Archives for category: Cuomo, Andrew

Adam Haber is running for the New York State Senate on Long Island. He lives in a district with great public schools and supports them. If you live in his district, get out and help him get elected.

The State Senate is sharply divided and currently controlled by Republicans, who pass pro-charter, pro-voucher, anti-teacher legislation with frequency. The balance of power is tipped to the Republicans by a small number of “independent Democrats” who regularly caucus with the Republicans. One of those “independent Democrats” ironically is an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn who would love to get vouchers or tax credits for religious schools. Governor Cuomo has refused to help his own party gain new members of the State Senate because he is able to use the divided control of the Legislature to rein in the liberal Democrats who control the State Assembly and don’t support the governor’s pro-charter agenda. Cuomo also supports tax credits for religious schools, which wins the loyalty of certain voting blocs (Orthodox Jews and Catholics).

So it is very important for the Senate Republicans to beat back anyone who might threaten their tenuous control, especially a supporter of the public schools attended by 90% of the children in the state.

The Senate Republican Campaign Committee is flush with cash from Wall Street and the usual billionaires who want low taxes and charter schools.

His opponents do not want to take a chance on the possibility that a strong supporter of public schools might disrupt their anti-public school cabal. So what do they do to strike out at Adam Haber? On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews, they release anti-Semitic ads against him.

Is this the Trump Effect, a response to his attack on “political correctness?” PC in Trump’s telling, means not making remarks about other people’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, body size, looks, etc. In this Brave New World, bigots are free to express their bigotry.

I learned about this ugly incident from a public school parent in Port Washington on Long Island.

She wrote:

“Adam Haber is a father and school board member in Roslyn, New York. He is running as the Democratic nominee for a seat in the New York State Senate for District #7. During the Yom Kippur holiday period, he was the target of an anti-semitic advertisement on Facebook and Instagram.

“Mr. Haber held a press conference to denounce this anti-semitism

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzinY-kZY7pJdlRKRl9QWFM0RHZQN1pUUl9XTXZ5R3hLdFpv/view

http://www.theislandnow.com/news/haber-slams-social-media-advertisement-as-anti-semitic/article_af1cae78-9157-11e6-b4f8-53fbe40937a6.html

http://www.fios1news.com/longisland/candidate-claims-campaign-ad-anti-semitic%20#.WABG3pMrIST

“The ADL responded to the incident against Mr. Haber and also to others against NYS Attorney General Schneiderman. https://longislandwins.com/uncategorized/adl-decries-anti-semitic-turn-line-ny-politics/

“Sadly, it took Mr. Haber’s opponent three days to even respond on Facebook to residents who demanded that she denounce the ad. When she finally commented, she did nothing to address the hurt and anger felt by Mr. Haber and other residents. (Comments criticizing her conduct were deleted.) She claims she did not know about the ad yet still has done nothing publicly to insist the ad be removed or to hunt down the perpetrators. Her campaign is being funded by the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee which would not deny it sponsored the ad. She has not renounced them or returned their funds. Her most recent campaign filing shows that Ms. Phillips received $400,000 from the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee. Hence, Ms. Phillips actions speak volumes.

“I believe Mr. Haber is being targeted because he is a pro-public education candidate and the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee knows he can’t be bought out by charter school backers. The Real Estate Board of New York is also funding his opponent as well. This was reported by Nick Reisman today, “Filings made public late last week show REBNY is spending in two Long Island districts: the 5th Senate district in Nassau County on behalf of incumbent Carl Marcellino and the 7th Senate district, where Republican Elaine Phillips is defending an open seat being vacated by Jack Martins.”

