Archives for category: Cuomo, Andrew

Carol Burris has been an outspoken critic of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s baseless attacks on New York state’s educators. He is outraged that the current evaluation system rated 99% of the state’s teachers effective or highly effective. What he forgets, Burris reminds us, is that this is not an antiquated system: the current method of evaluation was created by….Governor Andrew Cuomo!

 

“Cuomo remains obsessed with teacher measurement and firing. Unhappy with the outcome of evaluations, he called them “baloney.” He forgets that when the Boars Head delivery arrived in Albany, he was driving the truck. The evaluation system he now mocks is the very one he insisted be put in place.

 

“In 2012, Cuomo called the new evaluation system, APPR, “one of the toughest in the country.” He referred to it as “groundbreaking” and “exactly what is needed” to transform schools. New York Students First, gave Cuomo credit for the teacher evaluation system—it was “because of the governor’s leadership” that this “groundbreaking agreement” came to be.”

 

Since the loudest complaints about Cuomo’s latest bad idea are coming from educators on Long Island, Cuomo has turned his hatchet towards them. But Long Island is home to some of the state’s most successful public schools:

 

“Part of the Cuomo strategy of reform is the shaming of districts and counties where teacher evaluations indicate a high-quality teaching force. The governor’s latest target is my region, Long Island. Cuomo’s aide, Jim Malatras, has called for an investigation of Long Island teacher scores, which he implies were deliberately skewed for success. There is no acknowledgement that the flaws in the system his boss rammed through left Long Island with an unworkable system. Malatras also ignores how comparatively successful Long Island schools are. Good teacher evaluations make sense.

 

“Long Island’s 2014 four-year graduation rate is 89 percent. The New York State rate is 77 percent.

“If Long Island numbers were not included, New York’s rate would drop to 73 percent, placing New York fifth from the bottom in national ratings.

“Not only are Long Island schools doing an overall good job in getting all students to the finish line—they do a better job than the state as a whole achieving equitable outcomes. Long Island is composed of two counties, Nassau and Suffolk. Unfortunately, the state Report Card website does not provide enough data to combine the counties on these measures, so I report them separately below. Here are three examples:

“Four-year graduation rate for students who are economically disadvantaged:

Nassau County: 80 percent

Suffolk County: 77 percent

New York State: 67 percent

“Four-year graduation rates for black students:

Nassau County: 81 percent

Suffolk County: 75 percent

New York State: 62 percent

“Four-year graduation rates for students with disabilities:

Nassau County: 70 percent

Suffolk County 67 percent

New York State: 50 percent

“The black/white graduation rate gap for the state is 25 points. For Nassau County, the gap is 14 points. Keep in mind that the New York State percentages include Long Island. Every one of the above state rates would drop without Long Island schools.”

 

Cuomo’s vendetta against the teachers’ union is payback for refusing to endorse him. His vendetta against Long Island teachers and public schools lacks a shred of rationality. He is like an angry little boy, stamping his feet and throwing his weight around, knowing that he can’t be reined in by “the little people.”

A new poll by Siena College finds that public supports teachers, not Cuomo.

“Consider what voters said when asked about what hinders education in New York: Little parental involvement (37 percent), not enough money in schools (18 percent), the effects of poverty (17 percent), ineffective state oversight (12 percent), poor quality teachers (10 percent).”

The public backs teachers by 48-36.

Governor Andrew Cuomo released a report which identified 178 “failing schools,” with more than half in Néw York City. His report was an implicit–if unintended–critique of mayoral control, since the schools in Néw York City have been under mayoral control since 2002.

Cuomo wants the state to take control of the schools he named and turn them over to private management organizations.

“The report aims to bolster Cuomo’s argument that the state should be allowed to seize control of the schools and hand them over to outside organizations. Cuomo’s takeover plan would allow “receivers” to restructure the low-ranked schools, overhaul their curriculums, and override labor agreements in order to fire “underperforming” teachers and administrators.

For another perspective, read Bruce Baker as he rips apart “Angry Andy’s” list of “failing schools,” most of which have been shortchanged by the state.

Baker writes:

“NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office has released a report in which it identifies what it refers to in bold type on the cover as “Failing Schools.”
Report here: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYSFailingSchoolsReport.pdf

“Presumably, these are the very schools on which Angy Andy would like to impose death penalties – or so he has opined in the past.

