Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, August 22, 2014

NYCDOE, Mayor Bloomberg Threw Away $356 Million In Federal Repayments For Special Education Services Because Of Sloppy Accounting

Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News:

City public schools lost $356 million during the past three years in federal Medicaid payments for special education services because city and state officials failed to properly apply for reimbursement, the Daily News has learned.

“Red tape and bureaucracy should not stand in the way of (the city) being reimbursed for the vast array of services provided,” city Controller Scott Stringer said in a report obtained by The News.
As a result, between 2012 and this year, the city Department of Education kept shifting funds originally slated for books, supplies and other general costs to pay for those special education services, Stringer said.

And unless officials reform their practices quickly, the school system will miss out on another $310 million from Medicaid over the next four years — for an astonishing total loss of $666 million.
“That’s just unacceptable,” Stringer said. “There’s no excuse for leaving so much money on the table.”

Think about all the things the state had to do to "win" $700 million in Race to the Top money - change teacher evaluations, sign on to the Common Core (or some other "college and career-readiness standards), change the state tests, create a data tracking system for all the stats.

Now think about the city and state together throwing away $356 million in federal reimbursements for special education services and getting set to throw away another $310 million over the next four years for a total of $666 million overall.

That's almost the entire Race to the Top award for the whole state.

All the city had to do was get its paperwork in order to get the money.

But it couldn't do it.

The next time you hear somebody, especially somebody in the media, talk about what a "fiscal genius" Bloomberg was, remember how much money in special education services reimbursements he threw away through his own ineptitude.

$356 million dollars.

Not a lot of money to the Mayor of Money, I'm sure, but a lot of money that then had to be taken out of the city public schools budget and couldn't be used on other things like books, supplies and general costs.

When you add up all the money Bloomberg wasted through his tech boondoggles like the 911 system redo, the NYCHA computer system redo, the FDNY GPS fiasco, etc., along with the fraud perpetrated against the city under Bloomberg's watch (like the CityTime fraud, the various NYCDOE scandals, etc.), you get a picture of a mayor who had no clue what he was doing but got hailed in the media as a "fiscal genius" because a) he owned half of it and b) most journalists bow down to power, especially when that power might be their boss somebody.

We now have one more example of Bloomberg's incompetence in this special education reimbursement mess.

Previous Bloomberg contractor and tech boondoggle stories can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Previous Bloomberg NYCDOE consultant and tech fraud stories can be seen here, here, here and here.

Now de Blasio better get his act together and get the money or we can add him to the Hall of Shame.

I'll give him this year, since he only came to power in January.

But September 4, 2014 starts a full year of school with de Blasio in power.

What used to be Bloomberg's messes now are de Blasio's.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Duncan Threatened NY Over Test-Based Teacher Evals, Now Says "Fine For Another Year"

Back in June:

New York might lose out on $300 million if last-minute negotiations on teacher and principal evaluations untie Common Core test scores from final ratings, federal education officials warned Tuesday.

That’s how much New York is due to receive to implement a new evaluation system as part of its participation in Race to the Top, a competitive grant program launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009. New York won a total of $700 million after legislators allowed more charter schools to open, moved toward adopting the Common Core standards, and approved new teacher evaluation requirements.

...


But students’ poor performance on the first years of Common Core state tests, and a rocky rollout of the new teacher evaluations, have increased pressure on lawmakers to discount those scores. Ann Whalen, who oversees implementation of Race to the Top at the U.S. Department of Education, said that would “undermine four years of hard work by the state’s educators, school leaders and stakeholders.”

“Breaking promises made to students, educators and parents and moving backward on these commitments—including stopping the progress the state has made to improve student achievement—puts at risk up to $292 million of New York’s Race to the Top grant for improving schools and supporting their educators and students,” Whalen said in a statement.

Today:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on Thursday that states could delay the use of test results in teacher-performance ratings by another year, an acknowledgment, in effect, of the enormous pressures mounting on the nation’s teachers because of new academic standards and more rigorous standardized testing.

Sounding like some of his fiercest critics, Mr. Duncan wrote in a blog post, “I believe testing issues are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools,” and said that teachers needed time to adapt to new standards and tests that emphasize more than simply filling in bubbled answers to multiple-choice questions.

Over the past four years, close to 40 states have adopted laws that tie teacher evaluations in part to the performance of their students on standardized tests. Many districts have said they will use these performance reviews to decide how teachers are granted tenure, promoted or fired. These laws were adopted in response to conditions set by the Department of Education in the waivers it granted from the No Child Left Behind law that governs what states must do to receive federal education dollars. The test-based teacher evaluations were also included as conditions of Race to the Top grants that have been given by the Obama administration.
...  
In his blog post, Mr. Duncan wrote that “too much testing can rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress.” He also accepted responsibility for the federal department’s role in pushing states and districts too quickly toward new standards and tests.

The nearly 40 states that changed evaluations did so because of the pressure Duncan and the Obama USDOE put on them to do so.

The reason there is so much testing is because Arne Duncan and his boss, Barack Obama, wanted all this testing.

The reason my evaluation will be based on test scores - 20% state tests, 20% local "assessments" (which were even more horseshit than you think) - is because Arne Duncan's DOE pushed New York to institute these changes and threatened New York if any changes were made to them.

Now Arne Duncan is concerned that testing is taking the joy out of school?

Is he fucking kidding me?

In large measure, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama, along with the business people who pushed them into power and sustain them now, are at fault for all the testing, all the stress on kids and teachers, and all the joy being squeezed out of education.

You can tell reformers are feeling the pressure when even Duncan kinda acknowledges this.

Doesn't help me any if I come up "developing" or "ineffective" on my Regents-based evaluation component or local assessment (MOSL) component, however.

And God forbid I come up "ineffective" on both, I'm "ineffective" overall.

That's the law in New York State, thanks to Arne, Barack, Andy, the legislature and the Regents.

Even though Arne Duncan now says there's too much testing and too much stress related to the testing and the evaluations and the new standards and schools need time to implement them better.

Thanks, Arne.

I'd say this is better late than never - but it's really not.

Andrew Cuomo: "I am the government, but I'm not my own campaign."

You can't make this stuff up:

Gov. Cuomo passed Thursday morning on saying whether he'll debate Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout before the Sept. 9 Democratic primary.

The hands-on Cuomo said he's leaving the decision to the campaign.

"I'd leave that to the campaigns to work out, whatever they decide," said Cuomo during a soggy appearance at the state Fair opening in Syracuse.

When pressed what that means, he repeated: "I'll leave it to the campaigns to work out if there should be debates, who should participate. That's a campaign tactic that I will leave to the campaigns."

So Andy can't say whether he'll debate or not because it's up to the campaign manager.

And yet back in 2011:

ALBANY - Gov. Cuomo no longer sees himself as just a governor - he is the government.
Cuomo, during a radio interview Wednesday, flashed a little ego when he argued that his sky-high poll numbers are less about him personally and more about the renewed pride New Yorkers are taking in state government since he took office in January .

"I am the government," Cuomo said on Albany's Talk 1300.

Have you got that straight now?

He is the government, but he's not his own campaign.

New NYSUT Leaders Revive Their Own Pensions

Norm Scott at Ed Notes Online reported this story last night:

NYSUT officers got their pals, Klein and Skelos, to pass this law giving them leaves of absences at full pay, all of it pensionable, and get Cuomo to sign it at the speed of light - for the NY State legislature.

