Archives for category: Cuomo, Andrew

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of Néw York, reports that Givernor Cuomo vetoed an increase for CUNY. This affects the education of the city’s neediest students.

Dear Members,

We got the news at midnight last night that Governor Cuomo vetoed the Maintenance of Effort bill. We had been receiving signals for more than a month that there would be a veto, but we continued to press till the final night.

Governor Cuomo’s veto represents a decision not to invest in sustaining top-quality college education for the working people, the poor and the people of color in New York. His position is now absolutely clear.

Cuomo had the chance with this bill to take an action that had huge bipartisan support and that would have resonated not only in New York City but across the state. He deliberately refused that chance, despite his repeated claims of being a leader in progressive policy. He cannot be a progressive while systematically withholding funds from CUNY.

No doubt Cuomo ‘s defense–which will soon appear in the veto message–will be that the bill would take spending over the 2% cap he has imposed on any increases. But what is the justification for the 2% cap? Nothing. With State revenues up by 5.6% this year, there is no fiscal justification for imposing such a cap. It is simply austerity politics: the decision to transfer wealth from the many to the few and call it “necessity.” And like everything else in this country, austerity policy cannot be separated from the issue of race.

Austerity policy means that we in the faculty and staff have been subsidizing New York State as our salaries have not kept up with inflation, and that students have been forced to facilitate the State’s disinvestment in their education as they pay an ever-greater share of the costs. It means that CUNY and SUNY are prevented from making enhancements desperately needed after decades of fiscal starvation, and that endless tuition increases are demanded just to keep the universities afloat.

You, as PSC members, did an exceptional job of supporting this bill. The bill would not have been passed and sent to the Governor without our collective work. You mobilized to get thousands of messages from members, first to the Legislature and then to the Governor. You collected 40,000 postcards on the MOE from students. You traveled to Albany and organized here in the city.

And the bill’s sponsors, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Senator Kenneth La Valle, deserve our thanks. They went beyond sponsorship to tenacious support.

The union’s work is not wasted. We have made it clear to Albany that the issue of CUNY funding has deep support and that it will not go away. We will not be stopped by one veto. The PSC already has in place our response to the veto and the next steps in our campaign. The fight will continue–and escalate.

With enough depth among our own membership and breadth among our allies, it is a fight we can win.

Barbara Bowen
President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY
212-354-1252

This seems like a strange question, but it is real. The political buzz around New York is the question of whether the Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo will support a Democrat running for election to take the place of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, who was convicted of various financial crimes.

 

Skelos represented a majority-Democratic district in Long Island, and his seat is up for grabs. Will Cuomo support a Democrat? The Governor has had more power by working with a Republican-dominated State Senate, which agrees with him about keeping taxes low for the rich and for corporations.

 

When the Working Families Party appeared about to endorse insurgent Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo changed the party’s mind by pledging to help elect Democrats to the State Senate, where progressive legislation goes to die. He won the WFP nomination, but he didn’t work to elect Democrats to the State Senate.

 

Once again, the Governor will have a chance to show whether he prefers a Democratic-controlled State Senate or a Republican-controlled State Senate.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and former principal at South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, New York, has subjected the report of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s task force to a close reading.

 

But not the kind of close reading where you forget about context and prior knowledge. She notes that Governor Cuomo has no intention of amending or repealing the law he pushed through last June, which requires that teachers are evaluated by test scores that count for 50% of the evaluation.

 

There is the elephant in the room–the evaluation of teachers by test scores. When it comes to the damage done by APPR, the report is strangely silent. It is as though the committee never heard a complaint on how evaluating teachers by test scores increased both anxiety and test prep. The only place where it is addressed is in Recommendation 21 that states that until a new set of standards are phased in, the results of Common Core 3-8 assessments should be advisory only. Cuomo immediately seized on the ambiguity of that statement and issued the following:

 

[Cuomo statement] “The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers.”

