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Leonie Haimson of ClassSizeMatters calls on NYC parents and concerned citizens to attend public hearings about allocation of money.

Starting Tuesday of this week, the NYC Department of Education will hold mandated hearings in each borough on the use of more than $500 million in state Contracts for Excellence funds – which, according to state law, is supposed to include a plan to reduce class size.

Right now, class sizes in the early grades are the largest in 15 years, despite the fact that smaller classes are the top priority of parents in the DOE’s own surveys, and the constitutional right of NYC students, according to the state’s highest court.

Yet instead of allocating specific dollars for this purpose, the DOE has left it up to principals to decide which among five programs they would like to spend these funds. To make things worse, in an Orwellian bit of doublespeak, the DOE will allow principals to spend these funds not to lower class size – but if they merely claim that they will be used to minimize class size increases.

Please attend these hearings and speak out; more information and a schedule is here, and a petition you can sign is here.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
212-674-7320
leonie@classsizematters.org
http://www.classsizematters.org

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com

In her testimony to the New York City Council Education Committee, education activist Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters exploded several common myths about charter schools.

 

First is the myth that they are public schools. They are not. They are private corporations with contracts to run schools, exempt from most state laws and from most state oversight. In court after court, the charters themselves have argued that they are NOT public schools. We should take their word for it. They are not public schools.

 

Second is the myth that charter schools enroll exactly the same demographic of students as the real public schools. This is patently false. With few exceptions, they take smaller proportions of students with disabilities and almost no students with severe disabilities, and they enroll smaller proportions of English language learners. They have the power to kick out students who do not meet their stringent disciplinary codes, which leaves them with a very different student population than public schools. Meanwhile, neighborhood public schools get disproportionate numbers of the students who are most expensive and most difficult to educate. This is not a fair playing field on which to compete. The original purpose of charters was to collaborate, not to compete, yet charter schools take every opportunity to boast of their success with a select population of students.

 

If you want to know about the other four myths, read the rest of the post.

In an earlier post, I noted that the original branch of the rapidly growing 50CAN, NYCAN, and other charter-advocacy groups stemmed from ConnCAN. I said that ConnCAN, in Connecticut, was started by hedge fund managers, who are its usual supporters wherever it launches. I also pointed out (correctly) that in the psychiatric literature, the term CAN refers to “child abuse and neglect.”

 

Leonie Haimson, leader of Class Size Matters in New York, sent the following correction to my post:

 

Leonie Haimson writes:

 

Actually CAN was founded not by hedgefunders but by Jonathan Sackler, heir to a Perdue Phama, makers of the controversial drug Oxycontin. Sackler is a big supporter of charter schools, especially Achievement First. As the NY Times reported, “in 2007 Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $600 million in fines and other payments to resolve the charge that the company had misled doctors and patients by claiming that the drug’s [Oxycontin’s] long-acting quality made it less likely to be abused than traditional narcotics. The company’s president, medical director and top lawyer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding and paid more than $34 million in fines”.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/business/01sackler.html?_r=0

As Edushyster noted, http://edushyster.com/?p=386, “Last year alone the drug generated $2.8 billion in sales for Purdue Pharma. And with Purdue desperate to extend the patent on OxyContin, the company recently began testing the drug on children. “

She also points out, “In 2010 his daughter Madeleine released a “documentary” called “The Lottery,” chronicling four New York City kids competing to get into a New York City Charter School. The Wall Street Journal praised the film, noting hopefully that it “could change the national debate about public education.” No mention of Ms. Sackler’s antecedents–or the role of OxyContin sales in funding her film–was ever made.”

 

My addition to Leonie Haimson’s correction: Madeleine Sackler’s “documentary” was a paean of praise to Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy. Viewed critically, it shows how the chain whips up a frenzy over the lottery as a way of creating market demand and branding the schools as exclusive.

Below is a letter from Leonie Haimson, who was previously added to the honor roll of this blog for fighting for students, parents, and public education.

Leonie almost singlehandedly stopped the effort to mine student data, whose sponsors wanted confidential and identifiable information about every child “for the children’s sake.” Leonie saw through that ruse and raised a national ruckus to fight for student privacy. Privacy of student records is supposedly protected by federal law (FERPA), but Arne Duncan weakened the regulations so that parents could not opt out of the data mining.

It is not over. The Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation put up $100 million to start inBloom, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation got the contract to develop the software, and amazon.com plans to put it on a “cloud.” They will be back. We count on Haimson and the many parents she has inspired to remain vigilant on behalf of our children. As a grandparent of a child in second grade in a Brooklyn public school, I have a personal interest in keeping his information private.

Here is Leonie’s letter, written 12/20/13:

Dear folks,

I have good news to report! Yesterday, Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the NYS Assembly, along with Education Chair Cathy Nolan and fifty Democratic Assemblymembers sent a letter to Commissioner King, urging him to put a halt to inBloom.