AN ACT to amend chapter 675 of the laws of 1984 relating to providing fringe benefits for certain employees of school districts and boards of cooperative educational services, in relation to leaves of absence...
Oh, who may these "certain employees" be?
The salary paid shall be the salary the employee would have earned and received had THE EMPLOYEE remained in service in the position

A. 10019 2

1 which THE EMPLOYEE held as a full time employee at the time
2 THE EMPLOYEE was first elected as an elective officer, prior to the granting of the leave of absence based on the salary schedule in effect for the negotiating unit during each year of the leave of absence.
This act shall take effect immediately.
Why the newly elected NYSUT officers - of course, this is a priority matter. They will now get their full salary they from their old local (with pension credits) while they are state officers in NYSUT - the union reimburses their locals, but may not be asked too if the NYSUT state leadership sells out at a fast enough clip.

The law can be read in full here -

http://openstates.org/ny/bills/2013-2014/A10019/ -- if you have the stomach.

The NYSUT leaders also failed to announce this news at recent state meetings, and given passing any legislation at all would call for a victory party, there are some thoughts Karen Magee, Andy Palotta, and gang were pulling a coverup.

The bill was introduced on June 9, passed by the Assembly on June 19, passed by the State Senate on June 20 and signed by Cuomo into law on July 22.

Wondering why NYSUT decided not to endorse Teachout and stay neutral in the governor's race?

Well, Cuomo signed this pension giveaway to the NYSUT officers into law swifter than you can say "Common Core!"

Wondering why NYSUT endorsed the mobbed-up, pro-charter, pro-voucher Jeff Klein for re-election (as I was wondering)?

Well, IDC head Klein did let this come up for a vote (and then voted for it.)

Wondering why NYSUT is pushing Common Core even when the current NYSUT leadership ran against Common Core in last spring's election?

Well, Cuomo loves Common Core and NYSUT officers love double pensions and, well, you can see how all this works.

There are of course other reasons for the shenanigans around the NYSUT endorsement of Klein, the neutrality for Cuomo and the support for Common Core, but don't underestimate old time corruption like this quid pro quo giveaway to the NYSUT leadership.

These people are crooks, the crookedness displayed here is as bad as any under investigation by Preet Bharara now that he took over the Moreland Commission files and quite frankly, this ought to be one more case the US attorney should be looking into.

Just how did the pension giveaway to the NYSUT leadership get fast-tracked through the legislature and signed into law by the governor and what did the politicians involved get in return for fast-tracking it?

Campaign To Drive Down Confidence In Public Schools A Success

The headline in the PDK/Gallup poll released yesterday was how much support Common Core has lost with both the general public and parents of children of school age.

But we shouldn't lose sight of these poll findings either:

The wide-ranging survey also showed that trust in the nation’s public school system has evaporated, as a consistent majority of Americans approve of charter schools that operate independently of state regulations.

...


Survey participants said that the top issue facing public schools is a lack of financial support, while concern about discipline issues or crime in schools is dropping.

Respondents also said that they placed more trust in their local school boards when it comes to educational policy issues than in the federal government. The survey showed the Obama administration influence waning as many Americans believe that the federal government should play a smaller role in public education.

On average, respondents said they thought highly of their neighborhood schools. But the poll showed that close to 80 percent of Americans disapprove of the nation’s public schools at large.

So the usual contradictory mess - Americans think highly of the public schools in their own communities but more than three-quarters disapprove of public schools at large.

How does this disconnect occur?

Well, if every time you turn on the TV you see television news and television programs that denigrate the quality of public schools and public school teachers and every time you open the newspaper or go on the Internet you see stories denigrating public schools and public school teachers and this occurs for, I dunno, say thirty+ years, kicking off with a Reagan administration report that declares the "nation at risk" because of the quality of the schools and continuing from there, I'd imagine you'd be convinced that the school system and the people working in it suck too.

And Americans seem to hold this belief even though, when many of these same Americans come into contact with actual public schools and public school teachers (i.e., the ones in their communities), they like and respect both.

Almost every institution in American life (e.g., government, the office of the president, the Congress, Wall Street, Big Business, churches, the press, media companies) has seen a sharp decrease in public esteem over the last thirty years, so in one sense, this huge disapproval rating for schools at large is just a part of that same devolution in public esteem for so many other American institutions and entities.

But on the other hand, it's also a consequence of the powerful and wealthy interests who have spent the last thirty years+ attacking public schools and public school teachers in the media.

The campaign to destroy public schools has been quite successful - at least when Americans think about the system as a whole.

As for their own schools, well, a lot of Americans still like those.

Therein lies the way to pushback on some of this.

Just as people tended to like Common Core when they heard about it in the abstract but hated it when they came in contact with it, people overwhelmingly disapprove of schools in the abstract but kinda like their own.

This is because experience changes perceptions and when people see what their own schools are dealing with, how their own teachers are performing, they see that the stories they hear about on the TV and in the news aren't true about their own schools and school teachers.

Now comes the trick of it - taking that experience and getting people to say, "Well, if that's true of the schools and teachers in my community, maybe it's true of school and teachers at large too?"

Hard to do when there's a well-funded, concerted effort to drive down the esteem people have for schools and teachers funded by some very wealthy business interests.

But this is I where think we must go if we want to see public education survive.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NY1, Time Warner News Send Debate Invitations To Cuomo And Teachout (UPDATED - 7:35 PM)

From State of Politics:

NY1 and Time Warner Cable News in Albany are inviting Gov. Cuomo and his Democratic rival, Zephyr Teachout, to a live, hour-long Sept. 2nd debate that will air statewide and be hosted by NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis and Capital Tonight Anchor Liz Benjamin.

Invitations have also been sent to Rep. Kathy Hochul and Tim Wu to participate in a separate debate for Lieutenant Governor on Sept. 3rd.

“NY1 and Time Warner Cable News are committed to a full discussion of the issues in the Democratic primary race and we’re looking forward to hearing what the candidates have to say,’’ said NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt. “Debate season is officially underway.”

Invitations were e-mailed to the campaigns earlier this afternoon – with an RSVP date set for Aug. 28th. Both the Teachout and Wu campaigns agreed to the debate – while the Cuomo and Hochul campaigns did not immediately respond to the invitations beyond acknowledging they had been received.

Two issues here:

First, Cuomo has minimized his public appearances even more than usual ever since the Moreland mess broke open with the NY Times story in July.

With his poll numbers stable, Cuomo has no strategic reason to debate and won't until/unless he sees a drop in his poll numbers.

Second, for some reason he's afraid of Errol Louis, the Road to City Hall host.

He has refused to appear on Louis' show and I doubt he'll break that streak by agreeing to a debate with Teachout moderated, in part, by Louis.

In short, he ain't coming out, folks - not unless he has to.

Cuomo is going to use the Rose Garden strategy here, sit on his lead, and use his money advantage to beat his GOP opponent Astorino to a pulp.

He's going to ignore his Democratic opponent Teachout - at least in public.

In private, they're worried about her or they wouldn't have been sending fake protesters with ties to the Cuomo campaign to her appearances.

But in order to get a real live Cuomo in this campaign (as opposed to the one who called into Maria Bartiromo for an interview that aired on tape last Sunday), we're going to have use some shame on him.

So let's shame him as much as we can - with tweets, with calls, with Facebook posts, with calls and letters to the newspapers and other media outlets.

May not work, since Cuomo seems without shame, but sure is worth a try.

UPDATE - 7:35 PM) - I should note that the other Time Warner Cable News reporter who would be moderating the NY1/TWC News debate is Liz Benjamin, another reporter Cuomo is scared of.

In fact, he's so scared of her, he had a flack put together a 35 page dossier on her:

A top aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo assembled a 35-page dossier on the work of an Albany political reporter considered hostile to his administration, highlighting any shred of criticism in a document that reflects the intense sensitivity of a governor on the brink of taking the national stage.

The document was provided to BuzzFeed by a New York City political operative who said he believes it reveals Cuomo’s “scary dark side.” And the document does offer a glimpse into Cuomo’s obsessive and often difficult relationship with the media who cover him. Communications Director Richard Bamberger, who acknowledged preparing the document, called it “meaningless” and “garbage,” while warning that its leak set a “dangerous precedent.”

