Archives for category: New York

Perdido Street predicts that Governor Andrew Cuomo will start a witch hunt for “failing” teachers as soon as he is re-elected.


Cuomo is fully in line with the failing national “reform” movement that relies on test scores to grade teachers. Despite a solid base of research that shows that this method is inaccurate and unstable, Cuomo will force through a statewide rating system based on test scores. The problem is that Cuomo has no knowledge of research; he never heard of the American Statistical Association statement on value-added methods, nor of the work of Edward Haertel at Stanford, or Jesse Rothstein at Berkeley, or any of the many others who have closely studied VAM and found it deeply flawed. He has, however, heard from Arne Duncan and the Wall Street hedge fund managers who generously support his campaign. They want experienced teachers gone and replaced by Teach for America or Educators 4 Excellence, or other bright young things who will not stay long enough to want a pension.


Perdido Street writes:


“But Cuomo’s framing this system just as the deformers are framing the system – test scores are the only valid measure and if many students are failing the new Common Core tests (despite the tests being rigged by NYSED and the Board of Regents to have just that outcome), then the teachers of those students must be failing as well.Beware the second term, folks – as the commenter at the Buffalo News story notes, this is a teacher witch hunt that we have coming and Cuomo’s going to be the head hunter.


‘If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have written over and over again that APPR was always devised to fire as many teachers as possible.


“It wasn’t a mistake that they rolled APPR out at the same time they rolled out the new Common Core tests that they rigged for 70% failure rates.


“The one thing the deformers didn’t count on was a revolt in the suburbs over the Common Core tests and the Common Core Standards themselves.


“After a year of furor over the CCSS, they had to de-link the Common Core test scores from APPR for teachers of 3rd-8th grade students.


“But make no mistake, the link is coming back and it will turn into a bludgeon they will use on you.”

The other day, I wrote a post chastising the League of Women Voters for planning a debate that included only Governor Cuomo and Republican candidate Rob Astorino. I thought it was unfair to exclude Howie Hawkins, who is running on the Green Party ticket.


I received the following response from Laura Ladd Bierman of the League of Women Voters of NYS:


The League of Women Voters of NYS, with its partners from WABC/TV, Univision and The Daily News, has been negotiating with the gubernatorial candidates to organize a televised debate in NYC. Based on the state League’s policies, the debates would have to include at least Cuomo, Astorino and Hawkins for the state League to be a co-sponsor. While two other debates have been offered to the candidates by other sponsors, our offer still stands.


I was misinformed, and I apologize to the League of Women Voters for my error. Thanks to the LWV for offering to sponsor the debate. Governor Cuomo refused to debate Zephyr Teachout, his primary challenger. I hope he accepts this offer to debate Astorino and Hawkins.

When will the media acknowledge that Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst is a rightwing group, not “liberal” or “Democratic”? When election time comes round, it reliably supports Republicans, who can be counted on to endorse school privatization and to undercut teachers and their unions (if they have one). Occasionally, StudentsFirst finds a Democrat who supports vouchers, but the overwhelming bulk of their money goes to Republicans, as in the current election in New York.

In 2012, while Rhee was still running the organization, 90 of the 105 candidates it endorsed were Republicans. This number included far-right conservatives in the Deep South. In 2013, StudentsFirst selected its “reformer of the year,” who was Tennessee Representative John Ragan, who was notorious for his “don’t say gay” legislation.

Liberal? No. Far-right, anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public school. Willing to honor a stridently homophobic legislator. Sad.


PS: The New York Daily News reported that the $1.75 million was raised in one week from only 5 people. Two were named; they are hedge fund billionaire/millionaires.

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester, Néw York, teachers’ union, is struggling to make sense of the state’s teacher and principal evaluation system, which varies wildly from district to district. Scarsdale, perhaps the most affluent and high-scoring district in the state, had no “highly effective” teachers. But Rochester, one of the districts with high poverty and low scores, had many. The reality is that none of the formulas for reducing teaching to a number make any sense. Teaching is an art, a craft, and a bit of science. A great teacher may be great one year, not the next, or great with this class but not another. (APPR in Néw York is the Annual Professional Performance Review.)

The ratings in Néw York are referred to as HEDI: Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, Ineffective. A commenter on the blog recently said that “Developing” is considered a low grade but she hoped that she was “developing” every day as a teacher.

This is what Adam wrote to his members:

“The Rochester Miracle?”

“Each year, we re-negotiate our APPR agreement with the District to do all we can to make it less damaging to our student and more fair to teachers.

“We are making progress in reducing the number of Rochester teachers (be)rated as Developing or Ineffective (40% in 2012-2013 but 11% in 2013-2014) and increasing the number rated as Effective or Highly Effective (60% in 2012-2013 but 89% in 2013-2014). Just one year ago, only 2% of Rochester teachers were rated as Highly Effective. This year, that number increased to 46%.

“Why such a huge fluctuation? Maybe it’s because we re-negotiated the agreement; or because teachers set more realistic SLO targets; or because the NYS Education Department adjusted the cut scores in ELA and Math; or because huge fluctuations are typical of invalid and unreliable evaluation schemes. Who knows? In any event, we continue to press for the total abolishments of APPR.

“Meanwhile, we are negotiating a successor agreement that would further diminish excessive testing of students and wrongful rating of teachers.”

I am casting a protest vote for the first time in my life. I am voting for the candidates of the Green Party, Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones. I voted for Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary for three reasons: her position on education, on public integrity, and on the environment. And these are the reasons I will cast my ballot in November for the Green Party.

I like their platform on the issues that matter most to me. I oppose hydrofracking ( yes, there was a recent study that said that hydrofracking did not cause pollution, but the faulty wells dug during the process of fracking caused pollution; forgive me for saying that is a distinction without a difference).