“A petition has been started calling on the leadership of the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee to apologize. It was written by a young man (educated in our local public schools) who was deeply and rightfully disturbed about this incident.
https://www.change.org/p/john-flanagan-ny-senate-republican-campaign-committee-apologize-for-anti-semitic-attack-ad?recruiter=57724151&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=des-lg-share_for_starters-reason_msg

“Mr. Haber is the product of public education, he serves on a public school board, he comes from a family of public school educators, he is a friend of the opt-out movement. He is committed to protecting student data privacy and providing quality public education for all children. Please help by encouraging people to sign the petition and if they live in State Senate district #7 to vote for Adam Haber. Here is a link to his campaign website http://www.haber4newyork.com/

“Here is a link to a Facebook page started on behalf of Mr. Haber by Long Island Public Education Advocates https://www.facebook.com/Public-Ed-Advocates-for-Haber-330893030593351/?fref=ts You will see some familiar faces. We are behind Mr. Haber and determined to overcome the dark money and damaging forces which are backing his opponent and seek to destroy public education.”

New York State just released a draft of its revision of the Common Core standards.

There are different interpretations of how much has changed. Some say more than half of the standards were tweaked. Defenders of the standards insist they were barely changed at all.

We will have to wait until teachers have seen the revisions and offered their comments.

In New York, the Common Core standards have also became part of a larger discussion about other policy reforms, such as the use of state standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. Replacing the standards is the first step in redefining what it means to get an education in New York state, which will include revising assessments, teacher evaluations and how the state rates schools.

The standards will now go out for public comment, which will be open until Nov. 4. The Board of Regents are expected to consider the standards in early 2017 and roll out new assessments based on the standards by the 2018-19 school year.

The standards were revised in response to the success of the Opt Out movement; 20% of children eligible to take the tests–about 200,000–did not take them in 2015. The number rose slightly this past year. Governor Cuomo formed a commission that recommended a thorough review of the standards and the tests.

Here are the draft standards:

http://www.nysed.gov/draft-standards-english-language-arts

and here:

http://www.nysed.gov/draft-standards-mathematics

The crucial question will be whether the standards are age-appropriate, especially in the early grades, where complaints have been most intense. Early reviews from teachers suggest that very little if anything has changed in the K-2 grades, where the standards are the worst.

This is a striking story about a group called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER. It was created in 2005 by hedge fund managers Whitney Tilson and John Petry. They held their first meeting in a plush apartment in New York City owned by another hedge fund manager, Ravenel Boykin Curry IV. Their speaker that evening was a brilliant young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama. In the past 11 years, they have funneled millions of dollars into state and local elections to elect candidates who support charter schools. They endorse Republicans and Democrats alike, so long as they support charter schools.

In New York State, they have supported Republican control of the State Senate and Governor Cuomo, as well as any Democrat who is charter friendly. Now comes news that DFER has decided to spend serious money to flip control of the State Senate to Democrats this fall. This is a strategic effort to hedge their bets, in case the Democrats sweep the state in 2016. DFER can’t risk losing control of the Senate. They know the Republicans will support school choice without their money.

Chris Bragg of the Albany Times-Union has the story.

http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Breaking-from-allies-charter-group-to-back-9203320.php

Supporters of charter schools have had no stauncher ally in Albany than state Senate Republicans.
So why is a prominent national charter group saying it will spend money this year to try to flip the chamber to Democrats — many of whom were elected with the strong support of teachers unions, charters’ frequent nemeses?

“We understand the dynamic and the shift in the state Senate,” Nicole Brisbane, the New York director of Democrats for Education Reform, said in an interview last week. “We’re playing a long game.”

As the demographics of New York shift more and more toward Democrats — and Republicans continue to hang on to their Senate majority by a thread — there’s a growing sense that charter supporters need to “cultivate change in the hearts and minds” of the Democratic conference, Brisbane said.

DFER recently created an independent expenditure committee, called Moving New York Families Forward, that can raise and spend unlimited amounts. The charter backers will support pro-charter Senate Democrats in some general election races against Republicans this year, Brisbane said.

Informed of DFER’s strategy, other charter supporters reacted with skepticism and surprise.

“The expectation that State Senate Democrats will have goodwill towards education reform priorities is misplaced,” said one person heavily involved in education reform politics and policy.

“The only thing that will get accomplished is angering DFER’s true allies, Senate Republicans.”
As indicated by the group’s title, Democrats for Education Reform backs Democratic candidates across the country.

