SAANYS’ Positions on NYSUT and inBloom

On January 28, SAANYS presented testimony at a joint hearing conducted by the state legislature regarding Governor Cuomo’s proposed Executive Budget. Our written testimony, upon which verbal testimony is based, is available by clicking here. However, since the legislative hearing, we have received numerous inquiries about two matters:

Does SAANYS plan any action similar to that taken by NYSUT, in taking a Vote of No Confidence in Commissioner King?
What is the SAANYS position in regard to Personally Identifiable Information – including inBloom?
We are taking this opportunity to address both of these issues, and it is likely that we will include this information in News & Notes as well.
NYSUT’s Vote of No Confidence
NYSUT took their Vote of No Confidence on January 25. SAANYS was aware of such a planned action and discussed this matter on this same day with this association’s board of directors. At the close of this discussion the SAANYS board of directors determined that we would not embark upon a similar course of action. There were many reasons for this position including the following:

Is the NYSUT action properly directed? The NYSUT action solely addresses Commissioner King, and the SAANYS board had misgivings as to whether this is appropriate. The board recalled that the current reform effort began with Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and former Commissioner David Steiner. It has been supported by a majority of the Board of Regents, by Regents Research Fellows that some have described as a shadow government, by a legislature that was willing to pass APPR legislation in two days without a hearing, by two different governors, a variety of private foundations and commercial interests, as well as by Secretary Duncan and President Obama. In short, the pro-reform advocates are far more than any one person.

What is to be gained? Board members did not feel that there is any great likelihood that John King would resign or  be fired. Even if he did, the Board of Regents would select a successor who would also continue to pursue implementation of the Regents’ education reform agenda. That said, the SAANYS board reviewed the draft resolution that was presented to the NYSUT board of directors and was sympathetic to much of the rationale NYSUT cited in support of its resolution. The implementation of the reform has been unpiloted, uneven across school districts, and not timely supported by promised curriculum or professional development. There has been excessive testing and a lack of empathy at SED toward students, parents and professional staff at schools. While a No Confidence Vote might provide short-term visceral satisfaction, it takes no real step toward fixing the damage done. The SAANYS board is instead focusing on advocating for the following, which have already been communicated to members of the State Legislature and Board of Regents:

  • We support a moratorium on the use of state assessments for high stakes consequences for students and educators until there has been a properly sequenced implementation of the common core curriculum.
  • There may not be a properly sequenced implementation until such time as SED generates common core-aligned curricula and professional staff have received professional development in applicable instructional shifts.
  • Test questions and answers should be released to allow in-depth item analysis to inform instruction and improve student learning.
  •  After implementation, we support an informed, neutral third party analysis of the reform effort to determine what adjustments may be appropriate.

SAANYS Position on “Personally Identifiable Information”
Ordinarily, at Legislative Hearings, verbal testimony will highlight salient aspects of written testimony. The Executive Budget did not address the issue of Personally Identifiable Information and so our written testimony did not address this topic. It is planned that we will lobby the State Education Department and legislature in this regard. We also engaged the SAANYS Board of Directors on this topic at their January 25 meeting. However, because some members of the legislature asked  questions in this regard to those testifying before SAANYS, we took license in going “off script” and addressing this in our verbal testimony. We said that, SAANYS supports the recommendation in the report accruing from the five Senate Hearings conducted by Senator Flanagan for a one-year delay – a stop — in any Race to the Top activities related to the data portal. This time would be essential to thoughtfully consider (and reconsider) this matter.  In that New York State is a local control state, we recommended that decisions regarding whether to opt-in or opt-out of data portal utilization should be done at the local level – as has been the case up to this time. We recommended that the State Education Department “drop inBloom.” We also expressed support for the safeguards included in Senate Bill 6007 and Assembly Bill 6059-a.

