Archives for category: New York

Melissa McMullan, a teacher in Long Island, explains in this comment how deeply insulting Governor Cuomo’s plan for teacher evaluation is. Will he listen to reason? Will he insist on crushing the morale of every teacher in the state? Why?

McMullan writes:

“I have been a teacher for thirteen years. I graduated with highest honors from Rutgers University, earned my masters degree from Queens College, graduating with honors and begun work on my PhD to help me become a better teacher. The teacher I am today is not the teacher I was yesterday, nor is she the teacher I will be tomorrow. I learn every day from students, families, colleagues, professional development, research and my own mistakes. In thirteen years, former students of mine have become writers, teachers, philanthropists, doctors, nurses, mechanics, beauticians, small business owners, etc…

“My employment as their teacher has been carved from a relationship I have built with the district that employs me. The district I graciously serve. I am a public servant. I do not take this assignment lightly.

“Governor Cuomo is holding state aid to public schools hostage. His ransom? Using eleven hours of tests, that the state scores, and converts to teacher ratings, assigning a great many teachers, including myself, ineffective. One score. Six days of testing to remove a teacher who works 12 hours a day, gives her students her cell phone number so she can help them with homework at home and invites Spanish-speaking parents in to the classroom to explain, in Spanish, the value of reading and writing. A teacher who will stop at NOTHING to push her students forward. Passing rates on the state test vary year to year from 72% to 83 % depending upon how the state wants teachers to be perceived from year to year.

“Governor Cuomo and the New York State Board of Regents want to use test scores it assigns to my students, against me, their teacher. This is not the role of assessment. Assessment has a single purpose – to inform instruction. Its responsibility is to let students, teachers and families what students know, and what they do not know. Under the Governor’s proposed plan, these scores would warrant my removal from the classroom, violating the agreement that my school district and its community have established with me, by using children as its weapon of choice.

“We get no feedback from these scores. No view into what our students know or don’t know or what we as teachers have taught well nor what we have not. But it costs millions of dollars to implement each year.

“As a mother, I will not permit my own four children to be used as pawns against their teachers. The only way we can stop this abuse of power is to refuse to permit our children to be used as pawns.

“The cornerstone of public education in the United States is the local community school district. Allowing scores the state assigns our children after six days of testing to be used to remove teachers we have placed in their classroom is an unacceptable, egregious overstepping of power. We have power as parents to protect our children from harm, and we have an overwhelming responsibility to keep the over-reaching powers of the state from reaching into our children’s classrooms.”

Rex Smith, the editor of the Albany Times-Union, wrote an excellent column, chastising Governor Andrew Cuomo for picking on teachers. Let’s hope that the mounting criticism of Cuomo’s cynical effort to place the blame on teachers for low test scores persuades him to reverse course. The surest predictor of low test scores is poverty, not “bad” teachers. Rex Smith knows this. Why doesn’t Governor Cuomo?

 

Here is an excerpt from Smith’s column:

 

 

Students come to school with all sorts of problems, starting with poverty. Most low-performing schools are in high-needs communities. Plenty of research underscores the link between learning capacity and poverty, with its attendant problems – including poor housing, inadequate health care and neighborhood violence.

 

 

The governor knows this to be true. He has on occasion been eloquent on this very point. It makes his current campaign of demonizing teachers all the more mystifying.

 

 

Yet we hear him repeatedly attacking “the public school monopoly,” ignoring all the non-public (and taxpayer-aided) schools that make the educational system a lot more competitive already than other government services. You know, police and fire departments are monopolies, too. Should we subsidize competing privately-owned agencies, and blame cops for crime and firefighters for fires?

 

 

And there was the governor during his State of the State presentation last month, juxtaposing two statistics as though one directly related to the other: 96 percent of teachers were rated “effective” or better by the state’s teacher evaluation system last year, but less than 40 percent of students in grades three through eight were at least “proficient” in standardized language arts and math tests.

 

 

The inference he wants us to draw, it seems, is that more teachers should be rated lower so they can be fired, making way for teachers who can raise test scores.

 

 

The problem with this analysis begins with a logical fallacy of seeing a causal relationship where there’s really a coincidental one. Call it the Pirate Paradigm, explained thus: The number of pirates plying the high seas has shrunk over three centuries, even as roughly 40 percent of marine species have vanished. Thus, you may conclude that pirates are good for fish.

 

Good work, Mr. Smith!

Thanks to your generous contributions, added to those raised by BATs and many others, this billboard is now driving around Long Island, the hotbed of parent anti-testing sentiment.

