Standardized Test

PISA Scores, What are They and Who Cares?

2012 PISA Scores

Well, the new PISA scores are out and yes, the US ranked 26th from the bottom in schooling.  What is PISA and who cares?  PISA stands for the Program for International Student Assessment.  It is a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), of 15 year old school pupils’ scholastic performance in mathematics, science and reading. 65 cities and countries are compared every three years with a sampling of 470,000 students throughout the world. 

The news that is spinning this past week when the PISA scores were released Tuesday is that the U.S. is stagnant in the scores or mediocre at best.  Asia is outperforming everyone, but at what cost?  Joe Bower in his blog here put it in light, that it’s about the quality of life in a nation. (I love the quote by Maya Angelou:  “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.”)  Finland does not use standardized tests until students reach High School age.  It is also about poverty.  Historian Diane Ravitch, a twitter friend of mine, writes here that the more we focus on tests, the more we will lose creativity.  Read her article because she gets into the history of PISA and our nation.

Then you have New York Times columnist Tom Friedman writes here that we are stagnant and that is not good for a globalized world.  And then you can see the push at the end of the article for the education reform agenda.  Below in the Twittersphere, I highlight what Michelle Rhee tweeted out regarding the PISA study: “We can’t make excuses for a system that allows American students to be stagnant as other countries surge ahead. We cannot accept mediocrity.”

Now you wonder why our nation of governors have signed on to the Common Core State Standards. This will not go away, and as I noted before, it will be an interesting ride for the next few years In my opinion, for what it’s worth, I question why aren’t we looking at poverty and how to tackle that problem? Is standardization of curriculum the way to go? What about societal issues? And how about funding our schools properly? I recognize how hard all of you work to make the Common Core lessons engaging for your students. I am just questioning and learning why as a nation, we are moving in this direction and trying to understand the facts. We are in for a long overhaul. Keep your chin up – You are the best of the best! Have a great week!


Other News:

  • Bus Duty for Dec 9 – Dec 20 Team 7:  Paula Bates, Marci Tyler, Sarah Pawananon Upcoming bus duty:  Jan 6 – Jan 17 Team 8:  Erin Gates, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor
  • Thank you to Paula Bates for hosting our Holiday Party this past Friday.  What a fun time had by all!  
  • If you are showing a video such as movies, et. al, please note there is a video approval form that needs to be completed.  You can get a copy in the office.
  • Our next staff meeting is Tuesday, December 17th.  This is our Thank You Circle.  Please bring a dish to share and 5 $1.00 lottery tickets to put into a kitty and then we will all have a chance to pick 5.  The lucky winner treats all of us!!  
  • Our Staff Stocking extravaganza starts Monday.  Thank you Betty for a great idea.  We have 33 staff members participating.  That is AWESOME!  
  • Co-Op bids are due January 7th.   Please be conservative in your orders as we would like to “beef up” technology purchases.
  • 12  Nelson Mandela  quotes you will not see in the mainstream media.
  • Welcome back Brenda Trivilino!!  
Things out in the Blogsphere 
  • My friend Tony Sinanis is guest blogger on Peter DeWitt’s blog.  He writes about Branding Your School.
  • In their Sunday Review, the New York Times editorial board asks Who Says Math Has to be Boring.  A must read and will be a four part series regarding math and science teaching.  It will argue that “the American system of teaching these subjects is broken.”
  • The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the PISA scores in this editorial.
Things in the Twittersphere

StevenSinger3's avatar
US schools with less than 10% poverty are 1st on international exams. Fix poverty & you fix schools. ……

pasi_sahlberg's avatar

 Can’t We Do Better? asks Tom Friedman (but remember that cost of high PISA scores in Asia is too high)…

