Sunday, August 7, 2016

Words Matter, Mr. Paladino!

This weekend a School Board member made national news when he went on the record to express his views/opinions about our President’s religious affiliation.  Carl Paladino cited patently false and repeatedly debunked accusations that President Obama “is a Muslim, not a Christian.” Further his remarks insinuated that President Obama, if not a Muslim is a “sympathizer”.  Although he leaves the listener to surmise with what or whom the President identifies, he clearly believes the President is un-patriotic, is only supported by the “uninformed” or the “elite” and doesn’t care about the average American. While these remarks would appear to be aimed only at the President, the covert message is that somehow, being a Muslim is a problem; signals un-American tendencies; is intolerable and sinister.   

I am appalled that an educational decision maker would make such remarks without consideration of their impact on the student population he serves.  And as a fellow Board member, I believe that silence becomes complicity in support of this behavior. It should be acknowledged that Mr. Paladino has freedom of speech to express his views.  And he is doing that as a citizen not as a Board member. Likewise, my comments are not made on the behalf of the Board or of myself, as a Board member. In fact, the Board is prevented by Education Law from formally admonishing or sanctioning one of its members.  However, as Mr. Paladino has, I also have the right, and the obligation, to exercise my free speech rights and do so as a grandmother, child advocate and educational stakeholder. 
Buffalo Schools serve over 34,000 students.  African American, Latino, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islanders comprise nearly 80% of our student population.  An increasing number of our students are immigrant children who come from countries where the predominant religion is Islam.   We also recognize that many of our students, American citizens, are Muslims.  Our country was founded on the belief that religious freedom is a fundamental right.     All of our children, regardless of religious preference, deserve and MUST see educational leaders/adults modeling behavior that demonstrates a valuing, respect and tolerance of difference. Our educational system actively promotes the goal that “All students will demonstrate the ability to live harmoniously and to cooperate with others, valuing the enrichment provided by diversity, and incorporating our democratic civic values of equal opportunity, justice, and peace.”  In other words, we message that regardless of race, creed, religion, national origin or sexual orientation we expect the ideal that all will treat each other with dignity, honesty and respect. That includes adults. 

Our students understand coded language.  They are more technologically savvy than most adults and they respond to social media in formats that we’ve never heard of.  Comments such as those made by Mr. Paladino are not confined to CNN or the Buffalo News.  Our students understand the hypocrisy of adults, who exercise situational ethics in their interactions. They reject the attempt to impose a set of standards for behavior on them that are not mirrored in the behavior of those who make the policies. They expect us to model the behavior, adhere to the ideals and validate the goals we’ve developed to guide the system. Yes, words matter, actions matter.  Our students are watching us Mr. Paladino.  What will you do or say next?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Revisiting ELA and Math 2016

It’s that time of year again.  Last Friday, the New York State Commissioner of Education released the results of the annual English Language Arts (ELA) and Math standardized tests.   The results for Buffalo’s students showed an increase in proficiency, 4.5 points in ELA over last year’s tests (11.9% to 16.4%) and a 1 point increase in the Math proficiency (15.1% to 16.1%).  These scores exceed those of Rochester and Syracuse but they’re still low compared to our suburban counterparts.  Buffalo’s scores also reflect a similar small increase noted in the overall state numbers; ELA scores moved from 31.3 %  to 37.9%, a 6.6% increase, while the State Math scores increased by 1%, from 38.1% to 39.1%).

Aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards these tests have been in place since the 2012-13 school year.  A review of four years of test results shows that only about a third, at its lowest 31.1% (both ELA and Math) to 37.9% and 39.1%, of students this year have tested proficient.  Alterations in the 2016 tests such as a reduction in the number of questions and removal of the time restriction on the testing session gave students an unlimited time to complete the tests.  Did these adjustments contribute to the increase in scores?  At this time the State has not studied the impact of these significant changes on the overall test results. In announcing this year’s results, the State Commissioner acknowledged that State Ed could not determine reasons for the increase in test scores and cautioned making comparisons to last year’s test.   The reality is that the State will have difficulty making valid comparisons between this year’s tests and previous ones given the substantial modifications made to the 2016 testing cycle and the apparent failure to build in a method to determine the influence of the changes.   What else is there to learn about the validity of these numbers?  