“It is our job to protect New York’s children. In this case, that means protecting their personally identifiable information from falling into the wrong hands,” said Silver. “Until we are confident that this information can remain protected, the plan to share student data with InBloom must be put on hold.”

Why is this important? Because Speaker Silver and the Democrats in the Assembly appoint the Board of Regents, as the Daily News noted. The Regents control education policy in New York, and appoint the commissioner.

We have begun to make real headway in the past year against inBloom, but we need your support so we can continue the fight for student privacy and smaller classes in the public schools.

We count on donations from individuals like you as our main source of funding. If you appreciate our work and want it to continue and grow stronger, please give a tax-deductible contribution right now by clicking here: http://www.nycharities.org/donate/c_donate.asp?CharityCode=1757 or sending a check to the address below.

I am proud to have been called “the nation’s foremost parent expert on inBloom and the current threat to student data privacy.” We were the first advocacy group in the nation to sound the alarm about inBloom’s plan to create a multi-state database to be stored on a vulnerable data cloud run by Amazon.com with an operating system built by Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify. The explicit goal of inBloom was to package this information in an easily digestible form and offer it up to data-mining vendors without parental consent.

In February, inBloom formally launched as a separate corporation, and nine states were listed as “partners.” We worked hard to get the word out through blogging, personal outreach to parent activists and the mainstream media. After protests erupted in states throughout the country, inBloom’s “partners” pulled out. Now, eight out of these states have severed all ties with inBloom or put their data sharing plans on indefinite hold.

Sadly, as of yesterday, New York education officials were still intent on sharing with inBloom a complete statewide set of personal data for all public school students– including names, addresses, phone numbers, test scores and grades, disabilities, health conditions, disciplinary records and more. To stop this, we helped to organize a lawsuit on behalf of NYC parents which will be heard in state court on January 10 in Albany (note the new date), asking for an immediate injunction to block the state’s plan. (The state has delayed the hearing in order to gain more time to respond to our legal briefs.)

In addition, we will continue our work on the critical issue of class size. As a result of our reports, testimonies and public outreach, we have been able to shine a bright light on what many consider to be the most shameful aspect of Mayor Bloomberg’s education legacy: the fact that class sizes in NYC have increased sharply over the last six years and are now the largest in the early grades since 1998. More on this issue is in my Indypendent article just published, called Grading the Education Mayor

Class sizes have increased every year, despite the fact that the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case was supposedly “settled” by a state law in 2007 that required NYC to reduce class sizes in all grades. As a result, 86% of NYC principals say they are unable to provide a quality education because classes are too large. Parents say that smaller classes are their top priority according to the Department of Education’s own surveys. There is no more critical need than smaller classes if the city’s children are to have an equitable chance to learn.

But class size is not just a critical issue in NYC public schools. Because of budget cuts, class sizes have risen sharply throughout the state and the nation as a whole. In more than half of all states, per-pupil funding is lower than in 2008 and school districts have cut 324,000 jobs.

At the same time, more and more money is being spent by billionaires and venture philanthropists on bogus “studies” to try to convince states and districts that class size doesn’t matter and public funds should be spent instead on outsourcing education into private hands – despite much rigorous research showing the opposite to be true.

With vendors trying to grab your child’s data in the name of providing “personalized” instruction – a euphemism that really means instruction delivered via computers and data-mining software in place of real-life teachers giving meaningful feedback in a class small enough to make this possible — our efforts are more crucial than ever before.

Please make a donation so that our work can continue and be even more effective in 2014.

Thanks for your support and Happy New Year,

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
212-674-7320

Leonie Haimson created a list of the promises that Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio made about education while campaigning. She draws upon various public statements, including his answers to a survey sent to all candidates.

Here is another source. This was the forum held by Parent Voices NY at PS 29 in Brooklyn. Mr. De Blasio pledged to eliminate the A-F grading system borrowed fro Jeb Bush. The subject of the forum was education, and all the Democratic candidates except Chris Quinn participated.

I wrote this post while waiting to board my flight from Denver to Seattle. I forgot the link! No excuses! I also forgot to add that Leonie Haimson is a hero of public education, a woman who has repeatedly, courageously stood up to the rich and powerful on behalf of children. She was long ago added to the honor roll of this blog. She has advocated, litigated, testified, organized, written, researched, done whatever she could to defend the rights of children, and all without compensation. Her conscience is her guide.

Here is the original post, link added.

I have known Leonie HAimson for nearly 10 years. She is the most articulate, best informed, most relentless champion of children, families, and public schools that I know.

If the Gates-Murdoch data mining operation should fail nationally, Leonie did it. She has fought unceasingly for reduced class size, parent involvement, the reduction of high-stakes testing, and evidence-based policy. She does all this without any compensation.