“The report identifies 17 districts in particular that are home to failing schools. The point of the report is to assert that the incompetent bureaucrats, high paid administrators and lazy teachers in these schools simply aren’t getting the job done and must be punished/relieved of their duties. Angry Andy has repeatedly vociferously asserted that he and his less rabid predecessors have poured obscene sums of funding into these districts for decades. Thus – it’s their fault – certainly not his, for why they stink!”

“I have addressed over and over again on this blog the plight of high need, specifically small city school districts under Governor Cuomo.

“On how New York State crafted a low-ball estimate of what districts needed to achieve adequate outcomes and then still completely failed to fund it.
On how New York State maintains one of the least equitable state school finance systems in the nation.

“On how New York State’s systemic, persistent underfunding of high need districts has led to significant increases of numbers of children attending school with excessively large class sizes.

“On how New York State officials crafted a completely bogus, racially and economically disparate school classification scheme in order to justify intervening in the very schools they have most deprived over time.

“I have also written reports on New York State’s underfunding of the school finance formula – a formula adopted to comply with prior court order in CFE v. State.

“Statewide Policy Brief with NYC Supplement: BBaker.NYPolicyBrief_NYC
50 Biggest Funding Gaps Supplement: 50 Biggest Aid Gaps 2013-14_15_FINAL

“Among my reports is one in which I identified the 50 districts with the biggest state aid shortfalls with respect to what the state itself says these districts require for providing a sound basic (constitutional standard) education. Districts across NY state have funding gaps for a variety of reasons, but I have shown in the past that it is generally districts with greater needs – high poverty concentrations & more children with limited English language proficiency, as well as more minority children – which tend to have larger funding gaps.

“I have also pointed out very recently on this blog that some high need upstate cities in NY have had persistently inequitable/inadequate funding for decades……

“Personally, even I was shocked to see the relationship between my 50 most underfunded districts list and Angry Andy’s 17 districts that suck.
NY State has over 650 school districts, many of which may be showing relatively low test scores for a variety of reasons, including & especially due to serving high concentrations of needy students.”

David Sirota puts the pieces together in this investigative report about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s outside income.

“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo likes to portray himself as a crusader against corruption in Albany, the state’s capital, taking a hardline position against allowing state lawmakers to collect outside income that may be connected to pending legislation. He has championed a bill that would require lawmakers to disclose more of their outside income lest they write bills that benefit special interests in pursuit of private cash….

“But the Democratic governor’s strong words don’t quite square with his own personal appetite for cash earned outside the confines of his state work. Cuomo has so far raked in more than $188,000 from HarperCollins, a News Corporation subsidiary. That is part of a book deal that could ultimately net him more than $700,000. With Albany’s transactional politics now the subject of a federal probe, the context of that April 2013 book deal is particularly significant: An International Business Times review of New York state documents reveals that News Corporation gave Cuomo a book contract after Cuomo’s administration backed a series of state initiatives that benefited the media giant.”

Not a bad return for a book that has sold only 3,000 copies, says Sirota.

I received a letter from the teachers at PS 321. I have a direct connection to the school, as a member of my family is a student there. He loves school. He is in third grade. He is working on an essay whose topc he chose. He is researching “the Silk Road.” Last year, in second grade, he wrote about bioluminescence (I had to look it up.) this obviously a wonderful public school.

References in the letter are to Liz Phillips, the principal.

Here is the link: http://ps321.org/letter-from-ps-321-teachers/

Letter from PS 321 Teachers

February 23, 2015

Dear PS 321 Families,

It is with heavy hearts that we, the teachers at 321, reach out to you to ask for your help.

Governor Cuomo has proposed major changes to teacher evaluations in New York State. We want to let you know, from a teacher’s perspective, the changes this law could bring to PS 321 – and to our profession – if it passes.

50% of a teacher’s rating would be based on state test scores. (Currently it is 20%).
35% of a teacher’s rating would be based on the findings of an outside “independent observer” who will conduct a one time visit to the classroom. (This has never been done before. Currently our principal and assistant principals’ observations count for 60%).
15% of a teacher’s rating would be based on observations by the principal or assistant principals. The very people who know our work best would have the least input into our evaluation.
50% + 35% = 85% of our evaluations would be removed from the hands of our community and placed in the hands of the state.
And then, using these numbers, any teacher who is rated ineffective two years in a row can be fired. Liz might have no say in this.

So what might that do to PS 321? Realistically, many of us could be fired. Every year. And many more of us would be pushed away from the profession we love.

