Archives for category: New York

Daniel Katz of Seton Hall University explores the meaning of Sheri Lederman’s victory in court over New York State’s teacher evaluation system, the one promoted by former Commissioner John King (now Secretary of Education). He shows the complicated statistical calculations that produce “VAM” ratings and growth scores. Bruce Lederman, the attorney representing his wife in the proceedings, called them “a statistical black box.” It is not clear that anyone understands these models or can claim that they accurately measure teacher quality. This case is probably the first in the nation where a teacher has successfully overturned her rating.


Katz writes:


Not only are these models difficult to impossible for teachers and most administrators to understand, they simply do not perform as advertised. Schochet and Chiang, in a 2010 report for Mathematica, found that in trying to classify teachers via growth models, error rates as high as 26% were possible when using three years of data, meaning one in four teachers could easily be misclassified in any given evaluation even if the evaluation used multiple years of data. Dr. Bruce Baker of Rutgers wanted to test the often floated talking point that some teachers are “irreplaceable” because they demonstrate a very high value added using student test scores. What he found, using New York City data, was an unstable mess where teachers were much more likely to ping around from the top 20% to below that and back up again over a five year stretch……


Equally important as the court’s recognition of arguments against value-added models in teacher evaluation, is the ground that was broken with the ruling. Ms. Lederman’s attorney (and husband), Bruce Lederman, sent out a message reported by New York City education activist Leonie Haimson which said, in part, ” …To my knowledge, this is the first time a judge has set aside an individual teacher’s VAM rating based upon a presentation like we made.” The significance of this cannot be overstated. For years now, teachers have been on the defensive and largely powerless, subjected to poorly thought out policies which, nevertheless, had force of policy and law on their side. Lederman v. King begins the process of flipping that script, giving New York teachers an effective argument to make on their behalf and challenging policy makers to find some means of defending their desire to use evaluation tools that are “capricious and arbitrary.” While this case will not overturn whatever system NYSED thinks up next, it should force Albany to think really long and hard about how many times they want to defend themselves in court from wave after wave of teachers challenging their test-based ratings.



Attorney Bruce Lederman represented his wife Sheri Lederman in a lawsuit challenging New York’s teacher rating systemSheri teaches elementary school on Long Island is considered an exemplary teacher by her principal, parents, and former students.


The Ledermans won. The decision is posted here, on the NYC Parents’ blog.


Bruce Lederman writes:


“I am very pleased to attach a 13 page decision by Judge Roger McDonough which concludes that Sheri has “met her high burden and established that Petitioner’s growth score and rating for the school year 2013-2014 are arbitrary and capricious.” The Court declined to make an overall ruling on the rating system in general because of new regulations in effect. However, decision makes (at page 11) important observations that VAM is biased against teachers at both ends of the spectrum, disproportionate effects of small class size, wholly unexplained swings in growths scores, strict use of curve. It is clear that the Judge has serious problems with the Value Added Model (“VAM”) system even though he did not set aside the entire system on account of changes in regulations.


“To my knowledge, this is the first decision to overturn a teacher’s rating system which was based upon the system championed by John King, Jr., when he was chancellor of the New York Board of Regents. Mr. King is now Secretary of Education for the United States, and never wavered from his support of VAM as Chancellor. Indeed the Department of Education never backed down from fighting Sheri’s score, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence of its irrationality.


“The decision should qualify as persuasive authority for other teachers challenging growth scores throughout the County. Court carefully recites all our expert affidavits, and discusses at some length affidavits from Professors Darling-Hammond, Pallas, Amrein-Beardsley, Sean Corcoran and Jesse Rothstein as well as Drs. Burris and Lindell . It is clear that the evidence all of these amazing experts presented was a key factor in winning this case since the Judge repeatedly said both in Court and in the decision that we have a “high burden” to meet in this case. The Court wrote that the court “does not lightly enter into a critical analysis of this matter … [and] is constrained on this record, to conclude that petitioner has met her high burden.”


“I want to particularly thank the experts who contributed their time and expertise.


