Archives for the month of: May, 2014

Well, we got to know a little bit about Zephyr Teachout, who was supposedly the chosen candidate of the Working Families Party. But in the last 48 hours, it became clear that Governor Cuomo wasn’t going to let that party line slip away from him. It is impossible to know what promises were made, whose arms were twisted, what deals were struck, but Governor Cuomo got the endorsement of the WFP tonight.

Lest we forget, this is the Governor who made a deal with the hedge fund crowd to assure that New York City could not charge rent to charter schools; that the city could not reject any of the co-locations hurriedly approved by Mayor Bloomberg’s lame-duck school board last October; that the city would be required to pay the rent of charter schools that rented private space; and that co-located charter schools could expand at will. Lest we forget, this is the Governor that insisted on a 2% tax cap for school districts, which can be lifted only with a supermajority of a 60% approval vote. Lest we forget, this is the Governor who insisted that test scores had to count for much more as part of every educators’ evaluation. This is a Governor of a state with highly inequitable funding. This is a Governor who loves charter schools, corporate tax breaks, and high-stakes testing. He is not a friend of public schools.

Here is the press release:



Contact: Khan Shoieb, New York Communications Director, 347 596-6389

NEW YORK, NY – On Saturday, May 31st, at the Working Families Party Convention, the Working Families Party, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Schneiderman, Comptroller DiNapoli, and 1199 SEIU, 32BJ SEIU, CWA District One, UFT, HTC, UAW Region 9A, UFCW Local 1500, RWDSU, MTDC, and the Teamsters announced a unified, unprecedented coalition to secure a Democrat-Working Families majority in the New York State Senate and deliver progressive victories on a number of key priorities in the early months of the next legislative session. The legislative commitments include a robust, statewide system of public financing of elections, funding 200 community schools, a commitment to fix the school funding formula to invest more money in high-need schools, the DREAM Act, the Women’s Equality Act, decriminalization of marijuana, and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 while indexing it to inflation and allowing localities to raise it up to 30% higher than the state minimum wage.

Mayor Bill de Blasio:

I was there at the beginning of the Working Families Party. And I’m proud to be with you today.

From the beginning, the Working Families Party has been the party that has stood up an economy that works for everyone and a democracy in which every voice was heard.

Tonight, that has happened again, because of the WFP, an unprecedented coalition is now committed to making a progressive vision for New York a reality.

Bill Lipton, New York State Director, Working Families Party:

The WFP stuck to its values. Tonight was about fighting to give New Yorkers a better job, a stronger school, and a government that actually hears their voice. Tomorrow, New Yorkers will be closer than ever before to seeing a real wage increase. They will be closer to having justice for immigrants, women, and young people of color. They will be closer to having a government that works for them, not just the wealthy and well-connected. And that’s where a real commitment to progressive principles can get you.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman:

Our coalition has never been stronger and our team has never been better. The Governor, the Comptroller and I are committed to transforming the state senate and then following through to transform the great state of New York.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli:

I am proud to stand with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the Working Families Party and New York’s labor community in the fight for New York’s progressive future. Together, we are restoring New York’s reputation as the state that leads the nation in the fight to end income inequality and stands strong for working and middle class families.

George Gresham, President 1199SEIU:

1199 SEIU’s 250,000 New York members are proud to stand together with our leaders to support a strong Democratic majority for the New York State Senate. Together with Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio, labor and the Working Families Party we will deliver a progressive future for New York’s families.

Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU:

We are proud to stand with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the Working Families Party today and show what’s possible when progressives, unions and elected officials put the interest of working families first. We are committed to mobilizing our members statewide to take back the state Senate and ensure the passage of legislation that will raise wages, provide educational opportunity for all, including immigrants, and improve the lives of working people throughout New York.

Chris Shelton, Vice President, CWA District One:

For decades, CWA has fought against an entrenched Senate majority opposed to the progressive, pro-labor policies working people need. Now, standing united with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and all labor unions and the Working Families Party, we are in a position to win reforms we’ve fought for all these many years, including public financing of elections, the DREAM Act, a minimum wage increase tied to an index, the right for localities to raise their own wages, greater educational justice, marijuana decriminalization, and [anything i don’t know about]. It’s quite a list, and finally within reach. We urge the Working Families Party to support Governor Cuomo for re-election to achieve the progressive victories this state needs

UFT President Michael Mulgrew:

We look forward to working with the state’s leaders and a Democratic majority in the State Senate to bring real innovation to our schools, and to stop the privatization and “corporatization” that have done so much harm to our children’s education.

Peter Ward, President of the Hotels Trades Council:

We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and all New York Democrats in electing a unified Democratic government that fights for working people and progressive values.

