Archives for category: New York

 

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&

https://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-opt-remains-strong.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2019
More information contact:
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228; nys.allies@gmail.com
Kemala Karmen (917) 807-9969; nys.allies@gmail.com
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

Opt-Out Remains Strong Despite the former Commissioner’s Scare Tactics; Room Continues to be Made for Whole-Child Initiatives

The New York State Education Department released this year’s grades 3-8 test scores and opt out numbers at the end of August. Once again parents and educators searched in vain for justification for the millions of dollars spent on a testing system that has done little to improve student success or restore confidence and trust in our state’s education department.

After decades of testing, there remain significant gaps in results between Black and Hispanic students and their White and Asian peers, between economically disadvantaged and economically advantaged students, and between students with disabilities and nondisabled students. Continuing for another few decades on the same exact path of expensive and excessive tests hoping for different outcomes is a disservice to children and our society.

Although the outgoing Commissioner was able to slightly reduce the rate at which parents refused participation in the assessments, she accomplished this through fear and intimidation, urging district administrators to use whatever tactics necessary to increase participation rates. We documented these abhorrent tactics as we learned about them, here. In the end, these tactics didn’t work as most schools did not meet the 95% participation rate.

“The gap is still growing after far too many years. It’s time to own this and admit that annual testing in two subjects with draconian stakes attached haven’t helped the kids whom the tests are supposed to help. Instead let’s look to create real ways to help kids in underserved groups — with proven actions, backed by research. Let’s take the enormous taxpayer funds spent on destructive testing and invest instead in what we know works: food programs, after school care and programs, small classes, fully staffed school health offices—and so much more,” says Lisa Litvin, parent, former President Hastings-on-Hudson Board of Education and former Co-President Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA

Kemala Karmen, a founding parent member of NYC Opt Out, adds, “Not only does the so-called achievement gap remain, the whole notion is controversial and backward. To quote Ibram X. Kendi, historian and author of How to Be an Antiracist, ‘What if different environments actually cause different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement? What if the intellect of a poor, low-testing Black child in a poor Black school is different—and not inferior—to the intellect of a rich, high-testing White child in a rich White school? What if the way we measure intelligence shows not only our racism but our elitism?’ Our state would do better to focus on ensuring that all students start with equal opportunities rather than annually trot out test scores that merely reflect an uneven starting line.”

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters points out that “with all the considerable money and time spent on these tests, and the anxiety they have provoked in children, the state hasn’t been able to devise a valid or reliable assessment that gives any useful information either to districts or teachers about how to improve instruction or the conditions of learning.”

“Consider the harm to our students with special needs and to English language learners,” reasons Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School (Bronx, NY) and candidate for Congress for the 16th district. “Well over half are considered ‘far below grade level’ each and every year. These tests are flawed single measures that do not consider the complexity and diversity of intelligence. Our kids are so much more. Let’s create a system of progressive pedagogies like Montessori and Reggio Emilio that helps them to prove it.”

Jeanette Deutermann, parent of two, and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “The New York State Assembly bowed to unexplained pressure exerted by the NYSUT Leadership and blocked legislation–that the Senate had already passed–that would have codified protections for students who opt out. In doing so, they failed to ensure even the most basic protections for student and parental rights; ALL parents have the right to decide whether to allow their children to participate in high-stakes testing without fear of district retaliation. We urge NYSED and the Board of Regents to use the opportunity for a new Commissioner and new direction to move away from test-based education policies, and call upon elected officials to act now to protect students and parents who choose to opt out in EVERY district across New York State.”

Jake Jacobs, co-administrator of the NY Badass Teachers Association, sums it up: “New York’s testing policy is still highly flawed and scientifically invalid for high-stakes decisions. Students are trained to guess at answers they don’t know, eliminating bad choices and then basically just gambling. Each year, thousands of scores fall right on the borderline of passing/failing, meaning lucky or unlucky guesses determined all these outcomes. Because the tests also do not account for home circumstances, from private tutors to neglect or abuse, they are not a reality-based method for diagnosing or improving obstacles to learning. Most absurd of all, the state is still using test scores in math or ELA in the evaluations of teachers of other subjects. I teach art, but have had math scores in my annual evaluation since 2013 as part of district-based ‘compliance’ agreements. And as ever, the formulas used to calculate the scores are secret, as is the process by which the proficiency levels are set, aka the ‘cut scores.’ Who cares about minor fluctuations in scores when the tests are still unverifiable, still grossly inaccurate, and still ignoring the factors that matter most?”

Please click on these links to download the 2019-2020 Opt Out Letter:
English version & Spanish version

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

During the era in which Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control of the New York City public schools (2002-2012), the city increased the number of selective admissions schools and set a uniform and very high standard for entry to gifted and talented programs. To enter the latter, children as young as four took a standardized test, and could gain admission only by scoring in the very top of the distribution. The stated rationale was to increae equity but the actual result was an escalation of inequity and racial segregation.

Faced with intense criticism for the low numbers of Black and Hispanic students admitted toselective schools, the city is now mulling a report that calls for phasing out gifted and talented programs.

Because of the explosion of school choice, districts go to great lengths to hold on to write parents, who will leave for a charter if they don’t get what they want in the public schools. .

To follow the debate, read this well-informed article by Erin Einhorn, who used to cover the NYC schools for the Daily News.

And read this informative post by Peter Goodman, who writes often about NYC and NY stateeducation issues. Goodman includes a useful summary of the report.