Bruce H. Lederman, Esq.
D’Agostino, Levine, Landesman & Lederman, LLP
345 Seventh Avenue, 23rd Floor
New York, New York 10001


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Do not underestimate the effectiveness of the Opt Out movement in New York.


Governor Cuomo, who made education policy his big issue last year, has gone off on other issues.


The Board of Regents is now led by an experienced educator who has the support of the Opt Out parents.


And Dr. Betty Rosa has not disappointed.


At a recent forum, she said that standardized testing was “abusive” for some students with disabilities and English language learners.


This is a new tone coming from New York State’s highest education official.


It conflicts rather sharply with the pro-testing, pro-Common Core, anti-opt out policies of the state commissioner MaryEllen Elia. This should be interesting.




Let’s start from the assumption that school board members should be expected to act with dignity when they engage with students. That was not the case recently in Douglas County, Colorado, and in Buffalo, New York.


In Dougco, as it is known, two school board members have been accused of trying to intimidate a student who wanted to start a protest about high teacher turnover. Parents and educators have started a petition calling for the resignation of Dougco school board President Meghann Silverthorn and VP Judith Reynolds. The board meets again May 10.


According to the petition, these school board members bullied a student named Grace Davis:


“During the Douglas County School Board meeting on April 19, 2016, Grace Davis, a student at Ponderosa High School, gave public comment about a meeting between her, Director Silverthorn, and Director Reynolds regarding a student protest organized by Grace.


“This meeting took place without the knowledge or consent of Grace’s parents. When there is a meeting between a minor and school administration, parental consent is a requirement. Grace describes how she felt small, intimidated and uncomfortable during this meeting. She goes on to describe her family’s attempts to resolve this issue with Silverthorn and Reynolds, with no results. To hear Grace’s public comments, click here.


“The audio of the meeting between Grace and Directors Silverthorn and Reynolds was also released on April 19. It is clear that during this meeting, Directors Reynolds and Silverthorn used their position to intimidate and bully Grace to deter her from proceeding with the planned protest.


Among the statements made by the directors:

·”*** Grace did not fully understand her First Amendment rights and this protest was not necessarily protected speech.
·” *** People with other motivations could hijack the protest.
· “*** Police officers could be hurt and Grace and her family would be financially responsible.

“Additionally, Director Silverthorn outright lied, claiming a police officer had been injured during a Denver student protest by “an angry motorist.” In reality, the officer was struck by a driver who had a seizure at a Black Lives Matter protest. For the full audio of the meeting, click here.”


In Buffalo, one of the wealthiest real estate developers in New York State, Carl Paladino, ran for re-election and was nearly upset by a high school senior, Austin Harig. (When Paladino ran against Cuomo, he became noted for his outrageous statements.) Paladino won his school board seatby only 100 votes out of 3,000 cast. He lashed out at the student, saying that Harig had been suspended from school for tardiness. How did Paladino gain access to Harig’s record. Harig threatened to sue, but the multimillionaire school board member laughed.



The new chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents visited a dual-language elementary school on Long Island, accompanied by the Superintendent, Michael Hynes (a member of the honor roll of this blog) and by Jeanette Deutermann, parent leader of the Long Island Opt-Out movement. Dr. Rosa spoke to the children in both English and Spanish.



The newly elected chancellor of the state Board of Regents visited a Medford Elementary School dual-language classroom Tuesday afternoon as part of her first statewide listening tour since she assumed the post in March.


“I am going around the state and seeing these wonderful opportunities,” said Betty Rosa, a former Bronx special education teacher, principal and superintendent. “My goal is to make sure our children have the resources and opportunities and access to a quality education.”


Rosa, joined by Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael J. Hynes, spoke in Spanish and English to students in the classroom at Medford Elementary in Patchogue. The district is in its eighth year offering a dual-language program, with 375 students now enrolled.


Hynes, a vocal critic of high-stakes testing, praised Rosa’s vision — seeing what’s working in public schools and trying to replicate it statewide.