 

The Education Transformation Act was the bill Cuomo pushed through the legislature to raise the percentage of test scores in teacher evaluations to 50 percent. Like a teenage boy who doesn’t get that the relationship is over, Cuomo cannot let go of his APPR, even though more researchers agree that evaluating teachers by test student scores makes no sense.

 

And more ominously, she describes the new testing corporation that New York has contracted with for the next five years.

 

Truth be told, no matter what recommendations the report made, at least half of the horse is already out of the testing barn. The new direction in assessment was set with the July approval of a $44 million contract with Questar that locks the state in for five years. If parents are looking for relief from test-driven instruction, they will not find it with Questar. You can read about the company’s philosophy of continuous assessment-driven instruction here. Below is an excerpt:

 

…after every five minutes of individualized tablet-based instruction, students would be presented with a brief series of questions that adapt to their skill level, much as computer-adaptive tests operate today. After that assessment, the next set of instructional material would be customized according to these results. If a student needs to relearn some material, the software automatically adjusts and creates a custom learning plan on the fly. The student would then be reassessed and the cycle would continue…

 

The practice of adaptive, computer-based learning, known as Competency Based Education (CBE), is a reincarnation of two other failed reforms from the last century — Outcomes Based Instruction and Mastery Learning. As the tests roll out, Questar will be marketing their CBE modules for test prep, and schools desperate to increase scores will buy them.

 

Thus far, Governor Cuomo has gotten the press he wanted: banner headlines in the New York Daily News and Long Island’s Newsday, proclaiming prematurely that Common Core is dead. No, it is not. What happens next is up to the Governor.

 

The good news is that he has an outstanding educator advising him, Jere Hochman, former superintendent in Bedford, New York. Hopefully, Hochman will help the Governor understand how to get out of the hole he dug for himself and how to take concrete steps to remove the disruption and constant churn that the State Education Department and the Governor’s interventions have imposed on schools. It is time for some stability and sanity at the helm. At the moment, teachers and students see a battle for control of the wheel, and the ship is lurching from side to side. I won’t torture the analogy any more. But I do hope that Governor Cuomo listens to Jere Hochman’s advice and takes the task force report seriously.

The Journal News of the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, referred to as Lohud, has been critical of the mess that Andrew Cuomo has made with his constant meddling in education policy.

 

Today, Lohud praised Cuomo’s task force for listening to the parents who opted their children out of the Common Core testing. The number of children who opted out were about 225,000. That is a huge number of people expressing no-confidence in the state’s testing regime.

 

Lohud thinks the task force listened to parents and educators and hit all the right notes:

 

The task force released a report Thursday that accurately and even passionately captures the confusion and disarray unleashed on schools by Albany over the last several years. Consider this slap at New York’s educational leadership, which sounds like it came from a group of outside critics:

 

“The implementation of the Common Core in New York was rushed and flawed. Teachers stepped into their classrooms in the 2012-2013 school year unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the new standards, without curriculum resources to teach students, and forced to administer new high-stakes standardized tests that were designed by a corporation instead of educators.”

 

Hey, that’s what happened.

 

We messed up

 

Without naming names, the report is a pretty stunning rebuke of Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and former state Education Commissioner John King (soon to become acting U.S. education secretary), who refused to heed the legitimate and plentiful concerns of educators and parents. As a result, New York will wind up spending more than a decade rewriting education policies over and over, without any guarantee that students will be better off in the end….

 

Interestingly, the report does not explore the merits and failings of New York’s teacher-evaluation system, which is perhaps most controversial for grading teachers, in part, on student test scores. Instead, the task force recommends that test scores not be used to evaluate teachers or students until 2019-2020. (State law already bans including the test scores on student transcripts or using them to make student placement decisions through 2018.)

 

This rather vague recommendation leaves the teacher-evaluation system in place, and would likely require school districts to replace test scores with another measure for the next several years.

 

The task force did not take the next, necessary step of declaring the evaluation system a failure and calling for the development of a new system that would not only hold teachers accountable but give them the information they need to improve their performance and student achievement. But the panel covered a lot of ground in a few short weeks, and it should not be up its 16 people to solve all of New York’s problems.