However for those who profess belief in the sanctity of these tests, Buffalo’s results demonstrate a positive trajectory, are better than two of our Big 5 colleagues and in line with the statewide percentage increases.  Nonetheless in many instances the response to these numbers is the predictable labeling of our students, schools and District as failing and in need of reform.  Most often these calls for reform propose more charter schools, school takeover, e.g. receivership, parental choice strategies, or school closure.  There is little understanding and less dialogue about the substance of the standardized tests, the unfair weight, in the name of accountability, assigned to test results or about the human toll associated with standardized testing.

Opponents of the ELA/Math standardized tests, including myself, have cited the recurring assessment problems of these high stakes tests;

These tests:  1) are not developmentally appropriate – reading levels are far above the grade level being tested 2) are not diagnostic; they don’t provide information that helps the teacher target individual student learning needs 3) are not differentiated by student need as almost all children take the same test, regardless of their cognitive ability or their English language proficiency; it’s a one size fits all approach  4) encourage teaching to the test at the expense of time for other subjects  5) demoralize and frustrate children.

This year, however, I also heard from parents and staff in our District about other ways in which these tests negatively impacted our students’ sense of well-being and self-esteem and contributed to a culture that could impugn the integrity of our District.  I heard of students who were anxious about the tests to the point of getting sick in their classrooms; children who were crying, demoralized and frightened;  and children who sat for these tests for 6-8 hours!  As alarming, I also heard stories about administrators and teachers who sent subtle and not too subtle messages about the critical importance of these tests, not just to the student but to the school:  who convinced parents who were thinking of refusing the tests to change their decision to opt out; who planned school activities that either rewarded students who tested or punished those who didn’t.  To their credit when I brought these incidents to the attention of the administration, these situations were quickly rectified.  Yet, that these incidents occurred at all is disturbing and the ones I heard about were not likely the only ones of this kind.   

The 2016 testing cycle is a pivotal one, not just because of changes made in the testing conditions by the Commissioner but also because these are the first tests given since the Governor’s Common Core Task Force issued its report.  The Report judged the Common Core implementation along with its aligned curricula and tests as flawed.  In an over-due official statement the Report also agreed with many of the concerns expressed by test opponents, e.g. that the “one size fits all” standardized testing system is unfair and in need of an over-haul.  The Task Force recommended more “flexibility for assessments of Students with Disabilities” and the elimination of “double testing for English Language Learners”.  Importantly, the Task Force’s final recommendation proposed that “the results from assessments aligned to the current Common Core Standards…. shall only be advisory and not be used to evaluate the performance of individual teachers or students.”  The State Board of Regents accepted the Report findings and recommendations.

I offer this information as backdrop because rarely does the public discourse include or acknowledge the full scope of the data and information on the subject of the New York State ELA and Math standardized tests.  Too often the dialog remains fixed at the level of the “numbers” and what they purportedly convey about the academic health of our schools.  The Common Core Task Force’s recommendations have not taken effect at this time, so in addition to all of the points I’ve made, the 2016 test results still reflect the high stakes “one size fits all assessment” that the Task Force cited as unfair.  Let’s talk, but when we do come prepared to discuss all aspects of the issue.

This article reflects the views of the author and does not represent a formal statement on the behalf of the Buffalo Board of Education or any other organization.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Journalistic Malpractice: A Few Observations About the School Board Elections

Day after day after day, leading up to Tuesday’s school board election, articles in the Buffalo News predicted an Armageddon if certain candidates were not re-elected or elected to the Board.  The headlines screamed warnings about the untenable and catastrophic consequences that would result from the seismic shift of power, if majority bloc members were not re-elected.   They bemoaned the use of the fairly common tactic of challenging an opponent’s petitions as endemic of the “hard-ball, bare-knuckle Buffalo politics” that had infected the electoral process, even though this maneuver was used by their preferred candidate in his first race three years ago.  They conveniently ignored the fact that Mr. Sampson successfully removed Mr. Hernandez from the ballot in 2013 or that Mr. Paladino attempted to knock Mr. Harig off the ballot this year. 

Using vague or few facts to substantiate their recommendations, they endorsed little-known, un- accomplished candidates over seasoned incumbents whose records they tried to trash.   Ironically, they attributed incremental academic successes, e.g. the increase in the graduate rates, to Board President James Sampson and North District Representative, Jason McCarthy.  In doing so, they contradicted their own assessment of the significance of this progress indicator.  They previously downplayed this accomplishment as this is an outcome of Dr. Pamela Brown’s Superintendency.   In this regard, they are consistent, however, in that they’ve never attributed credit to Dr. Brown for this achievement or acknowledged the fact that the schools which were removed from receivership earlier this year also made progress under Dr. Brown’s tenure.