...

“This is a glimpse at the old Andrew Cuomo we all knew and hated,” said the New York City politico who provided the documents to BuzzFeed. “He has worked hard to keep this scary dark side at bay, but every now and again it reveals itself, and it’s ugly. The secret dossier on Liz Benjamin is the stuff of Richard Nixon and Eliot Spitzer.”

“One has to wonder if similar dossiers are being put together on other reporters,” he said.
Bamberger said that there are not files on other reporters. He also denied that the Benjamin document constituted a “file.”

Yeah - no way Cuomo's doing a debate he doesn't want to do with two media people he's terrified of.

Common Core On Life Support

Here's the second poll this week showing the public has turned against the Common Core:

While more people know what the Common Core State Standards are than last year, a majority of them oppose the standards, according to the 46th edition of the PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

Overall, the wide-ranging survey found, 81 percent of those polled said they had heard about the common standards, compared with 38 percent last year. However, 60 percent oppose the standards, generally because they believe the standards will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach what they think is best. Last year's poll did not specifically ask respondents whether or not they supported the standards. 

The poll also highlighted a partisan split in opinion on the common core: 76 percent of Republicans  and 60 percent of independents said they oppose the standards. Democrats were the only category of respondents polled in which a majority said they support the standards, 53 percent in favor compared to 38 percent opposed. 

If the best Common Core supporters can get is 53%-38% from Dems, Common Core is finished.

Core supporters can roll out their propaganda tour all they want - the trajectory for Core support is clear.

The more the public becomes familiar with Common Core, the more teachers are forced to work under the standards, the less both those groups support the Core.

Yesterday's Education Next poll found teacher support for the Core plummeted in just one year, from 76% supporting the Core last year to just 46% supporting the Core this year.

In addition, opposition to the Core among teachers jumped from 12% to 40%.

So in one year, Education Next, a reform-friendly outfit that frames their polls to get reform-friendly results, saw support for the Core among teachers go from 76%-12% to 46%-40%.

Think about that for a minute.

Last year, teachers supported the Core 76%-12% according to the Education Next poll.

This year, teachers support the Core 46%-40%.

What's the likelihood that trajectory gets turned around?

Not good:

"Given the increased media coverage this year, we were not surprised that an overwhelming majority of Americans have heard about the Common Core State Standards, but we were surprised by the level of opposition," William Bushaw, CEO of PDK International and co-director of the poll, said on a call with press Tuesday. "Supporters of the standards, and education in particular, face a growing challenge in explaining why they believe the standards are best in practice."

That the Core and the tests that go with them got rolled out before the whole thing was completely baked has not helped, of course.

That Core supporters decided to link teacher evaluations to test scores at the same time they pushed the Core Standards and tests have not helped support among teachers either.

That the Obama administration pushed all of this through first Race to the Top and later through No Child Left Behind waivers has not helped either.

Finally, that reformers thought it was a done deal once they got all their changes instituted hasn't helped because they a) got complacent on the messaging around the Core and ancillary other Core reforms like testing, data tracking and teacher evaluations tied to Core tests, and b) got hubristic when they finally did push back, mostly insulting critics of the Core as wingnuts and crazy people.

Well, the hubris and short-sightedness of their reform push has come back to bite them big time.

The Common Core is on life support with the public and teachers these days and looks like its going to be DOA soon.

Remember When Frank Bruni Thought "Won't Back Down" Was A Great Movie?

Food writer Frank Bruni has written another teacher-bashing column, a habit of his ever since they gave him op-ed real estate at the NY Times, though to be fair, there are quite a few other teacher-bashers on the Times op-ed page as well, so maybe Frank's just trying to fit in with his more famous compatriots in neo-liberalism.

In any case, NYC Educator dispensed with Frank's argument here and I don't think I can improve on it, so I'm going to let that stand for dealing with Frank's current nonsensical teacher-bashing and remind everyone of a few years back when Bruni, a food writer by trade, got into movie reviews and told us how great the teacher-bashing picture "Won't Back Down" was.

Remember that travesty?

I do - and I like to remind people of it every time Frank Bruni writes some more nonsense about public education, public schools, teachers or Common Core.

I think it's important to remind people just how poor Frank's judgment is when it comes to what he writes about education, schools and teachers (as well as movies):

"Won't Back Down" Getting Savaged By Film Critics (UPDATED)

Frank Bruni loved the parent trigger propaganda piece "Won't Back Down, but movie critics for Salon, NPR and the Associated Press did not.

First, NPR's review:

 All cynicism aside, the movie taps a rich vein of accumulated public frustration at the continued failure of government to provide decent access to public schools for all American children. Aside from religion itself, no subject lends itself more to arm-waving entrenched positions than education. And perhaps a movie aimed at a mainstream audience can't help but distill the discussion into culture-war sound bites.

 For all its strenuous feints at fair play, though, Won't Back Down is something less honorable — a propaganda piece with blame on its mind. Directed with reasonable competence by Daniel Barnz from a speechifying screenplay he co-wrote with Brin Hill, the movie is funded by Walden Media, a company owned by conservative mogul Philip Anschutz, who advocates creationist curricula in schools. Walden also co-produced the controversial pro-charter school documentary Waiting for Superman, so the outfit is not without axes to grind.

...


In fact, it's nuance and reason that fall by the wayside amid the sloganeering rhetoric of Won't Back Down. Like most large institutions with interests to protect, the unions could use some reforms, especially when it comes to shielding bad teachers from scrutiny and discipline.
But if you were to wave a magic wand that replaced unions and bureaucrats with a rainbow coalition of local parents and educators coming together to create the kind of school they want, the result would be chaos, not to mention an end to the tattered remains of our common culture.
"We need to start somewhere," comes a stern, God-like voice in Won't Back Down, waving off all talk about the role of poverty and inequality in under-resourced schools and underachieving pupils. We do indeed. Just not here.
 Next, David Germain of the Associated Press pans the movie:

 Despite earnest performances from Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as a pair of moms leading the fight, "Won't Back Down" lives down to its bland, us-against-them title with a simple-minded assault on the ills of public schools that lumbers along like a math class droning multiplication tables.

Director and co-writer Daniel Barnz ("Beastly") made his feature debut with 2009's "Phoebe in Wonderland," an intimate story of a troubled girl aided by an unconventional teacher. Here, Barnz gets lost in red tape as "Won't Back Down" gives us the inside dope on the teacher's lounge, the union headquarters, the principal-teacher showdown, the hushed halls of the board of education.

Theaters should install glow-in-the-dark versions of those old clunking classroom clocks so viewers can count the agonizing minutes ticking by as they watch the movie.

 ...

 And it's the children who suffer in "Won't Back Down." Other than some token scenes involving Jamie and Nona's kids, the students are mere extras in a drama that spends most of its time prattling on about how the children are what matter most.

 And finally, saving the best for last, Andrew O'Hehir


So teachers’ unions don’t care about kids. Oh, and luck is a foxy lady. This is what I took away from the inept and bizarre “Won’t Back Down,” a set of right-wing anti-union talking points disguised (with very limited success) as a mainstream motion-picture-type product. Someone needs to launch an investigation into what combination of crimes, dares, alcoholic binges and lapses in judgment got Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal into this movie. Neither of them seems likely to sympathize with its thinly veiled labor-bashing agenda and, way more to the point, I thought they had better taste. Maybe it was that actor-y thing where they saw potential in their characters – a feisty, working-class single mom for Gyllenhaal, a sober middle-class schoolteacher for Davis – liked the idea of working together and didn’t think too much about the big picture.