“Everything she focuses on is what’s best for kids,” he said.
Rosa’s selection as chancellor marked a dramatic shift in tone for the Regents board, where a majority of board members in the past had supported higher academic standards and other reforms, first enthusiastically and then with growing reluctance.


She was named chancellor shortly before state assessments were administered last month. A Newsday survey found that more than half of Long Island students boycotted the English Language Arts and math exams in April.


It was the second sweeping boycott in New York, driven by parents’ and educators’ rebellion against the exams, the tests’ links to teacher and principal performance evaluations and other state education reforms.


Rosa was joined on Tuesday’s tour by Jeanette Deutermann, a North Bellmore parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out.


“It is so hopeful for parents who have been fighting and fighting to have somebody at the top who understands what we are fighting for and believes in the same philosophy,” Deutermann said.


Rosa called Tuesday for less emphasis on state tests and said she believes teacher evaluations should not be tied to scores on those exams.


“We have to get back to what really matters — which is teaching and learning, and . . . our kids’ excitement to become learners,” Rosa said.


And she means it.

In Buffalo, New York, the election for the school board was nearly a clean sweep for opponents of corporate reform. Of six seats, only one was retained by the old pro-testing, pro-charter crowd. The one survivor was erratic and controversial multimillionaire real estate developer Carl Paladino, who won by only 107 votes of 3,000 cast running against a teenage challenger.


The Buffalo Federation of Teachers supported the five victorious candidates.


Paladino invests in charter schools. No conflict of interest there.

Gary Rubinstein has been tracking the progress of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain. They get very high test scores. They have small percentages of students with disabilities (only the mildest disabilities allowed) and students who are English language learners. They have high attrition rates. They have high suspension rates, even for children of 5 and 6. But the hedge fund managers love the schools because results are all that matter, not how they are obtained.


So Gary decided to find out how SA’s high school students performed on the state Regents exams.


That turned out to be a challenging quest.


Gary writes:


Reformers are all about ‘outcomes’ and that’s why they love Success Academy charter schools. Year after year Success Academy students outperform the rest of the state on the 3-8 ELA and math tests.


For sure if there was a hospital out there that was claiming to have the ability to cure Cancer or something like that, there would be all kinds of independent investigations and different tests to see if their claims were for real. But when it comes to education, we don’t see this so much.


The oldest Success Academy students are now in 10th grade. They have had two different cohorts of 8th graders take the specialized high school test for admission into one of the 8 specialized New York City high schools. Amazingly, none of those students made it into any of the specialized schools. That is pretty unusual that a group of students does so well on one standardized test but does so poorly on another. Aside from knowing that none of their 8th graders made the cut score on that test, there are no other details about their specific scores.


But there are other tests those students have taken, namely the New York State Regents exams. Most advanced students take the Algebra I test in 8th grade and then various Regents in 9th grade, maybe Geometry and also a few others like Living Environment, Earth Science, and Global History.


I had not heard about how they fared on the Regents exams for the past two years so I went over to the revamped New York State data site. I went to the page for the school, Success Academy Harlem I, but could not locate the Regent scores. I did take notice of their enrollment by grade, however.


The first Success Academy cohort began as kindergarteners in 2006-2007 ago with 83 kindergarteners and 73 first graders. That group of 73 first graders had been whittled down to 26 ninth graders last year and who knows how many of those 26 are now tenth graders this year. So they have lost about 2/3 of them so far so we’d expect the Success survivors to be pretty strong academically.


So how did the SA students fare on the Regents exams?


I won’t give you the answer. To learn more about Gary’s search for the SA high school students’ performance on the New York Regents exams, read his post.

When New York State won Race to the Top funding, the explicit agreement among the city, state, and teachers’ union was that test scores would be 20% of teachers’ evaluation. When the deal was done, Governor Andrew Cuomo insisted that testing count for 40%.When the unions did not support his re-election in 2014, he raised the weight of testing to 50% and inserted that requirement into the budget.


So without any review of research, the teachers of New York were saddled with an onerous and phony evaluation system, based on the governor’s whim.


Now legislators are are uncertain what to do. The opt out movement is not going away, and it has caught their attention.


