Search results for: "Leonie"

This post was written in 2014, but it remains relevant today. DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) raises large sums of money from hedge fund managers to promote charter schools. The free market has been very good to hedge fund managers, and they think that public schools should compete in a free market too. They are not in the game to make money, but to promote their ideology of free-market competition. DFER and its related organizations, like Education Reform Now, and Families for Excellent Schools, are spending millions of dollars in places as far-flung as Denver and Massachusetts. It may be confusing to the public to see “Democrats” promoting school choice and accountability, since these have always been Republican ideas for school reform. But, it made no sense to create a group called Republicans for Education Reform because Republicans don’t need to be convinced to private public schools.

Leonie Haimson, parent advocate (and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education), asks:

How did this happen? How did our electeds of both parties enable corporate interests to hijack our public schools?

Her answer:

A small band of Wall St. billionaires decided to convert the Democratic party to the Republican party, at least on education — and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams – or our worst nightmares. And now we have electeds of both parties who are intent on helping them engineer a hostile takeover of our public schools, which has nothing to do with parent choice but the choice of these plutocrats.

What can you do about it?

Contact the Network for Public Education and find out how you can become active in your local or state organization that supports public schools and opposes privatization.

If you live in Massachusetts, join parents and educators who are fighting Question 2, which would allow unlimited expansion of charters to replace public schools.

Get involved.

Leonie Haimson has written a stunning article about stories in the New York Times that promote investments of Bill Gates without acknowledging that the writer’s outside organization is funded by the Gates Foundation.

She refers in amazing detail to two laudatory articles about Bridge International Academies, the corporation that is providing for-profit schools in poor countries in Africa and elsewhere. Gates is an investor in BIA. The Gates Foundation supports the organization that supports the journalist. BIA is encouraging countries like Kenya and Liberia to outsource their responsibility for primary school education to the corporation, which charges the families about $6 a month. Haimson points out that when the cost of uniforms and supplies and food are included, the total is far higher, and represents about a quarter of the family income. If there is more than one child, the cost may be 2/3 of the family income. You can be sure that the business is highly profitable, and it relieves the country of the necessity of building universal free public education.

The article goes into detail about the research on both sides of the issue, which is not reflected in the Times’ coverage.

Other articles in the New York Times have praised the “flipped classroom,” a favorite of Bill Gates, and edTech schools that Gates endorses.

I hope the Public Editor of the New York Times reads this timely and important critique of their coverage.

Leonie Haimson, parent activist in New York City, crusader for reduced class size and student privacy, lays waste to the charter privateers in this hilarious post!

First came the devastating resolution passed by the national convention of the NAACP, calling for a charter moratorium.

Then came the attack on charters by Black Lives Matter.

And the topper was John Oliver’s funny and accurate portrayal of charter school graft.

But the privateers (or privatizers, as I usually say) continue their assault on public education with propaganda and lies.

In Massachusetts, they claim that expanding charter schools will “improve public education,” when in fact it will drain money from neighborhood public schools and take away local control.

In Georgia, a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November authorizes the creation of a state district that will eliminate local control, like the failed Tennessee ASD, yet says it will empower communities.

This is Orwellian. That means when you say one thing but mean the opposite. Another word for lying. Like saying “reform” when you mean “privatization.”

Leonie Haimson can always be counted on to look beneath the surface of the news. In this post, she describes a forum that will be held tomorrow in New York City, where the Center for American Progress will unveil its latest attempt to persuade New Yorkers that standardized tests and the Common Core are swell. CAP is Gates-funded, of course, and so are most of the other participants in the forum. No opt out representatives were invited to participate. So the forum will not learn why 250,000 children did not take the state tests this past spring. And we learn too that New York City will soon have its very own outpost of Education Trust, the Gates-funded advocacy group for standards and testing. If you open the blog, you will get to see a short pro-Common Core video that was ridiculed by many for its condescension towards parents and quickly withdrawn.

The afternoon session of the day’s event features a discussion of technology, and one of the participants comes from a company that contracts with the Department of Education and has been at the center of various scandals.

Leonie writes:

Emerging Trends in Education: City and State moderates a panel of officials, experts and academics on improving tech access in and out of classrooms, STEM learning in NY schools, and how to make NY more competitive across the globe! The session will connect educators, administrators, and other staff to new ideas, best practices, and each other.

