with the Commissioner and the

      22      Vice Chancellor in regard to resources, you had

      23      referred to the Campaign For Fiscal Equity court

      24      case.

      25             I just wanted to -- and I think it was


       1      Senator Seward had mentioned earlier in this

       2      hearing, I just wanted to again restate for the

       3      record, that it was, in fact, the Senate Majority

       4      Coalition, actually, not once, but twice this

       5      session, both in the Senate, one-House budget, and

       6      I think a standalone legislation at the end of the

       7      regular session, as a reflection of the input from

       8      school boards and superintendents and others in the

       9      educational community, that an elimination of the

      10      gap-elimination adjustment, from the legislative

      11      perspective, was one of the most important and

      12      effective things, this is what I have been told

      13      repeatedly, that we could do as representatives of,

      14      in my case, the city of Syracuse, and many other

      15      districts, but all of us who are sitting here.

      16             So, I guess, Steve, as we're, you know, very

      17      soon preparing for the next budget cycle, and not to

      18      speak for the Chairman or the leadership of the

      19      Senate, but I would certainly anticipate that, from

      20      a Senate perspective, we will continue to push that

      21      issue.

      22             And I guess my question, Steve, to you, is,

      23      is I hope that you will be equally as aggressive

      24      about the need to do that.

      25             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  I'll try to live up to


       1      that expectation.

       2             We are thankful that the Senate and the

       3      Assembly exceeded the Governor's school-aid cap.

       4             We believe the school-aid cap is sized

       5      mechanically below what schools need to meet higher

       6      standards; for teachers to teach to higher standards

       7      and students to learn to them.

       8             And, we believe that you'll need to do that

       9      again, particularly in light of the fact that the

      10      tax-cap calculation is coming down well below

      11      2 percent, well below the current services-costs

      12      increases due to inflation in that sector.

      13             And, that if we're to be serious about

      14      reaching these unprecedented high standards, which,

      15      by the way, our -- NYSUT, NEA, AFT, have supported

      16      the implementation of Common Core, but not the

      17      obsession and premature testing.

      18             But, we'll have to increase the amount of

      19      resources.

      20             We're working with the Education Conference

      21      Board.

      22             You know, we just came out with the joint

      23      statement, with all the stakeholders, to have

      24      meaningful investment, so we've the proper training,

      25      sequencing, time, resources, technology.


       1             And the reason we've called for pausing

       2      high-stakes consequences, is we didn't get this --

       3      we don't have an appropriate baseline.

       4             You don't have an appropriate baseline, we

       5      have the cart before the horse.

       6             When you have testing based on curriculum

       7      that was not properly implemented, where entire

       8      grade levels were not -- were absent, and there was

       9      a promise to districts that these supports would be

      10      in place, 45 other states are taking more measured

      11      time to implement it.

      12             Only one other state hurried it.

      13             And, I want to support what President Ahern

      14      said, you don't want to create a backlash around the

      15      higher standards through poor implementations, and

      16      that's why we want to get it right.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Before I go to

      18      Senator Tkaczyk, I would just -- Steve, I would add

      19      that -- well, I don't need to be a cheerleader for

      20      the Executive -- we were -- we certainly built

      21      considerably on what the Governor proposed, but in

      22      fairness, in his proposed executive budget, he

      23      pierced the cap, as a good starting point.

      24             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  He did.

      25             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  So we were -- we were in a


       1      better position, and we got to a much better

       2      position in the end product.

       3             So, Senator Tkaczyk.

       4             SENATOR TKACZYK:  I just have a quick

       5      question for Steve.

       6             It's my understanding, that we're funding

       7      schools at the 2008/2009 funding level.

       8             KEVIN AHERN:  That's correct, or a little

       9      below.

      10             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Thank you.

      11             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Little.

      12             SENATOR LITTLE:  Thank you.

      13             I am on the Mandate Relief Council, and you

      14      mentioned mandates.

      15             Could you just briefly tell me what you

      16      believe, for the teachers -- we've heard from school

      17      superintendents and school boards -- what would be

      18      your top two mandates that you believe are not

      19      effective, or schools could do without?

      20             KEVIN AHERN:  Well, the mandate for

      21      high stakes attached to these tests would be,

      22      I think, the highest priority.

      23             That they're -- and, you know, again, we're

      24      asking for a moratorium on that.

      25             I do want to make something clear, though, so


       1      that all the Senators understand, and from our

       2      perspective, at any rate.

       3             When the State talks about, you know, only

       4      20 percent of this is state tests, and all of that,

       5      and that's fine, you know, that's true.

       6             There's another 20 percent called, you know,

       7      the "local measures of student achievement."

       8             So, that's another 20 percent of the

       9      100 percent, that is -- those are tests, also.

      10      Those are assessments, also.

      11             So when they talk about, you know, only

      12      20 percent of this, it's not quite true.

      13             It's 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation is

      14      based on one form or assessment of another.

      15             So when we get to this test obsession that we

      16      talk about, from our perspective, those are tests

      17      that have to be implemented also.

      18             So we have the state tests, and SLOs for

      19      teachers who do not teach subjects that have state

      20      tests, as part -- as the 20 percent of that.

      21             And then we have other measures of student

      22      achievement that are more than likely going to be

      23      some other form of assessment, or maybe another kind

      24      of SLO, with a slightly different name.

      25             So -- so in order to evaluate teachers, we


       1      are testing kids at an unprecedented rate.

       2             And the tests, some are for kids, so we can

       3      see where the kids are at, but, they serve two

       4      purposes:

       5             One, is so we can see where the kid's at, and

       6      another, allegedly, tells us where the teacher's at.

       7             So we have 40 percent of our evaluation

       8      system is testing to figure out where, supposedly,

       9      teachers are at.

      10             So, those are the high stakes we're talking

      11      about for teachers and kids and school districts

      12      that is a metric that's looked at.

      13             SENATOR LITTLE:  Just to address the first

      14      one, but I believe that, in the very beginning,

      15      40 percent of the tests were going to be -- of the

      16      evaluation was going to come from the state test,

      17      and it was through participation with NYSUT and

      18      everyone else.

      19             KEVIN AHERN:  Absolutely.

      20             SENATOR LITTLE:  And I also heard the

      21      Commissioner say today that there is flexibility in

      22      that 20 percent testing.

      23             And I think that maybe some of our schools

      24      haven't really hooked into that; that they should be

      25      asking for some flexibility, or doing something


       1      differently.

       2             But, do you have a second one as well?

       3             And I'd really -- you know, if you don't have

       4      it right now, I would love to get one from you

       5      afterwards.

       6             KEVIN AHERN:  Well -- and, you know, I mean,

       7      the thought of testing 5-year-olds I think is

       8      another real issue.

       9             SENATOR LITTLE:  So the real primary-grade

      10      testing, you believe, is too much?

      11             KEVIN AHERN:  Yeah.

      12             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  And it's developmentally

      13      inappropriate.

      14             Most national and international organizations

      15      condemn that kind of testing --

      16             SENATOR LITTLE:  Well, I, too --

      17             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  -- for early grades.

      18             SENATOR LITTLE:  -- I am hearing from

      19      families on that.

      20             And I also believe the testing on the

      21      specialized students is really difficult, and in

      22      many cases, it's only telling them what they can't

      23      do, which is -- well, but it's an area we're looking

      24      at.

      25             Let me know, all right --


       1             KEVIN AHERN:  Yes, absolutely.

       2             SENATOR LITTLE:  -- if there's ever a time.

       3             Because, we really don't hear from teachers

       4      as to what some of the mandates are that we could do

       5      without.

       6             KEVIN AHERN:  Yes.

       7             Thank you.

       8             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator DeFrancisco.

       9             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  That second point,

      10      I agree with you 100 percent, about young people,

      11      and people with certain disabilities.

      12             But, you've been decrying this whole process

      13      of teacher evaluations.

      14             Wasn't that part of -- weren't you involved

      15      in the negotiations, the teachers?

      16             And wasn't the ultimate result based upon the

      17      discussions with the unions, as well as this

      18      administration?

      19             Didn't you participate?

      20             KEVIN AHERN:  Well, certainly, Senator,

      21      NYSUT, on behalf of teachers, worked very closely

      22      with the State to negotiate that document,

      23      absolutely.

      24             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Thank you.

      25             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  That doesn't -- if I could


       1      add, Senator, this gets to the heart of, and that's

       2      not in that statute, the implementation of the

       3      Common Core.

       4             We certainly can implement it in a deliberate

       5      fashion, where the necessary supports and training

       6      and planning and sequencing is put in place.

       7             And that's one of the heart of the matter

       8      that we're concerned about.

       9             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Are you saying that

      10      you're comfortable with the evaluation system as

      11      long as it's --

      12             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  Not as it's been

      13      implemented.

      14             I think that there's a tremendous concern

      15      about the implementation.

      16             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  In other words, it's

      17      implemented too quickly?

      18             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  The rollout was -- it was

      19      hurried.  It was not sequenced properly.

      20             And, we believe that some of the

      21      interpretations of the law have increased the focus

      22      on high-stakes testing, rather than multiple

      23      measures, which was your first --

      24             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  But that was part of

      25      what you agreed to, the evaluation process, isn't


       1      it?

       2             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  We agreed to having a

       3      focus on multiple measures, and having it in place,

       4      but not an obsession with standardized bubble tests.

       5             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Steve, can I go back to

       6      something that you just mentioned, and since you

       7      were at Long Island, you heard me say this:

       8             For all the people that came to testify,

       9      I had given everyone a homework assignment; and, in

      10      a nutshell, it was to, basically, ask everyone what

      11      their interpretation or their impression was of all

      12      the kids -- or, excuse me, all the tests that a

      13      child has to take.

      14             If you take a snapshot in time, assuming

      15      everything stays the same, K through 12 -- a kid

      16      comes into kindergarten today, works his or her way

      17      through twelfth grade -- what are all the tests that

      18      a child has to take?

      19             Now, in the past, NYSUT has provided more

      20      detailed information than most.

      21             But, I'm not aware --

      22             And, certainly, I make mistakes every day,

      23      but -- and could stand to be corrected.

      24             -- you're talking about testing of

      25      5-year-olds.


       1             I'm not aware of any state mandate that says

       2      a 5-year-old has to be tested.

       3             So if there -- can you explain to me what you

       4      mean by that?

       5             Because if that's the case, I -- to me, it

       6      seems like that's a decision at the local level, by

       7      the district, as opposed to State Ed.

       8             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  I believe that the focus

       9      and overemphasis on high-stakes consequences for

      10      districts, for kids, for teachers, has led to local

      11      districts, and we don't agree with it, but feeling

      12      under tremendous pressure to move down into younger

      13      ages, acclimating young children to test-taking,

      14      which often is very stressful and counterproductive,

      15      and isn't very informative either.

      16             That, if we had the right balance, in terms

      17      of testing and other valid multiple measures,

      18      informative assessments, in classroom work, that it

      19      would lessen the pressure that districts sometimes

      20      feel to do this kind of inappropriate early-grade

      21      testing.

      22             Moreover, we would like legislation passed,

      23      that would not allow for that kind of

      24      inappropriate -- developmentally inappropriate

      25      testing before ages younger than grade 3.


       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Right, and we have clearly

       2      talked about this, but I'm not aware of any dictate

       3      that comes from the Regents, or, in this case,

       4      State Ed.

       5             Certainly, there's testing legislation, that

       6      there's a strict prohibition on K through 2.

       7             And that's easy to understand, conceptually.

       8             But, I'm just trying to wrap my head around

       9      the idea, where does this come from?

      10             If it's a decision at the local level --

      11             And we're going to have a couple of

      12      superintendents who are coming up here, including

      13      the superintendent of Syracuse.

      14             -- I accept that, and I understand that.

      15             But I'm just not aware of anything where the

      16      State of New York is coming in and saying, You have

      17      to do this testing in kindergarten or first grade.

      18             Is that --

      19             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  There's not an explicit

      20      command in statute or reg to do that, but I think

      21      that the emphasis -- overemphasis on high-stakes

      22      consequences has led to that practice.

      23             I think it should be corrected in statute,

      24      and I think we should have a more balanced

      25      implementation on multiple measures.


       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Kevin, I'm just going to

       2      differentiate with one of the things you said

       3      before.  And this is -- I'm being very clear, this

       4      is my own opinion.

       5             KEVIN AHERN:  Sure.

       6             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  I believe, in the state of

       7      New York, that we drive money to high-needs

       8      districts right now.

       9             There will be a debate today, tomorrow, there

      10      were dates in the past, about how much, but on a

      11      percentage basis, in this year's budget,

      12      approximately 70 to 71 percent of all the new money

      13      went to, quote/unquote, "high-needs districts,"

      14      including Syracuse.

      15             I don't agree with your characterization,

      16      that if there were some similar problem in the

      17      suburban district, that legislators would not stand

      18      for that.

      19             I believe Senator DeFrancisco and

      20      Senator Valesky, who happen to represent suburban

      21      and urban districts, keep that in mind, as do all of

      22      my colleagues, and we grapple with, just as you do,

      23      How do you strike that appropriate balance?

      24             So, I'm confident, as one legislator, that

      25      I take a very hard look at the distribution of aid


       1      and its equitability.

       2             And there will always be some debate on that,

       3      but I think we are striving to move in the right

       4      direction.

       5             And the more we can partner together, the

       6      better off it is for everybody, including the kids

       7      that we're talking about.

       8             So, appreciate your time, Steve.

       9             Appreciate you being here as well.

      10             KEVIN AHERN:  I appreciate it.

      11             STEPHEN ALLINGER:  Thank you.

      12             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  And next we have -- well,

      13      funny I should have mentioned it, we have some

      14      superintendents who are going to testify.

      15             Corliss Kaiser from Fayetteville-Manlius, a

      16      district that's been mentioned prominently at least

      17      a couple of times today;

      18             And, Diana Bowers, from the Hamilton Central

      19      School District.

      20             DIANA BOWERS:  Hi, I'm Diana Bowers, the

      21      superintendent of the Hamilton School District.

      22             And, I'm actually going to probably say less

      23      than I originally planned to, because a lot of what

      24      has already been said, I was going to include in my

      25      talk.


       1             But, today I want to talk about three points.

       2             The first would be, the -- two things the

       3      Commissioner King spoke of: one is the change

       4      process, and the other is flexibility.

       5             Am I not speaking loudly enough?

       6             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  I just want to make sure

       7      we have our...

       8             I think you're fine.

       9             DIANA BOWERS:  Okay, thank you.

      10             I can tell you that change is hard, and

      11      I agree with everything that has been said here

      12      today.

      13             It is -- it's a very difficult process, and

      14      the change process is going to be between now and

      15      many years to come.

      16             But if you look at change theorists, they

      17      really talk about four different stages of change:

      18      form, storm, norm, and reform.

      19             And I can tell you that we are in -- we are

      20      leaving the "form" stage, and we're about to head

      21      into the "storm."

      22             And, the change theorists also discuss ways

      23      of modifying the level of the "storm," and I think

      24      that's what we need to discuss today.

      25             There's a lot of things that are happening


       1      right now that people don't agree with, but if you

       2      listen to the work of Heifetz and Linsky from

       3      Harvard, if you can moderate the change and you can

       4      moderate the speed of change, it can happen and it

       5      can become systematic.

       6             So that's the first thing.

       7             The second is flexibility.

       8             The flexibility that I'd like to discuss is

       9      really with the modules.

      10             We are given the opportunity to either decide

      11      not to do the modules, or, to modify them to a

      12      certain extent.

      13             In Hamilton, we are modifying them.

      14             But I can tell you that, in many cases, our

      15      teachers feel the need to actually conduct the

      16      entire module, because of fear, and they're not sure

      17      where to go besides that.

      18             So that's a second point.

      19             The third, and the most important, are the

      20      kids.

      21             We are educating right now the class of 2026,

      22      and if you think about the students that we have in

      23      our charge, these are kids that are going to

      24      experience a world like none other.

      25             We can't even imagine what we're preparing


       1      them for.

       2             But one of the concerns that we do have, is

       3      that we are preparing them in a way that may not

       4      meet the needs of the twenty-first-century learner.

       5             All of the needs, all of the things that we

       6      need to prepare our students, are in the

       7      Common Core, but they are getting lost by

       8      assessment.

       9             And, we need to think about the innovator,

      10      the entrepreneur, the mover and the shaker, of the

      11      twenty-first century, and prepare what we need to do

      12      for them.

      13             So those are my three points, and I'll give

      14      it to Corliss.

      15             CORLISS KAISER:  Thank you.

      16             And I'd like to say thank you for this

      17      opportunity.

      18             Good afternoon, Senator Flanagan and

      19      Committee members.

      20             We've had the pleasure of having both

      21      Senator DeFrancisco and Senator Valesky visit our

      22      school district.

      23             Before I begin my comments, I would like to

      24      note that we just heard from a very different

      25      context in a school district, and the context within


       1      which we work.

       2             I had the pleasure of working in the

       3      Syracuse City School Districts for four years.

       4             I understand the needs of the district, and

       5      I want to applaud the teachers in that district, the

       6      parents and the students, for what it is they have

       7      to accomplish.

       8             I have five points that I would like to go

       9      over.

      10             The first, talking about rigor;

      11             The second, talking about assessments;

      12             The third, on our evaluation system;

      13             The fourth, on the support that our teachers

      14      and administrators need;

      15             And the fifth, I didn't have here, but I'm

      16      adding it, it's on data.  That was such a compelling

      17      discussion that was held.

      18             As far as the rigor goes, the change around

      19      Fayetteville-Manlius, we started to talk years ago

      20      about the fact that, the United States, including

      21      New York State, and all the states, isn't

      22      necessarily keeping up with our competitors, our top

      23      performers in the world.

      24             And, so, we wanted to take a look at the

      25      practices; so, what was happening in those


       1      countries.

       2             So along came the Common Core, and we said,

       3      This is going to provide the rigor that we need.

       4             Our teachers agreed with that.

       5             And, three years ago, we began to develop

       6      curriculum.

       7             It's true, you've heard today, we're not

       8      guide -- we're guided by the Common Core, but we

       9      write our own curriculum, and, we spent quite a bit

      10      of time doing what is called "curriculum mapping."

      11             It is taking a look at those standards,

      12      knowing the type of curriculum that we need, to make

      13      sure that the students are successful.

      14             The key to this, is the teachers are doing

      15      that work, and they did an extraordinary job of

      16      looking at that Common Core.

      17             And, over time, they were both writing and

      18      teaching.

      19             It was a daunting task.

      20             I dare say that we've a lot of very tired

      21      teachers, but they did a fabulous job at that.

      22             And, so, I would stress the fact that our

      23      teachers need to be schooled in the ways to map that

      24      curriculum, to make sure that our students are

      25      getting the real benefit of the Core.


       1             In addition to that, the Commissioner

       2      mentioned, we have an initiative called "FM Rights."

       3             We've decided that all classrooms,

       4      "all classrooms," arts, music, physical education,

       5      will have students involved in the writing process.

       6             And we have done everything we can to develop

       7      our teachers, to understand the writing process, and

       8      to judge that process on a regular basis in our

       9      classrooms.

      10             So, we dove into the Common Core, we agree

      11      with it.

      12             It's a good start.  We need to keep going

      13      with the Common Core.

      14             As far as assessments go, this past spring,

      15      we had the first tests out that aligned to the

      16      Common Core.

      17             Our test scores did go down.

      18             We told people they would.

      19             But, it's something that we've to take a look

      20      at as a long-range situation.

      21             One of the things, again, looking at the

      22      top-performing countries, something that I think

      23      that we all need to do, they are not giving these

      24      high-stakes tests to their students.

      25             Instead, what they are doing, is using what


       1      we call "formative assessment."

       2             This is regular -- and I'm going to take the

       3      word "testing" out of this -- it's regular

       4      assessment, in a brief way, of where a student is

       5      within the subject matter that they're working, so

       6      that teachers have the information to be able to

       7      work, step by step, with all children, so that they

       8      can make those necessary adjustments; monitor and

       9      adjust.

      10             There have been a lot of questions about

      11      this.  You know, What do we do with these, the test

      12      scores?  What do we do with the questions from the

      13      tests?  Et cetera, et cetera.

      14             It's got to be a little closer to home; it's

      15      got to be closer to what the student is learning.

      16             And, again, the top-performing countries are

      17      taking a look at formative assessments, and they're

      18      testing, perhaps, every three years;

      19             Or, they're testing in a cluster approach;

      20      meaning, at the end of K-4, the end of 5-8, and at

      21      different benchmark times during the high school

      22      years.

      23             And they're also then taking a look at some

      24      of the international assessments, such as PISA, or,

      25      the program for international assessment, which kids


       1      all over the world take, so that they can benchmark,

       2      but not in as perhaps a frenzied way as we are doing

       3      at this point.

       4             So, I would suggest that, in a collaborative

       5      way with the State Education Department, that we

       6      take a look at --

       7             And don't throw the baby out with the bath

       8      water.  We've done a lot of work, and these tests

       9      are here, we understand that.

      10             -- but are there different ways in which we

      11      can do this to cut down on the stress and the

      12      frustration that we have?

      13             Moving into the teacher evaluation -- teacher

      14      and principal evaluation, that all happened at the

      15      same time the Common Core is happening, the

      16      high-stakes tests are happening.

      17             And, unfortunately, I believe that it got put

      18      into a context that was somewhat punitive, and tried

      19      to bring out the incompetencies of our teachers.

      20             I think Kevin stated, very accurately, our

      21      teachers are doing a great job.

      22             So when we put them in this context, they're

      23      looking at their points.  They're not looking at the

      24      instruction that they need to be looking at.

      25             And so I would only ask, that with the


       1      evaluation system, that we allow for a positive

       2      context, that we tell our public, that our teachers

       3      are doing a great job, but there's a lot of

       4      improvement needed.

       5             Given the Common Core, given the testing

       6      that's happening, put it in the right context, so

       7      our teachers can breathe a little easier about this.

       8             And that brings me to the

       9      professional-development piece, and I'm going to go

      10      back to the top-performing countries.

      11             They spend a tremendous amount of time at the

      12      higher-ed level, five, six years, making sure that

      13      teachers come out and they are ready to hit the

      14      classroom with all the experience that they need.

      15             I think that we need to take a look at higher

      16      education, and how our teacher are prepared, and

      17      providing them with the amount of experience that

      18      they need to hit the ground running in the

      19      classroom.

      20             Our kids need that; they need that.

      21             They also provide for ongoing professional

      22      development.  Like, we don't -- we don't do enough

      23      of it here.

      24             And, I think we need to take a look at that.

      25             We need to have time in our school schedules


       1      for teachers to collaborate; to talk about what is

       2      best for kids, and to share those practices.

