Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a budget agreement.

Everyone patted each other on the back. We will learn the details in the next few days. Many unanswered questions. Did Cuomo gain new power to take over low-performing schools? Who will decide about teacher and principal evaluations? Stay tuned.

In a post earlier today (http://dianeravitch.net/2015/03/29/nearly-100-superintendents-sign-petition-to-save-public-education-in-ny/), I reported that “nearly 100″ superintendents had signed the statement questioning Governor Cuomo’s agenda for the schools. Some readers asked for a list of names. Here is a letter with the names of 102 superintendents who signed the declaration, plus Board members and PTA presidents who signed. In some cases, entire Boards of Education wanted to sign the statement. As word gets out, expect the list to grow.

For the copy of the letter with 16 pages of signatures, select the link below.

3-27-15 pm AllianceLetter

 

This is a press release from the Alliance to Save Public Education:

 

 Superintendents and community leaders want meaningful reform

 

A group of superintendents from Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties gathered at South Side High School in Rockville Centre to discuss a legislative proposal to establish a special commission that would create a new teacher evaluation system. The educators, members of the Alliance to Save Public Education, first came together in late February to draft and sign a letter that urged legislators to separate education reform from the state budget process.

 

To date, the letter has 150 signatures, representing support from 13 percent of the school districts in New York State, which span a wide range of demographics – poor and wealthy, big and small, urban, rural and suburban, upstate and downstate. While the group agrees with the idea of a commission, they said the plan to evaluate teachers and principals must be valid and appropriate and reflect the best interests of students. “We want a commission that will create an evaluation system that promotes student growth,” Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen said. “It should include educational researchers, world-renowned experts in the field, psychometrics, superintendents and teachers.” Members of the alliance said they are in favor of testing that values education and works for students, and indicated that if the state is not willing to create a commission that includes relevant stakeholders, they would create a commission that does.

A few days ago, I saluted Representative Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, Texas, for his plan to add $3 billion to the public schools’ budget.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, a powerful figure in the state, prefers vouchers.

Happily, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial supporting Aycock and dismissing vouchers. This is the real world, folks, not fantasy land, where wishes are horses. The legislature cut the public schools by $5 billion and has restored only a tiny fraction. Meanwhile the children are majority Hispanic, and they are in public schools. Their schools need the resources, the teachers, the class sizes, and the librarians and social workers to help them now.

The Chronicle says:

“While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick scampers down a rabbit trail in pursuit of costly school-voucher legislation, an influential public education policymaker in the House is doing what’s right for Texas school children and Texas taxpayers.

“State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, announced last week that the lower chamber will tackle the daunting task of finding a fair and equitable way for the state to fund its public schools.
By taking up the challenge instead of waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling, the low-key Republican chairman of the Public Education Committee shows us what a true representative of the people looks like. A formerKilleen school board member, Aycock does the people’s business with little fanfare, with an effort to be fair and open to all sides and with a goal to getting useful things accomplished….

“Patrick’s beloved voucher scheme would divert taxpayer money from public education to cover all or part of a student’s tuition at a private or religious school, with little or no accountability to the people whose money is being spent. Aycock, on the other hand, understands the urgent need to invest in the state’s public schools and their five million students, 60 percent of them economically disadvantaged. He’s also aware, we’re sure, that the number of low-income students is growing at twice the rate of the overall student population….

“The voucher issue distracts from the fact that public schools, whatever their problems, are the backbone of every Texas community. They require attention and investment.

Aycock’s proposal would add $800 million to the $2.2 billion the House already had allocated to public schools. In the Senate, Patrick and his voucher cohorts, including state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, have proposed about $1.8 billion less for public education than the House. Patrick also is pushing hard for tax cuts worth about $4.6 billion.”

Taylor, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is sponsoring legislation that would create a $100 million private-school tuition program to help lower-income students pay for private or religious schools. Patrick told the Education Committee last week that the legislation would give approximately 10,000 students an opportunity to escape failing schools, primarily urban schools. Funding would come through donations from businesses, which in turn would receive tax credits.”

“Since the House and Senate are so far apart on the issues, they probably won’t be addressed in depth until a special session this summer. When that happens, we urge lawmakers to look to the man from Killeen for direction and not the man pushing vouchers.”