Here’s something parents need to understand. Even though, when our students take the standardized tests, most of them do just fine… many PS 321 teachers do not. Teachers’ ratings are not based on their students’ raw scores for the year, but whether their students improved from one year to the next. If a student with a ‘3’ gets one fewer question correct in 4th grade than she did in 3rd, that student might not have demonstrated the “added value” their teacher is expected to have instilled. Even though the student has mastered that grade’s content. Even though it’s just one question. And that teacher might, therefore, be rated in the bottom percentile of teachers.

That may sound patently absurd. However, that has already happened here.

If Governor Cuomo’s evaluation proposals come to pass, it might start to happen more and more. And if we are rated ineffective as a result two years in a row, we might be fired.

That is why so many schools in NYC spend so much time prepping for the tests. One or two wrong answers can make or break a teacher’s rating.

Faced with these changes, we’ve already been hearing from so many of our colleagues from across the city and state who will be forced to do more test prep. Even when they know that the tests do not give an accurate picture of student learning, or of the effectiveness of teachers. Even though they know teaching to the test is bad teaching. Faced with the reality of the loss of a paycheck – the loss of the career they are building, have built, or want to build – these proposals will push them to teach in ways they know to be counterproductive.

That breaks our hearts. But the truth is, faced with the same reality, there are those of us here who would be feeling the very same pressure. Not because we’d want to. We would try to resist. But it is inevitable that if the governor’s proposals go through, all schools will narrow their curriculum to some extent.

And that’s scary. And it breaks our hearts even more. Because we know what we have here. We love what we have— in you, in our students, in all that the PS 321 community represents. The joy that is present— every day, in our school. The value that is placed on intellectual curiosity, on creativity, on the arts. The love of learning that is visible when you enter our building, when you go into classrooms, and when you talk to students and teachers.

The values present in Governor Cuomo’s proposals are antithetical to our own. And they place them at risk. The numbers are clear: 50% of our value will be six days of tests. 35% of our value will be one day with an independent observer. And 15% of our value will be in evaluation by Liz and the assistant principals, those who know us best as educators.

Those are their values.

Our joy, our love of learning, our desire to help students become deep thinkers and problem solvers, our community, our commitment to constantly improving our practice… those are ours.

PS 321 Families: don’t let them take our values away.

We need your help. And we need it now. The education law is folded into the state budget. It goes up for a vote before April 1st.

We need you to let your legislators know that you disagree with this plan:

Email Governor Cuomo right now at gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us.

Visit http://www.nyteacherletter.org/ and sign the letter to let your legislator know you disapprove of the law.

Contact your assemblymember. Go to http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ to find their contact information. Don’t stop there. Go to their offices and demand attention.

Post this issue on Facebook and tell your friends. Use social media to spread the word. Go to Albany. Make whatever noise you can.

And sign up today at ps321.org to receive information and updates from the Testing Task Force about what you can do to help support us.

What we have together is rare, especially today, when so many schools have succumbed to the pressures of testing. We must not take our school’s joyful community for granted. All that we have– all that we do together–is far too important and far too valuable to be taken away. Thank you, as always, for your energy, your support, and your inspiring, creative children.

Your Devoted Teachers

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for an investigation of teacher ratings on Long Island.

This follows a “Newsday” report that the portion of ratings under local control were “skewed” towards effective ratings.

Cuomo wants evaluations to count student scores as 50%, instead of the present 40% (only 20% is based on state tests, the other 20% on local measures

For some reason, Cuomo is determined to find some teachers he can fire. He is certain–despite evidence to the contrary–that low scores are caused by teachers.

He must have had terrible law school professors. There have been numerous reports that he failed the bar exam four times. If this is true, I hope he sued his law school for hiring ineffective professors.

Superintendent Michael Hynes bravely spoke out against Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make test scores more important in evaluating teachers. The following story appeared in the Long Island Advance.

Pat-Med super pokes holes in governor’s reform

Story By: NICOLE ALLEGREZZA,

“My concern is that what he is doing as a governor is overstepping his rights and responsibilities,” Hynes said of Cuomo’s reforms. “It is impacting and impeding on public schools [ability] to function the way that they should.”

“One of Hynes’ biggest criticisms is the way Cuomo announced that public schools will receive $1.2 billion in state funding. While the money seems favorable, Hynes explained Cuomo did not break down exactly what each school should expect to receive during the critical time of planning for next year’s budget.

“He is not telling schools in advance. We have no idea what his thoughts are about state aid,” said Hynes. “It makes it very difficult to plan still not knowing and to me that is a major bullying tactic that he really shouldn’t be doing.”