       3             And we don't in our schedules now really have

       4      that kind of time.

       5             But that's how their teachers are judged, on

       6      how well they come together for the students that

       7      they teach.

       8             And I think we need to look at that system,

       9      too.

      10             Again, positive context.

      11             And I'll end by talking about the data piece.

      12             I think data is very, very important to what

      13      we're doing.

      14             The good thing we get from the standardized

      15      tests are a lot of great data about our students,

      16      and we're using it.

      17             We're training each other to get that data.

      18             The -- though, looking at that system, on the

      19      whole, I think may be problematic.

      20             We in Central New York, and I believe that

      21      there are other BOCES and regional information

      22      centers, who present presently have data dashboards,

      23      who have all of the information that we need, to

      24      analyze student progress.

      25             To go to a much larger system, in my personal


       1      view, is not necessary, and costly.

       2             I would ask you to take a look at what we're

       3      doing in our regional information centers, and

       4      perhaps use that model throughout the state.

       5             And, I hope that we can all continue to

       6      collaborate, to move forward with the Common Core,

       7      with assessment, with evaluation, and training of

       8      our teachers.

       9             DIANA BOWERS:  And I would just like to add,

      10      one of the things that I hope we don't do, and it

      11      concerned me when I heard it today, and it's

      12      concerned me when I've heard it back in my district,

      13      it appears that, at times, we correlate the

      14      Common Core with assessments.

      15             And it is not assessments.

      16             Assessments measure what the students have

      17      learned by using the Common Core.

      18             But, it has a wealth of information.  It can

      19      create wonderful experiences for our students to

      20      learn in the classroom, and it can develop the

      21      twenty-first-century skills they need to be

      22      successful in life in the future.

      23             We want to prepare our students for whatever

      24      is coming at them.

      25             And we are going to have to modify our plans,


       1      year in and year out, because the change is

       2      happening that quickly.

       3             But, that's our responsibility.

       4             It has to also be part of the Common Core.

       5             We've to have the ability of modifying the

       6      practices, on a regular basis, to meet the needs of

       7      the kids from where they are.

       8             And if you imagine what our graduates are

       9      going to be like in the year 2026, or what they're

      10      going to experience, it's going be far different

      11      than what they experience today.

      12             So part of the Common Core legacy will be the

      13      graduates, and we have to make sure that the

      14      graduates have whatever they need in order to be

      15      successful in college and career.

      16             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much.

      17             Senator Valesky.

      18             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you both very much

      19      for your testimony, and thank you for the job that

      20      you do in both your districts.

      21             Dr. Bowers, just one question for you, and

      22      I ask the question, with the full realization that

      23      this hearing is not about school governance.  School

      24      governance is not the point of this hearing.

      25             However, that having been said, I think it's


       1      important to note that, your district and a

       2      neighboring district are in a merger process, as we

       3      speak.

       4             In fact, I think both boards of education

       5      have advanced the notion to a straw vote, I think,

       6      coming up in several weeks or so.

       7             DIANA BOWERS:  Correct.

       8             SENATOR VALESKY:  So, I've been -- as I've

       9      listened to your testimony, I've wondering, so I'm

      10      going ask you the question:  To what degree has the

      11      Regents Reform Agenda, which is the subject of this

      12      hearing, been a factor, if at all, in the merger

      13      study, and the decision to move forward, in the

      14      first place, and that has led to the -- even the

      15      straw vote?

      16             DIANA BOWERS:  Well, I can tell you that the

      17      Regents Reform Agenda was something that we welcomed

      18      with open arms, and we believe that there are a lot

      19      of positive things that can come out of the work

      20      that we're doing right now in our district and in

      21      State Ed.

      22             I can tell you it's going to add a complexity

      23      to the potential merger that wouldn't exist before

      24      it, because we're gonna -- not only will we have to

      25      measure and level out contracts, but we're also


       1      going to have to measure and level out pedagogy.

       2             Right now, we are -- we are adapting, and not

       3      adopting, the modules.  And, I'm -- our counterparts

       4      are approaching that somewhat differently.

       5             The staff development that's required to make

       6      sure that we're ready to produce the kind of

       7      learners, and teachers, for that matter, that will

       8      educate the kids in the potential new district, that

       9      will be something that is probably one of the first

      10      priorities if the new district is to form.

      11             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you.

      12             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Seward.

      13             SENATOR SEWARD:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

      14             Very briefly, I was struck, I think

      15      Dr. Bowers mentioned the fact that the -- that

      16      these learning modules are not required to be the

      17      guide in the classroom, in terms of covering the

      18      material in the Common Core, but, out of fear,

      19      you're finding that that's what a lot of teachers

      20      are doing.

      21             And then, your point is -- it was well-taken

      22      in terms of, the Common Core and assessments should

      23      be discussed separately.

      24             There is not that connection, if I got your

      25      point correctly.


       1             DIANA BOWERS:  Correct.

       2             SENATOR SEWARD:  But let's face it, as a

       3      practical matter, the fact that, with the first

       4      round of testing utilizing the new tests connected

       5      to Common Core, our test scores went down, and

       6      there's a lot of apprehension from among both

       7      educators, parents, and school districts regarding

       8      that.

       9             So, my concern is, is that there is a

      10      connection, or at least the perception of the

      11      connection.

      12             We've talked today, and I directed the

      13      question to the Commissioner and the Vice Chancellor

      14      earlier, and I'll do the same to you:

      15             In terms of the flexibility, you both have

      16      struck on that theme, that you -- the Common Core;

      17      but, yet, you develop your own curriculum locally.

      18      You feel you have the flexibility to do that.

      19             But, is it possible to move away from these

      20      learning modules and go that flexible route, to

      21      allow teachers to teach the innovative in the

      22      classroom, and still have the students succeed on

      23      the assessment test?

      24             DIANA BOWERS:  Well, we, too, began --

      25             SENATOR SEWARD:  The first round has not been


       1      successful.

       2             DIANA BOWERS:  Right.  We, too, began our

       3      curriculum mapping a year ago, in the summertime;

       4      and, so, we have aligned the work that we do in our

       5      classrooms with the Common Core standards.

       6             At this point, we are looking at making

       7      modifications to the curriculum maps, so the

       8      terminology that is found within the modules, the

       9      exit outcomes that are found within the modules,

      10      and, in some cases, the literature that is found

      11      within the modules, is understood by our students.

      12             The way that the test questions are written,

      13      very often, they will use the terminology, and also

      14      refer to certain texts or books that the kids have

      15      either have or have not read, depending on whether

      16      they are actually using the modules.

      17             That's the part that's making our teachers

      18      fearful, because they -- they're concerned that the

      19      terminology that is used within our classrooms must

      20      match the modules of the Common Core in order for

      21      the students to be successful on the assessments.

      22             CORLISS KAISER:  I don't know that I would

      23      agree that the first round hasn't been successful.

      24             I know the test scores went down, but, as

      25      Diana stated, change is messy.


       1             There's no way that students were going to

       2      score at the same level, with the type of testing,

       3      with the complexity of the text.

       4             By way of example, I took part of the

       5      eighth-grade ELA, and as I read through the text,

       6      and then I would look at the answers, nothing --

       7      really, you cannot find the right answer in the text

       8      anymore.

       9             You must infer.

      10             This is a new skill, and this is a skill

      11      brought about by the Common Core.

      12             It's a skill that our students must have.

      13             They must have higher-order thinking skills,

      14      and perhaps the schools haven't done everything that

      15      they can do.

      16             So, what we will do, from now, our baseline,

      17      which, certainly, all of us know that we need work

      18      to do, we will begin working more and more with

      19      those strategies and skills that the students need.

      20             I guess what, you know, I thought about this

      21      whole thing was, I was glad when it was finally

      22      over.  All of the anxiety and frustration, we were

      23      working in fear of unknown.

      24             And now we know; and now we know what we have

      25      to do.


       1             And within our own individual capacities, we

       2      will work with our teachers and our students, and

       3      our administrators, to better understand those

       4      skills that our students need.

       5             And I'd really like to look at it in that

       6      way:  What do we do from today, on?  How do we move

       7      forward with this?

       8             And we all have some work to do, and some

       9      moving forward to do.

      10             And I think that's why we basically say, we

      11      agree with the Common Core.  This is something we

      12      want our students to be able to master.

      13             DIANA BOWERS:  And as Corliss said, the --

      14      I'm not sure that we weren't successful as well.

      15      And I think that there's a chicken-and-the-egg kind

      16      of situation here; that, the outcomes of the test

      17      matched the NAEP results, and they matched the

      18      college- and career-ready results.

      19             And I think that there was a purposeful

      20      movement to realign the test scores with those

      21      measurements so we could then align, and move

      22      forward.

      23             So, I think that there was -- we knew

      24      three months in advance that they anticipated that

      25      the scores would drop 30 points.  This was before a


       1      child ever sat to take a test; and, so, there was a

       2      realization that there needed to be a realignment.

       3             I'd also like to remind you that this

       4      realignment happened two year after another

       5      realignment occurred.

       6             So we have gone through multiple changes

       7      within cut scores, and the -- and they were

       8      purposeful, and they were determined by the

       9      State Education Department.

      10             So, I'm not sure that our students did much

      11      differently than they did the year before.  I'm

      12      hoping they actually did better.

      13             But, the assessments didn't measure that.

      14             SENATOR TKACZYK:  I have a quick question.

      15             Do you feel you have the resources you need,

      16      moving forward, to implement the Common Core

      17      standards at your schools?

      18             DIANA BOWERS:  Well, I --

      19             SENATOR TKACZYK:  What would you identify as

      20      the, you know, things that you need to make that

      21      successful transition?

      22             DIANA BOWERS:  In Hamilton, I can tell you

      23      that the resources we have, we've looked in other

      24      places other than the traditional sources to get

      25      them.


       1             And, it doesn't just come from State aid.

       2             We are a district that is the home of

       3      Colgate University.  We have support from our

       4      counterparts there.

       5             Grant writing, other things that are out

       6      there, we need to go to sustain what we presently

       7      have.

       8             So, in the traditional funding methodologies,

       9      the answer is no.

      10             By thinking out of the box, the answer is

      11      yes.

      12             CORLISS KAISER:  And I think what I would say

      13      of Fayetteville-Manlius, is that we presently have

      14      the resources.  We've used them wisely.

      15             Remember what the Commissioner said about,

      16      Are we using those resources wisely?

      17             We have decided that professional development

      18      for teachers and administrators is key, and there

      19      are many ways in which we're doing that.

      20             Sometimes they cost; sometimes they don't.

      21             But we are making sure that we leverage every

      22      minute of the day for our teachers, administrators,

      23      and students, to make sure that it is efficiently

      24      and effectively used.

      25             Could we do with less?  No.


       1             I think that we have been able to leverage

       2      every dollar that we have in the best way, moving

       3      forward.

       4             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  I have a couple quick

       5      things, and I want to thank Diana.

       6             I told you before, I got the phrase

       7      "hammer and flashlight."

       8             Now I have "form, storm, norm, and reform."

       9                  [Laughter.]

      10             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Learning all kinds of good

      11      stuff here.

      12             Obviously, both of your districts are

      13      extremely well-served by your leadership.

      14             So, appreciate you being here.

      15             I want go back to, Kevin Ahern is still here,

      16      and we talked about this in kind of a broad sense:

      17             If there's no direct mandate, is there some

      18      sort of tacit understanding, or, subliminal

      19      pressure, if you will, to start doing testing at

      20      such an early age?

      21             And in your respective districts, are you --

      22      you know, a kid comes in kindergarten, are you

      23      saying, All right, is this kid going into science,

      24      or math?  Or are they going to have an aptitude for

      25      the arts?


       1             What are you doing at the local level to

       2      address that?

       3             And do you feel that the State is, you know,

       4      like the sword of Damocles hanging over your head?

       5             How's that for a loaded question?

       6                  [Laughter.]

       7             CORLISS KAISER:  It is.

       8             And I'm going to say, every district is

       9      different.

      10             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Yes, certainly.

      11             CORLISS KAISER:  Every district has its own

      12      approach.

      13             Every district's students have individual

      14      needs; and, so, they work within those needs.

      15             At Fayetteville-Manlius, we work very hard

      16      with the students to get the basics in kindergarten,

      17      to make sure that they are meeting the Common Core

      18      standards.

      19             I wouldn't say that testing is something that

      20      is central to that.

      21             Again, I mentioned formative assessments.

      22             Are we benchmarking along the way to see if

      23      they're doing okay?  Yes, we are.

      24             And we use that term "benchmarking" quite a

      25      bit.


       1             For example, literacy is a big part of

       2      kindergarten, and, the students are benchmarked,

       3      but, they wouldn't know that they are getting a

       4      high-stakes test.

       5             All right?

       6             It would be a prompt, and something would be

       7      recorded.

       8             So there are different ways in which you can

       9      assess students' ability to handle what they're

      10      given.

      11             And, again, something that I really would

      12      like to see the State look at is, maybe more

      13      emphasis on this formative assessment.

      14             It takes it away from the high stakes, and

      15      gives the teacher and the student and parent room to

      16      breathe, and learn.

      17             DIANA BOWERS:  And I agree.

      18             We, too, use formative assessments, right

      19      from -- actually, we start in pre-K.

      20             We have pre-literacy strategies that we look

      21      for, and the creation of those, and we begin to

      22      benchmark as soon as our kids get into kindergarten,

      23      until they ultimately benchmark out.  And, at that

      24      point, we feel that they have the literacy skills

      25      necessary to move ahead into middle school and


       1      high school.

       2             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Yeah, I sit as one of the

       3      25 member on the Governor's Education Reform

       4      Commission.  There's been a lot of good work done

       5      there.

       6             And there was a reference made to -- Kevin

       7      spoke to this -- Kevin Ahern spoke to this, about

       8      Say Yes.

       9             They've done a phenomenal job, and working

      10      with those folks has been phenomenal.

      11             But let me go back to, it's sort of an

      12      educational-leadership question.

      13             And I recognize it, very clearly, that each

      14      district is different and unique.

      15             And, certainly, there are differences between

      16      your two districts.

      17             But, how would you respond, particularly from

      18      Fayetteville:

      19             The Commissioner spoke about how you jumped

      20      in.  How your district was like, All right, it's

      21      2009, we're getting ahead of the curve.  We'll see

      22      how it goes, but we're gonna -- we're going all in.

      23             Correct me where you disagree.

      24             A generalization saying, What the heck, if

      25      you can do it; you went in, and you did all of these


       1      things and you got ahead of the curve, and you dealt

       2      with the bumps along the way, why can't everyone

       3      else do it?

       4             CORLISS KAISER:  It's a cultural thing,

       5      again, in districts.

       6             Can it be done?  Yeah, it was done.

       7             Were we totally successful in getting every

       8      child to be proficient?  No.

       9             But we were willing to, as I put in my

      10      testimony, step up to the pump.

      11             It was our feeling that the rigor coming down

      12      with the adoption of the Common Core was what we

      13      wanted for our students.

      14             We discussed this with our parents, too.

      15             And in some cases, our parents were, "Oh,

      16      that's a bit much," but, we did some hand-holding

      17      along the way.

      18             We have what are called "curriculum nights,"

      19      so we're always putting this out to parents.  We're

      20      explaining why we're doing it.

      21             And, again, it was tough this year, when some

      22      kids who are generally proficient, weren't

      23      proficient; but, again, we're reaching out to our

      24      parents, we're asking them for their support.

      25             So I think everybody has to take to heart


       1      what it is that's in their culture, and how they

       2      want to move forward with this.

       3             And I believe that if everybody digs in, they

       4      will make progress in this, probably at different

       5      rates, but they will make progress, and they will

       6      move forward.

       7             DIANA BOWERS:  And I'm sure the particulars

       8      with FM is somewhat different than Hamilton, but

       9      I can tell you that we actually started the staff

      10      development that led to the success that we're

      11      having with the Common Core, six to seven years

      12      before it actually happened.

      13             The terminology didn't even exist, but, we

      14      knew what kind of instructional strategies we needed

      15      to use for our kids so they could learn well.

      16             Luckily, they do correlate with the

      17      instructional strategies that are outlined in the

      18      Common Core.

      19             I do feel that some of our colleagues around

      20      the state have not been afforded that, and may be

      21      having difficulty figuring out what to do with the

      22      instructional practices.

      23             I would like to see that added into the plan

      24      in the future, for the Common Core, that people

      25      receive the type of staff development that's


       1      directly aligned with what they're asking us to do.

       2             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay, and if I may, one

       3      last question:

       4             Relative to the State Education Department,

       5      and this is -- it's putting you on the spot, but,

       6      I would say the single largest criticism that I've

       7      heard, and I've done a lot of traveling, is not a

       8      wholesale objection to Common Core; but, rather, to

       9      the timing and the implementation, more than

      10      anything else.

      11             Correspondingly, there's a very strong

      12      feeling in the field, if you will, at all levels --

      13      teachers, parents, administrators -- that State Ed

      14      is just not -- not even contemplating, modifying

      15      some of their steps, if you will, including the

      16      Regents.

      17             On a scale of 1-10, 10 being a really good

      18      listener, what would each of you give State Ed for

      19      their performance to date?

      20             DIANA BOWERS:  Well, I'll take the jump

      21      first.

      22             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay.

      23             DIANA BOWERS:  I would give them a "3."

      24             And I feel that the need to understand the

      25      stressors that are out in the field right now is


       1      mandatory for success.

       2             It's not that they're -- they do listen, but

       3      to a degree that matches what they're hoping to

       4      accomplish.

       5             I think that if they listened a little

       6      harder, and understood the difficulties within the

       7      school districts that are implementing the

       8      Common Core, it would benefit everybody.

       9             CORLISS KAISER:  I would have to say that, in

      10      the beginning of the process, I would agree with

      11      Diana's "3."

      12             I have able to sit with the Commissioner,

      13      with NYSCSS, the executive committee.

      14             So over the last couple of years, I have been

      15      able to watch how the collaboration went from,

      16      pretty much, "This is the way we're going to do it,"

      17      into one that is now more respectful of what we

      18      bring to the table.

      19             So, I'm going to inch that up to a "6," at

      20      this point, to say that things are -- we are seeing

      21      things change, and the collaboration is increasing.

      22             And the rhetoric from the State Education

      23      Department -- we just had a fall conference --

      24      I think is more in line with, What is it that we

      25      have to do to help you change instruction, change


       1      the things that need to be changed?

       2             We need to keep going in this direction.

       3             I think we need be listened to.

       4             I brought up, you know, different ways of

       5      testing.

       6             And I would like to see, over time, that

       7      we're listened to, and we can work collaboratively,

       8      in order to get there, because I think there's just

       9      a lot of avenues we can follow, and much more

      10      opportunity for us.

      11             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  I see the superintendent

      12      of Syracuse is sitting --

      13                  [Technical difficulties.]

      14                  [A recess was taken.]

      15                  [The hearing proceeded, as follows:)

      16             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  -- a little more than

      17      five minutes.

      18             I apologize.

      19             Our next panelist is, David Syracuse, who is

      20      a science --

      21             Oh, Superintendent, you are -- David, first,

      22      then you're next.

      23             I apologize.

      24             I think.

      25             Yes.


       1             SENATOR LITTLE:  His name is Syracuse, that's

       2      what's confusing.

       3             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  It's the excitement, you

       4      want to get up here.  Right?

       5             DAVID SYRACUSE:  It is an exciting place, it

       6      looks like.

       7             Are the other Senators going to be joining

       8      us?

       9             I'd rather not testify to half a panel, if

      10      that's possible.

      11             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  David, if you would like

      12      to testify, you'll testify now.

      13             DAVID SYRACUSE:  That makes sense to me,

      14      I guess.

      15             Fair enough.

      16             Well, thank you to --

      17             SENATOR TKACZYK:  The light behind you,

      18      that's shining right in my face, and I can't see

      19      you.

      20             So, adjust that light in the back.

      21             DAVID SYRACUSE:  I'm not that much to look

      22      at.

      23             UNKNOWN MALE SPEAKER:  I concur.

      24                  [Laughter.]

      25             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Accuracy is appreciated by


       1      scientists.

       2             Well, at any rate, I am Dave Syracuse.

       3             And thank you very much to Senator Seward who

       4      got me into this meeting.

       5             He's not here, unfortunately, at the moment,

       6      but, hopefully, he'll be joining us shortly.

       7             The novelty of a teacher testifying at an

       8      education hearing hits me right here.

       9             Are there any other teachers here, by any

      10      chance?

      11             Couple.

      12             Excellent.

      13             This is good.

      14             Hopefully, I can provide a much-needed

      15      perspective on this.

      16             I've been listening to a few things, and kind

      17      of been resisting the urge to call out, so a couple

      18      of things that I'd like to point out before I get to

      19      what I had to say.

      20             These modules are suggestions, and they're

      21      only suggestions, and teachers should think for

      22      themselves.

      23             You know what the Common Core says.

      24             I know what all the shifts are.  I'm a

      25      science teacher, if you couldn't have guessed.


       1             And, I know what the English-language-arts

       2      Common Core says, I know what the math Common Core

       3      says, because I'm going be responsible for lots of

       4      it.  There's lots of technical writing, and there's

       5      lots of good stuff that science teachers can do in

       6      all of these Common Core curricula.

       7             So I know about it.

       8             If there's modules that are suggestions and

       9      you would like to use them, that's fine, but

      10      teachers who are afraid of using modules, or they're

      11      afraid of what they're going to -- would happen if

      12      they don't use modules, it's no different than the

      13      curriculum before.

      14             You know what you have to teach.

      15             If the module is the best way to do it, go

      16      for it.

      17             If it's not the best way to do it, be a

      18      teacher.

      19             I've got a master's degree, I can decide what

      20      the best way is to teach my students.

      21             So, the module thing was bugging me a bit.

      22             In terms of testing and time, that is a

      23      legitimate concern.

      24             If we're going to expect more of our students

      25      with the Common Core, which we absolutely should,


       1      our students need to be pushed further;

       2      all students.

       3             And, clearly, there are lots of problems in

       4      this respect.

       5             Students with special needs, poverty, all

       6      that kind of thing is important to take into

       7      account, but the Common Core is, in general, a good

       8      idea, but we can't expect more work to happen in

       9      less time.

      10             Last year, I had to take a week and a half

      11      out for this SLO testing at the beginning of the

      12      year, and then, all sorts of Regents exam testing

      13      and other testing at the end of the year.

      14             I was trying to squeeze in a lot more to a

      15      lot less time, and that was just not helpful.

      16             So, I don't know if extending the school year

      17      is a possibility, I don't know if reducing the

      18      amount of testing is a possibility, but, certainly,

      19      you can't expect more achievement crammed into less

      20      time.

