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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The 2020-2021 school year and its challenges are unlike anything students have experienced before.

Nevertheless, the federal Education Department released its guidelines mandating standardized testing.

READ MORE: New Jersey Governor Outlines Plans To Address Pandemic’s Impact On Students, From Learning Loss To Mental Health

CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez spoke with educators and parents who say it’s simply not fair.

Fourth grader Nathaniel Blanchard says he was hoping to get a break from state assessment tests this year.

“It’s like reviewing everything you did in the past six, five months, so it’s just, like, really stressful,” he said.

But the U.S. Department of Education is mandating schools administer standardized tests, not for the purposes of accountability, but rather to inform parents and educators about student performance and to find inequities in schools, their needs and how to meet those needs.

“I just think that the kids have been through so much already, so why add the stress of standardized tests?” one parent said.

The USDE is suggesting states push testing to summer or fall, shorten the exam or give it remotely.

The New York State teachers union hoped the standardized exam would just be dropped.

“What we would have liked to have seen was a determination that would have allowed the teachers that know the children the best this year to create locally developed assessments to be able to measure the children,” said Jolene DiBrango, with New York State United Teachers.

READ MORE: Parents Fear Children Are Falling Behind In School Due To COVID Slide: ‘It Feels Like It Will Never, Ever Be Enough’

“In a year that has been anything but standard, mandating that students take standardized tests just doesn’t make sense,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said in a statement. “As the educators in the classroom, we have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development, and they are especially unreliable right now. We need to ensure that our students who have been hit hardest during the pandemic receive the support they need. Sizing up students with inequitable and stressful exams is not the solution.”

“Schools shouldn’t have to be purchasing materials. We have teachers, we have districts who can do this work,” said New York City public school teacher Dermott Myrie.

States can request a waiver for the 2020-2021 school year. Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced New Jersey will submit its request.

The New York State Department of Education says it’s considering its options, saying it’s disappointed the USDE isn’t offering a blanket waiver for state assessments.

The state DOE released the following statement —

“USDE informed states last night that it will not grant a blanket waiver for state assessments. While we are disappointed by this decision, we are examining all possible options. Further, USDE made the right call in affirming that no child should be made to come to school to take a state assessment. In addition, USDE agreed to uncouple state assessments from accountability measures so no school will be affected by the results of state assessments and the results will solely be used as a measure of student learning. Given these circumstances, the Department will propose a series of regulatory amendments at the March Board of Regents meeting so Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDE to be held. We continue to have discussions with USDE regarding this matter to find a path forward that is best for the health and safety of all New York’s children.”

Bergen County, New Jersey, teacher and mom of three Jennifer Grom says the tests are a waste of time.

“Parents don’t want this, educators don’t want this, and it’s scientifically impossible that these tests are going to yield reliable valid usable data. Who’s being served by this?” she said.

MORE NEWS: New Jersey Elementary School’s Book Vending Machine An Innovative Project, And Pandemic Distraction

That’s an answer some teachers, parents and students are still trying to figure out.

News Source: cbslocal.com

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Editorial Roundup: New York

By The Associated Press

Albany Times Union. February 27, 2021.

Editorial: A misguided push for tests

THE ISSUE:

The federal government insists on standardized school tests.

THE STAKES:

In the midst of a pandemic, they will divert resources and serve little if any useful purpose.

Sure, the U.S. Department of Education can force New York’s public schools to give kids standardized assessment tests this year. Administrators can squeeze some data out of them and feel like they’re doing something, being accountable, seeing “how far kids have come” or “how far they’ve fallen.”

But they shouldn’t. Not at all. Testing will not produce meaningful data because it’s likely to miss the children who have been hurt most by school shutdowns. And it’s a mistake to demand districts devote resources to testing when so many schools are struggling to provide kids with even the basics under the cruel weight of the pandemic.

However well-intentioned this testing push may be, it is a waste of time and money that could be far better spent.

New York state educators had asked the feds to waive the testing requirements for grades 3-8, as they did last spring, given the realities of the 2020-2021 school year. The request was denied. Schools must conduct the tests, either in-person or remotely, said acting Assistant Education Secretary Ian Rosenblum, because “to be successful once schools have reopened, we need to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on learning and identify what resources and supports students need.”

Mr. Rosenblum is getting ahead of himself. We have students who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in a year. This mandate is out of step with the reality of education, especially at New York’s hardest hit schools. Setting aside the broader arguments against standardized assessments in any year — the way they skew classroom teaching, the outsized resources they consume, the questionable value of the data they produce — this year presents its own arguments against testing.

