Search results for: "Leonie"

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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In 2012, Leonie Haimson was first to report the ludicrous “Pineapple and the Hare” story that embarrassed Pearson and New York State. She learned about it on her blog, the NYC Parents Blog, where teachers, principals, and students described the problems they encountered.

 

Once again, Leonie (a member of the board of the Network for Public Education) is first to bring the first-hand reports about the flaws in the ELA exams.

 

 

Here are some of them:
“These included overly long, dense and grade-inappropriate reading passages with numerous typos, abstruse vocabulary and confusing questions; many of which teachers themselves said they couldn’t discern the right answers. On the third grade exam, for example, an excerpt from a book called “Eating the plate” was actually fifth grade level and sixth to eighth grade interest level. There were many reading passages with Lexile levels two or three grades above the grades of students being asked to comprehend and respond to these texts.

 

“In 6th grade there was a poem from the 17th century that the teachers in our building read in COLLEGE. 11th grade level.”

 

On the eighth grade exam, one reading passage featured obscure words like “crag” and “fastnesses”. As one teacher wrote, “What are fastnesses?…I asked eight of my fellow colleagues to define this word. 1 of 8 knew the answer. Unless you are a geology major, how is this word a part of our everyday language, let alone the reading capacity of an average 8th grader? And our ESL students?”

 

I even asked my husband, a professor in the Geosciences department; he didn’t know what “fastnesses” meant either.

 

 

There were several passages that included commercial product placements as in years past, this time featuring the helmet manufacturer Riddell, Skittles candy, Stonyfield yogurt, and Doritos. (Riddell is being sued by a thousand NFL players for deceptive claims that their helmets protected against concussions.)…
Two new problems emerged. One was the omission from many of the test booklets of blank pages that were supposed to be used by students to plan their essays, or the titles of the pages were left out. Instructions to deal with these problems came from the state only after many children were in the midst of writing their essays or after they had completed the exams. In these cases, teachers pointed out, this represented an unfair disadvantage to their students, who were forced to either use the limited space at the front of the booklet to plan their essays or didn’t plan them at all.

 

But perhaps the most heartbreaking was an unforeseen but brutal consequence of the untimed nature of these exams, the major innovation made by Commissioner Elia that was supposed to reduce the stress levels of kids. Instead, many students labored for many hours, taking three to five hours per day to complete them, and sometimes more.

 

Here’s one comment from Facebook:

 

“This afternoon I saw one of my former students still working on her ELA test at 2:45 PM. Her face was pained and she looked exhausted. She had worked on her test until dismissal time for the first two days of testing as well. 18 hours. She’s 9.”

 

This is a travesty; no child should be subjected to such a punishing regime. It also appears to violate the NY law passed in 2014 that limits state testing time to one percent of total instructional time.

 

 

In any case, it appears that the parents who chose to opt their children out of the exams were wise to have done so. All in all, the number of opt outs seem to have held steady from last year’s 240,000, or even perhaps increased, with even higher rates of test refusals in Rockland County, NYC, and Long Island, which surpassed its record rates last year, with more than 97,000 students opting out, or about 50% of eligible kids compared to about 47% last year.

As readers of this blog know, Leonie Haimson is an intrepid activist. Apparently, she neither slumbers nor sleeps (if there is in fact a difference between slumbering and sleeping) when the rights of parents or children are abused.
In this multi-part series, Leonie tells the story of her quest to gain access to New York State Education Department emails and the various entities involved in the authorization of inBloom. That initiative involved public officials, the Gates Foundation, and many others. Its goal was to release personally identifiable information about students without their parent’s consent. The data would be stored in a “cloud” created by Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation (run by Joel Klein), with no guarantees that the data could not be hacked.

 

In the first entry, Leonie tells how she and allies filed Freedom of Information Law requests (FOIL), in an effort to obtain the emails among the parties that collaborated to bring inBloom to New York. The requests were delayed again and again. One man stood in the way: State Commissioner of Education John King, now the Acting Secretary of Education. On the day after King’s resignation, a large batch of the FOILed emails were released.

 

In the second entry, Leonie reviews the emails from 2011, when inBloom was in the formative stage.

 

She begins:

 

When my FOIL was finally responded to I received hundreds and hundreds of pages with printed out emails to and from NYSED and the Gates Foundation mostly; offering all-expense trips for various meetings about teacher evaluation, data collection, and other issues, as well as a pile of contracts and agreements. It took weeks just to sort them and start to look through them. Sadly there were no emails from Merryl Tisch’s account, as I had asked for; and no emails from most of the state officials whose communications we had FOILed. But we did find out some juicy details….

 

Her third entry reviews the highlights of 2012. You might think you were in an episode of Downton Abbey, as you observe the rich and powerful planning how to gather and use the data of New York’s children, without their parents’ permission.