Perhaps that was a mistake, because the big picture is that the movie is unbelievable crap and the whole project was financed by conservative Christian billionaire Phil Anschutz, also the moneybags behind the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” which handled a similar agenda in subtler fashion.

...

 “Won’t Back Down” was reportedly inspired by a California law that allows parent-teacher takeovers of failing schools under certain circumstances. Again, that sounds like a fascinating premise, albeit one that’s highly likely to go in unforeseen “Animal Farm” directions. But all we get here is the most blithe and moronic kind of “let’s put on a show” magical thinking, in which ripping up the union contract and wresting control of the school from the bureaucrats becomes an end in itself, and what happens later is shrouded in the mists of an imaginary libertarian paradise. There are attempts at Fox News-style balance here and there, as when someone observes that most charter schools fail to improve outcomes and when a bombastic union exec played by Ned Eisenberg delivers a monologue about the current assault on labor (right before announcing that he couldn’t care less about children).

...

 Most people still understand, I believe, that teachers work extremely hard for little pay and low social status in a thankless, no-win situation. But this is one of those areas where conservatives have been extremely successful in dividing the working class, which is precisely the agenda in “Won’t Back Down.” Breeding hostility to unions in themselves, and occasionally insinuating that unionized teachers are a protected caste of incompetents who get three damn months off every single year, has been an effective tactic in what we might call postmodern Republican populism, especially in recent battles over public employee contracts in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It works something like this: 1) Turn the resentment and frustration of people like Jamie – people with crappy service-sector jobs and few benefits, whose kids are stuck in failing schools – against the declining group of public employees who still have a decent deal. 2) Strip away job security and collective bargaining; hand out beer and ukuleles instead. 3) La la la la, tax cuts, tax cuts, I can’t hear you!



On the plus side for "Won't Back Down", NY Times food critic Frank Bruni loved the movie so much that he decided to devote an entire column to how much teachers unions and unionized teachers suck and how much better we would all be if teachers would just mindlessly accept whatever "reforms" the education reform movement wants to impose on schools.

That Bruni thought enough of "Won't Back Down" that he used it as a springboard for his teacher attack column makes you wonder what he was watching.

Maybe Bruni wasn't watching the same "Won't Back Down" as the critics for NPR, Salon, and the AP?

Maybe he was watching the video to Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down."

Or, more likely, Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More."

Hey, Frank, stay away from the magic mushrooms when you're writing about education, okay?

UPDATE - 3:01 PM: Critics from Variety, the Arizona Republic, the Hollywood Reporter and the Village Voice also think "Won't Back Down" sucks.

Maggie Anderson in the Voice writes:

The fat, lazy public school teacher who can’t be bothered to stop diddling with her phone or shopping for shoes online while her second-grade class erupts into mayhem in the opening scene of Won’t Back Down isn’t the most despicable entity in this tearjerker. That would be the union that protects her, the same malevolent force in Davis Guggenheim’s horribly argued pro-charter-school documentary from 2010, Waiting for Superman (both films were funded by Walden Media, led by a conservative billionaire).

...

 Viewed solely as maternal melodrama, Won’t Back Down succeeds; its actresses, as they spearhead the takeover and work through “personal demons,” rouse, rage, and rue admirably (though in Davis’s case, marveling at yet another fine performance doesn’t stop you from wishing that her first leading role was in a worthier vehicle). But there’s no prettying up the movie’s vilifying of teachers’ unions, which here resort to dirty tricks and smear campaigns—an easy enough scapegoat for the larger, more intractable economic problems also ignored in Guggenheim’s film and by most politicians of any stripe.

And David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter writes:

The jury is still out on a solution to the national education system crisis, but the verdict is delivered with a heavy hand and a stacked deck in the formulaic Won’t Back Down. Simplifying complex school-reform hurdles into tidy inspirational clich├ęs while demonizing both teachers’ unions and bureaucracy-entrenched education boards, the movie addresses timely issues but eschews shading in favor of blunt black and white. It’s old-school Lifetime fodder dressed up in Hollywood trappings.
Peter Debruge of Variety writes that the film takes its audience "for dummies" by "grossly oversimplifying the issue at hand" while Barbara VanDenburgh of the Arizona Republic writes that

Oversimplified politics undermine the film at every turn. The shrill preachiness reaches a fever pitch by the film's climax, a schoolboard hearing that takes place under the watchful gazes of a muralized Abraham Lincoln and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and in which the deciding vote is cast by a man named -- what else? -- Mr. King, who monologues against a backdrop of the civil-rights leader to thunderous applause.

The movie doesn't just shriek its point to you through a megaphone -- it beats you over the head with it.

And it doesn't matter which side of the debate you land on; two hours of schmaltz mired in bloodless policy debate just doesn't make for good movie watching. Even if you stripped the film bare of political pretensions, you'd still be left with unabashed, hokey sentimentality where such feel-good adages as "Change the school, you change the neighborhood" are sprinkled on complex problems like so much fairy dust.

There's a real conversation to be had about the sorry state of the public-school system, but all this movie is going to trigger is a lot of screaming.

Looks like there will be no Oscar for the ed reform movement again this year.

They were dying to get an Oscar win for Davis Guggenheim's "Waiting for Superman," but not only did "Superman" not win an Oscar, it wasn't even nominated.

Judging by the reviews of the heavy-handed, badly written "Won't Back Down," the reform movement is going to have to hope the third time is a charm when it comes to winning an Oscar and promoting their message via pop culture.

Wonder what they'll try next?

An animated Disney education reform picture (Donald Duck can be the lazy, nasty, unionized teacher.)

Maybe an updated Boston Public mini-series that promotes privatization, charterization and high stakes testing?

Or maybe they can stop trying to fool people with propaganda and engage on the issues for real.

Improving the education system is not as easy as firing all the teachers, closing all the schools, and turning the entire public school system to charters.

The economic conditions that kids face at home matter when they come to school.

The movie critics get this.

Why can't the education reform community and the politicians?

Why can't President Obama?

That Bruni loved the teacher-bashing movie that all these critics savaged gives you some insight into how poor this dude's judgment is.

Given how bad his judgment is on public education, schools, teachers and movies, I wouldn't take his restaurant reviews at face value either.

That Bruni also was a guest at teacher-baser Campbell Brown's wedding to Dan Senor gives you some insight into why he wrote this teacher-bashing column just after Brown launched her anti-tenure lawsuit in New York State.

Bruni's got an anti-teacher ax to grind, facts (or taste) be damned.

Cuomo Remains Hidden In The Shadows

A few of us on Twitter were wondering if anybody has seen Andrew Cuomo since he returned from his Israel trip.

It seems like every morning, this is schedule (as it is for today):

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

And why not stay hidden and work things from the shadows?

It certainly isn't hurting his poll numbers, as the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows this morning:

Cuomo continues to enjoy a massive lead over his GOP opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, trouncing him 56-28, which is virtually unchanged from 57-28 in a May Q poll (conducted well before the Moreland mess heated up, thanks to a July 23 New York Times report).

As for Cuomo’s Democratic primary challenger, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, 88 percent of New Yorkers have no idea who she is. Ditto (or nearly, at 89 percent) for Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins.

“Is the governor’s race all over? Did it ever start?” said Q pollster Mickey Carroll.

The governor’s favorability rating is 55-36, and 57-28 approve of the job he has been doing. Fifty-three percent of voters say Cuomo deserves to be re-elected, which is about the same as in May.

It seems most New Yorkers aren't paying attention to the Moreland mess and really don't care anyway - at any rate, they're really not holding it against Cuomo:

A whopping 83 percent of New York voters think state government corruption is either a very or somewhat serious problem, and close to half (48 percent) believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo is contributing to the mess, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this morning.

Forty-one percent of those polled said Cuomo is part of the solution to the swamp that has engulfed Albany.

...

