John Sheffield For NY State Regent (5th Judicial District)
My name is John Sheffield, and I am a candidate for the New York State Board of Regents.
I have been encouraged by a great number of people from many walks of life to pursue this endeavor. As an advocate for children, parents, and public education in general, I felt it was my personal and professional obligation to apply for this post.
I have a lengthy employment history in the field of education. At age 52, however, it is impossible to fit the details of all my experience onto a single page resume. Professionally, I have taught for twenty-four years in the public school system mainly in grades six through eight with a focus on mathematics. My experience with public school students has ranged from the typical classroom setting to inclusion situations to special education and co-teaching as well as small group academic intervention. I was employed in the juvenile justice system as a county probation officer and by the New York State Division for Youth as a teacher of incarcerated youth. Additionally, I’ve had teaching experience at the primary grade levels, BOCES experience, employment in both day care and adult education settings, and a decade of experience teaching summer school. I currently teach mathematics to special education students in grades six through eight and instruct AIS in mathematics to seventh and eighth grade students.
My strengths encompass communication, understanding, and compassion. Whether it has been adjusting a lesson on the fly or finding alternative means of communicating a concept or idea, I have always done so in a positive manner. I have publicly addressed boards of education as well as parent and community groups and have always received positive feedback. My manner of delivery and ability to speak concisely in easily understandable terms has been praised regarding a series of short educational videos I produced. My writing skills are strong, and I admit, a point of pride with me. I have written essays, papers, and articles where I have been complimented on my depth of understanding, historical perspectives, amount of supportive research, and my ability to explain things that may be considered complex in ways that are clear and easily discernible. In the school district in which I work, I have been told that I am one of “the best” when it comes to establishing relationships with students and their parents.
I am confident that I am not only a strong candidate, but one you will feel you can support as well. I look forward to serving the children and parents of New York and safeguarding PUBLIC education.
John D. Sheffield
Parent, teacher, citizen, education activist
Where accountability is concerned I have some very clear notions of who I am accountable to.
In my teaching position I have always felt very strongly that I work for the parents of my district first and foremost, not the district office that signs my check. That will not change when I become a member of NYS Board of regents. The parents and children are the only ones I am ultimately accountable to. My reputation in my district is that one of my greatest strengths is the relationships I form with the kids and families that I work with.
I would keep the lines of communication open. I will remain informed the same way I always have, by listening. I listen to individual parents, parent groups, social media groups, articles, essays, phone calls, emails, etc. It is that quality which helps me form the close ties I do with the parents in my community (both where I teach and where I live). I also believe that I have acted upon what I’ve heard and listened to and will continue to do so.
It is through communication that relationships are formed and maintained.
Where data collection is concerned I support the parental right of notification and consent regarding the collection and sharing of personally identifiable student information with third party vendors. Too long has information been sent home that has fine print that means: “Not signing or responding means that you give your consent.” Quite honestly, that is one of the things that truly angers me. In my opinion both personally and professionally it should be more along the lines of: “If we do not get a response then it means you do not give permission.”
Any time data of that manner is going to be collected consent should be clear and concise. Furthermore, what that data will truly be used for, how it will be used, who will have access to it, and who will be using it must be clearly communicated. Our political “leaders” and even education officials at the district level have at times been less than forthcoming with the whole truth.
I am 100% supportive of an independent study of the Common Core Learning Standards by a panel of NY education practitioners and developmental psychology experts, as well as a study of the costs of the curriculum, exams and tests.
Truth be told all of that should have been done before it was unleashed on the children, their parents, and public education. Perhaps if proper procedures and accepted protocols had been followed from the onset we would not need this conversation now.
While I may not be able to describe what I believe to be the ideal and appropriate length and format for the state standardized exams for children in grades 3-8 I am not without some thoughts on this matter.
To use a Sherlock Holmes quote as an analogy, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” (From The Sign of the Four). In other words I know some of what it is not as well as some of what it should be.
It is certainly not a 3 day 80 minutes /day minimum mind numbing marathon.
It is not multiple choice questions written with “tricking” the test taker in mind. It is one thing to provide reasonable alternate answers, it is another to provide alternate choices that are so nuanced even fairly well educated adults are not sure what the answer is (and yes I’ve seen numerous examples of this).
I know in ELA that questions should not be written two, and sometimes three, grade levels above the grade a child is in (So we need age/grade appropriate questions).
In grades 3-8 math we do not to combine three, four, and even five different skills into ONE question. Once again, it is a matter of common sense and brain development. In my opinion, many recent “math” tests punish those that are poor readers. They may fully understand the steps of a mathematics algorithm, but get utterly confused by the reading. I am not saying that we should not have word problems, nor am I saying that we should not encourage the use of rich vocabulary, but as in ELA we need realistic reading levels.
I believe I have made it clear in my writings, in videos, and in public speaking engagements that I am in complete support of the right of parents to decide whether their children will participate in the New York State standardized exams especially in grades 3-8. I also understand that high school regents exams may require a different approach.
Students with disabilities, many of whom are not able to pass a Common Core-aligned Regents exam, even at a modified passing score, should be able to receive a diploma?
I have always been a firm believer in an alternate diploma path. Our current system of requiring every child receiving a regent’s diploma I feel is misguided as it does not recognize other strengths children and young adults may have. I would love to see the local diploma come back into our school; I’d love to see greater investment into our BOCES and trade programs as well. We must have a legitimate Special Education Certificate/Diploma that recognizes their honest and sincere efforts. Many of these learning challenged students overcome things on a daily basis that many of us cannot
even imagine. To not honor and recognize them with a diploma is, to me, unfathomable.