Archives for category: New York

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, one of the nation’s leading researchers of VAM, says Néw York is going from bad to idiotic in doubling the importance of test scores in teacher and principal evaluations.

The chair of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, and Governor Cuomo are “pushing for a system in which these scores would “trump all,” and in which a teacher rated as ineffective in the growth score portion would be rated ineffective overall. A teacher with two ineffective ratings would “not return to the classroom.”

This is not only “going from bad to worse,” says Amrein-Beardsley, but going from bad to idiotic.

All of this is happending despite the research studies that, by this point, should have literally buried such policy initiatives. Many of these research studies are highlighted on this blog here, here, here, and here, and are also summarized in two position statements on value-added models (VAMs) released by the American Statistical Association last April (to read about their top 10 concerns/warnings, click here) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) last month (to read about their top 6 concerns/warnings, click here).

There is no public pension crisis in New York City or New York State, writes Harris Lirtzman,  former Director of Risk Management for the New York City Retirement Systems in the NYC Comptroller’s Office from 1996-2002 and former Deputy State Comptroller for Administration from 2003-2007, on the blog Perdido Street School. Anyone who is trying to conjure a “pension crisis” is willfully ignoring facts, writes Lirtzman.


He says:


New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan and Rhode Island are the states with the most significant actual pension problems, verging on “crises,” caused almost entirely by years and years of the state failing to make mandated minimum employer contributions to keep their pension systems solvent. New York State and New York City are awash in cash as tax revenues from soaring sales of residential and commercial properties roll in and personal income and sales tax proceeds exceed every recent projection and are making current contributions to their pension plans.

In 2013, the New York City Teachers Retirement System (TRS) was funded at approximately 63% of accumulated retirement benefit obligations and earned 11.9% on its $38.3 billion investment assets. In 2013, The New York State Teachers Retirement System was funded at approximately 88% of accumulated pension obligations and earned 13.7% on its $82.7 billion investments assets. There is no pension “crisis” in New York City or New York State that would warrant, even by the Post’s own credulous standards, the sort of panic that such an article will engender.

No politician in New York City or New York State will take on public pension fund systems directly by attempting to reduce the benefits paid to current retirees or accruing to current employees. They cannot do that because pension benefits are a constitutional obligation of the State of New York and a contractual obligation of the City and State as employers.

The only time that a state constitutional protection has been abrogated other than by some change in the constitution itself occurred two years ago in Detroit, when a federal bankruptcy judge, relying on long-standing precedent, ruled that the Michigan State constitutional protection against the diminishment of already accumulated pension benefits does not apply when a municipality of the State, in this case, Detroit, declares bankruptcy.


Neither New York City nor New York State is approaching bankruptcy, and there is no pension crisis in the city or state. Period.



Charter schools continue to be a risky investment. The Albany (NY) Times Union reports that a Wall Street credit rating agency downgraded the bonds of certain Brighter Choice schools, once considered the “holy grail” of the charter school movement.


Wall Street sensed trouble at the Brighter Choice middle schools for boys and girls even before the state notified them last month they may be forced to close their doors after this year.


One of the largest credit rating agencies, Fitch Ratings, in December downgraded the five-year-old schools’ bond ratings, citing improved but still lagging academic performance and the fact that the schools themselves had not sought full five-year renewals of their state charters.


In its Dec. 18 briefing for investors, Fitch noted the schools’ “limited renewal prospects” based in part on “testing results below (state) expectations…..”


The threat of closure looms large not just for the roughly 450 fifth- through eighth-grade students and staff but also for the Brighter Choice Foundation, which helped found the schools and could be on the hook for the $15.1 million in bonds owed on the brand-new building.


According to Fitch, the foundation — the 15-year-old nonprofit that once supported 11 city charter schools — guaranteed the schools’ bond debt. Yet the rating agency expressed doubt that the foundation has the money to make those payments over the long term.


As Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks to expand charter schools across the state, he might pay attention to what is happening in Albany, his backyard.



A well-funded charter advocacy group, deceptively named “Families for Excellent Schools,” has opened in Boston.

It claims that it supports all excellent schools, whether charter or public, but the record says this group is a cheerleader for charters and against public schools. As the story in the Boston Globe says, FES spent something like $6 million (earlier coverage had numbers like $3.6 million or $4 million but eventually reporters settled on $5-6 million) to stop Mayor Bill de Blasio from reigning in charter expansion. Due to FES’ efforts, Governor Cuomo and the legislature required Néw York City to provide all charters free public space or to pay their private rent.

What kind of families can raise $4-6 million in a matter of days to bash the mayor and promote charters? The family of billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones and the Walton family, just your typical American families.

New York State Allies for Public Education released a letter refuting Governor Andew Cuomo’s “Misguided Agenda” for public education.  NYSAPE consists of 50 organizations of parents and educators from across New York state.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 5, 2015 (Revised Link)
More information contact:
Eric Mihelbergel (716) 553-1123;
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190;
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) –

Governor Cuomo’s Misguided Agenda is Harming Public Education

NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), a coalition of 50 groups statewide, has sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, responding to the questions posed in a letter from his office addressed to Commissioner King and Chancellor Tisch on December 18 and shared widely by the media.