But in New York, that’s largely meant backing charter-supporting Democrats in primaries, not going after Republicans in general elections. And it doesn’t appear that any charter group has ever openly stated an intention to flip the Senate to Democratic control.

In 2010, DFER and its deep-pocketed donors — a number of whom have made hedge-fund fortunes — were heavily involved in backing challengers in New York City to three Democratic senators aligned with the teachers unions. All the charter-backing candidates lost soundly. After the election, the United Federation of Teachers issued a report calling the group “a letterhead stacked with super-rich backers.”

Now the union and DFER are putatively on the same side of the Senate
battle.

Brisbane said it was too early in the fundraising process to say how much would be spent. And she declined to say which districts the group will target in the general election, which means it’s not clear how much vulnerable Republicans would be impacted. (DFER is also set to back two New York City Assembly Democrats who are supportive of charters.)

Brisbane acknowledged that many members of the Senate Democratic conference don’t currently support her group’s stands — such as expanding the numbers of charter schools — but wants to make sure “more and more of them are championing our issues.” That list also includes increasing accountability through testing, another point of contention with the teachers union, and “Raise the Age” legislation increasing the age of criminal responsibility.
The Republican majority currently depends on the support of a Brooklyn Democrat, Simcha Felder, who conferences with them. And in a presidential election year, Democrats are likely to pick up seats in November, although they will still need to woo the five-member Independent Democratic Conference to join them to have a majority.

DFER’s new strategy “gives them protection for their agenda if the Senate goes Democratic without their help,” said Diane Ravitch, a prominent education historian and frequent critic of the charter movement. “If they get their favored candidates elected, then it doesn’t matter who controls the State Senate.”

Leadership of DFER has also shifted: Shavar Jeffries, who in 2014 lost a high-profile race for mayor of Newark, N.J., with the strong backing of charter supporters, became the group’s national president a year ago.

In recent election cycles, the New York State United Teachers union has spent millions to attain Democratic control of the Senate. NYSUT has endorsed mostly Democrats in swing districts this year. But with the fate of the Senate uncertain, NYSUT is also hedging its bets and supporting a Republican incumbent for a competitive Hudson Valley seat, while giving maximum $109,000 contributions to each side of the Senate battle.

Another pro-charter group, New Yorkers For a Balanced Albany, spent millions to help Senate Republicans in 2014 and again spent heavily to help Republican Senate candidate Chris McGrath in a May special election on Long Island; that race was narrowly won by Democrat Todd Kaminsky.

StudentsFirstNY, another New York City-based pro-charter group, runs that campaign group.
Brisbane, the New York director of DFER, insisted that some deep-pocketed donors supporting StudentsFirstNY — and Republican control of the Senate — would also give to her group backing Democratic control.
According to campaign finance records, there has been some overlap in the past between the groups’ donors.
For instance, DFER’s federal political action committee took a donation in 2015 from hedge fund magnate Daniel Loeb, who also gave $100,000 in June to the StudentsFirstNY campaign group. The executive director for StudentsFirst also gave last year to DFER.

A spokesman for StudentsFirst declined comment on DFER’s support of a Democratic Senate takeover.
Despite the fact that many Senate Republicans do not have many charter schools in their districts — the schools are concentrated in New York City — the conference has been a staunch supporter of their major financial backers. In the final hours of this year’s legislative session, for instance, the Republican-controlled Senate demanded a number of concessions for charter schools in exchange for granting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools.

An open question in this year’s Senate races is the degree to which Gov. Andrew Cuomo — a charter supporter who has received major support from DFER donors — will act to help his fellow Democrats win the Senate. Critics of Cuomo say he has given them lukewarm support in past election cycles in order to maintain his close working relationship with the Senate GOP.

Brisbane said her group’s support of Democrats should not be read as an indication of Cuomo’s own intentions.
“We are supporters of the governor and of Democrats who support this issue,” she said, “but have not coordinated with him on this push.”

Many parents and educators are outraged by the over-testing and misuse of testing that has been embedded in federal policy since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002. No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year in grades 3-8, as we have since the passage of NCLB.

