Archives for category: Cuomo, Andrew

Kate Taylor of the New York Times checked with a few nonpartisan experts on Governor Cuomo’s claim that New York public education is in “crisis,” and in dire need of the draconian “reforms” he favors.


The experts said that New York public education is NOT in crisis. The public schools fare about the same as they did on national assessments as they did 20 years ago. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution says that if they are in crisis now, then they must have been in crisis for the past 20 years.


Aaron Pallas of Teachers College says it is unfair to use the Common Core test scores to gauge achievement because they are have a different passing mark from the previous tests. Only 30% passed the Common Core tests, but the year before, 80% were passing. The teachers didn’t suddenly get worse. The State Commissioner decided to change the standards.

Chester Finn, one of the nation’s leading conservative thinkers and president emeritus of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote an article in the New York Daily News saluting Andrew Cuomo for his forceful advocacy of charters and, especially, vouchers.

Since Néw York’s constitution has an amendment barring any public payment for tuition at religious schools, Cuomo calls it a tax-credit scholarship program. Republicans usually use the euphemism “opportunity scholarships.” But no one is fooled. The goal in New York and elsewhere is to subsidize the tuition of students at religious schools.

Finn writes:

“Cuomo is, to the best of my knowledge, the first Democratic governor ever to propose a program of private-school choice for kids and families in his state. Others (in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arizona, maybe elsewhere) have tolerated this sort of thing when it originated outside of their offices, but this is the first time a state’s Democratic chief exec has taken the lead.”

What Checker Finn does not mention is that voters have never approved public support for vouchers in any state.

FYI, I was a trustee of the Fordham Institute for many years and a very close friend of Checker Finn. We even wrote books together. But I never agreed with him about vouchers, nor in his contempt for unions, nor in his fervent advocacy of anything that weakens public education. Maybe we differed because I graduated from public school, and he graduated from Exeter.

Mercedes Schneider says that Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2015 sounds remarkably like Governor Bonby Jindal in 2012.

Amazing resemblance:

“In Louisiana in 2012, second-term-elected Governor Jindal commanded the legislature. As for his test-driven education agenda, Jindal had the legislature pass Act 1, commonly known as the Teacher Tenure Law, in short order. That is the legislation that officially ushered in Louisiana teachers’ being graded using their students’ test scores, with 50 percent of the annual teacher evaluation based on student scores and 50 percent, on administrative evaluation. Teachers are rated in one of four categories–“highly effective,” “effective,” “effective emerging,” and “ineffective.” An “ineffective” rating via test scores is enough for a teacher to be declared “ineffective” overall.

“For teachers to have tenure, they must be rated “highly effective” for five out of six years.

“Looks like Cuomo has taken his 2015 State of the State teacher evaluation ideas from Louisiana in 2012.”

Jindal didn’t get far with his teacher-bashing agenda. Most of it was declared unconstitutional by the courts. It’s time for teachers in Néw York to Send In the Lawyers to stop Cuomo from destroying the profession.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his State of the State message today that he wants teacher evaluations to be based 50% test scores, 50% observation. Any teacher “ineffective” in raising test scores will be found no better than “developing” regardless of observation scores. Any teacher rated ineffective two years in a row may be fired.

“According to a book outlining Cuomo’s policy and budget speech on Wednesday, the governor will propose a “simplified and standardized” evaluation system that rates teachers 50 percent on state test scores (or a comparable measure of student growth for teachers in subjects that are not tested) and 50 percent on observations.

“Rather than being locally negotiated, the “scoring bands” for both components would be set at the state level under the proposal, and if a teacher is rated “ineffective” on either portion, he or she may not get a score higher than “developing” overall. (The ratings are assigned on a scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective.” Two consecutive “ineffective” ratings could be grounds for termination.)

“Cuomo’s plan calls for at least two observations, one of which would be conducted by an “independent observer,” which could be a principal or administrator from within or outside the school district, a SUNY or CUNY professor or “trained independent evaluator” from a list to be provided by the State Education Department.”