 

Should Cuomo and the state Legislature move ahead with the development of new standards and testing, a new evaluation system would have to be next. Otherwise, the education wars will continue.

 

There’s no telling, at this point, whether Cuomo will endorse the task force’s work in whole or part or whether the recommendations would be carried out in such a way as to win back the loyalty of disenchanted parents and educators. We’ll likely find out where the governor stands when he delivers his State of the State address next month.

 

Unless the Legislature repeals or amends the law that was passed last June and tucked into the state budget, teachers will still be evaluated by test scores, counting for up to 50%, then local measures will not replace what the law requires. Their evaluations won’t lead to punishments, but presumably they will go onto their permanent records. Thus, for the task force’s recommendations to have any teeth, the Legislature must act to change the objectionable law. The task force’s recommendations do not trump state law.

 

Lohud credits the parents for forcing the task force to listen. Now, let’s see what Governor Cuomo does. It would be nice if he walked back his statement that he hopes to bust the “public education monopoly,” which he said right before he was re-elected.  That would be a good start, especially for the parents of more than 90% of the children in the state who attend public schools.

 

 

 

 

Peter Greene is not impressed with the Cuomo Task Force report on the Common Core, the tests, and teacher evaluation. He calls it a “nothing Sundae.” 

 

He goes through the recommendations one by one. But his big beef is that the report does not question the value of the CCSS, does not question the testing, and does not get to the problem of test-based accountability for teaching. The report assumes that the problem all along has been poor implementation, not that any of the fundamental ideas need to be changed or dropped or replaced.

 

 

Another blogger points out that the Task Force report includes this curious statement:

 

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers.

 

The blogger writes:

 

Yes, tests will still count for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation.

 

 

I have been informed by people who live in the Buffalo area that the report about Cuomo’s imminent indictment does not come from a reliable source.

 

I fell for it because the U.S. Attorney Preet Bahrara has taken out two of the three most powerful politicians in the state: Sheldon Silver, speaker of the Assembly, who was convicted of several felonies involving money; and Dean Skelos (and his son), who was leader of the State Senate, who was indicted but has not yet gone to trial.

 

One of the key figures in the Albany scandals was a real estate developer who made campaign contributions and received tax breaks from the state. His company is called Glenwood Management.

 

If you google “Cuomo” and “Glenwood,” all sorts of unsavory articles pop up, like this one. And this one. And this one.

 

 

The Buffalo Chronicle reports that U.S. Attorney Preet Bahrara may indict Governor Cuomo on January 2. The U.S. Attorney won a conviction of Sheldon Silver, the longtime head of the State Assembly, and the head of the State Senate has been indicted.

 

They are two of the “three men in a room” who made all major decisions for New York state. The third man is Cuomo.

 

Watch, wait, and see.

Jamaal Bowman wrote a powerful and important letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo. Bowman is a Néw York City middle school principal.

Please read and share. Help it go viral. It is an incisive critique of corporate reform. When did it become “liberal” to attack unions, career teachers, and public education? This used to be the agenda of the far rightwing of the Republican Party.

He writes:

“I hope this letter finds you and your family in good health and good spirits. I write not only to you, but also to those who share your view of public education….

“I also want to personally thank you for allowing me to provide testimony to the common core commission at the College of New Rochelle…..The work of the commission, along with your hiring of Jere Hochman as Deputy Secretary of Education, has me very excited about the direction in which we are moving.

“My excitement turned to devastation however as I watched your November 17th interview with David Gergen at the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Leadership [link to video is in Bowman’s post]. As an education practitioner for sixteen years, it was both frustrating and disheartening to watch the two of you pontificate about public education in what I consider to be a dangerous and irresponsible manner.

“Your discussion was wide ranging; covering topics from police reform to the new construction at LaGuardia Airport. As the conversation shifted to education, you told the audience that you are in constant conflict with the teacher union. You shared that your “unabashed” support for charter schools, to which you refer to as “laboratories of invention,” as well as your teacher evaluation mandate, are two of the causes of this conflict. You also went on to share your excitement around the possibilities of technology as a means to help circumvent the “machine” of the teacher union bureaucracy.

