6 Insulting Things NYSED Keeps Repeating

Every time the media reports a story about brave and caring parents who are allowing their kids to refuse the state tests, the reporters go ask NYSED officials to comment (in the name of fairness).  What the officials of our education department offer are soundbytes and talking points that are ridiculous, at best, and completely insulting, at worst.  Without further ado, here are the six most insulting things that NYSED keeps repeating in the media.

#6  Parents don’t care about their kids’ progress


Dennis Tompkins, a spokesman for the State Education Department, said, “Parents who keep their children from these tests are essentially saying ‘I don’t want to know where my child stands, in objective terms, on the path to college and career readiness’ and we think that’s doing them a real disservice.”

What Dennis is effectively saying here is that teachers are worthless in regards to teaching and assessing your kids.  He believes that parents are actually hurting their own kids by allowing teachers–who spend hours and days with their students watching and listening and evaluating–to assess kids.  Here’s a history tidbit: teachers have been objectively and qualitatively measuring students’ progress for a very long time.  And if there’s one thing we’ve already found out over the past decade, standardized tests do not objectively measure student progress.  That’s not even what they’re designed for, according to John King.

#5 We should expect that our kids feel pain

Dennis Walcott, NYC Chancellor of Schools (not NYSED, but still), famously stated that he knows the tests will be incredibly difficult and that several students will not pass, which may hurt their little hearts and minds, but “It’s time to rip the Band-Aid off, and we have a responsibility to rip that Band-Aid off.”

Our first question is: What Band-Aid?  Does this imply that our schools and our kids are bleeding and there is some temporary tourniquet keeping our education system from bleeding out?  If so, then the analogy is sort of clever, in a not-so-innovative way.  But the fact is, ripping the Band-Aid off with tests that we know our kids are going to fail is not a cure.  This assumes that the state tests are like Neosporin, which can speed the healing.  Wrong.  You can’t heal a problem by causing more damage.

#4 Parents are a bad influence on their children

Kids are like flowers.  You have to smother them with dirt. Er, I mean, tests.
These flowers are happy because I told them to be.

Ken Wagner, Associate Commissioner of NYSED, told the New York Times that he was worried that the concerns of parents were rubbing off on their children, causing kids to suffer anxiety about the state tests.  He’s then quoted as saying, “My heart goes out to any kid that’s suffering stress or anxiety, but we have to think very strategically about the messages that students are getting from the adults they are around.”

Two major problems with this: (1) the parent concern was a direct result of kids’ anxieties and fears, not the other way around; and (2) who gets to make the “strategy” regarding what messages kids get to hear from their concerned parents?  If there’s one thing that’s getting very tiring around here, it’s listening to state officials trying to tell parents how to parent.  It’s especially tiring because the parental “advice” they’re offering has nothing to do with kids–it has only to do with not making their corporate buddies mad.

#3 Without the state tests, children will never be ready for college and/or career

We’re going to use Ken Wagner again, from the same article, because he’s such a pompous liar.  However, this line has been repeated ad nauseum by many different officials.  We hear it over and over again.  The Common Core State Standards are the “answer” to our kids’ inabilities to succeed in college or the workforce (that one was from John King).  The problem with this cheap and overused line is that there is no evidence, whatsoever, to back it up.  The standards have never been tested, never been shown effective, and have actually been deemed inappropriate for the 21st century, if you use models from other countries as an example.

And the tests do not prepare kids.  They do not evaluate kids.  They aren’t designed to track student progress.  (Again, that is also what John King said.)  Now, Bill Gates does want to use them to track our kids, but not in the way that we would like.

We also hate that this statement makes a blanket assumption about all kids.  In order for our students to get into college, they must learn everything in the standards and pass tests.  You know who doesn’t care about state tests?  Ask your closest university.

#2 Stressing your kids to the point of vomiting is healthy.

I don't think that crying kid is "healthy" enough.
I don’t think that crying kid is “healthy” enough.

