Archives for category: New York City

For two years, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has shredded Mayor Bill de Blasio’s legislative agenda and imposed his own wishes on the city. De Blasio tried to rein in the free-wheeling charter sector, and Cuomo responded by expanding it and forcing the city to give free public space to charters or pay their rent in private space. This year, de Blasio sought permanent extension of mayoral control. He ended up with only one year.


Until today, de Blasio has faithfully supported Cuomo, despite the rebuffs and slights. He helped Cuomo get the nomination of the Working Families Party, which threatened to endorse Zephyr Teachout. He gave the premier nominating speech for Cuomo at the State Democratic convention, showing progressive support for a governor who has governed as a conservative.


Today, de Blasio finally let loose on Cuomo.



“Mayor Bill de Blasio, in candid and searing words rarely employed by elected officials of his stature, accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday of stymieing New York City’s legislative goals out of personal pettiness, “game-playing” and a desire for “revenge.”


“In an extraordinary interview, Mr. de Blasio, appearing to unburden himself of months’ worth of frustrations, said that Mr. Cuomo — who, like the mayor, is a Democrat — “did not act in the interests” of New Yorkers by blocking measures like reforming rent laws and allowing a long-term extension of the mayor’s ability to control the city’s public schools.


“I started a year and a half ago with a hope of a very strong partnership,” Mr. de Blasio said of the governor, whom he has known for two decades. “I have been disappointed at every turn. And these last couple of examples really are beyond the pale…..


“I’m not going to be surprised if these statements lead to some attempts at revenge,” Mr. de Blasio said, his voice even. “And we’ll just call them right out. Because we are just not going to play that way.”


Teachers know how vindictive and petty Cuomo can be. He fancies himself qualified to dictate how teachers should be evaluated, a subject about which he is totally uninformed.

Testing expert Fred Smith sends out a warning to parents in Néw York City: Pearson field tests begin Monday.

But keep it a secret. No one knows. The scores don’t count because the tests are testing the questions, not the teachers.

Should parents be told? Shouldn’t they give consent? Should Pearson pay the students?


David Bloomfield, professor of educational leadership, law, and policy at CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, examines what he calls “the myth of failing schools.” Schools with low test scores usually reflect a concentration of students who enter the school far behind, who have disabilities that interfere with learning, who are English language learners, or who have other obstacles to overcome. The “failing schools” tend to have more of these students than other schools. Bloomfield writes that it was the policy of Mayor Bloomberg to close schools with low scores, as if this were a solution to the problems of the students. The students from the closed schools were sent to other schools that then became “failing schools.”

Bloomfield says that Mayor de Blasio has fallen for the same myth, but instead of closing schools, he has promised to turn them around with extra services within three years. He faults the Mayor for not recognizing that schools “fail” not because of their teachers or their practices but because of systemic policies. He sums up the myth as the belief that:

failure is the fault of individual schools, not the school system. His proposed solutions — community services, extra instructional time, and increased professional development, timed to a three year deadline prior to closure — treat these schools as isolated problems rather than the natural result of insidious central policies.

He proposes:

Now, the city needs to take ownership of solutions, instead of blaming the students, teachers, and principals triaged to benefit others. If de Blasio only tries to staunch the bleeding by creating a series of temporary fixes for select schools, instead of repairing the system’s inequities, his plan will fail.
One place to start would be to diminish the number of latecomer students, who are known as “over-the-counter” students and who often have more severe academic and social needs, enrolling at struggling schools. The city has already put those limits in place at Boys and Girls and Automotive high schools, but the other struggling schools need that benefit as well so that those students are spread more equally throughout the system.
Another goal should be to develop a system of choice that avoids concentrations of haves and have-nots in city schools. As stated by Baruch College Professor Judith Kafka, “Our school system already concentrates poverty. Does choice interrupt this process? It can when the school system makes integration a priority and enacts what is often called ‘controlled choice’ as described in the work of the Century Fund’s Richard Kahlenberg.” Those policies focus on admissions rules that emphasize choice and also aim to create stable, economically diverse student populations.
Real solutions will require politically difficult changes to budgeting and enrollment policies, as well as a concerted effort to help schools improve their reputations. Such solutions would involve trade-offs, and some schools would likely benefit more than others. But the varied recommendations for solving our struggling schools crisis put forth so far by Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the New York City Charter Schools Center, and even Mayor de Blasio, fail to adequately address the systemic causes of school failure.

The charter school industry in Néw York City is well-supported by hedge-fund billionaires, but they used their riches and political clout to compel the city to pay the charters’ rent in private space.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio had the temerity to suggest that amply-funded, privately-managed charters should pay rent (based on their ability to pay), the hedge-fund managers poured millions into a TV ad campaign attacking de Blasio and invested millions in Governor Cuomo’s campaign, assuring his loyalty to charters.