Employing a documented propaganda strategy, the News purposefully published multiple daily articles in various formats, supporting their message of impending doom and gloom.   They lamented the demise of the majority bloc’s “reform” agenda and mused about the chaos the District would experience if the “status quo”, “union supported” minority succeeded in winning a position as the new majority.  One can almost picture the handwringing and hear the moaning of the editorial writers as they penned their fear-mongering opinion pieces. They touted the union’s support of some candidates as tantamount to that group taking control of the District.  Yet, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s bankrolling of the incumbent majority members and at least one challenger was framed as the business community fulfilling its civic responsibility.

The Buffalo News’ unprecedented coverage of the School Board, the candidates, and the issues (as they determined them) was intended to sway public opinion during an election season that had few public forums or other opportunities to meet the candidates.  In the end, voters saw through the ruse and refused to be influenced by irresponsible, biased journalism.  Rejecting the News’ arguments, they cast their ballots for the children.  The new Board-elect is comprised of new and returning Board members, who are united in an agenda that aims to re-focus the Board on the broad educational needs of all children in the District. 

I began writing this column two years ago because a) the Buffalo News marginalized and often demonized the minority women on the Board and Superintendent Pamela C. Brown and b) the 2014 “Vision Statement” advanced by the majority board members was exclusionary, divisive and proposed a “reform” agenda that threatened to “dismantle” our public schools.  Throughout this period I’ve often asked the question when is enough, enough?  Obviously, many of you have answered that question with your vote and the response is, NOW!  I believe that this Board will move forward, collaboratively and cohesively to develop a new vision, one that’s inclusive and puts the children in the beginning, the middle and the end of our agenda.

Barely a week has passed since the election.  And the new Board won’t take office until July 1st.  Yet I anticipate more propaganda from the News.   I urge readers to watch the Buffalo News reports.  Will they be fair and balanced?   If they’re not, call them on it!  We cannot be silent and allow journalistic malpractice to continue and to undermine the new Board before we even convene.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Commissioner Elia in Secret Meeting(s) with SOME Members of the Buffalo Board of Education? Yes!

So, let me get this straight?  Commissioner Elia comes to Buffalo and she meets with Mr. Sampson, Mr. Quinn, Superintendent Cash and members of the business class?  Or should I say bloc? According to the Buffalo News (April 30, 2016), this meeting occurred at the Mansion on Delaware. The News described the meeting as follows: 
In a private room at the Mansion on Delaware, some of the city’s most influential business leaders held court with State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash. School Board majority members Larry Quinn and James P. Sampson, who is running for re-election in the West district, also attended.
Elia talked about the importance of holding schools and teachers accountable for their performance in the weeks before the election.
The article does not identify the date of this secret meeting, but in a previous article, Tiffany Lankes dropped the fact that Mr. Sampson missed the Buffalo Association of Black Journalist’s candidate’s debate on April 12th because he was having dinner with the Commissioner.   Or could the meeting have taken place on March 31st when the Commissioner visited two of Buffalo’s Persistently Struggling schools to reinforce her message about the importance of students taking the standardized tests.  In fact, her message was so well received that one of the principals of the schools promised to have an “opt-in test assembly” and boasted about talking a number of parents out of refusing the tests for their children.  Ironically, unlike her meeting with parents, in the suburbs, the previous day, the Commissioner did not ask Buffalo parents to “trust her”.  And she certainly didn’t reach out to the minority Board members and invite us to meet with her in the Mansion on Delaware.
But, I’ll get back to that issue later.  Let me ask this question.  And I hope that some of my readers will join me in asking the Commissioner or her Board for an answer.  Since when does the Commissioner of the State Education Department insert herself into local Board elections?  Or even give the appearance of engaging in the process of a community selecting its School Board representatives?  How many other secret meetings have been held with the parties named and unnamed?  And what other topics regarding the Buffalo Schools have been on the agenda?  More Charter Schools?  More Buffalo School closings? Neighborhood Schools?  How the moneyed class will try to influence the outcome of the Board elections?  Certainly the list is endless when it comes to the machinations of the majority members of the Board.

