Archives for category: New York

I received this sensible email from Melissa McMullan, who teaches sixth grade students on Long Island in New York State.


I am a sixth grade teacher in Comsewogue School District, Port Jefferson Station, NY. I have a PhD in Literacy Studies from Hofstra University. You have previously published my writing on your blog as it pertains to 3-8 testing and APPR. This year it is imperative that the state suspend both so schools can focus on meeting the myriad of students needs in the face of this pandemic.

I want to begin by sharing what I see every day when I go to work. Having been a teacher for 20 years, I see the worst teacher I have ever seen. Every day I judge my performance based upon what I know makes a good teacher. I see little to no evidence of a strong teacher performance based upon existing metrics, and what I know are standards of good practice.

This is a heavy burden to carry. I remind myself I am teaching in the middle of a pandemic. I am working in a classroom that is not my own. All of the materials I rely upon to do my job effectively, are outside, locked up in a trailer. I can’t do the collaborative work that has always benefited students. I am teaching an additional subject, one I have never taught before. We try not to handle students’ papers. I do not have the hundreds of novels and picture books we traverse in a “normal” year. Every lesson must be constructed in a way that ensures there is no shared touching of materials.

There is a bright side. Students have yoga mats. We go outside to do work. We are experimenting with modes to collaborate, while maintaining the appropriate distance. We are developing ways to have class conversations where we can hear one another through our masks. I am working hard every day to reinvent myself as a teacher in order to teach in these times.

Little I am doing is anything I have ever done before. And I am one of the lucky ones. I only had to learn one additional subject this year. Some of my colleagues have had to learn five. I am assigned to the same grade level I’ve been with throughout my career, while many of my colleagues are not. I am in the same building, while many of my colleagues have been relocated. I teach in one room, the majority of my colleagues are travelling room to room every period, with only the most essential items from their classrooms crammed on carts that move with them.

There is an undeniable level of stress every day. We are teaching in a foreign landscape, while monitoring masks and distance and how long it’s been since our students have had a break. We watch as our custodial staff travels throughout the building with backpacks and respirators spraying disinfectant on the surfaces we touch. Every day, students exhibit COVID-type symptoms of sneezing and/or runny noses. We have to determine, while teaching, whether their symptoms require a trip to our auxiliary nurse to be triaged. There is the “Do Not Enter” list, that has to be checked every day, containing names of students we cannot permit in our classrooms until they are cleared by the nurse.

Everyone, at every level of public education, is doing everything in his or her power to continue to educate children, in the safest manner possible. I own my failure this year. I cannot measure up to pre-pandemic instructional standards. Nor can colleagues who have been shuffled around classrooms, buildings, subjects and grade levels to maintain appropriate social distancing in classrooms, amid a frightening and stressful teaching environment. Every ounce of energy we have is expended standing in front of our students every day with a smile (while wearing a mask), projecting a sense of calm, kindness and love, while simultaneously finding any way humanly possible to teach in this situation. 

New York State must suspend its three through eight high stakes testing schedule, as well as its teachers’ Annual Professional performance review (APPR). Both endeavors carry with them an inordinate level of stress, and costs in both materials and manpower, while having no ability to assess what students and teachers should be evaluated for this year. If New York State is unable to relinquish these tasks, I respectfully ask that both my students and I be registered as failures, so we can move on and use our time, energy and resources for devising ways to succeed in this environment.

I tell students we are a part of history. We are in school in the middle of a pandemic. Forever we will be judged by how well we took care of one another. Measure that.

Melissa McMullan, PhD

I am very excited because the Democratic nominee for Congress is Nancy Goroff, a chemistry professor at Stony Brook University on Long Island. Dr. Goroff bested three opponents to win the nomination and will face Lee Zeldin, the incumbent member of Congress who is one of Trump’s most faithful lap dogs.

Here is an interview with Dr. Goroff. She is articulate and well informed and will be a powerful advocate for an evidence-based approach to the critical issues of our day, like climate change and pollution.

I have lived on the North Fork of Long Island for more than 20 years, and I am very excited by the possibility that a brilliant scientist might represent this ecologically-challenged area of bays and waterfront in Congress.

I will do whatever I can to help her win election to Congress. Her knowledge, experience, and wisdom are needed.

Governor Cuomo slashed school funding across the state of New York. Other governors have found ways to protect their schools and children. Please sign the petition of the Network for Public Education Action, calling on Governor Cuomo to restore school funding. Schools cannot safely reopen with less money.

New York, like California, has a large cohort of billionaires. To be exact, there are 118 billionaire families in New York. Despite the desperate financial condition of the state, Andrew Cuomo refuses to raise the taxes on the top one-tenth of 1%. Cuomo says that if he raised taxes on the billionaires, they would move to another state.

