Archives for category: New York

Educators in Néw York are trying to make sense of the state’s evaluation system. The formula is supposed to consist of observations (60%); state scores (20%); and local assessments (20%). Yet the results don’t line up with common sense or common knowledge.

Some principals seem to be giving higher observation scores to teachers they want to protect because they believe they are valuable and don’t want to lose them

“In Scarsdale, regarded as one of the best school systems in the country, no teacher has been rated “highly effective” in classroom observations. It is the only district in the Lower Hudson Valley with that strict an evaluation. In Pleasantville, 99 percent of the teachers are rated as “highly effective” in the same category.”

Charlotte Danielson, whose rubric is the basis forest teacher evaluation systems, called these results “laughable.”

“Pleasantville schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter defended her district’s classroom observation scores, which use the Danielson model — saying the state’s “flawed” model had forced districts to scale or bump up the scores so “effective” teachers don’t end up with a rating of “developing.”

What is truly laughable is the effort to turn the art and craft of teaching into a scaled metric, like weighing apples at the supermarket. What is essentially a matter of human judgment, based on experience and wisdom, cannot be measured and graded. Its results will always be flawed, and the very act of measuring the unmeasurable will change teacher behavior to conform to the scale. If all we want is higher scores, this might be a good way to get them. If we want inspired teaching, it is not.

The judge overseeing the anti-tenure lawsuits merged the two that had been filed, over the protests of parent activist Mona David’s of the New York City Parents Union.

“Outside the court, Mona Davids, the lead plaintiff in the first case, Davids vs. New York, made it clear that she wasn’t interested in forging a unified effort as she passed out fake $100 bills bearing the grimacing face of Campbell Brown, the news-anchor-turned-activist who spearheaded the second lawsuit, Wright vs. New York.

“It’s our lawsuit,” Davids said. “We filed first.”

“But inside the courtroom, Justice Phillip Minardo decided they were similar enough to combine, and neither lawsuit filed an opposition to the motion. He also decided to let the United Federation of Teachers intervene as a defendant, which will allow the city teachers union to take an active role in defending the current job protection rules. (Minardo deferred a decision about whether the state teachers union could intervene as well because of a paperwork issue.)”

The cases were filed in Staten Island, the city’s most conservative borough, in hopes of finding a sympathetic judge who would rule against tenure.

Davids went after Campbell Brown with a vengeance. Davids said:

“Campbell Brown is is trying to reform her image and make herself relevant on the backs of black and Hispanic children, our children. This is our lawsuit,” Davids said at a press conference where members of her group held up fake $100 bills with Brown’s screaming face in the middle and signs that read “Campbell Brown does not speak for NYC parents.”

“Davids claims Brown discouraged Gibson Dunn, the prestigious law firm that helped secure victory for the plaintiffs in Vergara vs. California, from helping Davids’ case. Gibson Dunn said in early August it would be providing legal support to Davids’ case, then abruptly dropped out several weeks ago, citing conflicts of interest.”

Bob Hardt, NY 1’s editorial director, wrote that Cuomo should grow up and act like a Governor, not a bully.

He was especially appalled by Cuomo’s behavior at the Labor Day parade, where he refused to shake Teachout’s hand and no matter how hard she tried to reach across to do so, Cuomo was surrounded by other officials and bodyguards determined to prevent a face-to-face encounter, or Heaven forbid, a handshake.

What the event showed is that Teachout has courage and dignity–she kept smiling no matter how many times she was pushed away–and Cuomo showed he is afraid of her. No class.

Hardt wrote:

Life really is like high school – it’s just that the stakes keep getting bigger.

After unsuccessfully going to court to try to stop tomorrow’s Democratic primary from happening, Governor Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, pulled off their best King and Queen of the Prom behavior this weekend, pretending that their opponents, Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, didn’t exist. Hochul got downright weird at the Labor Day parade in Manhattan on Saturday, when she literally turned her back on Teachout when she tried to shake her hand.