Cuomo’s staff evidently did not read the American Statistical Association statement on value-added models. It says:

As I wrote in an earlier post,

“Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.” The ASA points out: “This is not saying that teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences.”

“As many education researchers have explained–including a joint statement by the American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education– the VAM ratings of those who teach children with disabilities and English language learners will be low, because these children have greater learning challenges than their peers, as will the ratings of those who teach gifted students, because the latter group has already reached a ceiling. Those two groups, like the ASA agreed that test scores are affected by many factors besides the teacher, not only the family, but the school’s leadership, its resources, class size, curriculum, as well as the student’s motivation, attendance, and health. Yet the Obama administration and most of our states are holding teachers alone accountable for student test scores.

“The ASA warns that the current heavy reliance on VAMs for high-stakes testing and their simplistic interpretation may have negative effects on the quality of education. There will surely be unintended consequences, such as a diminishment in the number of people willing to become teachers in an environment where “quality” is so crudely measured. There will assuredly be more teaching to the test.. With the Obama administration’s demand for VAM, “more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. Certain schools may be hard to staff if there is a perception that it is harder for teachers to achieve good VAM scores when working in them. Over-reliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole.”


Perdido Street School blogger warns that teachers, their union, and public schools have become the biggest targets for Andrew Cuomo in his second term.

In a preview of his State of the State address today, Cuomolashed out at teachers and public education:

““It probably has been the single greatest failure of the state in many ways,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says reform, including an overhaul of teacher performance reviews and fixing bad schools are at the top of his agenda. And he says simply spending “more money” is not the answer. He says it’s been tried in the past, with little improvement.

“And you know what it’s gotten us?” Cuomo asked. “A larger and larger bureaucracy, and higher salaries for the people who work in the education industry.”

Read the comments on Perdido’s post:

Several comments predict that Cuomo will stumble when he goes after schools and teachers in affluent districts. Parents and community leaders in those districts like their schools and their teachers. They don’t see them as failures.

Governor Andrew Cuomo complained recently that legislators were too concerned with protecting teachers’ pensions and unconcerned with protecting children in “failing schools.”

Station WGRZ says that the average pension for retired school employees is $41,000 and change. Cuomo thinks teachers will produce higher test scores if he threatens their pensions. Apparently he wants more test prep, more teaching to the test, more narrowing of the curriculum to eliminate the arts and physical education so there is more time for testing.

Please, someone, tell the governor that threats don’t improve teaching and learning. Tell him that carrots and sticks do not get “results.”

Tell him to read Daniel Pink’s “Drive” or the research of Edward Deci and Dan Ariely on motivation. What teachers need is not threats but support, encouragement, and the resources to do their job.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was very disappointed when only 1% of teachers were found “ineffective” in their state ratings. He demanded tougher evaluations, using the “value-added model” whose validity has been questioned by many research groups, including the American Statistical Association, the American Education Research Association, and the National Academy of Education.

In this post, high school principal Carol Burris reports that the chairperson of the state Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, responded to Governor Cuomo’s piqué by offering to double the importance of test scores in teacher evaluations.

Burris cites the example of fourth grade teacher Sheri Lederman, who was rated highly effective one year, then ineffective the next year. Her students performed twice as well as the state average–both years. Lederman is suing the state.

Burris writes:

“Sheri Lederman, is a gifted and beloved fourth-grade teacher in Great Neck, New York. Her principal adores her and relies on her to help mentor her colleagues. Over twice as many of her students have met the state standard than the average percentage for the rest of the state. Sheri is also a scholar. She received the 2012 H. Alan Robinson Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation award for her research on how 10-year-olds learn science. Yet her growth score based on the results of student Common Core standardized tests found her to be an “ineffective” teacher.

“Under the present teacher evaluation system in New York, known as APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review), she is not in danger of losing her job. She was rated effective overall due to the points she received on the local measure of her students’ achievement, combined with those based on the observation of her teaching. But that will change if Chancellor Merryl Tisch has her way. Sheri would be rated ineffective overall, and one more such rating would get her fired.

