REF recently met with State and Federal Legislators and outlined this set of requests:


Funding:
  • Federal - Fully Fund IDEA: Federal Funding is 17% - $10.5 Billion short of initial commitment. At the same time Special Education costs have increased 40% in the past 5 years in NYS. Appropriately funding IDEA would enable school districts to maintain programs such as full day kindergarten and reasonable classroom sizes that contribute greatly to student education.
  • State - Fund the scoring and copying of NYS standardized tests: NYS schools are spending thousands of dollars annually scoring and copying state tests. Theses costs are attributed either to sending tests to outside vendors such as the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center (LHRIC) for scoring or hiring substitute teachers to be in the classroom while teachers are scoring tests, taking more time away from valuable classroom instruction. Many other states, including NJ, handle the scoring and copying of state tests.
  • State - Fund the technology that will be needed to implement mandated PARCC Assessments in 2014 - PARCC received an $186 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top assessment competition <http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/index.html> to support the development and design of the next-generation assessment system, however there does not appear to be any funding allocated for the hundreds of computers needed to give the PARCC assessments - for more information - http://www.parcconline.org/about-parcc

Testing Specifics:

  • Federal & State - Revise the RTTT requirements and NYS APPR regulations that link teacher evaluations to student test scores - Parents throughout NYS believe that this method for evaluating schools and teachers creates negative consequences for students whose teacher's livelihood is now based on student performance on tests. View this link for some specifics - https://nyack-ref.wikispaces.com/APPR+costs+%26+commentary . We would like to explore other methods for ensuring that teachers and schools are addressing student needs adequately.
  • State - Shorter, better standardized tests created in collaboration with educators, not top down from corporations: NYS standardized tests have increased from being given in 2 grades, for 4 days of 45 minute tests, to being given in 6 grades , for 6 days, of 90 minutes each. There were also significant errors in this year's tests created by Pearson. We would like to see more quality control oversight before the tests are given to students. Attached is the NYSSBA paper about "Testing Effects on Instruction" which highlights the problems and potential solutions.
  • Federal - Suspend the RTTT mandate requiring states to create a database to track student records across states: NYS has joined The Shared Learning Collaborative, a group that has been charged with creating a set of shared technology services to manage student data. The ACLU has issued a statement ( http://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/students) questioning the legality of how much and in what ways student information can be shared.

Mandates:
Federal and State:
  • NO NEW UNFUNDED OR PARTIALLY FUNDED MANDATES: Both the Federal and State government continue to impose mandates upon schools that cost money that schools just do not have. Race To The Top and the NYS APPR are huge, grossly underfunded mandates. Let's use the recommendation made by Cuomo's own NYS Mandate Relief Redesign Team in it's 2011 report to retroactively solve some of these problems :

Prohibit New Unfunded Mandates
Permanently fix the problem of unfunded mandates by advancing a constitutional amendment – and in the meantime a state law –providing, with very limited exceptions, that new state mandates on local governments, including school districts, will not be effective unless the State fully funds the mandate or the local government affirmatively votes to comply with the mandate.

Require Independent Cost Analysis of Mandates
Strengthen the current ineffective fiscal impact statement process by requiring legislative fiscal committees to determine the need for and prepare fiscal impact statements, codifying Executive Order 17 fiscal impact statement methodology and local government consultation
requirements, and assuring that decisions, determinations and methodologies are posted on electronic bill status portals.