      21             And in terms of teaching, someone made the

      22      comment that, Gosh, we have that distractions in the

      23      classroom.

      24             We can't remove students who are distracting,

      25      because we have to educate all students.


       1             We in public education have that charge.

       2             We have "all" the students that we have to

       3      educate.

       4             And I don't want kids going out there who

       5      don't know.

       6             I'm the last science teacher they might ever

       7      have.

       8             I teach eleventh- and twelfth-grade science,

       9      and that keeps me up at night.

      10             It really does.

      11             I don't want them going out there not knowing

      12      about the science behind lots of scientific

      13      concepts: genetic engineering, abortion, cloning.

      14             I don't want them going into that voting

      15      booth to vote for people like you, not having the

      16      hard science to understand what exactly they're

      17      voting on.

      18             So, that's scary to me, that -- that we can't

      19      have kids removed.

      20             We've got to work with parents, we've got to

      21      work with support staff, with principals.

      22             We've got to lessen the load on principals

      23      and vice principals, so they can actually do the

      24      discipline we need, instead of doing the mountains

      25      of paperwork required by the APPR.


       1             It's going to take some work, but we can't

       2      push kids to the sidelines.

       3             So, that's really, really important.

       4             In terms of listening, State Ed is doing more

       5      than listening.

       6             I'm on a listserv of teachers that share

       7      ideas throughout the state, and it's really

       8      productive.

       9             If I need a particular worksheet, or, I say,

      10      Hey, I'm teaching evolution, and I need something to

      11      get at this particular aspect, I can put it out

      12      there and, you know, 100 people will send me, Here's

      13      what I do it.  Here's --

      14             It's a great forum for discussion.

      15             State Ed, their education department, has

      16      people watching that listserv, just so we don't

      17      misstep, just so we don't, I don't know what.

      18             So I don't want to call it spying, because

      19      that seems disingenuous, but, they are monitoring

      20      the listserv, and that seems a little odd.

      21             I know about this, because they sent me a

      22      cease-and-desist letter as a result of something

      23      I posted on that listserv.

      24                  [Laughter.]

      25             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Funny story I can tell you


       1      later, if you'd like.

       2             But, at any rate, down to what I'm here to

       3      talk about, I'm really concerned about the private

       4      meddling in public education.

       5             Pearson's been mentioned a number of times.

       6             They've got a

       7      32-point-something-million-dollar contract over

       8      5 years with the State of New York.

       9             And what the Commissioner perhaps didn't say

      10      before is, the company doesn't want to release more

      11      test questions because they want to make a profit.

      12             They want to make a profit.  They're keeping

      13      the test questions, so they don't have to work and

      14      pay more people to develop more of them.

      15             He gave a really nice explanation of all --

      16      and that's a fantastic idea of how to make a test,

      17      and all the different types of questions on tests,

      18      that's true.

      19             But I have it -- I can't believe that Pearson

      20      is just saying, Oh, we need to keep these for

      21      pedagogical reasons.

      22             They're a company.  They're responsible to

      23      their shareholders, and they need to turn a profit.

      24             And, so, I think that's why they're keeping a

      25      lot of their questions hidden.


       1             Now, I have absolutely no way to prove that,

       2      and I don't mean to be libelous or slanderous, but,

       3      that just is a very interesting and rather cozy

       4      situation that I thought that I'd bring up.

       5             And, I'll go all the way back to the

       6      Jeffersonian model of education that a lot of the

       7      educators in this room are probably familiar with:

       8      That, if you have an educated population, you've got

       9      to have good schools to educate them.

      10             So schools should be free, and you should

      11      make sure that everyone has a chance, a shot, at a

      12      good education.

      13             Once you get that good education, you go and

      14      you vote for people to take the country in the right

      15      direction.

      16             So, we voted for you, because we think you're

      17      going to take the country, our state, our, you know,

      18      whatever, in the right direction.

      19             If any part of that breaks down, our country

      20      ends up going the wrong way.

      21             Or, if any part of it is driven towards

      22      something that is not the will of the people, like

      23      Pearson, or like another testing company, or

      24      something like that, then our country is going in a

      25      very different direction.


       1             So, if we have people like Pearson, if we

       2      have other test companies like that, designing

       3      tests, and then teachers are trying to get their

       4      students to do well on those tests, because the

       5      teachers are going to be judged on the results of

       6      those tests, well, is it really the people that

       7      voted that are determining which direction education

       8      goes?

       9             I don't know if it is.

      10             And that concerns me.

      11             I'm a proponent of public education.

      12             Mr. Webb [ph.], Mr. George Webb, he was

      13      my high school biology teacher in ninth grade.

      14             And ever since I had him, I said, You know

      15      what?  Wow, he is having an awful lot of fun doing

      16      that.  I mean, he's up there, and he's doing all

      17      these cool labs, and he's got these cool

      18      demonstrations, and there are animals all over the

      19      room.  I want to do that.

      20             And I think I'm very unusual in the fact --

      21      probably unusual for many ways -- but I'm unusual in

      22      the fact that, from ninth grade, I really knew

      23      I wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to teach

      24      science, because I enjoy it, and I think it's

      25      useful.  And it's certainly necessary.


       1             But when we've people who are not me, who are

       2      not educators, who are not elected officials, who

       3      are not teachers going to write Regents exams,

       4      making policy, or making decisions, whether it be

       5      de facto or de jure, or whatever, for our state,

       6      that worries me, because, are we privatizing

       7      education?

       8             If we are, let's call it that, and let's have

       9      an open discussion about it.

      10             But, it really does worry me in that respect.

      11             So private meddling in public education

      12      really does worry me.

      13             It also worries me that a lot of the Regents

      14      who are elected by the Senate of New York don't have

      15      a lot of education experience.

      16             And I know that the Regents supervise a lot

      17      of things.

      18             They supervise, you know, museums, and

      19      informal education, and all sorts of things like

      20      that, but a lot of them don't seem to have much

      21      experience in terms of education.

      22             A lot of them might be hospital

      23      administrators, they might be -- certainly,

      24      leadership abilities is there in abundance, but,

      25      I don't know if those are the people that I want


       1      approving education curriculum.

       2             Maybe it's just more of a rubber stamp if

       3      they don't actually have the experience in

       4      education.

       5             And the final point that I would like to

       6      make, and then give you some time for questions, is

       7      evaluation.

       8             I'm a "79."  That means that my evaluation

       9      score from my SLO was a 79 percent.

      10             That puts me in the "effective" range.

      11             I don't know if that means that 21 percent of

      12      what I say is complete rot and you shouldn't pay

      13      attention to it, but, I'm a "79."

      14             That's what I am.

      15             I don't care who knows that, because the

      16      evaluation system that I went through, and I know

      17      this is separate from the Common Core so I'm not

      18      going to conflate the two, but did not improve my

      19      teaching at all.

      20             It did not enable me to implement the

      21      Common Core in any meaningful way.

      22             It didn't help me reach a child in anything

      23      else.

      24             If anything else, through any calculations,

      25      I spent at least 24 hours of my life in staff


       1      meetings and whatnot last year, completing SLO

       2      paperwork, and all sorts of things like that --

       3             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Did you say 20 percent?

       4             DAVID SYRACUSE:  24 hours.

       5             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Oh, all right.

       6             DAVID SYRACUSE:  My apologies.

       7             -- which was time I certainly could have

       8      spent collaborating, or doing anything else, other

       9      than this silly paperwork.

      10             So the question remains then:  Don't complain

      11      unless you have a solution.

      12             Well, it seems that this high-stakes testing

      13      that we've been talking about, and the

      14      implementation of the Common Core, and all that kind

      15      of thing, is driving us toward analyzing teachers,

      16      and we should.

      17             We should definitely evaluate teachers.

      18             But, students are not products.

      19             For the love of Darwin, they are not

      20      products.

      21             You can't send them down the assembly line.

      22             If I am making televisions, and I am the best

      23      antenna installer possible, every television that

      24      goes down my line, the antenna is going to stay on

      25      there, and it's gonna be stuck on there for the rest


       1      of that television's life.

       2             I have students who are selectively mute.

       3             They don't talk or write because they are so

       4      anxious about it.

       5             I have two students this year who are

       6      pregnant.

       7             I have students who are in abject poverty.

       8             One is homeless.

       9             So I tried to call home, and I couldn't,

      10      because there was no home to call to.

      11             So evaluating me on how those students do,

      12      doesn't exactly seem fair.

      13             I am more than willing to be evaluated,

      14      because you should know what kind of education your

      15      students are getting; your children, whatever it

      16      happens to be.

      17             But basing it on these high-stakes tests, it

      18      seems, just does not to make a lot of sense.

      19             My suggestion is, since I've been

      20      complaining, here's my suggestion:  Have teachers

      21      evaluate teachers.

      22             Have a bunch of master teachers that you know

      23      are what the State of New York thinks should be

      24      great teachers, and have them go around and look at

      25      other teachers.


       1             Now, I am not certainly -- you know, it's

       2      above my pay grade to figure out how to implement

       3      this kind of thing.

       4             There's my idea, though.

       5             Principals have so much to do.

       6             Vice principals have all this paperwork that

       7      they're doing with the APPR and SLO and all these

       8      Common Core things.

       9             Why don't we have teachers who we know and

      10      trust to be good at their jobs, evaluate how other

      11      teachers are doing?

      12             That seems to be like a good idea to me.

      13             That's all I've got.

      14             I really want to thank you for the

      15      opportunity, and I'll certainly entertain any

      16      questions you might have.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Seward.

      18             SENATOR SEWARD:  Thank you, David, for coming

      19      up today, and I'm delighted you're here.

      20             My question is this:

      21             In terms of, we're here to, you know, assess,

      22      you know, where we are in terms of the

      23      Regents Reform Agenda.

      24             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Uh-huh.

      25             SENATOR SEWARD:  And my question is:  You


       1      know, in terms of what you do in the classroom, as a

       2      teacher --

       3             And as I say, I think you have carried on the

       4      legacy of your biology teacher very, very well.

       5             DAVID SYRACUSE:  I hope so.

       6             SENATOR SEWARD:  I'm sure you're doing a lot

       7      of cool things in front of the classroom, and I'm

       8      sure there are a lot of animals around in the

       9      classroom.

      10             -- but, how has that changed with this --

      11      with the Regents Reform, and, in terms of what

      12      you -- how you conduct yourselves -- yourself, in

      13      terms of teaching?

      14             And, also, do you see any measurable benefit

      15      in terms of your students?

      16             DAVID SYRACUSE:  I'm sure there will be

      17      measurable benefit down the line.

      18             Right now, I see students who are focused,

      19      who are really pushed into the ELA and math, because

      20      that's what we've got in terms of the Common Core so

      21      far, and then a lot of their other instruction is

      22      lacking.

      23             So I have students who don't understand basic

      24      concepts, like density.

      25             I have a student who reads at a third-grade


       1      level, which is really tricky if we're trying to do

       2      a science experiment that requires them to read the

       3      directions.

       4             So, I've seen a lot of changes.

       5             And I've only been teaching for eight years,

       6      I have to add that caveat, so I don't have a huge

       7      sample size.

       8             Let's be, you know, transparent here.

       9             But it seems, over the years, that because of

      10      the push toward ELA and math, that a lot of other

      11      concepts have really been diminished, in terms of

      12      what I've been getting when they get to eleventh and

      13      twelfth grade.

      14             SENATOR SEWARD:  So in terms of what you do

      15      in the classroom, though, how has your life changed?

      16             DAVID SYRACUSE:  I've had to back up and

      17      teach a few things that might not have been taught,

      18      either, because teachers think they need to use

      19      modules and they're excluding certain things, not

      20      specifically in science;

      21             Or, because they're focusing -- the lower

      22      grades and the primary grade, they're focusing so

      23      much on ELA and math that they're missing out on a

      24      lot of the basic science concepts.

      25             I would expect anyone to know that density


       1      equals mass over volume.

       2             It's easy to figure out, but, when they

       3      really haven't been, you know, pushed in that

       4      direction, because they've been pushed in so many

       5      other directions, it really does cause a problem.

       6             And I think, if I had to pick a theme for the

       7      couple of moments that I have, it would be,

       8      unintended consequences.

       9             Because, it's great to push kids to achieve

      10      more, and we really, really should.

      11             We really need to do that, but there are

      12      unintended consequences of doing that.

      13             And one of those might be, if we push them

      14      toward ELA and math right now, well, science and

      15      social studies might be heading down the drain.

      16             The Regents are talking, tossing around a

      17      proposal of making, you know, a CTE credit (career

      18      and technical education) perhaps count for a

      19      global-studies credit.

      20             I don't know if that's such a good idea.

      21             Should we make sure that people who are going

      22      to become cosmetologists and culinary artists, and

      23      things like that, do they -- does that really

      24      replace the idea of, like, learning about all these

      25      old civilizations and the history of the world?


       1             I don't know.

       2             So, whereas, yes, this Reform Agenda is a

       3      good idea, because we need to have multiple paths to

       4      graduation, because there are so many different

       5      types of students and so many different types of

       6      home lives.

       7             Isn't there a common canon of knowledge that

       8      we would want everyone walking around with in their

       9      head?

      10             I want people to know what happened in

      11      history so they don't repeat it.

      12             I want people to know a certain bit about

      13      science, so that if their kid gets a fever, they

      14      say, Oh, the kid's really hot.  I'll dunk him in

      15      cold water.

      16             And I've had students tell me that before.

      17             I've had students ask me, during what phase

      18      of the moon they can't get pregnant.

      19             I mean, this is the year 2013.

      20             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator DeFrancisco.

      21             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  What phase of the moon?

      22             I mean, I could try.

      23                  [Laughter.]

      24             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Whoa!

      25             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  I'd like to attend your


       1      class.  You must be an extremely good teacher.

       2             DAVID SYRACUSE:  You all have a standing

       3      invitation.

       4             Come on Fridays.  We do something cool on

       5      Fridays.

       6             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Okay.

       7             The question is, where you do teach?

       8             DAVID SYRACUSE:  I teach TST BOCES.

       9      Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES, in their career- and

      10      technical-education center.

      11             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  And that's located in

      12      what --

      13             DAVID SYRACUSE:  In Ithaca, New York.

      14             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Ithaca.  Okay.

      15             Secondly, you had mentioned about Pearson,

      16      and the privatizing.

      17             I've got a feeling that some of the people

      18      against the Pearson doing that, think that they may

      19      have some private agenda with the testing, and so

      20      forth.

      21             Have you -- do you feel that's the case,

      22      other than simply the concept that private companies

      23      shouldn't be doing this, the public should, is there

      24      some kind of bias in how they conduct the test, in

      25      your opinion?


       1             DAVID SYRACUSE:  No, I don't think they have

       2      a bias.  I don't think they're Republican or

       3      Democrat, or they're trying to push students to say,

       4      Oh, well, little Johnnie likes red.  Oh, he's a

       5      Republican now.

       6             Not that kind of thing.

       7             Nothing like that, but I do think they're a

       8      for-profit -- well, they are a for-profit company,

       9      and with that comes a certain, I don't know if I can

      10      call it a set of ethics, but a set of ideas, in

      11      that, their job is to make money.

      12             Their job is not to educate students.

      13             And I question, when a company like that is

      14      in charge of evaluating our students, and our

      15      teachers, because I had to take tests to become a

      16      teacher, test administered and developed by Pearson,

      17      uh, that seems like a lot of control for one company

      18      to have over public education.

      19             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Lastly, you had

      20      mentioned a system, your thought would be, that

      21      master teachers evaluating others.

      22             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Uh-huh.

      23             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  What's the remedy if a

      24      master teacher -- what would your remedy be, if a

      25      master teacher finds that this teacher is just not


       1      doing his or her job?

       2             What's the remedy if that's the finding?

       3             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Well, there's two things

       4      I can say, and both will get me a lot of flack no

       5      matter what I say, so I'm just going to say them

       6      both.

       7             If a teacher's not going their job, they

       8      shouldn't be teaching.

       9             I think that we can all think back into our

      10      past, and think of someone, not a teacher, but a

      11      person serving us coffee; a person driving a bus; a

      12      person doing something, that was not doing their

      13      job.  And consistently didn't do their job.

      14             And I've had a bad day.  Trust me, I've had

      15      bad days with my students.

      16             When there's a pep rally and it was Halloween

      17      and they're all sugared-up, you know, I can be the

      18      best teacher in the world, but, they're not going to

      19      listen to me.

      20             If a teacher demonstrates that they're

      21      consistently not --

      22             And this is coming from a teacher, mind you.

      23      This is why I'm going to get flack for this later.

      24             If a teacher demonstrates that they are

      25      consistently not helping students, and that they've


       1      demonstrated that they've tried to improve what

       2      they're doing, maybe they shouldn't be teaching.

       3             If a bus driver continues to wreck the bus,

       4      and doesn't take a driving course, maybe that bus

       5      driver shouldn't be driving a bus.

       6             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  So not a very novel

       7      thought that you're coming up with here, you

       8      realize.

       9             Thank you.

      10             I enjoyed your presentation.

      11             Thank you.

      12             DAVID SYRACUSE:  I enjoyed giving it.

      13             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Little.

      14             SENATOR LITTLE:  Thank you.

      15             As a teacher, I have to say I admired your

      16      passion.

      17             And I just want to tell, you had the

      18      attention of every single person in this room for

      19      the entire talk.

      20             So, your students are very fortunate to have

      21      you.

      22             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Very kind to say.

      23             SENATOR LITTLE:  As a teacher, would it be

      24      helpful to you, to have, to see, the test results of

      25      the students in your class who took the test?


       1             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Absolutely.

       2             I teach eleventh- and twelfth-graders, so if

       3      we're talking the 3-through-8 tests, I mean, that

       4      information might not directly have an impact on how

       5      I would conduct myself in the course.

       6             But, certainly, it would be beneficial to see

       7      the entire test, and to say, Well, these kids didn't

       8      really quite get this, maybe I need to focus on

       9      this.

      10             That would make sense.

      11             I always give all of my tests and quizzes

      12      back, because I make up new ones every year, because

      13      if I do the same thing year after year, I would go

      14      crazier than I already am.

      15             And -- so I don't see why we can't do that.

      16             We do with that with the Regents exam now.

      17             They're all posted online just a couple of

      18      weeks after they're given, every single last

      19      question.

      20             SENATOR LITTLE:  And we spend years taking

      21      Regents exams as practice for the others.

      22             But, you know, I think you hit on something,

      23      because the Commissioner did say it would cost more

      24      to get all the tests back, which doesn't make any

      25      sense.


       1             Hand them back.

       2             Send them back.

       3             But, thank you, and you did a great job.

       4             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Well, thank you very much.

       5             We could, certainly -- I mean, all of our

       6      exams, the bubble sheets, and things, are scored and

       7      scanned at local schools.

       8             It wouldn't seem that they would need to be

       9      sent back, except for things I don't understand.

      10             SENATOR LITTLE:  No.

      11             Right.

      12             Thank you.

      13             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Do you have any suggestions

      14      for what would be good ways to get kids college- and

      15      career-ready, other than -- from your perspective?

      16             DAVID SYRACUSE:  In terms of curriculum?  Or

      17      in terms of -- I mean --

      18             SENATOR TKACZYK:  As a teacher, what is the

      19      most important thing for you to do to get kids

      20      college- and career-ready?

      21             DAVID SYRACUSE:  To not disengage them from

      22      education.

      23             We've got a cycle of just disengaged

      24      students, because, perhaps their parents went

      25      through an education system that really didn't help


       1      them, or was not beneficial to them, and then their

       2      parents say, Oh, well, you know what?  I've got a

       3      $15-an-hour job, I'm doing fine.  You can just do

       4      the same thing.

       5             Well, you know, news flash, $15 an hour isn't

       6      going to be that much with the class of 2026 coming

       7      up.

       8             So, we need to find ways not to disengage

       9      students.

      10             Over-testing them is certainly one of those

      11      ways that can disengage them.

      12             I know so many of my students get anxiety

      13      over tests, simply because they don't know what the

      14      result is going to mean.

      15             Am I going to have to be a postal worker for

      16      the rest of my life, just because that's what I got

      17      on this particular thing?

      18             Nothing against postal workers, working

      19      outside seem fine.

      20             But, they get so stressed out about testing.

      21             So if we can find other ways not to disengage

      22      them.  If we can make sure that school isn't so high

      23      pressure, and school is couched in a language that,

      24      Hey, you don't know everything, and you know what?

      25      That's okay, that's why you're here, and that's why


       1      I have a job.

       2             Let's learn a few things together, instead

       3      of, I've got this stuff to get through, and if we

       4      don't get through it, I'm going get a worse than a

       5      79 on my evaluation.

       6             That's not helpful to education.

       7             It's taking the flavor out of education.

       8             There's another catch phrase for you:  "It's

       9      taking the flavor of it."

      10             SENATOR LITTLE:  Thank you.

      11             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Valesky.

      12             SENATOR VALESKY:  Just one comment.

      13             David, thank you for your presentation.

      14             I appreciate you being here.

      15             I don't think, by the way, that your response

      16      to Senator DeFrancisco's question, I don't think

      17      you're going to get if trouble for your response.

      18             I actually think most teachers would agree

      19      with you, that they don't want to be teaching with

      20      bad teachers.

      21             I happen to be married to a public-school

      22      teacher.  I am a son of two retired public-school

      23      teachers.

      24             So, all the teachers that I've ever been

      25      associated with or know, have no interest in


       1      teaching with bad teachers in the classroom.

       2             So, I'll just share that.

       3             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Well, thank you.

       4             I appreciate that.

       5             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  I do have a question.

       6             We have a wide variety of people here,

       7      testifying.

       8             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Yes, sir.

       9             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  In terms of teacher

      10      evaluations, is it your contention that,

      11      essentially, only teachers should be evaluating

      12      teachers?

      13             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Uh-huh.

      14             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay.

      15             So, by extension, because one of the groups

      16      that's gonna come up, and I'm sure they'll comment

      17      on this, are the school administrators.

      18             In your opinion, they're not competent to be

      19      doing that review?

      20             DAVID SYRACUSE:  No, that's not what I mean

      21      to imply.

      22             And if I did, I apologize.

      23             So, let the record show that that is not the

      24      case.

      25             I think they are more than able to evaluate,


       1      because most of them, if not all were them, were

       2      teachers themselves.  They know what aspects of good

       3      teaching is.

       4             They are overwhelmed with the amount of stuff

       5      that they have to do.

       6             My administrator had two tiny little

       7      observations, and that's what he had to base this,

       8      27-, 32-page Danielson rubric on.

       9             And, I don't think that was beneficial to me.

      10             I don't think that was beneficial to my

      11      administrator.