What a smart investment for charters, even though it robs the 1 million children who are not enrolled in charters.

“It’s huge,” said Great Oaks Charter School founder Michael Duffy, who became the first school leader to test the nascent law’s limits this summer. Duffy estimates his Lower Manhattan school stands to receive about $300,000 to cover rent for about 109 students in seventh grade this year.
Great Oaks is one of 46 city charter schools in private space that added grades, according to the New York City Charter School Center, and more than 3,600 students from those schools were enrolled in new grades. Most of those schools successfully appealed to the State Education Department for rental assistance over the last several months.”

Duffy ran the city’s charter school office from 2007-2010 when Joel Klein was chancellor.

“But the city’s costs are certain to continue to add up, as more schools open and enrollment increases at expanding schools. Next school year, the charter center’s enrollment projections would put the maximum tab just for expanding schools at $17.8 million.

“One of those new schools, South Bronx Early College Academy Charter School, will be due more than $300,000 for 110 six graders next year, according to the founding principal.

“It’s a heck of a gift,” said the founder, Ric Campbell.

“The city is obligated to spend $40 million to cover rent costs of eligible charter schools if they are not given space inside of a city-owned building, according to the law. Once the bills hit the $40 million ceiling, costs will be split with the state.”

Those hedge-fund managers are very smart. They even figured out how to get the city to pay the rent for their hobby schools.

In all Néw York state, Néw York City had one of the lowest opt out rates. Children and parents were warned by principals that their school would lose funds or might be closed. Immigrants didn’t want to have a run-in with the law. Children heard that they would not get into a good middle school without high test scores.

But some disregarded the threats.

In this post, some of the brave parents explain why they opted their children out.


Press Contact:
Liz Rosenberg

Opt-Out Numbers in New York City Surge (a 64%+ increase from 2014) as Parents Question the Motives of Those Who Push High-Stakes Testing

Despite deep-pocketed corporate ad campaigns to discourage test refusal, the opt-out movement in New York City has grown exponentially in the past year. Parents who have collected statistics on opt out from their schools have calculated a 64%+ increase from 2014’s numbers, with 3124 refusals reported so far. This percentage, and the absolute number of refusals, is expected to rise, as it has every year, when the Department of Education delivers its official count in the months to come. Even more families are expected to hand in opt-out letters tomorrow, when NY State administers the Common Core Math tests to city 3rd-8th graders.

The public school families who gathered in sunny Prospect Park represented about 15 of the 93 city schools who have children opting out this year. Parent after parent—and one student—denounced the deleterious effects of a test-centered culture, and questioned the motives of those who insist on the propagation of such a culture.

Amy Plattsmier, who has children in elementary and middle school, underscored that the Opt Out movement is parent-led. “Contrary to what you might hear, this movement is not a creation of the teachers unions, nor are our children ‘caught up in the midst of a labor dispute.’ That narrative is trivializing, as it disregards the hard work of parents, who have been mobilizing against these tests in various ways for years.” Hitting a nerve with the other families present, Plattsmier asked, “Who is being enriched as our schools are increasingly stripped of enrichment?”

Next, Eleanor Rogers, a parent from Brooklyn’s P.S. 130, a Title 1 school, encapsulating a theme that echoed through the comments of all parents who followed, questioned the motives of those who enable the flow of corporate money into public education, “Stop enriching corporations who care more about making money than caring for our kids! We can’t match their millions. Their army of lobbyists, their radio commercials, their contributions to political campaigns… All we have is the power to opt out.”

Charmaine Dixon, a parent at PS 203 in Brooklyn, followed, “My school is a Title 1 school and our community has been sold a load of goods… We watch as test preparation and the focus on getting the right answer—not asking the right questions—crowd out real learning in our schools. I Question the Motive of those who would keep us from rising to our true potential.”

Katharine James, parent of a 2nd grader at another Title 1 school, Brooklyn’s PS 295, where 22% of the students are classified as ELLs, asked why the state tests are being given to students who are just learning English. “My daughter has several kids in her class who have only recently immigrated. I am not against high expectations for students, including ELLs. But if you are pretty certain that a child will fail a test–because 97% of all ELLs did just that last year–why would you insist on administering it? What would be your motivation?

Shiloh Gonsky, a 6th grader at MS 51 in Brooklyn, communicated her shock and disappointment when, on the first day of school her math teacher instructed students to pay attention “because what we were learning would be on “the test” in April. Wow. I was hoping to learn math because it’s interesting or cool, because I need math for life.”

