Archives for category: New York

New York State mandated mask-wearing in school. Six students arrived at school in Islip without masks. They were directed to a separate room. Their parents showed up promptly and called the police. This is a story that is repeated, in various ways, in districts across the nation, as parents debate and fight over whether their children should follow public health guidelines.

This is the question: why don’t these parents object too vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, polio, smallpox, and other contagious diseases?

On Thursday morning, six Islip Middle School students came to school without masks. When staff asked them to put masks on, as required by current New York State health rules, the students refused. They were escorted to a room with a security guard when, according to the Suffolk County Police Department, a parent of one of the students called police, who arrived at 9:50 a.m…

Islip Superintendent Dennis O’Hara issued a statement about the incident: “The safety and well-being of our students and staff continues to be a top priority,” he said.

In a Facebook group called “Moms for Liberty—Suffolk County,” parents against school masks compared the district’s actions to “segregation.”

The Commack Public School District is located on Long Island in New York. The district has about 79% white students, 9% Asian, 9% Hispanic, 1% African American, and a small number of multiracial students. The Commack public schools have strong academic outcomes. 95% of their graduates go to college.

Recently the district and its school board have been under attack by parents who insist that their children are subjected to Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project. At a recent public hearing, parents listened to administrators and school board members, who assured them that the Commack schools did not teach CRT or The 1619 Project. Angry parents were not mollified, as you will see if you watch the video posted below.

Jake Jacobs, a NYC art teacher and co-administrator of the New York BATS, watched the video and wrote the following commentary.

CRT DEBATE BLOWS UP: In Commack, NY this school board forum shows how insane things have gotten. The audience comments are unhinged and mostly ignore everything the board and superintendent say. The first part of the video is just the staff going over the curriculum, explaining how they do not support CRT, but the parents already start interrupting and shouting.

The Commack board and superintendent said over and over they reject CRT and created a policy where no child feels “less than”.
Yet parents came up to the mic and accused them of lying, said CRT was “seeping in” and were convinced the state is going to impose CRT, that teachers were politically biased and only teach their side.
They pointed to board members and said they are all going to get voted out, just like they had in the neighboring district. Some parents came up gripped with anger, convinced that everything they didn’t like was indeed CRT, and that it has to be nipped in the bud before this can go any further.

Some spoke about their kids being bullied because they were conservative, or cops being negatively portrayed, they quoted MLK as not seeing skin color and they spoke about inappropriate images and themes in the book Persepolis, none of which were CRT.
Some speakers got on the mic screaming at the top of their lungs, accusing the schools of indoctrinating kids to hate, or threatened to put their kids in private school and sue for damages. One woman pointed repeatedly to the only Black trustee and said she “had something on him.”

Meanwhile, some brave Asian students got up and said they loved Persepolis, an award winning graphic novel taught in the district for 13 years. They noted it was the first time they saw themselves reflected in class readings and that the district has a severe lack of representation of diverse characters and authors. The students were constantly interrupted and badgered. One girl pointed that there were also graphic themes in Romeo and Juliet, Tale of Two Cities and To Kill a Mockingbird. A teacher who spoke in support of the students was also interrupted constantly and heckled.

One outraged NYPD officer got up and read a bullet point from the NY State Education Dept web page on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which suggests schools cover “the senseless, brutal killing of Black and Brown men and women at the hands of law enforcement.” The Commack superintendent immediately took his side and disavowed the passage as inappropriate, promising cops would not be disparaged in the district, but the folks in the crowd wanted more.
They asked for apologies to police families, they asked for something in writing that CRT would not be taught even if the state mandates it, they wanted to know if teachers would be fired for political statements, they wanted to be notified when BLM will be mentioned in school so they can opt out. Some said schools should only be teaching math, reading, science and social studies and leave all the social-emotional and diversity stuff for parents to teach.

I don’t know if this was just a very loud minority or this is the prevailing view in this part of Long Island but these folks are 100% convinced that everything they don’t like is “CRT” and they are extremely animated, just like Christopher Rufo said. They said it is Socialism and Marxism and some got extremely emotional saying they need to hear the district will fight for their kids.

This is light years from what’s going on in NYC schools and the new Culturally Responsive framework approved by the Chancellor which centers racial, cultural and gender identity in the classroom, so this is a major clash of opposing ideas (fueled by wholesale misinformation) and it’s working really well in suburban areas to put school officials on the defensive and kids in the middle of electoral politics.

One day after he stood against removing Persepolis, the Commack English Dept Chair was removed from his position and stripped of tenure. The district also now has removed Diary of Anne Frank as well.