      12             I don't think it helped the kids.

      13             So, if we could have teachers, retired

      14      teachers -- again, it's above my pay grade to try

      15      and figure out how this would work -- but my idea

      16      is, teachers know what good teaching is.

      17             Why not have them evaluate teachers?

      18             Just as, if you're going to have someone take

      19      a driving test, you want a good driver in there

      20      certifying that the person is a good driver.

      21             You don't -- and that just seems to make

      22      sense to me.

      23             Certainly, principals are able to do that.

      24             Certainly, superintendents are able to do

      25      that, whatever the -- it happens to be in the


       1      particular district.

       2             But, they're overwhelmed with the amount of

       3      discipline, and the amount of paperwork that they

       4      have to fill out for all these other things that

       5      we're trying to do.

       6             And it might actually improve the system, to

       7      have teachers looking at teaching.

       8             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Last thing is just a

       9      comment, and I keep going back to this, because

      10      I hear it in so many different locations.

      11             Whether it's Pearson or, frankly, any other

      12      company, McGraw-Hill, whomever it may be,

      13      ultimately, it's the State Education Department that

      14      is responsible.

      15             They certainly are a for-profit entity, as

      16      are many groups that deal with the State Education

      17      Department.

      18             But, in terms of policy, and what goes out

      19      the door, it is, ultimately, the responsibility of

      20      the Commissioner, and the department, and the

      21      Board of Regents.

      22             So, but thank you for your time.

      23             DAVID SYRACUSE:  My pleasure.

      24             Thank you.

      25             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Can I make a last


       1      observation?

       2             There's still some superintendents in the

       3      room.

       4             You may get a job offer before you leave here

       5      today.

       6                  [Laughter.]

       7             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Thank you very much for your

       8      time.  I appreciate the time.

       9             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Superintendent Contreras,

      10      you're patience is appreciated, particularly in

      11      light of the fact that we are in your home turf.

      12             Good afternoon, and welcome.

      13             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Thank you.

      14             JENNIFER PYLE:  Good afternoon.

      15             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Good afternoon.

      16             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  And, Jennifer, welcome to

      17      you as well.

      18             JENNIFER PYLE:  Thank you.

      19             And I'm going to leave my time to the

      20      Superintendent today.

      21             I've submitted some brief comments, that

      22      I know you'll be hearing from other superintendents

      23      in other cities.

      24             So, thank you, though, for the opportunity.

      25             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Good afternoon,


       1      Senator Flanagan; to the great supporters of the

       2      Syracuse City School District, Senator Valesky and

       3      Senator DeFrancisco; to the Education Committee.

       4             I appreciate the opportunity to testify today

       5      on this, the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness

       6      Month.

       7             So, today, I honor those we've lost, those

       8      who are survivers, and those who are still fighting.

       9             I am so proud to be the superintendent of the

      10      Syracuse City School District where we have

      11      21,000 bright, talented, and gifted students.

      12             I'm also so pleased to be here to discuss the

      13      New York State Regents Reform Agenda.

      14             As you know, the Syracuse City School

      15      District has just implemented, or is in the second

      16      year of implementation, of our five-year strategic

      17      plan, which is directly aligned to the

      18      Regents Reform Agenda.

      19             Our ultimate goal in the strategic plan is an

      20      educational community that graduates every student

      21      as a responsible active citizen prepared for

      22      college, careers, and the global economy.

      23             And I just want to point out that areas of

      24      specific alignment, include:

      25             Making sure we fully implement the


       1      Common Core;

       2             Including instructional data systems to

       3      inform teachers' and principal practice;

       4             Making sure we're recruiting, developing,

       5      retaining, and rewarding effective teachers;

       6             And, turning around the lowest-achieving

       7      schools.

       8             And we deeply believe in these four

       9      components.

      10             Most districts, including Syracuse, saw a

      11      tremendous drop in our assessment results this past

      12      summer.

      13             And it was very, very difficult to receive

      14      these assessment results.

      15             However, for us, it was a reminder and a

      16      reason to continue the Regents Reform Agenda.

      17             As stated in an op-ed that I co-authored with

      18      Superintendent Corliss Kaiser, "Change can be

      19      difficult, but movement to embrace the Common Core

      20      learning standards is vital and necessary to the

      21      success of our students."

      22             I truly believe in the highest standards

      23      within the Common Core, and that they will benefit

      24      all of our students.

      25             And I feel this, we have right now, a


       1      baseline, that will help us move forward, and know

       2      exactly how to support our students.

       3             I also commend Commissioner King for his

       4      unyielding commitment to and focus on equity for

       5      every single child in the state of New York; and,

       6      also, his uncompromising belief, it's a shared

       7      belief, that New York State can make certain that

       8      every single student will be prepared for college

       9      and careers, that ensure at least a middle-class

      10      existence.

      11             So I want to talk a bit about the steps we've

      12      taken to do this work in reform.

      13             In Syracuse, we've engaged in implementing

      14      the rigorous Common Core.  We've trained teachers.

      15      We offered 35,000 hours of summer professional

      16      development.

      17             And the teachers attended.

      18             There was a 33 percent increase in the time

      19      that teachers spent in professional development this

      20      summer, indicating their ongoing commitment to their

      21      professional practice and to the children in the

      22      city of Syracuse.

      23             We offered more than 100 courses, covering

      24      Common Core to learning standards, and we spent

      25      hundreds of hours developing curriculum aligned to


       1      the Common Core, in English-language arts,

       2      social studies, and math.

       3             We've implemented new-talent recruitment,

       4      support, and retention; systems including mutual

       5      consent, because we know that when teachers choose

       6      to work in a school and they know they're selected

       7      by the principal, and there's mutual consent,

       8      teachers are more satisfied, and, ultimately, they

       9      will be more effective.

      10             The State can help us, however, by holding

      11      teacher-preparation programs accountable for the

      12      quality of the candidates that are enrolled, and

      13      accountable for the quality of their program.

      14             We've also developed a teaching and learning

      15      framework that defines what effectiveness is in

      16      teaching and leadership.  And that was done through

      17      a community-wide task force.

      18             So, even though we had to come up with the --

      19      a system that was approved by the State, we did

      20      include the community in that process.

      21             We piloted, the new evaluation system was in

      22      2011-12.  We fully implemented, last school year,

      23      for the first time.

      24             And, now, because we have some data, we are

      25      now able to offer targeted supports in the schools.


       1             We've also launched the innovation zone made

       2      up of seven schools; seven of the lowest-performing

       3      schools in the district.

       4             We have new principals.

       5             We've staffed those buildings through mutual

       6      consent.  Only two teachers were actually placed in

       7      the innovation zone.

       8             Teachers receive extra professional

       9      development every single day, about five hours per

      10      week.

      11             And, we've increased instructional time for

      12      our students by 20 percent.  They receive an extra

      13      hour of instruction every single day.

      14             However, the Regents Reform Agenda is being

      15      undermined because reform is expensive to implement,

      16      and the State funding is not equitable.

      17             In some cases, SED has provided additional

      18      funding.

      19             In the example of the I-zone, we received

      20      $31.5 million to implement that initiative.

      21             We receive funding through the strategic

      22      teaching -- Strengthening Teacher and Leadership

      23      Effectiveness Grant, helping us to include peer

      24      evaluators.

      25             Interesting that you just mentioned how


       1      teachers can help other teachers.

       2             So, in our evaluation model, we have content

       3      specialists who are teachers, who do at least one of

       4      the evaluations or observations for teachers.

       5             But, that is funded through a grant, and

       6      there is no sustainable way to fund that without the

       7      grant.

       8             We also just received a $2.8 million grant to

       9      expand career/technical education.

      10             And we have a groundbreaking partnership with

      11      MACNY, with Onondaga Community College, to provide

      12      50 students a year with training in advanced

      13      manufacturing, manufacturing technology,

      14      electrical-engineering technology.

      15             They will graduate with an associate's

      16      degree, and then one of our MACNY corporations will

      17      provide them with a job in the

      18      40,000-to-60,000-dollar range when they complete

      19      high school.

      20             So, we are receiving some support.

      21             However, the cost is huge of implementation

      22      of APPR, and of the Common Core, and we're using our

      23      already-diminishing scarce resources.

      24             As Kevin Ahern mentioned, we've lost

      25      25 percent of our staff.


       1             And I just want to give you some numbers

       2      about how much this costs.

       3             In 2011, it cost the district 1.2 million to

       4      roll out the Common Core, and another 2 million in

       5      the design and implementation of APPR.

       6             Last year, we spent $9 million on Common Core

       7      and 6 million on APPR implementation.

       8             That's $15 million in one year alone.

       9             These figures include costs related to

      10      development of materials aligned to the Common Core,

      11      purchase of materials aligned to the Common Core,

      12      development and purchase of new assessments to

      13      measure student growth, APPR data systems, and

      14      professional-development requirements for our

      15      teachers.

      16             We believe eliminating the gap-elimination

      17      adjustment would yield about $8 million per year for

      18      Syracuse.

      19             And that is a specific example of a way you

      20      can help us, so that we can continue to implement

      21      the Reform Agenda without laying off additional

      22      staff.

      23             I also want to stress that we have to ensure

      24      there's not an overreliance on the standardized

      25      testing.


       1             Even as standardized assessments give us

       2      vital information to measure gaps in student

       3      learning, we have to ensure there's not this

       4      overreliance.

       5             Yes, achievement data and growth data based

       6      on state assessments are important indicators of

       7      performance, but they are not meaningful when

       8      considered -- they are most meaningful when

       9      considered alongside other measures.

      10             And I speak specifically about the impact on

      11      our English-language learners, special-education

      12      students.

      13             We have 1600 English-language learners,

      14      2100 refugee students, many who come to the

      15      United States, and Syracuse, with little or no

      16      formal schooling.

      17             Elements of the state accountability systems

      18      that rely on proficiency, at one point in time,

      19      without considering the trajectory, can penalize

      20      school districts and individual schools that serve

      21      large groups of refugee students.

      22             And this is problematic for us.

      23             And we continue to have an influx of these

      24      students.  Since July 1st, I have enrolled

      25      400 refugee students into the district.


       1             As you know, the State funding formula is

       2      frozen, and I'm not receiving State aid for

       3      additional students in the Syracuse City School

       4      District.

       5             I think we also must provide financial and

       6      legislative support for initiatives that provide

       7      health and social-emotional supports for students

       8      living in poverty.

       9             This includes funding for the Say Yes model.

      10             We are the first Say Yes district in the

      11      nation.

      12             We have mental-health clinics in twenty-one

      13      of our schools.

      14             We've school-based health centers.

      15             We have social workers and counselors, but,

      16      we've had to cut some of those social workers and

      17      some of those counselors when our students need them

      18      desperately.

      19             You heard Senator DeFrancisco speak to the

      20      discipline -- high-discipline, out-of-school

      21      suspension rates in the district.

      22             They are unacceptable out-of-school

      23      suspension rates, but we could do more to support

      24      these students if they had support services.

      25             Say Yes provides Last Dollar tuition


       1      scholarships to all of our students, but we have to

       2      get them to the point where they will graduate and

       3      be successful in college.

       4             Without support systems, like Say Yes to

       5      Education, it makes our job in Syracuse even more

       6      difficult, so I ask that you support that.

       7             The Say Yes initiative, our strategic plan,

       8      and the Regents Reform Agenda represent a long-term

       9      collective investment in their students, and their

      10      future.

      11             And I have no doubt that we can succeed with

      12      the Reform Agenda, if given -- if we have the will,

      13      the focus on instruction, and a fair funding system.

      14             Thank you.

      15             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you, Superintendent.

      16             Senator Valesky.

      17             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you,

      18      Superintendent Contreras.

      19             I just have one question, and you sort of

      20      addressed it near the end of your remarks, but

      21      I wanted to revisit it for a moment.

      22             Before I do that, though, I just -- you know,

      23      particularly in light of the assessment grades, and

      24      in this school district, and the attention to those

      25      scores, I think it is important to remember, and to


       1      highlight, as I know you do all the time, the

       2      success stories from your school district.

       3             And I, along with you, had the opportunity to

       4      welcome the President of the United States to one of

       5      your high schools, Henninger High School, about a

       6      month ago, or so.

       7             And, the young man, his name was

       8      Emilio Ortiz [ph.], I think --

       9             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Yes.

      10             SENATOR VALESKY:  -- who attends

      11      Corcoran High School, was just incredibly impressive

      12      in his introduction of the President.

      13             And I think that we all need to celebrate

      14      those success stories more than we do, and more

      15      often than we do.

      16             So I want you to know how impressed I was

      17      with his presentation.

      18             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Thank you.

      19             SENATOR VALESKY:  And, yours, in getting that

      20      high school ready, and under that challenge that the

      21      secret service I know presented.

      22             My question has to do with Say Yes, and

      23      I know the Say Yes program predates you in your term

      24      here, and it also predates the Regents Reform

      25      Agenda.


       1             So, to what degree has having the Say Yes

       2      program in effect here, uhm, helped ease the

       3      transition through adoption of the Common Core and

       4      the entire Reform Agenda?

       5             And, to whatever degree that might be, is

       6      that a model that -- understanding that's not a

       7      government model -- but, is that a model that can be

       8      replicated in other areas, that would be helpful?

       9             SHARON CONTRERAS:  I think so.

      10             There are four elements of the Say Yes model.

      11             There are the health supports;

      12      social-emotional supports; financial supports, which

      13      is the tuition scholarship; and academic supports.

      14             I think what is posing a problem is, while

      15      Say Yes to Education is very well aligned to the

      16      Regents Reform Agenda, you end up making decisions

      17      that you shouldn't have to make about what to

      18      support.

      19             So, we have eliminated some of the

      20      social workers and counselors, when that's an

      21      element we need to actually implement the

      22      Regents Reform Agenda, in terms of providing

      23      adequate academic supports, because, without those

      24      wrap-around kinds of supports, it's difficult for

      25      teachers to really deal with the academic needs of


       1      our students.

       2             So, I think that Say Yes to Education is a

       3      great model for reform, and I think it aligns well

       4      with the Regents Reform Agenda.

       5             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you.

       6             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Seward.

       7             SENATOR SEWARD:  Yes, very briefly,

       8      Madam Superintendent.

       9             I had -- I was struck by your comment that --

      10      in the -- I think in some of the failing schools

      11      that you may have here, or -- I assume that was

      12      based on test scores?  These high-stakes tests?

      13             SHARON CONTRERAS:  The priority schools,

      14      and -- priority schools yes.

      15             SENATOR SEWARD:  "Priority," that's what you

      16      call them, yes.

      17             I shouldn't call them "failing schools."

      18             But, in any event, you said one of the steps

      19      that were taken, was to find an extra hour of

      20      instruction time per day.

      21             And -- which seems ambitious to me, because

      22      one of the -- I know one of the things I hear about,

      23      particularly with the Common Core, that there's so

      24      much to cover in a short time -- period of time,

      25      that it's really jammed in the day -- the school


       1      day.

       2             How did you fine an extra hour of instruction

       3      time?

       4             Did something else have to give --

       5             SHARON CONTRERAS:  The teachers --

       6             SENATOR SEWARD:  -- in order for you to

       7      accomplish that?

       8             SHARON CONTRERAS:  You're asking me how do we

       9      use that time?  Or how are --

      10             SENATOR SEWARD:  How did you find an extra

      11      hour?

      12             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Oh, how did we find the

      13      extra hour?

      14             SENATOR SEWARD:  Did anything else have to go

      15      in order to accomplish that?

      16             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Well, it was -- no.

      17             It was actually mandated, as part of the

      18      turnaround-school model.

      19             And we negotiated, and sat down with STA, and

      20      we figured out where that extra hour would be placed

      21      during the day.

      22             However, the schools have a governance model,

      23      where they can choose to extend the school year.

      24             They have 20 percent additional time.  Or,

      25      additional time, and that amounts to about


       1      20 percent over what they currently have.

       2             And those schools are allowed to determine

       3      how they use that time, and when they use it.

       4             So, next year, there may be schools that say,

       5      We want the same school day that we had last year,

       6      but we want to extend the school year and offer

       7      year-round schooling.

       8             They are able to do that in this model.

       9             But, the additional time is being utilized to

      10      provide differentiated supports for students.

      11             And we're also able now to really focus on

      12      science and social studies, which was being left out

      13      previously because of a short school day.

      14             We realize that, eventually, most of the

      15      schools will have a longer school day, because every

      16      single school in the Syracuse City School District

      17      is a priority or focus school.

      18             And we're working with the National Center on

      19      Time and Learning, to provide technical assistance

      20      to every school in how they will find that time and

      21      use that time.

      22             In addition to that hour, every teacher has

      23      an additional half hour per day of common planning

      24      time, giving them a full hour of common planning

      25      time.


       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator DeFrancisco.

       2             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Is that -- actually,

       3      there's more hours in a day that are in the school

       4      day at those schools right now?

       5             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Yes.

       6             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  And is there a -- is

       7      there are corresponding change in salaries as a

       8      result of that?

       9             SHARON CONTRERAS:  The teachers receive a

      10      $6,000 stipend that is funded through that

      11      $31 1/2 million grant.

      12             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Okay, so the State is

      13      providing the funds for this additional mandate?

      14             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Yes, they have.

      15             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  Okay.

      16             Lastly, I just want to clear up about the

      17      Say Yes program.

      18             I support it; have supported it from the

      19      beginning.

      20             My point simply is this:

      21             There are many people in every one of our

      22      districts, including mine, and Syracuse is part of

      23      my district, that parents say to me, What am I;

      24      something wrong with me?

      25             I'm not very rich, and I'd like my college


       1      tuition paid for, too.

       2             So it seems, at the very minimum, these

       3      students should be college-proficient -- that have a

       4      condition should be, for a free college education,

       5      that they be prepared for college and not have to

       6      have remediation.

       7             That's my only point.

       8             And -- because the program -- it's a good

       9      concept.

      10             I understand Buffalo is consider -- they're

      11      considering doing it in Buffalo.

      12             That's great.

      13             But, for that enormous, enormous benefit,

      14      there should be a corresponding responsibility, so

      15      it's fair to other districts that don't have it.

      16             That's all I wanted to point out.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Tkaczyk.

      18             SENATOR TKACZYK:  Thank you.

      19             I wanted to ask you about the funding.

      20             You mentioned, in 2011, you spent

      21      1.2 million, and 2 million, on Common Core, and

      22      APPR.

      23             And, today, it's to the tune of 9 million,

      24      and 6 million.

      25             Are -- is that amount of money going to be --


       1      continue to grow?

       2             Is this -- are you -- is that the level

       3      you're going to be expected to cover every year?

       4             Kind of, what -- could you explain, is this a

       5      growing thing?

       6             And what -- did you get any money from the

       7      750 million that the State got from the Race To The

       8      Top grant to cover that?

       9             SHARON CONTRERAS:  We did receive Race To The

      10      Top funds.

      11             We used the entitlement.

      12             We used the general fund.

      13             I don't expect it will cost this much every

      14      year, but teachers are going to need professional

      15      development for some time.

      16             The cost of developing assessments is

      17      astronomical.

      18             The cost of purchasing assessments is

      19      astronomical.

      20             So, we have to find better ways to do this.

      21             Because, even when we develop the assessments

      22      on our own, you still have to pay the teachers for

      23      their time.

      24             There's printing costs.

      25             I think we had over 200 assessments for SLOs.


       1             And I do want to just clarify one thing:

       2             The local piece of APPR, you don't have to

       3      use all of those assessments.

       4             We chose to do that, because we didn't have

       5      enough time to develop something that was more

       6      progressive, and that teachers would have felt was

       7      more meaningful.

       8             So, you can develop performance tasks, you

       9      can use portfolios.  We simply ran out of time,

      10      based on the State's deadline.

      11             So, I just wanted to be clear, you don't have

      12      to use that many assessments.

      13             We're doing that, because it was the quickest

      14      way to comply with the State requirement.

      15             SENATOR TKACZYK:  And just going forward,

      16      what do you -- what is the most pressing thing,

      17      resource?

      18             Or, could you identify things that you need

      19      to make this a successful process?

      20             Is it time?  Is it money?

      21             Is it -- what is it going to -- from your

      22      perspective, gonna make it -- continue to improve,

      23      and get to where we're getting more kids ready for

      24      college and careers?

      25             SHARON CONTRERAS:  I think that, obviously,


       1      we do need funding to make certain that we can

       2      continue this, but time to do this in a way that

       3      teachers -- so that teachers and administrators

       4      believe this is a credible system.

       5             It's not just time in the development.

       6             It's time to communicate to our families,

       7      who, all of a sudden, their students are taking a

       8      lot more assessments.  They don't necessarily

       9      understand all the components.

      10             Many people get confused with Common Core and

      11      APPR.  When I'm talking to them, they're not quite

      12      sure what their issue is, but they know they have an

      13      issue.

      14             So I think if we had a little more time, we

      15      could have rolled this out more effectively.

      16             However, I have to say, that I understand the

      17      sense of urgency when you look at the number of

      18      students who are going to college, not prepared; or

      19      when you sit at a business roundtable, and your

      20      local businesses and corporations tell you how

      21      underprepared students are for the workforce.

      22             So -- but there still has to be a balance so

      23      that we can do this well and have a credible system.

      24             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Superintendent, you knew

      25      I was going to ask you one question:


       1             So on that scale of 1 to 10, no pressure,

       2      there's a drum roll in the background, but there's

       3      no pressure?

       4             SHARON CONTRERAS:  The communication with

       5      State Education Department?

       6             Is that the question?

       7             Okay.

       8             I always have access, because of the

       9      Big Five, NYSCSS, with the Commissioner, and the

      10      deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners.

      11             But SED is a vast, vast organization, and the

      12      level of communication is not consistent throughout

      13      the organization.

      14             So, if I have to, I can reach the

      15      Commissioner and they always listen to our concerns.

      16      They don't always agree with what we're saying.

      17             But I do feel I can, at any time, get them to

      18      the table, because of the Big Five, NYSCSS, and just

      19      because they have a relationship with us, and they

      20      sit and try to resolve issues.

      21             But that is not consistent throughout the

      22      State Education Department.

      23             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  That was good.

      24                  [Laughter.]

      25             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  However, 1 (indicating)


       1      10.

       2             SHARON CONTRERAS:  I don't know how to answer

       3      that.  I'm sorry.

       4             But I feel like I have very good

       5      communicationing [sic] and great access to the

       6      leadership at SED.

       7             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Yeah, but, frankly, part

       8      of the reason I'm asking is, by virtue of the fact

       9      that I Chair the Committee, I mean, I have excellent

      10      access to the department, the Department -- and so

      11      do my colleagues, just as being elected officials,

      12      but, I'm trying to, you know, glean from the people

      13      who are here, and a lot of stuff we get in terms of

      14      e-mails, what that level of communication is.