The Commissioner’s actions may not be illegal, but they are dismissive of a group of stakeholders, including Board members; they are disrespectful; they are divisive and they are not acceptable.  The Superintendent also has some explaining to do.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Checking in with a few updates

This week’s column offers an update on several hot button issues that I’ve written about this year:

Opt Out - Over the last few weeks the subject of high stakes standardized (NYS ELA and Math) tests and the Opt Out Movement has occupied much of my thought, actions and writings.  As of last Friday, those tests have come and gone, but the debate continues.  However, this week I won’t dwell solely on the arguments opposing these “meaningless” tests (the Governor’s word, not mine although I agree with him).  I also want to update readers on a few related issues of note.

Last week I recounted some of the reports I received from parents and teachers about the strategies being used to convince, cajole or intimidate parents, students and even educators into “opting in” to these tests.  Unfortunately, we were not unique as similar incidents occurred all over the state.  It’s a sad state of affairs when educators either buy into or are forced into supporting a system that promotes activities counter to sound educational practices, violate parents’ rights and foster intimidation of students by the adults, who should be their role models.  To be fair, many educators did speak up to support parents and students in spite of the bureaucracy and threats of retaliation.

Last year, nearly 240,000 or 20% of New York State’s student population opted out of the tests.  The numbers are not all in, but indications are that this number will hold steady and may even increase this year.  In the meantime, advocates are raising a number of important questions about the tests and the changes the Commissioner said would improve them.  The New York State Education Department supposedly operates on data, which it uses to make decisions re:  policy for example.  The Department had a number of opportunities to collect important axillary data related to test administration.   

1)       How are the test results impacted by children who “opt in” to the tests but are absent one or more days during the testing cycle (the ELA and Math tests are offered during a three day period); so how are the tests scored?  Do those children receive a proficiency ranking? And how are the results factored into the final accountability statistics for each school? And consequently for a District?  How will the accountability of schools and Districts that exceeded 5% opt outs be impacted?

2)      This is the first year the tests are not timed; in other words students were able to take all the time they needed to complete the exams.  And some did; reports are that some students worked ALL day, e.g. from the beginning of school until the end of the school day.  What is the impact of removing the time limits?  Will that improve test performance in general?  The timed tests were 90 minutes, however what was the average time taken by students to complete the tests?  What was the impact on staff time to monitor the tests?

How will the Department collect, analyze and employ this data?   There are concerns, however that the Department did not collect any data associated with question two, specifically.  We’ll see when the report on the test results is released, perhaps in August.

Disparate use of ELA/Math Tests Results in Admissions Criteria for City Honors/Olmsted – This is an issue I’ve been addressing since last December.  The ELA/Math tests are part of the admissions criteria for these schools.  Students whose parents opted out of these tests in 2015 and applied for City Honors or Olmsted were given a score of zero out a potential maximum of 9 points.  After extensive questioning of District Staff, Dr. Keresztes disclosed that applicants from private schools, which do not give the ELA/Math tests, did not receive a zero for this missing score.  Instead the administration doubled their score from the cognitive test, a practice which has been going on for some time.  This inequitable treatment of Buffalo Schools’ student applicants to the criterion schools as documented is unacceptable.  The Superintendent agreed to develop a remedy for this problem, which impacts 95 Buffalo School students.  After more than two weeks, we are still waiting for a resolution.  Parents are concerned and they are impatient.  And so am I.  All students deserve to be treated fairly.  This situation must be resolved immediately.

The School Board Candidate’s Debate or One out of Two Is Bad – On Tuesday, April 12th, the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists held a candidate’s debate at the Burchfield Penny Gallery.  Only the candidates from the Central and East Districts were fully represented.  With the exception of Dr. Harris-Tigg and Ms. Belton Cottman, none of the incumbents showed up.  It’s worth noting also that Ms. Belton Cottman is running un-opposed.    Debates offer an opportunity for candidates to (re)introduce themselves to the community, state their experience and competencies to fill the position, expound on their core issues, and differentiate themselves from their opponents.  This was the first general debate. Future debates are scheduled and one would hope that all candidates will engage in these events.  School Board member is an elected position and as such voters have the right to expect that all candidates, including the incumbents, will honor the system and provide their constituents with comprehensive, which includes face-to-face, information so voters can make an informed decision.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

ELA Tests _The Buffalo Experience

On April 5th, 6th, and 7th, 14,984 Buffalo school students in grades 3-8 were “offered” the first of two high stakes, New York State standardized tests; the English Language Arts.  In the event anyone does not believe that these tests are high stakes, consider the following: 

·         A week before the test was given, New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia made a high profile visit to the area.  On the first day, she visited several schools in Districts that had high opt out numbers last year, met with parents and educators to convey her message that she’d heard their concerns, explained that the tests had been improved and that parents should trust and have confidence in the tests’ value as educational markers of high standards.