Cast your vote as you choose. This is my choice.


BAN FRACKING: Protect New York farms from the air, water, and land pollution, climate change, and degradation of rural infrastructure and property values that hydrofracking of shale formations for natural gas would bring to rural upstate New York.


Build in 15 years a full clean energy system based on:
*energy production from distributed solar, wind, wave, tidal, hydro, and geothermal energy production, where every home, office, and factory is retrofitted to be a solar power producer;
*energy storage from electrolytic hydrogen, battery, potential, and thermal energy;
*transportation through electrified vehicles and rails;
*heating and cooling by electricity-powered air- and ground-source heat pumps, heat exchangers, and backup electric resistance heaters;
*an interactive smart grid to match energy supply and demand and sales and purchases of distributed energy producers and consumers.



30 state legislators have been indicted or pushed out of office for ethics violations since 1999, including 11 since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011. Cuomo promised in his 2010 campaign to establish an independent ethics commission. Instead, we got the Joint Commission on Public Integrity (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC), both of which are compromised by segmented jurisdictions and leadership appointed by and staffing drawn from staffs of the very politicians they are supposed to monitor. Then in 2014 Cuomo shut down the Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption before it could complete its work. We need strong ethics reforms to end this epidemic of corruption.


Bring the Moreland Commission back to finish the investigations it began. Give it the funding it needs and the autonomy to let the commissioners hire staff this time without interference from the governor’s office or the legislature.


Establish a truly independent ethics commission with comprehensive responsibility for ethics enforcement. Give it the resources necessary to vigorously investigate and punish ethics rules violations by members of both the executive and legislative branches. Operate it under the following rules:

No elected officials on its governing board.

A five-year revolving door restriction for recent politicians or their staff members to serve as board or staff for the Ethics Commission.

Apply Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Laws to the Ethics Commission.


County DAs need additional resources in order to enforce public ethics laws in addition to their work on street crime.


Bar income from outside work while serving a term in office. Legislators should be public servants, not politicians getting rich from the work (show or no-show) they secure because they are legislators who influence legislation. They should devote their full time to the people’s business.



Fully fund public schools with an equitable state aid formula.

Eliminate the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the state-mandated local tax cap.

100% Foundation Aid for public schools.

Fully funded, full day, and developmentally appropriate Universal Pre-K and Kindergarten with certified and unionized educators.

Opt out of high-stakes testing for students, teachers, and schools.

Opt out of Common Core and Race To The Top.

Opt into common standards, curricula, and diagnostic tests written by professional teachers in the schools, not by outside corporate contractors.

Opt into teacher and school evaluation based on collaboration.

Opt into affirmative action to reduce school segregation by race and class, such as regional inter-district transfer programs.

State legislation to reduce class sizes and case loads.

Free Tuition at CUNY, SUNY, and Community Colleges.


The full platform is online here:

Our regular reader and commenter Laura Chapman offers us another nugget of informed analysis and wisdom:

She writes:

A press release dated NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ announced that The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust was investing $3 million “to establish a rigorous research project to modify and align the Framework for Teaching with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

This project will happen in four districts. One of these (unnamed) is in NY state.

You can find the application to market the 2013 Danielson Framework in NY state at

There you will see that the application required empirical evidence in support of “each rubric.” Whatever that “each rubric” meant, the application was approved with very brief references to eight “empirical” studies, three with more elaborate descriptions of the methodology.

In addition to the questions I asked about the full spectrum applicability of the Danielson protocol, I should have asked about studies that paid attention to the “demographics” in the classrooms observed—the proportional composition of students who qualify for lunch programs, those in gifted programs, special education, students still learning English, recent transfers, and so on.

Every teacher knows how these distributions shift from class to class and make a huge daily difference in what is taught, how, and so on.

For a recent summary of the many problems with this and related high stakes evaluation schemes see Leading via Teacher Evaluation: The Case of the Missing Clothes?
(July, 2013) Joseph Murphy, Philip Hallinger and Ronald H. Heck

See also a 2014 VIP article by David C. Berliner in Teachers College Record. His online summary of the craze to evaluate teachers by flawed methods closes with this great sentence:

“In fact, the belief that there are thousands of consistently inadequate teachers may be like the search for welfare queens and disability scam artists—more sensationalism than it is reality.”

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a debate between gubernatorial candidates in Néw York. For some reason, only Governor Cuomo and Republican challenger Rob Astorino have been invited. The Green Party and other qualified parties were not invited. This is not right.

It is good that Cuomo agreed to debate at all. He refused to debate his primary opponent Zephyr Teachout or even to mention her name or shake her hand when she stood directly in front of him and extended hers.

Peter Goodman, long-time observer of Néw York politics, predicts that local and state politics will play a large role in the anti-tenure case that was recently filed in Staten Island. Why Staten Island? It was chosen because it is the most conservative borough in Nee York City. But it is also home to large numbers of public employees.

Follow Goodman as he goes through the politics of Vergara East.

He ultimately concludes that the California decision will be overruled, and the Néw York case will be dismissed. I hope he is right.

New York’s State Education Department never runs out of bad ideas. It announced the creation of an arts advisory panel to begin planning for assessments of the arts. Of course, these assessments would determine whether students are “college-and career-ready.” In the future, arts teachers will learn how to teach to the state test instead of teaching the discipline that unleashes creativity and imagination.

Calling Pearson..

“NYSED is convening a panel to examine creating assessments to measure student growth, performance and college and career readiness in the Arts programs.

“The Department recommends that the Board of Regents commission an operational study that would establish criteria to identify and evaluate arts assessments in each discipline that signify college and career readiness as well as those that are truly worthy of Regents recognition. Similar to the approach used in career and technical education pathways, the proposed process would begin with the establishment of an Arts Advisory Panel.”

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.


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