Art is Fundamental

We’ve all heard the phrase “reading is fundamental,” or seen the posters that say “reading is FUNdamental,” but reading doesn’t speak to everyone’s strengths.

This article from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services outlines research that shows exposure to arts as children leads to entrepreneurial activity and inventions as an adult .

Michigan State University researchers looked at the university’s Honors College graduates from 1990 to 1995 who majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics and found that those who owned businesses or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts during childhood (until age 14) than people in the general public.

With a social science background, my mind immediately went to the question, is this causation or correlation? Would kids whose families had means and higher income also be exposed to less TV, or more “field trip” type activities like visits to museums, than the kids who grew up to be less entrepreneurial? I haven’t looked for the original article, so I will hope that the results controlled for those economic factors.

Even if they didn’t – the leap from music to math is not that big, and exploration in art is essentially flexing the brain’s creative, problem solving muscles. The three “r’s” are fundamental to education, but this study shows that art is too.

Kara Kane (47 Posts)

Disclosure: I am a member of the S-GI Central School District's Board of Education (2012-15). My opinions and comments are my own and I do not speak for the district, for the board of education, or for any of its other members.




On Agendas

I had the good fortune of attending the 2013 NYSSBA convention in Rochester last week. It’s jam-packed with educational sessions about school board and district issues, but of all the sessions I attended, I wanted to write about an interaction that stood out. In a roundtable discussion, another board member from a different district started to speak about how bad it was for a board member to have an agenda. I sat there for a minute or two, but finally I had to clarify with him, because I believe that agendas are good. I think of agendas as plans, and plans are essential. I said something to the effect of, every school board member should have an agenda, and should be shouting it from the rooftops. He was able to clarify that he meant personal agendas, and I’m glad he did. Personal agendas that further goals that benefit — or are to the detriment — of a single person or group have no business in school districts, though it can be witnessed easily enough in some districts. But every board member – singly – and every board – as a whole – should have an agenda – a clearly articulated, relentless agenda. And it’s my opinion that agenda should include vocal and enthusiastic support of student learning and development, and public education as a system. Board members should have their own agenda at the ready and be willing to push it forward.

The Facts Prove NYSED officials are wrong.

Recently Commissioner King and the Regents presented information about testing programs at a meeting in Albany and it was shared with schools around NY to explain NYSED’s slant on the various assessments forced on our schools. The presentation from the Regents appeared on the SGI website with this quote: Dear Parents, Students, Staff and Community Members: I know much interest has been sparked regarding the subject matter of New York State assessments. In efforts to keep you updated and informed, please take a look at the attached presentation below, which was provided by the NYS Board of Regents on October 21, 2013, explaining the status of New York’s assessment system. Information provided within the presentation includes which assessments are required, which are “optional,” administration duration, and myths about testing.  “Optional” is determined by the local Board of Education, not individual parents. I will continue to keep you updated as more information becomes available. Sean Feeney, Principal of The Wheatley School on Long Island, and one of the leaders behind the APPR Paper and The Letter to Parents about Testing   gave this presentation that debunks the talking points about testing from NYSED leaders: Share widely:  http://scfeeney.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/adelphi-lecture-oct13.pdf Here one misleading piece of information presented by NYSED on the right, only showing two years of testing data.  Mr. Feeney shows more information to prove that NYSED is cherry picking their data. Please read Mr. Feeney’s Lecture slide notes linked above for more information that proves Federal and State Policies have increased the testing for our children.  

My 8 year old cries foul on testing.