“Mr. Gergen, to whom you refer to as one of the experts and craftsman of his generation, recklessly framed the conversation in a way that greatly mis-categorizes the public education narrative. Mr. Gergen stated that teacher unions don’t want “young smart” people from Teach for America entering the profession. He then went on to praise charter schools as places that provide “24/7 support to children and families,” and “really work with the children themselves.” While Mr. Gergen made these comments, you nodded your head enthusiastically in agreement.

“There are two things that are incredibly careless about this conversation. First, it lacks a valid and reliable research base. Second, the two of you have a platform to really shape public discourse. As such, you must take extra special care to avoid facilitating misinformation regarding public education or any other topic. If you don’t, the perpetuation of child suffering will continue in schools throughout the state — as it does in schools all over the country.

“What does the data tell us about these widely discussed topics? First, public schools as a whole “outperform” charter schools. I place the word outperform in quotes because of our narrow view of what it means to perform in public schools today. The few charter schools that are celebrated for closing the alleged “achievement gap” have faced extreme criticism and scrutiny for their draconian test prep and recruitment practices, and boast incredibly high student and staff attrition rates. Some may argue these practices are the price to pay for achievement, but consider these questions:

“Are we ready to accept the instability and emotional trauma that comes with schools designed around draconian test prep practices?

“Does high performance on standardized assessments truly equate to what we all mean by achievement?
Research shows otherwise: In 2003, the “gold standard” of charter schools, KIPP, had a graduating class that ranked fifth in New York City on the math standardized tests. Six years after entering college, only 21% of that cohort had earned a college degree.

“In the landmark book, ‘Crossing The Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities,’ former college presidents William G. Bowen and Michael S. McPherson found that student high school G.P.A. was more predictive of college success than S.A.T. scores.

“As you can see Mr. Governor, high performance on standardized tests alone do not equate to a quality education. What research identifies as a determinate of quality schools, lies in a well rounded curriculum inclusive of both academic and adaptive skills, where students get to solve problems creatively, work with their peers, and experience both teacher and student centered pedagogy.

“As to your comments regarding charter schools serving as “labs of invention,” allow me to remind you that some of the most innovative schools in the country are public schools right here in your state. From the NYC iSchool, to Westside Collaborative, to Brooklyn New School, to Quest to Learn, there is amazing work happening in unionized public schools that we all can learn from. Charter schools that promote silent breakfast, silent lunch, silent hallway transitions, and have teachers walking around with clipboards to give demerits to students who misbehave, do not sound like labs of invention to me — they sound like labs of oppression.

“Your statement related to wanting teacher evaluations because “right now we have none” is categorically false. Teachers have been evaluated throughout my entire career. With regard to the new evaluation system, the issue isn’t that teachers are averse to evaluations, they just want evaluations that are fair and just. An evaluation that is 50% aligned to invalid and unreliable tests, created by a 3rd party for-profit company, aligned to new standards and curriculum with minimal teacher input, is both unfair and unjust. What makes matters worse is by continuing to turn a deaf ear to the research on child and brain development, we continue to have an achievement gap that will never be closed by an evaluation system tied to test scores.

“Furthermore, why are charter schools exempt from your teacher evaluation plan? That also doesn’t seem fair or just.

“Regarding Mr. Gergen’s comments, teacher unions aren’t afraid of “young smart” teachers entering the profession. On the contrary, that is what they want! Teacher unions oppose Teach for America (TFA) because the majority of TFA recruits leave the classroom within three years, with most leaving the profession entirely. This obviously creates a continued vacuum in our most vulnerable communities and has indirectly undermined the recruitment and stability of teachers via traditional pathways. Further, Teach for America has been around for 25 years and our so called “achievement gap” has grown. Their impact has been a net zero at best for the profession.