Merryl Tisch, who is also not technically part of NYSED, is the Chancellor of the Board of NY Regents.  She was seen in a recent Wall Street Journal piece responding to reports from principals, teachers, students, and parents of kids breaking down crying during and after tests, vomiting during tests, and not wanting the leave the bathroom–all due to the anxieties and stress of the overwhelming English-Language Arts testing during the last three days.  Her response was that she visited several schools and only saw one kid crying.  The Wall Street Journal then goes on:

But she called it a “healthy problem.” It would be worse, she said, if tests were described as unfair or poorly done. Last year, for example, the state had to toss out questions related to a passage that was widely ridiculed for being confusing. “I would be so bold as to say they were better than most people expected them to be,” she said.

So, it’s healthy for our kids to suffer this way, according to the obviously out-of-touch and basically stone-hearted Tisch.  And we’re going to go ahead and join the growing camp of people with test design experience who suggest that this year’s tests are not just poorly done and unfair (which we can only assume from the stories we’ve heard, since we can’t see the tests for at least another year).  They are a flat-out disaster.  They are, as Chris Cerrone has written, a #fail–with a hashtag!.

#1 Even though the tests don’t mean anything for students, they should do them anyway.  Because they’re hard.

Taking money from Pearson is "hard."
Taking money from Pearson is “hard.”

Coming in at number one is our friend, John King, Dictator Commissioner of New York State Education Department.  You can find many stories of Dr. King repeating the same things as his cohorts above.  But what really gets our goat is his nerve when trying to tell New York parents how to educate their kids, and then doing the complete opposite.

He tells us, as parents, that we should encourage our kids to try things that are hard, while letting them know that the most important thing is that they tried their best.

Hey parents: is there anyone out there who doesn’t do this on a pretty consistent basis?

But here’s the thing, John.  We don’t ever tell them, for months on end, that if they don’t do well on something, then their teachers will get a bad grade and that their schools will suffer.  They may even have to give up some fun classes and activities because, if you can’t pass the tests like a normal kid, you’re going to have to take extra math and reading classes.  These are kids, John.  They aren’t your lackeys.

And that’s not even the worst part.  We know, thanks the New York Times, that John King’s own children don’t take state tests.  They don’t go to a school that’s drowning in the Common Core.  That’s very, very confusing.  If the Common Core is the “answer” to college and career readiness, and the state tests are the only objective way to determine if kids are going to make it, then are John King’s kids doomed ?


Want to read something that doesn’t repeat all of its insults?  Read Children of the Core on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Google Play.  


  1. This is a good response about taking standardized tests – this particular test is not very consistent with what I was taught as a teacher. You test in the classroom from two perspectives (1) The learn what you students know or don’t know about a subject (2) The measure how well your students learned what YOU taught them …. In this case, it is testing a standard which may or may not have been experienced by the students and there is little feedback to either the teacher or the student …..

    Now with that said, here is the rest of the Common Core basic story: Folks, you are missing a very important point – this is not any curriculum or any test, it is part of a national program set up by the Obama Administration to begin tracking all of our kids in the country and sharing that tracking information with the national community without our permission ….. The test is a very small part of an extensive data mining program on your child which will be developed throughout their education – the front is this is good for your child, the back is it will ghettoize/pigeon-hole your child —–

    This national curriculum which is much more evil than a standardized test was also reference in the Albany’s Times Union. Here is a quote referencing the article: “Students in some Albany High School English classes were asked to participate in the unthinkable this week as part of a persuasive writing assignment. The objective? Prove why Jews are evil and convince the teacher of their loyalty to the Third Reich in five paragraphs or less.

    “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” read the description on the assignment, which the school superintendent said reflects the kind of sophisticated writing expected of students under the new Common Core standards and was meant to hone students’ persuasive argument abilities.

    The TimesUnion reports that students were asked to digest Nazi propaganda material, then imagine that their teacher was an SS officer who needed to be persuaded of their loyalty by arguing that Jews are the root of all the world’s ills. Times Union Link: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/School-apology-Think-like-a-Nazi-task-vs-Jews-4428669.php

    If this were the only negative reference to “COMMON CORE”, that would be one thing, this is happening across the nation and your kids whether in the city or in the suburbs are being exposed to this “NEW AND IMPROVE” curriculum much without your knowledge …….

    If you are planning to attack this info, please get educated first by finding the information about planned analysis of your kid in the classroom and the data mining of that information – then respond …..