It is evident that the Governor has a misguided agenda about the state of our public schools and what strategies should be used to improve them. In our letter, we challenge the current reform agenda and advocate for education policies that have been proven to work, based on evidence and experience.

“Governor Cuomo says his responsibility is to ‘represent the students’ and that he wants ‘to do the best we can for the students and for their education.’ If so, he should listen to parents throughout the state who truly want the best for their children and who believe that the policies he is proposing —to double-down on privatization, high-stakes testing, Common Core and data sharing—are severely undermining the quality of their schools,” Eric Mihelbergel, Erie County public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE.


Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt-Out said, “The letter claims that during the campaign, the Governor ‘spoke to New Yorkers all across the state that [sic] had many questions about…what we could do to fundamentally improve public education.’ We do not know to whom he spoke, but he clearly did not speak to public school parents, who in surveys and polls overwhelming reject the top-down policies from Albany that are leading our schools in the wrong direction. We urge him to hold town hall meetings throughout the state, to listen to parents and hear directly their views about a better course of action, based on sufficient and equitable funding, local control, diminishing the focus on privatization and testing, and treating their children as the valuable unique individuals they are, rather than test scores or data points.”

In our letter to the Governor,, NYSAPE addresses issues ranging from charter school expansion, mayoral control, teacher accountability system, and the Common Core, to consolidation of districts and the selection process for the Board of Regents. Instead of harsh political rhetoric from Albany pushing privatization and high-stakes testing, New York students deserve support from elected and appointed officials who respect and understand what kind of support public schools need to succeed.
For example, NYSAPE’s response regarding charter schools notes that according to the 2010 amendment to the New York charter law, before charters are renewed or allowed to replicate, they must show they enroll and retain equal numbers of at risk students as the districts in which they are located, and yet neither the Board of Regents nor SUNY have ever rejected a charter proposal on these grounds – despite the fact that many charters have sky high student suspension and attrition rates. Neither SUNY nor the Regents have provided adequate financial oversight, and in 95 percent of charter audits, the State Comptroller’s Office has found corruption or mismanagement. Yet when the Deputy Comptroller wrote a letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators asking for stronger oversight, he received no response.
On the question of improving teacher quality, NYSAPE responds that since 2012, due to “reform,” teacher morale is at a 20 year low. New reports have shown that there have been dramatic drops in enrollment in teacher preparation programs—New York State experienced a 22% drop in two years. It is likely that the majority of that 22% were highly qualified candidates who had other career options. It is clear that the rhetoric of teacher evaluation and the assignment of blame to teachers have made teaching a less attractive profession. Moving teacher evaluation systems from the control of local boards of education to politicians in Albany has resulted in a dysfunctional evaluation system that goes against current research. Worst of all, it has created unintended consequences for students, as teachers are incentivized to drill students for the tests.
The parents and educators of New York want strong and appropriate learning standards with a focus on classroom learning not testing. Without equitable funding throughout the state, schools will continue to be at a disadvantage and not have the essential resources to help students meet their full potential. Local control has been eroded by those who want to privatize public education and destroy the most vital cornerstone of our democracy. NYSAPE and its allies around the state stand together for proven strategies to help all children succeed.

NYSAPE’s full response to the Governor’s questions was sent not only to Governor Cuomo but to every legislator in the State of New York as well as to the Board of Regents. You can find the full NYSAPE response here:

For the past dozen years or so, the New York Times has been a cheerleader for corporate education reform, especially testing. Its editorials have faithfully repeated the talking points of the corporate reformers who slam “failing public schools” because they have low test scores.


But something miraculous happened today: The New York Times has a strong editorial reflecting reality. Let’s be grateful for sound logic, based on fact and evidence.


The editorial gives advice to Governor Cuomo, who has recently adopted the idea of charter schools as his version of reform, while threatening teachers with punitive evaluations based on junk science and threatening their pensions:


If he is serious about the issue [education], he will have to move beyond peripheral concerns and political score-settling with the state teachers’ union, which did not support his re-election, and go to the heart of the matter. And that means confronting and proposing remedies for the racial and economic segregation that has gripped the state’s schools, as well as the inequality in school funding that prevents many poor districts from lifting their children up to state standards.


These shameful inequities were fully brought to light in 2006, when the state’s highest court ruled in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York that the state had not met its constitutional responsibility to ensure adequate school funding and in particular had shortchanged New York City.


A year later, the Legislature and Gov. Eliot Spitzer adopted a new formula that promised more help for poor districts and eventually $7 billion per year in added funding. That promise evaporated in the recession, spawning two lawsuits aimed at forcing the state to honor it.


A lawsuit by a group called New Yorkers for Students’ Educational Rights estimates that, despite increases in recent years, the state is still about $5.6 billion a year short of its commitment under that formula.