 

She writes:

 

NYSED’s emails to the Gates Foundation about inBloom and Wireless Generation from 2012 are below; highlights include a dinner party at Merryl Tisch’s home, to which Commissioner King invites an array of corporate reform leaders — to the dismay of Joe Scantlebury of the Gates Foundation. Also amusing is their account when I crashed a Gates-sponsored ” SLC Learning Camp” designed to lure software developers into designing products to take advantage of the wealth of personal student data to be gathered and shared by inBloom.

 

Her fourth entry details the controversy roiling inBloom and its final death throes.

 

She introduces this last entry:

 

This post, the final one with excerpts from the emails I FOILed from NYSED, documents the rise and fall of inBloom; through their communications to officials at the Gates Foundation and assorted consultants and allied organizations. inBloom was formally launched as a separate corporation in Feb. 2013 and died in April 2014, after little more than one year of existence. These fourteen months were marked by myriad public relations and political disasters, as the Gates Foundation’s plans for data collection and disclosure experienced national exposure for the first time and fierce parent opposition in the eight inBloom states and districts outside NY.

 

Once parents in the rest of the country learned through blogs and news articles of the Foundation’s plans to upload onto a data cloud and facilitate the sharing of their children’s most sensitive personal information with for-profit vendors, their protests grew ever more intense, and inBloom’s proponents were powerless to convince them that the benefits outweighed the risks. Though the Gates Foundation had hired a phalanx of communications and PR advisers, they were never able to come up with a convincing rationale for inBloom’s existence, or one that would justify this “data store”, as they called it, that cost them more than $100 million dollars to create.

 

The Foundation started the 2013 with a plan to promote inBloom through the media and at the large SXSWedu conference, and to expand the number of inBloom “partners” beyond the original nine states and districts that they said were already committed; instead they watched as every one of these nine states and districts withdrew or claimed they had never planned to share data with inBloom in the first place.

 

The ending is not surprising: The project failed, but everyone involved got promoted.

Leonie Haimson, parent activist who fights for smaller class size and student privacy, has strong reservations about Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s decision to devote a considerable share of their vast fortune to “personalized learning.” She wonders whether he is making a mistake that has even larger consequences than the $100 million he squandered in Newark, led along by Mayor (now Senator) Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie.

 

Haimson points out that some leading corporations in the technology industry have been data mining students and invading their privacy. That’s bad enough. But a recent OECD study concluded that the students who use computers the most in the classroom have the lowest scores, even when demography is taken into account. Zuckerberg has already funded a chain of for-profit private schools that rely heavily on computer instruction. But the history of such schools is unimpressive.

 

This is not a research-based approach to improving education, she writes. Some studies show that computer-based instruction actually widens achievement gaps.

 

The truth is there are NO good studies that show that online or blended instruction helps kids learn, and the whole notion of “personalized” learning is a misnomer, as what it usually signifies is depersonalized machine-based learning. All software can do is ask a series of multiple choice questions and then wait for the right or the wrong answer. It cannot read an essay or give feedback on how to improve an argument, or help extricate a child from a knotty math problem. It cannot encourage students to confront all the various angles in a controversy, as happens through debate and discussion with teachers and classmates. In fact, learning through computers reduces contextualization and conceptualization to stale pre-determined ideas, the opposite of the creative and critical thinking that we are supposed to be aiming for in the 21st century.

 

One thing is sure: Zuckerberg’s initiative will be good for the industry. Not so clear that it will be good for students.

 

 

 

 

 

Leonie Haimson is a fearless advocate for students, parents, and public schools. She runs a small but mighty organization called Class Size Matters (I am one of its six board members), she led the fight for student privacy that killed inBloom (the Gates’ data mining agency), and she is a board member of the Network for Public Education. None of these are paid positions. Passion beats profits.

 

In this post on the New York City parent blog, she takes a close look at a new report that lauds the Bloomberg policy of closing public schools as a “reform” strategy. The report was prepared by the Research Alliance at New York University, which was launched with the full cooperation of the by the New York City Department of Education during the Bloomberg years (Joel Klein was a member of its board when it started).

 

Haimson takes strong exception to the report’s central finding–that closing schools is good for students–and she cites a study conducted by the New School for Social Research that reached a different conclusion. (All links are in the post.)

 

Furthermore, she follows the money–who paid for the study: Gates and Ford, then Carnegie. Gates, of course, put many millions into the small schools strategy, and Carnegie employs the leader of the small schools strategy.

 

Haimson writes:

 

“The Research Alliance was founded with $3 million in Gates Foundation funds and is maintained with Carnegie Corporation funding, which help pay for this report. These two foundations promoted and helped subsidize the closing of large schools and their replacement with small schools; although the Gates Foundation has now renounced the efficacy of this policy. Michele Cahill, for many years the Vice President of the Carnegie Corporation, led this effort when she worked at DOE.

