Archives for category: New York

The Albany Times-Union is the newspaper of the state capitol in Néw York. Its editorial board penned this scathing editorial about Governor Cuomo’s war on the state’s public schools (read it all, not just this excerpt):

“A governor who perennially complains about schools’ insatiable appetite for money has suddenly found millions of dollars to burn though for his Parental Choice in Education Act. It’s a public-private partnership of the worst sort – the public pays the tab, private schools and wealthy donors reap the benefits.

“Perhaps Mr. Cuomo sees this as another way to break what he calls the “public education monopoly” – as if public schools were not something in which we all have a stake. But Mr. Cuomo seems to have conflated public education with his animosity for teachers’ unions.

“His proposal would allow donors to take a tax credit of 75 percent of their donations to nonprofit education foundations, up to $1 million. Senate and Assembly versions of the bill would allow up to 90 percent. That’s money shaved off a person’s or a corporation’s tax bill – and they could roll it from year to year if the credit exceeded their tax liability.

“That this is really a tax break for affluent donors is evidenced by the cumbersome process involved. The state would require taxpayers to apply for the credit before even making a contribution, by first filling out a form saying how much they planned to donate and to whom. It’s a program for folks with accountants on speed dial rather than for average New Yorkers who just want to help out their parish school or local charter school.

“The governor’s program would cost taxpayers $70 million this year, only $20 million of which could go to public schools. The Legislature proposes $150 million, rising to $300 million by 2018; up to half could go to public schools, the other half to foundations or other entities benefitting private schools. But after paying taxes, who’s lining up to write another check to public schools?”

For Immediate Release:

Contact:
Wendy Liberatore, Statewide Communications Coordinator, AQE
wendy@aqeny.org
(518) 432-5315 ext. 102; cell (518) 491-0454

PRESS RELEASE
Parent, Religious, Labor Groups and Education Advocates Fight to Block Gov. Cuomo’s Flawed Tax Break for Wealthy

ALBANY (May, 18, 2015) – Education advocates, religious and labor organizations and parent groups have joined forces to block Gov. Cuomo’s education tax credit proposal that he has deceitfully dubbed Parental Choice in Education Act.

Disguised as a way to provide needy children with a private school education, the act is a tax credit designed to reimburse wealthy donors who want to contribute large sums of money to private schools. Under the act, state taxpayers will reimburse 75 percent of the donor’s contributions. In the first year alone, the act will cost the state $150 million.

The three dozen organizations decry the tax break as one that siphons taxpayer money from public schools and funnels it into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires. As part of the effort to block the act, the groups will launch a social media campaign and will release more information on the tax break in the forthcoming weeks.

The groups have also released a video that underscores how the act will further burden taxpayers and debilitate public schools.

The long list of opponents to the act are: A. Philip Randolph Institute, AFSCME, Advocates for Children of New York, Alliance for Quality Education, Balcony, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Citizen Action of New York, Citizen Budget Commission, CSEA, DC 37-AFSCME, La Fuente, League of Women Voters of New York State, Long Island Jobs with Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road, NAACP-New York State Chapter, New York City Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York State AFL-CIO, New York State Association of School Business Officials, New York State Federation of School Administrators, New York State Parent Teacher Association, New York State School Boards Association, New York State United Teachers, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Public Employees Federation, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Rochester – Finger Lakes Pride @ Work , Rural Schools Association of New York State, School Administrators Association of New York State, Strong Economy for All, The Black Institute, The Council of School Superintendents, United Federation of Teachers, and Working Families Party.

“New York cannot afford another poorly targeted tax break,” said Carol Kellermann, President of the Citizen Budget Commission. “The Education Tax Credit would be a costly subsidy for private education.”

“We are concerned that the proposed education tax credit will allow individuals to divert money from the tax stream and send it to favored schools, scholarships and other programs, including religious programming, with no public oversight,” said Robb Smith, Executive Director of Interfaith Impact of New York State. “This bill is designed to permit wealthy donors to make an end run around the New York constitution, which prohibits taxpayer funding of religious education. In the end, the taxpayers will have to make up for the money that is being diverted. We believe in the wisdom of the separation of church and state. We want to see New York fully fund its public school system, not take even more money away from our schools through this misguided legislation.”