Walker Bragman and David Sirota explain another reason why Cuomo won’t raise taxes on the billionaires: one-third of them are donors to Cuomo’s campaigns, and clearly he has aspirations to run again for higher office.

As that campaign to tax billionaires received a recent boost from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York’s Democratic state legislative leaders, Cuomo has insisted that he fears that the tax initiative will prompt the super-rich to leave the state. On Wednesday, he doubled down, warning that if the state tried to balance its budget through billionaire tax hikes “you’d have no billionaires left”.

But in defending billionaires, Cuomo is protecting a group of his most important financial boosters. More than a third of New York’s billionaires have funneled cash to Cuomo’s political machine, according to a Too Much Information review of campaign finance data and the Forbes billionaire list.

So the people who can easily afford higher taxes to pay for public services should be protected from higher taxes, which for them is chump change.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, wrote an open letter about the steps required before schools can begin to reopen.

She wrote:


Last week, Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Health, and the NY State Education Department all came out with detailed guidance on what measures schools should take to reopen in the fall to ensure health and safety as well as provide instructional and emotional support to their students. If the COVID positivity rates of all regions of the state remain under 5%, as they do currently, schools will be eligible to reopen if they adopt the recommended protocols.

Yet nothing was said in these documents about how schools can afford the expensive health and safety measures, as well as the extra staffing and space necessary to keep students engaged in learning while attending school in person in shifts to ensure social distancing.

As the National Academy of Sciences pointed out, “Many of the mitigation strategies currently under consideration (such as limiting classes to small cohorts of students or implementing physical distancing between students and staff) require substantial reconfiguring of space, purchase of additional equipment, adjustments to staffing patterns, and upgrades to school buildings. The financial costs of consistently implementing a number of potential mitigation strategies is considerable.”

Our schools’ desperate need for more funding has been aggravated by the fact that Governor Cuomo hijacked the extra dollars that were funded by Congress in the CARES ACT to fill holes in state aid, instead of sending these funds to schools to help them deal with the additional expenses caused by the COVID crisis.

Now is the time for the Governor and our State Legislators to stand up for our schools and protect our children by providing them with the funds that are badly needed. They could do that easily by boosting taxes on the ultra-wealthy, including the Ultra-millionaires Tax (S.8164 / A.10364) on residents who earn above $5 million annually; or above $1 million annually (S.7378/A.10363); and the Pied-a-terre Tax (S.44 / AA.4540), a surcharge on non-primary residences worth over $5 million.

There is no doubt that the ultra-wealthy can afford this. In NY State, 118 billionaires saw their wealth increase by $77.3 billion during first three months of the pandemic. Michael Bloomberg saw his net worth increase by $12 billion during this period alone. All New Yorkers, including the ultra-wealthy, need to pitch in during this time of need, to ensure the health, safety and education of our kids. Below are links to your Legislators’ contact information and a script you can use. They are back in session today.

Thanks Leonie

Directions: Call your Legislators in their district offices – unless their phones are busy and then please call their Albany offices.

You can find your Assemblymember’s phone number here and your State Senator’s phone number here.

Script: Hi, my name is ________ and I am a constituent.

Our public schools desperately need more state aid to deal with the pandemic. I want to urge [Elected Name] to support the Fund Our Future package, including the Ultra-Millionaires Tax, the Billionaire Tax Shelter Tax and the Pied-a-terre Tax, so our kids can attend school safely next year. Can I count on [Elected Name] to sign onto these bills, and to ask the Legislative leaders to bring them to a vote?

Afterwards, if you have time, please enter their responses into our Google form here. Thanks!

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
leonie@classsizematters.org
http://www.classsizematters.org
Follow on twitter @leoniehaimson
Subscribe to the Class Size Matters newsletter for regular updates at http://tinyurl.com/kj5y5co

Subscribe to the NYC Education list serv by emailing NYCeducationnews+subscribe@groups.io

Host of “Talk out of School” WBAI radio show and podcast at https://talk-out-of-school.simplecast.com/

Peter Goodman is a long-time observer of education politics in New York State and New York City.

In this post, he asks a reasonable question: Why, at a time of fiscal stringency and uncertainty, is the Board of Regents of New York State rubber-stamping the expansion of charter schools?

Charter schools, as he shows, cherry-pick their students to inflate their test scores. Despite state law, their doors are not open to all.