“Additionally Hynes disagrees with Cuomo’s plans for teacher evaluation reform. He believes Cuomo is overstepping his role as the governor by designing a new teacher plan, which “is not his job.” Rather, Hynes states, the job belongs to the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents.

“Further, according to Cuomo’s state address, he is looking to offer $20,000 bonus incentives to those evaluated as “high performing” teachers. Cuomo stated there also would be improvement plans to those who score poorly.

“Hynes stated that incentives are inefficient and categorize teachers by putting them in boxes.

“He is looking to create a caste system of teachers and it just doesn’t work because it pits people against each other. Competition in schools doesn’t work,” explained Hynes.

“Also, in Cuomo’s reform proposal he suggests evaluating teacher’s effectiveness on both test scores and observations equally. The outcome, according to the governor, will stop the inflation of almost all teachers being rated as effective. It would also limit tenured teachers by only granting tenure to those who have achieved five consecutive years of “effective ratings,” as opposed to the original three-year requirement.

“Hynes suggests that if teachers’ evaluations are highly dependent upon test scores, they will become more anxious about testing and teach to the tests. In effect, students will be highly impacted by not only feeling the pressure to score high for their own good but also for their teacher’s well being. “That is a lot of pressure that I don’t feel our students need. In fact, I actually think that it is child abuse,” he said.

“Some changes that can be made in his opinion, include removing some old antiquated state mandates forced upon the public schools. He also believes teacher evaluation tools can benefit from following a “growth model” rather than a “deficit model” where observers are always looking for the negatives.

“The governor proposes to look for things that are wrong,” he said. “What I would like to do, and I know our principals certainly do here, is if I am observing in the classroom I am going to notice the things done well and some of things that need to be augmented and tweaked.”

“Hynes explained because the issue of “ineffective” teachers equates to such a minimal amount, a deficit model is unnecessary. “A significant amount of teachers leave the profession after the first five years because of all the stresses that go on but the number one thing that makes them leave is that they don’t feel they are doing a good enough job,” he said. The growth model in effect will create a more positive approach to teacher evaluation. He added that by also providing mentors to first- and second- year teachers, it effectively produces better quality, long term teachers.

“The real reason for underachievement, which is rarely addressed, is poverty. “Schools that have a significant amount of poverty in their school district will have low achievement,” he emphasized. Bad test scores, according to Hynes, “really comes down to schools that don’t have enough to serve the needs of the kids.”

“If and when Cuomo’s educational plans become reality, Hynes believes there will be a “seismic shift” in the way educational services are delivered to the students. With the agenda on the table, one question remains for Hynes: What will be the next step before Cuomo pushes his reform in early April? While he’s unsure whether or not local legislatures can help at this point, “I am counting on my fellow superintendents who are in support of what I am talking about, the PTAs, and the moms and dads to say `this is inappropriate,’” he said. ”Enough is enough. What you’re doing is going to destroy public schools.”

“Those who oppose the governor’s plans should attend board of education meetings and voice their concerns and write letters to the governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the Board of Regents. Additionally, if any parents from the Patchogue-Medford school district have any questions or concerns, Hynes encourages them to call or make an appointment to meet with him to discuss the issue at hand. He can be reached at (631) 687-6380 or mhynes@pmschools.org.

Melissa McMullan, a teacher in Long Island, explains in this comment how deeply insulting Governor Cuomo’s plan for teacher evaluation is. Will he listen to reason? Will he insist on crushing the morale of every teacher in the state? Why?

McMullan writes:

“I have been a teacher for thirteen years. I graduated with highest honors from Rutgers University, earned my masters degree from Queens College, graduating with honors and begun work on my PhD to help me become a better teacher. The teacher I am today is not the teacher I was yesterday, nor is she the teacher I will be tomorrow. I learn every day from students, families, colleagues, professional development, research and my own mistakes. In thirteen years, former students of mine have become writers, teachers, philanthropists, doctors, nurses, mechanics, beauticians, small business owners, etc…

“My employment as their teacher has been carved from a relationship I have built with the district that employs me. The district I graciously serve. I am a public servant. I do not take this assignment lightly.

“Governor Cuomo is holding state aid to public schools hostage. His ransom? Using eleven hours of tests, that the state scores, and converts to teacher ratings, assigning a great many teachers, including myself, ineffective. One score. Six days of testing to remove a teacher who works 12 hours a day, gives her students her cell phone number so she can help them with homework at home and invites Spanish-speaking parents in to the classroom to explain, in Spanish, the value of reading and writing. A teacher who will stop at NOTHING to push her students forward. Passing rates on the state test vary year to year from 72% to 83 % depending upon how the state wants teachers to be perceived from year to year.