“The Reform Jewish Movement affirms the deep commitment of the Reform Movement to the principle of separation of religion and the state which has safeguarded religious liberty for all in this country,” said Barbara Zaron, co-chair of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV). “This commitment and an equally deep commitment to public education as the cornerstone of the American democratic process drives us to affirm our opposition to any form of governmental aid to elementary and secondary schools under the supervision or control of any religious denomination. Consistent with this traditional opposition of Reform Judaism, we oppose the proposals to allow tax credits for tuition paid and/or scholarships awarded to students of non-public schools.”

“We have yet to see any proof that the education tax credit would address the fiscal issues that face religious schools,” said Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters in New York State. “Public schools students should not have to pay the price. We cannot drain public dollars to benefit privately operated schools.”
“Our public schools are called upon to fulfill our state constitution’s promise of a sound basic education for all children, whatever their circumstances, wherever they come from, whenever they arrive,”said Robert Reidy, Executive Director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. “State government’s first obligation needs to be to honor its promises to public schools, by ending the Gap Elimination Adjustment and rebuilding the Foundation Aid formula – not to launch an expansive new commitment to private schools serving only some students.”

“Providing wealthy campaign contributors tax breaks while public school students are deprived of education resources is outrageous,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “This plan is nothing but another million-dollar giveaway of public money to super wealthy donors who fund political campaigns.”

“The Governor’s new Parental Choice in Education Act is a veiled attempt to give away our tax dollars to his campaign donors,” said Jasmine Gripper, Legislative Coordinator for the Alliance for Quality Education. “Why should New Yorkers pay for wealthy donors contributions to private schools? This is a multi-million dollar expense for the state and will divert more money away from already struggling public schools. School funding policies should not be made on the whim to a handful of wealthy individuals and corporations. Instead of prioritizing his campaign donors, the Governor should be focused on supporting our public schools, which serve all kids.”

“The private school tax credit scheme Governor Cuomo is pushing is really just more Albany business as usual: the seven billionaires behind the ‘Educational Fund’ gave $4.6 million dollars in campaign cash to get themselves a big tax break,” said Michael Kink, Executive Director of Strong Economy for All Coalition. “Their ‘educational fund’ seems to have done more educating of influential politicians — particularly Dean Skelos and the Senate Republicans — than of students.

“New York needs to drop the reverse Robin Hood shenanigans and stop trying to fund private and religious schools at the expense of public schools,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Education is the foundation for future success for both New York’s children and the state’s financial well-being. Transferring public money to private schools undermines both. It also violates the foundational principle that bars the government from endorsing religion.”

“People make a conscious decision to pay for a private school education instead of using public schools, just like they make a decision to use a private golf course over a public one, or a private beach club over a public swimming pool, are we to subsidize every person’s decision to use a private facility over a public one, where would it end,” said Michael Borges, Executive Director of the New York State Association of School Business Officials.

“Despite its new name, the governor’s education tax credit scheme is essentially a voucher program designed to reward the hedge fund billionaires who contribute to his campaign,” said New York State United Teachers President Karen E. Magee. “The fact is, the governor’s misguided plan would only aggravate the challenges that confront our poorest districts by siphoning critical funding away from students and schools that are most in need.”

“The state’s priority should not be giving tax breaks to the wealthy, but rather investing in its public schools to ensure all students have the resources needed to succeed,” said New York State United Teachers Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta. “Given that one-third of our school districts in 2015-2016 will be operating with less aid than six years ago, our focus must be on adequately funding public education — not rewarding wealthy campaign contributors at the expense of children in need.”

“This tax credit is just another scheme to reward billionaires. It gives them the power to send money to their favorite private schools, and takes a big chunk out of their tax bill,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “At the same time, it drains money from public schools. Supporters can use all the smoke and mirrors that they want, but in the end this is scam that will hurt public school students.”

“New York’s first obligation is to use tax dollars to adequately fund public education. Yet, there are great disparities in school district financial resources throughout the state. Lawmakers must remedy that situation before they provide tax incentives that would benefit non-public schools,” said Timothy G. Kremer, Executive director of the New York State School Boards Association.

“For New York State to consider diverting available funds away from public education while it has a law that unconstitutionally withholds funds from school districts is unconscionable,”said David A. Little, Executive Director of the Rural Schools Association of New York State. “If that the state cannot afford its public educational system, it certainly can’t afford a second one.”