App of the Week
Evernote is a great note taking application that can be used on your tablet, your phone, or on your laptop/desktop.  It is a very powerful program that can save and organize your files, pictures, videos, and you name it.  There is a file sharing option that you can share with others to work together on projects.  Unlike Google Drive, this program has a robust file system that is easily searchable, even with handwritten notes.   It also has applications such as Skitch to mark up pictures as well as Penultimate so you can take notes with a stylus which can be a great tool to give that personal touch of a handwritten note.  Evernote has extensions for both Chrome and I.E. so that you can “clip” webpages to go directly to your Evernote account, similar to what Diigo does, but Diigo does not have the writing options.  Evernote also links in with IFTTT and you can manage all of your favorite tweets, Facebook likes, Pinterest pins, and GMail favorites.  Evernote is free.  (I choose to subscribe to get the full program features.)  Evernote is cloud-based computing and can work great in the classroom.  You can explore the options here on how to use Evernote in schools.  Joe Sanfilippo from Teq also put a quick 10 tips using Evernote blog here.  Try Evernote – you can’t go wrong and it’s FREE!!


  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!


Other Items of Interest

M3 Logo
Moody’s Mega Math Challenge is a free team-based math competition for juniors and seniors. Winning teams win scholarship money. In the contest, students have to solve open-ended, realistic math problems.


Research about specific instructional leadership actions indicates that coaching, evaluation, and involvement in the school’s educational program translates to higher student achievement.


Ever wonder about the Regents Research Fund fellowsThis article explains [a little] about them and what they do.  My friend Carol Burris is quoted in this article.  Not to be missed! (As Chancellor Tisch states in response to criticism and debate of the RRF, “It’s a sexy thing to say in this environment!” )

SED has put together some answers to common questions about data, data-sharing, and the portal.


The American School Board Journal has shared “The 12 Rules of Christmas” with advice for school at this time of year.
The questions we ask students can be so powerful – or so weak (and we often answer the questions for ourselves). Here are some simple tips for better questions.

The videos from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study will soon be available to researchers for additional study. These are the videos that were used to make their conclusions about measuring teacher quality upon which SED has relied.
Data Flyer Image

The use of data in schools has been one of the hot topics in education. You can read SED’s “testimony” to the Assembly Education Committee’s hearing. OCM BOCES has prepared an explanation of the role of data in schools for general audiences (feel free to distribute or reproduce).

Standards-based education and differentiation work together to promote high levels of achievement for all students. As part of the latest cohort of Scaffolding for Student Outcomes: Meeting Diverse Needs, participants will:
  • Explore the similarities and differences in learners and gain insight about how they are likely to respond to classroom instruction
  • Identify options for meeting the needs of the wide range of students including gifted students, struggling learners, students with special needs, second language learners, resistant and reluctant learners
    Explore UDL and options for scaffolding within CCLS target learning outcomes
20 Things Video

Kid President has twenty things we should say more often to each otherThis video would be great for a morning meeting – kids could talk about what they might add to his list.

A scene from the film ‘Star Kid’ — Trimark Pictures/Everett

This blog from the Wall Street Journal is for parents of accused bullies. It might not be a bad idea to share it with parents when the situation arises.

A Touch of Humor


NYSED Prohibits Standarized Testing PreK-2


During the week of tense Common Core forums on Long Island and a call from NYSUT and UFT, Commissioner John B. King, Jr. released a statement Thursday, November 14 to the media here  calling for a ban on standardized testing for PreK-2 grades and throwing the responsibility back to districts to make the decision on how to assess students in PreK-2 grades.  They do not recommend giving “bubble” tests such as what has happened is some districts using Pearson tests in first grade as attested by Carol Burris here.  Luckily, our district chose not to go this way with standardized testing at the PreK-2 level.  We even made the decision to “cut back” on giving so many checkpoints and “probes” to our younger students via AIMSweb testing because it is taking too much time away from instruction.

We still need to be cognizant of how we are approaching assessments, not only PreK-2 but throughout all grade levels.  Good teaching is good teaching, including giving assessments. Our staff embeds assessments and we include “checkpoints” to see how students are achieving what is being taught. What we need to be careful with is “test prep”, how we are doing it and how we expose our kids to testing. Unfortunately, we are in an era where the standardized tests count, something that is being pushed back from parents, educators, students, staff and citizens around New York State.  Just look at the Long Island forums about Common Core.  “The mommies are awake!”