·         - On the second day, the Commissioner visited two “persistently struggling” schools in Buffalo.  Presumably she got an update on the schools’ progress, commended staff and students and urged them to take the tests.

·        - She met with the Buffalo News Editorial Board, which dutifully reported on the Commissioner’s sincerity, underscored her message (she’s trying to improve the tests) and the need to stay the course, e.g. keep Common Core, keep the tests and keep Buffalo’s schools in receivership even the ten schools that have successfully earned removal from the receivership rolls.

·        - Furthermore, the BN, aka Biased News, published no less than five articles, editorials and opinion pieces stressing the misguided logic and futility of the Opt-out Movement.  In typical propaganda-ist style the articles extolled the “benefits” of the tests and the rationale for subjecting children to take them.  These articles rarely provided objective views that acknowledged the arguments opposing these high stakes exams.

·       -  Today the BN published an article that blames Gen-X parents for the Opt Out movement citing this generation as “independent, cynical and defiant of authority”.  You have to read it to believe it!
·         Business First decided to one-up the BN in an article, citing their own data analysis, which maliciously labeled WNY students and claimed that “The opt-out movement”…..” largely seems to be a revolt of underachievers”.

According to the BPS District the parents of 1,089, 7.8%, far below suburban opt out, refused to have their children subjected to these tests.  While the Commissioner has affirmed a parent’s right to make educational decisions in the best interests of their children, the reality is that it’s an entitlement with a hollow resonance.  I received numerous calls and emails from parents, educators and others about actions by school officials to obstruct or undermine parents’ decisions about test refusal.

In some schools an active campaign to “talk parents out” of refusing the tests was underway even as testing was in progress.  This is not an unsubstantiated report as a number of District administrators confirmed (one in a radio interview) they have engaged in ongoing communications to convince parents that they are mis-informed about the tests and/or students to take the tests.  There were also disturbing reports that students were told they would jeopardize their high school options if they didn’t take the tests.  In fact prior to the tests, parents were sent a letter from the Superintendent that included an admonition that opting out will adversely impact a child’s ability to get into a City Honors or Olmsted.  These criterion schools use the ELA/Math scores in their admissions criteria and opt out students will lose points.  Other concerns communicated to me included:

  • ·         Opt out students were singled out and ridiculed because they were opting out of the test

  1. ·      Threats to punish opt out students by not letting them participate in special events that are incentives/rewards for good behavior
  2. ·         Teachers from several schools reported children getting sick to their stomach and having “melt-downs” in response to the testing

  • ·         Opt-in rallies were held that could be construed as either pressuring or encouraging students to participate in testing;  

  • ·         Parents were called even after their opt out letters were sent in to convince them to retract their letters
  • ·         A high school principal is on the record having sent a letter to parents, which contained numerous distortions of the facts regarding the standardized tests; and tacitly belittled students whose parents opted them out of the tests
  • ·         Some teachers, who had opt out students have felt intimidated by their administration

  1. ·         Test anxiety is felt by staff as well as students

  • ·         A parent believed that her 3rd grader had been bullied into taking the test.  Even though her parent had opted her out, the student was “talked” into taking the test by her teacher
  • ·         In spite of a directive sent to schools to allow opt out students to read selected materials, students at some schools were required to complete an ELA packet
  • ·         A number of schools are to be commended for treating opt out students with respect, recognizing that the decision was made by the parents, not the students.  In those schools students were allowed to read per the Superintendent’s directive.
  • ·         One parent was upset that her children, who opted in and took the tests, were required to sit and stare when they finished the test because other children took more time.  Her child waited for 90 minutes after he’d finished his test

A call to Superintendent Cash to share this feedback resulted in a letter from him to all administrators. The letter reiterated that all students should be treated with “dignity and consistency whether they are participating in test administration or not.”  The time differentiation will be worked out too.