The panel includes Josh Wallack of DOE, CM Danny Dromm, chair of the NYC Council Education Committee, a dean from Berkeley College, and two corporate reps, one of them named Vlada Lotkina, Co-founder and CEO of a company called Class Tag, which has a particularly awful privacy policy. The other member of the panel is Cynthia Getz, descried as the NYC Account Team Senior Manager at Custom Computer Specialists.

Custom Computer Specialists is infamous for having participated in a multi-million dollar kick-back scheme with a DOE consultant named Ross Lanham, who was indicted by Preet Bharara in 2011 and sent to jail in 2012. CCS had not only gotten inflated payments through the scheme, but the President, Greg Galdi (who is still the CEO) had started a Long Island real estate company with Lanham called “G & R Scuttlehole.”

In February 2015, I noted in the PEP contract listing that CCS was due to get a huge $1.1 billion contract from DOE for internet wiring Reporters for the Daily News , NYPost and Chalkbeat wrote about this egregious deal, and overnight the DOE cut back the contract to $635 million, without changing any of the terms, showing how egregiously inflated it was in the first place. The Panel for Education Policy rubber-stamped it anyway. Later, City Hall decided to reject the contract, probably because of all the bad publicity, and it was rebid at a savings of between $125M and $627M – the latter compared to the original contract price of $1.1 billion.

I think the cancellation of the CCS contract actually saved the city up to $727 million, because if the DOE had signed up with CCS, they would have lost any chance to get $100 million in E-rate reimbursement funds from the feds, since the FCC had cut NYC off from all E-rate funds because of the Lanham scandal since 2011.

Subsequently, we discovered that DOE signed a consent decree with the FCC on December 31, 2015 in which the city was ordered to pay $3 million in fines, and relinquish claims to all E-rate funding requests between 2011-2013, which were frozen after the Lanham indictment in June 2011. The DOE also had to withdraw claims to any E-rate funding from 2002-2010. Juan Gonzalez speculated that this meant the potential loss of $123 million, based on a letter sent to the DOE by the Comptroller office in 2014.

Leonie Haimson, founder of Class Size Matters, is a major figure in New York City education circles.

She wrote this post about the reporting of the state test scores. First, the public learned that the test scores were up. Next, those who bothered to read Commissioner Elia’s statement that accompanied the release learned that this year’s scores were not comparable to previous years’ scores. But then they saw Commissioner Elia and the media celebrating the test score gains that were not comparable to previous years.

What you will learn from her post is that there is almost always a political slant in reporting scores, especially these days, when so many politicians want to claim credit for rising scores. If officials want the scores to look good, they will magnify gains. Or they can change the passing mark to create artificial gains. Or they can convert raw scores to higher scores. When they first get started, they want the scores as low as possible so they can claim gains afterwards.

Leonie provides the historical context that was absent from reporting on this year’s scores. We have seen this play before. We saw the scores go up and up and up from 2002-2009. Then an independent team of researchers studied the tests and the state acknowledged score inflation. And the scores came crashing down. But not until after Mayor Bloomberg was safely re-elected to a third term, based in large part on the historic improvement in test scores (that disappeared in 2010).

It is time to admit that the scores are malleable. What do they represent? One thing for sure is that the kids with the advantages are always at the top, and the kids without the advantages are always at the bottom. No matter how often we test, no matter what the test, the results are unchanged year after year.

Maybe it is time to step back from the incessant testing and to focus instead on interventions that might change the life chances for children and the educational outcomes as well.

Leonie Haimsom, founder of Class Size Matters and board member of the Network for Public Education and New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), warns that the test scores released by New York are not to be trusted. She argues that “we are entering a new era of mass delusion and test score inflation- including cut score manipulation.”

She offers evidence for her assertions.

State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia released the scores and advised readers not to compare the Scores of 2016 to earlier years, then immediately made the very comparisons she cautioned against. Chancellor Farina celebrated the astonishing growth in the city’s ELA scores.