Goodman quotes Council Member Mark Treyger:

Let’s be clear: the School Diversity Advisory Group’s second set of recommendations do not seek to end enrichment programs. Instead, they call for the end of the Bloomberg-era ‘gifted and talented’ admissions model, which has been rejected by national gifted education experts and advocates. This model has failed to live up to its promise of equitable opportunities, resulted in the closure of half of all Gifted and Talented programs which disproportionately impacted communities of color, and increased segregation of all kinds in our schools,” said Council Member Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend)

Goodman adds: “Today there are 103 Gifted and Talent classes in grades K to 5 across the city, only one class in District 23, perhaps the poorest district in the city.”

What do you think?

Leonie Haimson expresses her view of the tenure of New York Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. 

Her conclusion: The state needs a fresh start with a commissioner who is willing to listen to parents and who is not in love with testing and Big Tech.

I attended the meeting with Elia that she describes, held a few weeks after she arrived in New York. When members of NYSAPE expressed their opposition to the state’s Common Core tests, Elia responded that the day would come when there was no more annual testing because the tests would be online and students would be continuously assessed, every hour,  every day, whenever they logged on.

That was not a comforting thought!

NYSAPE-New York State Allies for Public Education-is the leading voice for parents and educators who want a forward-looking education agenda, not one that slavishly promotes No Child Left Behind-style policies of test-and-punish. It has led the state’s successful opt-out movement. NYSAPE consists of 70 groups of parents and educators from every part of the state.

NYSAPE was delighted to learn that Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was resigning.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2019
More information contact:
Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190; nys.allies@gmail.com
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228; nys.allies@gmail.com
NYS Allies for Public Education – NYSAPE

As New York Closes the Door on Commissioner Elia’s Corporate Reform Agenda, NYSAPE Urges the Board of Regents to Include All Stakeholders When Choosing Our Next Commissioner

MaryEllen Elia was the wrong choice for NY in 2015 when she was appointed as Commissioner by the Board of Regents and former Regent Chancellor Merryl Tisch. The Commissioner continued to demonstrate throughout her tenure an unwillingness to move beyond her corporate reform agenda, resulting in NYSAPE’s repeated call for her resignation. The children of NY deserve a state education leader who will put their well-being at the forefront of all education policies.

“In 2015, NYSAPE sounded the alarms when Commissioner Elia was recruited by national and local education leaders to run NY’s education department as she did in Florida, with privatizing, common core, and high stakes testing, as her main priorities.  As the new leadership and education philosophy of the Board of Regents shifted towards child-centered learning, Commissioner Elia was focused on creating a culture of fear, misinformation, and intimidation throughout NYS school districts,” said Jeanette Deutermann, co-founder of NYSAPE and founder of Long Island Opt Out.

“Under Commissioner Elia’s direction, our children and schools continued to endure abusive, excessive testing, developmentally inappropriate state standards and data privacy breaches.  At every turn, Elia circumvented the Board of Regents and failed to steer public education policies in the right direction,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester public school parent, Executive Director and co-founder of NYSAPE.

“The student privacy regulations just released by the State Education Department were the last straw,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.  “After waiting five years for NY Education § 2-d  to be enforced, state officials just proposed regulations that would allow contractors to sell and use personal student data for marketing purposes, in direct violation of the language of the law. And she has failed to deliver any of the annual reports required since 2014 that would detail the progress in following up on data breaches and parental privacy complaints.”

“We urge the Board of Regents to work with parents, advocates and other stakeholder groups in appointing the next Commissioner. Our children deserve a Commissioner who will move past the current test-and-punish regime, and towards a whole-child education and project-based learning,” said Chris Cerrone, a Western NY school board member, teacher and a co-founder of NYSAPE.

“The New York State Education Department under Commissioner Elia was never straight with parents regarding the state’s high-stakes testing program. Rather than present neutral information, the department engaged in deceptive practices, including creating PR “toolkits” designed to persuade families of the legitimacy of the tests, even though a growing number of respected educators and researchers have questioned their effectiveness. I hope her successor will be more focused on equity and partnering with schools rather than punishing them,” Kemala Karmen, co-founder of NYC Opt Out.

Elia repeatedly feigned inclusivity, exaggerating stakeholder input, such as the role of teachers in creating standardized exams, the ESSA implementation workshops where a popular Opportunity Dashboard was stealthily removed, and the “public” comments on teacher evaluations which were never made public. Elia also never responded to requests asking for the research showing the scientific validity of standardized testing, nor would she make public the invisible scoring formulas which make the results unverifiable,” said public school parent and NYC educator Jake Jacobs.

New York must get it right this time. The children of New York and our public schools can’t afford to wait any longer for the education leadership they deserve.


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

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Note to the Regents: Parents and teachers have had it. They are sick of the same old, same old, test-and-punish, top-down mandates. Isn’t it time to pick a leader who is not in love with high-stakes testing and lockstep policies?

John Ogozalek, teacher and thinker, speaks for many others when he wrote this morning:

Maybe at this point someone in charge should apologize to the children, parents, teachers and taxpayers of New York State for 8 years of chaos and waste and harm.

But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that.

I’m going to go water the garden.

Enjoy this beautiful, summer day all!

I agree that the state owes everyone an apology. But I don’t agree that we should sit back and wait to see what happens. Speak up, contact your Regent if you live in New York, demand a new approach that respects the intelligence of parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers. All over the country, parents and educators are starting to demand fresh thinking, free of the shackles created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. New York should lead, not follow, in breaking free of the status quo.