Some will read this article and conclude that the examples of the experiences of some test refusal parents/students is one-sided; or that it is not valid because I didn’t name names.  I am reporting the feedback I received this past week. Unfortunately, there is a concern about backlash and people are reluctant to allow their names to be shared.  I invite anyone to provide feedback, both positive and negative, to me.  This coming week the Math tests will be offered and I’d like to receive feedback as well.  Contact me at   

Monday, April 4, 2016

On the Eve of ELA Standardized Tests: A Message to Dr. Cash

Dr. Cash, as we approach the administration of the ELA tests tomorrow, I understand the District's position and that of many principals and teachers with respect to their support for the tests and their encouragement of student's involvement in those assessments.  You also know my position and reasons why I oppose the tests.  Nonetheless I do believe that each position should be acknowledged and the right to hold that view should be respected.  Certainly the issue has been the subject of heated dialogue between adults. In the last few days a number of parents have written to the Board and to you to express their positions on both sides.  In a number of instances I have not seen indication that the District has responded to those parents.   

I am very concerned, however, that students are being caught in the cross fire and I hope that you will acknowledge that this issue is problematic.  And that you will inform principals, especially those who seem to have taken an over-zealous approach in their support of the tests, of their responsibility as educators to be informative not suggestive or coercive.  Students as well as adults are hearing these messages.

Here are two examples of messages sent by principals to their parents/guardians and students prior to the beginning of the ELA exams.  I’ll leave you to determine which I find more acceptable.

1)  (1)  Good Evening Families,

NYS ELA Assessments will take place this week on Tuesday, April 5, Wednesday, April 6, and Thursday, April 7.  Please ensure that your child is well rested and arrives to school by 8:15 AM.  We look forward to all students applying the skills and concepts they learned this year at X.  Have a great night!

The following excerpt is part of a much longer letter, but is reflective of a clear effort to persuade parents that “opt out” is misguided.  Certainly free speech can be invoked here and I’m fine with that but there are inaccuracies in these statements even as the writer characterizes the other arguments as flawed.  For example, “this year’s assessments have not been developed by a new organization.  This year’s tests were developed by Pearson. Questar, Inc. will not be providing tests until next year.

2)  (2)  “Student refusal of the New York State assessments has historically been low at X. This year we have seen even less activity around this topic, and I believe most parents understand that our new Commissioner of Education, Dr. Mary Ellen Elia, has made aggressive changes to the assessments to satisfy both labor and student-centered concerns. However, several of the written parent communications that we have received to this point reflect outdated or incorrect information that appears to have been derived from templates found on social media. I would like to provide the following clarifications: • New York State Assessments are no longer tied to teacher and principal evaluations. • The state has done away with the previous assessments given to students over the past few years. This year’s assessments have been developed by a new organization, with New York State teachers selecting the questions. • The number of questions and predicted time to complete the assessments has been reduced again this year. • Perhaps my favorite change -- students will have unlimited time to complete the assessments (as a student who needed more time, I can tell you I would have benefitted greatly from this feature if they had it back when I was taking the old California Achievement tests in elementary school!"

I have received information that some principals are/have planned "rallies" for students to opt in to the tests.  Parties, special events or other "rewards" may be offered to students for their participation while denying the students who opted out access to the same benefits.  Such inequitable activities are hurtful to children and I certainly encourage you sending a strong message that these kinds of incentives are unacceptable.

I also am concerned about any public displays of student performance on these tests, especially if they have identifying information.  I think that's a violation of student's privacy and exposes a student to ridicule and humiliation.  Even if this only applies to one school, it's one too many.

Students who are not taking the tests, have not opted out, their parents have opted them out.  That's their right and I question the right of a principal to “talk anyone out” of making that decision.

In your letter to parents regarding how students will be treated, who are not taking the tests, you stated that “Students with notes on file prior to the start of the assessment will not be given examination booklets and will be allowed to read quietly while the test is being administered.”  While the Board has endorsed eliminating the “sit and stare” policy, we will need to develop a policy that specifically spells out the treatment for students who do not take the test.  I would like to put this policy on the agenda for the Executive Committee at its next meeting so that we have a definitive plan for future test situations.

As always, I appreciate your receptiveness to dissenting opinions and your focused commitment to the children.