“Mr. Gergen also seems to think only charter schools support students and families 24/7. To this I say check my phone records, and the phone records of educators throughout the country. We all love our students as our own children and we are constantly in touch with families into the evenings and on weekends to support them with whatever they need. Mr. Gergen disrespects and undermines the profession with these nonsensical statements.

“Lastly, regarding your excitement for technology, technology is simply a tool to help us get things done more efficiently and effectively. It will not in and of itself “revolutionize public education” as you say. The education revolution begins with a paradigm shift driven by the needs and brilliance of the children we serve.

“If we really want to transform public education, Mr. Governor, we have to stop investing in purchasing, administering, and scoring annual assessments from grades 3-8. We know 3rd grade reading scores predict future outcomes, so let’s invest heavily in early childhood education, teacher training, and school support. Lets focus on birth to age eight programs, implement a strong literacy and Montessori curriculum, and institute portfolio based assessments and apprenticeships in grades 6-12. If we do this, you will have a model education system for the world to aspire to.

“Mr. Governor, you, like many of your elected colleagues, are lawyers, not educators. I am an educator. I have been throughout my professional life. I do not know the law, and would never try to speak with any conviction about what should happen in a courtroom. What’s most dangerous about the public education discourse is the fact that finance, tech, government, and the “elite” are all driving the conversation without educators included. They have the audacity, to make life-altering decisions for other people’s children, while sending their children to independent schools.

“The masses of people, which are our most vulnerable, continue to be handled without empathy or care. Empathy requires that we walk in the shoes of others; something that charter reformers, common core advocates, and Teach for America has never done.

“In closing, I want to turn your attention back to your announcement of the Common Core commission. Do you realize that in that speech you mentioned the word “standards” ten times, and the word “tests” fifteen times, while only mentioning the word “learning” one time? Standards and tests are meaningless if they aren’t grounded in learning. Learning is innate, natural, and driven by the needs of children. This is why we must change the conversation from standards and testing to teaching and learning. This fundamental flaw in ideology continues to lead our education system down a destructive path.

“Further, although you and Mr. Gergen discussed innovation as essential to moving the education agenda forward, during your Common Core commission announcement the words creativity, collaboration, and communication, which many experts believe are pillars of innovation, received a total of zero mentions. Innovation is not just about using a computer, tablet, or smartphone; innovation is a way of thinking, doing, and being.

“Thank you Mr. Governor for all that you do for our state. In the future please be mindful to handle the topic of public education with extreme care. Be weary of your pro charter school advisors. The charter school money train and gentrification plans are well documented. Our work isn’t about teacher unions, charters, or technology; our work is about children — and the future of our democracy.”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Governor Cuomo couldn’t sleep, so he turned on a movie. It was scary. It was about machines talking back to people, machines smarter than people. Then he figured out that machines should teach children. Every child should have his or her own machine. That way, machines that are way smarter than people can teach children.

 

Makes sense? No.

 

Can someone please help Governor Cuomo get a good night’s sleep? What’s troubling him?

Fred LeBrun of the Albany-Times Union is the only journalist (to my knowledge) who gets the picture of the reform disaster in New York (especially after the NY Times mothballed the great Michael Winerip). 

He writes today:

Cuomo may have seen light on the Common Core mess

Fred LeBrun

Published 6:09 pm, Saturday, October 31, 2015 

Things are at long last looking up for beleaguered public education in this state, probably.

 

I’d like to say the likelihood of significant corrections coming to Common Core, excessive and inappropriate standardized testing, and a hard-wired connection between those tests and teachers’ jobs, is because the politician most responsible for the total mess we’re in, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has finally seen the light. 

 

His infatuation with data driven education ”reform,” fueled by millionaire political donors, has been a disaster, for him and for our children. It’s his law that’s codified the problem. It’s his law that needs amending.

 

But I have a hunch closer to the truth would be the sobering recognition by the governor that what desperately needs fixing and quick are persistently in-the-toilet poll numbers over his intrusive handling of education issues.

 

Voters get it. 