Young children sit for exams that last up to 15 hours over two weeks. The fate of their teachers rests on their performance. Parents remember taking tests in school that lasted no more than one class period for each subject. Their tests were made by their teachers, not by a multinational corporation. Parents can’t understand how testing became an endurance trial and the goal of education.

Politicians claim that the tests are necessary to inform parents and teachers and the public how children in one state are doing as compared to their peers in other states. But this information is already reported by the federal test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Parents have figured out that the tests don’t serve any purpose other than to rank their child. No one is allowed to see the test questions after the test. No child receives a diagnosis of what they know and don’t know. They receive only a score. In every state, the majority of children have been ranked as “failures” because the testmakers adopted a passing mark that was guaranteed to fail close to 70% of children. Parents have learned that the passing mark is not objective; it is arbitrary. It can be set to pass everyone, pass no one, or pass some percentage of children.

In the past 14 years, parents have seen the destruction of neighborhood schools, based on their test scores. They have seen beloved teachers fired unjustly, because of their students’ test scores. They have seen the loss of time for the arts, physical education, and anything else that is not tested. They have seen a change in their local public schools that they don’t like, as well as a loss of control to federal mandates and state authorities.

In the past, testing companies warned that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. Now, these corporations willingly sell their tests without warning about misuse. A test of fourth grade reading tests fourth grade reading. It should not be used to rank students, to humiliate students, to fire teachers and principals, or to close schools. But it is.

Communities have been devastated by the closing of their neighborhood schools.

Communities have seen their schools labeled “failing,” based on test scores, and taken over by the state or national corporate charter chains.

Based on test scores, punishments abound: for students, teachers, principals, schools, and communities.

This is madness!

What can we as citizens do to stop the destruction of our children, their schools, and our dedicated educators.

Opt out of the tests.

Use the power of the powerless: Say NO. Do not participate. Withdraw your consent from actions that harm your child. Withdrawal of consent in an unjust system. That’s the force that brought down Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel and Lech Walensa said no. They were not alone. Hundreds of thousands stood with them, and the regimes with their weapons and tanks and heavy armor folded. Because the people said no.

Opting out of the tests is the only tool available to parents, other than defeating the elected officials of your state (which is also a good idea, but will take a very long time to bear fruit). One person can’t defeat the governor and the local representatives. But one person can refuse to allow their child to take the toxic tests.

The only tool and the most powerful tool that parents have to stop this madness is to refuse to allow their children to take the tests.

Consider New York. A year ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo was in full attack mode against teachers and public schools, while showering praise on privately managed charters. He vowed to “break the monopoly” known as public education. The New York State Board of Regents was controlled by members who were in complete sympathy with Cuomo’s agenda of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and evaluating teachers by test scores.

But in 2015, about a quarter million children refused the state tests. Albany went into panic mode. Governor Cuomo convened a commission to re-evaluate the Common Core, standards, and testing. Almost overnight, his negative declarations about education changed in tone, and he went silent. The legislature appointed new members, who did not share the test-and-punish mentality. The chair of the New York State Board of Regents decided not to seek re-appointment after a 20-year career on that board. The Regents elected Dr. Betty Rosa, a veteran educator who was actively supported by the leaders of the opt out movement.

Again in 2016, the opt out movement showed its power. While official figures have not yet been released, the numbers evidently match those of 2015. More than half the students in Long Island opted out. Federal and state officials have issued warnings about sanctions, but it is impossible to sanction huge numbers of schools in middle-class and affluent communities. The same officials have no problem closing schools in poor urban districts, treating citizens there as chess pawns, but they dare not offend an organized bloc in politically powerful communities.

The opt out movement has been ridiculed by critics, treated by the media as a front for the teachers’ union, belittled by the former Secretary of Education as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed that their child was not so bright after all, stereotyped as privileged white parents with low-performing children, etc. There are indeed black and Hispanic parents who are part of the opt out movement. Their children and their schools suffer the greatest penalties in the current testing madness. In New York City, where opt out numbers were tiny, parents were warned that their children would not be able to enter the middle school or the high school of their choice if they opted out.