At September’s school board meeting  an excellent discussion on testing occurred, focusing on the use of progress monitoring assessments.  Several families, including mine, have made the decision to boycott all assessment that is mandated by federal or state policy.   SGI uses a Pearson product called AIMSweb to meet its Response to Intervention(RTI) requirement to universally test all students.  My family’s stance is not anti-testing. We believe testing, as part of a teacher’s multiple methods of assessment, is reasonable and can help the educator and their students.  We simply will refuse to participate in any exam that a teacher is forced to use in their classroom. I will not debate the merits of RTI testing or the AIMSweb product.  The administrators present at the meeting did a fine job of explaining how they use AIMSweb and its purpose.  Maybe this assessment does a great job identifying students in need of extra assistance or services, but is it lumped into all the other testing that impacts our children? I brought up what my son stated after day two of the school year at the school board meeting: “Dad we had the AIMSweb test today. I know it is a waste of time because we are not graded on it and never see what we got right or wrong. “ If a third grader, at age eight, is perceptive enough to worry about what counts for a grade and experiences so much testing he can judge the worth of each assessment we have to question if children will ever care about school anymore. My son is the good soldier and faithfully does what his teachers expect without questioning authority.   When he starts to see through the BS that students are put through now-a-days I become concerned.  The RTI testing is done multiple…

Feature Story on Education in Springville Journal

I was very pleased to see that the Springville Journal gave so much “ink” to the topic of education in last Saturday’s issue. I am hopeful that other small-town newspapers will start to take notice and present the perspectives of parents, teachers, and students on how public education and what can be done to improve it. To be clear, I am not completely against Common Core State Standards. I have pressing questions about how they were developed (not by professional educators), how developmentally and age-appropriate they are, the costs involved, and whether the assessments used to measure them do so in a complete, valid, and/or reliable way. Done right, CCSS could be the proverbial tide that raises all boats. Right now, I see CCSS as an anvil that’s put a hole in the bottom of our boat. And we’re sinking. The article also spoke to the recent cancellation of Commissioner King’s forums put on by the NYS PTA. That’s a topic for another post. To quote me because on some level I am still excited when my name is in the paper: “I hope that the public conversations and parent mobilizations that are starting to happen have the effect of removing barriers to having our teachers teach, our administrators lead and our students learn,” Kane said. “Parents are now left with no choice but to challenge [King] in a much more vocal, much less constructive way,” Kane said, of the statewide reaction to not only the testing mandate and Common Core, but King’s cancellation. “They have no other options to have their voices heard.”

ICYMI: Summit for Smarter Schools Video Highlights

If you weren’t able to make the Summit for Smarter Schools event on Oct. 2, here’s a chance to see the video highlights.

Watch the video.

I was shocked and really disappointed to see that the NYSSBA – New York State School Boards Association – had NO notice that I could find, and I looked closely, in its statewide monthly newsletter about the event. 2,500 parents, teachers, and concerned citizens pack the house at an information-filled set of presentations, and it doesn’t even merit a paragraph. Dis-pleased.

Kara Kane (47 Posts)

Disclosure: I am a member of the S-GI Central School District's Board of Education (2012-15). My opinions and comments are my own and I do not speak for the district, for the board of education, or for any of its other members.


Regents Reform Agenda Meeting

I attended the Regents Reform Agenda hearing in Buffalo this week. Being there reminded me of the occasional civics assignments that I completed in college – observing jury duty, attending a local government meeting – and the experience was equal parts encouragement and frustration.

Watch it for yourself. I have low opinions of most state government functions, but NYS Sen. John Flanagan is doing yeoman’s work for the cause of legislative transparency and community input–more than we’re seeing from corners of NYSED at the moment.

I was encouraged by the parents who clearly and exhaustively detailed the problems with testing, Common Core, and they key factor in all issues facing public education — poverty.

The Rochester Parent Power representative, whose child goes “to one of the best schools in the state,” was so maddening I won’t even give her organization a link here.

I was disappointed with Regent Bennett. He has been in the education business – treating it as a business, actually – for the whole time we have devolved into this mess. I see him as part of the problem, and not moving us towards a solution. The same goes for every other Regent.

Linda Hoffman, formerly of the S-GI school board and now an Erie 2 BOCES board member, gave testimony that represented the perspective of most rural districts, particularly on PARCC. She was much more polite than I would have been.