It was a symbolic moment that perfectly captured Cuomo’s response to dissatisfaction in the liberal wing of his party by just pretending that it isn’t there. After the primary, the governor plans on wooing (or is it Wu-ing?) those voters back when he faces the Republican-Conservative bugaboo of Rob Astorino in November.

But it’s not really smart or courageous by the governor to ignore members of his party who think he gave public employees the short end of the stick or want him to ban hydrofracking. Teachout and Wu aren’t the standard tinfoil-helmet-wearing minor candidates as much as Cuomo and Hochul want them to be. They’ve received numerous endorsements and are getting traction across the state. Why not explain why you think their ideas are out of step with the state rather than hide from them?

After The New York Times’ devastating article on the governor’s behavior surrounding his anti-corruption commission in which Cuomo’s team appeared thuggish, maybe it’s smart not for top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco not to look like he’s going to tackle Teachout at this weekend’s parade.

Bullying your way through the primary china shop will get you a messy win – but it’s not the most artful way to go through politics. There’s nothing wrong with explaining yourself to voters in forums like debates or at least mentioning your opponent by name.

With Primary Day approaching tomorrow, it’s time for both Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul to stay after school.

NEWS

From the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Thomas P. DiNapoli

Contact: Mark Johnson, 518-474-4015
For release: Immediately, Sept. 4, 2014

DiNAPOLI: SPECIAL EDUCATION CONTRACTOR CONVICTED FOR $2 MILLION FRAUD

The former owner of a Queens-based special education provider, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges earlier this year following a joint investigation by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara, was sentenced today to 24 months incarceration and ordered to pay $2,151,318 in restitution and forfeit another $1,924,318.

“Cheon Park enriched himself and deprived children with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities of the help they need,” DiNapoli said. “His conviction today stands as a warning for those who attempt to cheat taxpayers and instead use the money for their personal benefit. I’d like to thank U.S. Attorney Bharara for prosecuting this crime and working with my staff to bring Park to justice and recover stolen taxpayer money.”

In July 2012, DiNapoli’s office issued an audit of Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc. that found Park inappropriately charged New York City’s Department of Education for salaries, vehicle leases and items such as cosmetics and children’s furniture. There were also a number of questionable issues related to staff salaries. For a copy of the audit, visit:

http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093012/11s13.pdf.

DiNapoli referred the findings to United States Attorney Bharara’s office and worked to prosecute Park and recover the stolen funds. DiNapoli also praised the work of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for New York City’s Department of Education, the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Education, and the Queens County District Attorney’s Office for their collaboration in this investigation.

DiNapoli has identified fraud and improper use of taxpayer funds in a recent series of audits and investigations of special education providers, resulting in multiple criminal convictions and the recovery of over $3 million. His office has completed 23 audits of preschool special education providers, finding nearly $23 million in unsupported or inappropriate charges. There are currently 18 additional audits of preschool special education providers in progress.

In December 2013, Governor Cuomo signed legislation – proposed by DiNapoli and sponsored by Sen. John Flanagan and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan – mandating the Comptroller’s Office audit all of the more than 300 preschool special education providers in this $1.4 billion program by March 31, 2018.

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You can’t blame New York parents for feeling baffled and angry at state education officials.

From 2006-2010, the state told them that their children were making incredible gains on the state tests.

Many people thought that the gains were so high that it couldn’t be true.

So state education officials brought in Professor Daniel Koretz of Harvard and Professor Jennifer Jennings of New York University to review the tests and the scores. They reported that the tests had become too predictable, that too few standards were tested, and that the results were inflated. So in 2010, scores dropped across the state as the scores were adjusted.

Then came the switch to Common Core, and the scores across the state collapsed in 2013. Two-thirds of all students “failed” to reach what the state called proficiency. Parents were furious, especially in districts where the graduation rate was well over 90%, and most students were accepted at good colleges. How did their children go from success to failure in such a short time? How could their children be both college-bound yet not, in the state’s telling, “college ready.”