Click on this link to see the video:


Full video: https://boxcast.tv/view/community-forum-6-8-21-multiracial-curriculum-review-dyj9wrxcc8oqby2xtsbo?fbclid=IwAR1Tcal2N9B0V4_sFyxgkDrLbINNXyvh9u4ONssLly97-acBjNLyDgfv6DI

This one works too:

https://boxcast.tv/view/community-forum-6-8-21-multiracial-curriculum-review-dyj9wrxcc8oqby2xtsbo

Carol Corbett Burris was a teacher and principal on Long Island, in New York state for many years. After retiring, she became executive director of the Network for Public Education.

She writes:

Last spring, HBO released Bad Education, which tells the story of how a Roslyn, New York Superintendent named Frank Tassone conspired to steal $11.2 million with the help of his business officer, Pamela Gluckin.  Promo materials called the film “the largest public school embezzlement in U.S. history.”

I did not watch it. I am waiting. I am waiting for HBO to release a movie on how a crafty fellow from Australia, Sean McManus, defrauded California taxpayers out of $50 millionvia an elaborate scheme to create phony attendance records to increase revenue to an online charter chain known as A3. 

Or the documentary about the tens of millions that the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) owes taxpayers for cooking the books on attendance. Or perhaps there will be a mini-series about the fraud and racketeering that charter operator Marcus May engaged in that brought his net worth from $200,000 to $8.5 million in five years and landed him a 20-year sentence in jail. 

The truth is, Frank Tassone and his accomplice are small potatoes compared to the preponderance of charter school scandals that happen every day. What is different is how lawmakers respond. 

When the Tassone case hit the news, I was a principal in a neighboring district. The New York State Legislature came down hard with unfunded mandates on public schools.

We all had to hire external auditors and internal auditors that went over every receipt, no matter how small. Simple things like collecting money for field trips or a club’s T-shirt sale suddenly became a big deal. Although there was no evidence that any other district was engaging in anything like what happened in Roslyn, every district transaction came under scrutiny.

Whether those regulations and their expenses were justified or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that despite the years and years of scandal in the charter sector, state legislatures never change laws or impose new rules. For-profits run schools doing business with their related companies behind a wall of secrecy, and lawmakers do not worry a bit. 

I am puzzled. Why can’t charter schools be as transparent as public schools?  Why is the ability to easily engage in fraud necessary to promote innovation? 

No one has been able to answer my question yet. 

The Ossining, New York, school district has a creative response to the federal mandate to administer tests at a time when children’s lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. The superintendent has asked parents to write a letter asking for their child to be tested, that is, to “opt in” to testing.

Gary Stern of the Lower Hudson news (Lohud) reports:

At a time when many school districts are peeved that they are being forced by Washington to administer standardized tests, the Ossining district is taking the provocative step of only giving the tests to students whose parents request it.

This “opting in” approach may mean that few students will take the state-run tests for grades 3-8, which are scheduled for April, May and June. But that’s fine with Ossining officials, who say the tests will be unacceptably disruptive during the pandemic and will yield little meaningful data.

“We’re in a pandemic, and there is a lot our students are going through right now, and our staff,” Ossining Superintendent Ray Sanchez said. “We’re fulfilling the requirements to administer the assessments, and we’re giving parents a voice in the process.”

Kudos to Superintendent Sanchez for recognizing that children belong to their parents, not the state, and that parents should make the decision about the tests, not politicians.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has yet to come up with a plausible reason for administering the state tests this year. The tests were suspended last year; there is no baseline data. The tests will not measure “learning loss.” If the Department wanted state and national data, it should not have canceled the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which gathers that data and has a 50-year timeline.

The Port Washington Union Free School District on Long Island in New York wrote an excellent letter to their representatives in Congress. It is a model letter that should inspire other local and state school boards.

We are the officials entrusted with overseeing the education of over 5.300 students in the Port Washington Union Free School District in Nassau County, New York. We arc writing to urge that Congress act ‘immediately’ to enact legislation that will waive all testing mandates under the Every Child Succeeds Act for the 2020-2021 school year. This would include not only the grades 3-8 ELA and math assessments, but also the 4th and 8th grade science assessments, any ELA, math, and science assessments required at the middle and high school levels, as well as any English Language Learner assessments required, and alternative assessments.

