Archives for category: New York

The mainstream media loves to write negative stories about public schools. Here is a story featured in local news but mostly ignored by the national media.

The Society for Science and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals selected 40 high school seniors as finalists in their national science competition. Eighteen hundred students applied. Each of the finalists wins a prize of $25,000. The top ten winners will receive between $40,000 and $250,000.

The finalists will take part in a week-long competition from March 9-16, where they will undergo a rigorous judging process and compete for more than $1.8 million in awards. They will also interact with leading scientists and share their research during a virtual “Public Day” event on March 13.

Of the 40, nine went to elite private schools; three to charter schools; one was home-schooled. Twenty-seven are students in regular public schools. Seven are students at regular public high schools on Long Island in New York.

What is so impressive about the finalists is their topics, which display a remarkable range and depth of interests.

Here are a few project titles:

Project Title: Isolating and Characterizing Phosphorus-Solubilizing Bacteria from Rhizospheres of Native Plants Grown in Calcareous Soils and Sediments

Project Title: Evaluating Phragmites australis Wrack Accumulation in a Long Island Salt Marsh Ecosystem and Assessing Its Effect on Carbon Sequestration, the Nitrogen Cycle, and Sediment Biota

Project Title: Altered Development of Thymus in Tmem131Knockout Mouse Model of Down Syndrome

Project Title: Larvicidal “Trojan-Horse”: Experimentally Developing a Novel Low-Cost and Eco-Friendly Mosquito Vector Control Treatment

Project Title: Novel Fully MRI Compatible Nonmagnetic and Dielectric Pneumatic Servo Motor for MRI Guided Surgical Robotics

These are amazing students. Next time you hear a pundit ridiculing our schools and our teachers, think of these brilliant kids and their dedicated teachers. I feel better about our future after reading about them.

Bruce Baker, an expert on school finance at Rutgers University, dissects a proposal for vouchers (“education savings accounts”) offered by the Manhattan Institute, a rightwing think tank. Writing for the National Education Policy Center, he concludes that the proposal was poorly thought out and loaded with negative consequences.

He wrote:

The Manhattan Institute’s report promotes Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) by demonstrating that taxpayer expense would fall if the program motivated families to move children from public schools funded by the state to private schools funded primarily by families. However, the report conveniently fails to note a large body of recent, rigorous research demonstrating that similar private school choice, or “voucher,” programs have had significant negative effects on student outcomes. In addition, the report overstates short-term reductions that local districts can achieve, and it sidesteps potential long-term harm to adequate funding for them. Thus, the report provides little or no useful guidance on the broader question of whether an ESA policy is desirable or would be good policy for New York State’s children or taxpayers.

Yes, you read that right. The astroturf Koch-funded “Moms for Liberty” is offering a $500 reward to anyone who catches a teacher teaching “divisive concepts,” which is against state law. What is a divisive concept? Maybe teaching about the First Amendment is one. Teaching about the horrors of war is another. Teaching about the effects of climate change, for sure. Teaching that vaccines save lives is another so don’t talk about polio or other diseases, certainly not coronavirus.

Randi Weingarten spoke out:

For Immediate Release
Nov. 18, 2021

Contact:
Janet Bass
                            jbass@aft.org
                            301-502-5222


Statement by AFT President Randi Weingarten on
Bounties on Heads of NH Teachers

WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on a $500 bounty offered by Moms for Liberty to someone who alleges a New Hampshire teacher is teaching so-called divisive concepts and breaking the New Hampshire law called Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education:

“Putting bounties on the heads of New Hampshire teachers, much like the controversial vigilante bounties envisioned by Texas law to thwart the legal right to reproductive choice, is offensive and chilling in any context. The New Hampshire bounty effort is a result of a state law that bans something that doesn’t happen in New Hampshire or anywhere else—teaching that any group is inherently superior or inferior to another. We teach honest history and respect for all. Culture warriors offering bounties for a teacher supposedly violating the law are doing this at a time when we all need to work together. The stakes are high—unjustified accusations against teachers could cost them their teaching licenses. The clear intent is to undermine public education and scare teachers. 
 
