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Kids Are More Than a Test Score

Spring break is over and kids are heading back to school.  Students, teachers, and parents that are in grades 3-8 in New York State will begin the high-stakes testing on Tuesday. Of course, my sixth grader will be refusing the tests for the third year in a row.

Refuse the NYS Tests

Quite simply, my son is more than a score and he deserves an authentic public school education that is not all test prep. If things do not change within the next year, I will refuse the tests for my younger son in 2016. Watching recent events unfold in New York has been especially difficult for me. This isn’t simply an attack on the education for my children, this is my career. While I may not be in a classroom right now, I am still a teacher. My colleagues and friends are in the trenches right now dealing this first hand. I want to be able to go back and teach one day, and with the current environment it will not be possible.

Here are two songs to lighten up the mood a bit.

If you have any questions about Refusing the tests in NYS, please feel free to email me Beth @ OptOutAlbany.com. I have many resources and will point you in the right directions to get answers if I do not have them. Remember, it is NOT too late to refuse the test. Please help children across NYS by refusing the powers that be the data they need to destroy and privatize public education.

It's Me

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Testing Season is Here in New York State

Waving hello from here to there. My blog often takes a back seat this time of year. You see, this is when my educational advocacy mode seems to kick into high gear. After going to a wonderful Reclaiming Public Education forum on March 12, I decided to do something I had been thinking about for a while. I bought a domain name to start a Capital District website about educational advocacy. Within a short time, OptOutAlbany.com was born!

OptOutAlbany is born

It took some time for TechyDad to get the backend parts of the website ready. Then, it was ready to roll and get the first post up. Community members from around the eleven counties making up the Capital District will be working together to make this a reality. This is not simply about refusing the NYS 3-8 testing, it is about so much more.

Refuse the NYS Tests

To learn more about our mission, please head over to see our welcome post about Reclaiming Public Education in the Capital District.

It's Me

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Reclaiming Public Education in New York

Public School Parent Advocacy

Testing season has already arrived in many parts of the United States. Whether you are talking about the PARCC exams in a variety of locations or FSA in Florida, parents, teachers, and students are getting upset and are more vocal about what is happening in their schools. The reality of high-stakes testing in public schools is frightening, especially when you connect the dots and follow the money. The testing is not about helping students, it is about privatizing our public schools, getting rid of teachers, and making companies rich. This video about PARCC has been an eye-opener for many.

The Other PARCC – Parents Advocating Refusal on High-Stakes Testing from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

In New York State the grade 3-8 exams do not begin until April. Thanks to this there are a lot of events throughout the state letting parents know about choices that exist and how they can help us to reclaim our schools. The first Capital Region event will take place on Thursday, March 12 in Delmar, NY. The speakers will be from New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE). Bianca Tannis and Jessica McNair will share a wealth of information with those that join them at 6:30.

Reclaiming Public Education event in Delmar

On Monday, March 16 there will be another event at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. Speakers for this event include Gail Richmond, Michael Lambert, and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco.

Reclaiming Public Education event in Clifton Park

Additional events in other regions are listed on the NYSAPE website. I urge you to take time and join others at one of these events to learn more about what has been happening to schools in recent years. Now is the time to stand up and save our public schools. Our children are more than a score. No politicians will be using my child as a guinea pig and pawn in a game against the teachers. I am done with people that are not educators coming into our schools to make changes that make no sense and only hurt the kids. Charter schools are not the answer and they are only making more of a mess in New York State. Connect the dots and understand that schools are not failing our kids. The reality is that poverty and other factors that are out of the control of schools are being ignored by individuals like Governor Cuomo.

I support teachers and public schools

I am a teacher, I am a parent, and I am a public school advocate that will continue to fight for my children and others to have the education that I was blessed to have while attending public schools.

It's Me

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Fighting for Public School Students

I am the parent of two children in public schools.

I am an educator.

I am a graduate of public schools.

It is because of the first three lines of this post that I add on that I am also a public school advocate.

 Public School Parent Advocacy

For too many years I have watched as money hungry individuals with NO educational background rip the public education system to shreds. Let’s be honest, they don’t care about your children, my children, or anyone else. Their reform movement is backed by companies and individuals that are seeking to tap into the educational market for PROFIT. In the process of doing this they are pointing fingers at teachers.

The losers in this game are all of the children in not only New York State, but the entire country. The politicians want you to believe that if you don’t stand up for educational reform you don’t care about children. Who would want to disagree with that statement and be called out? Many don’t and have sat back and watched everything crumble before our eyes.