 

Highway billboards will soon loom over major roads into Albany and other cities.

 

The funds were raised by New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of 50 parent and teacher groups across the state.

David Greene, a veteran educator, reflects on the meaning of respect and wonders why our society no longer respects teachers–and if it ever did. He certainly respected his teachers. They changed his life. Yet he recounts a dinner where one young upstart dropped a condescending comment about teachers having “common and ordinary intellects.”

 

Students need respect too. He writes:

 

For kids, respect is as important as motivation, often more so. I am not talking about their respect for teachers. They respect those who respect them. They want structure and authority. The teachers they are most successful with are those who enforce the code of the school yet, at the same time, show respect for them.

 

They know that the best teachers understand what Elijah Anderson calls their “code of the street” in his 1999 book of the same name. Whether that street is urban, suburban, or rural, respect from their peers, who they have to live with outside of class and school, becomes critical. “Even small children test one another, pushing and shoving…ready to hit other children over matters not to their liking.” Why? To maintain respect.

 

The state of New York shows its disrespect for teachers by imposing phony evaluation systems (APPR) and discarding teacher-made state curricula for off-the-shelf curricula from vendors. What does the state do?

 

We get APPR. The Annual Professional Performance Review is a return to the use of Frederick Taylor’s scientific management of the early 20th century. Then, corporate robber barons used scientific management to attempt to make their industrial factory workers more productive. Today, new robber barons pay the NYS Department of Education to turn college-educated teachers into low-level industrial employees that productively churn students out as if they were manufacturing Model T’s.

 

Here are 3 examples of the negative effects of APPRs based on predominantly flawed data from flawed tests with manufactured cut scores.

 

“A teacher of the year, i inherited a gifted class whose collective score was 3.2 out of 4.0. For me to be graded as a competent teacher my following year’s class, had to average 3.7. However, my new gifted students only averaged 3.5…so even though the scores improved i ‘needed improvement’.”
“This year i taught students who have IQs from 56-105. One third of my students were non-readers. What are my chances of being “effective”? More importantly, who is going to want to teach these students under those conditions?”
“Ninth grade algebra teachers have higher reported student scores on their regents exams than do global studies teachers and thus have better APPR But does that mean they are better teachers? On the august 2011 integrated algebra “regents,” test results were weighted so that a student only needed to get 34% of the questions correct to pass with a 65%. On the unweighted august 2011, global history regents a student needed to get 72% of the multiple-choice questions correct plus at least 50% on the short answer and essay questions to get the same 65% passing grade.” How is that equitable?
We get EngageNY, NYS’s version of the common core. The state decided that the long time, top rated, and nationally renowned teacher developed k-12 syllabi were not good enough and so created EngageNY.

 

Who prepared this huge website filled with everything from policy to modules (curricula) and resources? The site says it is “in house”. Here is what I found:

 

NYS says:

 

“Engageny.org is developed and maintained by the New York State Education Department to support the implementation of key aspects of the New York State Board of Regents reform agenda. This is the official web site for current materials and resources related to the regents reform agenda.”

 

The three real writers: commoncore.org, http://www.elschools.org and coreknowledge.org

 

NYS says: “the Regents research fellows planning will undertake implementation of the Common Core Standards and other essential elements of the Regents reform agenda. The Regents fellows program is being developed to provide research and analysis to inform policy and develop program recommendations for consideration by the board of regents.”

 

The reality: these 13 research fellows (none NYS teachers) are paid as much as $189,000 each, in private money; at least $4.5 million has been raised, including $1 million donated by dr. Tisch.” Other donors include bill gates, a leader of the charge to evaluate teachers, principals and schools using students’ test scores; the national association of charter school authorizers and the Robbins Foundation, which finance charter expansion; and the Tortora Sillcox Family Foundation whose mission statement includes advancing “Mayor Bloomberg’s school reform agenda.” Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Gates are expert at using philanthropy in a way that pressures government to follow their private public policy agendas.”

 

I respectively submit that they believe we teachers of “common and ordinary intellect” are no longer capable of curricula planning.

 

 

 

Governor Cuomo appeared in Utica, Néw York. About 65 teachers and parents demonstrated outside as he held a press conference.

“Dozens of teachers and parents, carried signs in protest of the governor’s education policies, loudly chanting, “Cuomo’s plan has got to go!” outside MVCC.

“The teachers’ union is going to yell at me. I know. But that’s the only way you make change,” said the governor during his presentation.”