This article appeared in Politico Pro; it is behind a paywall. It was written by Keshia Clukey.



“ALBANY — State lawmakers are divided over how to handle the law linking teacher and principal evaluations with school funding, with a deadline approaching for school districts to put an evaluation system in place.


“Some legislators are calling for the law to be re-written, while others think it should be repealed entirely.


“The original evaluation system was the governor’s ill-conceived plan that was passed last year and now is wreaking all kinds of chaos in state education,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Utica Democrat. “Everyone is scrambling right now trying to correct what was an ill-complete plan to begin with. Many of us knew that it was unworkable then, and it’s unworkable now.”


“Brindisi said he would like to see the law — which was put in place to weed out low-performing teachers at a time when the state was implementing new, higher standards for students — repealed.
“Teachers are not the problem with education in New York State right now,” he said. “It’s the inadequate funding…that is impacting students’ ability to achieve.”


“If the districts don’t put the new evaluation system in place, they risk losing any increase in state aid from the recently passed budget. That includes the funding allotted to restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a formula established during the 2008 recession that distributed cuts to school districts as the state grappled with deficits. The budget for the 2016-17 school year fully restored the $434 million left in the GEA.


“A spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo Thursday backed the evaluation system saying it created a more accurate and fair measure of a teacher’s performance.


“While certain Common Core-aligned tests will not be counted for several years to address the botched Common Core implementation, the evaluation law remains intact,” Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever told POLITICO New York in an emailed statement. The state education department, she said, should work “with the districts to implement evaluation systems that can improve educational opportunity for our students instead of protecting the bureaucracy that has failed them for so long.”


“The evaluation system, which Cuomo pushed through in last year’s budget, relies heavily on the use of student scores on the state’s standardized, Common Core-aligned exams. The law also requires districts put new evaluation plans in place or risk losing state aid increases.


“The new system only created more contention among parents and teachers, who were already angered by the rollout of the Common Core learning standards. Last spring, a state-wide test opt-out movement blossomed, with more than 200,000 students refusing to take the state third- through eighth-grade exams.


“The state Board of Regents, tied by the prescriptive nature of the law, put in place a waiver system allowing districts to delay implementation of the new evaluation system through September 2016….”


“The Regents Monday questioned why districts should still have to put time, effort and money into putting in place a new system when it will be changed again in 2019-20.


“Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale agreed.


“It seems a little ridiculous to require the districts to change their [Annual Professional Performance Reviews] just to change them again,” said Paulin.”




In a hotly contested election for the State Senate seat of convicted Dean Skelos, Todd Kaminsky appears to be the winner by a slim margin. The absentee ballots are not yet counted, but if Kaminsky’s lead holds up, he will be a member of the State Senate. StudentsFirst poured nearly $1.5 million into defeating him and trying to elect the candidate from the Republican machine. This election should make clear that StudentsFirst can be beaten and that they are a front for the Republican Party.


Kaminsky’s victory is a victory for the leaders of the Long Island opt out movement, who strongly supported his candidacy and the legislation he proposed as a member of the Assembly. Kaminsky wants to decouple test scores from teacher evaluation, which would reduce the absurd pressure to raise test scores and the time lost by the arts and other subjects. Parents want their children to have a well-rounded education, not a test-prep curriculum.


The parents of Long Island have become a political force to be reckoned with, and a shining example for parents across the nation. Parents united can never be defeated. Not even by big money.



Bruce Lederman went to court to help his wife Sheri fight the rating she got from a flawed computer program in New York. Icky Sheri! No teacher could have paid for the legal bills required to fight the state. Bruce wrote this article in the main newspaper in Charlotte to warn North Carolinians to stop wasting time on computerized test-ASD teacher evaluations.


The Lederman case might turn it to be a landmark decision that puts an end to Arne Duncan’s worst idea: judging teachers by their students’ scores.


Why did Bruce publish this article in North Carolina? He and Sheri are appearing at the Network for Public Education annual conference in Raleigh to tell their story to activists from across the nation.


Wish you were here!


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