He writes:

If you look at charter school data virtually every charter school enrolls fewer than the “comparable” percentages required in the law. The reason is abundantly clear, students with disabilities and English language learners frequently have lower standardized test scores, impact the charter renewal process and are more costly to educate, i.e., lower class size = more teachers.

The Buffalo charter was out of compliance with state law. Why did the Board of Regents approve a five-year renewal of a charter in Buffalo when the Regent from Buffalo proposed a three-year renewal? Buffalo schools face a large deficit, but its charters are on track to take $108 million out of the city’s public budget.

Why did the Board of Regents approve the renewal of a low-performing charter school in the Bronx?

Goodman writes:

Later in the [Regents’] meeting three New York City charter schools were on the agenda, one of the schools wanted to add high school grades; although there is a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools State Ed staff interpreted the law as allowing grade expansion, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the law and should have not been allowed by the state.

The math scores in the school were in the “far below standard” category, ninety percent of teachers were “teaching out of their certification area,” the state average is eleven percent and the register in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, was sharply reduced, from 71 (6th grade), to 46 (7th grade) and 29 (8th grade): what happened to the kids? In addition the school SWD and ELL students are far below the district averages.

Why did the NYC Department of Education approve the application? Why did the SED approve the application?

The school has a lobbyist who was a college roommate of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. I’m sure that’s only a coincidence. btw, who paid the lobbyist?

In spite of objections from some Regents members the SED lawyer bundled all three schools together instead of decoupling and voting separately.

Regent Cashin made a motion: a moratorium on approval of new charters and the grade expansion of existing charter schools for the remainder of the COVID emergency. She explained that with sharp cuts in district budgets, with districts facing layoffs and disruptions, to transfer money from public schools budgets to charter school budgets was unconscionable. The SED lawyer ruled her motion was “out of order.”

Any member of the Board can make a motion at any time. The Board should vote on whether to place the motion on the agenda. The Board “owns” the motion, not the lawyer, who is not a Board member.

If the lawyer meant the motion was not “germane” he was still wrong. If he was serving as a parliamentarian he gives advice to the chair, he does not participate in the debate, or make determinate decisions.

The whole business had what Goodman called “a noxious aroma,” a polite way of saying that the Regents’ rush to approve charters of dubious quality in the midst of a fiscal crisis stinks to high heaven.

Why incentivize privately run charters to divert funding and the students of their choice from the public schools.

Why are the Regents betraying the state’s public schools?

That noxious aroma is the smell that is released when politics seeps into decisions about school funding. Someone’s friends are being taken care of, at the expense of the public schools.

I have known Jamaal Bowman as an enlightened educator and a fighter for social justice. Right now, he is running for Congress against a senior Democrat, Elliot Engel. Engel is a 16-term member of Congress and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Most people think of Jamaal as a long shot.

But the times are changing. Jamaal has raised nearly $1 million. He was endorsed by AOC. He is young and energetic and passionate.

Michelle Goldberg, a regular columnist for the New York Times, wrote an extraordinary column about Jamaal.

Goldberg wrote:

On March 1, which feels about 20 years ago, NBC News published an essay by a congressional candidate, Jamaal Bowman, about the scars he bore from life in New York under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was then still running for president.

“As a working-class black male educator during the entirety of Bloomberg’s tenure, I got to experience the horrors and the trauma of how his police department treated people like me,” wrote Bowman. He described an inexplicable arrest following a routine traffic stop, and another after he was accused of stealing his own car. He wrote about Eric Garner and Sean Bell, two black men killed by N.Y.P.D. cops, and about the growing police presence in the city schools where Bowman had made his career.

Last March, when the NBC article appeared, Goldberg wrote him off. But the world has changed since the killing of George Floyd.

Now Jamaal Bowman has a shot at winning. He would be a great addition to Congress.

I endorsed Jamaal months ago. He has all the right ingredients to be a strong voice on behalf of his district, on behalf of education, on behalf of the black and brown students he worked so hard to educate as principal of the Cornerstone Academy of Social Action, and on behalf of their families. He would fight for those who have been left behind by poverty, institutional neglect, and racism.

If you live in the Sixteenth Congressional District in the Bronx, please vote for Jamaal Bowman for Congress.

The NYCLU just won a civil rights case in East Ramapo, New York, where all school board elections were at-large, guaranteeing that every member of the school board was elected by the tightly organized Orthodox Jewish community, whose children do not attend the public schools.