      15             I certainly have great respect for what you

      16      do, and I'm not trying to put you on the spot, but

      17      I will also underscore that, we're the only ones

      18      having hearings.

      19             SED's not having hearings.  The Regents are

      20      not having hearings.  The Governor's not having

      21      hearings.  The Assembly's not having hearings.

      22             We're doing this so people can lay out what

      23      their wishes are, what their desires are, and what

      24      their concerns are.

      25             But, Say Yes, Mary Ann is excellent.


       1      I really like working with her.  I felt I learned

       2      quite a bit from her.

       3             I do have one other quick question.

       4             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Yes.

       5             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  As a superintendent, the

       6      upcoming Regents, I believe that this is where, kind

       7      of, the rubber meets the road.

       8             The ELA exams, and everything, 3 through 8,

       9      it's not that they are insignificant, because they

      10      are; however, now we're talking about graduation,

      11      and now we're talking about college.

      12             My concern is, that the Regents having full

      13      implementation of Common Core for this upcoming

      14      year, or, this year that we're in, that has a

      15      potential to be highly problematic.

      16             Because, if there's a 30 percent drop in the

      17      scores now, what's going to happen when a kid, who

      18      probably would have gotten, like, an 85, or an 86,

      19      gets a 71, or a 69?

      20             Do you -- are you --

      21             SHARON CONTRERAS:  They will still graduate

      22      with a 71.

      23             And, to my knowledge, the universities do not

      24      use the Regents in any way, and I think that's

      25      something that Commissioner King is working on.


       1             I think you would see better results on the

       2      Regents if they were actually used by higher

       3      education in a meaningful way.

       4             And they are not.

       5             Instead of students having to take placement

       6      tests, they should be using these Regents scores in

       7      higher education, to indicate which courses students

       8      should be taking.

       9             So, certainly, there may be a drop, I expect

      10      a drop, but I prefer that we have good information

      11      about where students really are.

      12             The parents deserve that, and the students

      13      deserve that.

      14             But I think we need to work more diligently

      15      to ensure that those Regents are used by higher

      16      education.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much.

      18             Appreciate it.

      19             SHARON CONTRERAS:  Thank you.

      20             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Next we have,

      21      Michael Cohen, president of Achieve.

      22             And I want to reiterate for everyone who has

      23      had the patience to stay with us and continue to

      24      listen, that all the written testimony is online.

      25      Everything we get will go up online.


       1             And, this is being live-streamed, so, for

       2      those who are sticking it out, there are people who

       3      are here listening to you directly, and indirectly,

       4      and we appreciate your patience.

       5             Mr. Cohen.

       6             MICHAEL COHEN:  Senator, thank you very much

       7      for the opportunity to testify before you this

       8      afternoon.

       9             Let me tell you a little bit about myself,

      10      and about Achieve, before I jump into the substance

      11      of my remarks.

      12             First of all, you should know, I am a product

      13      of the New York City public schools, and the SUNY

      14      system here in New York State.

      15             I grew up in Brooklyn.

      16             Went to SUNY Binghamton; met my wife from

      17      Glens Falls there.

      18             And, I have family elsewhere in the state.

      19             I took -- when I was in high school, which

      20      was a long, long time ago, I took Regents exams,

      21      I earned a Regents diploma, and I got a Regents

      22      scholarship.

      23             Throughout that time, neither I nor anyone in

      24      my family knew what a "Regents" was, except, the

      25      name of the tests that we took and the diploma that


       1      we got.

       2             It wasn't until much later in my professional

       3      career that I understood there's actually a

       4      governing body with that name.

       5             Keep that in mind when you raise concerns

       6      about the ability of State Ed Department to

       7      communicate.

       8             Right?

       9             It is a challenge.  It's not a brand new one.

      10             I graduated in 1968, so it was a while ago

      11      that we participated in all of this without fully

      12      understanding what the State was up to.

      13             I'll come back to that point more

      14      substantively in a few moments.

      15             Achieve is a bipartisan non-profit

      16      organization, independent.

      17             We are governed by governors and business

      18      leaders.

      19             And, we were founded in 1996, basically, to

      20      help states with standards-based reform.

      21             Even before the Common Core were developed,

      22      we had worked with more than half of the states to

      23      improve their math and literacy standards so that

      24      they reflected college- and career-readiness.

      25             We actually did research, that came out in


       1      2004, that identified the skills that were needed in

       2      order to succeed in post-secondary education,

       3      including career training programs.

       4             And we also determined, by the way, that

       5      almost no state required students to demonstrate

       6      those skills, or even to take courses that had a

       7      chance of teaching those skills, in order to earn a

       8      high school diploma.

       9             So we've been working for a decade with

      10      states to close this expectations' gap between what

      11      students needs to know in order to succeed, and what

      12      they need to demonstrate in order to earn a

      13      high school.

      14             We've got to bring that [indicates], the

      15      expectations and the requirements closer together

      16      than they have -- than they are now, and have been

      17      for a long time.

      18             We worked with the National Governors

      19      Association and the Council of Chief State School

      20      Officers to help states develop the Common Core

      21      state standards, so we've been in the middle of the

      22      development.

      23             We have been working with states to support

      24      their implementation, including a network of about

      25      20 states that are using a tool that New York State


       1      helped develop, to evaluate the alignment and

       2      quality of instructional materials.

       3             We've been helping 20 states use that same

       4      rubric in order to look at their own instructional

       5      materials.

       6             It suggests the power of collaboration in

       7      common, that states can use the same tool to look at

       8      quality, even though they developed their own

       9      curriculum and instructional materials.

      10             And New York's been a key player in that.

      11             We are also helping a slightly different

      12      group of 20 states develop the PARCC assessments

      13      that Commissioner King referred to in his testimony.

      14             These are next-generation tests based on the

      15      Common Core in math and ELA, right, that I will talk

      16      about a bit, because they help address some of the

      17      issues that you've been debating here with regard to

      18      the role of assessments.

      19             So I want to spend a couple of minutes

      20      telling you about that.

      21             But, overall, what I bring to this hearing is

      22      a national perspective on Common Core

      23      implementation, and I want to just put the comments

      24      and discussion that you've been having here in a

      25      national context.


       1             First thing to keep in mind, as people have

       2      pointed out, 45 states have adopted the Common Core.

       3             50 states are working to develop college- and

       4      career-ready policies, right, that, basically,

       5      overhaul the mission of the K-to-12 system, so that

       6      its purpose, right, it's reason for existence, is to

       7      prepare all of the students for post-secondary

       8      success.

       9             When I went to high school, right, the

      10      mission of the K-to-12 system was to prepare about a

      11      quarter of us for post-secondary success, and the

      12      rest could find their way in the workplace, on their

      13      own, without much difficulty.

      14             Now we're in an economy where, virtually, all

      15      of the jobs that pay well and have advancement

      16      potential require some kind of post-secondary

      17      education.

      18             It could be a 4-year college, it could be

      19      2-year college, could be technical-training program

      20      that leads to an industry-recognized credential, but

      21      our research has showed, that to succeed in any of

      22      those programs is, literally, a common core of

      23      quantitative and literacy skills that are necessary

      24      for all students to acquire when they leave

      25      high school.


       1             And that's the premise of Common Core state

       2      standards, is that there really are common

       3      expectations for success in college and career, at

       4      least in those core subject areas.

       5             All of the states that are pursuing this

       6      agenda, whether with Common Core or without, are

       7      experiencing some of the same tensions that you've

       8      heard surfaced here in this hearing:

       9             The tension between the urgency to improve

      10      achievement;

      11             The costs, there are such high remediation

      12      rates;

      13             There are some of these signals from

      14      employers, that students are graduating from

      15      high school poorly prepared, academically, for

      16      what's needed in the workplace;

      17             Signals from college faculty, that even

      18      students who are in credit-bearing courses lack --

      19      that many of them lack the skills they need do real

      20      college-level work.

      21             So the environment is providing all kinds of

      22      signals that we need to improve the preparation of

      23      young people as they come out of college, many of

      24      them, to much higher levels than they are now.

      25             Real sense of urgency behind that.


       1             And at the same time, this is really

       2      complicated work to do.

       3             The standards, as you've heard other people

       4      describe, call for fundamental shifts in

       5      instructional practices for many teachers.

       6             Some have been teaching this way for a long

       7      time, but for many, this really requires pretty

       8      fundamental changes in what they teach, and how they

       9      teach, and in particular, how they teach the most

      10      disadvantaged students.

      11             Those changes don't occur overnight.

      12             So I've heard a debate here about, just how

      13      fast should implementation proceed here? how fast

      14      should assessment proceed?

      15             You're not the only state that is wrestling

      16      with it, and I'm not going to tell you exactly what

      17      the answer ought to be.

      18             I think you've got to find that here in the

      19      state, but I'm telling you, you're not alone in

      20      wrestling with this, and the struggles that you're

      21      facing are being faced elsewhere as well.

      22             With regard to the implementation of the

      23      Common Core themselves and the State's role, a

      24      couple of things, from a national perspective, and

      25      I'll be brief in this:


       1             First, it's worth keeping in mind, as you've

       2      heard from a lot of people, implementation of the

       3      Common Core is both a state responsibility and a

       4      locally responsibility.

       5             Local districts, local leadership, matters a

       6      lot in the pace and effectiveness of implementation.

       7             Compared to other states, the effort that

       8      New York State is making is probably the most

       9      robust -- robust and aggressive of any state in the

      10      country.

      11             All over the country people are looking at

      12      the EngageNY website, to look at the curriculum

      13      materials, the instructional tools, the assessment

      14      tools, the professional-development tools, the basic

      15      communications tools for talking about the

      16      Common Core.

      17             Right?

      18             Bar none, New York State is ahead of the rest

      19      of the states on that.

      20             That doesn't mean it leads to even,

      21      consistent, rapid implementation at the local level,

      22      but in terms of what states typically do, the effort

      23      here in New York far surpasses what states have done

      24      before, right, and it surpasses what almost any

      25      state is doing now.


       1             That's particularly with regard to, if you

       2      will, the technical work or the substantive work.

       3      You know, instructional modules,

       4      professional-development materials, and the like.

       5             That's different from the communications and

       6      coalition building that has to go along with

       7      implementation.

       8             It's different from the cultural change that

       9      needs to occur, that has to go along with

      10      implementation.

      11             And here's a place, where, as I listened to

      12      the testimony you've been hearing, something

      13      occurred to me that I had not thought about before

      14      I got here.

      15             We are working with many states around the

      16      country, and with foundations that are supporting

      17      these efforts, to support third -- independent

      18      third-party coalitions, typically involving the

      19      business community, the education community,

      20      higher education, and parents.

      21             Right?

      22             Those partners have to play a critical role

      23      in building support for implementation, in

      24      sustaining the efforts, and providing a trusted

      25      place where the tensions that you're working through


       1      here around pace and timing and money, and the like,

       2      can be worked out.

       3             Right?

       4             Foundations are looking to support that work

       5      in states around the country, and there are some

       6      really outstanding examples of those kinds of

       7      coalitions.

       8             TN-SCORE, is one example.

       9             AdvancED Illinois, is another.

      10             I could go on.

      11             The point I want to make is, they're having a

      12      very hard time finding, right, that kind of

      13      third-party coalition right here in New York.

      14             You are missing that.

      15             You don't have a place -- as best as I can

      16      tell, or anyone else looking from outside the state,

      17      you don't have a place that brings people together,

      18      to work on these tough issues from across sectors

      19      with the shared commitment to a successful

      20      implementation.

      21             Instead what I'm seeing is, disparate

      22      efforts, right, lots of pockets of advocacy of one

      23      kind or another.

      24             That's not a recipe for sustained reform.

      25             The states historically that have undertaken


       1      ambitious reforms.

       2             I'm thinking now back to the '80s, right,

       3      in the wake of "A Nation At Risk."

       4             South Carolina had one of the most ambitious

       5      reforms.

       6             Right?

       7             Then-Governor, subsequently, Secretary of

       8      Education, Dick Riley created a business-education

       9      partnership that brought all those parties together,

      10      had some oversight responsibilities for reform, not

      11      in a formal governance way, but in the matter of,

      12      kind of, paying attention to how implementation was

      13      going, and trying to keep the effort sustained for a

      14      decade.  And they succeeded at that, despite changes

      15      in the governor's office, despite changes in party

      16      control of the governor's office and the

      17      legislature.

      18             Other states have done the same thing.

      19             I don't see that kind of infrastructure here

      20      in the state, so I'd suggest that's something that

      21      you might want to give some thought to.

      22             Another topic I want to talk about, quickly:

      23      assessment.

      24             You heard the Commissioner talk about the new

      25      Common Core assessments, you've heard lots of people


       1      talk about that, and the results that you've gotten.

       2             Those are not surprising, by the way, that

       3      the proficiency levels went down very much, and it

       4      is largely a sign of the increased rigor of the

       5      standards that they're measuring and the tests

       6      themselves.

       7             I want to just take a minute to tell you

       8      about the PARCC assessments.

       9             Those are coming from a network of 20 states,

      10      including New York State.

      11             The states are in charge of the assessments,

      12      Achieve facilitates the process.

      13             Right?

      14             There are some things about those assessments

      15      that represent advances of what's going on now, that

      16      I want to bring to your attention.

      17             First of all, a high level of transparency,

      18      right, in the design of the test, in the

      19      specifications for the test.

      20             You've had a discussion about this.

      21             There will be a significant number of items

      22      that are released every year so people can see

      23      exactly what the test looks like.

      24             I haven't determine quite the number of items

      25      yet, but it will be a substantial portion, so that


       1      will be readily apparent.

       2             Comparability; right?

       3             These tests are designed so that the

       4      20 states that participate, if they continue to,

       5      will be giving the same test.

       6             We'll able to compare results across states.

       7             You could tell New York State making more

       8      rapid gains, larger gains, than other states; or are

       9      you slower than everyone else?

      10             You have no way of knowing that now.

      11             You would as part of a consortium of states

      12      developing the same test.

      13             These tests were developed -- many people are

      14      concerned that testing programs in states now drive

      15      instruction: what's tested, what gets taught -- is

      16      what gets taught.

      17             And that creates a fair amount of pressure,

      18      and can distort the instructional program.

      19             The PARCC tests were deliberately created,

      20      are being deliberately created, so that we started

      21      with the standards.

      22             We started with -- you heard people talk

      23      about the instructional shifts, the kinds of

      24      instruction that are needed.

      25             And the question for the test developers and


       1      the states that are working on this, is:  What does

       2      the test need to look like so that it will support

       3      those changes rather than drive a different kind of

       4      instruction?

       5             So as just one example:

       6             On the PARCC tests, there will be some time

       7      set aside for reading the kind of complex

       8      informational text that are called for by the

       9      standards, by perhaps reading two for three pieces

      10      on the same topic, and writing several essays around

      11      them, just as you would do in a good instructional

      12      unit.

      13             Right?

      14             The tests are designed to mirror what good

      15      instruction would be, rather than supplant good

      16      instruction with teaching to the test.

      17             That, it's a big change in how testing would

      18      be done.

      19             One other thing I want to mention, these

      20      tests are about college- and career-readiness.

      21             A previous witness talked about how nice it

      22      would be if post-secondary institutions actually

      23      paid attention to the results on the Regents exams

      24      and used those to indicate whether students are

      25      ready for credit-bearing work or not.


       1             That's exactly what the PARCC assessments are

       2      designed to do.

       3             And, the post-secondary systems in every one

       4      of the participating states is at the table, helping

       5      determine the content of the tests; reviewing the

       6      tests design and test items; will be involved in

       7      setting the cut scores, the standards on the test,

       8      so that they can be confident, that if a student

       9      reaches that level, they can tell them that they

      10      will -- they can tell that student that they won't

      11      have to take another placement test when they get to

      12      college.  They will be ready to do credit-bearing

      13      work.

      14             Alternatively, for students who don't do

      15      well, they can be told, that, You're only in the

      16      11th grade now.  You've got another year of

      17      high school.  Here's what you need to do to fill in

      18      the skill gaps.

      19             So, that's just an overview, right, of new

      20      work that's underway on assessments that New York

      21      can take advantage of in the next several years.

      22             And I know there's a discussion with the

      23      Commissioner and the State Board about whether

      24      that's an opportunity to take advantage of.

      25             I want to close with one other suggestion,


       1      based on what I've heard: a lot of concern about

       2      over-testing in the state.

       3             One thing that we are -- that we have

       4      historically done in education, and we're seeing in

       5      other states, is new tests get layered on old -- on

       6      top of existing tests.

       7             Some of the tests may be replaced, but most

       8      districts have benchmark tests, diagnostic tests,

       9      quarterly tests.

      10             It would be worth thinking about what an

      11      audit of testing in the state would look like.

      12             What are all the tests that kids need to take

      13      every grade?

      14             Who uses them for, what purpose?

      15             Like, can any of them be replaced or merely

      16      eliminated?

      17             My guess is, you'd find a way to alleviate

      18      some of the concerns about testing, simply by

      19      finding out what's going on, and what can be changed

      20      in that space.

      21             So on that note, I will stop, and I will take

      22      your questions for as long as you want to ask them.

      23             Thank you.




       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Michael, I checked with my

       2      colleagues, and nobody has any questions.

       3             Senator DeFrancisco does have to leave.

       4             But I just wanted to ask you --

       5             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  The lack of questions

       6      has nothing to do with the quality of the

       7      presentation.

       8             It has to do with the hour of the day.

       9             MICHAEL COHEN:  I'll accept that.

      10             SENATOR DeFRANCISCO:  And I have to leave,

      11      because I made another commitment at this time.

      12             I have the testimony of everyone else, and

      13      I will read them if you haven't testified yet.

      14             That's all I wanted to mention.

      15             Thank you.

      16             MICHAEL COHEN:  Thank you for that comment.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  So, one question.

      18             MICHAEL COHEN:  Yes.

      19             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  One question, because

      20      I would say, and I'm by no means unique, we have

      21      groups of people, in different parts of the state,

      22      say that:  Common Core is horrific.  This is the

      23      wrong way to go.  People should be opting out.  This

      24      is a perversion of our whole system of education

      25      across the country.  That this is a federalization


       1      of education.

       2             Part of my response is, whether you like

       3      Common Core is different from the question as to

       4      whether or not it's a mandate.

       5             It is not -- do you agree with me that it is

       6      not a federal mandate?

       7             MICHAEL COHEN:  I am absolutely certain it is

       8      not a federal mandate.

       9             It was developed by states.

      10             The only role the federal government played

      11      was, after the tests were -- I mean, after the

      12      standards were developed, they provided incentives

      13      through Race To The Top for states to adopt them.

      14             I will tell you that's not the only time the

      15      federal government, right, has given states money

      16      around standards or assessments.

      17             In fact, if you go back to 1990,

      18      then-Secretary Lamar Alexander and the

      19      Bush Administration gave states funds -- every state

      20      funds to develop their own standards.

      21             Since then, the Title I program has required

      22      states to have standards, required states to have

      23      tests.

      24             From 1994 through 2001, when No Child Left

      25      Behind was passed, and it was extended, the federal


       1      government has provided money to every state to

       2      develop standards and tests since 1990.

       3             The Common Core standards are the only state

       4      standards, since 1990, that have been developed

       5      without federal funds.

       6             It is precisely the opposite of a federal

       7      mandate or a federal takeover, despite what others

       8      might tell you.

       9             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  I have also heard, as

      10      somewhat of a parallel to that, that, Well, because

      11      the Race To The Top money was tied to this, it is a

      12      federal mandate.

      13             It is my understanding that the Race To The

      14      Top speaks to the adoption of standards.

      15             It doesn't speak to, it has to be Column A or

      16      Column B; but, rather, to the sort of generic

      17      approach, that you have to have a set of standards

      18      that would be approved by your education department.

      19             MICHAEL COHEN:  So, uhm, it's a little bit

      20      more than that.

      21             Right?

      22             The Race To The Top grant program gave states

      23      that applied some extra points -- maybe a dozen out

      24      of 400 possible points in the review of

      25      applications -- if they adopted standards, I forget


       1      exactly how they word it, but the gist of it is was,

       2      if you adopted college- and career-ready standards

       3      that a lot of other states have adopted as well.

       4             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay.

       5             MICHAEL COHEN:  That really spoke to

       6      Common Core.

       7             But it's significant, I think, that maybe a

       8      dozen states that have gotten Common Core grants.

       9             There are 45 states that adopted the

      10      standards.  They would have adopted it with or

      11      without Race To The Top.

      12             They might not have adopted as quickly as

      13      they did, because they had to get grant applications

      14      in, but this was a state-led effort.  And, states --

      15      you know, states, with or without Race To The Top

      16      money, have adopted the standards.

      17             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Yeah, and I -- I'll close

      18      by just saying, thank you, and I appreciate your

      19      testimony.

      20             And this is one of the values of having the

      21      written testimony submitted, because I think we

      22      will -- your written comments and your spoken

      23      comments will engender probably other comments and

      24      e-mails that everyone will get a chance to see.

      25             So thank you for your time.


       1             MICHAEL COHEN:  You're welcome.

       2             Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

       3             If any of the questions that my testimony

       4      engenders are actually relevant, that you'd like my

       5      answers to, I would be happy to respond.

       6             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Trust me, if we don't

       7      know, we'll call you.

       8             MICHAEL COHEN:  Good.  Thank you.

       9             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you.

      10             Okay, now we have:  Jim Viola, and our

      11      administrators, Paul Gasparini, Timothy Heller,

      12      Russell Kissinger, and Maureen Patterson.

      13             Do you all feel like you've been waiting

      14      outside the principal's office all day?

      15             MAUREEN PATTERSON:  Yes, but it's okay.

      16             JAMES VIOLA:  Good afternoon,

      17      Senator Flanagan, and honorable members of the

      18      Senate Education Committee.

      19             Thank you for holding this hearing today, for

      20      your stamina, and in answering questions, and

      21      staying engaged the entire time.

      22             It's our pleasure to present some testimony

      23      to you, and we want to thank you for inviting us to

      24      present testimony on the behalf of the

      25      School Administrators Association of New York.


       1             I brought with me four school administrators

       2      from four different school districts, so you would

       3      have the opportunity to ask on-the-ground, more

       4      granular kinds of questions about, How is this

       5      playing out?