Well, the main reason scores collapsed was that the state education department insisted on aligning New York’s “proficiency” mark with that of the federal NAEP. This was a huge error. NAEP proficiency is a mark of “solid academic achievement.” It is not a grade-level mark; it is not a passing mark. Typically, only 35-40% of students in every state reach NAEP proficient. In my seven years on the governing board of NAEP, I considered it to be akin to an A or a B+. The only state where as many as 50% of students achieve NAEP proficient is Massachusetts.

So if the Common Core tests are not only harder but have a grading scale that is sure to “fail” more than 50% of all students—including 80% of black and Hispanic students, 97% of English learners, and 95% of students with disabilities–what will the state do with all those kids who are not college and career ready?

Want to know more about how the New York State Education Department has fiddled with the test scores? As activist Leonie Haimson says, “do not trust data from the New York State Education Department.”

Blogger Perdido Street calls for an investigation.

Blogger Lace to the Top expresses frustration at the fluctuation in scores.

Many parents are angry at the state and angry at Pearson for concealing 50% of the questions and for the poor quality of many of the questions that were released.

What a mess!

Janos Martin, former counsel to the Moreland Commission, which was created by Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate political corruption, then disbanded by Cuomo, has endorsed Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu, who are challenging Cuomo in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

In his statement, he recounted the travails of the Moreland Commission. And he said,

“When I joined the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (“the Moreland Commission”) as special counsel during the summer of 2013, I knew Albany’s history of corruption, and relished the opportunity to investigate it and offer ideas for reform. Like many of those who participated in or followed our work, I found hotbeds of scandal, apathy and mediocrity beyond even my low expectations. The person who disappointed me most during my time on the Commission was Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“The opportunity that has been lost by the Commission’s neutering, then disbandment, is more significant than most people realize, and the level of the governor’s interference more pervasive than press accounts suggest. And while ethics may seem like a single issue in a large and complicated state, what I observed showed me what little regard Governor Cuomo and his senior staff have for the press, the public, and people with integrity who work in government. Their disdain for ethics colors the way they govern the entire state….

“For example, to most lay people, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to a candidate through various loopholes and accounts in exchange for favorable legislation or lack of regulation, as Governor Cuomo did, is tantamount to bribery. This is how the real estate, telecommunications and gaming industries have operated for years. Legislative leaders rake in huge legal fees for unspecified work. Large corporations bankroll dozens of bi-partisan lobbying firms. Anonymous political spending by both parties continues to grow. As the Daily Newsreported, Cuomo donors have been awarded lucrative state contracts. (http://www.nydailynews.com/…) Of course, as long as no campaign finance or lobbying laws are broken, all of this is legal,and Governor Cuomo has left the worst and weakest of these laws in place year after year.

“Further feeding Albany’s corruption is that most who operate in this system don’t find it problematic or care. Few legislators defended our work, and few beat reporters investigated its substance until the Commission was long disbanded. Even good government groups withheld their fire during the budget process under the illusion that a strong reform bill was forthcoming. Sometimes it seems like the entire political class lives in perpetual fear of an Andrew Cuomo reprisal.

“Even Bill de Blasio, who spent the first half of 2014 in Cuomo’s doghouse, is now trotted out to sing the praises of right-winger Kathy Hochul on the governor’s behalf. Governor Cuomo’s general approach to governance is that fundraising nearly exclusively from mega donors, strong-arming independent entities and bullying Democrats to get in line with his moderate-conservatism is a necessary part of “œpolitics as usual,” and his strongest defense is that the other power brokers of Albany feel the same way. Weak-kneed politicians can perhaps live under this system, but primary voters ought to reject it.