    Folks, when I started learning about this information, I could not believe it either – several states have already backed out of the national program – the federal government – this administration – has to threaten to pull other local funding of school programs as a bribe to enforce the implementation of this program – it is the same bribe format being put into the new national gun law right now — how do you like that, taking the tax money you pay the government to bribe your local officials.

    There is much more for you to learn …….


  2. NYSED has also conveniently dealt with #2 by creating The New York State Education Department’s Office of Test Security and Educator Integrity. Students and teachers are directly told not to discuss any question or answers on the tests with anyone or they will be investigated, followed by the appropriate consequences. We should be in an uproar over this.


  3. High stakes testing is going to keep a lot of potential good teachers from joining the profession. Politicians and Pearson seem to have little empathy when profits are to be made.


  4. The single most painful aspect of the propaganda coming from state officials is it seems designed to shut down critical thinking on the part of parents. Those of us skeptical of the benefits of non-stop application of Pearson tests and texts can back up our views with extensive research, reason and plain common sense. all we get from the state is continual blather about “college and career readiness.” When someone can only talk in slogans, it doesn’t breed great confidence in his own mastery of deep analytical thought!


  5. I have a 4 year old and I don’t want him to be subjected to these tests in elementary school. As an educator and a parent, I am insulted by NYSED propaganda fueled by corporate profits and the drive to privatize public education.


  6. This is becoming so divisive with parents courted by both sides who have their own motives that are not in the best interest of disadvantaged families. Where were the concerned teachers/educators when poor kids were failing and being sent off to jail from the school halls?

    Now there is a possibility poor kids may sit next to your kids, everyone is concerned—but under the guise of concern for poor families–about their own interests. On this site, i tend to get clobbered for exercising my first amendment rights. I do not accept your truth.

    Many of the things stated here are your truths and perspectives. There are other sides that are unfairly misrepresented. Others sides that differ dramtically, instead of listening or finding common ground, there is a rush to slander and disseminate more misinformation. As role models for our children, I expected better.

    One more thing, could you all be angry because poor kids might end up getting better education than your own children or relatives?

    Yes, I finally Got it off my chest. There are great teachers but this daily barrage of propaganda is getting annoying because I don’ t think many of you guys careless about poor kids. What’s inciting this bitter battle: keeping your tenure, no merit-based pay, and of course no testing of teachers knowledge. Oh yes, no testing of students if their results mean you ( teachers) have to find creative ways of increasing performance.

    I started out being sympathetic now I am not. Please put things back in their context and remember if you had done the job you were paid to do , maybe we would not be here. It’s time for self-reflection and pressure your peers to do better!


    1. Actually, Angela, I was responding to the slander and lies coming from the state–and I wrote it 100% from the perspective of a PARENT. And perhaps I did take the liberty of putting my own little interpretations on things they said. I didn’t make it any of it up, and I’m a relatively smart guy. Not to mention, I’ve been in touch with plenty of parents, students, and teachers who believe that these are truly insulting. I won’t ask if you have a kids, but if you do, and you were treated as these parents have been, you would have more sympathy.

      Either way, your comment strikes me as disingenuous, since I spent almost no time talking about teachers or tenure or merit pay or any of that. This article is about the endurance of our parents to have to read day after day from the state education department how lousy they are as parents because they are refusing their precious state tests.

      And where did all this about poor kids come from? Just a side note: many, many of the kids who bravely opted out were in Title I schools. This has nothing to do with class or income. If anything, we’re telling NYSED that these tests aren’t fair to anyone.

      So, I’m happy I gave you a spot to put whatever vendetta you have against teachers out there, but you pretty much missed the point. If you want to yell at someone about their disservice to poor kids in NY, I suggest you call John King or Gov. Cuomo.


      1. Hi Kris,

        You have given me so much to respond to—rather than take up a “spot” on your blog as “vendetta,” I will respond with a post on my blog that will speak directly to all the issues you raised. Best, Angela


    2. @Angela The folks who are fighting the high-stakes testing machine do care about children in poverty. In fact schools in areas of high poverty have seen the most harm from the emphasis on test scores. I have several friends and relatives who teach in the City of Buffalo schools. Classrooms with ELA or math are required to use a scripted curriculum, which is basically test prep year round. When I fight against the testing madness it is for ALL children and I can bet my colleagues here at the CF do as well.


