Search results for: "Leonie"

Leonie Haimson, leader of Class Size Matters and Student Privacy Matters, writes here about the Every Child Achieves Act and the distortions that are filling her email box these days. Haimson is also a member of the board of the Network for Public Education and a fearless supporter of public education.

She writes:

Over the last few days, I have been flooded with blog posts, Facebook comments, memes and tweets, claiming that the bi-partisan bill to be debated this week in the Senate, called ECAA, or Every Child Achieves Act, must be opposed, because it “locks in” Common Core and many of the worst, test-based accountability policies of Arne Duncan and the US Department of Education.

Yet this is far from the truth. For nearly 13 years, students have suffered under the high-stakes testing regime of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). NCLB was likely the dumbest law ever passed by Congress, because it required that all public school children in the United States reach “proficiency” by 2014 as measured by test scores, or else their schools would be deemed failing.

The inanity of NCLB was exacerbated by Race to the Top and other policies pursued by Arne Duncan that put testing on steroids. These policies treated our children as data points, reduced our schools to test prep factories, and attempted to convince parents that their education must be handed over to testing companies, charter operators, and ed tech corporations. This disastrous trend resulted in huge parent protests and hundreds of thousands of students opting out of state exams last spring.

The current Senate bill is admittedly far from perfect. It still requires annual standardized tests in grades 3-8, as did NCLB. It would allot far too many federal dollars and too little accountability to charter schools, while encouraging merit pay for teachers – all policies likely to lead to wasted taxpayer funds that would be better spent on programs proven to work, such as class size reduction. It would do nothing to protect student data privacy, while allowing the continued disclosure of sensitive personal information to vendors and other third parties without parental knowledge or consent. Hopefully this critical issue will be addressed separately by Congress, by improving one or more of the many student privacy bills introduced during the past few months.

Yet ECAA still represents a critical step forward, because it places an absolute ban on the federal government intervening in the decision-making of states and districts as to how to judge schools, evaluate teachers or implement standards. In particular, it expressly bars the feds from requiring or even incentivizing states to adopt any particular set of standards, as Duncan has done with the Common Core, through his Race to the Top grants and NCLB waivers.

It would also bar the feds from requiring that teachers be judged by student test scores, which is not only statistically unreliable according to most experts, but also damaging to the quality of education kids receive, by narrowing the curriculum and encouraging test prep to the exclusion of all else. The bill would prevent the feds from imposing any particular school improvement strategy or mandating which schools need improvement – now based simplistically on test scores, no matter what the challenges faced by these schools or the inappropriateness of the measure. Finally, the bill would prevent the feds from withholding funds from states that allow parents to opt out of testing, as Duncan most recently threatened to do to the state of Oregon.

It is true that many states have already drunk the Common Core/testing Koolaid, led by Governors and legislators influenced by the deep pockets of corporate reformers or tempted by RTTT funds. ECAA also still requires annual testing, which the Tester amendment would replace with grade-span testing, as many organizations including FairTest and Network for Public Education have strongly urged. (Full disclosure: I’m on NPE’s board.) The bill has a provision aimed at alleviating over-testing, by requiring that states audit the number of standardized exams and eliminate duplication, though it’s not clear how effective this requirement will be.

But with or without the Tester amendment, ECAA would release the stranglehold that the federal government currently has on our schools, and would allow each of us to work for more sane and positive policies in our respective states and districts. For this reason alone, it deserves the support of every parent and teacher who cares about finally moving towards a more humane, and evidence-based set of practices in our public schools.  

Leonie Haimson is a national treasure. She founded a group called Class Size Matters, which advocates for reduced class size. She is an unpaid worker for kids in Néw York and across the nation. She is also an expert on data-mining and student privacy. Through her research and testimony, she informed parents in seven states about the $100 million committed by the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation to create inBloom, a vast data mining plan. Once exposed, arents protested, state after state withdrew and inBloom collapsed.

Here is a public letter from a parent to Leonie Haimson:

The California parent wrote:

Leonie Haimson’s Opt Out Message Rang Out Loud and Clear on the West Coast

—What a small but mighty group can do—

—RestorePVEducation —

We had the privilege of hearing Leonie Haimson speak on April 12th in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Leonie spoke to the privacy issues, data mining and high stakes testing.

Parents heard loud and clear.

Today it was confirmed that 200 students out of a class of 464 Opted Out at Palos Verdes High School’s 11th grade class. Only approximately 40% are taking the SBAC.

Palos Verdes High School has a 98% rate of students going on to college.
We are already ‘College Ready’.

If Smarter Balanced thinks that CA parents have already been dumbed-down, think again.

Parents and community are waking up to the Smarter Balanced profiteering scenario and they don’t like what they are finding out.

Parents here questioned “Where is the Smarter Balanced Privacy Policy?” only to find out from Leonie that there is none. Absolutely no Privacy Policy to be found. How reassuring

Parents are questioning why Smarter Balanced has ‘locked out’ the public, school boards, administrators, parents and community from any information regarding the Smarter Balanced Executive Committee, its’ elections, decisions, agendas, minutes, etc.

There is no way to access the SB website for any of this type of information since September 1, 2014.

Yet Smarter Balanced is dictating policy decisions, lessons and testing to 17 states who have paid them with public funds.

Any decisions made by Smarter Balanced are done in secret, while Smarter Balanced functions on public funds.

Housed along with the CRESST center on the UCLA campus, parents fear, and rightly so, that the Hewlitt Foundation CRESST center is accessing our children’s data.

Why? And who else gets to see and use it?

Third party vendors are having a field day with our CA children’s data. We get the Big Data, Big Money Scheme. We don’t want that here.