I have been vocal on my blog and within advocacy groups in New York State. In doing this, I may never teach again. I have learned to accept that because my children and their right to a proper public education are worth more to me. My kids and every other child deserve the kind of amazing public school education that I had as a child.

Sure, we had standardized testing when I was in school. The difference then and now is that it was not the focus. It was not what everyone eats, sleeps, and breathes day in and day out. I was more than a score and a data point to my district and state. My teachers were able to think outside of the box and be authentic. They were able to use their years of experience to give us the information that we needed to be successful in the world. They taught us in a variety of ways how to problem solve, be creative, and so much more. Now teachers often have scripted lesson plans written by individuals with no teaching experience from modules that are not developmentally appropriate. These modules have sucked the life out of learning, especially in English Language Arts.

As a students I was able to focus on my love for science, take amazing art classes, and complete college courses while in high school. Now budget cuts from the state and unfunded mandates are killing schools. Classrooms are filled with students in tears, teachers that are powerless, and dreams being dashed.

We must stop this insanity now. We owe it to our children to support their teachers and get the focus back on teaching and learning in the classrooms. In recent days teachers are stepping up and risking their jobs to stand up for their students. A teacher in Long Island has refused to administer the NYS exams to her students. Then last night an amazing local teacher made this statement to her board of education. The video is ten minutes long, but I beg you to sit and watch it. It will move you and haunt you. Once you see what the New York State Department of Education is doing to our children you will be angry.

Now I ask you to join me in REFUSING the NYS exams in grades 3-8. My child is more than a score and so if yours.

It's Me

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Focus on Giving Thanks

Focus is huge for me this year.  I want to focus on many specific things for my family, my advocacy work, my blog, my business, and more. However, before I am able to do any of this, I want to continue to focus on me. When I feel better about myself and my actions, everything else goes more smoothly. As you get older, you realize that if you continue to push yourself to the back of the priority list, everything else will suffer along the way. I am still learning to make me, myself, and I a part of the list (no less the top of the list), so I admit I am not expert. There is definitely a learning curve with bumps along the way.

Pay it forward with a thank you

Over the last year, I have tried to help myself to achieve less stress and not overreact about everything that crops up in life. This is HARD for someone that likes to be in control and has a Type A personality. With help from friends reminding me to breathe, I have learned to step back, wait a few minutes, collect my thoughts, and then respond. This has been huge when it works. In addition to this, I have seen that when I make others smile and happy it makes me feel better.

Something I learned in 2014 that I hope to carry over this year is the need to give thanks. It is not simply acceptable just to say a quick thanks, or acknowledge someone on Thanksgiving. We must work on letting others know when they do something amazing, are extra nice to you, or help you to stop a crisis from happening. Too many times, we are quick to use the phone to call to complain to an individual when we are upset. This day and age, email communications make it almost instantaneous even if nobody is around to answer the phone. Of course, this often means emotions are running high and word choices may not be the best.

I admit it, I am guilty of this just like most people. Playing defense is hard, especially when you are wearing your parenting hat. The mama bear in me immediately comes out and I can feel my blood pressure rising. It feels like a personal attack and it is too easy to fire off something in which the tone may not be interpreted properly.

My suggestion, hold back for a while and think about making someone else feel better in that moment. Use that pent up energy and emotion to let another individual know why they matter and how they have helped you, your business, your family, or something else.

Some ideas on when you could give another person with a surprise thank you:

—  If your child comes home from school happy, email their teacher to let them know how excited they were to learn about X, Y, and Z. Let go of differences you have about curriculum, testing, and anything else. Think of the teacher working with kids all day. Give them a nod so they know you are aware of what is happening and how happy your child is.

— Contact your local municipality to let them know if someone went out of their way and helped you. Get names and pay it forward.

— Give the crossing guard that is there every day in the extreme cold getting the kids safely around traffic a note and small gift card for some hot chocolate or coffee.

— When you see someone having a rough day, reach out to them. Let them know you are there. Follow up with an email or text the next day to see how they are doing and let them know you are thinking of them.

— Bring in a special treat to someone that has been especially helpful recently. Let them know it did not go unnoticed and that you are glad that they were there for you that time.

— As a parent of a child with an IEP, it is easy to be critical of the system. When things click and go well for your child, send encouraging notes to teachers, staff, CSE members, the superintendent, and School Board members. They need to know about the positive items taking place. This has been a huge focus of mine since September. The transition for my son to middle school went very well thanks to all of those involved.

Now it’s your turn, how will you pay it forward with a thank you? Please keep me posted because it also makes me smile to know that others are participating in similar ways.

It's Me

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