Archives for category: New York

The New York Daily News reports that lobbyists for billionaires who support charter schools had a cozy meeting with Democrats in the State Senate. 

Even though pro-public education progressives swept control of the State Senate away from the charter-crazy Republicans in the State Senate, the lobbyists know that money is still green, no matter who is in power.

Jeffrey Cook-McCormac, a lobbyist working under Dan Loeb, one of the state’s most prolific political bundlers and once a pariah among Dems for racist comments made about now-Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), can be heard on the tape praising Democrats for not taking steps to scale back charters.

“I just want to say that I think a lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief on how you governed in your first few months in the majority,” Cook-McCormac told an audience that included Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) as well as Sens. Brian Benjamin (D-Manhattan) and Jim Gaughran (D-Long Island)…

The comments came in the wake of a legislative session in which Dems, in control of both chambers for the first time in years, were bolstered by a slate of progressive members who are either openly wary of charters or the moneyed interests behind them….

Cook-McCormac’s presence at the Nov. 4 fundraiser at the swanky Midtown outpost Aquavit was especially surprising to some Dems considering his boss’ past comments about Stewart-Cousins.

In 2017, Loeb came under fire for a Facebook post saying that the Senate Democratic Leader had done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.”

Lawmakers, including Benjamin, staged protests outside of Success Academy charter schools at the time, calling for the billionaire founder of the Third Point hedge fund to be fired from his position as chairman of the board for the city’s largest charter-school operator. Loeb later apologized.

While Dems accepting cash from charter proponents isn’t new, some were stunned by the chumminess on display.

So, to be clear, billionaire Dan Loeb implies that State Senator Stewart-Cousins–now the majority leader– is worse than the Ku Klux Klan.

But that is no reason not to take Loeb’s money, right?

 

Arthur Goldstein, veteran teacher of many decades, thinks he knows a thing or two about teaching English. The State Education Department doesn’t trust him or other English teachers. So they have distributed new mandates about how to teach “advanced literacy” to make sure that he does what he is told. And he doesn’t like it. 

Frankly, it sounds like Common Core in a new dress.

Goldstein writes:

Forget everything you’ve heard and read about education. There’s a new paradigm, and it’s called Teaching Advanced Literacy Skills. This is revolutionary, of course, because it appears clear to the authors that no English teacher in the history of the universe has ever taught advanced literacy. Also, since no one in the world will ever go into a trade, and since everyone will spend their entire lives doing academic writing, we need to start work on this right away.

No, evidently we just do the whole phonics thing, and once students are able to sound out words, we give up on them for the next eleven years or so and hope for the best. Thank goodness these brilliant writers are here to let us know that students need to be able to identify a main idea, and that this indispensable skill is actually an amalgam of other vital skills.

Not only that, but we now know that it’s important students use a variety of sources to support their arguments, as opposed to just making stuff up (like the President of the United States, for example). That’s why we, as teachers, should hand them several sources on which to base their writing, as do the geniuses in Albany when they issue the NY State ELA Regents, the final word on whether or not students have advanced literacy.

Never mind that students who’ve passed the test with high grades don’t seem to know how to read or write well. Never mind nonsense like writer voice, mentioned absolutely nowhere in the book. Never mind whether or not anyone actually wishes to read whatever writing the students produce, because that’s also mentioned absolutely nowhere in the book. The important thing is that they be able to produce academic writing. Do you go out of your way to read academic writing? Neither do I.

The book is big on synthesis, that is, using multiple sources. Like the awful English Regents exam,  students are generally provided with sources. I suppose this is some sort of training to write research papers. Here’s the thing, though–if you write research papers you will have to find your own sources. I recall being in summer classes at Queens College, in their old crappy library searching through shelves with a flashlight trying to find things to write about. No such issue for our advanced literacy-trained students. Here are texts a, b, c and d. Get out there and tell me which ones are better.