 

Especially with Judgment Day a mere five months away, when the next round of standardized tests are mandated in English and math for grades 4 to 8. That’s also about the time we are apt to see a parental opt-out uprising across the state of a scary magnitude if big changes aren’t already made or in the works.

 

So Cuomo needs to distance himself from his own mess pronto and be part of the solution rather than the problem for a change. 

 

He’s emphatically called for a ”total reboot” of the Common Core system while avoiding any mention of prior ownership or responsibility, and his new task force looking into it is remarkably different attitudinally than the last one Cuomo convened that delivered the Common Core manure heap as the divine word, with no dissent allowed.

 

This time, dissent prevails — and it’s about time.

 

The first public meeting of the governor’s Common Core task force last week at the College of New Rochelle in Westchester County heard presentations and comments from anti-testing activists and a leader of the opt-out movement calling for the immediate decoupling of student test scores from teacher evaluations.

 

Speakers also included those successfully working with Common Core standards, but still calling for changes, such as greater flexibility for school districts, more local control of the process, a diversity of approaches, and the building of trust among parents, teachers and school districts. What’s heartening is that the governor’s office, of course, controlled the panel process because that’s the way they operate, and the fact that divergent views were incorporated is striking. 

 

Nothing like that happened with the first task force. But, there was no public comment period in New Rochelle. 

 

Whether we’re witnessing just more window dressing from the governor or a meaningful attempt at fixing what’s broken will be evident Friday when simultaneous public hearings by the task force will be held all over the state, with public comment.

 

Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all is the governor bringing Jere Hochman, superintendent of the Bedford school district, into the administration as his top education adviser. 

Hochman has been a consistent critic of the administration’s policies, reportedly even tacitly encouraging opt-out. The lower Hudson Valley, where he’s from, has been a center of parental outrage over Common Core.

 

Again, whether Hochman is window dressing, or one of the architects of change, will be evident soon enough. 

 

The State of the State, at which Cuomo is expected to announce his recommendations for changes to his education ”reform” act, is a scant two months away.

 

The announced departure of state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch is also great news. 

 

It’s not just that she backed the wrong horses pushing for hurry-up implementation of Common Core before anyone was ready, and a perfectly idiotic teacher evaluation system, but in truth she was a prominent nag in that stable, a major player. 

 

Before you feel too sorry for her, remember that Tisch was more than willing to sacrifice a generation of our schoolchildren and the state’s teacher corps to her cause. Deliver us from the ideologues. So good riddance. Her leaving is favorable news for the future of the Regents, and for the anticipated recommendations from their own task force to the governor and Legislature for changes to Common Core and teacher evaluations. 

 

Without Tisch in the mix, significant ties are cut to the failed policies of President Barack Obama, outgoing U.S. Education Commissioner Arne Duncan, and former state Education Department Commissioner John King. King, meanwhile, has been booted up to the very top of the ladder as Duncan’s interim successor when he leaves at the end of the year But the operative word that fits like a blanket over that whole lot of them when it comes to education policy is failure.

 

Meanwhile, still another encouraging tea leaf is the state Education Department giving, as promised, more than three-quarters of the school districts in the state waivers from the draconian teacher and principal evaluation formulas built into Cuomo’s education reform law. The stage is set for change. School districts are taking a pass in anticipation that better times are coming.

 

Now, the devil remains in the details, and forgive the state’s teachers, educators — and parents — for being skeptical. The last five years has been a horror show. At the very least sole reliance on the flawed ”growth score” from standardized tests in evaluating teacher performance has to change. It’s written in the law. Student performance, and an appropriate level of teacher accountability, can be measured in a number of different ways, and alternatives need to be part of the dialogue. Common Core standards need new flexibilities, and a total rethink down in the lower grades where serious issues of developmentally inappropriate testing, questions, and frequency are recurring criticisms.

 

It won’t be all that hard to torque the law back to reasonable. Now let’s see it happen before we break out the confetti. 
flebrun@timesunion.com • 518-454-5453

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