While our local Palos Verdes Peninsula School District has been pouring funds to meet the unfunded mandates for technology, parents have stormed the Board room questioning why their children are in huge classes or combo classes.

Teachers have only seen a 2% raise over an 8 year period. There is no money for anything but technology to take the SBAC tests.

When asked parents will tell you that 1 teacher is worth a million computers to their child. We don’t need more tech to teach children–we need more teachers.

By 2012, 77 Palos Verdes teachers had lost their jobs, and have not been replaced.

What has come in instead is more computers and software.

Parents get it and will not stand for it any longer.

Thanks Leonie Haimson for bringing your message to CA. We are starting our chapter of Parents Across America.

Watch out Smarter Balanced–here we come!

Leonie Haimson includes in this post a summary of the latest Quinnipiac poll about public reaction to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education proposals. The long and short of it is that they are so unpopular that they have dragged down his overall rating.

 

28% approve his proposals while 63% reject them.

 

The Quinnipiac poll shows that Cuomo has dropped to his lowest rating ever–50%, and the poll connects his declining popularity to his ferocious attacks on public schools and teachers. He doesn’t seem to understand that most people like both and can’t understand why the Governor wants to destroy them. They have a low opinion of all his plans to “improve” them by raising the stakes on testing. This should be a warning to other politicians who think they can attack public education without arousing public antagonism. Most Americans–say, 90%–went to public school and presumably have good memories of their teachers and schools. Why would the governor or any other politician want to send public money to private and religious schools?

Leonie Haimson is fed up with the line that the mainstream media has taken about education controversies. Reporters usually think that every protest is organized by the unions, defending their self-interest, and they are warring with high-minded reformers. She says this is balderdash! (Sorry, Leonie, my word, not yours.)   If parents hold a protest against high-stakes testing and against test-based teacher evaluations (which causes more time to be devoted to testing), most reporters will say the union made them do it, the union doesn’t want to be held accountable.   Well, guess what? The unions are not leading the Opt Out movement. Many teachers support it, because they know how pointless the new tests are, but the great majority of people leading the movement are parents. They don’t want their children to be pressured by fear of the Big Standardized Test, they don’t want them to be ranked and labeled, they don’t want them to hate school because of the endless test prep.   Leonie was especially irked by a recent story in the New York Times about the two forces trying to win Hillary Clinton’s allegiance: on one hand, the teachers’ unions; on the other, the Wall Street tycoons who might finance her campaign. One has the votes, the other has the money. In the middle of the story, the reporter Maggie Haberman inexplicably refers to the hedge fund managers’ group Democrats for Education Reform as “left of center.” These are the Wall Street billionaires and mere multimillionaires who are pushing the privatization and high-stakes testing agenda; they dearly love charter schools and look on public schools with disdain as places that one must escape from. What you would expect from people who mainly went to Exeter, Deerfield Academy, Groton, and other tony private schools. Left of center? Hardly. Corporate style reformers? Yes.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters is a leading advocate for student privacy rights. She explains how Pearson is actually encouraging the growth of the Opt Out movement (unintentionally, of course) by monitoring students’ social media. Even though tweets and Facebook postings are public, it is kind of creepy to know that a big corporation is reading your child’s comments.

Add this to the flap over the silly story of “The Pineapple and the Hare,” known as #pineapplegate, and parents have ample reason to doubt the value of standardized tests to rank and rate their child.

Add to that the ubiquitous data mining that is embedded in the online testing, and parents should truly be alarmed.

Leonie Haimson, CEO of Class Size Matters (and a dear friend), is voting YES on Proposition 3 in New York, the “Smart Schools Bond Act.”

 

I am voting no. I expect that the bulk of the money will be used to buy the devices and technology needed for Common Core testing. Leonie and I agree that bond money should not be used to buy devices that have a useful life of 3-4 years.

 

Leonie says that districts will be able to decide how they want to use the money. She believes New York City will use most of the money to build new schools and replace “temporary” trailers.

 

New York City schools, she points out, are badly overcrowded, and this new money would provide an opportunity to increase capacity and reduce class sizes.

 

She writes:

 

Each school district can use the revenue in the following ways:

 

· Purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop and laptop computers, tablets and high-speed broadband or wireless internet.
· Constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space.
· Installing high-tech security features in school buildings.

 

While I and many other education advocates including Diane Ravitch are fervently opposed to using any bond revenue for the purchase of devices like laptops or tablets that have a useful lifetime of only a few years, as the interest on the bond act is repaid over twenty or thirty years, it is clear that districts will have the choice of how to use these funds and have a broad array of options.

 

New York City is due to receive about $780 million if Proposition 3 is approved. The Department of Education’s five year capital plan makes it clear that if the bond act passes, $490 million of city funds previously directed toward technology would now be diverted toward building more schools to alleviate overcrowding for smaller classes, creating 4,900 more seats, and the rest toward creating 2,100 seats for pre-kindergarten.

 

As the analysis in our report Space Crunch makes clear, the city’s school capital plan is badly underfunded as is. Though it will includes less than 40,000 additional seats if the Bond Act is approved – and even fewer if it isn’t – the real need is at least 100,000 seats, given existing overcrowding and projections of increased enrollment over the next five to ten years.

 

So, voters in New York. You can vote “yes,” as Leonie Haimson advises, if you believe that the money will be spent to add new classrooms and reduce class size. Or you can vote no, as I will, if you believe the money will end up paying for iPads, tablets, and other technology that will be obsolete long before the bonds are paid off. If the measure passes, I hope that Leonie is right.

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

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