       6             That's why I have Russ Kissinger from

       7      Mount Markham High School; I have Paul Gasparini

       8      from Jamesville-Dewitt High School; I have

       9      Maureen Patterson from Liverpool School District;

      10      and I also have Timothy Heller from the

      11      Groten Elementary School.

      12             Now, down to the brass tacks:

      13             In terms of costs and revenues, it's

      14      important to remember that school districts were

      15      asked to sign on to the Race To The Top program

      16      without ever having seen the application, without

      17      knowing what their allocation was going to be,

      18      without knowing what the costs were going to be, for

      19      implementation.

      20             Each one of the reforms in Race To The Top

      21      includes significant additional costs for school

      22      districts, costs that school districts could not

      23      have planned for.

      24             These things were put in place at the same

      25      time that there were fiduciary controls put in place


       1      at the state level; things like property-tax cuts,

       2      debt-elimination adjustments, and the flat funding

       3      of the foundation-aid formula.

       4             These kinds of things greatly affect school

       5      districts' ability to comply and effectively phase

       6      in these educational reforms that we're talking

       7      about here today.

       8             They're acutely felt by small rural school

       9      districts throughout the state.

      10             They also -- what they do is, they entrench

      11      and they somewhat exacerbate the gap in educational

      12      opportunities from school district to school

      13      district.

      14             Right now, there are school districts, some

      15      school districts in New York State, saying, How do

      16      we identify and plan for every student that needs

      17      academic intervention services, to get those

      18      services?

      19             There are other school districts on the other

      20      side of the continuum that are saying, We don't have

      21      the resources to provide AIS to every kid we're

      22      mandated to provide these services to.

      23             Some school districts are planning right now

      24      to provide bifurcated high school programs for

      25      English and mathematics, so students will be


       1      prepared to take two types of Regents examinations

       2      at the end of the 13-14 school year.

       3             Some school districts are saying, We have

       4      resources for one roof.  That's what we're going to

       5      be doing.

       6             In terms of college- and career-readiness,

       7      that is actually the basis and the goal of the

       8      education reforms that we're talking about.

       9             We first started hearing about this in 2010.

      10             And it's interesting that, as of today, I've

      11      never really seen an operational definition of what

      12      "college- and career-readiness" is.

      13             It's loosely understood by many people, and

      14      we would submit, it's a concept that needs some

      15      reworking.

      16             It is counterintuitive to us, that there

      17      would be one threshold for students to successfully

      18      transition from high school to a college program,

      19      regardless of the college program they're interested

      20      in.

      21             It's counterintuitive to us, that there is

      22      one threshold for students to successfully

      23      transition from high school to career.

      24             And the idea that 35 percent of students are

      25      graduating from high school college- and


       1      career-ready does not match up to our reality.

       2             We think that the basis upon which that was

       3      calculated is erroneous and should be reexamined.

       4             Going one step further, to tell you the

       5      truth, we empathize with the concerns that you

       6      raised earlier.

       7             As we go through this transition for

       8      high school students, we are concerned that, as we

       9      go through the transition, that, nevermind

      10      successful transition to college; that the high

      11      school graduation rate will go down, that the

      12      high school dropout rate will go up.

      13             And we're also concerned, as we go through

      14      the transition time, how will New York State's

      15      high school graduates compete against graduates from

      16      other states that have not so quickly phased in

      17      their Common Core assessments at the high school

      18      level when they're competing for acceptance in the

      19      highly competitive colleges?

      20             We support the transition to the higher, the

      21      more rigorous Common Core standards, but you've got

      22      to keep in mind that this is a multi-faceted

      23      process.

      24             Beyond the adoption of standards, there's the

      25      development or the adoption of curriculum.


       1             Then there's the purchase or adoption of

       2      instructional materials.

       3             Then there's the transition to Common Core

       4      pedagogy.

       5             And then there's extensive professional

       6      development and local monitoring systems that have

       7      to be put in place to make sure that it's done with

       8      fidelity.

       9             This has been done in a very uneven way

      10      during the 2012-13 school year, and for good reason:

      11      certain parts of the state were hit with

      12      catastrophic weather events.

      13             School districts across the state had very

      14      different personnel and financial resources to

      15      implement these reforms.

      16             And the State Education Department, as late

      17      as August of 2012, was then rolling out curriculum

      18      materials and instructional materials, with the

      19      intent that they would be implemented during that

      20      school year, when it's too late.

      21             It's too late to do that in many of those

      22      school districts.

      23             Going on from there, APPR, I'll tell you, I'm

      24      very proud of school administrators around the

      25      state, because they have done a yeoman's job of


       1      doing all of these education reforms, the APPR,

       2      et cetera, that's been put on their plates.

       3             75 percent of school administrators that

       4      responded to a survey said they did not receive

       5      timely, helpful information from the State Education

       6      Department needed to phase in those reforms.

       7             77 percent of the school administrators

       8      reported that, not only did they not get any help

       9      from the school districts, not only did they not get

      10      any refinement or adjustment of their work

      11      responsibilities in their school districts; in fact,

      12      on the other side of the continuum, in many cases,

      13      assistant principals, deans, supervisors, were

      14      excessed, because of the financial challenges that

      15      they were facing.

      16             Nonetheless, the State Education Department

      17      fully expects that the APPR will have employment

      18      ramifications, despite the fact that it was phased

      19      in in a faulty sort of way.

      20             For example, their chief architect of the

      21      state of the APPR, or, the State Assessment System,

      22      Kristen Hull [ph.], on March 11th did a detailed

      23      presentation to the Board of Regents and SED

      24      leadership, explaining in great detail, how the

      25      2012 and 2013 3-to-8 results are not comparable.


       1             Nonetheless, they were compared.

       2             And then the State Education Department said,

       3      That's okay, because we're going to put in an

       4      additional layer of comparison, and that will make

       5      the invalid, unreliable data, valid and reliable.

       6             Some people call that "voodoo mathematics."

       7             To your point about the testing, and I know

       8      that you raised it in Long Island, because I was

       9      there as well, and here's the answer to your

      10      question:

      11             Virtually every school district is doing more

      12      testing today than they were four years ago.

      13             But the other part of the answer is, what is

      14      being done in one school district is different than

      15      what's being done in another school district, and

      16      many times within the same school district, what's

      17      being done for two different students at the same

      18      grade level may be different as well.

      19             So there is no clean answer to that.

      20             The other part of the equation is this:  For

      21      the state assessments themselves, the end game is

      22      college- and career-readiness.

      23             That's what it's all about.

      24             Not Common Core alignment, because that's

      25      just part of college- and career-readiness.


       1             So the answer -- the question is, When have

       2      we arrived?

       3             Because, in 2010, the cut points were

       4      adjusted.

       5             Why?  So that there would be alignment with

       6      college- and career-readiness.

       7             In 2010, the ELA scores, the proficiency rate

       8      dropped 24 points.

       9             The mathematics proficiency rate dropped

      10      25 points.

      11             That lasted three years, because we all know

      12      now, in 2013, we had new tests that were aligned.

      13             Why?  For Common Core alignment, and,

      14      college- and career-readiness.

      15             Again, for ELA, the proficiency rate dropped

      16      another 24 points.  That's 48 points altogether.

      17             The mathematics proficiency rate dropped

      18      34 points.  That's 59 points altogether.

      19             So the question is, Have we arrived?

      20             And the answer is, I don't know.

      21             Because here's where I'm coming from:  What's

      22      going to happen in 2014-15, when the

      23      PARCC assessments that you just heard about are

      24      going to be administered?

      25             We get different answers from the


       1      State Education Department as to whether those tests

       2      must be done on computer-based, or whether there

       3      would be some breakout in terms of doing it

       4      paper-and-pencil and computer-based.

       5             But what we're saying is this:  Is that going

       6      to be, flip over the Etch-A-Sketch, here we have a

       7      new baseline again?

       8             Should we be expecting that student

       9      performance is going to be declining again?

      10             We don't know.

      11             But here's the bigger question:  What's going

      12      to be happening for high school students in 14-15?

      13             Because the reality is, we've done two

      14      recalibrations of the 3-to-8 tests already, haven't

      15      we?

      16             We've never done a recalibration of the

      17      Regents exams.

      18             Never.

      19             And I've heard stories about students, just

      20      2013, middle-school students who successfully

      21      completed the Regents examination in mathematics,

      22      but didn't pass the Common Core test in mathematics,

      23      for eighth grade.

      24             What's going to happen when these tests are

      25      done for students, in terms of graduation rates, in


       1      terms of post-secondary-education opportunities,

       2      et cetera?

       3             I want to share one thing with you:  There is

       4      an alternative.

       5             There's an alternative model, and you know

       6      who's doing it?  The State Education Department.

       7             Because, during the current school year, in

       8      January 2014, there will be a new test administered.

       9      The test was actually developed by CTB/McGraw-Hill

      10      for the high school equivalency program.

      11             The test is called the "Test Assessing

      12      Secondary Completion."

      13             There's a three-year contract with

      14      CTB/McGraw-Hill, so that during, over a three-year

      15      period, those tests will evolve to become

      16      Common Core-aligned, because there is no capacity

      17      right now to administrator all those tests based on

      18      computers.

      19             The full expectation is 100 percent of those

      20      tests will start off being administered,

      21      pencil-and-paper, and will evolve as capacity

      22      evolves, so that they will become computer-based.

      23             In closing, I'd just like to say:

      24             We all are interested in doing what's right

      25      for kids.


       1             We want to do everything that we can to

       2      ensure their success in post-secondary-education

       3      opportunities that are commensurate with their

       4      interests and commensurate with their abilities.

       5             But as opposed to the State Education

       6      Department motto of, "Gee, we're kind of building

       7      this plane as we're flying it," I would propose we

       8      think about the Hippocratic oath.

       9             "First, do no harm."

      10             Thank you.

      11             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Jim, it may just be me,

      12      but I think you and David McMahon should probably

      13      stop drink Jolt Cola in the afternoon.

      14                  [Laughter.]

      15             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Your passion is obvious,

      16      and it's real and sincere.

      17             So, Senator Seward.

      18             SENATOR SEWARD:  Yeah, Jim, the next time,

      19      would you please tell us how you really -- how

      20      you're really thinking here.

      21             But, I appreciate all of your associates

      22      coming; and, particularly, Tim Heller from Groten,

      23      and Russ Kissinger from Mount Markham.

      24             They come from a certain Senate District at

      25      those schools.


       1             We're delighted to see you.

       2             It's pretty obvious we're talking about here,

       3      in terms of the testimony that Jim provided, a real

       4      disconnect between the principals who are really

       5      key, you know, in the buildings throughout the

       6      school districts, and the State Education

       7      Department.

       8             Some of the communication that our Chairman

       9      asked other witnesses today, I think we got the

      10      answer, your answer, in terms of a real disconnect

      11      between SED and the building principals around, at

      12      least in the districts represented here today.

      13             Is that --

      14             PAUL GASPARINI:  That's correct.

      15             SENATOR SEWARD:  -- fair to say?

      16             PAUL GASPARINI:  That's correct.

      17             Senator Seward, Paul Gasparini, from

      18      Jamesville-Dewitt High School, which is a suburb

      19      east of Syracuse here.

      20             I wanted to just let the Senate know, and

      21      then respond to something you asked to an earlier

      22      witness before the Committee.

      23             There have been -- our math department chair

      24      has been at Jamesville-Dewitt High School since

      25      1997.


       1             In that time, she has overseen four different

       2      curricular changes.

       3             She started with the math; course one, course

       4      two, course three, curriculum for math, and moved to

       5      Math AB; then it moved to the integrated algebra,

       6      integrated geometry, and Algebra II Trigonometry

       7      that we now have; and now it's Common Core.

       8             So in 15 years, we've had four different

       9      curriculum changes.

      10             It's very difficult to assess how effective

      11      any of them have been, when somebody who started in

      12      kindergarten, a kid has been going through school,

      13      there's been four curriculum changes for that

      14      student.

      15             That's a real concern.

      16             I really appreciated your question earlier

      17      about the modules, and the concern about modules.

      18             I think everybody who testified earlier today

      19      did a very nice job, but I do take issue with some

      20      of the answers about that.

      21             The problem -- you know, people say fear, or

      22      fear of change, et cetera.

      23             That's not it at all.

      24             I think, Senator Flanagan, you said in an

      25      earlier testimony, you talked about how important,


       1      how high stakes, the Regents exams are.

       2             Our algebra teachers today, "today," have no

       3      idea, "no idea," what the test their students are

       4      compelled to take in June of next year looks like.

       5             They have no idea what it looks like.

       6             And the only reason they're hewing as closely

       7      to the modules as they are, is because that's the

       8      only road path that they have, the only guidepost

       9      that they have, to that end.

      10             Nowhere else, "nowhere else," in education.

      11             And if I did that as a principal, said, Okay,

      12      we'll just drib and drab the curriculum out, and

      13      I won't so show you the test till the end, our board

      14      of education would have me fired.

      15             That would never happen.

      16             And I think that that's the biggest problem

      17      now, is that our teachers are told they have to go

      18      down this path, but they're given no direction on

      19      where the path leads.

      20             And that's, for me, the biggest concern we

      21      have with the algebra and the modules right now.

      22             SENATOR SEWARD:  Just a quick follow-up.

      23             In terms of, what's the answer here?

      24             Is it a -- more of a phased-in approach?

      25             Is that what you're suggesting is the answer?


       1             Is it --

       2             PAUL GASPARINI:  Yes, I would say that --

       3             SENATOR SEWARD:  -- we've gone too far, too

       4      fast?

       5             PAUL GASPARINI:  -- the building of the

       6      airplane in the air, I would say it in a different

       7      way:  That we're building a skyscraper, and we're

       8      starting on the tenth floor.

       9             I mean, if you really want to have a

      10      successfully integrated curriculum all the way up,

      11      you start with kindergarten, and you work your way

      12      through.

      13             I do not know why that that is not happening.

      14             I honest to God don't.

      15             And then you will have a very articulated,

      16      well-scaffolded, strong infrastructure for

      17      education.

      18             Building an education infrastructure takes

      19      time.

      20             You can't just say, Here it is, and it's all

      21      built in a year.

      22             SENATOR SEWARD:  What would you say to the --

      23      and I'm not disagreeing with you at all, because

      24      I think, you know, I have concerns about too far,

      25      too fast, myself.


       1             But, what would you say -- I assume that if

       2      the department is still here, they would counter and

       3      say, Well, what about those students, first through

       4      twelfth grade, that are going to miss out on this

       5      more rigorous program that would better prepare them

       6      for both college and career?

       7             PAUL GASPARINI:  As I say, it's changed

       8      4 times over 15 years.

       9             TIMOTHY HELLER:  They've already missed out.

      10             So, in this past year's administration of ELA

      11      and math, starting in third grade, the State is

      12      assuming that the children have had the past

      13      three years of background information.

      14             You can't backfill that in a year, so,

      15      they've already missed the boat.

      16             So now we have to play catch-up, and the

      17      further the children are along that path, my last

      18      grade is fifth grade, so I have fifth-graders who

      19      have missed those first four or five years of

      20      foundational skills.

      21             You can't make that up, so they're always

      22      going to be behind.

      23             And the teachers are struggling with, Okay,

      24      which dart do I throw on the dart board to get

      25      closest to where I need to be?


       1             SENATOR SEWARD:  I know the hour is getting

       2      late, but, Mr. Chairman, one more comment or

       3      question here.

       4             When you say "they've missed out," I hope you

       5      don't mean -- they may have missed out on that

       6      particular set of goals, but not missed out on a

       7      good education in New York State.

       8             TIMOTHY HELLER:  No, no, you're right.

       9             I'm talking about --

      10             SENATOR SEWARD:  You know, we don't want this

      11      a condemning the great work that our public schools

      12      do.

      13             TIMOTHY HELLER:  No, no.

      14             SENATOR SEWARD:  At least the ones I'm

      15      familiar with in my area.

      16             MAUREEN PATTERSON:  But there are districts,

      17      like Liverpool, which is really somewhere between

      18      Fayetteville-Manlius, in terms of a wealth ratio,

      19      and Syracuse schools, in terms of their poverty

      20      ratio, that have jumped in.

      21             We jumped in even before the Common Core were

      22      adopted.  When they were in draft version, we

      23      created all kinds of data-point assessments so we

      24      could monitor where our students were, K through 12,

      25      so that we weren't doing anything with our students


       1      that they wouldn't miss out on an education as we

       2      went along.

       3             We've had data systems all along, we've been

       4      teaching our teachers.

       5             And I'll tell you, frankly, it's been between

       6      the administrators and the teachers who have created

       7      a very collegial relationship, and worked together

       8      on the evaluation system, worked together on the

       9      data systems, worked together to make it happen,

      10      because the kids are always the ones that sit in the

      11      center of the table for us; for not just our school

      12      district, but for all of our school districts.

      13             So, they're not missing out on anything, but

      14      do we believe they will be penalized down the road?

      15             Very concerned about the algebra assessment

      16      that's coming out.

      17             If those scores drop by that much next June

      18      for our math students, that will be that many more

      19      students that will need remedial work in summer

      20      school, another year of math, and it's also one of

      21      the first gauntlets that they have to face heading

      22      off to graduation.

      23             And I'm concerned that that four-year cohort

      24      is not going to be able to graduate in a timely

      25      manner because their assessments changed.


       1             Their instruction has been changing all long

       2      as we have beefed up the rigor over all of the

       3      years.

       4             But as the assessments have changed, and we

       5      have been forced to use those now for students, but

       6      this past year, for our teachers, to identify

       7      teachers' strengths and weaknesses.

       8             We do that in our evaluations.  We do that

       9      every single day when we work with our teachers.

      10             So, the system does need to slow down, and it

      11      needs to become more focused, and to be listening,

      12      not only to principals and assistant

      13      superintendents, but also to our students.

      14             RUSSELL KISSINGER:  I think one of the pieces

      15      in my school, as you know, 58.7 percent of my kids

      16      in the high school alone are on free and reduced

      17      lunch.

      18             In the 10 years I've been there, we've moved

      19      up, finally, past the 90 percent graduation rate

      20      last year.  We've moved up about 20 points, despite

      21      it being a more rigorous criteria to get a high

      22      school diploma.

      23             We've just introduced six advanced-placement

      24      classes this year.

      25             We had honors classes over the last couple of


       1      years, building confidence in the students and the

       2      staff, of academics.

       3             If we roll out a Common Core algebra test and

       4      the kids don't do well on it, the confidence in

       5      those kids right now is very, very fragile, they may

       6      not move on to geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.

       7             They may say, I'm clearly no good at math.

       8             And we're going to slide backwards, and

       9      that's my biggest fear.

      10             I put that test in front of my kids, they're

      11      gonna say, "I can't do it."

      12             TIMOTHY HELLER:  I also have parents

      13      reporting that their children, who have always loved

      14      school, and have always loved math in particular,

      15      don't want to come to school anymore.

      16             It's that aggressive for them to be

      17      successful.

      18             SENATOR SEWARD:  Thank you for your input.

      19             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Senator Tkaczyk.

      20             SENATOR TKACZYK:  I just have to follow up on

      21      what you just said, and what Jim said earlier, about

      22      "do no harm."

      23             When we did our public forum in Albany, we

      24      had a student, a 12-year-old, who talked about what

      25      it was like to take these tests.


       1             And he said:  What I learned in Boy Scouts

       2      is, the thing with first day, do no harm.

       3             He said:  I think that's what's going on

       4      here.  Please do no harm.  It's very stressful and

       5      discouraging, and we're so frustrated, and we don't

       6      understand why we're taking all these tests, because

       7      we want to learn.

       8             I think it was just really -- I'm really

       9      struck by, you know, the student said the same thing

      10      you just described.

      11             And I know the hour is late, but I -- and

      12      I have to leave after you're all gone, but I think

      13      we have to respect that you're all leaders in the

      14      educational system.

      15             And I think what -- what I don't see

      16      happening is, you're goal-oriented; you need to know

      17      what the goal is.

      18             And to me the goal is, getting kids college-

      19      and career-ready, and are you able to do that?

      20             It might mean different things on how you get

      21      there in the different schools, because of what

      22      you're dealing with.

      23             So I just wanted to you comment on, what

      24      would you do to get your kids more college- and

      25      career-ready, and do you have the resources to move


       1      in that direction?

       2             Or, are we spending so much focus on the

       3      testing and resources on the assessments, that we're

       4      not really able -- are you able to focus on the

       5      college- and career-ready goal that is really behind

       6      all of this?

       7             MAUREEN PATTERSON:  I think our high schools

       8      are focusing on that.

       9             And I know Paul can speak to that as our

      10      high school principal, too.

      11             But our high school has talked for years

      12      about restructuring, and really looking at those

      13      smaller learning communities, so that we can focus

      14      our children's strengths and their needs, and adjust

      15      academically.

      16             But, we heard Sharon Contreras talk about the

      17      mental-health issues that are out there.

      18             We need to address those also, before we let

      19      them leave the world, when they walk across the

      20      stage.

      21             And then we have to give them all kinds of

      22      internships and partnerships.

      23             And, right now, no, we don't have a lot of

      24      that time, to be able to find the other resources to

      25      do that.


       1             One of the resources I think that is truly

       2      missing, is the sharing between school districts.

       3             Many of us in the area do that together on

       4      all of these initiatives, moving forward, but we

       5      need to do that in particular, looking at the

       6      college- and career-readiness for our students.

       7             How are they doing in it one school district?

       8             How can we do that?

       9             And it shouldn't just start in ninth grade.

      10             We should be talking about kindergartners,

      11      and what are those soft skills that they need,

      12      moving through school, to cooperate, and learn how

      13      to speak to each other, and then they're ready to

      14      make some of those choices when they get to be in

      15      high school.

      16             PAUL GASPARINI:  Yeah, one of the things we

      17      did at -- we have a very high percentage of our

      18      students go on to college.

      19             We're very blessed in that regard.

      20             Over the course of the past 10 years, we've

      21      gone from, I think the number is about 88 students

      22      taking 150 AP exams, to, we have nearly 256 students

      23      now taking 435 AP exams.

      24             So we've been pushing rigor long before the

      25      rigor thing became the bell-ringer at SED.


       1             The issue that I have, as a former

       2      social-studies teacher, is my concern that, you

       3      know, we've had public schools in the United States

       4      for nearly 220 years.  Right?

       5             And one of the things that's been constant

       6      about our country over those 220 years, demographics

       7      have changed, our whole -- the way our country looks

       8      have changed, our economy's changed; but what hasn't

       9      changed, is that we're a democracy.

      10             And I very much am extraordinarily concerned

      11      that we are losing focus in schools, and teaching

      12      students to be good citizens, to being good role

      13      models, to grow up to be leaders, and involved with

      14      their community.

      15             And sometimes this drive, whether anybody --

      16      people don't like to say it, but it's a drive

      17      towards testing, sometimes I think takes away from

      18      the big picture about what is important for us as a

      19      nation.