Jody Drezner Alperin, mother of 2 children who attend PS 10, spoke about the secrecy that surrounds the tests. “I am diligent about what I feed my children, what activities they’re involved in, and even what movie I let them see at the theatre. I really question the test companies who claim their products are so great yet let no one vet them before they’re given to our kids. What are these companies hiding?”

She continued, “Before our school can’t give my kids aspirin without my permission. But imagine if the school announced that for two weeks every year, they were going to take our children out of their classroom — and no one, not parents, not the teacher, not the principal, NOT EVEN THE REGENTS THEMSELVES—would know what the children were doing instead of their regular classroom work. And there would never be any report on their activities afterward, no discussion or feedback on those two weeks except for numbers 1, 2, 3, or 4. Welcome to the state tests! When a Test Security Unit treats the administering of tests like a matter of national security, I Question the Motive.”

Reyhan Mehran, a PS 58 parent, talked about the ‘original opt outers’, “the rich and the powerful who have created high-stakes testing, have not only opted out of the test, they’ve opted out of public education altogether. They try to convince us that buying their test prep is necessary. Meanwhile, their children in private school have small class size, art, music, and creative project time. Believe me, I Question their Motive.”

Johanna Perez, whose children attend PS 146, Brooklyn New School, and PPAS in Manhattan, questioned the validity of the tests as effective measures. “When the American Statistical Association calls these tests invalid, as a parent, I Question the Motive.When my principal calls the tests developmentally inappropriate and intentionally confusing, I question the motive. When my 9-year old is given a test that is longer than the LSATs, I Question the Motive.”

Finally, Cynthia Copeland, whose child attends ICE, the Institute of Collaborative Education, asked why this untested assessment system would be pushed on schools in the first place when performance-based assessment, the alternative assessment used at ICE and the other schools of the NY State Performance Standards Consortium has a proven track record that “increases student curiosity, encourages teacher creativity and professionalism, and enhances our students’ education. Assessment that is instead based on high-stakes tests leads to an increase in dropouts, a decrease in student interest, and the trivialization of curriculum.” Copeland also asked if the myopic focus on testing was meant to distract from the massive underfunding we see in our city’s unequal, segregated schools.


NYC OPT OUT is a loose coalition of parents throughout New York City who have come together to share information about the New York State tests and their effects on children, teachers, and schools. They support each other via the NYC Opt Out Facebook page.


Press Contact:
Liz Rosenberg

Parents from Schools Across the City Stand Together:
Announce Latest Opt-Out Numbers and Launch New Grassroots Campaign

WHAT: On the day before NY State administers the Common Core Math tests to city 3rd-8th graders—thousands of whom refused the English exam, with even more expected to refuse tomorrow’s tests—NYC public school families will gather in Prospect Park to celebrate the unprecedented growth of the opt-out movement and to launch their latest grassroots campaign.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 21st at 4 P.M.

WHERE: Prospect Park bandshell, closest park entrance @9th Street and Prospect Park West.

VISUALS: Parents and children playing in park, holding posters that question putting profits before children. Weather is supposed to be gorgeous!

Despite threats and deep-pocketed corporate ad campaigns to discourage test refusal, the opt-out movement in New York City has grown, reaching an unprecedented number of schools in neighborhoods throughout the city. Parents, the David, in this David & Goliath scenario, are demanding that children receive an enriching education, rather than be used to enrich corporate profiteers, who care most about their own bottom line.

NYC OPT OUT is a loose coalition of parents throughout New York City who have come together to share information about the New York State tests and their effects on children, teachers, and schools. They support each other via the NYC Opt Out Facebook page. On Tuesday, both families who have refused the tests and those who are considering opt out will be present and available to speak to press.

I received this from a principal in New York City. It was written by one of his teachers.


From a 3rd Grade Teacher


“I love teaching!! It fills my heart when my students make connections and get that light in their eyes when they become excited by what they’ve learned. I have some of the brightest bunch of kids this year. They come to school enthusiastic about the day, prepared to learn something new. They challenge me and my thinking, my pedagogy and I reciprocate. Today I saw some of the light in many of my students completely disappear and it broke my heart.


It’s been a grueling three days of testing. Their anxieties manifested themselves in tears, trips to the bathroom because of nausea and complete shutdown. Their self-confidence was stripped from them today and I felt them questioning their intelligence. I believe my 3rd graders were asked to think in ways that many of them are not developmentally ready for. When I could not decide between ‘a’ or ‘d’ and had to critically think and rethink how I would go about answering the questions being asked, I know that what was given to them today was not fair.