We don’t need to teach students about logical fallacy either, which is good news for politicians everywhere. Students need not recognize ad hominem or straw man arguments. No guilt by association for you. We don’t need to bother showing them why some arguments are less logical than others, as per this book at least. I suppose when Donald Trump calls whatever doesn’t suit him “fake news,” that’s okay. It’s just another academic source.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book, to me, is that the project they spend the most time on is one in which students discuss whether or not their school should adopt uniforms. I wrote in the margins, “great topic,” Why? Because this was a topic that had a direct effect on their lives. This decision would change their behavior, and perhaps change their entire school. There was an intrinsic motivation for students to be involved in this decision.

Nowhere in the book did the writers deem this worthy of mention. I have no idea whether or not they even noticed it. I did, though, and it was hands down a better topic than some of the crap students must wade through on the English Regents exam. Don’t get me wrong–I understand that students, like us, will have to wade through a lot of crap in their academic lives. To me, though, it seems smarter to make them love reading. It seems smarter to motivate them to do so on their own. Then, when they have to read some crap to which they cannot relate, they’ll be better equipped to do so, having developed the skills this book advocates in a far more positive fashion.

One thing that makes me love writers is something called writer voice. A great example of this is Angela’s Ashes, a non-fiction work (!) by the late and brilliant Frank McCourt. They made a film out of it which faithfully told the story, but was total crap. That’s because the allure and charm of this story was all about the way McCourt told it, his humor, his deft and inspiring use of language. He had me at the first sentence about childhood, and kept me hypnotized until the last sentence. I couldn’t put the book down.

Why should students today have the same pleasure? Why do experienced teachers know about teaching anyway? Nothing, by the lights of the bureaucrats in Albany.

 

This is a book you will want to read if you are a parent, a teacher, a teacher educator.

Opting Out: The Story of the Parents’ Grassroots Movement to Achieve Whole-Child Schools is an essential addition to your bookshelf.

It was written by Professor David Hursh of the University of Rochester and parents leaders of the New York Opt Out movement Jeanette Deutermann, Lisa Rudley, and Hursh’s graduate students, Zhe Chen and Sarah McGinnis.

Together they explain the origins and development of the one of the most significant parent-led reactions against high-stakes testing and in favor of education that is devoted to the full development of children as healthy and happy human beings. The media liked to present the Opt Out movement as a “union-led” action, but that was always a false narrative. It was created and led by parent activists who volunteered their time and energy to save their children from test centric classrooms and wanted a “whole-child” education that helped their children become eager and engaged learners.

David Hursh has written and lectured about the assault on public education and the dangers of high-stakes testing.

https://www.waikato.ac.nz/wmier/news-events/prof-david-hursh-on-the-takeover-of-public-education

University of Rochester Meliora Address (2013): High-stakes testing and the decline of teaching. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIQu2Hh_YkI

Keynote address: New York State as a cautionary tale (2014). New Zealand union of primary teachers and administrators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW4vZGsLiL4

The parent co-authors are leaders of the New York State Opt Out movement, primarily through their role in New York State Allies for Public Education, which has organized hundreds of thousands of parents to say no to excessive and pointless testing, whose only beneficiaries are the big testing corporations.

The parents of the Opt Out movement are a stellar example of the Resistance that is bringing an end to this current era of child abuse and test-driven miseducation.

I was happy to endorse the book and am pleased now to recommend it to you.

 

 

Today I did something I had never done before.

I went to Coney Island, the fabled beach on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Brooklyn, to watch the Polar Bears Club take their annual New Year’s Day plunge. The Polar Bears have been doing this since 1903.

The weather was pretty good. About 40 degrees, but a strong wind was occasionally gusting, making it seem colder. Thousands of people were there like me as spectators. At least a thousand people were there in bathing suits and zany costumes to take the plunge. There were Vikings, old and young women in bikinis, a group of four people dressed in French costumes like a Marcel Marceau troupe of mimes with painted faces.

I managed to get to the front of the line, so I could get a good view and take pictures. I posted many on Twitter.