In Pennsylvania, both Republicans and Democrats want to expand the state’s “tax credit” (aka voucher) program, allowing public funds to pay for private and religious tuition.

The tax credits drain funds from public school support, which is already inequitably funded and suffered deep budget cuts. The state’s public schools are in financial crisis, and the last thing they need is another stealth cut to their funding.

Why don’t the legislators put vouchers to a vote of the people? Are they afraid to find out how the public will respond?

Leonie Haimson includes in this post a summary of the latest Quinnipiac poll about public reaction to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education proposals. The long and short of it is that they are so unpopular that they have dragged down his overall rating.

 

28% approve his proposals while 63% reject them.

 

The Quinnipiac poll shows that Cuomo has dropped to his lowest rating ever–50%, and the poll connects his declining popularity to his ferocious attacks on public schools and teachers. He doesn’t seem to understand that most people like both and can’t understand why the Governor wants to destroy them. They have a low opinion of all his plans to “improve” them by raising the stakes on testing. This should be a warning to other politicians who think they can attack public education without arousing public antagonism. Most Americans–say, 90%–went to public school and presumably have good memories of their teachers and schools. Why would the governor or any other politician want to send public money to private and religious schools?

Leonie Haimson is fed up with the line that the mainstream media has taken about education controversies. Reporters usually think that every protest is organized by the unions, defending their self-interest, and they are warring with high-minded reformers. She says this is balderdash! (Sorry, Leonie, my word, not yours.)   If parents hold a protest against high-stakes testing and against test-based teacher evaluations (which causes more time to be devoted to testing), most reporters will say the union made them do it, the union doesn’t want to be held accountable.   Well, guess what? The unions are not leading the Opt Out movement. Many teachers support it, because they know how pointless the new tests are, but the great majority of people leading the movement are parents. They don’t want their children to be pressured by fear of the Big Standardized Test, they don’t want them to be ranked and labeled, they don’t want them to hate school because of the endless test prep.   Leonie was especially irked by a recent story in the New York Times about the two forces trying to win Hillary Clinton’s allegiance: on one hand, the teachers’ unions; on the other, the Wall Street tycoons who might finance her campaign. One has the votes, the other has the money. In the middle of the story, the reporter Maggie Haberman inexplicably refers to the hedge fund managers’ group Democrats for Education Reform as “left of center.” These are the Wall Street billionaires and mere multimillionaires who are pushing the privatization and high-stakes testing agenda; they dearly love charter schools and look on public schools with disdain as places that one must escape from. What you would expect from people who mainly went to Exeter, Deerfield Academy, Groton, and other tony private schools. Left of center? Hardly. Corporate style reformers? Yes.

A group of school superintendents in New York banded together in late February to form The Alliance to Save Public Education. They began with 30 superintendents from Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and Monroe County, and their number has grown to nearly 100 superintendents (PS: they now have 102). They invite more superintendents from across the state to join them in signing their Declaration below. They welcome the signatures of school board presidents and leaders of parent associations as well.]

Please contact your Superintendent, Board President, or PTA President to sign:

Print it, then sign the printout with a dark flair-type pen in a blank spot

Scan & email it (or fax it) back to dgamberg@southoldufsd.com

You can download the letter to print here.

Here is the text of the letter:

March X, 2015

Dear Lawmaker:

Every day, nearly three million children and adolescents attend New York State’s public schools: upstate and downstate, rural, urban and suburban, small, medium and large. The variety is immense. It may be painfully true that 109,000 students attend failing schools in New York State, but it also means that between 2.8 and 2.9 million students are attending successful schools. Even in successful schools, we are familiar with a certain percentage of our children who fail. We are constantly looking for ways within those systems to discover new and better methods to teach those struggling students and eliminate failure from the landscape of our public schools. However, we must continue to support the segments of our systems that can create success. In fact, they should be celebrated and replicated where possible. The current effort at State reform, rather than focusing on our success and supporting what works effectively, appears to focus only on the State’s failures. Failures can never be ignored, and do in fact need to be fixed, but not at the expense of damaging what creates our successful schools.