Fifty percent of voters disapprove of the way Cuomo is handling ethics in government, but 50 percent also say he’s honest and trustworthy.

Of the 51 percent who have read or heard anything about the governor’s decision to shutter the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, 77 percent say the shutdown was a political deal with legislative leaders while 11 percent say the decision was good government.

Even Cuomo’s fellow Democrats believe – 68-15 -that the demise of Moreland was the result of a political deal.

Forty-six percent of all voters think the feds should continue the defunct commission’s work, though another 46 percent said they haven’t heard enough about this issue to have an opinion one way or the other. 

So far, the Cuomo strategy of hide in the shadows and hope any Moreland indictments come down after the election seems to be working.

We'll see what happens after Labor Day, less than two weeks away now.

But it's starting to look like, unless we get some more Moreland activity that makes Cuomo look bad (like indictments of Cuomo administration members or Cuomo himself) or some other news that reflects badly on Cuomo, the primary and general elections aren't going to be terribly close for him.

Of course, he can't stay hidden in the shadows forever, can he?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NYCDOE Finally Kicks Yuppie Sports League/Drinking Organization From DOE Property

Meant to post about this a few days ago:

The city has once again revoked the Lower East Side permits for an adult sports league residents say was using school properties to run an “alcohol-driven” social league.

ZogSports, a co-ed league for young professionals in cities across the U.S., had been hosting several kickball games each week at MO25 145 at Stanton St. and P.S.142, at 100 Attorney St.
Not only do these local properties belong to the Lower East Side Preparatory High School and P.S.142, kids were reportedly even getting displaced off of the playgrounds during the scheduled games.

Marge Feinberg, a Dept. of Education (D.O.E.) spokesperson, said in a statement to The Villager: “The permits for ZogSports were rescinded last month. They are a for-profit business and we provide permits to use our space to non-profit organizations.”

ZogSports had replaced a previous league, NYC Social, which also eventually had their permit revoked. According to local residents, NYC Social encouraged players to go to local bars afterward to drink, and one bar even had a competition for which team “showed the most spirit” at the bar, which would result in free drinks.

“Children need a place to play, especially in this community,” Diem Boyd, founder of L.E.S. Dwellers, an active neighborhood group on the Lower East Side, said before learning of the city’s decision.
... 
After the games, there was undoubtedly a large focus on drinking. Besides being officially sponsored by two different alcoholic drinks, Libation, at 137 Ludlow St., is the officially sponsored bar of the sports league, and is only a few blocks from the playing fields. And beyond that, Boyd pointed out, is “Hell Square,” a neighborhood nickname for an area with numerous bars.
“They are promoting alcohol on D.O.E. property,” Boyd said of the sports league, pointing out the advertising. She said residents were “concerned about the alcohol-fueled images” being presented to their children as well as the rest of the community. It is inappropriate therefore, she said, for the alcohol-driven leagues to play on D.O.E. property, since their main goal is reportedly the partying after the games.

Let's see, Zogsports replaced NYC Social, and both groups were really just about boozing - this kind of thing as described by a commenter on the story:

Its about time ! it was becoming a joke. When you see players sat inside there cars outside a school drinking before going onto a school playground to scream there heads off you know you have problems. Its funny that the schools get all jumped up about drugs and alcohol around the school but then let 50 screaming drunk people on it for hours whilst getting paid. Nothing against drinking just feel that kicking little kids off a playground to do it is a little low class ! now back to seeing the locals get to play with there kids and watching the old Chinese people doing there exercise.

Or this:

5 years of having 40-50 screaming adults w/frat behavior just a few feet from our windows 3-4 nights a week. With generators & stadium lights brought in. And local kids told to leave their own playground! Like rats they will move to another playground. I hope the next neighborhood they go to head the call and will ban together. These games don't belong feet from residential buildings.

Want to make a bet they just change the name of the league again and end up on some DOE property for their "sports"?

One Crooked Politician Stumps For Another Crooked Politician

She's back from the political dead:

Gov. Cuomo's Women's Equality Party rallied today at City Hall to tout its massive signature-gathering effort ahead of November's election, but it was one woman who ended up stealing the show.

Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in her first visit to City Hall since leaving office last year, made a surprise appearance at the rally, where she had a starring role as MC.

Quinn, wearing a stylish new cropped hairdo, her trademark brightly colored toe nail polish and an 'I Heart Pro-Choice New York" sticker, said she was "thrilled" to be working with the newly formed group.

"I really couldn't be having more fun that I am with the Women's Equality [Party]," she said.

Quinn and Cuomo are both faves with the New York City real estate industry, which has as much or more to do with Quinn's stumping for Cuomo as the Women's Equality Party ballot line the Cuomo camp put together.

One crook stumping for another crook.

Politics as usual.

NYSUT, Other Unions Already Endorsed Andrew Cuomo In Spring

Jimmy Vielkind at Capital NY:

ALBANY—In one sense, the AFL-CIO's decision Monday not to endorse Andrew Cuomo's re-election is bigger than it looks. That's because the union's decision, sources say, was partially the result of heavy lobbying from other labor groups that are snubbing or actively opposing the governor.

The union's decision is somewhat smaller in terms of the likelihood that it will have a meaningful impact on the election, though.

You would think it's a no-brainer for the largest labor organization in the state to back a Democratic governor who, despite frustrating actions, has worked to create jobs for its members. All signs—polls, resources—point toward him winning in November, show his principal opponents in the primary and general elections are widely unknown and, in the case of the Republican, Rob Astorino, far less eager to toe the labor line.

The AFL-CIO's decision to stay on the sidelines anyway will be embarrassing to Cuomo and fuel buzz about his challenger Zephyr Teachout. But the governor has enough money and infrastructural support (including the backing of other unions) not to have to rely on the group.

“I find it hard to imagine that anything the unions are doing is ultimately going to make a big difference in a primary,” said Joe Mercurio, a Democratic political consultant. “This is going to be a turnout-driven election, and he has way more resources than she does to generate turnout.”

As I posted yesterday, the unions did their "endorsement" work for Cuomo when they threatened the Working Families Party with "dissolution" if WFP endorsed Zephyr Teachout and helped her launch a third party bid against Cuomo in the general election.

Polls show Cuomo has run away with a two man race but has a much closer margin of victory in a three-man race - a margin that could close considerably before Election Day.

Vielkind says the unions are looking to rebuke Cuomo for his policies but not defeat him.

I would argue that they aren't even looking to rebuke him - at least not the union leaders.

I would argue that they are playing realpolitik here, knowing that their rank-and-file members are pissed at Cuomo and there would be a lot of rumblings if any of the unions endorsed Cuomo.

I would argue that Andrew Cuomo knows this too and the deal was made between the union leaders (except for PEF, which endorsed Teachout) and Cuomo that the "endorsement" work would be done in the spring during the WFP convention when it mattered most.

Had WFP put Teachout on the ballot to run against Cuomo in the general election, he would have had a real race on his hands.

But the union leaders ensured this didn't happen and Andrew Cuomo knows that was their handiwork.

There is no rebuke from union leaders for Cuomo - except from PEF, which endorsed Teachout.

The other union leaders, their endorsements came back in spring.

Support For Common Core Continues To Drop - Even In Reform-Friendly Polls

Who will UFT President Michael Mulgrew punch over this very disheartening news for Common Core supporters?

Anybody watching the escalating battle across the country over the Common Core State Standards and aligned standardized testing will hardly be surprised by a new national poll which reveals a significant loss of support over the last year — especially among teachers, whose approval rating dropped from 76 percent  in 2013 to only  46 percent in 2014. Overall support for the Core dropped from 65 percent last year to 53 percent in 2014, with most of the defection among Republicans.