So now I will spend the next few days building my kids back up. Help them to forget the trauma of these past few days and remind them that it’s ok to be a kid and to think the way they do. I cannot find the words to express my disgust for this system and for the people in power who continue to allow this to happen.


We have to STAND UP PEOPLE!! We need to remind those test makers that we teach children, little humans who learn in different ways and who can demonstrate their learning in different ways. We need to change the face of assessment in this country. I’m ready… Are you??! “

New York State education officials released data showing that the top-rated teachers, based on student test scores, are less likely to work in schools enrolling black and Hispanic students.

Did State Education Department officials read the VAM reports showing that VAM is statistically flawed as a measure of individual teachers? Are they aware that less than 20% of black and Hispanic students met the absurd passing mark on the state’s Common Core test for the past two years? Are they aware that test-based accountability discourages teachers from working in high-needs schools? Interesting that the article cites the leader of Michelle Rhee’s organization, TNTP (the Néw Teacher Project), whose goal is to replace experienced teachers with new hires. At the rate these so-called reforms are accepted as credible (despite evidence to the contrary), TNTP will be able to place millions of new hires.

I have sometimes wished it were possible to have a completely candid conversation with a teacher at a Success Academy charter school. Last week, with no advance planning, it happened.*


A young man who is related to me asked if he could introduce me to his friend, Ms. Smith (a pseudonym). He told me she teaches at Success and wanted to meet me. I said, “Of course.”


I had no idea what the evening had in store. I have talked to SA teachers before, always in public, not in the privacy of home, and they were always pleasant, neither boastful nor defensive.


When they arrived, I opened a bottle of white wine and broke open a box of macaroons. “Betty” (that’s not her name either) told me that she had worked at SA for five years. She teaches fifth grade.


What is it like, I asked.


She said she loves the children, but the atmosphere is stifling for both teachers and children. She is looking for another job. Everything is about test scores, and the competitive pressure never lets up. Right now, they are getting ready for the state exams, and signs posted everywhere say “Slam the Exams!”


I asked how long the test prep went on, and she said they have been doing test prep for months. She said the kids would not take spring vacation until the exams were finished.


What’s so bad about test prep, I asked her. She said some of the kids explode or break down. They are very young, and the pressure gets to be too much for them. They might start screaming or crying, and they have to be removed from the classroom until they calm down. The children are assigned a color depending on their test scores, and every classroom posts the names of the children and their color–red, green, blue, or yellow. I forget which is best and which is worst, but the goal is to shame the lowest performing students so they try harder to move up into the next level.


The test prep plus the ” no-excuses” climate of tough and strictly enforced rules unnerves some children, she said. And she felt badly for the children who were humiliated. The harshly competitive environment, she said, was dispiriting and joyless.


What happens with the children who can’t adjust to the highly disciplined demands of the school, I asked. She replied that these children might be suspended repeatedly or their parents or guardian might be called to the school every day. Day after day. Eventually, the child’s parent or guardian will withdraw the child because they can’t afford to miss work every day.


She realized she had had enough. The money was good, she said, but the stress was exhausting. She was also troubled by the non-stop political propaganda campaign. This year, she didn’t get on the bus with thousands of others to go to Albany and demand more money so the chain could expand. She didn’t like the way the children, parents, and teachers were being used as political pawns.


When I told her that none of the eighth grade students who had attended Success Academy had passed the competitive exams to enter the elite high schools of NYC, either last year or this year, she was momentarily surprised. Then, she said, that explains why Success Academy is opening its own high school.


Our conversation continued for more than a hour. It was clear that the scales had fallen from her eyes. She felt certain that the hedge fund managers bankrolling SA charters know nothing about the children, nor do they care about them. They want to win. They want high scores, period. Just like Wall Street. They want to be able to say at cocktail parties and dinner parties that “my school” got higher test scores than “your school.”


Why have you stayed this long, I asked her. I love the kids, she replied. She said someday she hopes to work for a nonprofit that won’t require her to sacrifice her ethics and principles.


*I thought this story was a real scoop, but then Kate Taylor of the New York Times beat me to it with this story.

The New York Daily News reports that Karen Magee of the New York State United Teachers fought Cuomo’s toxic budget to the end, but that Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers did not.


According to the Daily News:


City teachers union president Michael Mulgrew angered NYSUT after he put out a statement Sunday night — before the education bill was even in print — claiming victory in beating back some of Cuomo’s more strident proposals, sources said.


While NYSUT President Karen Magee urged lawmakers to reject the measures, city lawmakers said they were told by Mulgrew’s team that voting for the package would not be held against them.


Magee has come out in favor of parents opting out of the state tests to protest their misuse. Will Mulgrew?


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