A second lawsuit was filed on behalf of students in several small cities in the state, including Jamestown, Port Jervis, Mount Vernon and Newburgh. It says that per pupil funding in the cities, which have an average 72 percent student poverty rate, is $2,500 to $6,300 less than called for in the 2007 formula, making it impossible to provide the instruction other services needed to meet the State Constitution’s definition of a “sound basic education.”


These communities and others like them are further disadvantaged by having low property values and by a statewide cap enacted in 2011 that limits what money they are able to raise through property taxes. And last year the New York State United Teachers union said that the cap had been particularly harmful to poorer districts.


These inequalities are compounded by the fact that New York State, which regards itself as a bastion of liberalism, has the most racially and economically segregated schools in the nation. A scathing 2014 study of this problem by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, charged that New York had essentially given up on this problem. It said, “The children who most depend on the public schools for any chance in life are concentrated in schools struggling with all the dimensions of family and neighborhood poverty and isolation.”


Any serious effort to improve education must direct more resources to districts that need them and must address the racial segregation in New York’s schools.

Governor Andrew Cuomo complained recently that legislators were too concerned with protecting teachers’ pensions and unconcerned with protecting children in “failing schools.”

Station WGRZ says that the average pension for retired school employees is $41,000 and change. Cuomo thinks teachers will produce higher test scores if he threatens their pensions. Apparently he wants more test prep, more teaching to the test, more narrowing of the curriculum to eliminate the arts and physical education so there is more time for testing.

Please, someone, tell the governor that threats don’t improve teaching and learning. Tell him that carrots and sticks do not get “results.”

Tell him to read Daniel Pink’s “Drive” or the research of Edward Deci and Dan Ariely on motivation. What teachers need is not threats but support, encouragement, and the resources to do their job.

New York, beware. Governor Cuomo and State Board of Regents Merryl Tisch are both very dissatisfied, having learned that only 1% of the state’s teachers were rated ineffective. They assume that if a child gets low scores on the state tests, the teacher must be an ineffective teacher. With the new Common Core tests, the state “proficiency” rate plummeted to only 30%, so the state must be full of “bad” teachers. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that the “cut score” or “passing score” on the tests was set absurdly high. Nor do they know that the use of VAM (value-added modeling) has been criticized by the American Statistical Association, the American Education Research Association, and the National Academy of Education.


Now the New York Daily News, owned by billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman (who also owns US News and World Report), has written an editorial calling on legislators to “Listen to Mrs. Tisch.” That is, be prepared to fire up to 10% of teachers every year. No questions asked about where new teachers will come from; no questions about why these new teachers will be better qualified than those who were fired using a dubious method; no questions about the VAM methodology, which is now being challenged in court in New York as arbitrary; no awareness of the extensive research and experience showing that the methodology is unstable and inaccurate. Just fire teachers, do it again and again, and the scores will go up. This is faith-based ideology, not an expression of thoughtfulness not a display of knowledge about teacher evaluation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was very disappointed when only 1% of teachers were found “ineffective” in their state ratings. He demanded tougher evaluations, using the “value-added model” whose validity has been questioned by many research groups, including the American Statistical Association, the American Education Research Association, and the National Academy of Education.

In this post, high school principal Carol Burris reports that the chairperson of the state Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, responded to Governor Cuomo’s piqué by offering to double the importance of test scores in teacher evaluations.

Burris cites the example of fourth grade teacher Sheri Lederman, who was rated highly effective one year, then ineffective the next year. Her students performed twice as well as the state average–both years. Lederman is suing the state.

Burris writes:

“Sheri Lederman, is a gifted and beloved fourth-grade teacher in Great Neck, New York. Her principal adores her and relies on her to help mentor her colleagues. Over twice as many of her students have met the state standard than the average percentage for the rest of the state. Sheri is also a scholar. She received the 2012 H. Alan Robinson Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation award for her research on how 10-year-olds learn science. Yet her growth score based on the results of student Common Core standardized tests found her to be an “ineffective” teacher.

“Under the present teacher evaluation system in New York, known as APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review), she is not in danger of losing her job. She was rated effective overall due to the points she received on the local measure of her students’ achievement, combined with those based on the observation of her teaching. But that will change if Chancellor Merryl Tisch has her way. Sheri would be rated ineffective overall, and one more such rating would get her fired.

“The short version of what she [Tisch] wants to do now is this—double down on test scores and strip away the power of local school boards to negotiate the majority of the evaluation plan. Tisch would get rid of the locally selected measures of achievement, which now comprise 20 percent of the evaluation, and double the state test score portion, to 40 percent. She also recommends that the score ranges for the observation process be taken out of the hands of local districts, and be determined by Albany instead. Dr. Lederman, start packing up. Merryl Tisch and Andrew Cuomo, whom you have never met, know your talents better than your local school board, your principal and the parents of the children you teach.”

We will watch Sheri Lederman’s lawsuit. How can the state justify rating her “ineffective” based on her students’ outstanding test scores? The formula makes no sense.

Leonie Haimson lists here the best and worst education events of 2014.

She cites the demise of inBloom as one of the best and the Vergara decision as one of the worst.

What would you add to her list?


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