      20             And that's our concern at times.

      21             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Pretty hard to follow with

      22      that answer.

      23             I have a couple of things.

      24             I certainly appreciate, again, your patience,

      25      and the time that you've spent listening to your


       1      colleagues in education.

       2             I'm asking this somewhat rhetorically, but

       3      I would appreciate your response, and you have to be

       4      careful.  You can't throw anything up here.

       5             One of the things that I have heard, kind of

       6      tangentially, is a lot of consternation about the

       7      time that's involved in doing observations and

       8      evaluations.

       9             And I have had some people, parents,

      10      basically say to me, like, What were they doing

      11      before?

      12             Wasn't that part of your responsibility?

      13             Weren't you supposed to be observing and

      14      evaluating before?

      15             I mean, I think I know the answer, but,

      16      frankly, hearing your response to that.

      17             You know, in the past, was it 10 percent of

      18      your work, and now it's, like, 37 percent?

      19             Or was it just -- is it something now that's

      20      far more aggravating because of paperwork?

      21             RUSSELL KISSINGER:  I'll tell you one of the

      22      big differences for me, is exactly what Paul just

      23      said.

      24             I build a lot of rapport with my students and

      25      I got to know them really well, in the hallways and


       1      the cafeteria, outdoor in the playing fields to

       2      watch them play sports.

       3             That's cut back so much now, because I'm in

       4      my office doing that paperwork.  And the kids don't

       5      know me like they used to.

       6             And I think that's going to have some really

       7      negative ramifications down the road.

       8             TIMOTHY HELLER:  It's about six to ten hours

       9      per teacher, per observation.

      10             And for non-tenured teachers, I have

      11      two observations and two walk-throughs to do.

      12             Okay?

      13             I'm it, in the building.

      14             I have an associate principal who also

      15      doubles as the CSE Chair.

      16             That -- we spend a lot of our time doing

      17      minutia.

      18             I have teachers who will tell me, I would

      19      much rather you come in my room more frequently, and

      20      just come in, than have to go the dog-and-pony show.

      21             And that's what they feel like it is.

      22             MAUREEN PATTERSON:  It was also learning a

      23      new system, because we now show -- chose have the

      24      rubrics to do, and we had to fill those out in a

      25      different way, and think about evaluating someone in


       1      a different way.

       2             So for the last couple of years, we've

       3      learned that new system.  And then we put it up with

       4      technology, and we've had to learn that system, for

       5      us first, and then to teach all the principals and

       6      the teachers how to participate in that.

       7             One of the things, at the end of the year, is

       8      that every teacher had what we call the "reflective

       9      rubric conference" with their principal.

      10             And the principals ended up having to

      11      schedule about an hour and a half with every

      12      teacher.

      13             It ended up to be wonderful time spent, and

      14      great conversations, but it was also time that both

      15      sides spent preparing for that.

      16             And they might have been able to do some of

      17      that in a different way, and had those conversations

      18      in smaller spurts over the course of the year; or,

      19      perhaps, done their observations in a different way,

      20      so that they really did save the time for the good

      21      conversations, that could happen one-to-one, that

      22      doesn't say, Here's what your number is, but here's

      23      what your strengths are.

      24             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  One last question, a

      25      two-part.


       1             You heard me ask this before, so, on the

       2      scale of 1 to 10, where would you put State Ed's

       3      effectiveness in terms of communicating in the

       4      field?

       5             And, correspondingly, if you could -- within

       6      reason, of course, if you could each say, Here's one

       7      thing I would like to see changed coming out of

       8      State Ed, what would it be?

       9             TIMOTHY HELLER:  I would give them a "4."

      10             And one thing that I would ask, is that they

      11      come and see people in the trenches, and see what

      12      the day is really like.  That we're not sitting

      13      around eating bonbons.

      14             MAUREEN PATTERSON:  I would give them a "4,"

      15      only because we have spent a lot of time going there

      16      instead, and getting right in front of them, being

      17      part of trainings, or going to the meetings that Jim

      18      holds with them, and being able to bring that back.

      19             So that's the only reason I think they've

      20      been even that responsive to us.

      21             And I have to agree with you, they need to

      22      come out.

      23             We invited State Ed to come out last year,

      24      and it took about six months before anybody even

      25      showed up in our school district, to really walk in


       1      to see what our students were doing and what our

       2      teachers were doing.

       3             RUSSELL KISSINGER:  I'd say probably a "3."

       4      I think their communication is a complex topic.

       5             They talk to us, they talk at us.

       6             I don't think they're listening to us.

       7             And I think it's a big part of communication.

       8             And I'd have to agree, I'd like for them to

       9      come out, and we've asked them many times, to see

      10      what it is that we're doing, and to see what our

      11      teachers are doing.

      12             You know, our teachers are crying; literally,

      13      crying.  They have no idea what to do next.

      14             In my district, we've lost so much.

      15             It is me.

      16             There's a superintendent, there's me.

      17             And there's principals in the middle school

      18      and elementary school.

      19             We build the APPR plan, we build the

      20      Common Core, we do all the training.

      21             We do all of it, and we do it as best as we

      22      possibly can, given the direction from SED.

      23             I don't know if they realize that.

      24             I'd like them to understand what we do.

      25             I'd like for them to come in and see what


       1      we're doing.

       2             PAUL GASPARINI:  I give SED a "3" for the

       3      reasons that I explained earlier, about the rolling

       4      out of the modules, and kind of going blind forward

       5      on this, the algebra; moving toward the algebra

       6      Regents.

       7             No one has any idea of what that assessment

       8      looks like.

       9             I think that's a big problem.

      10             That being said, I think your average

      11      person -- and I -- you know, I have kids, too, and

      12      I have kids who are in school, not in the school

      13      district in which I work.

      14             When I look to hear things from the school,

      15      I look for the school district.

      16             I don't look for SED.

      17             I don't consider SED the school district.

      18             I want to hear from -- and we operate on that

      19      philosophy, too.

      20             If people -- if the parents of the students

      21      in my school want to know anything, they're calling

      22      us.  They're calling the counselors, they're calling

      23      the assistant superintendent.

      24             Mostly, they're calling the building

      25      principals and assistant principals.


       1             So I think our school districts are doing

       2      well, and really are aware of communicating with the

       3      public.

       4             The one thing I would change, to answer that

       5      question, is I think that the New York State data

       6      dashboard is an enormous boondoggle and waste of

       7      money.

       8             I think you're rolling out $60 million for

       9      this, which is a redundant system.

      10             All of our school districts have systems that

      11      communicate with parents, all -- in which

      12      students -- parents can get their kids' grades via

      13      an online system, whether it's SIS Grade Book, or

      14      whatever.

      15             We have all of the data about student

      16      testing.

      17             We have all of the students' records.

      18             It is all available, and there.

      19             And the New York State data dashboard making

      20      districts buy into another system, in which they

      21      already have that information, is a redundancy.

      22             Race To The Top is supposedly paying it

      23      for -- for the first year.  I hear it's about

      24      $60 million.

      25             After that, my understanding is, that's


       1      another cost on school districts, and we're paying

       2      for the same thing twice.

       3             I think that's had an enormous waste of

       4      money.

       5             And if I had a recommendation, I'd say to

       6      move away from that.

       7             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  We've had extensive

       8      conversations with Ken Wagner, and the folks who do

       9      that work, on that very issue.

      10             But, two things -- well, three.

      11             One, thank you.

      12             Two, I don't need to be his spokesperson, but

      13      I do have to say Commissioner King travels a

      14      tremendous amount.

      15             He has been around -- I know he's been out in

      16      my area.  I think I've taken him on at least

      17      3 visits, and I'm one of 63 members.

      18             So, I know he's out there traveling.

      19             The disconnect may be in terms of what

      20      happens as a result of this.

      21             But on a slightly humorous note, hopefully,

      22      when I'm asking on the scale of 1 to 10, I think

      23      back to being in school, and I believe everyone can

      24      appreciate this:

      25             My parents were never as much concerned about


       1      the grade I got, as they were about the number that

       2      went with it.

       3             If you got an A-3 as opposed to a B-1, "1"

       4      being the better effort, I remember being chided

       5      periodically by my father and my mother for, you

       6      know, not having the best effort put forward.

       7             So, maybe next time I ask that question, I'll

       8      do it with a letter and a number, so...

       9                  [Laughter.]

      10             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much for

      11      your time.

      12             MAUREEN PATTERSON:  Thank you.

      13             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  David Little, New York

      14      School Boards.

      15             DAVID LITTLE:  Senator, I can cut to the

      16      chase.

      17             "10" for listening, "1" for their response to

      18      what they've heard, for a composite score of "5."

      19                  [Laughter.]

      20             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Okay.

      21             DAVID LITTLE:  Okay?

      22                  [Laughter.]

      23             DAVID LITTLE:  They've -- the testimony that

      24      I provided laid out a construct of an economic and

      25      an educational, as well as a social and kind of


       1      moral construct, and I don't want to get into the

       2      specifics of that because, obviously, you know, you

       3      can get to that.

       4             I'll give you two short anecdotes that,

       5      hopefully, will kind of focus us in on what's at

       6      stake here.

       7             When I -- the last thing I remember learning

       8      in law school was at our law school graduation, when

       9      Dean Josiah Blackmore, best name ever for a

      10      law-school dean, said to us, "You will never know

      11      more law than you do right now."

      12             Over time, the breadth of that knowledge

      13      drops off from recollection, the circumstances that

      14      you apply it to change so that it's no longer

      15      relevant, until what you're left with is a core

      16      essence of the ability to find the knowledge, assess

      17      it, put it in a rational context, extrapolate out

      18      what you need, and communicate that in an effective

      19      way to people.

      20             That's the Common Core learning standards.

      21             Okay?

      22             What happened 30 years ago in law school, and

      23      has served me well, is what's now being attempted in

      24      the Common Core learning standards, where they've

      25      recognized that in -- at an amazingly rapidly


       1      changing environment, where business for 40 years

       2      has always told us, "You're not producing employees

       3      that are usable to us," well, of course not, because

       4      business is a jet ski, while public education is a

       5      cruise ship.

       6             It takes us 17 years, hopefully, to get the

       7      kid through the entire process, when, as they've

       8      said, we have curriculum changes, we have business

       9      changes.

      10             Who would have ever thought that TWA wouldn't

      11      exist today has a company?

      12             Who'd think that the auto companies would

      13      need to be bailed out?

      14             Business changes too rapidly today for us to

      15      plan for 17 years from now, what a student's going

      16      to need in terms of content knowledge.

      17             What they need to be able to do, is to be

      18      able to access the information, figure out what

      19      they're going to do with it, put it into a context,

      20      and give it a usable form and be able to communicate

      21      that.

      22             So, I think, using my own son is probably the

      23      best example that I can use here.

      24             My younger son graduated from RIT.

      25             When he applied to RIT, it was not his first


       1      choice.  And he was told by several colleges, You're

       2      okay, but your school's not.

       3             And I took offense, because I've been

       4      president of that school.  And when I left being

       5      president of the school board at that school, we

       6      were ranked the highest school district in

       7      northeastern New York.

       8             They were right.

       9             Okay?

      10             When he got to RIT, it took everything he had

      11      for four years, not doing extracurriculars, not

      12      doing the kind of undergraduate experience that you

      13      would expect somebody to have, it took his entire

      14      focus, and one trip to the hospital, just to get

      15      through the program, because he wasn't prepared to

      16      be there, even though he was an excellent student in

      17      high school.

      18             They're telling the truth when they say that

      19      our kids aren't college- and career-ready.

      20             Now, whether colleges and careers ought to

      21      recalibrate according to what we can provide, that's

      22      a whole other issue.

      23             But this all started for him, and the reason

      24      he's such a poignant example, is because he was in

      25      the first class of fourth-graders that took the NCLB


       1      test; the fourth-grade assessments.

       2             Okay?

       3             And the first thing that happened, was, I was

       4      so excited when he was put into Mrs. Craney's [ph.]

       5      class in the fourth grade, because, for years, she

       6      had been known for being the teacher that really

       7      immersed the kids in things; that really had

       8      interactive experiences.

       9             For Thanksgiving, they're the ones that did

      10      the Native American and Pilgrim village in the whole

      11      classroom.

      12             In Danny's year, all that went out the

      13      window, because they had to get ready for the

      14      fourth-grade assessments.

      15             And when he came back, learning what he had

      16      gotten on those fourth-grade assessments, it stuck

      17      with me for, what, probably 15 years now, he said,

      18      "Daddy, I'm a '4.'"

      19             Not, I got a "4."

      20             Okay?

      21             "I'm a '4'; meaning that he'd been

      22      successful.

      23             And to me, that's central to what we're

      24      dealing with here, is that, to me, if kids are

      25      nauseous over taking exams; if kids are coming home


       1      identifying their own personality, identifying

       2      themselves based on their performance on a test,

       3      that's on adults.

       4             We've transmitted our concerns into a child

       5      that should never have those concerns.

       6             If there are fourth- and third-grade

       7      assessments going on, and we consider them to be

       8      high stakes, all a third-grader should know is, it's

       9      time for music, it's time for recess, it's time for

      10      math, it's time for the test, and then we have

      11      lunch.

      12             Because there is no -- I defy anybody to tell

      13      me what the high stakes are for a third-grader in

      14      that high-stakes exam.

      15             Okay?

      16             That third-grader shouldn't know whether or

      17      not there are high stakes to that test at all.

      18             Okay?

      19             So we have issues, and, certainly, the

      20      state of New York spends an inordinate amount of

      21      money on public education.

      22             We spend $59 billion.

      23             The entire United States of America spends

      24      590.

      25             So we're one of 50 states, but we're spending


       1      10 percent of the money here.

       2             Okay?

       3             An amazing amount of money.

       4             More than GE makes worldwide, more than many

       5      countries in the world have as a gross domestic

       6      product.

       7             Okay?

       8             An incredible amount of money; and, yet, we

       9      have historically intractable pockets of

      10      underperformance; a lack of academic performance

      11      that's absolutely unconscionable.

      12             To me, my colleagues in the ECB, all of whom

      13      were sitting here over the course of today, just

      14      yesterday, we put out a five-point plan for how to

      15      support the Common Core.

      16             I feel like the Dos Equis guy:  We don't

      17      always agree, but when we do, it's on the value of

      18      the Common Core learning standards.

      19             You know, and -- that, and the need for

      20      funding, and to change the inequable nature in which

      21      we fund, that, quite honestly, has doomed kids from

      22      birth because of their ZIP code, to an inadequate

      23      education; and, therefore, an inadequate future.

      24             So, from my perspective, the things that we

      25      need to do, and we don't have to enumerate them


       1      here, but there are five points in that ECB program

       2      for how we support the Common Core.

       3             I think that SED needs to recalibrate

       4      according to reality.

       5             I understand why they don't want to look

       6      behind them.  This is a Satchel Paige moment.

       7             They don't want to know what's gaining on

       8      them.

       9             They never planned to do this in the midst of

      10      the worst economic recession that we've faced in our

      11      lifetimes.

      12             But the fact is, that trying to do this when

      13      we're doing the 2008-2009 funding levels is an

      14      astronomical undertaking.

      15             And there are things that -- this is too

      16      important to do badly.

      17             Okay?

      18             And I don't care whether it takes more time,

      19      but, certainly, lost time is lost future for kids.

      20             I know that it will take more money to do it

      21      right, but the fact of the matter is, I asked my

      22      colleagues in the ECB at a meeting this summer,

      23      specifically, very directly and very poignantly,

      24      because people were expressing all the kinds of

      25      concerns that have been expressed here today, so


       1      I said:

       2             "What's Plan B?

       3             "If we're not going to do this, from my

       4      perspective, this is our generation's attempt, and

       5      if we're not going to do this, what are we going to

       6      do?

       7             "What's Plan B?"

       8             Nobody's got Plan B, other than to simply go

       9      back and have each individual classroom do the best

      10      job that they can, and have some kids succeed, and

      11      have some kids, depending upon which teacher they

      12      get, doomed for a generation again.

      13             It can't happen.

      14             Our state simply doesn't have the luxury,

      15      because of our political instability, because of our

      16      economic instability, right now.

      17             And until we find the next best thing, we've

      18      always had one thing in particular that's attracted

      19      people to us, whether it's been the Port or the

      20      Canal or the Industrial Revolution or Wall Street,

      21      until we get to the next thing, whether that's

      22      nanoscience, or whatever it is, the thing that we've

      23      got is our people.

      24             And right now, we're systematically

      25      preventing large portions of our population from any


       1      chance whatsoever of success in life.

       2             And the high debt level that we have, the

       3      high tax level that we have, is forcing our

       4      college-educated kids out of here.

       5             They're being replaced by an immigrant

       6      population that is not as immediately able to

       7      contribute to the economy.

       8             It's a downward spiral, that unless we figure

       9      this thing out, and unless we figure out a way to

      10      equitably get the resources to those pockets within

      11      our state that can't do it for themselves, and

      12      unless we do it in an effective means, and if it's

      13      not the Regents Reform Agenda, then we'd better

      14      figure out what it is, because we don't have the

      15      luxury of time.

      16             New York State doesn't have it.

      17             I just don't mean the sustainability of our

      18      educational system; our public educational system.

      19             I'm talking about the sustainability of our

      20      state, and our state's economy.

      21             We don't have the luxury of time to do this,

      22      unless we figure out, if the Regents Reform Agenda

      23      is not working, to me the Common Core does work, and

      24      let's figure out how to recalibrate and go forward

      25      quickly.


       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  David, same question

       2      I just asked all the administrators, if you could,

       3      obviously, within reason, "State Ed, change this,"

       4      what would the one thing be?

       5             DAVID LITTLE:  I think the one thing -- they

       6      do a phenomenal job of listening, you're absolutely

       7      right.

       8             I've been with the Commissioner three times

       9      in the last week and a half at three different

      10      forums.

      11             You know, he listens phenomenally.

      12             The department listens.

      13             They don't do a good job of communicating

      14      out, the absolute necessity of trying to do

      15      something, of trying to improve the level.

      16             You know, I think that, because of the

      17      intractability -- the historical intractability of

      18      the issues, I think they're daunted by what happens

      19      in places like Buffalo, and others, obviously.

      20             And I think that, until they get out into the

      21      community, and take what they've learned and turn it

      22      around and tell people why it's so important that

      23      they're doing this, then I think people are focused

      24      on the annoying aspects of this, rather than the

      25      absolutely vital need to turn this cruise ship


       1      around so that we actually start serving those

       2      pockets.

       3             Because, if we haven't gotten to the point,

       4      in the next few years, of being able to raise the

       5      achievement levels in those particular schools,

       6      because, you're right, we have the best education

       7      system in the world in this state.

       8             We also have one of the worst, because of

       9      this historic inequity that we have in our funding

      10      system that makes it largely dependent upon the

      11      resources of each individual community.

      12             So I would say, get them out and let them

      13      tell people why this is so important.

      14             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thanks, David.

      15             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you very much.

      16             Thank you for your patience.

      17             Mr. Phillips.

      18             Hang on one second.

      19                  [Pause in the proceeding.]

      20                  [The hearing resumed, as follows:]

      21             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Mr. Phillips, you have

      22      been so patient, and here so long, you have now

      23      grown a beard.

      24                  [Laughter.]

      25             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  But you look great.


       1             BILL PHILLIPS:  You know, as I was driving

       2      here, I was trying to figure out exactly how you

       3      were going to pick on my beard.

       4             And, you finally found it.

       5             Anyway, thank you for having me.

       6             And, actually, thank you for hanging in

       7      there.

       8             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Our pleasure.

       9             BILL PHILLIPS:  I'm going to talk about two

      10      things.

      11             I'm going to talk about a very narrow

      12      charter-schools issue, and then I'm going to talk --

      13      offer some general observations about the

      14      implementation of the Reform Agenda.

      15             So the narrow issue I want to talk about is

      16      actually school closures, high-stake consequences.

      17             I think it's important to talk about that

      18      because, I am fairly certain, in all your hearings,

      19      you're going to hear people be against high-stakes

      20      consequences.

      21             And I want to be clear, for chartering, it's

      22      fundamental to chartering.

      23             And that's why, as an organization, we've

      24      actually supported the closing of, actually, our

      25      member schools over a decade that didn't actually


       1      meet the terms of their charter.

       2             I'm going to talk about this a little bit

       3      from the standpoint of the Regents, less so than

       4      SUNY.

       5             In New York, you have two major agencies for

       6      chartering: SUNY and the Regents.

       7             I'm going to talk about the Regents on this

       8      issue.

       9             Let me just briefly talk about just charter

      10      basics.

      11             So chartering is, the schools get more

      12      autonomy, freedom and flexibility, for -- as a trade

      13      for charter-based -- closure-based accountability,

      14      and with these decisions, that should be made in a

      15      timely fashion.

      16             The charter is supposed to be five years.

      17             Until last year, the Regents had never closed

      18      a charter school for academic performance.

      19             It had been mostly for compliance issues -- a

      20      legal problem, financial problem -- but never for,

      21      You said you'd do X with these children

      22      academically, and you didn't make it.  Sorry, we're

      23      closing your school.

      24             In the meantime, they've actually put more

      25      rigorous metrics in place, but -- which is better,


       1      but there's still issues that remain.

       2             The problem that has now come up -- and,

       3      actually, we support that the metrics are more

       4      rigorous, but the problem that's come up, is they

       5      now have seventy-six of them.

       6             As in a charter -- the framework for

       7      chartering is now measured on 76 items, and the

       8      department has not been clear about what will

       9      actually get you closed.

      10             They're not going to hold the school -- it's

      11      not a case of, if you don't get all seventy-six,

      12      you're getting closed, but the problem is, the

      13      department won't tell us whether or not, is it

      14      forty? is it fifty?

      15             Are academic metrics more important than the

      16      other metrics?

      17             How so?

      18             We've asked them to be clearer on that, and

      19      we just cannot get any clarity.

      20             And so what we have now, is we have schools

      21      that are coming up for renewal, and they don't

      22      actually know what will cause them to be closed.

      23             You know, there's a couple -- you know,

      24      there's a couple of issues.

      25             Where this typically pops up, as you can


       1      imagine, is in the gray area; a school that's right

       2      on the border.

       3             The way that's historically been solved, is

       4      you'll get what's known as a "short-term renewal."

       5             You have a five-year charter.  Nobody's

       6      really clear as to whether or not you should get

       7      more, so you get two years.

       8             And what happens over time is, it goes, two,

       9      two, two, they don't make a decision.

      10             And that violates that third piece I talked

      11      to you about, which was the timeliness.

      12             What's frustrating about this right now, is

      13      that there are other states that have, actually,

      14      already solved this problem.