But Haimson takes a close look and concludes that state officials are manipulating the data. She reminds readers that state scores went up at a dizzying pace from 2002-2009, leading Mayor Bloomberg to boast about a New York City “miracle.” But in 2010, after an independent investigation, the state admitted that the tests had become easier, the passing mark had been lowered, and the dramatic gains had been a hoax. Once the scores were corrected, the gains of the Bloomberg-Klein era disappeared.

Something similar is happening now, write Haimson.

“There are four ways to artificially boost results on exams:

1. Make the tests shorter

2. Allow more time to take them

3. Make the questions easier

4. Change the cut scores and/or translation from raw scores to performance levels.

“It appears that the state made at least three out of the four changes listed above. We won’t know if the questions were harder or easier until the state releases the P-values and provides other technical details.”

These are serious charges. It is now the responsibility of Comissioner Elia, the Board of Regents, and the State Education Department to demonstrate the validity and integrity of the tests.

Leonie Haimson, parent activist, worked with a group of other concerned critics to review the explosion of computer-massessment, in particular, the scoring of writing.

 

“On April 5, 2016, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Parents Across America, Network for Public Education, FairTest and many state and local parent groups sent a letter to the Education Commissioners in the states using the federally funded Common Core tests known as PARCC and SBAC, asking about the scoring of these exams.

 

“We asked them the following questions:

 

“What percentage of the ELA exams in our state are being scored by machines this year, and how many of these exams will then be re-scored by a human being?

 

“What happens if the machine score varies significantly from the score given by the human being?
“Will parents have the opportunity to learn whether their children’s ELA exam was scored by a human being or a machine?
“Will you provide the “proof of concept” or efficacy studies promised months ago by Pearson in the case of PARCC, and AIR in the case of SBAC, and cited in the contracts as attesting to the validity and reliability of the machine-scoring method being used?
“Will you provide any independent research that provides evidence of the reliability of this method, and preferably studies published in peer-reviewed journals?

 
“Our concerns had been prompted by seeing the standard contracts that Pearson and AIR had signed with states. The standard PARCC contract indicates that this year, Pearson would score two-thirds of the students’ writing responses by computers, with only 10 percent of these rechecked by a human being. In 2017, the contract said, all of PARCC writing samples were to be scored by machine with only 10 percent rechecked by hand.”

 

Haimson refers to research that demonstrates that computers can’t recognize meaning or narrative, although they admire sentence complexity and grammar.

 

This,she writes, means that computers will give high scores to incoherent but windy prose.

 

“The inability of machine scoring to distinguish between nonsense and coherence may lead to a debasement of instruction, with teachers and test prep companies engaged in training students on how to game the system by writing verbose and pretentious prose that will receive high scores from the machines. In sum, machine scoring will encourage students to become poor writers and communicators.”

 

Only five state commissioners responded after a month. They learned that the state commissioner of Rhode Island, Ken Wagner, testified that machine scoring was more valid and reliable than trained and expert humans.

 

Haimson concludes, quoting Pearson’s literature:

 

“Essentially, the point of this grandiose project imposed upon our nation’s schools is to eliminate the human element in education as much as possible.”

 

Read this well-documented article. It is up to parents to stop this headlong rush to the dehumanizing of education.

 

Leonie Haimson is the watchdog of New York City public education. She is the founder of Class Size Matters (I am a member of her six-person board), which operates on a shoestring. She is unpaid, yet she is tireless in her determination to police the awarding of contracts, as well as the administration’s attention to class size. She also is deeply involved in protecting student privacy. She and Rachel Strickland in Colorado brought down Bill Gates’ effort to data-mine American students, a project called inBloom, to which he contributed $100 million. In the face of parent criticism, inBloom folded.

 

Leonie reads every contract that the New York City Department approves. She did the same during the Bloomberg years, when she was also the mayor’s most persistent critic.

 

Here is her scathing report on the failure of the administration to perform due diligence before it awards contracts, in this case, for special education services, for Amazon, and for new technology. Once again, as under Bloomberg, the city’s Panel on Educational Policy (actually know in the law as the New York City Board of Education) mutely acquiesces and approves whatever the administration asks for, without debate or discussion.

 

This is a good reason to oppose mayoral control, state control, and any other undermining of democracy.