      1. Hi Chris,
        I agree with you—I can feel the passion behind many of the posts—most teachers/educators do care. Alternatively, I am presenting another view. It may not be a majority view but it is a valid view and a view felt by significant number of parents whose children attended public schools.

        My concerns are shared my many others, parent and students alike. There are promising aspects of the Parent Trigger Bill. Look at Ct, they found a compromise that seems fair.
        There are issues surrounding tenure that are unfair to young talented teachers.

        I don’t want to take up any more”spot” out of “vendetta”. So if you are interested in a more detailed response, I will have one by tomorrow on my blog in the form of a post. 🙂. -Angela


    3. I am wondering if you just read the same article that I did. It seemed to me it was about how parents who decry the tests are disrespected by NYSED and its allies. I totally agree with that too. Does NYSED seriously think I need this test to let me know where my child stands on the road to college/career readiness? For my middle school kid, it is completely obvious. For my little one, I am not sure it is possible for ANY instrument to tell me that. Nor do I really care. I care about her present and maybe her next grade.

      Your vitriol against teachers has no place here.


    4. I truly cannot believe someone wrote this. I teach in an inner city school, come from the city, and have kids in public schools. My inner city students- whom I adore, am dedicated to, and could not imagine not working with- have been tested, field tested, and practice tested to the point where they have little to no interest in school. You don’t become a teacher because you think you will have an easy time of things, and the concept of tenure is a thing of the past. Most teachers I know give 110%. What stereotype have you adopted? What is it that YOU do that helps poverty stricken kids? I have worked with inner city students for 17 years and beyond that, I have yet to see the tests make even one student shine brighter or get a better education for it. Yes, testing has its place, and teachers need to be held to standards. So do PARENTS. And big business seeing children of all backgrounds as dollar signs is unacceptable.


  7. How ironic #3 is…. Over the past 13 years I have seen freshman come to our college less and less able to adapt to the rigor here because they are not practiced at critical thinking and application of that thinking. They have been trained to memorize and spit back whatever the teacher tells them. They panic when they hear I want them to do more than that because i want them to THINK and ponder the material, even have a different perspective from their teacher if they can defend their arguments. They’re used to getting A’s so they freak out when they get C’s and D’s because they don’t know HOW to do what their professors ask of them. Students ask for reading guides and study guides and copies of my power points. They furiously write down everything I put up on the screen but don’t listen to what I am SAYING or asking of them = because they’re busy copying. They beg me to just tell them what I want them to know and they promise to memorize it and give it back to me on the test. They are willing to work hard and put in the time and effort – they are not lazy. They just have not been trained to think critically or question, and THAT, perhaps, is the most dangerous result of their high school education….


    1. I can completely relate to your frustrations. I too found that my college freshman in my drawing and design courses were so afraid of the liberties I gave them on each project. They felt more comfortable when strict perimeters were set and I told them exactly how to go about “solving” each project. It was like they couldn’t even begin to comprehend that I was actually allowing them to think for themselves and approach the project however they thought best. And you’re right, most of them were hard workers, but they wanted so much laid out for them. They begged to know what I wanted them to do, when really I wanted to hear their voices and I wanted them to take the lead.


    2. I have to agree with Dr. Bambi Lobdell and dbpigtail! My college students are unwilling to complete assignments until they have seen an example and had a rubric discussed with them, they believe there is one right answer and that if I don’t give it to them beforehand they will not be able to get it. They are less willing to complete activities that are open ended in nature and less willing to believe that those kinds of activities have merit. The kind of “hard” activities we want kids to be engaged in are the very kind that don’t yield one simple answer. We want kids to do “hard” work that they struggle with, and feel the value of struggling, because of the excitement that understanding and encountering new knowledge brings. The pointless “hard” work of a state test is the opposite of this kind of learning experience and is producing the opposite result. I’m horrified that any educator or state superintendent would not know the dangerous difference between these two types of “hard.”


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