“Governor Cuomo and the New York State Board of Regents want to use test scores it assigns to my students, against me, their teacher. This is not the role of assessment. Assessment has a single purpose – to inform instruction. Its responsibility is to let students, teachers and families what students know, and what they do not know. Under the Governor’s proposed plan, these scores would warrant my removal from the classroom, violating the agreement that my school district and its community have established with me, by using children as its weapon of choice.

“We get no feedback from these scores. No view into what our students know or don’t know or what we as teachers have taught well nor what we have not. But it costs millions of dollars to implement each year.

“As a mother, I will not permit my own four children to be used as pawns against their teachers. The only way we can stop this abuse of power is to refuse to permit our children to be used as pawns.

“The cornerstone of public education in the United States is the local community school district. Allowing scores the state assigns our children after six days of testing to be used to remove teachers we have placed in their classroom is an unacceptable, egregious overstepping of power. We have power as parents to protect our children from harm, and we have an overwhelming responsibility to keep the over-reaching powers of the state from reaching into our children’s classrooms.”

Rex Smith, the editor of the Albany Times-Union, wrote an excellent column, chastising Governor Andrew Cuomo for picking on teachers. Let’s hope that the mounting criticism of Cuomo’s cynical effort to place the blame on teachers for low test scores persuades him to reverse course. The surest predictor of low test scores is poverty, not “bad” teachers. Rex Smith knows this. Why doesn’t Governor Cuomo?

 

Here is an excerpt from Smith’s column:

 

 

Students come to school with all sorts of problems, starting with poverty. Most low-performing schools are in high-needs communities. Plenty of research underscores the link between learning capacity and poverty, with its attendant problems – including poor housing, inadequate health care and neighborhood violence.

 

 

The governor knows this to be true. He has on occasion been eloquent on this very point. It makes his current campaign of demonizing teachers all the more mystifying.

 

 

Yet we hear him repeatedly attacking “the public school monopoly,” ignoring all the non-public (and taxpayer-aided) schools that make the educational system a lot more competitive already than other government services. You know, police and fire departments are monopolies, too. Should we subsidize competing privately-owned agencies, and blame cops for crime and firefighters for fires?

 

 

And there was the governor during his State of the State presentation last month, juxtaposing two statistics as though one directly related to the other: 96 percent of teachers were rated “effective” or better by the state’s teacher evaluation system last year, but less than 40 percent of students in grades three through eight were at least “proficient” in standardized language arts and math tests.

 

 

The inference he wants us to draw, it seems, is that more teachers should be rated lower so they can be fired, making way for teachers who can raise test scores.

 

 

The problem with this analysis begins with a logical fallacy of seeing a causal relationship where there’s really a coincidental one. Call it the Pirate Paradigm, explained thus: The number of pirates plying the high seas has shrunk over three centuries, even as roughly 40 percent of marine species have vanished. Thus, you may conclude that pirates are good for fish.

 

Good work, Mr. Smith!

David Gamberg, superintendent of the public schools in Southold and Greenport–two independent districts on Long Island in Néw York–denounced Governor Cuomo’s “education reforms.” Gamberg was blunt. He has the full support of his board.

 

Gamberg said that the Governor’s desire to make test scores count for 50% of teachers’ evaluation “could devastate the faculty and, thus, the students of Southold.

 

“The governor has proposed a teacher rating system that would base 50 percent of an instructor’s evaluation on student performance on state tests — an increase from the current 20 percent.

 

“If this plan were to become law, I will provide the board with direct, accurate evidence of [the teachers] who will get swept up — that should not get swept up — in this metric to the detriment of the students of Southold,” Mr. Gamberg said. “I think it would be the highest irresponsibility for our school district to just sit by and allow it to happen….

 

““It can not go through because it is, without a doubt, the worst construct of improvement in public education that has been enunciated in the history of New York,” Mr. Gamberg said.”

 

Cuomo is holding school districts hostage, said Southold school board president Paulette Ofrias, by promising them a 4.8% increase in funds, but only if they implement his ideas.

 

“The New York State teachers’ union did not endorse Mr. Cuomo in his bid for re-election last year and has fought his reform agenda in recent years.

 

“I know he’s doing it to get back at the teachers, but the bottom line is it hurts the children in New York State,” Ms. Ofrias said about the governor’s latest plan. “It’s just deplorable and disgusting.”

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