Thus far, the opt out movement has not been discouraged or slowed by these tactics of ridicule and intimidation. The conditions have not changed, so the opt out movement will continue.

The reality is that the opt out movement is indeed a powerful weapon. It is the one weapon that makes governors, legislators, and even members of Congress afraid of public opinion and public action. They are afraid because they don’t know how to stop parents from opting out. They can’t control opt out parents, and they know it. They offer compromises, promises for the future, but all of this is sham. They have not let go of the testing hammer. And they will not until opt out becomes the norm, not the exception.

In some communities in New York, opting out is already the norm. If politicians and bureaucrats continue on their reckless course of valuing test scores more than children, the opt out movement will not be deterred.

Save your child. Save your schools. Stop the corporate takeover of public education. You have the power. Say no. Opt out.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 1, 2016

 
More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) http://www.nysape.org

 

 

School Districts Will Lose State Aid if Higher Stakes Tests are Not in Place –
Andrew Cuomo Refuses to Fix His Own Mistake

 

Despite the backlash and outcry of hundreds of thousands of parents across the state against the fatally flawed test and punish law forced into last year’s budget by the Governor, Cuomo and the Senate Majority refused to delink the financial consequences for this harsher plan in today’s budget bills. After the current State Education Department waiver expires, tests this upcoming Fall will increase to 50% of teacher and principal’s evaluations.

 

Albany had an opportunity through Assembly legislation (A09461) to remove the financial consequences to schools not going to a harsher evaluation plan that was already deemed problematic by the Governor’s own Common Core taskforce. Parents know this entire bad law must go including the financial penalties and Andrew Cuomo refuses to permanently fix the mistake he created.

 

While the Board of Regents put a “temporary” emergency moratorium to delink just the ‘state’ tests scores from teacher and principal evaluations, it remains that teachers and principals will be STILL be evaluated based on student test scores which will increase to 50% this Fall. This essentially is a “no moratorium” moratorium.

 

Students will continue to be caught in the middle of a politically motivated test and punish culture built on testing reforms already rejected by research as “junk science” that is squeezing out authentic learning time from their children’s classrooms. Parents will not be complacent and the lies of funding threats and that the Common Core state tests have been “revamped” will not be tolerated. The testing law already on the books capping testing and test prep at more than 1% of instruction time is currently being violated in NYS and parents are not fooled. Parents will continue to refuse the Common Core state tests and any tests that are inappropriate and used for donor-driven purposes of punishing.

 

Cuomo and the Senate Majority should waste no more time and join willing partners to unravel this law and restore authority for education policy with the Board of Regents before the end of the school year. The days of punishing children and schools with politics will come to an end with or without them.

 

Jeanette Deutermann, Long Island public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “until this test and punish culture ends, parents will continue to distrust the motives of our legislature. What exactly will it take for Albany to realize this is not what we want for our children? Elections are only months away. Legislators have a decision to make; stand with donor-driven Albany politics, or stand with voters. Sign on to legislation, such as the Kaminsky bills, that will offer permanent relief to our children, or play the partisan political game that gets us nowhere.”

 

Jamaal Bowman, Bronx educator and father of three said, “Continuing to drive education on these failed reforms is “educational malpractice”. Educational gaps by race are widening in this test and punish culture as it continues to strip teachers of the ability to meet the holistic needs of their students.”

 

“As an elected school board member, Governor Cuomo’s teacher evaluation law takes away our local control to evaluate our educators and replaces it with a costly numbers game that does not truly help our district improve instruction,” stated Chris Cerrone, public school parent, educator and school board member from Erie County.

 

Lisa Rudley, Hudson Valley public school parent and founding member of NYSAPE said, “as experience and common sense demonstrates, educational policies on critical issues such as teacher and principal evaluations and receivership should be decided by educational professionals or at least through separate bills, debated and discussed during public hearings, and not crammed into budget bills without expert input.”

 

“As an educator on Long Island, and as a parent of a public school child, the continued ignorance to the fact that test scores are not correlated with teacher quality is simply disgraceful! When will the Governor wake up and realize this hurts our children and our education system in New York,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, Executive Director of BATs.