Do you have paper in your house? After watching the video, take a few minutes to write NYS Sens. Mark Grisanti and/or Patrick Gallivan a thank you for attending and asking questions. They are soulless politicians, but they did ask some insightful questions and are demonstrating some interest in public education as a key constituent issue.

Really, watch the whole video and the others provided on Flanagan’s web site (http://www.nysenate.gov/webform/regents-reform-agenda-assessing-our-progress-hearings-schedule-and-information).  See for yourself whether this was democracy in action.

Kara Kane (47 Posts)

Disclosure: I am a member of the S-GI Central School District's Board of Education (2012-15). My opinions and comments are my own and I do not speak for the district, for the board of education, or for any of its other members.


I’m A “Special Interest” and I Vote!

Hey all you “special interests” out there. That’s what NYSED Commissioner John King called parents, teachers, and concerned citizens who actually dared to ask him challenging questions at a recent “Town Hall” meeting in Poughkeepsie. Gov. Cuomo is up for re-election next year, as are many other NYS politicians. Tell ‘em what you think. Watch the video of the town hall meeting in Poughkeepsie, and then let Mr. Cuomo and your legislators know what you think about the current state of “education reform.” Call for John King’s resignation. Here is a link that will let you easily contact your  NYS elected officials. Use this link to contact Gov. Cuomo’s office. Use this link for contact info. for NYS Board of Regents members, including Chancellor Merryl Tisch and WNY Regents Rep. Robert Bennett. (To read a little more about the ties between John King and Chancellor Tisch, click on this link.)

Hey all you “special interests” out there. That’s what NYSED Commissioner John King called parents, teachers, and concerned citizens who actually dared to ask him challenging questions at a recent “Town Hall” meeting in Poughkeepsie. You can view the video of the Poughkeepsie meeting by clicking on this link. Or you can view a video of another similar type meeting by clicking on this link. (In this second video, you can hear Commissioner King talking at the audience for more than an hour; the actual questions come at about the 1:20 mark.)

And, like a petulant child, Mr. King didn’t like having to face those concerns or answer challenging questions, so he cancelled the rest of the planned town hall meetings, including the one scheduled to be held in Williamsville on October 24.

Unfortunately, The Buffalo News obediently chose only to print Mr. King’s one-sided press release, without investigating further. If you are a Buffalo News subscriber, you can check out the comments posted for this article…most taking The News to task for its lazy “reporting” and more importantly taking Mr. King to task for calling concerned citizens “special interests.” Part of my own comment was this:

“Concerned parents, students, and teachers are not ‘special interests.’ Special interests are those companies that make millions producing sub-standard “educational materials.” Special interests do not sit down each night with frustrated, upset children whose field trips have been eliminated, who barely have time for recess, who do not understand what is being asked (and neither do many of their college-educated parents for that matter!), who can no longer come home and tell us that they are proud of something they learned or created that day. Mr. King is a hypocritical sham who sends his children to a private Montessori school and claims we should all have school choice (would that we were all paid his salary and could afford such a luxury). He cannot explain, listen, or justify…just decree what is right for other people’s children. The emperor (or King in this case) has no clothes, and the public is seeing it.”

In my opinion though, the best comment of the day regarding John King’s actions was this brilliant one by Tamara N:

“I believe his job should be evaluated by the same standards as the teachers’ APPR… so for Standard 4.1 (Creates a mutually respectful, safe, and supportive learning environment that is inclusive of every student), 4.3 (Manages the learning environment for the effective operation of the classroom), 5.3 (communicate information about various components of the assessment system), 6. 3 (communicate and collaborate with families, guardians, and caregivers to enhance student development and success), 7.3 (communicate and collaborate with students, colleagues, other professionals and the community to improve practice)… I would rate this professional as Ineffective in these areas given the information provided.”