To begin with, this year looks nothing like years past. Districts right now are a mix of remote and in-person learning, and it’s an uneven mix: Bracing for funding cuts, a number of urban school districts opted to keep upper grades remote. In Albany, for example, grades seven through 12 have not met in their classrooms since March. Those taking standardized tests from home would be in a testing environment utterly unlike that of previous assessments. Who knows what distractions or stressors they might be working through — a baby brother crying, a parent on a work call, upstairs neighbors blaring music, or fighting?

What’s more, tests conducted in these circumstances are likely to miss the kids who have been hurt the most: the ones without laptops or reliable internet, the ones who attend only sporadically because they don’t have the structure and supervision to make working from home viable. The nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners estimates that upward of 3 million students nationwide may have gone without any schooling at all since shutdowns began last spring. How much could tests really tell us about learning loss when the kids who have potentially lost the most are the ones most likely to miss the assessment?

How these tests can be conducted securely with students taking them at home, on what’s likely to be a computer connected to the internet, is at the very least questionable. There’s a reason teachers or other monitors have long served as proctors at tests for every grade level and into graduate school. The alternative — insisting all students come into school for testing — would hardly be prudent at a time when schools aren’t even opening for regular class.

It’s also worth noting that many parents likely will opt their kids out of the exams, further skewing whatever results the tests produce.

We won’t be testing the same pool of kids, and we won’t be testing them in the same environment. Therefore, any data collected won’t be comparable to the data of previous testing years, because — to repeat — this year is unlike any previous testing year.

The assessments won’t just be useless; they’ll come at a price. With all that has been lost this year, how can the government expect schools to devote time and resources to standardized tests? And make no mistake: Kids are feeling the stress of this strange and difficult year. Even under normal circumstances, many students find these assessments highly stressful. There is no good reason to pile extra pressure on already-stressed kids, especially in the name of collecting data that won’t end up being meaningful.

The Department of Education has left schools the option of putting off the exams, even into the fall. And that’s the loophole New York should aim for: delays in administering the tests for as long as legally possible, in the hope that either all students will be back in classrooms by then or the federal government will have come to its senses and revised this misguided mandate. Waiting until all children are fully back in school is the only way to conduct tests that could yield meaningful data.

Though the testing mandate is a poor choice, the reasons behind it are solid: Far too many students have indeed fallen behind because of COVID’s disruptions, and for some of them the repercussions could last a lifetime. This is a crisis not just for education but for our entire society. We will undoubtedly spend years trying to remediate the educational damage of this pandemic. That work will require assessing that damage in an honest and thorough fashion.

But right now, when we’re still in the thick of it, is not the time to take stock of the damage the pandemic has wrought, and will continue to wreak.

___

New York Daily News. March 3, 2021.

Editorial: Making America great: Biden used presidential powers to accelerate vaccination

America is emerging from the abyss we plunged into a year ago, when COVID first struck. We’re hurtling upward like a rocket headed for the moon. Want proof? President Biden announced Tuesday that by May’s end, we’ll have enough vaccine doses for every adult in America, because of a deal struck by pharmaceutical company Merck (which tried and failed to craft its own COVID vaccine last year), to help drugmaker Johnson & Johnson increase production of their highly effective and newly approved single-dose shot.

Biden brokered the deal using the powerful Defense Production Act (DPA). He learned after taking office that J&J was having unexpected problems manufacturing its vaccine, so Merck is dedicating two factories to churning out J&J brand doses, creating 100 million shots for Americans’ arms by June.

The cooperation between two pharma giants who’re typically competitors is a glimmer of light after a year of darkness. The fact of two rivals working together to tackle our common virus foe, prioritizing human life ahead of profit, marries two important American principles — the ingenuity it took to invent the vaccine, with the spirit of sharing that invention with those in need.

It was 350 days ago, March 19, 2020, that this Editorial Board first cried out, in vain, for President Trump to use the DPA’s extraordinary powers to bring American manufacturers together to produce badly needed face masks, gloves and ventilators to combat the worst threat the nation has faced since World War II.

The DPA grants the federal government power to lend money directly to corporations to finance production of necessary supplies, and protects corporations from antitrust lawsuits if they cooperate with each other. Trump failed. Biden, who is also demanding states vaccinate teachers by March 31 so schools can reopen, isn’t repeating Trump’s dumb COVID missteps.