The pandemic has caused our country’s children immense psychological harm and stress. Children arc best served by face-to-face interactions and connections with teachers. staff. and know students, in a school building setting. Our school buildings arc our children’s ccosystem, and for many, it’s their primary source of emotional and social sup, (not to mention food and nutrition and sometimes even clothing). Last March. all of that was taken from them. literally overnight. Sadly. to this very day. many schoolchildren nationwide. including in Ncw York Statc, have yet to rctum to in-person instruction, and even for those who have rcturned. in-person instruction is often not full time and is plagued by constant quarantines of both students and staff.

Safely reopening our schools during this pandemic and creating a fully virtual K-5 school required spending to the mine of over S3.7 million – a staggering amount for any local school district. Yet. even with this immense expenditure. only our elementary school kids arc attending school in person full time, and our secondary students arc still in a hybrid cnvironmcnt that is less than ideal. Additionally. we have the constant quarantines of classes and teachers that further stalls Teaming.

These federally-mandated tests constitute an unfunded mandate. Many districts, such as Port Washington, have already dipped into reserve funds in order to safely reopen our schools. Administering the ESSA assessments is an incredibly wasteful endeavor, and a breach of our fiduciary duty to our taxpayers. Every moment that a teacher has with our nation’s children should and must be spent on substantive learning while focusing on their social and emotional well-being. Our students arc living in crisis. The very last thing these children need is to be subjected to assessments. Congress must act now to enact legislation that will waive all testing mandates under the Every Student Succeeds Act for the 2020-2021 school year.

New York State Allies for Public Education created sample opt out letters for parents to present to the school.

Click to access Refusal-letter-2020-21.pdf

For both English and Spanish, visit the NYSAPE homepage.

New York State Allies for Public Education has led the successful opt out movement in their state for years. As much as 20% of all eligible students have refused the annual tests in most years, in some schools and districts, a majority of students don’t take the test.

They reacted angrily to the news that the Biden administration plans to require annual testing after Joe Biden publicly promised not to.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2021More information contact:Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190nys.allies@gmail.com

Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228nys.allies@gmail.com

NYS Allies for Public Education – NYSAPE

The Biden Administration Fails to Put Children First; NYSAPE Urges Parents to Opt Out

In a recent letter released by Ian Rosenblum, Acting Secretary of Education and former Executive Director of the reformer organization Education Trust NY, the USDOE and the Biden Administration have signaled that testing waivers submitted by the states will be denied this year. Although the ESSA accountability measures will be granted waivers, the insistence on forging ahead with ESSA-mandated student assessments completely ignores the damaging impact that administering state assessments in the midst of a pandemic will have on our children. 

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration believes that traumatized children, including those who have yet to set foot in their school buildings since last March, will be best served preparing for and taking standardized tests, even though this will only add to the stress they are already experiencing. 

However, parents are not without recourse. New York State parents can, and will, exercise their right to refuse to allow their children to participate in the grades 3-8 state assessments. NYSAPE’s New York State Test Opt Out parent letter can be found here.

NYSAPE applauds the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for announcing “Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDOE”.

NYSAPE now calls on the New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department to take immediate action to demand any and all flexibility on ESSA regulations, and provide clear guidance to school districts that they must inform parents of their right to opt out of the state assessments and prohibit any mixed messaging to coerce parents otherwise. 

NYSED led by Commissioner Betty Rosa & the Board of Regents are leading the way in putting our children’s needs first. 

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 70 parent and educator groups across the state.

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New York State education officials have agreed to request a waiver from the Secretary of Education from federally mandated testing this spring, due to the pandemic. State officials recognize that the pandemic has caused gross inequities in opportunity to learn and would serve no useful purpose. (Under normal circumstances the federally required tests serve no useful purpose, but they are a terrible burden this year, in addition to being worthless.)

The federal response may be delayed since the Senate is moving slowly to confirm President Biden’s Cabinet appointments.

Every state should seek a waiver. Students have been subject to trauma and daily disruption. Now is not the time to focus on test scores. It’s time to give students the social, emotional, and academic support they need. The most avid proponents of resuming standardized testing have never been teachers.

I posted a delightful article by Jennifer Raab, President of Hunter College, celebrating the importance of public higher education, which has provided opportunity to so many students from low-income and immigrant families.

A faculty member of the City University of New York wrote to say that budget cuts are strangling the promise of public higher education.

He wrote:

Public education requires more than cheerleading: right now, we also need advocates who are willing to fight for it. And while Virginia may have been an impressive alumna of Hunter College, this year Governor Cuomo has held back 20% of CUNY funding based on an expectation of a dramatic state shortfall. While the shortfall has been much less than predicted, the cuts to public education have occurred anyways. 