The Governor’s agenda is connecting the politics of State aid to education policy … AT WHAT COST?

The Governor’s agenda is removing control of our schools from our local communities … AT WHAT COST?

At what cost do we over test our students? It must not be at the cost of our children, and our communities.

New York’s public schools include many that sustain student learning at high levels, and also some schools that fall below everyone’s expectations. We believe the best use of our resources allows schools that work to continue to do so, and, at the same time, to support schools that need help to engage their students at the level we expect for all children. In a state as varied as New York, a one-size-fits-all approach to school improvement is bound to damage schools that already engender students success, while dissipating the focused support that failing school require, to meet the needs of their students.

We urge the legislature to refrain from enacting the Governor’s proposals without a thoughtful debate.

Sincerely,

Screen shot 2015-03-11 at 8.43.08 PMScreen shot 2015-03-11 at 8.43.18 PMScreen shot 2015-03-11 at 8.43.28 PMScreen shot 2015-03-11 at 8.42.50 PMScreen shot 2015-03-11 at 8.42.20 PM

Steven Singer wrote these five terrific posts last year. I didn’t see them when they appeared. Probably you didn’t either. You should.

#5: Raiders of your lost pension.

#4: Forget corporations….unions really are people.

#3: The multiple choice mind.

#2: A curriculum of compassion.

#1: Franz Kafka and the metamorphosis of teacher evaluations

Read them and enjoy!

Watch as Luke Flynt tells what is wrong with his VAM score. It makes no sense.

Take 4 minutes and listen to Luke tell his story about the insanity of VAM scores.

The computer predicts what his students’ test score should be. In some cases, the computer prediction was higher than a perfect score. Most of the scores that counted against Luke were those of students who answered more than 90% of the questions correctly.

This is madness.

Tell his story.

Teacher Rick Bobrick reviews the many ways that “reform” hurts children:

 

 

Many outsiders seem to question how an educational reform movement based on high-stakes testing can actually “harm” children.

 

How do I harm thee? Let me count the ways:

 

1) Narrowed curriculum emphasizing math and ELA = lost learning opportunities

 

2) Emphasis on test scores distorts the true meaning of “education” and is counterproductive to the goal authentic teaching and learning. It inhibits critical thinking and devalues creativity.

 

3) Test-prep imbues the false notion that learning is all about finding the one right answer, and that all other options are wrong. That is the wrong message for young learners.

 

3) Billions of dollars wasted dollars that could be buying instruments, art supplies, science equipment, athletic gear, field trips, or more teachers (smaller class sizes)

 

4) The use of is intentionally confusing, tricky, frustrating, and often developmentally inappropriate tests is unfairly branding many children as failures and is causing untold and often irreparable damage to their pysches. Chronic, institutionalized failure is extremely harmful and this reform is purposefully placing 70% of our young learners into this category, year after year, after year. This is especially true for learning disabled, dyslexic, and ELL students.

 

5) The false claim that CC will close the learning gap, diverts attention away from the true problems of generational poverty and the hopelessness it breeds. The ridiculous claim that fighting for the CC is the new civil rights movement is misleading too many minority parents into investing in a snake oil solution that will never benefit the disadvantaged.

 

6) The pedagogy required by Common Core is making kids dislike math and ELA more than ever. Boredom surrounded by academic beat downs inspires no one.

 

7) The associated teacher evaluation plans (VAM, SLOs, SGOs) are stressing and demoralizing many teachers. This in turn is corrupting classroom learning environments.

 

8) The total amount of teacher, parent, and student hours (TIME) wasted chasing lies and the bogus claims of the test-and-punish reformers is a form of theft that is morally unacceptable. These are critical years for students and the time wasted can never be recovered. The academic and psychological cost of this “time lost” is incalculable

 

9) Micromanagement and related stress from threatening test-and-punish policies is resulting in the premature retirement of good teachers. The negative climate is also inhibiting talented young people from entering the profession

 

10) The major emphasis on testing has absorbed all of the time and energy available, closing the door on many other initiatives that could benefit schools and their students. Ideas and solutions that will never be born are a seldom referenced opportunity cost.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127,663 other followers