These safeguards include:

  •     Access based on having a legitimate educational interest.
  •     Indemnification for school districts, BOCES and the State.
  •     Encryption to protect data in motion.
  •     Restrictions on how student data may be used.
  •     Specification of what happens upon termination of contract.
  •     Actions for suspected and actual data breaches.
  •     Prohibited use for commercial purposes.
  •     Graduated fines and penalties for Vendors violating requirements.


We are doing all that we can to advance the above positions, and other SAANYS positions. SAANYS Executive Director Kevin Casey and I met with Senator Flanagan on February 3 (yesterday), today we discussed considerations related to successful school completion with Deputy Commissioners Slentz and Smith, and tomorrow I am scheduled to meet with Assembly member Nolan.  Coincidentally, moments ago, two news articles were released (attached below), one by leaders of the State Assembly, the other by leaders of the State Senate. Both articles address common core phase-in, and recommend delays in the use of common core-aligned tests for high stakes purposes. Further, leaders from the Assembly recommend, “delay the use of inBloom or any third party vendor in developing a ‘data portal,'” and leaders from the Senate recommend, “delay operation of the Education Data Portal for at least one year.” These calls by the Assembly and Senate are consistent with positions advanced by SAANYS.

Note: On February 10 and 11, the Board of Regents is expected to present their adjusted plan for roll-out of their education reforms. SAANYS will be at this meeting, and we will keep you informed.
We hope this information is helpful. All the best. …Jim Viola

New Release 1:

Assembly leader calls for Common Core delay

February 4, 2014 – 11:13 AM

by Tom Precious

ALBANY – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Education Chairwoman Cathy Nolan today called on the state Board of Regents to delay the state’s common core program for two years. The views of the Assembly Democrats generally influence the Regents, since its members are essentially selected by the Democrats who control the Assembly.

In a written statement, the two lawmakers said:

“New Yorkers share the same goal – to improve our schools and help prepare our students to be successful and college- and career-ready upon graduation. However, given the serious issues that have been raised over the past year, we feel it is both prudent and wise to take the following actions. The use of Common Core aligned tests for high-stakes decisions for teachers, principals and students should be delayed, at a minimum, for two years. At the same time, SED (State Education Department) should continue to develop Common Core aligned curricula and assist local school districts in developing their own curricula so that teachers will be able to successfully teach Common Core aligned subjects while at the same time helping students reach their maximum potential.

“As we have stated in the past, there are equally serious concerns and potential flaws regarding plans to share student data with a private third party vendor. There are persistent questions regarding the ability to protect such data from security breaches, the necessity of the details and categories of such student data that is being shared, as well as the highly inappropriate potential for commercialization. SED should delay the use of inBloom or any third party vendor in developing a “data portal” until all these questions have been answered and the concerns fully satisfied.”

News Release 2:

Senate Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, and Senate Education Chair John Flanagan Call for Delay of Common Core and Sharing of Student Privacy Data

Senators Skelos, Klein, and Flanagan issued the following statement:

We continue to support the goals of an improved education curriculum that increases standards and ensures that students are college and career ready.

However, after having spent months listening to parents, teachers, administrators and educational professionals at public hearings conducted throughout New York State, it is our belief that while the implementation of Common Core Learning Standards may have been well intended, it has been poorly executed.

We continue to have grave concerns over this flawed roll-out. Unless the Board of Regents acts to alleviate the concerns of parents, teachers, and other educators, we call on the Regents to delay the use of Common Core tests for high-stakes decisions about teachers, principals and students for a minimum of two years. During this time, SED should continue to develop curricula aligned with higher standards and assist local school districts in developing their own curricula so teachers can successfully implement higher learning standards and help students reach their maximum potential.

In addition, students, parents, teachers, privacy experts, and school administrators have raised serious concerns about the ability of unauthorized third-parties to access personally identifiable information (PII) of students, teachers, and principals that will be collected on the state-wide Education Data Portal (EDP). Therefore, we reiterate our call for the Regents to delay operation of the Education Data Portal for at least one year. 


n the end, our goal must continue to be the development of higher learning standards in the best interest of our students and their futures.