In the fight to reclaim our public schools, she is a true hero. I do not use the word lightly.

Here is her review of “Reign of Error.”

I have known Leonie HAimson for nearly 10 years. She is the most articulate, best informed, most relentless champion of children, families, and public schools that I know.

If the Gates-Murdoch data mining operation should fail nationally, Leonie did it. She has fought unceasingly for reduced class size, parent involvement, the reduction of high-stakes testing, and evidence-based policy. She does all this without any compensation.

In the fight to reclaim our public schools, she is a true hero. I do not use the word lightly.

Here is her review of “Reign of Error.”

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and administrator of the New York City parents’ blog, wrote this analysis of the new state test scores:

Dear parents: As you may have probably heard, the new state test scores were released to the press and they are disastrous.

Only 31% of students in New York State passed the new Common Core exams in reading and math. More than one third — or 36% — of 3rd graders throughout the state got a level I in English; which means they essentially flunked. In NYC, only 26 percent of students passed the exams in English, and 30 percent passed in math – meaning they had a level 3 or 4. Only 5% of students in Rochester passed.

Though children’s individual scores won’t be available to parents until late August, I urge you not to panic when you see them. My advice is not to believe a word of any of this.

The new Common Core exams and test scores are politically motivated, and are based neither on reason or evidence. They were pre-ordained to fit the ideological goals of Commissioner King and the other educrats who are intent on imposing damaging policies on our schools.

Here are five reasons not to trust the new scores:

1- The NY State Education Department has not been able to produce a decent, reliable exam with a credible scoring system in at least ten years. That’s why there have been wild gyrations from year to year in the percent of students making the grade. For example, 77% of NYS students were at level 3 or 4 in English in 2009; this dropped to 53% in 2010 and 31% now. The last two years of exams created by Pearson have been especially disastrous; from the multiple errors in questions and scoring on the 2012 exams (including the infamous Pineapple passage) to the epic fail of this year’s tests – which were too long, riddled with ambiguous questions and replete with commercial logos for products like Mug Root Beer. Top students were unable to finish these shoddy exams, and many left in tears and had anxiety attacks. To make things worse, the exams featured reading passages drawn straight from Pearson textbooks which were assigned to some students in the state and not to others.

2- For nearly a decade, from at least 2003-2010, there was rampant test score inflation in NY state, with many of the same people who are now supporting the current low scoring system claiming with equal conviction that the earlier, rising test scores showed that NYS and NYC schools were improving rapidly. The state test score bubble allowed NYC Mayor Bloomberg to coast to a third term, renew mayoral control and maintain that his high-stakes testing regime was working, when the reality was that, according to everyone who was paying attention, the exams had gotten overly predictable and the scoring too easy over time. At the same time as the state exams showed huge increases, scores on the more reliable national exams called the NAEPs showed little progress. In fact, NYC made smaller gains on the NAEPs than nearly any other large school district in the country during these years.

3. The truth is that the new cut scores that determine the different proficiency levels on the state exams – which decide how many kids “pass” or are at Level 3 and 4 — are arbitrary and set by Commissioner King. He can set them to create the illusion that our schools are rapidly improving, as the previous Commissioner did, or he can set them to make it look that our public schools are failing, as King now is doing, to bolster support for his other policies.

4. The primary evidence that Commissioner King now bases his overly-harsh cut scores upon is that the results are mirror the percent of students who test “proficient” or above on the NAEPs. Yet while the NAEPs are reliable to discern trends in test scores, because they remain relatively stable over time, the cut scores that determine the various NAEP achievement levels are VERY controversial. See Diane Ravitch on how the NAEP’s benchmarks are “unreasonably high”; or this article that reveals that even the National Academy of Sciences has questioned the setting of the NAEP proficiency levels, and how many experts believe that level 2 on the NAEPs – or basic — should be used instead to estimate which students are on track for college:

Fully 50% of 17-year-olds judged to be only basic by NAEP ultimately obtained four-year degrees. Just one third of American fourth graders were said to be proficient in reading by NAEP in the mid-1990s at the very time that international assessments of fourth-grade reading judged American students to rank Number Two in the world.

In fact, by using NAEP levels as support for his cut scores, King is either confused or disingenuous about what these levels really represent.

5. So why are King, Arne Duncan, Joel Klein and the billionaires like Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch who are pulling the strings so determined to prove that more that 69% of the students throughout New York State are failing? This is the Shock Doctrine at work. Naomi Klein has observed that when you scare people enough, it is easier to persuade them to allow you to make whatever radical changes you want, since the status quo will be perceived as so disastrous.

In the case of Commissioner King, Bill Gates and Arne Duncan, they would like to convince parents that their corporate agenda, including a steady diet of developmentally unsound standards, the Common Core’s rigid quota for “informational text” and overemphasis on testing, and their favorite policies of closing schools and firing teachers based on test scores, expanding charter schools and online learning, data-mining and outsourcing educational services to for-profit vendors will somehow improve the quality of education in our state, even though there is little or no evidence for any of these policies.