It was a riotous, hilarious, joyous experience. People of every race, religion, ethnicity, dressed in funny costumes, having the time of their lives as they prepared to take a plunge into frigid waters. They were accompanied by cheering crowds, smiles, laughter, and a dozen or so drummers beaming out a thump, thump, thump on big steel drums, as waves of scantily clad bathers headed for the Atlantic.

It’s moments like this when I love America, love living in New York City, and feel that all of us are truly brothers and sisters.

Parents and teachers filed separate lawsuits against the Buffalo Public Schools, complaining that the school system has failed to provide equitable music and arts programming.

Both parents and teachers are filing separate lawsuits against the Buffalo Public Schools, citing a lack of access to music education. The legal papers claim a legally-required arts sequence is only provided at two district high schools.

Just over a year ago, Hutch Tech High School Band Director Amy Steiner had over 100 students participating in either jazz band, concert band and/or wind ensemble.

“Now we didn’t have a regular rehearsal time, and we only got to meet once a week before school, but we really became very close,” Steiner said. “We would have close to 30 gigs a year with my groups. A lot of them were outside my school.”

Students would rehearse with their ensemble before school started and for a time would receive credit for their diploma via a one minute period later in the day.

Today, outside of a small jazz group there are no performing ensembles at Hutch Tech, a school that still employs two music teachers.

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore said the district isn’t compliant with state arts sequence regulations.

“The district is not providing this in all of our high schools. In fact, not in most of our schools. So we’re going to go to court to make sure that our kids gets what everybody else gets in the suburbs and what’s required by the law,” he said…

In New York State’s 2017 Revised Learning Standards for the Arts, school districts and the state alike are responsible for ensuring “equity of arts learning opportunities and resources for all students in the district/state.”

 

Unlike many other states, New York has a State Comptroller who audits both public schools and charter schools. The latest audit of a fast-growing charter in Hempstead, New York, found that executives were charging large expenses to the school’s credit card without documentation. 

The Hempstead district is about 70% free & reduced-price lunch, overwhelmingly Hispanic and African American, only 2% white. It is a segregated and low-income district.

John Hildebrand of Newsday writes:

Five senior managers at one of Long Island’s fastest-growing public charter schools charged more than $60,000 in credit-card expenses without receipts or itemizations required by their school’s own rules, state auditors reported.

The state’s review of spending practices at the Academy Charter School in Hempstead found that 17% of credit-card transactions sampled, totaling $36,329, were approved for payment without supporting receipts, auditors said. Another 12% of sampled purchases, totaling $25,342, had receipts that were not itemized.

Overall, credit-card purchases made on behalf of the academy totaled $496,970 during the 2017-18 academic year, according to the state comptroller’s office, a watchdog agency that conducted the audit. The school’s total annual budget was $18.9 million…

The Academy’s written credit-card rules require that users explain the purpose of each transaction and provide a detailed receipt, not just a summary, according to the comptroller’s report.

This often did not happen, as in the case of one school official who charged $1,476 for a meal, describing it only as a “group lunch.” Academy leaders later said the event was a luncheon for teachers attending fall training.

Card purchases, auditors said, included $5,590 for furniture that did not have an itemized invoice attached, $1,576 to a party rental vendor for what was described only as a “school event,” and five gift cards for about $550 each. School officials listed gifts as teacher appreciation awards, without naming recipients or providing proof that the school’s board of trustees had approved the awards.

School managers also failed to adequately document travel expenses for out-of-town conferences, auditors said. They checked 119 card charges for travel expenses totaling $23,920 and found that 40% lacked receipts. This included 29 charges for lodging and air travel.    

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and co-founder of the national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy (and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education) writes here about the threat to student privacy in New York.

The New York Board of Regents is currently considering whether to approve a radical weakening of the state student privacy law, which would allow the College Board, the ACT and other companies that contract with schools or districts to administer tests to use the personal student information they collect for marketing purposes — even though the original New York law that was passed in 2014 explicitly barred the sale or commercial use of this data.