 

NYSAPE, a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state, is calling on parents to continue to opt out by refusing high-stakes, inappropriate testing for the 2015-16 school year. Go to http://www.nysape.org for more details.

###

The Gotham Gazette reports that five former and present parents of students in the Success Academy charter schools called on Governor Cuomo to cut funding and increase accountability of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain.

 

The story reads, in part:

 

In an open letter to the governor, four parents of former Success Academy students, and one whose child is still enrolled in the network, criticize Success Academy’s disciplinary policies and say its practices are “discriminatory against students with special needs.”

 

The letter is being hand-delivered Friday morning to the governor’s office in Albany, it was shared with Gotham Gazette in advance. It is the latest in an ongoing, intense public debate over the practices of the controversial charter network, which has seen a series of troubling incidents come to light amid longtime concerns over its strict approach to discipline, suspension rates, and focus on test preparations.

 

Success Academy was founded by former City Council Member Eva Moskowitz in 2006. It is the largest charter school network in the city, with approximately 11,000 students in 34 schools across the city, in each borough except Staten Island. It also has seven new schools opening in August. Success students, or scholars as they are known in the network’s parlance, perform remarkably well on standardized tests, leading to many accolades and repeated questions about Moskowitz’s “secret sauce.”

 

But, the network has also faced much criticism for its harsh discipline policies and heavy emphasis on testing. Last year, the New York Times reported that a Success Principal had created a ‘Got to Go’ list to push out underperforming students. Then, last month, the Times released a video that showed a Success teacher scolding and publicly humiliating a first-grade student in front of the rest of her class. The network is also the focus of at least two federal lawsuits that were filed recently.

 

In face of this criticism, Moskowitz has time and again cited the network’s high performance on standardized tests compared to traditional district schools. While apologizing she has said reported incidents are isolated and not indicative of network-wide problems. She has worn the lawsuits as a badge of honor and said she is tired of apologizing.

 

The parents who wrote the letter disagree about whether there are systemic problems at Success Academy. “Despite what CEO Eva Moskowitz says, the targeting and pushing out of students, specifically our own, is not an anomaly within this organization,” their letter states.

 

The parents cite instances where their children were routinely suspended, singled out, and shamed or excluded from field trips. They say Success often called them midday to pick up their children without reporting these events as suspensions. And, they claim Success Academy retaliated by calling the Administration for Children’s Services on them when they spoke out against these practices.

 

“Because of this ongoing mistreatment of our children, several of us have lost our jobs or had to drop out of school,” they write in the letter. The missive and its demands to Gov. Cuomo come amid budget negotiations when funding for charter schools is being debated. Recent state budgets have been good to the charter school sector, which Cuomo has been allied with for years. Cuomo has appeared to distance himself a bit from charters, but is still seen as an ally.

 

 

Poor Andrew Cuomo: He will have to choose between the parents and the hedge-fund managers who underwrite political campaigns. Will it be a tough choice?

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of Néw York, reports that Givernor Cuomo vetoed an increase for CUNY. This affects the education of the city’s neediest students.

Dear Members,

We got the news at midnight last night that Governor Cuomo vetoed the Maintenance of Effort bill. We had been receiving signals for more than a month that there would be a veto, but we continued to press till the final night.

Governor Cuomo’s veto represents a decision not to invest in sustaining top-quality college education for the working people, the poor and the people of color in New York. His position is now absolutely clear.

Cuomo had the chance with this bill to take an action that had huge bipartisan support and that would have resonated not only in New York City but across the state. He deliberately refused that chance, despite his repeated claims of being a leader in progressive policy. He cannot be a progressive while systematically withholding funds from CUNY.

No doubt Cuomo ‘s defense–which will soon appear in the veto message–will be that the bill would take spending over the 2% cap he has imposed on any increases. But what is the justification for the 2% cap? Nothing. With State revenues up by 5.6% this year, there is no fiscal justification for imposing such a cap. It is simply austerity politics: the decision to transfer wealth from the many to the few and call it “necessity.” And like everything else in this country, austerity policy cannot be separated from the issue of race.