At Hunter and other CUNY schools, those cuts have meant heavy lay-offs of adjunct faculty. Their courses have been cancelled and, as a result, students are being squeezed into over-crowded classes. A course that, a year ago, might have worked with 30 students in person, this semester will have 40 students in a Zoom room. That’s nowhere near the level of teaching and engagement that Virginia received. And that’s a real tragedy.


In a year in which our public officials have insisted they will fight for greater equity, we need leaders who will fight for the country’s largest public university to be fully funded and its students to be given the quality of education they deserve. We need leaders who don’t only celebrate CUNY’s past, but demand that its traditions of providing a first-rate education for all New Yorkers be maintained in the present and into the future. And if that requires fighting, let’s insist that they take up that battle.

This is a beautiful article by Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter College, which is part of the City University of New York. It appeared in the New York Daily News. When Virginia O’Hanlon attended Hunter College, the City University was tuition-free. In 1976, CUNY began to charge tuition, but it remains far less than private colleges and universities, and many students can piece together aid packages from state and federal funds.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” It may be the most famous sentence in the history of local journalism.

Virginia O’Hanlon of 115 W. 95th St. was just 8 years old when she composed a letter to the editor, writing: “Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

Yes, there is, the paper guaranteed her. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Those in the know must have been shocked to learn that the words came from the pen of veteran journalist Francis Pharcellus Church, brother of the Sun’s editor. Known to colleagues as a hard-boiled cynic, Church had never written so sentimentally. Now he tenderly assured young Virginia: “Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

Soon enough, thanks to free public higher education, Virginia saw those wonders for herself. Many of today’s newspaper readers know about the editorial. It has been widely reprinted, in the Daily News among many other papers, each year since it first appeared. It has inspired musical pageants.

But few know what happened to Virginia — or that her path in life actually followed Church’s advice to imagine the best.

The daughter of an NYPD coroner, young Virginia soon began harboring dreams that stretched beyond St. Nick’s annual visits. She aspired to teach — and motivate — children herself. So 10 years after writing to the Sun, Virginia O’Hanlon enrolled at Hunter College, which then, as now, educated many of the teachers employed by the New York City school system. Crucially, Hunter offered higher education to women of all races and religions — a rarity at the time of the school’s 1870 founding.

Graduating in 1910, Virginia went on to earn a Master’s and Ph.D., lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic, and taught grade school for decades. Eventually, she became junior principal of PS 401 in Brooklyn, a school renowned for providing an early version of “remote learning” to chronically sick children confined to the borough’s hospitals.

In 1949, Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas returned to Hunter to address students at her alma mater (and of course, retell her Santa Claus story). She retired in 1959, and died nearly 50 years ago, in 1971.

Her life — both the storybook version and the equally uplifting reality — serves as a reminder not only of faith questioned and reignited, but of the opportunities New York public education continues to provide, even now, amid the most stressful and prolonged crisis in city history.

In fact, when CollegeNET recently released its annual Social Mobility Index rankings of America’s colleges, it did not look at all like the usual “Best Colleges” lists topped by Ivy League names. The index, which analyzes colleges’ success at graduating low-income students into well-paying jobs, was front-loaded with public universities. Hunter ranked 9th out of 1,449 schools.

More than a century after Virginia matriculated, Hunter’s student population still offers a springboard to opportunity. Hunter has already served as the launchpad for, among others, Bella Abzug, Martina Arroyo, Ruby Dee, Pauli Murray, Dr. Rosalyn Yalow — and from our high school, such luminaries as Elena Kagan and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Always, we’ve taken particular pride in students, from here and overseas, who are the first in their families to attend college.

Just look what the most recent graduating class is up to. Elliot Natanov, the son of immigrants who fled anti-Semitism in Uzbekistan, is now pursuing a career in sports medicine. Ahmet Doymaz, who immigrated from Turkey as a child, studies cancer and cell regulation. Evelyn Tawil, daughter of Syrian refugees, is pursuing a graduate degree in landscape architecture. Jennifer Dikler, whose parents fled Russia, won a coveted Luce Scholarship to study trade policy in Asia.

Among recent grads, Margarita Labkovich became a Schwartzman Fellow in 2020 and will spend a year at Beijing’s Tsinghua University before returning to medical school and resuming her career as chief operating officer of Retina Technologies (she already holds two patents). And Thamara Jean, daughter of a Haitian-born synagogue superintendent, now attends Oxford University as Hunter’s first-ever Rhodes Scholar. These remarkable young people are soaring above their circumstances, with Hunter’s full support at their backs — and no debt collectors at their front doors.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus: it’s called public education.