 

“The Research Alliance has also been staffed with an abundance of former DOE employees from the Bloomberg era. In the acknowledgements, the author of this new study, Jim Kemple, effusively thanks one such individual, Saskia Levy Thompson:

 

[He wrote:] ‘The author is especially grateful for the innumerable discussions with Saskia Levy Thompson about the broader context of high school reform in New York City over the past decade. Saskia’s extraordinary insights were drawn from her more than 15 years of work with the City’s schools as a practitioner at the Urban Assembly, a Research Fellow at MDRC, a Deputy Chancellor at the Department of Education and Deputy Director for the Research Alliance.’

 

Levy Thompson was Executive Director of the Urban Assembly, which supplied many of the small schools that replaced the large schools, leading to better outcomes according to this report — though one of these schools, the Urban Assembly for Civic Engagement, is now on the Renewal list.

 

After she left Urban Assembly, Levy Thompson joined MDRC as a “Research Fellow,” despite the fact that her LinkedIn profile indicates no relevant academic background or research skills. At MRDC, she “helped lead a study on the effectiveness of NYC’s small high schools,” confirming the efficacy of some of the very schools that she helped start. Here is the first of the controversial MRDC studies she co-authored in 2010, funded by the Gates Foundation, that unsurprisingly found improved outcomes at the small schools. Here is my critique of the follow-up MRDC report.

 

“In 2010, Levy Thompson left MRDC to head the DOE Portfolio Planning office, tasked with creating more small schools and finding space for them within existing buildings, which required that the large schools contract or better yet, close.

 

“And where is she now? Starting Oct. 5, Saskia Levy Thompson now runs the Carnegie Corporation’s Program for “New Designs for Schools and Systems,” under LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, another former DOE Deputy Chancellor from the Bloomberg era Here is the press release from Carnegie’s President, Vartan Gregorian:

 

“‘We are delighted that Saskia, who has played an important role in reforming America’s largest school system, is now joining the outstanding leader of Carnegie Corporation’s Education Program, LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, in overseeing our many investments in U.S. urban education.'”

 

Concludes Haimson:

 

“How cozy! In this way, a revolving door ensures that the very same DOE officials who helped close these schools continue to control the narrative, enabling them to fund — and even staff — the organizations that produce the reports that retroactively justify and help them perpetuate their policies.”

 

 

Leonie Haimson is chief executive of Class Size Matters and Privacy Matters. She is one of the nation’s foremost advocates for reducing class sizes, especially for the neediest children.

In this article, she reviews the recent scandal in New York City about “credit recovery,” a quick and easy way to hand out high school diplomas. It is “graduate rate inflation,” a practice launched under Mayor Bloomberg but sustained by the de Blasio administration.

The de Blasio administration is trying to help struggling schools instead of closing them, as the Bloomberg administration did. Here are Haimson’s proposals:

According to the Independent Budget Office, all the Renewal schools have much larger numbers of English language learners, immigrant students, students with disabilities, and students in temporary housing, as well as more black and Hispanic students than the system as a whole.

What the students in these schools desperately need is intensive tutoring and small classes to make significant improvements, not a new cadre of inexperienced teachers or administrators breathing down their necks. And yet more than 60 percent of the Renewal schools still have many classes with 30 students or more, according to DOE data.

When Rudy Crew was chancellor, he drew the lowest-performing schools in the city into a new program called the Chancellor’s District, and capped class size in all of their classes at no more than twenty students. This worked effectively to raise achievement. Yet not a single elementary or K–8 school on the Renewal list had capped class sizes at 20 students in grades K-3 last year, as most experts would recommend. These were also the goals that the state demanded the DOE achieve citywide in its class size reduction plan in these grades, as part of the settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit in 2007.

Only eight middle or 6-12 schools out of 43 Renewal schools last year had capped class sizes at 23 students in grades 6-8, and only one renewal high school out of 31 had capped class sizes at 25 – the goals for those grades in the city’s original class size reduction plan. More than half of the high schools had at least some classes with 35 to 44 students – which mean they violated union contract levels.

The real scandal is that hundreds of thousands of New York City high school students, including those at schools that have allegedly engaged in credit manipulation, like Richmond Hill, Flushing, and Automotive, continue to struggle in large classes of 34 or more.

Rudy Crew had a vision of what high-poverty students need to succeed; but right now, there is no comparable vision on the part of this administration. If we are talking about accountability for schools and teachers, we must also address the accountability of those in charge of running our schools, and here the mayor and the chancellor have unaccountably failed.

Leonie Haimson, writing on the NYC Parents Blog, wonders whether the New York state tests contain questions as embarrassing as the infamous “Pineapple and the Hare” story, which caused a great national controversy in 2012. Haimson broke the story, and it was covered by almost every national media outlet.

Stay tuned. When Pearson asks a third-grade question about a reading passage that even the author can’t answer, there is a problem. Ya think?

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