The annual poll was conducted by the pro-school-reform journal Education Next and asked a nationally representative sample of Americans about a variety of education issues, with the  results on the Common Core being the most dramatic. Here are some of the results:

*Support for the Core dropped from 65 percent in 2013 to 53 percent across the general population. When asked about the notion of common national education standards without mentioning the Common Core, support was at 68 percent.

*Along with the 30-percentage point drop in approval by teachers, there was a huge jump in opposition, from 12 percent to 40 percent.

*Support among Republicans has dropped from 57 percent in 2013 to 43 percent this year, while Democratic support has barely changed, from 64 percent to 63 percent in 2014.

Important thing to note here - this poll comes from an education reform-friendly organization, so the questions are framed in a reform-friendly way.

For example, this one:

U.S. students regularly participate in international achievement tests. In your opinion, how important is it for America’s future prosperity that our country performs well on these tests compared to other countries?

This question comes early in the poll, along with a bunch of other questions meant to convince poll-takers that the American public education system is a mess.

Here's some more:

In your opinion, how important is the academic performance of high school students for America’s future prosperity? 

A 2012 government survey ranked the math skills of 15-year olds in 34 industrialized countries. With 1 being the best and 34 meaning the worst, what is your best guess of where American 15-year olds ranked on this test?

Students in different parts of the country perform differently in math.The average student in your district performs better than what percent of students across the country?

See what they're doing there? 

The poll is designed to heighten the awareness of the respondents to the "education crisis" in the country and steer them toward "national standards" as the answer for the problem.

And even with that kind of reformy-friendly framing, the Common Core dropped from 65% to 53% with the general public and 76% to 46% with teachers.

Showing you just how toxic "Common Core" has become as a brand, 68% of the respondents support "national standards" (with the numbers perhaps jazzed a bit due to the leading questions early on about national standing on international tests and the like.)

In any case, if it wasn't already obvious that Common Core is going the way of the Betamax before you saw these poll results, you ought to see it now.

We are seeing a drop in support for CCSS in poll after poll - the Rasmussen poll, the Siena poll in NY, a poll in California and now a reformy-friendly poll from Education Next.

And the most interesting thing to me is, the more people come in contact with Common Core, the less popular it gets.

Take Rasmussen for instance, which found this in November 2013:

Forty-five states have adopted new national education standards known as Common Core, and nearly half of Americans think that's a good idea. But fewer adults are confident that the new standards will improve student achievement.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 49% of American Adults favor requiring all schools nationwide to meet the same Common Core education standards. Twenty-eight percent (28%) are opposed, while nearly as many (23%) are not sure. 

In June 2014, Rasmussen found this:

Support for Common Core among Americans with school-age children has fallen dramatically, as more now question whether the new national education standards will actually improve student performance.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 34% of American Adults with children of elementary or secondary school age now favor requiring all schools nationwide to meet the same Common Core education standards. That’s an 18-point drop from 52% in early November of last year. Forty-seven percent (47%) oppose the imposition of the national standards, compared to 32% in the previous survey. Little changed are the 19% who are undecided.

When Common Core was still this hazy thing off in the distance, people (including teachers) supported it in polls - kinda like how 68% support "national standards" in this Education Next poll.

But as Common Core gets implemented, as the Common Core tests come around, as teacher evaluations based on Common Core tests start rolling out, you see the support for CCSS dropping by the month.

Hell, in just seven months, Rasmussen found an 18 percentage point drop in Core support and a 15 percentage point increase in opposition to the Core from parents of school-age children.

That trajectory - a continued loss of support for the Core - has been clear for the last year or so and I think no matter what education reformers do to try and save the Core by rebranding it or getting more "emotional" in their support (and propaganda) for the Core, the Core is dying and soon to be dead.

Even their own polls show it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Remember, Union Leaders Did Their "Endorsement" Work During Working Families Party Convention

I keep hearing some NYSUT people brag how NYSUT refused to endorse Andrew Cuomo for governor and am hearing from the same people that NYSUT is making sure the AFL-CIO does not endorse him either.

All of this is fine, dandy and absolutely meaningless.

I want to remind everybody that when it mattered, when Andrew Cuomo absolutely needed the union leadership - including the newly minted NYSUT leadership - to back him, they did.

That was during the weekend when it looked like Working Families Party might actually endorse Zephyr Teachout over Cuomo for the general election.

Polls had shown that Cuomo was running away with the race against his GOP opponent Rob Astorino - unless a third party candidate from the left entered the general election.

Then polls showed this:

Major elections in the United States are almost always two-party affairs. Yes, third-party candidates run, but they’re rarely competitive, and they almost never win. Still, there are exceptions, and the 2014 New York governor’s race may be one of them.

The progressive Working Families Party perceives Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be too centrist, and it will decide this weekend whether to field its own candidate instead of cross-endorsing Cuomo. (New York allows candidates to appear on multiple ballot lines.) An opponent from his left could put Cuomo’s re-election bid in at least some danger.

An average of early polls by Quinnipiac University and Siena College shows the governor garnering 38 percent support, Republican Rob Astorino 24 percent and an unnamed Working Families Party candidate 23 percent. That’s down from Cuomo’s average lead of about 30 percentage points over Astorino in a two-way affair.

As I detailed earlier this week, early gubernatorial polling of two-way matchups is pretty reliable — 30 percentage point leads are nearly impossible to overcome. But an early-stage 14 percentage point lead in a three-way contest may be a different story.

Cuomo was desperate to avoid that third party candidate from the left and his union allies were happy to oblige by threatening WFP activists that if the party nominated Zephyr Teachout over Andrew Cuomo, they would defund the party:

When Working Families Party state committee members gather at their convention tomorrow, far more than the endorsement for governor will be at stake.
The very future of the labor-backed party will be on the line, and according to one labor source, the damage done by the disagreement over whether or not to back Gov. Andrew Cuomo again may very well be irreparable.
“Regardless of what happens now, the way the party has conducted itself has done lasting damage to relationships with key (union) affiliates,” the source said. “It’s unclear if the party will ever be the same.”
Union leaders were burning up the phone lines this morning, discussing whether the time had finally come to pull their support of the party they helped create and have financially sustained since 1998.
According to another labor source involved in these talks, a number of the largest and most significant unions – including 1199 SEIU, HTC, the laborers, RWDSU, and the UFT – were prepared to call it quits with the WFP, knowing that their withdrawal could very well lead to the party’s “collapse.”
The Teamsters and TWU were also involved in these discussions, which were far enough along to warrant talk of drafting of a joint statement, although one was never actually released.

The UFT controls NYSUT - it was the UFT leadership, backed by Randi Weingarten, who instituted the Spring Time Putsch that dethroned the previous NYSUT leadership and replaced them with pro-Cuomo shills.

The Spring Time Putsch was all about making sure that the suddenly aggressive old NYSUT leadership would be replaced by a more compliant Cuomo-friendly leadership - which is exactly what happened.

That the UFT was part of the union leadership that threatened WFP if Teachout was endorsed and was behind the NYSUT putsch to get rid of the old regime that had turned on Cuomo tells you all you need to know about how much they've already helped Andrew Cuomo.

An endorsement by the UFT, the NYSUT or the AFL-CIO is not needed at this time because all the help Cuomo needed to win re-election - keeping a third party candidate from the left out of the general election race - was engineered by the unions, including the UFT and the NYSUT, last spring.

Time For An Investigation Into New York State's Test Score Results, Data Tracking

Two stories from over the weekend show that the statistics and data issued by NYSED Commissioner John King and his merry men and women in reform at SED cannot be trusted.

First, as I posted yesterday, the NY Post covered how NYSED lowered the cut score levels on this year's state Common Core exams, an act which resulted in slightly higher test scores:

State officials touted increases in scores on tough Common Core exams this year but failed to reveal that they had lowered the number of right answers needed to pass half the exams.