“Our first priority must be to fully fund our public schools,” New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said. “We need a financial commitment to provide our public education system with the necessary resources needed to ensure all children get the educational opportunities they deserve. An investment in our public schools is an investment in our future.”

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This post would be comical if it were satirical, but unfortunately it is factual and pathetic. Arthur Goldstein describes the tests that the Néw York State Education Department inflicts on his ELL students.

Read it and weep for the students and their teachers.

“And what a test it is, folks. Yesterday, a young man asked me why the essay specifically called for an introduction, body, and conclusion but only two paragraphs. This was the same young man who, the first day of the test, asked why the students had to stay until the bell rang if they had already finished their tests. Why do we have to sit here and do nothing? And why do they ask us for a basic structure that demands three paragraphs and then asks for two?”

“I’m not at all sure that particular student is in need of Common Core. He’s critical all by himself without it. Oddly, folks like Arne Duncan and John King get pretty churlish when people question the Core. They attack soccer moms and call teachers, parents and students “special interests.” Those who spend billions imposing their will on our children, of course, are philanthropists, heroes to be lauded on test passages.

“The second day, I stopped the CD because the listening activity was identical to that of the first day. It turned out that the geniuses at NYSED, or whoever they paid to design this thing, decided to repeat the same sample question three days in a row. I’m sure the students were as inspired as I was by that bold move, once I figured out it was not, in fact, yet another error. On part one of this review, a commenter offered:

“The Speaking Subtest was just the tip of the iceberg. This new CCLS-aligned NYSESLAT is the worst sort of rubbish: inappropriate, riddled with errors, and designed for failure. The CCLS cancer is spreading, my friends. Take heed.”

“Sounds ominous, but I’m not persuaded. I have no idea whatsoever what the NYSESLAT was designed for. Certainly it was an effective device in torturing beginning students. I watched a girl from El Salvador who’s been here maybe six weeks suffer through it for no good reason. She’s a rank beginner who will likely need to start from the beginning in September, and I don’t need a three day test to tell me that.

“But I have no idea what the test will say about her or anyone You see, after we grade the test at the school, we have to send it to Albany for the next part, The Rigging of the Scores. That’s when Albany decides which percentage of kids should be at which level, and sets the cut scores so whatever they predict comes true. After all, how can you be all-knowing unless you force your predictions on the entire populous? There are reputations to protect, and now that you’ve cut English learning in half, there’s gonna be a lot less of it anyway.”

Arthur Goldstein teaches English as a second language to high school students in the borough of Queens in Néw York City. He is outraged because the Néw York State Education Department has decided to cut ESL instruction by integrating it into subject matter instruction.

He writes:

“Beginners, since I started in the eighties, have gotten three periods a day of instruction. Intermediate students got two, as did advanced. Proficient students, those who tested out, usually got one period but sometimes got another to help them along. Because placement tests are usually total crap, because they gave the same one for decades, and because some kids guess well for no reason, I’ve often seen kids at high levels come back for help.

“NYSED knows everything, though, and has determined we have to stop coddling these kids. So now, for one period a day previously devoted to English, all ESL students in NY will take a subject class. They can either take this class with a dually licensed teacher, for example a math teacher with an ESL extension, or it can be co-taught by two teachers–one ESL and one subject teacher.

“This is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard in my life, but it will save money that can be devoted to tax breaks for billionaires. Therefore Merryl Tisch and Andrew Cuomo can have a laugh over a Grey Goose martini at the next gala affair in which their paths cross. So it’s all good for them…..

“Certainly more colorful than, “I’m studying English.” But aren’t you supposed to be studying English? Not really. Not anymore. It’s Core, Core, Core, and no more of that touchy-feely crap. Renowned Common Core genius David Coleman says no one gives a crap how you feel or what you think, and if he says it, that ought to be good enough for anyone. If his life is one of tedium, drudgery, and humiliation, why shouldn’t yours be too? In his defense, however, I actually don’t give a crap how he feels or what he thinks.

“And why should I? He knows nothing about language acquisition. Nor does NYSED. What do they care that it takes three years to learn a language conversationally, that if varies greatly by individual, or that it take 5-7 years to learn academic English? NYSED says screw, “My name is _____,” and let them all study the holocaust.