NYSED has even tried to persuade parents to accept their unethical plan to share the personal data of the state’s children with inBloom and for-profit vendors by saying this will help ensure these students are “college and career ready.” (By the way, as Politico reported last week, North Carolina became the fifth state to pull out of inBloom; now only New York, Illinois, and Colorado are still involved, and Massachusetts is sitting on the fence.)

Joel Klein, who wrote an oped for Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post this morning, appropriately entitled the The Good News in Lower Test Scores, now heads Amplify, Rupert Murdoch’s online learning division, which is the largest contractor for inBloom. For Klein and Murdoch, the drastic fall in state test scores is indeed good news, because it will help them market their computer tablets, data systems, and software products to make more profit. In the case of Pearson, the world’s largest educational corporation, more schools will now be convinced to buy their textbooks, workbooks, and test prep materials, as 900 NYC schools have now done – in hope that their students may do better on the Pearson-made exams, that may even include the same reading passages as happened this year.

Rick Hess, the conservative commentator at Education Week, revealed the motives behind the promoters of these exams in a column called the “Common Core Kool-aid”:

First, politicians will actually embrace the Common Core assessments and then will use them to set cut scores that suggest huge numbers of suburban schools are failing. Then, parents and community members who previously liked their schools are going to believe the assessment results rather than their own lying eyes… Finally, newly convinced that their schools stink, parents and voters will embrace “reform.” However, most of today’s proffered remedies–including test-based teacher evaluation, efforts to move “effective” teachers to low-income schools, charter schooling, and school turnarounds–don’t have a lot of fans in the suburbs or speak to the things that suburban parents are most concerned about….Common Core advocates now evince an eerie confidence that they can scare these voters into embracing the “reform” agenda.

My advice is not to let this ruin your summer or your view of your child’s school. When you receive your children’s scores, do not allow the results to wreck their self-confidence. These new Common Core exams and harsh proficiency levels are meant to scare parents.

To achieve their ideological ends, politicians, billionaires, and educrats are not only willing to define your children in terms of their test scores, but also to redefine them as failures – to help them implement their mechanistic, reductionist, and ultimately inhumane vision of education. It is all a high-stakes game, carried out by people with little thought about how these wild test score gyrations affect the self-esteem of the children whose fate they claim to care about.

For an eloquent critique of the callous thinking at work, please also read Carol Burris, NYS principal of the year, in today’s Washington Post, and Diane Ravitch, on the political motives of the people who are setting these standards.

Below are links to articles about the scores, and the NYSED website.

Talk to you soon,

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
212-674-7320

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/nyregion/under-new-standards-students-see-sharp-decline-in-test-scores.html

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/pressRelease/20130807/home.html

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/irs/ela-math/2013/2013ELAandMathemaitcsDistrictandBuildingAggregatesMedia.pdf

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
212-674-7320
leonie@classsizematters.org
http://www.classsizematters.org

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com

Leonie Haimson, who is undoubtedly New York City’s most outspoken and energetic education activist, wrote a terrific critique of the New York Times’ editorial defending the Bloomberg era of education misrule.

The editorial, as she correctly notes, is a defense of the tired and failed status quo of the past dozen years.

It reads as if it had been written by “the City Hall PR machine.”

Haimson points out that  the Times ran an editorial very critical of Bloomberg’s stale education ideas on May 19, but this one appears to have been written by a different person.

Should the Bloomberg policies continue, as the Times suggests?

Almost every student in the New York City public schools attended a school system ruled by Mayor Bloomberg.

After 12 years, where is the success?

As the Times’ editorial points out, only 22% of the students who graduated in 2012 were “college-ready,” as judged by the State Education Department’s standards.

And every year, more schools are marked for closure because they are “failing.”

Isn’t all of this on Bloomberg’s watch?

Isn’t it time to hold him accountable for such paltry results?

As we have often noted on this blog, accountability is only for the little people–the teachers in the classroom, not for the mayor or the chancellor or the deputy chancellors or the legion of other well-paid administrators who make the decisions.

 

 

As readers know, the corporate reform smear machine went after activist Leonie Haimson last week.

She has been an outspoken champion for class size reduction. She has been NYC’s leading critic of the Bloomberg administration’s policy, most especially, its love of testing and closing schools. She has also been relentless in challenging charter school co-locations in public space.

Last week, Gotham Schools ran an article questioning whether she can continue to be an advocate because her son is entering a private school. The next day, a story about the flap appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Jersey Jazzman puts an end to the speculation. He say Leonie is an American hero. Her hundreds of followers have said the same.

Game over. Reformer smear machine failed.

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