Julie Kushner, Director, UAW Region 9A:

Today is an historic moment, creating a grand coalition thathas the potential to bring real change to the hard working people of New York. I am proud to stand today withMayor deBlasio and Governor Cuomo in building this coalition that will begintoday to take on the hard job of winning back the NYS Senate so together we canenact laws that will change the day-to-day experience of millions of workingpeople in our communities. UAW membersare ready to win transformative legislation that will protect womens’reproductive rights, decriminalize marijuana, improve funding for our schools,recognize our DREAMERS, raise the minimum wage and deliver fair elections forall of New York. This is a great day anda great beginning. Let’s get to work.

Anthony Speelman, Secretary-Treasurer, UFCW Local 1500:

UFCW Local 1500 proudly stands alongside the Governor, the Mayor, and labor in supporting a unified Democratic Party. This unity will bring a real progressive agenda to our members, New York State, and the entire labor movement.

Stuart Applebaum, RWDSU:

“The RWDSU is proud to stand with Governor Cuomo and Mayor Deblasio in calling for a governing democratic majority in the State Senate. With a democratic majority, progressive and pro-labor legislation can be moved forward to better the lives of New Yorkers.”

Mike McGuire, Political Director, Mason Tenders District Council:

“The Mason Tenders’ District Council supports the concept of a unified democratic government because that is the best way to advance the cause of organized labor in New York State. We are proud to follow in the footsteps of or friends Gov. Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and our colleagues in organized labor in achieving this goal.”

Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda:

The Teamsters stand with Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and the Working Families Party in working with all Democrats for a stronger more equitable New York. Organized labor has always been the path to equality for workers, immigrants, the downtrodden and the poor. A unified Democratic Party can only stand to strengthen organized labor in the sectors that need it most, such as our burgeoning immigrant workforce.

Khan Shoieb
New York Communications Director
Working Families Party / Working Families Organization
o: (718) 222-3796 x219
c: (347) 596-6389
Follow me on Twitter @KShoieb

Khan Shoieb
New York Communications Director
Working Families Party / Working Families Organization
o: (718) 222-3796 x219
c: (347) 596-6389
Follow me on Twitter @KShoieb
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Crazy Crawfish, aka Jason France, used to work in the assessment division of the Louisiana State Department of Education. He has sources there, and he knows the games that officials can play to make data look better or worse.

In this post, he asserts that State Commissioner of Education John White, with two years in TFA and a few years in Joel Klein’s NYC Department of Education, came to Louisiana with a strong view of what to do and how to lead the change that he thought was needed.

France says that White did not agree with Governor Jindal’s voucher plan, but went along.

He says he knew that the VAM plan was problematic.

But he also knew he had to produce higher test scores to claim victory.

What he had going for him is that the media opin Louisiana is passive, and the public can’t or won’t follow stories that involve math. That provides plenty of leeway for officials looking for a win.

Caitlin Emmaof paid a visit to Finland and was surprised to discover that teachers are not depending on educational technology. By contrast, American schools are spending billions of dollars on tablets, laptops, and other devices.

She writes:

“Finnish students and teachers didn’t need laptops and iPads to get to the top of international education rankings, said Krista Kiuru, minister of education and science at the Finnish Parliament. And officials say they aren’t interested in using them to stay there.

“That’s in stark contrast to what reformers in the U.S. say. From President Barack Obama on down, they have called education technology critical to improving schools. By shifting around $2 billion in existing funds and soliciting $2 billion in contributions from private companies, the Obama administration is pressing to expand schools’ access to broadband and the devices that thrive on it.

“School districts nationwide have loaded up students with billions of dollars’ worth of tablets, laptops, iPods and more on the theory that, as Obama said last year, preparing American kids to compete with students around the globe will require interactive, individualized learning experiences driven by new technology.”

(Since the research on the benefits of technology is sparse, it is likely that the heavy U.S. investment in technology is driven by something other than research.)

The Finnish secret: recruiting excellent students into the teaching profession, which is respected and prestigious; according the teachers professional autonomy; working closely with the educators’ union to promote better education; no standardized testing until the end of high school; no charters; no vouchers.

Read more:

Blogger. And former state legislator Jonathan Pelto must raise $250,000, in amounts no larger than $100 to challenge Governor Malloy.

The laws protect incumbents and those with deep pockets or friends with deep pockets.

Jon reports he is off to a strong start.

Under current federal and state laws, test scores are supposed to go higher every year. Every year, the students are a different cohort, but their scores must be higher than those who preceded them. High expectations–no matter how unrealistic–are supposed to produce high achievement. Think of it this way, if students are running track and can barely jump over a 3′ bar, raise the bar to 4′ and see what happens. The assumption (usually by politicians) is that raising the bar will cause students to jump higher. But many will fail because the theory doesn’t work.