“State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut even set up a webpage to facilitate complaints against teachers. Perhaps Edelblut’s judgment should lead him to a different line of work. We need school leadership that believes in safe and welcoming environments, not one of fear and division. This is distracting from teachers’ focus on helping our kids thrive and excel. Teachers shouldn’t have to worry that history, literature, science or art lessons can be misconstrued and lead to a public flogging or worse. The overwhelming majority of parents support and trust their children’s teachers, value their neighborhood public school as the center of the community and are astounded by this brazen attempt to stifle learning. 

“Parents and teachers are partners in supporting children. Teachers work very hard to help our children through tough times like the pandemic and now to get them back on track. We should do everything we can to support them, not put a price on their head.”

# # #

Naftuli Moster is the Founder and Executive Director of YAFFED, a nonprofit organization focused on improving secular education in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. He is a graduate of a New York yeshiva, and he became convinced after he finished that he had been denied a full education. He blames officials in New York City and New York State for ignoring the needs of Yeshiva students to avoid offending politically powerful orthodox Jewish communities.

Moster writes:

Students in many ultra-Orthodox yeshivas face educational neglect. NYSED must stop the delays.

It may sound shocking in this day and age, but many ultra-Orthodox schools in New York are actively violating state law by providing little to no secular instruction in topics like English, math, science, and history—and New York officials have stalled and stymied action to address this educational neglect at every turn.

What started as an allegation by a small group of grassroots activists has since been confirmed by the New York City Department of Education, which found that 26 of the 28 yeshivas they investigated did not meet the minimum standards. Hasidic boys in elementary and middle school receive a maximum of 90 minutes of secular education a day, and in high school they receive none whatsoever. (Girls in these same communities tend to receive more secular education because they are barred from studying Talmud and because they are groomed to be the breadwinner, so their husbands can continue studying Torah.)

After years of considering a proposal to increase oversight of New York’s nonpublic schools—the first real chance at reform since this issue came to the fore in 2015 —the New York State Education Department (NYSED) balked. In May 2021, after intense pressure from private school entities, NYSED quietly disclosed to the Board of Regents that they would be scrapping proposed regulations, which had been under consideration since 2019 and would have increased oversight of the state’s nonpublic schools, ensuring that they provide students with a basic education. New regulations are supposed to be developed this fall, but since they were not discussed in the October Board of Regents monthly meeting, the timeline seems to be delayed once again.

This development is unacceptable. Since the alarm was first sounded about the lack of secular studies in Hasidic yeshivas, leaders of these same schools have taken every opportunity they can to smear advocates and spread misinformation about what really goes on in their institutions. Their tactics have contributed to the years of stalling of any meaningful reforms, leaving students to suffer the consequences of no real secular education, and limited college and career prospects.

And, this student population is on the rise. Our report shows how the Hasidic population only continues to grow, and with that, so does the impact of this issue. Hasidic students already make up 20.5 percent of the nonpublic school students in New York, with over 90,000 students enrolled in Hasidic schools in 2018-2019. In Brooklyn, it is projected that by 2030, 23 to 37 percent of all school-age children will be Hasidic.

This means that each passing year, more students will miss out on a basic education. Many finish their schooling with about the equivalent of a third or fourth-grade education and never learn even basic sciences or history. Where is the equity in that?

Of course, NYSED should follow through and develop meaningful regulations that would enforce subject matter requirements and time allotment standards. But NYSED cannot act as if, in the absence of new regulations, they are powerless to enforce any kind of educational standards. There are long-standing regulations about how to deal with complaints against nonpublic schools in New York. NYSED must use its existing authority to ensure that children attending ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are getting the education to which they are entitled under the New York State Constitution. A new school year is already underway, and there is no time to waste.

It is shameful that NYSED is failing to live up to its self-proclaimed vision to “provide leadership for a system that yields the best educated people in the world” out of fear they might upset private school leadership. The students themselves—the very people that NYSED is supposed to support—are bearing the brunt of this crisis. NYSED must step up to do the job they are entrusted to do, and that taxpayers pay them to do.

Betty Rosa, Commissioner of NYSED, has an opportunity to be a real leader here and ensure strong regulations are adopted. And, while policies are being crafted and revised, she must use NYSED’s existing authority to take any corrective actions necessary against schools that are failing their students. She can leave an indelible mark on New York State education policy, finally putting an end to the injustice ultra-Orthodox students have faced for generations.

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.