Archives for category: Class Size Matters Org

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

I will be discussing my new book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” at Judson Memorial Church, near New York University, on September 11 at 6 pm.

The event is sponsored by Class Size Matters and New Yorkers for Great Public Schools

Wednesday, Sept.11th

6-7:15 PM at Judson Memorial Church

55 Washington Square South, Manhattan

Trains: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W 4th St.

N, R to 8 St.; #6 to Astor Place; #1 to Sheridan Sq.

New Yorkers are ready for a new direction for public education, and as the whole country watches our mayoral election, Ravitch will discuss how we can move away from failed policies of the past and towards a successful school system that will work for every student. A question and answer session will follow.

  

 

 

 

 

 

RSVP at http://reignoferror-eorg.eventbrite.com/

Or call 212-328-9271 for more information

Last night, I attended the 5th annual Skinny awards, hosted by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters. A large and enthusiastic crowd cheered this year’s winners: teacher bloggers Gary Rubinstein and Arthur Goldstein.

Gary Rubinstein teaches at Stuyvesant High School. He was honored as a great blogger, with special mention of his deconstruction and demolition of NYC’s “teacher data reports.” Gary showed that they were random and worthless.

Here is his latest post: http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/06/17/wisdom-from-a-2012-cm-it-doesnt-matter-what-their-scores-are/

Arthur Goldstein teaches at Frances Lewis High School. He blogs at http://nyceducator.com/.
Arthur writes with the most amazingly sardonic wit. He has roasted the Powers-that-be to well-done in a thousand different ways. I used to think I was first to say that VAM was “junk science,” but Leonie said that a careful review demonstrated that Arthur beat me to it. (Apparently Michael Simpson of the Office of General Counsel at the NEA was truly first in the world to label VAM junk science, in an article titled “L.A. Story: How the Los Angeles Times used junk science to malign an entire city of teachers).

I would have an impossible time picking out his best blogs. Here are a few recent ones. Here you will read about the most perfect mayor ever of all time and any place, whose reforms have transformed NYC into utopia. Here is his latest on our state commissioner John King, who is referred to sometimes as Reformy John, as here, but sometimes as King John. And here he shows the genius of both. And those are only the latest. He has been skewering the mighty for years and has been an inspiration to people like me.

Surprisingly, when these two accepted their awards, they switched roles. Arthur, the wit, spoke briefly and modestly. Gary, the serious mathematician and data cruncher, delivered a hilarious spoof. He used reformer language to describe the terrible crisis stalking the land: mediocre education journalism. He explained that bloggers emerged to save readers trapped into failing mainstream media. He said that scientific evidence conclusively demonstrated….something about three times in a row or three times as much.

Watch the video (luckily, Norm Scott was there to tape the event). I hope Gary prints his speech on his blog. If you have trouble hearing him, it is because the audience was laughing so much.

Leonie Haimson is Néw York City’s one-person Truth Squad.

While Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was telling anyone who would listen about the stellar education record of the Bloomberg years, Haimson marshaled data to demonstrate that New York City made less academic progress on the federal tests than any city other than Cleveland.

She lacerated the administration for its indifference to class size, now at its highest point in 14 years.

And she shocked her Bronx audience by explaining that the city was releasing confidential student data without parental consent to inBloom, to be mined by vendors.

Haimson is the leader of Class Size Matters and a co-founder of Parents Across America. She is also a director of the Network for Public Education.

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.

Gotham Schools ran a story that questioned why the city’s leading advocate for public schools had enrolled her son in a private high school after many years as a public school parent. The story subtly implied that she may have lost her right to advocate for public schools because she was no longer a parent of a public school student.

Leonie Haimson founded Class Size Matters and is a co-founder of Parents Across America. She is a fearless critic of high-stakes testing and of the Bloomberg administration. She has been the most articulate and persistent supporter of class size reduction. She currently is waging war against the titans who are invading student privacy. She works out of her home with no pay and a shoestring budget.

You can see why powerful people would want to discredit her. She is a force, she has a large following, and she threatens them.

Consider the premise of the article: only public school parents may advocate for public schools.

This is classic corporate reform ideology. Corporate reformers use this specious ideology to argue for the parent trigger, claiming that the school belongs to the parents and they should be “empowered” to seize control and give it to a charter corporation.

This is as wrong as the attack on Haimson.

The public schools belong to the public. They are a public responsibility. Everyone has the right to advocate for them as well as to criticize them.

You don’t have to be a public school parent to care about our public schools. You don’t even have to be a parent. You just need to care about children and the future of our society.

Full disclosure: I am on the board of Class Size Matters. I know Leonie as a woman of intellect, principle, and integrity. Her courage inspires me and many others in the struggle for better schools.

Also, FYI, I am a product of the Houston public schools, K-12. My two grown sons went to private schools in NYC. I have three grandsons. The older two attended religious schools. The youngest is a public school student in Brooklyn. I support public education. That is my right as a citizen, regardless of where my offspring went to school.

Michelle Rhee will be speaking at New York City’s Cornell Club, to promote her new book “Radical”, on Tuesday Feb. 5, 2013 at 6 PM. (6 East 44th St (between 5th and Madison, map here.) ,

New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, Class Size Matters and other pro-public education parents and advocates will be there to protest Rhee’s destructive policies and proposals, including her push to eliminate ANY caps on class size. More on how Rhee wants to undermine and privatize our public schools, see the parent Rhee-port card here.

For more information about the rally by pro-education advocates, email info@classsizematters.org .

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