Austerity policy means that we in the faculty and staff have been subsidizing New York State as our salaries have not kept up with inflation, and that students have been forced to facilitate the State’s disinvestment in their education as they pay an ever-greater share of the costs. It means that CUNY and SUNY are prevented from making enhancements desperately needed after decades of fiscal starvation, and that endless tuition increases are demanded just to keep the universities afloat.

You, as PSC members, did an exceptional job of supporting this bill. The bill would not have been passed and sent to the Governor without our collective work. You mobilized to get thousands of messages from members, first to the Legislature and then to the Governor. You collected 40,000 postcards on the MOE from students. You traveled to Albany and organized here in the city.

And the bill’s sponsors, Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Senator Kenneth La Valle, deserve our thanks. They went beyond sponsorship to tenacious support.

The union’s work is not wasted. We have made it clear to Albany that the issue of CUNY funding has deep support and that it will not go away. We will not be stopped by one veto. The PSC already has in place our response to the veto and the next steps in our campaign. The fight will continue–and escalate.

With enough depth among our own membership and breadth among our allies, it is a fight we can win.

Barbara Bowen
President, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY
212-354-1252

This seems like a strange question, but it is real. The political buzz around New York is the question of whether the Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo will support a Democrat running for election to take the place of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, who was convicted of various financial crimes.

 

Skelos represented a majority-Democratic district in Long Island, and his seat is up for grabs. Will Cuomo support a Democrat? The Governor has had more power by working with a Republican-dominated State Senate, which agrees with him about keeping taxes low for the rich and for corporations.

 

When the Working Families Party appeared about to endorse insurgent Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo changed the party’s mind by pledging to help elect Democrats to the State Senate, where progressive legislation goes to die. He won the WFP nomination, but he didn’t work to elect Democrats to the State Senate.

 

Once again, the Governor will have a chance to show whether he prefers a Democratic-controlled State Senate or a Republican-controlled State Senate.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and former principal at South Side High School in Rockville Center, Long Island, New York, has subjected the report of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s task force to a close reading.

 

But not the kind of close reading where you forget about context and prior knowledge. She notes that Governor Cuomo has no intention of amending or repealing the law he pushed through last June, which requires that teachers are evaluated by test scores that count for 50% of the evaluation.

 

There is the elephant in the room–the evaluation of teachers by test scores. When it comes to the damage done by APPR, the report is strangely silent. It is as though the committee never heard a complaint on how evaluating teachers by test scores increased both anxiety and test prep. The only place where it is addressed is in Recommendation 21 that states that until a new set of standards are phased in, the results of Common Core 3-8 assessments should be advisory only. Cuomo immediately seized on the ambiguity of that statement and issued the following:

 

[Cuomo statement] “The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers.”

 

The Education Transformation Act was the bill Cuomo pushed through the legislature to raise the percentage of test scores in teacher evaluations to 50 percent. Like a teenage boy who doesn’t get that the relationship is over, Cuomo cannot let go of his APPR, even though more researchers agree that evaluating teachers by test student scores makes no sense.

 

And more ominously, she describes the new testing corporation that New York has contracted with for the next five years.

 

Truth be told, no matter what recommendations the report made, at least half of the horse is already out of the testing barn. The new direction in assessment was set with the July approval of a $44 million contract with Questar that locks the state in for five years. If parents are looking for relief from test-driven instruction, they will not find it with Questar. You can read about the company’s philosophy of continuous assessment-driven instruction here. Below is an excerpt:

 

…after every five minutes of individualized tablet-based instruction, students would be presented with a brief series of questions that adapt to their skill level, much as computer-adaptive tests operate today. After that assessment, the next set of instructional material would be customized according to these results. If a student needs to relearn some material, the software automatically adjusts and creates a custom learning plan on the fly. The student would then be reassessed and the cycle would continue…

 

The practice of adaptive, computer-based learning, known as Competency Based Education (CBE), is a reincarnation of two other failed reforms from the last century — Outcomes Based Instruction and Mastery Learning. As the tests roll out, Questar will be marketing their CBE modules for test prep, and schools desperate to increase scores will buy them.