It should be interesting to see what happens in the months ahead.  NYSUT, UFT and  SAANYS have asked for a three year moratorium on  high stakes consequences for teachers and principals and using the NYS 3-8 exams.  This is due to the  ineffective manner of how the CCLS and curricula have been rolled out in school districts.  And unfortunately, the answer should not be “go to EngageNY for professional development”.  It sure is an interesting time in education.  Have a great week!


  • Bus Duty for Nov. 18 – Dec. 6 Team 6:  Connie Tubbs, Kelly Ayen, Bev PhelpsUpcoming bus duty Dec 9 – Dec 20 Team 7: Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon
  • I had to change our staff meeting date to Nov. 19th.  Please make sure that you sign-up on MLP before it goes off.  The topic of this meeting will be dedicated to watching and having a discussion about the movie, Including Samuel, and inclusive classrooms.  Kim Hayes will join us.
  • Please make sure you are enrolling for the Fall offerings of Professional Development on MLP soon!
Other News:
  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other Items of Interest

Enterprise America is ready to launch! A special Open House for Middle-Level Educators(administrators and teachers) with an informational presentation and guided tours has been scheduled for December 11th at 4:00pm at the new WCNY headquarters and Education Center. Come see how the space has been transformed and learn details about the experience.


Students with disabilities don’t all need extra time on tests and sometimes general education students benefit from extra time. Let the purpose of the assessment determine how time should matter. If assessing efficiency, then a fixed amount of time makes sense. If demonstration of understanding is the goal, however, time should not matter.

Here is some good advice for responding when students say “I can’t do this.” We want all of our students to have the habit of perseverance, or, as it is popularly called these days, grit.


It is important to teach students how to study. This research explains what works and what doesn’t. Reading, re-reading, and highlighting are not very effective ways to study. Distributed practice is much more effective.
This board has lots of suggestions to help with writing: organizers, prompts, infographics, videos, lessons, and more.


We all make lots of presentations. This short post reminds us that every presentation we give is about making change. We should keep that in mind and use this acknowledgement to evaluate every slide we show in every presentation.

This RSAanimate about The Power of Time has many connections to education and schooling.

Here are some clever ways to display the lesson objectives, goals, or I can statements (with a little help from technology).
The history of the principalship is fascinating and helps us understandthe complexity of the position (but it doesn’t make the job any easier to do).

Here’s a compelling argument for why very busy educators should find fifteen minutes every day for social media. By the way, November is “connected educators month.”
LogoThe Opportunity Nation site describes the economic, education, and community factors by state or even by county.


Thinking about a 1:1 initiative? Watch this recording of Patrick Larkin from the recent TALKS session. He did it!

Pre-K | ELA | Comprehension
First we take you to a classroom where Ms. Davis uses repetition through an interactive read-aloud to help students practice and develop their vocabulary. 
Pre-K | ELA | Art
Let’s stay with Ms. Davis for another inspired lesson where she helps students connect the pictures they’ve drawn to words on the page.
Pre-K | ELA | Empathy
Ms. Hawkins uses a read aloud to get students identifying and describing feelings. Students continue to develop emotional literacy by creating images and magnet boards to build faces that show different emotions.
A Touch of Humor
Close to Home

Do Not Let The NYS Test Scores Define Us!

Hi All:

I hope you are having a wonderful, restful summer and getting recharged for another fantastic school year! Yes, I am trying a new format for the Monday Focus this year and will be putting it into blog format.  Just so you know blogging is the future and lots of educators and folks are blogging.  Be brave and try it out.  You have lots to share!
As you are aware, the NYS exam results have been released.  We were warned that we would see a dramatic drop in our scores.  We were also told that this should not affect teacher growth scores as this is an adjustment in the curriculum and a new test.
You know, as your building principal, it was hard to watch this unravel last week.  It truly put a knot in my stomach, didn’t it for you? What I have to remind ALL of you is this:  You cannot let this define what you do, day in and day out.  EVERY district is in the same boat, every teacher, every building principal, every superintendent.  There is nothing we should stress about and we need to continue in the manner of positivity.
Please know that our administrative team will be working on how to release scores to the community.  I have not seen individual student results nor have we received growth scores from the state.  Once we get this, we will be planning for the release to the community, parents and teachers.
Remember, we are humans, we are not a score and neither are our kids we teach.  You are the best of the best and we have to remember to keep the tenants and beliefs that we have instilled and that the social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic.  We will get through this together as a team like we have done in the past.  You are already working hard to align curriculum, work on assessments, and getting ready yet for another fantastic school year.  I cannot ask for more.  Know that my door is always open and I will see you soon!
  • The custodial team is doing the finishing touches and finishing up rooms in the 4-5 wing.  I have to commend them all for the hard work in moving all classrooms, supplies, furniture, etc. from one building to another.  Thank you for a wonderful job!
  • Our office will be back up running full time on August 19th.  We have lots to do, so please work with us as we get our school up and running.  Our supplies have not come in yet, so we will be working diligently on that as well as ALL of the packets and “things” we need to do to get our school up and running for September.
  • A great post by my friend, Peter DeWitt regarding the release of the NYS test results.  Take a peek.
  • Check out my blog post “Why We Need to Believe in our Kids”
  • Please remember to mark on your calendar our Meet and Greet for Sept. 3 from 6:00p.m. to 7:00p.m.
  • Please start enrolling in our Remind 101 class for text to your phone for delays and cancellations.  This will take over for the snow phone tree.  (Please refer to my email regarding this feature.)  How do you join?  It’s simple. To receive messages via text, text @eastsides to (347) 732-3168.  That is it, very simple.  Please start joining.  Thanks.
  • I am in conversation with Dan Cullen, principal at Stillwater Township Elementary School in NJ to hook up our building for cross-conversations on best practices.  Their grade level teams are interested in partnering with us and I thought, wow, what a powerful tool to see what others are doing.  Dan and I just did a google hangout and we are in the planning stages.  Lots of opportunity here, so please keep your mind open and I will provide staff development on how to do this, i.e. google hangouts, skypingetc, etc.  Here is the link to Dan’s school.  More info, will be forthcoming.
  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • What are the five things your are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!

Other items of interest:

SED prepared material to accompany the release of 3-8 student scores, including explanatory slides, some test items with explanation, and eventually a scale score conversion strategy. 
The APPR 2.0 section of the APPR microsite now includes the notes about what we learned from SLOs, evidence collection, and end-of-the-year meetings. Don’t forget that the deadline for APPR Plan Implementation certification is August 30th (forms and instructions are posted on the APPR Plan page of the APPR microsite). 
North Carolina is the largest state to change their tenure laws. In the future, the most effective 25% of teacher will be offered four-year contracts while all other teachers will be offered one or two-year contracts. 
People who were bullied throughout their childhood are more likely to convict crimes and serve time in jail – more reasons to tackle bullying. 
Some of the 101 things for a great start list might not apply to K-12 education, but many do. It might be worth a look by your new teachers and mentors – and then have them create their own list. 
Here, again, is your Opening of School Checklist from JustASK publications. You’ll be able to check many of these things off – but there might be a few more things to add to your to-do list to help you be ready. 
This new video from EdLeader21 lets you look at some schools where the 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking & Creativity) are a deliberate part of the educational program. 
Here are two examples of the positive welcome back letters students should receive from their teachers before a new year starts. 
Here are great ideas for getting to know your students at the beginning of the year (NYS Teaching Standards #1). 
This is a good collection of 2.0 ideas you can share with teachers prior to the beginning of the year. Larry Ferlazzo, too, shares a great collection of ideas for the new school year. 
This guide to 21st Century learning for parents starts with the 4Cs, and then provides web site and other resources to support the 4Cs outside of school. 
This picture is another approach to expressing what college, career, and citizenship readiness really means. How many of these skills are measured by the NYS Assessment System? 
Here are Alfie Kohn’s tips for creating meaningful learning environments for our students. As you expect, he downplays compliance and suggests ways to involve students in their learning. 
A Touch of Humor