We’ve endured so much death, loneliness and hardship, it’s hard to remember what hope feels like. But this is it. We’re vaccinating 2 million per day, and counting. Spring is coming.

___

Newsday. February 28, 2021.

Editorial: Swiftly probe women’s claims against Cuomo

Two claims of sexual harassment against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo by two women who formerly worked in state government should be deeply troubling to New Yorkers. An independent, thorough and expedited investigation must begin quickly.

In recent days, Lindsey Boylan, 36, who worked in the state’s economic development agency, posted an essay on an internet site detailing unwelcome sexual advances, including a kiss on the lips. This weekend, The New York Times published the charges of Charlotte Bennett, 25, who worked on health policy in the governor’s office. She said the governor asked her questions about her romantic relations that she interpreted as sexual advances.

Cuomo on Sunday released a statement saying, “I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but these are allegations that New Yorkers deserve answers to.” He also said he makes jokes and teases people about their personal lives in both public and private. He says he now realizes that given his position, he was insensitive and that his behavior could be interpreted “as unwanted flirtation.”

However this case is resolved, Boylan’s and Bennett’s claims could be milestones to ending the familiar, but still unsettling, narrative about the culture in private and public workplaces where women are still objectified for their physical appearance, their dress, and their sex lives.

These claims have emerged as Cuomo, who had been praised for his handling of the pandemic, comes under scrutiny for decisions he made about nursing home residents. Those criticisms and an ensuing federal investigation have emboldened his political opponents. It would be shameful for the accounts of these two women to get lost in the political hunger games taking place in Albany.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable and effective way to investigate ethical complaints against public officials in New York. The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which was created to enforce ethics laws and hold violators accountable, is a joke. It’s not independent. Its members are chosen by the governor and state lawmakers, whom it is supposed to investigate. A claim by a former State Senate staffer that her boss, a Bronx senator, kissed her outside an Albany bar in 2015 is still pending.

After first seeking to have some control over an outside investigation, Cuomo has now officially given Attorney General Letitia James the power to oversee the investigation and appoint an independent counsel. That is necessary to encourage others who may have complaints to come forward.

New York’s leaders must remain focused on the COVID-19 virus, which can only happen once this investigation is completed — swiftly and comprehensively. The state is on the cusp of emerging from pandemic, but many more people must be vaccinated before we can return to normalcy. Critical decisions must be made and policies put in place to confront the economic and social challenges that remain in the aftermath of the virus. Begin the probe now.

___

New York Post. March 2, 2021.

Editorial: New York parents are desperate for more school choice: Lift the charter cap!

Parents fed up with the city Department of Education’s disastrous performance this last year are desperate for better choices. Better-off families can pay for alternatives such as private and parochial schools. To give low-income New Yorkers the same opportunity, state lawmakers have a clear duty to lift the cap on public charter schools.

In the city, charter-school enrollment was 138,000 across 267 schools in the 2019-2020 school year. Expansion of existing schools will let that grow some, but not enough.

The DOE’s timidity in reopening schools, its open-close-and-repeat approach to those that aren’t shuttered and its utter failure to make remote learning more than a sad joke frustrate parents across the city. A major exodus from public schools is inevitable — unless the state allows for more high-quality, well-managed charters.

As the pandemic raged, Mayor de Blasio and outgoing Chancellor Richard Carranza took no break from their war on charters. Recently, a state judge ordered the DOE to include charters in the same weekly COVID-19 testing program used at regular schools — and the city is appealing the decision.

Some charters, such as Success Academy, were forced to go all-remote because the DOE wouldn’t let them reopen classes in spaces shared with traditional public schools — lest they make those schools look bad. Yet Success and others at least made remote classes work. KIPP Infinity in Harlem recorded 98 percent attendance because every kid received devices and those with connectivity issues got hotspots.

The flexibility enjoyed by charters allows for out-of-the-box thinking not just in responding to challenges like a pandemic, but also in providing a quality public education for mostly low-income, minority student bodies. They’ve proved to be the laboratories of innovation and achievement that then-Gov. George Pataki envisioned when he pushed charter-school legislation through the Legislature over two decades ago.

In that time, a total of 397 charters have been issued statewide, with 325 schools now serving students, plus 26 approved but not yet open. The 2015 law that raised the state charter cap to 460 allowed only a few dozen more for the city — all which have now been used.

There remain about 25 so-called “zombie” charters — ones that were revoked or approved but never opened. Those licenses should be re-assigned, but it still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the huge demand for charter seats, grades K-12.