The state Education Department dropped the number of raw points needed to hit proficiency levels in six of the 12 English and math exams given to students in grades 3 to 8, officials acknowledged.
“The reason that occurs is because the tests are slightly harder,” Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner told The Post.

Student scores plunged on last year’s statewide 3-8 tests — the first based on the new Common Core standards. Before the 2013 exams, a panel of 95 educators decided how many points, or correct answers, students had to get to demonstrate proficiency.

But the point cutoffs were tweaked after this year’s tests. The state and its testing vendor, Pearson, found six tests were harder and four easier this year than in 2013, Wagner said.

They did so by comparing how students performed on “anchor” test questions — identical items used in both 2013 and 2014. A report on the scoring process will be released in December or January, Wagner said.

The changes raise questions about the validity of the results.

“The information given out about the test questions does not provide a complete picture, making it hard to judge how much progress students made last year,” said Fred Smith, a former testing analyst for city schools.

Score manipulation has erupted in scandal before. Between 2006 and 2009, the state reduced the number of raw points students needed to pass. Then-state Education Commissioner Richard Mills insisted the questions got harder, justifying the lower passing scores. But experts found the test items got easier, inflating scores hailed by then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, among others, as proof of great progress.

In addition to the Post report on the lowered cut scores, Stephen Rex Brown at the Daily News reported that NYSED couldn't account for a whole bunch of kids they said opted out of the state tests this year in New York City that the city said didn't:

State Education officials were scrambling to determine Friday why test data appeared to show more than 20,000 city students did not take math and English exams.

The perplexing numbers, which the city disputed, revealed 26,949 kids were no-shows for state math tests and 22,656 skipped the English Language Arts exam. The figures were more than triple the previous year’s numbers. State officials suspect there was an error in the way a large group of city students were coded in the state database of third- through eighth-graders who took the tests.

The city Education Department said only 1,925 students formally opted out of the exam — still double the estimate from critics of the April tests.

Leonie Haimson at NYC Public School Parents blog picked up that story, noting that while she would love to believe that the number of students opting out of the state exams in the city was as high as NYSED said it was, she didn't think this was so:

As much as I would have liked to believe the opt out figures were this high, I expressed skepticism to Stephen– and explained that I thought the numbers of students opting out had been far higher on Long Island and Westchester than in NYC. In the suburbs, in general, parents are more organized, enjoy well-funded public schools with high college-going and graduation rates, and have erupted in justified incredulity when the state tried to convince them their schools were failing and their kids were not “college and career ready.” 

Leonie goes on to note that SED's data should not be considered reliable:

My response to all this: with such erratic and unreliable information, how can anyone trust any of the test score data from NYSED?

...

Before the new Common Core tests, we had ten years of state test score inflation in NY that was obvious to anyone paying close attention, but year after year was ignored by the powers that be, because it was politically convenient. Each year Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein, sometimes accompanied by Randi Weingarten, would ritualistically bow down to the supposedly infallible test score gods and celebrate the results as showing that their reforms were working. And then the entire imaginary edifice came tumbling down in 2010, when the educrats finally admitted that an enormous test score inflation had occurred, somehow without their knowledge and complicity.

It is too early to assume that the small rise in test scores this year were due to similar manipulations , but a decade of experience should teach us to be open to the possibility. Merryl Tisch predicted that more kids would pass this year – and they did. In any event, we have overwhelming evidence from teachers and principals that the tests were poor quality and a lousy judge of real learning.

The state’s release of data showing thousands of opt outs in NYC is just one more piece of evidence showing how skeptical everyone should be about any data our government officials supply. 

The lowered cut scores that allowed SED to claim "progress" on their Common Core agenda and the disputed opt-out's here in the city are two examples for why there needs to be scrutiny into NYSED's testing operations from an outside entity unaligned with the Board of Regents, the State Education Department or the "non-profit" education reform groups that bolster both the Regents and SED (i.e., the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, etc.)

As Leonie notes there has been test score manipulation and inflation in the state before and it happened when our current Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was on the Board of Regents.

In fact, Tisch defended former SED Commissioner Mills over the test score inflation, claiming there was none, when it was quite clear there was.

Michael Winerip, the former NY Times columnist, wrote up a timeline of test score inflation here in New York State that is worth revisiting at this time:


In the last decade, we have emerged from the Education Stone Age. No longer must we rely on primitive tools like teachers and principals to assess children’s academic progress. Thanks to the best education minds in Washington, Albany and Lower Manhattan, we now have finely calibrated state tests aligned with the highest academic standards. What follows is a look back at New York’s long march to a new age of accountability.

DECEMBER 2002 The state’s education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, reports to the state Regents: “Students are learning more than ever. Student achievement has improved in relation to the standards over recent years and continues to do so.”

JANUARY 2003 New York becomes one of the first five states to have its testing system approved by federal officials under the new No Child Left Behind law. The Princeton Review rates New York’s assessment program No. 1 in the country.

SPRING 2003 Teachers from around New York complain that the state’s scoring of newly developed high school tests is out of whack, with biology and earth science tests being too easy and the physics test too hard. The state Council of School Superintendents finds the physics scores so unreliable, it sends a letter to colleges for the first time in its history urging them to disregard the test result. Dr. Mills does not flinch, calling the tests “statistically sound” and “in accordance with nationally accepted standards.”

JUNE 2003 Scores on the state algebra test are so poorly calibrated that 70 percent of seniors fail. After a statewide outcry, officials agree to throw out the results. The Princeton Review says that ranking New York first was a mistake. “We’re going to have to come up with a fiasco index for a state like New York that messes up a lot of people’s lives,” a spokesman says.

OCTOBER 2003 A special panel appointed to investigate the state math fiasco concludes that the test “can’t accurately predict performance,” was created “on the cheap” and was full of exam questions that were “poorly worded” and “confusing.”

DECEMBER 2003 The director of state testing resigns. It was his idea to leave, a spokesman says.
MAY 2004 For the fourth year in a row, scores have risen on elementary and middle school state reading and math tests. Dr. Mills urges the Regents: “Look at the data that shows steadily rising achievement of the standards in school districts of all wealth and categories. More children are learning more now than ever before.”

FEBRUARY 2005 Dr. Mills rebukes those who question whether state scores are inflated. “The exams are not the problem,” he said in a report to the Regents. “It’s past time to turn from obsessive criticism of the exam and solve the real problems — the students who are not educated to the standards.”

SPRING 2005 New York City fourth graders make record gains on the state English test, with 59 percent scoring as proficient, compared with 49 percent the year before. “Amazing results” that “should put a smile on the face of everybody in the city,” says Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who happily recites the numbers on his way to re-election.

FALL 2005 The federal tests (the National Assessment of Educational Progress), which are considered more rigorous than the state tests, show a drop in New York City reading scores. On the eighth-grade test, 19 percent are proficient in 2005, compared with 22 percent in 2003. Asked if city and state officials had hyped the state test results, Merryl H. Tisch, a Regent, says, “They have never, ever, ever exaggerated.”

SEPTEMBER 2007 New York’s national assessment test results are again dismal; eighth-grade reading scores are lower than they were in 1998.

DECEMBER 2007 In his report to the Regents, Dr. Mills notes, “A rich, scholarly literature has challenged NAEP validity since the early 1990s.” He announces a plan to develop the first new state learning standards since 1996, to further spur academic excellence.

JUNE 2008 Newly released state test scores show another record year for New York children. Math scores for grades three through eight indicate that 80.7 percent are proficient, up from 72.7 in 2007. “Can we trust these results?” Dr. Mills asks. “Yes, we can. New York’s testing system, including grades three through eight tests, passed a rigorous peer review last year by the U.S. Department of Education. State Education Department assessment experts commission independent parallel analyses to double- and sometimes triple-check the work of our test vendor.”