“The short version of what she [Tisch] wants to do now is this—double down on test scores and strip away the power of local school boards to negotiate the majority of the evaluation plan. Tisch would get rid of the locally selected measures of achievement, which now comprise 20 percent of the evaluation, and double the state test score portion, to 40 percent. She also recommends that the score ranges for the observation process be taken out of the hands of local districts, and be determined by Albany instead. Dr. Lederman, start packing up. Merryl Tisch and Andrew Cuomo, whom you have never met, know your talents better than your local school board, your principal and the parents of the children you teach.”

We will watch Sheri Lederman’s lawsuit. How can the state justify rating her “ineffective” based on her students’ outstanding test scores? The formula makes no sense.

Governor Cuomo is in an unusual position, vis-a-vis education. He has nothing to do with it, except for his power over the budget. He does not appoint the state Board of Regents (the State Assembly does). He does not appoint the State Commissioner of Education (the Board of Regents does). He is out of the loop. But in recent months, he has convinced himself that he is the state’s foremost expert on education. He thinks he knows how to “fix” education. He loves charter schools, as are his friends and contributors on Wall Street. He disdains public schools and is convinced that the state has a failing school system, not recognizing that academic results are closely correlated with the socioeconomics of each district. He loves standardized testing and especially high-stakes testing, where teachers and principals quake with fear when their evaluations are tied to test scores. Cuomo has made clear that the new evaluation system has not been tough enough; he wants one that identifies more “failing” teachers. He has promised to “break” the public-school “monopoly,” which others think of as an essential public service.


Gary Stern of speculates on what Cuomo will propose in his state of the state address. One thing seems sure: after the John King era, after the entry of Cuomo into the role of education maven, local control is dead in New York state.


Stern writes:


Now he wants to take on the whole education bureaucracy. But what goodies will Cuomo actually propose in his State of the State?


Will he try to change how Regents are selected, a move that Assembly Democrats would oppose? Would he dare propose a system of renewable tenure, which unions would fight? Might he propose a strategy for helping urban schools, other than threatening to close them? Or will he simply renew his interest in tougher teacher evaluations and charter schools?


One question Cuomo hasn’t asked is what educators on the ground think. More than likely, he’s going to tell them what to do.

Yesterday, I posted a letter written on behalf of Governor Cuomo by the director of state operations, Jim Malatros. The governor wants to know what should be done about the bad teachers, especially in “deplorable” districts like Buffalo.

Here is an answer from a teacher in Buffalo, posted as a comment on the original:

“As one of those teachers from a”deplorable Buffalo priority school who has condemned a generation of kids to poor education and thus poor life prospects” I take great offense to Mr. Malatras’ comments. Our school is primarily failing because 70% of our students are ELLs who have arrived at our high school without the prior academics needed for success in high school. 30% of our students have little or no literacy in their primary language and many have never been in a school setting until they enter our 9th grade cohort. NYSED has consistently ignored their needs of first learning the English language, learning to read and acquire math literacy before they take the grade/subject level Regents exams. How about letting us provide our students with a strong foundation before condemning us as “bad” teachers because these students are unable to make the grade? In a school with about 800 students, we have been allocated a single reading specialist. Time and time again, research has shown that it takes 7 years for older students to master English and yet you (NYSED) have only allowed an extra year for our SIFE students to get up to speed in school. How about looking at how your unrealistic expectations have created poor life prospects, along with the poverty and inequity of financing our inner city schools that have contributed immensely to the problem?”

Peter Greene makes a stab at explaining what Andrew Cuomo doesn’t understand about accountability.

First point is that you keep your promises after the election is over. Cuomo promised to delay high stakes attached to test scores in teacher ratings. After the election, he changed his mind.

The second is that you use tests to learn what’s happening, not to confirm what you believe. Cuomo thinks lots of teachers are failing, and he won’t believe any measurement unless it confirms his prior conclusions.

What Peter doesn’t explain is why presumably intelligent people like Cuomo think that teachers alone are responsible for student test scores. What if the student never does his homework or pay attention in class? What if the student doesn’t speak English? What if her mother has a fatal illness? There are so many variables over which the teacher has no control. Experience has shown that the various teacher evaluation models are fraught with instability and error.


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