Starting in 2014, many states, including New York, approved legislation to strengthen the protection of student privacy, because of a growing realization on the part of parents that their children’s personal data was being shared by schools and districts with a wide variety of private companies and organizations without their knowledge or consent. The U.S. Department of Education had weakened the federal student privacy law known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) twice over the past decade, rewriting the regulations during the Bush and Obama administrations to allow for nonconsensual disclosures for different purposes.

At that time, few parents knew that federal law had been altered to allow their children’s information from being passed into private hands. Then controversy erupted over the plans of nine states and districts to share personal student data with a comprehensive databank called inBloom, developed with more than $100 million of funding from the Gates Foundation.

InBloom Inc. was designed to collect a wide variety of personal student data and share it with for-profit vendors to accelerate the development and marketing of the education technology industry to facilitate the adoption of online instruction and assessment. As a result of widespread parental activism and concerns, all nine states and districts that had originally intended to participate in the inBloom data-sharing plan pulled out, and 99 new state student privacy laws were passed across the country between 2014 and 2018.

New York was one of the first to pass a new student privacy law. In March 2014, the state legislature approved Education Laws §2-c and §2-d, which among other things, prohibited the state from sharing student data with inBloom or another comprehensive databank, and also regulated the way schools and vendors must secure student data, including imposing a complete ban on the sale of personal student information or its use for marketing purposes….

Yet to the frustration of many parents and privacy advocates, it would be nearly five years before New York State Education Department drafted any regulations to implement its 2014 student privacy law. In October 2018, the Education Department finally released proposed regulations for public comment. In March 2018, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, along with the statewide coalition New York State Allies for Public Education, submitted recommendations on how to strengthen and clarify those regulations, as did more than 240 parents and privacy advocates.

Yet after the initial period of public comment had ended, instead of strengthening the regulations, the state Education Department gutted them, and now proposed allowing student data to be used for commercial purposes as long as there was parental “consent” — a huge loophole that would create the opportunity for districts, schools and vendors to misuse this data in myriad ways.

Do you think it is okay to sell students’ personal data to marketers and vendors?

Four years ago, the Hechinger Report described a third-grade class in an affluent suburb of New York City where children spend 75% of the day on their iPads.

Is this the future?

It is not a cost-saver, since there is still one teacher and a class of 20+ students. In most tech-infused projections, this is called “personalized learning,” and it is pitched as a way to cut costs by increasing class sizes.

At Governor Cuomo’s urging, New York passed a $2 billion bond issue to pay for new technology in the classroom. Districts on Long Island, pride themselves on their adoption of the latest technology. Technology and STEM are the rage.

Read, then use your iPad or computer to write a comment.

Why do teachers’ pension funds invest in stocks of corporations that are actively undermining public schools and their teachers?

K12 Inc. manages a chain of online charter schools that are noted for low performance, high attrition rates, and low graduation rates. Their teachers never meet students. They have large classes, no union.

New York State Teachers Retirement System Makes New $100,000 Investment in K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN)

 

Leonie Haimson warns that New York State is considering changes that would make students’ personal data available to vendors without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2019/09/make-your-voices-heard-urge-nysed-not.html

She writes:

“The New York Board of Regents is currently considering whether to approve a radical weakening of the state student privacy law, which would allow the College Board, the ACT and other companies that contract with schools or districts to use the personal student information they collect for marketing purposes – even though the original New York law that was passed in 2014 explicitly barred the sale or commercial use of this data.

“Parents and all others who care about protecting children’s privacy should send in their comments to the state now, by clicking here or sending their view to REGCOMMENTS@nysed.gov. Deadline for public comment is Sept. 16. More on this below.”

Open her post to learn more about privacy laws and why they must be strengthened, not weakened, to protect students.

People can comment to NYSED here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/please-contact-state-officials-now-not-to-weaken-student-privacy?source=direct_link&