Here is Cuomo’s syllogism:

“All teachers’ unions are bad (they didn’t endorse my re-election)

All teachers in Néw York are union members

Therefore all teachers are bad”

Republican Chris Gibson recently criticized Governor Cuomo for his recent proposals to “reform” education by attacking teachers. Gibson understands that you can’t reform education by harassing those who do the daily work of education. He also criticized Cuomo for his love of standardized tests.

Blogger Perdido Street quoted this news story:

“This idea that Cuomo thinks he is basically going to ride roughshod over education and somehow end up with a better product, I don’t see how he does that,” Gibson told The Daily Star in an interview from Washington, D.C. “He has got to include teachers in that process….

“Gibson also graded Cuomo’s education agenda as being deficient for not addressing what he contends is New York’s over-reliance on standardized tests via the so-called Common Core curriculum.

“When you rely heavily on this standardized testing, you end up with teachers teaching to the test,” said the congressman, a former assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “That is stifling creativity and it’s stifling learning.”

“He also predicted Cuomo’s approach to solving problems in the classrooms is doomed to fail.”

Perdido Street blogger says Gibson’s comments are a hopeful sign that some members of Congress are listening to their constituents, the voters who elected them.

“The governor’s approach I think is wrong-headed, and ultimately I think he is going to be frustrated,” Gibson said.

Watch the fascinating video embedded in this blog post from Buffalo, New York. Kevin Gibson, the Secretary of the Buffalo Teachers Federation gets up to speak. Board member Larry Quinn (yes, the same board member who was texting as a high school student was speaking at a recent meeting) waves to a police officer and has Gibson escorted out of the Board room. He was not allowed to speak. Democracy in action. Under what interpretation is a representative of the district’s teachers barred from testifying at a public hearing of the Board of Education?

William Cala, superintendent of schools in Fairport, Néw York, wrote a scathing critique of Governor Cuomo’s plan to increase charter schools, fund “tax credits” for private and religious schools (vouchers), and increase the importance of test scores in teacher evaluations.

 

This is what he wrote:

 

Dr. Bill Cala
Superintendent, Fairport Central School District

 
Good Morning!
This week’s State of the State address by Governor Cuomo was what most of us expected. It was an all-out assault on public education, teachers, children, families and local control. It appears that breaking teachers is his solution to poverty, income inequality and inadequate school funding.
As we have experienced on a first-hand basis over the past few years, the APPR system is indeed a fatally flawed proxy for genuine evaluation done at the local level. The governor’s solution is to up the ante by increasing the tenure period to 5 years and making state test scores 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. Given the already bogus cut score setting process for the state exams, we are assured of a whole new wave of unreliable ratings designed to crush teachers, close schools and open the door to his other “reforms,” such as lifting the cap on charter schools and creating a tax credit for private schools and charters and increasing the amount the state gives charters per pupil. This last item of increasing charter aid is especially interesting as there are no strings attached. The regular public schools will only get an increase in aid if the legislature approves all of his draconian measures mentioned above. Two major studies have demonstrated with great clarity that charters perform worse than public schools and only 17% of charters perform equal or better to publics (CREDO 2013). Apparently, that’s fine….they get increases in spite of their failing performance.
Let’s be clear that the governor’s agenda has nothing to do with what is good for kids. Far from it. It is what is good for his financial supporters: the corporations who are making billions of dollars on the tests, the texts, the technology, the corporate professional development and the data collection, retrieval and distribution.
As this country gets poorer and poorer and the few get richer and richer the pride of our nation, its public schools, are being disassembled while Bill Gates, The Walton’s, The Koch Brothers, Eli Broad and other scavengers are feasting at the table of greed.
While the situation may seem hopeless, I believe parents are able to bring this tyranny to a screeching halt. Assessments should be used only for the benefit of students…..nothing else. Last year over 60,000 parents in New York refused the 3-8 tests. This year it is expect that number will triple. The refusal movement will indeed collapse the evaluation system and the governor’s plan to dismantle public education.
Parents will play a critical role. What role will we play? How will we speak out? This is our profession. These are our children. This is our responsibility.
Action and activism takes courage. Last week I spoke of my hero Rosa Parks. Let her courage and actions inspire us. I will close with the wisdom and inspiration of Frederick Douglass.
Where justice is denied; where poverty is enforced; where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress,; rob and degrade them; neither persons nor property will be safe.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.
Time to start plowing.
Peace,
Bill

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.

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