Statement on New High-Tech School Security Projects

Approved Through Smart Schools Bond Act

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2020

Media contact: Ben Schaefer, bschaefer@nyclu.org, 212-607-3372

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Today Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the approval of $111 million for 133 new Smart Schools Bond Act, including $51.5 million for high-tech security projects like the facial recognition system currently running in the Lockport City School District.

In response, the New York Civil Liberties Union released the following statement from Director of the Education Policy Center, Johanna Miller:

“The amount of funding for high-tech security projects approved today is greater than the amount for classroom tech, pre-k classrooms, and school connectivity projects combined. State funding could be used to transform the education and experiences of students, but instead we’re seeing this money diverted toward invasive surveillance systems that don’t work and make students feel like criminals in school. In the Lockport City School District alone $3 million was used to buy a facial recognition program – at the cost of $550 a student.

The Smart Schools Bond Act lacks the oversight and transparency it needs to improve schools. The state shouldn’t approve any additional applications for high tech security projects until it creates appropriate protections for student privacy.”

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A few days ago, I published a post about a paper by Kirabo Jackson, explaining that the non-cognitive effects of teachers are often more important than the test scores of their students.

 

As it happened, mathematician Robert Berkman read the paper and explains here why it is another nail in the coffin of value-added measures, which judge teacher quality by the rise or fall of student test scores.

 

Berkman writes:

 

In this post, I’m going to examine one of the studies that no doubt had a profound impact on the members of AMSTAT that led them to this radical (but self-evident) conclusion. In 2012, the researcher C. Kirabo Jackson at Northwestern University published a “working paper” for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works (I’m quoting here from their website.) The paper, entitled “Non-Cognitive Ability, Test Scores, and Teacher Quality: Evidence from 9th Grade Teachers in North Carolina” questions the legitimacy of evaluating a teacher based on his/her students’ test scores. Actually, it is less about “questioning” and more about “decimating” and “annihilating” the practice of VAM.

 

He adds:

 

What should be noted is that Jackson is not an educational researcher, per se. Jackson was trained in economics at Harvard and Yale and is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy. His interest is in optimizing measurement systems, not taking positions on either side of the standardized testing debate. Although this paper should reek with indignation and anger, it makes it’s case using almost understated tone and is filled with careful phrasing like “more than half of teachers who would improve long run outcomes may not be identified using test scores alone,” and “one might worry that test-based accountability may induce teachers to divert effort away from improving students’ non-cognitive skills in order to improve test scores.”

But lets get to the meat of the matter, because this paper is 42 pages long and incorporates mind-boggling statistical techniques that account for every variable one might want to filter out to answer the question: are test scores enough to judge the effectiveness of a teacher? Jackson’s unequivocal conclusion: no, not even remotely.

 

The only puzzle is why Arne Duncan keeps shoving VAM down the throats of states and school districts.

 

 

PS: Berkman added his credentials in a comment:

“I’m a math teacher who has worked with pre-K through college aged students for 30 years. My degrees are in Urban Studies, and Elementary Math Education. I have also done extensive work in neuroscience and numeracy, as well as technology and education, not to mention cognitive science.”
 

 

 

Two Democratic party groups in California have publicly protested the use of the word “Democrats” by the hedge-fund managers’ charter advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform.

The Los Angeles Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley have complained that the Wall Street group–whose education policies are indistinguishable from those of the GOP–should cease and desist using the word “Democrats” in their name as it confuses voters. Here is the LA complaint: http://www.lacdp.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/LACDP-2012-DFER-Cease-Desist-Final.pdf.

The Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley distributed a flyer, but I don’t have a link for it.

The complaint is the same. DFER is supporting conservative candidates who are not the candidates of the Democratic party. DFER, of course, advocates for charter schools and for evaluation of teachers by test scores. The Democratic party has traditionally supported public education, not privately managed charters (of course, President Obama has broken new ground by endorsing GOP education policy).

But what is clear in these complaints is that the grassroots Democrats are not yet ready to embrace, as the President has, the Republican program of testing, accountability, and school choice.

Two Democratic party groups in California have publicly protested the use of the word “Democrats” by the hedge-fund managers’ charter advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform.

The Los Angeles Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley have complained that the Wall Street group–whose education policies are indistinguishable from those of the GOP–should cease and desist using the word “Democrats” in their name as it confuses voters. Here is the LA complaint: http://www.lacdp.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/LACDP-2012-DFER-Cease-Desist-Final.pdf.

The Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley distributed a flyer, but I don’t have a link for it.

The complaint is the same. DFER is supporting conservative candidates who are not the candidates of the Democratic party. DFER, of course, advocates for charter schools and for evaluation of teachers by test scores. The Democratic party has traditionally supported public education, not privately managed charters (of course, President Obama has broken new ground by endorsing GOP education policy).

But what is clear in these complaints is that the grassroots Democrats are not yet ready to embrace, as the President has, the Republican program of testing, accountability, and school choice.