 

Thus far, Governor Cuomo has gotten the press he wanted: banner headlines in the New York Daily News and Long Island’s Newsday, proclaiming prematurely that Common Core is dead. No, it is not. What happens next is up to the Governor.

 

The good news is that he has an outstanding educator advising him, Jere Hochman, former superintendent in Bedford, New York. Hopefully, Hochman will help the Governor understand how to get out of the hole he dug for himself and how to take concrete steps to remove the disruption and constant churn that the State Education Department and the Governor’s interventions have imposed on schools. It is time for some stability and sanity at the helm. At the moment, teachers and students see a battle for control of the wheel, and the ship is lurching from side to side. I won’t torture the analogy any more. But I do hope that Governor Cuomo listens to Jere Hochman’s advice and takes the task force report seriously.

The Journal News of the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, referred to as Lohud, has been critical of the mess that Andrew Cuomo has made with his constant meddling in education policy.

 

Today, Lohud praised Cuomo’s task force for listening to the parents who opted their children out of the Common Core testing. The number of children who opted out were about 225,000. That is a huge number of people expressing no-confidence in the state’s testing regime.

 

Lohud thinks the task force listened to parents and educators and hit all the right notes:

 

The task force released a report Thursday that accurately and even passionately captures the confusion and disarray unleashed on schools by Albany over the last several years. Consider this slap at New York’s educational leadership, which sounds like it came from a group of outside critics:

 

“The implementation of the Common Core in New York was rushed and flawed. Teachers stepped into their classrooms in the 2012-2013 school year unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the new standards, without curriculum resources to teach students, and forced to administer new high-stakes standardized tests that were designed by a corporation instead of educators.”

 

Hey, that’s what happened.

 

We messed up

 

Without naming names, the report is a pretty stunning rebuke of Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and former state Education Commissioner John King (soon to become acting U.S. education secretary), who refused to heed the legitimate and plentiful concerns of educators and parents. As a result, New York will wind up spending more than a decade rewriting education policies over and over, without any guarantee that students will be better off in the end….

 

Interestingly, the report does not explore the merits and failings of New York’s teacher-evaluation system, which is perhaps most controversial for grading teachers, in part, on student test scores. Instead, the task force recommends that test scores not be used to evaluate teachers or students until 2019-2020. (State law already bans including the test scores on student transcripts or using them to make student placement decisions through 2018.)

 

This rather vague recommendation leaves the teacher-evaluation system in place, and would likely require school districts to replace test scores with another measure for the next several years.

 

The task force did not take the next, necessary step of declaring the evaluation system a failure and calling for the development of a new system that would not only hold teachers accountable but give them the information they need to improve their performance and student achievement. But the panel covered a lot of ground in a few short weeks, and it should not be up its 16 people to solve all of New York’s problems.

 

Should Cuomo and the state Legislature move ahead with the development of new standards and testing, a new evaluation system would have to be next. Otherwise, the education wars will continue.

 

There’s no telling, at this point, whether Cuomo will endorse the task force’s work in whole or part or whether the recommendations would be carried out in such a way as to win back the loyalty of disenchanted parents and educators. We’ll likely find out where the governor stands when he delivers his State of the State address next month.

 

Unless the Legislature repeals or amends the law that was passed last June and tucked into the state budget, teachers will still be evaluated by test scores, counting for up to 50%, then local measures will not replace what the law requires. Their evaluations won’t lead to punishments, but presumably they will go onto their permanent records. Thus, for the task force’s recommendations to have any teeth, the Legislature must act to change the objectionable law. The task force’s recommendations do not trump state law.

 

Lohud credits the parents for forcing the task force to listen. Now, let’s see what Governor Cuomo does. It would be nice if he walked back his statement that he hopes to bust the “public education monopoly,” which he said right before he was re-elected.  That would be a good start, especially for the parents of more than 90% of the children in the state who attend public schools.