Families need new legislation to lift or eliminate the cap. The progressive lawmakers who now dominate the Legislature should ignore the teachers unions, which despise charters, and do right by inner-city kids. It’s a matter of fundamental fairness to give low-income children the same chance to escape bad schools that the wealthy enjoy.

A million city kids have essentially lost over a year of education. Public charters can lead the way in bringing thousands back up to speed via a quality, rigorous instruction.

Save public education and increase basic equity: Raise the cap!

___

Oneonta Daily Star. February 26, 2021.

Editorial: N.Y. should cut ties with dirty Tesla, Bitcoin

No matter what one’s opinion of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, there should be broad agreement on his goal of gradually shifting the state toward an economy based on cleaner, renewable sources of energy instead of fossil fuels, an ideal that will benefit New Yorkers for generations to come. But this plan can only be achieved if the private-sector partners the state chooses are reliable, and it’s time to ask whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his ostensible green energy empire are more trouble than they’re worth.

Musk, with his penchant for inflating financial bubbles, announced in January that Tesla had invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin, which along with other cryptocurrencies is destined to be remembered by history as one of mankind’s most pointless and wasteful indulgences. This phony virtual money harvested predominantly by Chinese “miners” powered by filthy coal-burning power plants has already done vast damage to Tesla’s reputation as an environmentally friendly company; Tesla’s stock peaked at $883 dollars a share around the time of Musk’s announcement and has since plunged nearly 25%.

Cuomo lavished enormous state subsidies on Musk and SolarCity, which Tesla acquired in 2016, to build a solar panel factory in Buffalo, the flagship project of Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic revitalization package for the weathered Rust Belt city. The factory’s price tag was pitched at $750 million but rose to $958.6 million. Criminal probes later revealed that Buffalo-area construction firm LPCiminelli had worked with disgraced ex-SUNY Polytechnic Institute founder Alain Kaloyeros to rig the bidding for the contracts.

Despite costing nearly $1 billion in taxpayer money, the state nonprofit entity that owns the facility later assessed its value at just $75 million — meaning that if SolarCity goes under, the state will have flushed some $900 million down the drain. That’s not far-fetched; Reuters reported in 2018 that Tesla was closing 12 SolarCity facilities in nine states and laying off 9% off the division’s workforce. Nikkei Asian Review reported in February 2020 that Panasonic was ending its partnership in the Buffalo project.

In announcing the project in the fall of 2014, SolarCity promised to bring 5,000 jobs to Buffalo. The contract stipulated that it must employ at least 1,460 by April 30, 2020, or face a $41.2 million penalty. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown visited the facility in early 2020 and said it had 1,100 employees at the time. The coronavirus pandemic let SolarCity off the hook for meeting its hiring goal. But given the dire fiscal state of New York as a result of the pandemic, Cuomo and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli should ensure that the state gets some return on its investment in the factory.

The pandemic, by the way, has done no favors to Musk’s reputation. He was an early COVID conspiracy theorist, tweeting in March 2020: “The coronavirus panic is dumb” just as the crisis was about to explode, and adding “Based on current trends, probably close to zero new cases in US too by end of April.” As it turned out, Americans were dying by the thousands per day by that point. In May, he reopened his Fremont, California, factory in defiance of local COVID restrictions, then lashed out at local officials. Employees said they felt pressured to return to work, and a few weeks later, a COVID outbreak was reported at the facility.

Musk in December announced he would be relocating his businesses from California to Texas — a state whose leaders demonstrated during February’s deadly winter storm that they are willing to bend over backward for reckless, greedy energy magnates. Bear in mind that Tesla only had its first profitable year in 2020, and that was based on a net income of just $721 million inflated by a $1.6 billion in selling regulatory credits. For all Musk rants about government meddling in his business, it’s unlikely it could survive without the special treatment he has received from government.

New York Attorney General Letitia James brought the hammer down this week on cryptocurrency scammers Bitfinex and Tether, imposing an $18.5 million penalty and banning them from New York after finding that they “recklessly and unlawfully covered-up massive financial losses to keep their scheme going and protect their bottom lines” in concealing $850 million in losses. James should also probe whether there is a similar shell game going on with Tesla’s bitcoin play, which the Financial Times’ Jamie Powell recently wrote “will make Tesla’s GAAP profits, both pre- and post-tax, even further detached from reality than they were before.”

___

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tags: New York, Associated Press

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