Which brings me to the second comment I made on the Buffalo News article: “I am a ‘special interest ‘(a.k.a., a concerned parent) and I vote. Are you listening Mr. Cuomo and NYS legislators?”

Mr. Cuomo is up for re-election next year. So are many other of our legislators. So, all you “special interests” out there. Tell ‘em what you think. Watch the video of the town hall meeting in Poughkeepsie, and then let Mr. Cuomo and your legislators know what you think about the current state of “education reform.” Call for John King’s resignation. Here is a link that will let you easily contact your NYS elected officials. Use this link to contact Gov. Cuomo’s office. Use this link for contact info. for NYS Board of Regents members, including Chancellor Merryl Tisch and WNY Regents Rep. Robert Bennett. (To read a little more about the ties between John King and Chancellor Tisch, click on this link.)

 

 

CYC: Christian Youth Corps

I just wanted to write a post about a local group that is doing great things for education, apprenticeships, workforce development, and community building — very close to S-GI.

For almost a decade, Christian Youth Corps has given young people opportunities to do great things for others while developing valuable work and trade skills.

From their web site:

In addition to helping individuals, CYC youth also undertake many projects that benefit the general public as a whole. Whether it is working on Village or State Parks, Historical or Environmental projects, or just helping out in a nursing home, the CYC is a very powerful tool that communities can rely on to help with projects that need completion; projects that villages and park maintenance departments often just lack the time and manpower to complete.

The world needs organizations like this that will expand and grow. I’d take this over an SAT prep class any day of the week.

Kara Kane (47 Posts)

Disclosure: I am a member of the S-GI Central School District's Board of Education (2012-15). My opinions and comments are my own and I do not speak for the district, for the board of education, or for any of its other members.


Resolution on High Stakes Testing: Approved

I am very proud to have voted for the resolution on high stakes testing, which passed at the 10/8 Springville-Griffith Institute Board of Education meeting.

Based strongly on the resolution suggested by the Partnership for Smarter Schools at its Summit for Smarter Schools on Oct. 2, this resolution was one of three that passed the same night — others were in Ken-Ton and Liverpool.

The tide is turning.

“Calling upon the NYS Commissioner of Education and the NYS Board of Regents to stop the overreliance on standardized tests as a measure of student perfformance and principal/teacher effectiveness.

WHEREAS, every student deserves a quality public education dedicated to preparing engaged citizens, creative and critical thinkers, and lifelong learners ready for college and careers; and,

WHEREAS, the decline in state support for public schools has forced our district to reduce programs and limited our ability to implement the new programs mandated by the state such as the Common Core standards creating an uneven rollout of the standards among school districts around the state; and

WHEREAS, the growing reliance on and misalignment of standardized testing is eroding student learning time, narrowing the curriculum, and jeopardizing the rich, meaningful education our students need and deserve; and

WHEREAS, despite the fact that research recommends the use of multiple measures to gauge student performance and student effectiveness, the state’s growing reliance on standardized testing is adversely affecting students across all spectrums, the morale of our educators and further draining already scarce resources; and

WHEREAS, the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s testing policies fail to appropriately accommodate the unique needs of students with disabilities and English language learners in assessing their learning, resulting in test scores that do not accurately represent a true measure of the contributions of teachers and schools; and

WHEREAS, it is time for policymakers to recalibrate the number, duration and appropriate use of standardized tests so we can refocus our efforts on student learning; and,

WHEREAS, we do not oppose accountability in public schools and point with pride to the stellar performance of our students and teachers, but believe that standardized tests dominate instructional time and block our ability to make progress toward a world-class education system of student-centered schools and future-ready students; now, therefore be it resolved

RESOLVED, that we call upon the Commissioner of Education, the NYS Board of Regents and other policymakers to reduce the use of and over-reliance on standardized testing; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that we call upon the US Congress and the Administration to reduce federal testing mandates and support the role of and focus on multiple measures of studetn learning and school quality in accountability systems.

 

(any typos are from my poor typing skills)

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