“Governor Cuomo’s behavior during the Commission is emblematic of this cynical approach to governance. During the life and aftermath of the Commission, Governor Cuomo repeatedly made comments and pressured Commissioners to make comments that Commission staff knew to be blatantly untrue. The Commission staff did not realize that Governor Cuomo viewed them as chips in a misplayed poker hand, a gambit to be discarded via press conference. Only after being browbeaten for months did we acknowledge the farce of investigating any target that could even tangentially set off Cuomo or his senior staff. I learned of the Commission’s shutdown over Twitter, two days before the budget was due. By then the Commission was a shell of itself anyway.

“Without someone challenging this Albany mindset, it is no wonder most New Yorkers are completely cynical and disengaged from their state government. Indeed, if Zephyr Teachout’s campaign has achieved nothing else, it has shown that someone with political courage can stand up to any elected official, criticize him and offer a better vision, without suffering retaliation. That is what democracy is…..”

Internationally respected economist Jeffrey Sachs issued a statement endorsing Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York. It appeared on Huffington Post. The Democratic primary is this Tuesday.

Andrew Cuomo has raised $35 million. Teachout has raised $200,000. The New York Times declined to endorse Cuomo because of his failed promises to root out corruption in Albany. The Times endorsed Wu; his opponent is a Democrat in name only, who is opposed to gun control and who endorses other Republican positions. The Times lavishly praised Teachout but did not endorse because she opposes the Common Core, a very flimsy reason.

Here is part of Sachs’ endorsement of Teachout and Wu:

“It is hard to exaggerate the shamelessness that passes for political behavior these days. Politicians sell out our democracy to the highest bidder, and trade away our public schools, clean air and water, and economic futures. Around the world I’ve seen repeatedly how greed and corruption put societies on the path of self-destruction. Unless we use our democratic vote to bring honesty and excellence back to politics, America’s decline will become irreversible.

“That’s why I’m here today, to endorse New York Governor and Lieutenant Governor candidates Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu. We cannot afford any longer to allow our politicians to squander our future. It’s time to end the era of greed that stretches from Ronald Reagan to today. Governor Andrew Cuomo campaigned for Governor in 2010 as a progressive, but has proved himself to be far more interested in catering to rich Wall Street donors than in the serving average New Yorkers.”

Mercedes Schneider reports the latest twist in the evolving drama in New York state’s education scene, where Campbell Brown is trying to push erratic parent activist Mona Davids off the stage. Davids was quick to file a lawsuit and thought that Brown and Students Matter would support her, but they pulled the plug and told her to go away. Davids has been pro-union and anti-union. She was featured in “The inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman.” And, as we say in Texas, she has become a burr under Campbell Brown’s saddle. And Brown wants Mona to go away.

For immediate release
Sept. 4, 2014
For more information contact: Shino Tanikawa, info@nyckidspac.org , 917-770-8438

NYC KidsPAC endorses Teachout for Governor, Jackson, Liu, Koppell for State Senate;
Fedkowskyj and Simon for Assembly

Today, NYC KidsPAC, a political action committee composed of parent leaders devoted to strengthening our public schools, announced its endorsements in the Democratic primary due to take place next Tuesday, Sept. 9. KidsPAC endorsed Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, over the incumbent Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul.
KidsPAC’s other endorsements in contested races include: Robert Jackson for State Senate District 31 in Manhattan, John Liu for the 11th Senate District seat in Queens, Dmytro Fedkowskyj for Assembly Seat District 30 in Queens, Oliver Koppell for Senate District 34 Seat in the Bronx, and Jo Anne Simon, campaigning to replace retiring Joan Millman in the 52nd Assembly District in Brooklyn.