JUNE 2009 In the previous decade, New York students’ average SAT verbal score has dropped to 484 from 494; the math SAT score has dropped to 499 from 506. The national assessment’s fourth-grade reading scores have been stagnant for four years, and the eighth-grade scores are their lowest in a decade.

But somehow, state test scores again soar to record levels. In New York City, 81 percent of students are deemed proficient in math, and 68.8 percent are proficient in English. “This is a big victory for the city,” the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, says, “and we should bask in it.” In November the mayor is elected to a third term, again riding the coattails of sweet city scores.

JULY 2010 Finally someone — Dr. Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of Regents — has the sense to stand up at a news conference and say that the state test scores are so ridiculously inflated that only a fool would take them seriously, thereby unmasking the mayor, the chancellor and the former state commissioner. State scores are to be scaled down immediately, so that the 68.8 percent English proficiency rate at the start of the news conference becomes a 42.4 proficiency rate by the end of the news conference.
Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief accountability officer for the city, offers the new party line: “We know there has been significant progress, and we know we have a long way to go.” Whether there has been any progress at all during the Bloomberg years is questionable. The city’s fourth-grade English proficiency rate for 2010 is no better than it was in February 2001, nine months before the mayor was first elected.

Mr. Polakow-Suransky says that even if city test scores were inflated, he is not aware of any credible research calling the city’s 64 percent graduation rate into question.

FEBRUARY 2011 The city’s 64 percent graduation rate is called into question. The state announces a new accountability measure: the percentage of high school seniors graduating who are ready for college or a career. By this standard, the graduation rate for New York City in 2009 was 23 percent.

MAY 2011 Embracing the latest new tool in the accountability universe, the governor, state chancellor and education commissioner ramrod a measure through the Board of Regents, mandating that up to 40 percent of teachers’ and principals’ evaluations be based on student test scores.

AUGUST 2011 With new, more rigorous state tests, city scores rise slightly. “We are certainly going in the right direction,” the mayor says.

NOVEMBER 2011 New York is one of two states in the nation to post statistically significant declines on the National Assessment tests. John B. King, the education commissioner, says the state is certainly going in the wrong direction, but has a plan to spur students’ achievement. “The new Common Core Learning Standards will help get them there,” he says.

DEC. 19, 2011 Nearly a quarter of the state’s principals — 1,046 — have signed an online letter protesting the plan to evaluate teachers and principals by test scores. Among the reasons cited is New York’s long tradition of creating tests that have little to do with reality.

Let us note that before Regents Chancellor Tisch finally admitted the scores were inflated, she defended the scores and SED Commissioner Mills as well as state and city officials on test score inflation by saying “They have never, ever, ever exaggerated.”

Uh, huh - except the scores were absurdly inflated and the claims Mills, state and city officials made hailing the scores were very much "exaggerated."

So Merryl Tisch's word is worthless here - as worthless as SED's data on the city opt-outs.

I had an exchange that went like this today with Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin:




As Leonie noted in her blog post, Merryl Tisch declared there would be test score improvement before the tests were given and - lo and behold! - there was improvement.

The previous year, both Tisch and NYSED Commissioner King declared scores would plummet on the new Common Core tests and - lo and behold! - they plummeted.

Now they lowered the cut scores on the tests for 2014, got a slight rise in scores overall and are declaring "modest progress" in the scores, noting that this "modest progress" demonstrates why their Common Core reform agenda must be followed through.

But as we can see in the disputed opt-outs, SED's data is suspect at best, and with the Post reporting that raw score manipulation puts the validity of the state tests in question, I say it is high time we get an independent investigation into the state's testing regime.

We know they pulled a fast one all through the 2000's with the scoring.

We know current Regents Chancellor Tisch was part of that deception back in those days.

We know that SED's data is suspect.

We know that King and Tisch call what the scores are going to be long before the tests are actually given, calling into question the validity of the tests.

And we know that they lowered the cut scores this year to show "modest progress" - again, something that calls into question the validity of the tests.

It is time for an investigation into both the State Education Department and the Board of Regents over these matters because they have a track record of deception previous to this, we see now that their data is suspect at best, and we know they have a political agenda they are pushing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

NY Post Covers NYSED/Regents Scam On Test Scores

The NY Post called NYSED Commissioner King and Regents Chancellor Tisch on their test score scam.

Because it is such an important story, here it is in full:

State officials touted increases in scores on tough Common Core exams this year but failed to reveal that they had lowered the number of right answers needed to pass half the exams.

The state Education Department dropped the number of raw points needed to hit proficiency levels in six of the 12 English and math exams given to students in grades 3 to 8, officials acknowledged.
“The reason that occurs is because the tests are slightly harder,” Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Wagner told The Post.

Student scores plunged on last year’s statewide 3-8 tests — the first based on the new Common Core standards. Before the 2013 exams, a panel of 95 educators decided how many points, or correct answers, students had to get to demonstrate proficiency.

But the point cutoffs were tweaked after this year’s tests. The state and its testing vendor, Pearson, found six tests were harder and four easier this year than in 2013, Wagner said.

They did so by comparing how students performed on “anchor” test questions — identical items used in both 2013 and 2014. A report on the scoring process will be released in December or January, Wagner said.

The changes raise questions about the validity of the results.

“The information given out about the test questions does not provide a complete picture, making it hard to judge how much progress students made last year,” said Fred Smith, a former testing analyst for city schools.

Score manipulation has erupted in scandal before. Between 2006 and 2009, the state reduced the number of raw points students needed to pass. Then-state Education Commissioner Richard Mills insisted the questions got harder, justifying the lower passing scores. But experts found the test items got easier, inflating scores hailed by then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, among others, as proof of great progress.

Raw points are converted to scaled scores, which are divided into four levels, with Level 1 the lowest and Level 3 “proficient.”

Last year, fourth-graders needed 38 raw points out of 55 on the English test to hit Level 3. This year’s fourth-graders needed only 36.

The number of points needed to pass also dropped on five other tests: third-grade English and math, fifth-grade math, sixth-grade math and seventh-grade English.

On four of this year’s tests, points needed to pass rose: fourth-grade math, seventh-grade math, fifth-grade English and sixth-grade English.

The points required remained the same on the eight-grade exams.

Overall this year, the number of city students who passed the math exam jumped from 30.1 to 34.5 percent. In English, the number of students rated proficient inched up from 27.4 to 29.4 percent.

“It’s a good day for the whole New York City school system,” Mayor de Blasio declared, adding students and schools shouldn’t be judged on tests alone.

The takeaway from the story?

This line:

The changes raise questions about the validity of the results.

Indeed they do.

If you're a reader of this blog and some of the other education blogs on the Internet, you know many of us predicted that NYSED and the Regents would rig the tests so that scores would rise slightly.

I had a thread about that here on Perdido Street School blog.

Here were some comments before the scores were released:

Rigged. Totally Rigged. The scores will be a little bit better. A rigged salve to those who want to dismantle the garbage CCSS. A sickening manipulation, totally scripted with the purpose of ramming the Core down the throats of the public.

...

It will be surprising if scores don't go up.

...


The CC scores be manipulated just like Bloomberg/Klein did with the cut scores of ELA exams about 5 years ago and created an abundance of 'A' schools which was so ridiculous.

...

Predictions?

More lies, deception, dissembling, duplicity, and more attacks on the way...

...

Increase of scores within the students will demonstrate to the public and "special interests" that common core is working and common core is the way for college and career. Deception at its best! Parents and teachers need to continue this fight to stop high stakes testing and common core.

Of course they rigged the scores so they could claim "modest progress" on their agenda and call for continued "reform."

But they're fooling fewer and fewer people.

You can see that when the Post goes with a story about how NYSED manipulated the scores and the takeaway from the story is that the validity of the tests is in question.