“Maybe they don’t need to know, “My name is ____” because if these kids get the jobs in which the reformy Walmart family wishes to dump them, they’ll wear name tags anyway. But while tags tell people what their names are, it’s still unlikely anyone will question them about the holocaust while seeking out that 9-gallon jar of Vlasic pickles. By degrading jobs that require actual introspection, like teaching, while offering bargain basement standardized nonsense like this, we actively degrade our children and their future.

“It’s unconscionable that the demagogues in charge of education would take one moment away from our English Language Learners. Whoever thought of this belongs in prison with Silver, Skelos, and Cuomo, And Tisch too.”

New York State has bumbled into bizarre-O land. Chalkbeat reports that Néw York’s Common Core tests are more difficult than NAEP.

The NAEP tests are supposed to be internationally benchmarked. NAEP proficient is a very high standard that most students have never met (except in Massachusetts, where barely 50% reach proficient).

“In eighth-grade math, 22 percent of students earned what New York state called a passing score last school year, while 32 percent were deemed proficient on the NAEP exams. In fourth-grade reading, 33 percent passed the state test, while 37 percent of students earned a proficient score on the NAEP test. (Massachusetts was the other outlier, with more students earning a proficient score on the eighth-grade math NAEP test than on the state’s own tests.)”

State officials are pleased that their standards are beyond the reach of most students. For some strange reason, high failure rates are a source of pride. Bizarre.

The more they design tests to fail most students, the more the Opt Out movement will grow. When did education fall into the hands of technocratic sadists? They think education is a test of endurance, where only the stirring survive. Parents see education as a process of development, not a cruel race.

I have often written that the Pearson Common Core tests are written and scored to fail most students. Not only are the reading levels two grade levels above the students’ actual grade, but the cut score is set artificially high.

Here is confirmation from a teacher who graded essay answers:

“When teachers score state tests, they are given formal training before they score actual student tests. Teachers are trained using student anchor answers that are culled from random field tests. Each student answer is used as an example and compared to the rubric to show how to score accordingly. There is always an anchor answer for each rubric score, meaning an answer that demonstrates a 1, another serves as an example of a 2 and so on and so forth. Teachers must then take a quiz using more student samples in order to gauge their preparation level before they move on to scoring actual exams.

“This year’s 5th(?) grade training guides DO NOT have anchor answers for the highest score on the essay. That has never happened before. That means that during the random field testing NO STUDENT was able to achieve an answer that would have met the highest criteria of the rubric. Pearson filled in this gap with their own mock version of an answer that would meet the highest score on the rubric. In other words, the test was too hard for even the most accomplished students to achieve full credit and therefore way beyond their ability.

“The training guides are embargoed and teachers are prevented from removing them from the scoring site.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t understand why students should opt out of state testing, because the tests won’t count against students. Instead, they will be used to rank and evaluate teachers. So, he wonders, why should students opt out?

 

But the governor is not recognizing the consequences of his statement. As one blogger asked, why should students take the tests if they are meaningless?

 

That is a good reason to opt out. Why should students waste their time on tests that are meaningless?

 

But more important, if the students are not motivated to do their best, if they know the tests don’t count, why should teachers be evaluated by their students’ lack of effort? Taking a test is not like stepping on a scale. The scores vary depending on many factors, not least of which is motivation. If students go into the tests knowing they don’t matter, why should they try?

 

How will Governor Cuomo feel if his plan fails most teachers? Maybe happy. But will he be responsible for harming the state’s entire public education system? He should be.

The editorial board of the “Journal-News” in the Lower Hudson Valley calls out the absurdity of Goveror Cuomo’s teacher evaluation plan. The deadline for a new plan is June 30, which is impossible.

They understand why parents are angry at the testing system and the governor:

“Declining morale in neighborhood schools is one big reason that many parents boycotted the state tests. How can Cuomo not see the connection?

“Now our leaders are racing to fix the system, but are likely to make it worse. Cuomo and legislative leaders, as part of their budget agreement, gave the state Board of Regents until June 30 to re-create the evaluation system, setting strict rules that tie the Regents’ hands.
Stop it. It’s time for the Board of Regents to take a stand – and stand up to Cuomo. The board should declare that it can’t slap together a viable evaluation system. New York should keep its current system in place and use at least the rest of 2015 to design a system that would promote classroom instruction and hold teachers accoutable.