Said Shino Tanikawa, parent leader and President of KidsPAC, “NYC KidsPAC wholeheartedly endorses Zephyr Teachout for Governor for her commitment to fight against privatization of our public education. We need a governor who believes in small class sizes, provides adequate resources for our most vulnerable students, respects the profession of teaching, opposes education driven by standardized tests and will fight for a high quality schools for all students throughout the State. We believe Zephyr is the right candidate who will move us in the right direction.”
Shino added: “Governor Cuomo, on the other hand, has massively cut education aid to our schools, opposes fully funding CFE – despite a court order – and owes NYC more than $2000 per student. He also supports raising the cap on charters, and has pushed through preferential access for charters to expand in space paid for by the city, while hundreds of thousands of our public school students sit in overcrowded schools, in trailers or on waiting lists for their zoned neighborhood school.”

“Though Robert Jackson and the incumbent Adriano Espaillat both completed surveys emphasizing their support for public schools, Jackson has a long history of leadership on education issues. He was the original plaintiff in the CFE case, walked to Albany for the final deliberations in court, and was a terrific advocate as Chair of the Education Committee on the NYC Council. Wherever and whenever we have needed him, Robert Jackson has stood for us and with us, fighting for the rights of our kids. Now parents must be there for him,” said Karen Sprowal, a board member of NYC KidsPAC and a long time Harlem resident.

“John Liu and Tony Avella have strong education records, but Liu was an exemplary City Councilmember and Comptroller – always pushing to keep the Department of Education honest in its reporting. Moreover, we cannot forget how Avella deserted the Democratic Party to join forces with the GOP, which has consistently opposed full funding for NYC schools and supports privatization, vouchers and charter expansion,” said Isaac Carmignani, long-time parent leader in Queens.

“KidsPAC is endorsing Oliver Koppell for State Senate against Jeff Klein, as Klein led the defection from the Democratic majority to prop up the GOP, which has hurt our schools badly. Klein also supported the egregious provisions in this year’s budget, providing preferential treatment and public space at city expense for charter schools – despite the fact that the public schools in his district are hugely overcrowded and badly need expansion,” said Gloria Corsino, a Bronx parent leader.
Isaac Carmignani explained, “We enthusiastically support Dmytro Fedkowskyj, running against the incumbent Margaret Markey in Queens. Dmytro was a strong advocate for NYC parents and kids when he was the Queens member on the Panel for Educational Policy. As his candidate survey shows, he will continue to be a strong advocate as Assemblymember. He opposes test-driven education, is strongly against raising the cap on charters and supports full funding for our public schools.”

Finally, NYC KidsPAC is endorsing Jo Anne Simon vs. Pete Sikora in the Assembly. Tesa Wilson, a Brooklyn parent and KidsPAC board member said, “Though both Simon and Sikora responded with positive answers to our candidate survey, Simon has been a long-time advocate for the rights of special needs students, and for full funding and smaller classes in our public schools. In our survey, she came out strongly against raising the cap on charters. While Sikora said he was supportive of keeping the cap this year, he was in favor of re-evaluating the cap in future years.”

The links to our endorsements, completed candidate surveys and the NYSAPE Governor’s scorecard can be found on our website at http://www.nyckidspac.org .
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Zephyr Teachout is running against Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York.

Cuomo twice tried to knock her off the ballot and lost in court both times.

Cuomo refuses to debate her, fearing to let the public hear her.

Why is he afraid of Zephyr?

Read this excellent article by Jaime Franchi in the Long Island Press and you will find out why he is afraid of her candidacy.

“Teachout is hoping to capitalize on the left’s disappointment in Cuomo’s right-leaning positions and leadership, which had promised an end to corruption in Albany but has instead highlighted just how entrenched that corruption is. She’s been hammering Cuomo on these and many other topics while swinging through communities across the state on a recent “Whistleblower Tour,” attempting to chip away at the giant lead his monumental advertising budget, incumbency, and name recognition provides.”

She has a well-established record as a fighter against government corruption.

She wants to reduce the amount of money individuals can give to candidates.

She opposes fracking.

She opposes Common Core mandates.

She will support public education.

On every single point, she differs from Cuomo.

No wonder he is afraid of her.

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