      15             Other states are using what's known as "a

      16      default-closure" approach, and here's the basic

      17      trade:

      18             The authorizer is very clear about what will

      19      get you closed:

      20             You have to meet this many metrics.

      21             If you don't meet this many metrics, you're

      22      not even allowed to apply.

      23             I mean, literally, the school is closed.

      24             It's actually fairer for both.

      25             It's fair for the school, because the school


       1      actually knows what matters; and it's better on the

       2      authorizer, believe it or not, because the way it

       3      works right now, the authorizer has to vote to close

       4      the school.

       5             A lot of our schools are in some pretty tough

       6      places, where you're -- you are legitimately worried

       7      that you're sending the kids to a worse place.

       8             If you set the default closure up in advance,

       9      essentially what happens is, the action takes place,

      10      the school could still have an appeal, but now the

      11      closure has been set.

      12             And if there's an extra reason for an

      13      exemption, then you make it.

      14             But the point is, that the default is

      15      towards, You didn't do what you said you would,

      16      you're closed.

      17             And that's fair to both.

      18             To date, we've talked to the Regents and the

      19      department about this, and they're just not open to

      20      it.

      21             Frankly, and I mentioned to you, because,

      22      actually, SUNY has already done this once with the

      23      UFT Charter School.

      24             Our preference would be to fix this through

      25      regulation.


       1             I just think it's a more flexible approach.

       2             But I'm telling you now, if we cannot get

       3      some flexibility on this shortly, we're going to

       4      come to you and ask for a legislative fix.

       5             The reason I think this is important, is we

       6      are talking about consequences.

       7             And even though the charter sector is a

       8      little bit different than the traditional-district

       9      sector, in that, we say this:  Closures are

      10      fundamental.

      11             You have some schools that are, obviously,

      12      you have to deal with this.

      13             And we have over 90,000 kids in charter

      14      schools now, so there is, obviously, something that

      15      can be learned from what we're doing.

      16             I would like to talk, just briefly, about

      17      some of the general observations.

      18             So I think the best way I would put it, as it

      19      relates to the Regents Reform Agenda, is I'm

      20      actually surprised that anybody is surprised by all

      21      this consternation.

      22             I mean, let's just think of what we're doing

      23      here.

      24             We have five major leverage points going on

      25      at the same time.


       1             You have the Common Core standards;

       2             You have the new testing;

       3             You have the evals;

       4             You have all the consequences hitting at the

       5      same time in a context where you just had a

       6      recession.  You don't have money.

       7             Frankly, my colleague who just spoke, David,

       8      his explanation and his testimony, you know, I won't

       9      repeat it, but if you want to get a better

      10      explanation of everything I just said on those

      11      five standards, he went through them beautifully.

      12             I think the problem that we are having, is

      13      that, either, you know, we've struggled to find --

      14      we've got these pressure points, but we've struggled

      15      to find a pressure-relief valve.

      16             Let me go through those -- a couple of

      17      those -- well, and, actually, the reason it concerns

      18      me is, I'm deeply concerned that the implementation

      19      of the Common Core, the standards themselves, will

      20      be conflated with and derailed by associated

      21      implementation problems.

      22             And I think this is where the Regents think

      23      they have to have sense of priority, getting the

      24      standards implemented and getting everybody used to

      25      them, is far and away their most important task.


       1             The other stuff is important, but we have to

       2      start showing some flexibility.

       3             Now, let me -- I want to take out a couple of

       4      the pieces here so that we can just talk about what

       5      I think is important.

       6             First of all, I want to go at the money

       7      first.

       8             There is a chart -- the Regents had a

       9      hearing -- I don't know if it was a hearing or a

      10      presentation, two years ago, where they talked about

      11      the financial pressures on public education.

      12             And I think, in their report, there is a

      13      chart that shows that, you know, the expenses bar

      14      going one way, and the revenue bar staying flat.

      15             That chart has terrified me for two years.

      16             There's just a staggering gap between our

      17      revenues and our expenses.

      18             We agree, wholeheartedly, with the need for

      19      equity.

      20             I suspect we might debate with some of my

      21      colleagues what "equity" actually means, but we

      22      agree that there's got to be equity.

      23             And I -- quite frankly, it's clear, the

      24      current model, the current way we're educating kids,

      25      is broken.


       1             And, you know, I think we have to accept, in

       2      the education community, that there's a lot of

       3      pressure on the Legislature already.  There's only

       4      going to be so much you can do on finances.

       5             I thought Tom Rogers said it well, when he

       6      said, "We're going to have to do a better job with

       7      what we have."

       8             I know you're gonna try to get us more and

       9      more every year, but, at some level, we're going to

      10      have to do something different with what we have.

      11             To be clear:  I agree that the reasons were

      12      right to move to the higher standards, as I've

      13      already said.

      14             And, I think I'm like a lot of my colleagues,

      15      I actually think they did the right thing in doing

      16      the testing early.

      17             Now, there's a couple of reasons why I think

      18      that makes sense.

      19             The reason I think the testing early made

      20      sense, it was a measure of how far along we were

      21      with the implementation, with the curriculum that's

      22      aligned to the standards, and the teaching practices

      23      that we needed to align to the standards.

      24             I think it is just human nature: you're not

      25      as far as you think you are until you've actually


       1      measured.

       2             And, look, let's be clear, most of the

       3      charters, you know, got hit just as hard as the

       4      district schools, so this isn't us saying, Look, the

       5      charter schools did great.  What are you're all

       6      worried about?

       7             We struggled, too.

       8             But I just think, until we publicly measured,

       9      that sense of urgency just really, truly, wasn't

      10      going to kick in.

      11             The other thing that I think is also

      12      important, is I think the Regents have gone out of

      13      their way to say that this was a baseline year, and

      14      that there shouldn't be consequences against schools

      15      and teachers for this work.

      16             Now, as you noted, Mr. Chairman, I've

      17      actually listened to a lot of testimony today, so

      18      there's clearly a disconnect in what the Regents and

      19      Commissioner were saying, and what some of the

      20      schools are saying.

      21             I think that's a perfect place for the

      22      Legislature to chime in.

      23             I think the Regents are right to say this

      24      year should be a baseline and there should be no

      25      consequences, and I think the Legislature should


       1      make sure that's actually what happens.

       2             I think that's only fair.

       3             Just to be clear, as it relates to charters,

       4      we have some charters that up for renewal this year,

       5      and in particular, I'm thinking of three schools

       6      that were given one-year short-term renewals.

       7             I don't actually know how we would use the

       8      data from this test to make a decision.

       9             And, quite frankly, I think any renewal that

      10      comes up, any renewal that comes up where this

      11      year's test data would be the determinative issue,

      12      I don't know how you would vote to not renew it.

      13             Want it to be very clear on one piece there,

      14      I'm focused on the data there.

      15             If a charter school has a financial problem,

      16      or it has a legal irregularity, or it has, you know,

      17      governance problems, that's a totally separate

      18      issue, but if the data is the determining point, you

      19      shouldn't be closing it this year, at least based on

      20      this year's data.

      21             Okay, just one final point about consequences

      22      and time.

      23             I mean, that's what I talk about when

      24      I'm mentioning the baseline.  I'm talking about

      25      you've got time.  That's probably one of the few


       1      tools you have to move things.

       2             In Long Island, I thought Senator Marcellino

       3      and the Regent Tilles had a really thoughtful

       4      conversation about some districts that were

       5      struggling, as to what do you do with -- I mean,

       6      I think talked -- they called them

       7      "failing districts."

       8             What I appreciated about the conversation,

       9      was that there was an appreciation that we in the

      10      education community, the Legislature, we can all do

      11      everything, but there's just going to be some

      12      districts and some schools that just simply do not

      13      get better, or do not get better quick enough, and

      14      there is a point where you have to do something more

      15      dramatic.

      16             I remember the Regent's response was about

      17      changing of leadership, but then he noted one other

      18      thing that I thought was interesting, which he said,

      19      Well, you know, maybe the other thing you do is, you

      20      let these kids go to magnet schools.

      21             I would like to humbly suggest that they

      22      could go to charter schools, and that we could,

      23      actually, maybe start regional charter schools.

      24             I'll tell you why I think this is actually

      25      important.


       1             There's been a lot of conversations about

       2      consequences, and I think the reality is, that the

       3      public can actually only take so much in terms of

       4      consequences.  They have to actually see some hope.

       5             And so, really, the only two levers I can

       6      think of, is that you actually either buy some time

       7      to have some successes, or, you actually give them

       8      better choices that they can go to.

       9             That's my testimony.

      10             SENATOR VALESKY:  Just a couple of quick

      11      points, actually.

      12             BILL PHILLIPS:  Sure.

      13             SENATOR VALESKY:  One question that I had,

      14      you answered.

      15             This issue of the default closure?

      16             BILL PHILLIPS:  Yes.

      17             SENATOR VALESKY:  So you are the working with

      18      the Board of Regents and that the department, but if

      19      that's not successful, you think a legislative

      20      remedy might be necessary?

      21             BILL PHILLIPS:  Yes, I do.

      22             SENATOR VALESKY:  And that you would come to

      23      us at that point?

      24             BILL PHILLIPS:  Correct.

      25             We've had some closures that have came up,


       1      that we gave suggestions as to how we thought we

       2      could handle them.

       3             The problem for the Regents, is they were

       4      changing their standards in midstream, and so you

       5      had schools that had started under one set, and

       6      ended up under another.

       7             And I thought the fairest thing would have

       8      been to actually just buy them some time, and

       9      actually just make really clear standards, and say

      10      You're automatically closed if you didn't hit them.

      11             And that was not accepted, and the Regents

      12      got sued.

      13             And I think they'll get through that, but

      14      I just think it's the canary in the coal mine, quite

      15      frankly.

      16             And if -- and, so far, the suggestions

      17      haven't really gone anywhere.

      18             We will, obviously, try again.

      19             Failing that, I will be visiting.

      20             SENATOR VALESKY:  Bill, the other thing I was

      21      gonna raise, in terms of your comments in regard to

      22      the baseline year as opposed to these assessments.

      23             I'm not sure how the Legislature -- I think

      24      you implied that the Legislature could have a role

      25      in ensuring that that's the case?


       1             I'm not sure how --

       2             BILL PHILLIPS:  Well, essentially, people are

       3      having a problem with -- they're having a --

       4             Excuse me, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

       5             SENATOR VALESKY:  No, go ahead.

       6             BILL PHILLIPS:  They're having -- what people

       7      are having trouble with is consequences.

       8             They're -- it's actually -- I don't think

       9      people really have trouble with the data.

      10             I think they have problems with that people

      11      are being held accountable in ways that I think --

      12      you can make conceivable arguments that they're

      13      being held accountable, employment-wise or school

      14      existence-wise, based on a scenario that's not been

      15      fair to them.

      16             I think -- I mean, I heard the Commissioner

      17      talk about how 80 percent of it was under the

      18      control of the local school district.

      19             I do actually think what you could do, is you

      20      just -- I think it would be very easy to add

      21      something in a piece of legislation that said, that

      22      there will be no -- you know, there will be no

      23      consequences.

      24             List out the consequences based on this set

      25      of data.


       1             I would really hope you don't have to go that

       2      far.

       3             I feel the same way about the closure piece

       4      as I do about that.

       5             But at the end of the day, look, you all are

       6      providing the pressure-relief valve.

       7             You're asking the questions in your hearing,

       8      and, clearly, you be wouldn't be having these

       9      hearings if you weren't hearing a lot from the

      10      public.

      11             Right?

      12             And so that's a -- you know, that's a very

      13      blunt tool, but sometimes it's a necessary tool.

      14             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you.

      15             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  And, listen, I would come

      16      to Syracuse if Senator Valesky invited me anyway.

      17             DAVID SYRACUSE:  Dinosaur Barbecue, and all

      18      that, I understand.

      19             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Paul knows, he's a

      20      graduate, a proud graduate of [unintelligible]

      21      Syracuse [unintelligible].

      22             Thank you for your patience, and your


      24             BILL PHILLIPS:  Sure.

      25             I'm not leaving until you ask for the number.


       1             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  [Unintelligible].

       2             BILL PHILLIPS:  "7."

       3             The reason I have them as a "7," is

       4      I actually -- I deeply admire their vigor in

       5      implementing the standards, and I thought it took a

       6      lot of courage to do the testing piece, for which

       7      they're, you know, taking a bunch of grief.

       8             If you asked me one thing I would change,

       9      their sense of urgency, it lacks humility.

      10             And what I mean by that is, they have an

      11      uncanny ability to pick -- they pick every fight.

      12             And what I mean by that is -- so, for

      13      instance, I'll give you a district example, and then

      14      I'll give a charter example.

      15             I recall a year ago, they were in a fight

      16      with the Buffalo teachers, because the teachers

      17      didn't want to be held accountable for performance

      18      of kids that weren't in their -- that never showed

      19      up.

      20             I don't know how many kids we were talking

      21      about or how many teachers, but I just -- that

      22      seemed like a pretty reasonable concern.

      23             And I couldn't understand why we couldn't

      24      just sort through that, and we fought about that for

      25      six months.


       1             On the charter-school side, I don't know if

       2      you realize this, but the -- well, they're asking

       3      for data from schools as to how we evaluate our

       4      teachers.

       5             That is -- it's not contained in our charter,

       6      so they're asking us to, essentially, manufacture

       7      data so they can fill out a data component.

       8             We have been very clear, that if a

       9      charter school takes Race To The Top money, that you

      10      have to play by their rules.

      11             The charter schools actually had a choice,

      12      and the ones that didn't choose, I -- it's offensive

      13      to be asked to provide data that doesn't exist in

      14      our charters just so that they can have a complete

      15      data set.

      16             It's offensive, and I think just bad policy.

      17             We've been arguing about that for a year.

      18             It just seems to me that we're -- you know,

      19      as much as we have 90,000 kids, and maybe half of

      20      the schools now are not doing the Race To The Top

      21      piece, that's still -- seems to me it's a big old

      22      fight for not a lot of kids, and there's got to be

      23      better things to do.

      24             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Very good comments.

      25             Thank you.


       1             BILL PHILLIPS:  My pleasure.

       2             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  All right, last, but by

       3      certainly no means least, we are joined by one of

       4      our colleagues in the Assembly,

       5      Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, who has come to the

       6      realization, based on today, that he will never run

       7      for the Senate.

       8             ANTHONY BRINDISI:  This will be the shortest

       9      testimony you've ever heard, Senator.

      10             And I brought you an apple doughnut, because

      11      I know it's a long day.  We stole it from

      12      Mayor Miner's office, so feel free to help yourself

      13      to an apple doughnut from the local farmers market.

      14             Again, Senator Flanagan, Senator Valesky,

      15      thank you so much for being here in Syracuse today,

      16      and allowing me to testify at the hearing.

      17             Very briefly, I just want to shift focus a

      18      little bit away from Common Core and the

      19      Regents Reform Agenda, and talk a little bit about

      20      the future of education policy in New York State.

      21             And specifically what I would like to address

      22      is, what I see as the need to create alternative

      23      pathways to a high school graduation; and,

      24      specifically, a career-and-technical-education

      25      pathway, or, a CTE diploma.


       1             I think we've all heard from manufacturers

       2      across the state, they have this problem where they

       3      have job openings, but they cannot find enough

       4      skilled workers to find their job demands.

       5             And in a state that's making big pushes into

       6      nanotechnology, biosciences, advanced manufacturing,

       7      as well as a state that still has a proud and long

       8      history of traditional manufacturing, I think that's

       9      a big problem.

      10             For the last three years, since the

      11      "Pathways To Prosperity" report from Harvard came

      12      out, talking about the importance of CTE programs in

      13      high schools, the Board of Regents has been studying

      14      this issue.

      15             We've gone through committees, blue-ribbon

      16      panels.

      17             Now there's talk of doing a symposium in the

      18      fall, to look at how we can expand CTE offerings to

      19      high school students.

      20             But to me, other states are already acting.

      21             You look at places like Massachusetts that

      22      have vocational high schools.

      23             You look at California which has 500 career

      24      academies.

      25             You look at Florida that has CTE pathways


       1      that require students to get industry-recognized

       2      certifications for graduation.

       3             We're not moving fast enough here, and we see

       4      a real middle-skills job gap opening up in

       5      New York State.

       6             So what I have done is, I've proposed

       7      legislation.  It's not introduced yet.

       8             It already has 12 co-sponsors in the

       9      Assembly, and we're looking for Senate sponsors as

      10      well, to create a CTE pathway to a high school

      11      graduation, or, a CTE diploma, which really

      12      substitutes either electives or Core classes with

      13      approved CTE-approved coursework.

      14             You could graduate high school with an FAA

      15      certification, or a Cisco-certified entry

      16      networking-technician certification, which would

      17      open the pathway up for eight different career

      18      paths, whether it's computer-networking specialist

      19      or computer web design.

      20             The goal really is to increase the number of

      21      students going into apprenticeships, and to help

      22      students get into two-year community colleges to

      23      advance their certification.

      24             I think this is going to do wonders to help

      25      reduce dropout rates in the state, and really help


       1      boost our graduation rates, which we've been talking

       2      a lot about today.

       3             You know, for me, the time is now to act.

       4             We've been studying this issue for a long

       5      time.  The Board of Regents has looked at this for a

       6      long time.

       7             I know it's not the usual way of doing

       8      business in New York State.

       9             Usually we get recommendations from SED and

      10      the Board of Regents, and then we put it into

      11      legislation, but, in this case, I think it's

      12      incumbent upon us, as a Legislature, to step and up

      13      act, and give a timeline to the Board of Regents and

      14      SED to create a true CTE pathway.

      15             Not another committee, not another

      16      commission; let's get moving and create a pathway so

      17      students can start graduating with a CTE diploma in

      18      2015.

      19             So, that's where we are right now.

      20             That's the basis of my testimony.

      21             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Is your point that we

      22      should set up a timeline?

      23             Or, we -- are you advancing the notion that

      24      you want to say exactly what that CTE should do?

      25             ANTHONY BRINDISI:  I don't want to say


       1      exactly.

       2             I think there are experts in SED, I think

       3      there are people out there smarter than I am, who

       4      can develop the pathways.

       5             I think, you know, we -- they're very close,

       6      about a year ago, to implementing a CTE pathway, the

       7      Board of Regents.

       8             And what they were talking about doing, is

       9      removing the "global studies in geography" Regents

      10      and then implementing a CTE substitution.

      11             They got a lot of pushback from the

      12      global-studies lobby.

      13             I didn't know we had a global-studies teacher

      14      lobby, but we do, and they abandoned that, and they

      15      put it back to their commission, and they've been

      16      studying the issue ever since.

      17             So, I don't want to develop the exact

      18      curriculum.

      19             I think we can look at what other states are

      20      doing, and look to the "Pathways To Prosperity"

      21      report that Harvard did, for some models that we can

      22      implement here in New York State, but I think we

      23      really need to gave a timeline to Board of Regents

      24      and SED to move forward on this, because, like

      25      I said, with nanotechnology moving west of the


       1      Capitol District, with biosciences in the

       2      Hudson Valley and Long Island, and with advanced

       3      manufacturing making a big push back into the state,

       4      we can't wait.

       5             We really need to implement a

       6      career-and-technical-education pathway for our

       7      students so they can graduate, and then advance

       8      their certifications on to two-year community

       9      colleges.

      10             The Syracuse Superintendent talked about the

      11      50 students who shall be partnering with MACNY, the

      12      Manufacturers Association, to get two-year degrees

      13      before the students graduate -- when students

      14      graduate high school.

      15             Why not open that up to all students?

      16             There's some students that, frankly, you

      17      know, the Regents diploma is not meant for them.

      18             It's, really, you know, they're more hands-on

      19      learners, and we should give them a pathway to

      20      receive a high school graduation.

      21             Not sacrificing rigor.  I understand we don't

      22      want to dumb-down the curriculum, but we really need

      23      to give a pathway for students who are going into

      24      these advanced manufacturing jobs, which New York is

      25      very big into right now.


       1             We need to give them a pathway to graduate.

       2             I brought an article from the

       3      "Albany Business Review."

       4             Last week, there was an insert in the

       5      "Businesses Review," talking about growth and

       6      change, and it's talking about the resurgence of

       7      manufacturing in New York State.

       8             And they profile a woman who had dropped out

       9      of high school.  She had bounced around different

      10      jobs for about ten years.

      11             And, then, finally, she took her GED, and she

      12      got into Hudson Valley Community College, in the

      13      manufacturing technical-assistance program, where

      14      they have a 98 percent -- 98 percent of the students

      15      graduating from this program are employed before

      16      they graduate.

      17             And they talk about the need for more skilled

      18      workers in the state, but we just don't seem to be

      19      moving fast enough to implement programs to do this

      20      in our high schools.

      21             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  It certainly would require

      22      a discussion with the Governor's Education Reform

      23      Commission as well.

      24             Assemblyman, we thank you.

      25             And it's -- frankly, it's unusual to have one


       1      of our Assembly colleagues at this fine hearing, but

       2      I can tell you that the overarching reason that

       3      you're here, is because Senator Griffo gave you the

       4      green light.

       5             ANTHONY BRINDISI:  I heard.

       6             And you have a wonderful evening to spend

       7      with him, too, tonight.

       8             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Yes.

       9             ANTHONY BRINDISI:  You can do it all again

      10      tonight.

      11             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  That's it.

      12             For those who are still listening, and those

      13      who are still in attendance, this concludes our

      14      hearing for today.

      15             We did start a little late, for which

      16      I apologize again.

      17             This is a 5 1/2 hour hearing.

      18             All the testimony that will go up, I think it

      19      will probably be up tomorrow, live, for anyone who

      20      wants to watch a recorded version of this.

      21             And we intend to continue to put the written

      22      comments that we receive as part of record.

      23             The next hearing is going to be in Buffalo on

      24      October 16th.

      25             We look forward to seeing people there.


       1             And --

       2             SENATOR VALESKY:  And before you bang the

       3      final gavel, can I have one final minute?

       4             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Well, I -- yes.

       5             But I want to thank Senator Valesky for his

       6      patience, and for all the good help.

       7             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thank you.

       8             I just wanted to take the liberty as the host

       9      Senator, to giving you, Senator Flanagan, a grade of

      10      "10" for your conduct of this hearing, and of your

      11      commitment to this issue.

      12             SENATOR FLANAGAN:  Thank you.

      13                  [Applause.]

      14             SENATOR VALESKY:  Thanks, everybody.

      15                  (Whereupon, at approximately 4:26 p.m.,

      16        the public hearing held before the New York State

      17        Senate Standing Committee on Education concluded,

      18        and adjourned.)

      19                            ---oOo---