Opponents of corporate reform has high hopes when Bill de Blasio was elected, but their hopes are rapidly dimming. The de Blasio administration tried to slow down (not stop) the growth of Success Academy, and ran into a billionaire buzz saw. The hedge funders spent millions on a scurrilous TV campaign, falsely claiming that de Blasio administration was snuffing out the dreams of poor children of color (who had not yet been selected to enroll in the charters that might not open). The reality was that Eva Moskowitz’s chain was pushing a program for children with profound disabilities out of their dedicated space to make way for a new charter. Andrew Cuomo received big donations from the charter industry, and Eva won everything she wanted in the legislature, including free rent and the right to expand as much as she wanted. Since then, de Blasio has capitulated abjectly to the charter crowd.

 

Here is Leonie Haimson’s report on the latest meeting of the city’s board of education, now called the Panel on Education Policy, which is controlled by the Mayor.

 

Please be sure to watch the video at the end, made by the students of Meyer Levin School of the Performing Arts. The students are protesting the co-location of a charter in their school. The charter will take away the third floor of their building, which is their performance rooms.

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters is a watchdog who scrutinizes every contract that is about to be adopted by the New York City Department of Education. Last year, she stopped a contract from being approved for nearly $700 million, because the vendors had previously cheated the city. This is one she couldn’t stop.

 
Leonie writes:

 

Huge Amazon contract as well as others going to sleazy special ed vendors won unanimous approval last night without a single comment or question from PEP members; wow do I miss Patrick Sullivan on the PEP!

 
Though the article says it may save the DOE money, there is no mention of the huge outlay moving to digital content will require for the purchase of tablets, laptops and e-readers, with all the risk that involves.

 
Nor was there any discussion last night or in the article of the risk to student privacy or the substantial research showing kids comprehend and retain less when reading from screens than physical books.

 
The contract will also steer kids and families from buying their own books for independent reading books through Amazon, as each student will have an individual Amazon account set up, which will likely expand Amazon’s dominance of the marketplace even more, a dominance that the company has used ruthlessly in the face of protests from authors and publishing houses.

 
Just one among many of the breathtaking moments from last night’s PEP.

 
http://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-wins-30-million-contract-to-sell-e-books-to-new-york-city-schools-1461202999

 

Amazon Wins $30 Million Contract to Sell E-Books to New York City Schools

 
Panel at nation’s largest district votes in favor of three-year agreement

 

 

By

Greg Bensinger

 

 

Amazon.com Inc. won a deal worth about $30 million to provide e-books to New York City, the nation’s largest school district.

 
The city’s Panel for Educational Policy voted Wednesday in favor of the three-year contract for the Department of Education, which will take effect in the coming school year. They will have the option to extend it for an additional two years, which would be worth an estimated additional $34.5 million.
With the vote, Amazon won the right to sell digital textbooks and other content, though not hardware like Kindles, to New York schools through an internal marketplace site. The school district has about 1.1 million pupils in more than 1,800 schools.
An Amazon spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

 
The New York education department expects to buy about $4.3 million of content from Amazon in the first year of the contract, $8.6 million in the second year and $17.2 million in the third, which the Seattle retailer earning a commission of between 10% and 15%.

 
The deal is a boost to Amazon as it seeks to establish itself as a player in education. Many technology firms have set their sights on the classroom, viewing it as ripe for modernization and an effective way to establish their brands with potentially lifelong buyers at a young age.

 
For New York, there may be savings in buying more digital books, as well as the prospect of saving storage space for printed texts. The education department said e-books purchased from Amazon through its marketplace site will be readable on a variety of devices include e-readers, tablets, smartphones and laptops.

 
Amazon has dipped its toes into education before, including buying startup TenMarks Education, which helps teachers create math curricula. And earlier this year, it rolled out a public-relations campaign focused on changing children’s attitudes toward math.

 
The company has agreements to operate co-branded websites selling textbooks and other merchandise to a handful of colleges including University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Purdue University, where it is installing package pickup centers.
Write to Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com
Leonie Haimson

 

 

Executive Director

 

Class Size Matters

 

124 Waverly Pl.

 

New York, NY 10011

 

phone: 212-529-3539

 

leonie@classsizematters.org

 

leoniehaimson@gmail.com
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