A seventh -grade teacher in a Title I (high-poverty) school in Texas writes:

“I can say from personal experience that the “scores” are ripping my department apart. Last year two-thirds of our group were shuffled between grades because of low test scores. Result, even worse scores this year. All I can say is that failure begins at the top. Ugly comments have been made, morale could not be lower.. The students are beginning to check out.

“Is it worth it all?”

It is getting to be a dizzying experience to read about the Common Core on the Néw York Times. When Motoko Rich reported from Tennessee, she found an unlikely left-right alliance questioning the standards. A few days later, and the familiar script is back in place: only the far right opposes this fine experiment.

Once again, Mike Petrilli is trotted out to defend them. This seems to be his job now.

No mention of the early childhood experts who oppose them or the critics of high stakes testing or computer graded tests or standardization or the Chicago Teachers Union or Carol Burris or Anthony Cody or any number of credible, non-Tea Party critics.

It would be refreshing to learn in the Times which groups have received millions from the Gates Foundation to support the CCSS.

Until now, the New York Times has followed Arne Duncan’s formula to explain opposition to Common Core, which is to demonize critics as Tea Party yahoos. However, Motoko Rich wrote a story about the unlikely alliances that are forming on both sides of the issue.

Supporters of the Common Core cross a wide spectrum and include big corporations and anti-public education zealots like Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee. Critics of Common Core include conservatives who worry about federal overreach and educators who object to standardization. The teachers unions, by the way, have vigorously supported Common Core, except for the Chicago Teachers Union, which voted unanimously to oppose it. Some critics see Common Core as a massive diversion of billions of dollars to vendors of tests, technology, and other new materials and services.

The Houston Independent School District is taking advantage of abysmal salaries in North Carolina. HISD is holding a job fair today in Raleigh, hoping to poach some of NC’s terrific but underpaid teachers.

“HISD is promising a starting salary of $46,805.

“In a response to the ad posted on Facebook, North Carolina state Representative Graig Meyer (D-District 50) notes the average salary for teachers in North Carolina is $45,737, and the starting salary is much lower.”

NC salaries are 46th in the nation.

The free market at work.

The New York State United Teachers issued a statement supporting th districts that are opting out of state field tests.

“ALBANY, N.Y. May 30, 2014 – As tens of thousands of students statewide prepare to begin vfield testing” questions for future state exams, New York State United Teachers President Karen E. Magee said today more time should be devoted to teaching – not testing – and called for an end to student participation in field tests.

The State Education Department is administering field tests from June 2-11 to try out prospective standardized test questions developed by the giant testing company, Pearson PLC. These tests do not count for students, teachers or schools and are solely used to “test the test.” Stand-alone field tests in English language arts and math will be administered in most schools to students who took the state’s 2014 Grades 3-8 Common Core ELA and math tests.

“New York’s over-reliance on standardized tests continues to have a negative effect on our students,” Magee said. “Teachers and parents are united in our concern that excessive state standardized testing takes important time away from instruction.”

Magee called on the state to grant the SED’s request for sufficient resources so it can develop a bank with enough age- and grade-appropriate, reliable and valid questions to entirely eliminate the need for field testing.

Magee noted a number of school districts – Comsewogue and Ossining, for example – are reportedly boycotting this year’s field tests.

“NYSUT applauds those school districts that have recently opted out of this year’s field testing. Just as we support parents’ rights to opt their child out of the state tests, we support those districts that are opting out of the field tests,” Magee said. “Why should New York state students be unpaid researchers for Pearson?”

“NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, who oversees the union’s Research and Educational Services Division, added, “These upcoming field tests mean that, once again, too many students in New York state will be spending time on standardized tests that take time away from real learning.”

Leonie Haimson, leader of Class Size Matters and a student privacy hawk, reports on the bankruptcy of ConnectEDU. Data mining is big business.

She writes that:

“ConnectEDU was one of the three data dashboard companies chosen by the NY State Education Department to receive a statewide set of personal student data through the inBloom data cloud, as part of their “EngageNY Portal.” Now ConnectEDU has announced it has gone bankrupt, despite receiving a $500,000 grant from the Gates Foundation less than a year ago….The assets of ConnectEDU, including 20 million personal student records, are being bought by a venture capital company called North Atlantic Capital. Now the FTC is stepping in, to try to block the handing over of all these personal records. According to Education Week:
The potential sale of 20 million student records by ConnectEDU, an ed-tech company that filed for bankruptcy in April, has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to step in to protect the student data, the agency announced Friday.

“ConnectEDU, a 12-year-old Boston-based company, provides interactive tools to help K-12 and post-secondary learners make academic and career decisions. In its privacy policy, ConnectEDU promised that—prior to any sale of the company—registered users would be notified and have the ability to delete their personally identifiable data.”