Archives for category: New York

Controversial state commissioner John King, as he departs, urged the Legislature to remove the cap on charter schools. Before he was chosen as commissioner, he led a no-excuses charter school in Massachusetts with the highest suspension rate in the state.

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?”

Jim Malatras, the director of state operations for Governor Cuomo in New York, recently sent a letter to Merryl Tisch, the chair of the state Board of Regents, and to the outgoing Commissioner of Education John King.


The letter asks a series of questions about the future direction of education in New York. It does not mention resources, because the Governor believes that New York spends enough or too much already. It does not mention resource equity, which is unfortunate, since New York has a highly inequitable funding structure. Nor does the letter mention poverty or segregation, which are known to be highly correlated with low test scores. Every standardized test shows a gap between haves and have-nots, but Mr. Malatras does not mention any action that might improve the life chances of children and families living in poverty. A recent report from the UCLA Civil Rights Project said that New York state has the most racially segregated schools in the nation, but that is not mentioned in this letter.


Please read the letter and feel welcome to offer your answers to the questions posed in it.



The board of the Southold, Néw York, school district on the North Fork of Long Island voted not to participate in field testing for state tests as a protest against over testing.

Superintendent David Gamberg–a man of gentle demeanor–is a leader in the struggle to rescue genuine education from the mandates and data-driven decision-making. He is proud of his schools’ arts and music, as well as the garden where children grow produce for lunch.

Gamberg is so trusted by locals that when the superintendent retired in the neighboring district of Greenport, Gamberg was invited to lead both districts. The Greenport board is likely to pass a resolution not to give the field tests.

For their courage and integrity and their love of children, I add David Gamberg and the Southold school board to the honor roll as champions of American education.

In a shockingly rare move, Néw York’s Board of Regents refused to approve a batch of charters recommended for renewal by Néw York City.

Regents’ chair Merryl Tisch has expressed her desire to expand the charter sector. But each of the schools delayed or denied had serious problems, either with low test scores or an unusually harsh disciplinary policy.

The flap last month over an Albany charter proposal may have made the Regents willing to exercise oversight.

Marian Wang of ProPublica writes that Néw York’s First Deputy Comptroller, Pete Grannis, can’t understand why charter school regulators in the state are uninterested in charter school accountability for public funds.

Grannis has contacted state and city officials about his concerns and received no response.

“Pete Grannis, New York State’s First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.

“Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there’s a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.

“Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified,” he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. “Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities.”

“It’s a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators – New York City’s Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York.

“He never heard back from any of them. “No response whatsoever,” Grannis said. Not even, he added, a “‘Thank you for your letter, we’ll look into it.’ That would have been the normal bureaucratic response….”

“To Grannis, though, his efforts aren’t about politics. His office is “agnostic on charters,” as he put it. His office also audits the finances of traditional public-school districts, he pointed out.

“We’re the fiscal monitors. We watch over the use or misuse of public funds,” Grannis said. “This isn’t meant to be anti-charter. Our job is not to be pro or anti.”

His job is to monitor the use of public funds, wherever it goes. Apparently no one else cares.

CommonSenseNY blogger is appalled at how little state officials understand about the defects of the state evaluation system.

He or she writes:

“Chancellor Tisch made an astonishing and appalling statement quoted in this Democrat and Chronicle article about 95% of New York teachers being rated ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’ under Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) process. While it is true the entire process is bogus, she is wrong about the reason. A link to a Carol Burris summary of the problems with APPR can be found here. She is an award-winning principal.

“Here is what is appalling about Ms. Tisch’s understanding of the current evaluation process. She states, “The ratings show there’s much more work to do to strengthen the evaluation system. There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated.”

“Chancellor Tisch continues to either misrepresent, misunderstand or demonstrate little knowledge about the connection between student achievement and socio-economic and other education factors. Let’s take a quick look at the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) since it illustrates the point well and creates a similar context.

“If you believe the critics of American public education, our students perform miserably on PISA assessments. We’ll use math as an example. The claim is “we’ are 35th for so in the world in math. Not too good. However, when controlling for poverty – we happen to have a lot of concentrated poverty in comparison to other developed nations – we move up to sixth.

“The problem with student achievement in New York is high concentrations of poverty, particularly in urban areas. Blaming a bogus and poorly implemented (similar to the implementation of the Common Core) evaluation system for student achievement issues is just wrong.”

It seems that the most “effective” teachers work where the affluent kids live. If they cane to work in one of the state’s big cities, they would probably turn into an “ineffective” teacher.

The lawsuit of a veteran fourth grade teacher in Great Neck was postponed while the state tries to figure out how to explain the rating system. She went from effective to ineffective in one year even though nearly 70% of her students passed the new state tests (more than double the state average) in both years. Something is wrong here.

Carol Burris, fearless leader of educators and parents opposed to test-based accountability in Néw York, here appraises the record of John King as state commissioner of education in Néw York.

King was appointed last week to be an “advisor” to Arne Duncan. He and Arne are on the same page in their zealous belief in standardized testing, Common Core, and evaluating educators by student scores.

King came to the job with three years of experience in a “no excuses” charter school. He listed his ambitious goals at the outset of his reign. Higher test scores, higher graduation rates, an evaluation system for teachers and principals. Burris demonstrates that he achieved none of his goals and alienated parents and educators with his top-down, tone-deaf approach.

Thanks to King, students in the class of 2022 will have a 30% graduation rate unless his successors reverse King’s policies.

The Néw York State Badass Teachers Association expressed their delight that John King is leaving as State Commissioner.

In a press release, they said:

“The New York Badass Teachers Association (BATs), an activist organization of 2250 educators, voices its joy that Commissioner John King has resigned. During his tenure as New York State Commissioner of Education, King ignored the voices of experienced educators, parents, and children, even dismissing parents as “special interests.” He was the puppet for moneyed interests in New York State who seek to privatize, and profit from, our public education system. Many New York Superintendents and Principals indicated that they had no confidence in his ability to lead the education system in New York State. “

New York Commissioner John King willl resign and join the staff of the U.S. Department of Education. Early reports said he would be Deputy Secretary of Education, but Stephanie Sumin of tweeted that he would be a “senior advisor” to Duncan. Thus, he would not require Senate confirmation.

Like Duncan, King is a strong advocate for Common Core, high-stakes testing, and value-added-modeling (judging teachers by student test scores).

Stephanie Simon (@StephanieSimon_)
12/10/14, 6:11 PM
.@JohnKingNYSED to get Jim Shelton’s portfolio at @usedgov but not the title of deputy secretary; he will be “senior advisor” to Duncan

The rumor in Néw York is that Cuomo pushed out King.


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