“Judith Johnson, the Lower Hudson Valley’s new representative on the Board of Regents, has the right idea. “What the governor has put in place makes no sense,” she said. “If you want a scholarly system, you can’t throw it together in 30 to 60 days. If we ignore the science behind teacher evaluations, it’s just a political decision.”

Does the Board of Regents have the backbone to tell the governor and the legislature that they are wrong? Will they stick to science and turn their backs on Cuomo’s vindictive agenda?

The Long Island Business News is all over Common Core. It published an article exploring the money trail that leads again and again to Pearson. Unlike Newsday, the major newspaper on Long Island, LIBN is attentive to the widespread parent revolt against Common Core and the testing associated with it.

In this editorial, Joe Dowd begins with a question:

How would you feel if your kids toiled in a factory run by a British company whose overlords were faceless bureaucrats in Albany?

LIBN’s Claude Solnik’s in-depth probe of British testing giant Pearson reveals that, over the past few weeks, your children – ages 8-14 – were asked to labor long hours during a six-day span without pay or tangible reward. In the process, they contributed to the testing factory’s windfall profits.
Meanwhile the state, which forced this down the throats of our children, took federal money to do the company’s bidding. Pearson not only produces the tests but the preparatory and remedial materials necessary to implement them. We pay for this through our taxes and parental angst.
Our kids received no pay, no timely results – merely the pain of mind-numbing test-taking for hours, answering questions with very questionable answers. Incredibly, this disgraceful form of mind management is designed as an evaluation of teachers, not actually their students.
Common Core: Think of it as forced child labor. Our nation fought for laws that made child labor illegal.

If you weren’t intimidated by a system that does not have your child’s best interest at heart, you’d opt out, right? “No thanks,” you’d say. “I think I’ll let my kids take a pass.”
Tens of thousands across Long Island and the state did just that. Their kids were required to go to school and sit in auditoriums for hours with little to do and no substantive instruction.
Where were our leaders at budget time? Why did they cave? If this system is so broken, why don’t we stand up and stop it?
Believe me: If my kids were of that age, I would have declared snow days in April and let them play and ponder the world from home. I’d tell them that when your government stops being responsive, it’s our duty to change it….

Opt out; demand representation: If this be treason, make the most of it.

Curious that some of the legislators who were strongest in supporting Governor Cuomo’s punitive and mindless teacher vengeance plan come from Long Island: Dean Skelos, the Republican leader of the State Senate, and John J. Flanagan, chair of the State Senate Education Committee. Why don’t they pay attention to the voices of the people they allegedly represent?

Read more: http://libn.com/2015/04/23/joe-dowd-casualties-of-common-core/#ixzz3YZovZtnX

In the second round of Common Core testing, devoted to math, the early counts from Long Island indictate that more students will skip the exams than did so for the ELA.

Crack reporter Jaime Franchi has reported on the movement. which has been active for years. The moms in the movement have been active for at least the past three years.

“Fueling the mass rejections are a litany of complaints among parents and teachers, two being that their objections are falling on deaf ears and that Common Core supporters continue to mischaracterize them as frightened of academic challenges and what state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch dubs as students being caught in the crosshairs of a “labor dispute” between teachers unions and the governor.

“This is a governor who is just fixated on firing teachers and breaking the union,” slams Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School and 2013 New York Principal of the Year, in a phone interview from the Network for Public Education conference in Chicago April 25. “There’s no other lens to see it because it’s not in the best interest of the children.”

“Other gripes harbored by parents opposing the Common Core tests include their belief that the exams lack diagnostic value, as test scores are returned during the summer and cannot be used to further instruction. Zephyr Teachout, Fordham professor and former Democratic gubernatorial primary challenger to Cuomo, tells the Press: “The tests have no pedagogical value, so parents are opting out because they aren’t helping the kids.”

“Opponents are concerned that with such a heavy focus on high-stakes testing, teaching in the classroom would resort to an increasing amount of test preparation at the expense of various other learning opportunities and a more diverse curriculum. They contend the assessments are age- and grade-level inappropriate, charging as proof that several reading samples for the recent ELA tests were coded two to three grade levels above appropriate reading levels.”

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