Archives for category: New York

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 comment on the blog:

 

“I am a 4th grade teacher in NYS. There is absolutely no consequence for students if they opt out. It does not impact report card grades. It does not impact advancement to next grade. (FYI public schools do not want to retain students – it costs money!). In our district this would not even impact whether a student got into an accelerated program because that is based on a different test altogether (not a state test)! There is no student consequence. The only way this madness is going to end if parents in droves refuse the tests. They won’t listen to teachers. But parents have a voice. Let’s get back to teaching and doing great projects in schools. We must end the testing insanity!”

The New York State Education Department released educator evaluation results on February 26, and once again, the overwhelming majority of teachers received effective or highly effective ratings. State officials were deeply disappointed by the overwhelmingly positive results. They seem to operate under the assumption that poor test results must be caused by “bad” teachers, and that their evaluation program should identify them so they may be fired.

 

The SED found that:

 

The final evaluation results show more than 95 percent of teachers statewide are rated effective (54 percent) or highly effective (42 percent); 4 percent are rated as developing; 1 percent are rated ineffective. Ninety-four percent of principals are rated effective (66 percent) or highly effective (28 percent).

 

The results were somewhat different in New York City, which used a plan imposed by then-State Commissioner John King:

 

New York City, whose evaluation plan was imposed by former Commissioner King when the New York City Department of Education could not reach agreement on the terms of the evaluation plan with the teachers union, showed greater differentiation than most districts in the State. Although New York City teachers and principals were evaluated on the same overall subcomponents as the rest of the State, the three subcomponents used different scoring ranges to determine the subcomponent rating categories (i.e., Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, Ineffective). Less than 10 percent of teachers in the city are rated Highly Effective, while 83 percent are rated Effective, 7 percent are Developing and 1 percent are Ineffective.

 

The leader of the state Board of Regents expressed disappointment at the high proportion of teachers found to be effective or highly effective:

 

“The ratings show there’s much more work to do to strengthen the evaluation system,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated. The goal of the APPR process is to identify exceptional teachers who can serve as mentors and role models, and identify struggling teachers to make sure they get the help they need to improve. The evaluation system we have now doesn’t do that. The ratings from districts don’t reflect the struggles our students face to achieve college and career readiness. State law must be changed to build an evaluation system that supports teaching and learning in classrooms across the State. Our students deserve no less.”

 

Chancellor Tisch, like Governor Cuomo, assumes that the proportion of students getting low scores should somehow be matched by a similar proportion of low-rated teachers. It would be useful if Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo reviewed two basic documents: the American Statistical Association statement on the uses and misuses of value-added measurement (VAM) and the joint statement of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association. It is unfortunate that the Board of Regents and the Governor proceed without regard to research on the effects of out-of-school and in-school factors that affect test scores. Were they to familiarize themselves with the two documents cited, they might develop a very different action plan, one that helps both students and teachers.

 

See state ratings here.

 

 

Please put March 9 on your calendar if you live in or near Long Island, Néw York. There will be a major event at C.W. Post University to discuss current trends in education and how to set them right. The event was originally set for Hofstra but the auditorium had only 1,000 seats, and the organizers quickly ran out of tickets. The event has been moved to the Tilles Center, which holds 2,200 people. Tickets are free. Reserve a seat here.

Long Island is the epicenter of test rebellion. Most of Néw York’s 60,000 plus students who opted out were in Long Island. Principals and superintendents have been outspoken against high-stakes testing.

I will speak, so will Carol Burris as well as parents and others who object to the plague of high-stakes testing.

Liza Featherstone explains why her child will not take the state tests. She does not want her child subjected to endless test prep. She does not want teachers evaluated by her son’s test scores. She wants what the school offers:

“Studying ancient China, the third-graders at my son’s school made lanterns, clay plates and terra cotta masks. They learned how to write Chinese calligraphy. They wove silks.

“My son, Ivan, and his team made a papier-mâché model of the Great Wall as viewed from space. The kids displayed their works in a breathtaking “China Museum” for parents and younger children.”

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.

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

Retired teacher and blogger Norm Scott (EdNotes Online) has a creative idea, though time is short. Why not brings hundreds of thousands (or millions) of students to Albany on March 4 to get a “civics lesson” and to remind legislators that 97% of the state’s children attend public schools, not charters.

He writes:

Help this teacher sell this class trip.

“Norm, just stumbled upon you. I tried selling our BOE on the same idea that I just read on your blog (Time for Massive Civics Lesson on March 4). Super didn’t know if we could do that with our public school buses. I teach Elem.Spec.Ed.- do you know if there are any generic “field trip civics lesson plans” out there to expedite my push to make this legit? People won’t get off their asses and take action; all we get is “write your legislators”. Actions speak.”

Norm writes:

“I proposed this weeks ago right after Eva announced she was closing schools on UFT lobby day, March 4, to take them up to Albany. Why not get hundreds of NYC classes to take a field trip to Albany for a civics lesson on how public money can be misused to get away with just about anything. Note how the teacher gets it about the business as usual without imagination UFT plan. Even though March 4 is the day after my 70th birthday I would go along just to get video of a lone teacher making a stand.”

Want proof that charter schools are not public schools? Public school principals would be fired if they closed their schools for the day and put the children on buses to the state Capitol to lobby for more funding. Imagine if NYC principals brought 1 million students to Albany to demand money for smaller classes, libraries, and the arts. It will never happen because it is illegal.

But next week, Eva Moskowitz will close her NYC charter schools and bring 9,000 children (mostly elementary ages) to lobby for more charters. http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/01/30/success-academys-albany-rally-set-to-compete-with-uft-lobbying-day/#.VOyb4WS9Kc0

She may bring their parents as well. Certainly not to lobby for the children. They already attend a charter school. They can’t attend more than one.

The charters have chosen to lobby in the same day as the UFT. The UFT won’t produce their students; it would be illegal.

it is offensive to see children so callously used to promote “adult interests.”

Private schools can close their doors to lobby. Public schools can’t. The best private schools, however, would not use their students as political props. Their parents would never allow it.

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.

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