EAST RAMAPO – A federal court today ruled that the East Ramapo Central School District’s at-large method for school board elections denies Black and Latinx residents an equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates under the federal Voting Rights Act. Judge Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York ordered the implementation of a ward system and enjoined the district from holding further elections until this system is in place.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and Latham & Watkins LLP brought the lawsuit against the district in November 2017 on behalf of the Spring Valley NAACP and seven Black and Latinx voters. At-large voting in East Ramapo, in which the entire district votes for all nine seats on the board, has enabled the district’s white majority to control the outcome of elections for every seat on the board for well over a decade. The white majority in East Ramapo lives in highly segregated neighborhoods and votes as a political bloc favoring the interests of private schools, which are almost exclusively white. Communities of color, on the other hand, tend to vote cohesively for candidates advocating for the interests of children attending East Ramapo’s public schools, whose student bodies are predominantly black and Latinx. East Ramapo’s minority voters, however, have not seen their candidates of choice win a contested seat since 2007. Plaintiffs have asked the court to institute a ward system for elections, in which voters will choose their representatives based on geographical districts at least some of which will contain a majority of black and Latinx residents.

“Today’s ruling at long last offers Black and Latinx residents of East Ramapo a fair shot at electing school board members who truly represent their interests,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “As this case showed, and the school board leadership was forced to admit at trial, the white private school community has hijacked the board and rigged its elections for years, while East Ramapo’s students of color have paid the price. Judge Seibel’s decision offers the district a path to represent the interests of the entire community fairly.”

“Our goal in this case was first and foremost to ensure the entire community of East Ramapo, not just a small group, received the full protection provided by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” added Claudia Salomon, partner with Latham & Watkins LLP. “The ruling opens the door towards the establishment of a voting system that reflects the voices of all citizens of East Ramapo.”

More than 99 percent of East Ramapo Central School District’s 27,000 private school students are white, while 96 percent of the nearly 8,500 public school students are children of color. During the last decade, the East Ramapo Central School Board has cut more than 500 positions from the public schools, including 200 teachers, as well as all social workers, deans, and elementary school assistant principals. According to a December 2018 State Education Department Report, most of those positions have not been restored.

The Board’s cuts have led to a precipitous decline in school quality. In 2019, only 28 percent of students in grades 3-8 were proficient in English and only 24 percent are proficient in math, compared to 45 percent and 47 percent respectively of students statewide. Once regarded as a great school district, East Ramapo has consistently showed the lowest graduation rates and highest dropout rates in Rockland County in recent years, and underperformed against statewide schools. East Ramapo’s reputation is so damaged that in 2017, the adjacent Ramapo Central School District changed its name to the Suffern Central School District, distancing itself from its troubled neighbor.

“Judge Seibel’s decision represents a significant improvement for East Ramapo’s students and their families,” said Willie Trotman, President of the Spring Valley NAACP. “Although a majority of board members will still be elected by the district’s white voters, there will finally be an opportunity for people of color to elect candidates who will represent the needs of our communities of color for the first time in over a decade.”

Judge Seibel closed her opinion with a powerful statement that reflected the NAACP’s case: “This ruling may or may not change the way the schools in the District are run. But the purpose of Section 2 is not to produce any particular policy outcome. Rather, it is to ensure that every voter has equal access to the electoral process. For too long, black and Latino voters in the District have been frustrated in that most fundamental and precious endeavor. They, like their white neighbors, are entitled to have their voices heard.”

Attorneys on the case included Perry Grossman and Arthur Eisenberg of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Claudia Salomon, Andrew Clubok, Corey Calabrese and Russell Mangas of Latham & Watkins LLPP.

On May 20, I will ZOOM with Dr. Michael Hynes, the most interesting and inspiring superintendent I know.

Mike Hynes is superintendent of the Port Washington school district on Long Island, In New York.

He is a visionary. His new book—about educational leadership—is Staying Grounded.

He truly believes in whole-child education. He supports the parent opt-out movement. He believes that what matters most is children’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. He is passionate about play, calm, mindfulness.

Mike is my choice for the next state superintendent of New York. What a wild thought! Imagine a major state led. Y a man who knows the harm done by standardized testing! Imagine a state willing to lead, instead of follow.

Join us on Wednesday May 20 at 7:40 pm EST to watch a discussion sponsored by the Network for Public Education. Space is limited to 100. Everyone else can watch a livestream on NPE’s Facebook page.

Andrew Cuomo has a longstanding dislike for teachers and public schools.

He made his disdain clear when he failed to appoint any current New York City educators to his “reimagine education” task force.

Why should he listen to teachers and principals when he can call Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt and other billionaires and CEOs to decide what schools should look like when they reopen?

If there is any consolation to this malign neglect, it is important to remember that Cuomo has no role in setting education policy. That job belongs to the New York State Board of Regents. According to the state constitution, the governor does not appoint either the state commissioner or the Board of Regents.

He is a kibitzer.