Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chris Christie: Districts With High Opt-Out Rates On PARCC Will Likely Face Funding Cuts And Tax Hikes

This is certainly ratcheting up the counter attack on the opt-out movement:

During a Town Hall appearance on Thursday in Cedar Grove, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told a packed auditorium that the PARCC opt-out movement will have ramifications beyond his control.

“It’s their right if they want to opt out… There’s nothing I can do to stop them,” Christie said, suggesting that the likely consequences are funding cuts and higher taxes. “But then don’t come later and complain you don’t get the money that you’re used to.”

Politicians and educrats in many states are making vague threats about cuts in federal aid to school districts but Christie, with his usual bluster, has gone a bit further.

High opt-out rates will result in higher taxes.

That's a potent threat from a governor who refuses to support an increase to the gas tax in New Jersey even as the state's infrastructure falls apart (literally in some cases) and the public rail system faces tens of millions of dollars in short falls.

An increase in the gas tax would raise money to keep New Jersey bridges from falling into the water and NJ Transit from fare hikes and service cuts 5 years after a 22% fare hike and cuts to service.

But Christie refuses to support a gas tax hike because he's looking to run for president touting himself as a governor who doesn't raise taxes in a Republican primary where raising any tax is heresy to conservative voters.

Yet he's willing to raise taxes on school districts with high opt-out rates.

This says a lot about Chris Christie and where he stands on the Endless Testing regime.

No taxes can ever be raised in New Jersey, even if that means part of the Pulaski Skyway falls into the river - but if too many parents opt their kids out of the PARCC tests (He's looking at you, Montclair!), tax hikes are coming!

Questions For Governor Cuomo Over The "Meaningless" Common Core Tests

NY Teacher has some questions for Andrew Cuomo now that the governor's on record declaring New York State Common Core tests "meaningless" for students:

This quote should be the battle cry of the NY Resistance.

Why are students taking meaningless tests?

Why are taxpayer funding ($32 M) meaningless tests?

Why are teachers evaluated using meaningless tests?

Even more important: Why are the tests meaningless?

 Cuomo is going to choke on these damning words.

One more question:

Why isn't this headline blaring from the NY Post, Daily News, and Newsday?


Great questions.

Let's start putting them to Assembly Members, State Senators, members of the Board of Regents, the educrats at NYSED and the newspapers editorial writers.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cuomo Says Test Scores For Students Are "Meaningless" - So Why Do Students Have To Take The Tests?

As I posted earlier, Governor Cuomo has gone on record today calling New York State Common Core test scores "meaningless" for students.

No, seriously:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was questioned earlier Friday about news that school districts are likely to request delays in implementing the new teacher evaluation program he inserted in this year’s budget. He stressed that the tests used in the evaluations don’t affect the students grades.

“The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City.


Cuomo said he believes they haven’t done a good job of publicizing the fact that the tests, for at least the next five years, won’t count at all for the students.

Michael Fiorillo responded:

Wait, if "the grades are meaningless to the students," as our Reptilian Governor contends, then how can they also be a vehicle for "the civil rights movement of our time?"

The legacy civil rights organizations, leaning on Gates Foundation money, preposterously claim that high stakes tests are necessary to illuminate "the achievement gap," a propaganda term used to scapegoat teachers and public education, while ignoring systemic inequality and poverty. They do this despite the origins and long history of these exams being used to "prove" the "inferiority" of darker races.

This so-called education reform is one leaky boat, with everyone expected to maintain a perpetual state of Doublethink, whereby the tests are meaningless, except when they are integral to civil rights.

Someday, when the so-called reformers have been driven back under their rocks, historians and teachers will use the entire sorry episode of the past 20+ years to instruct their students about the dangers of propaganda and fallacies.

Unless, of course, the so-called reformers win, in which case the brutal Common Core/Testing regime will not permit that kind of teaching.

Michael's right - you have to be in a perpetual state of Doublethink in order to buy education reform tenets.

The test scores are "meaningless" for students, but they're also the "civil rights movement of our time" and essential for ensuring teacher and school quality.

Horse hockey.

If the test scores are"meaningless," then the test-taking exercise is meaningless and so are the tests.

Cuomo Says State Tests Only Count For Teachers, Not For Students

Governor Cuomo, ever the divider, looks to drive a wedge between parents and teachers on the opt-out/Endless Testing issue:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was questioned earlier Friday about news that school districts are likely to request delays in implementing the new teacher evaluation program he inserted in this year’s budget. He stressed that the tests used in the evaluations don’t affect the students grades.

“The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City.

The tests, given in grades 3-8 in English and math are used to evaluate how effective a teacher is. Scores from a given teacher’s class can be compared at the start and end of a school year to see how much the kids have learned.

The idea has enraged teachers though, and it has sparked a growing boycott with parents saying that their kids are being stressed out by the exams.

Cuomo said he believes they haven’t done a good job of publicizing the fact that the tests, for at least the next five years, won’t count at all for the students.

“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count."

The message from Cuomo:

Hey, parents, these tests don't count for your kids, just for their teachers, so why not send them on in to school to take those state tests so we can start evaluating their teachers via the scores and fire some of them?

Of course this argument is jive.

If the tests are used as bludgeons to close schools and fire teachers, they cause huge anxiety all throughout the school, from the children to the adults.

Kids can see when adults are stressed out or worried about stuff, and you can bet they know that their teachers are worried they're going to lose their jobs based on these test scores.

Cuomo can try and drive a wedge between parents and teachers all he wants by saying the tests don't count for students, only teachers.

The truth is, that's only for a little while - the scores will soon count for children too.

And even if they don't count now, they very much count for the teachers and the schools and that's more than enough to drive up the anxiety levels of everybody in the school.

Then there's the problem that, even if the tests don't count for students yet, there is still much class time that is lost to the actual testing period as well as the test prep.

I can't imagine too many parents are going to be won over by Cuomo's "Hey, the scores don't count for the kids for a couple more years" argument since the entire culture of the school will still be affected by the high stakes surrounding these tests.

Merryl Tisch And Andrew Cuomo Play A Game Of "Bad Cop/Worse Cop"

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch is getting some positive press and supportive statements from Albany politicians, fellow members of the Board of Regents and even NYSUT after she announced that she will look to delay implementation of Governor Cuomo's teacher evaluation system until September 2016 instead of rushing it into place by Cuomo's November 15, 2015 deadline.

I posted this morning that delaying a horrendous teacher evaluation system by a fewmonths is too little, too late in terms of change, especially since Tisch is adamant that the rest of the state's education reform agenda, including the Common Core testing that nearly two hundred thousand students opted out of last week (with more opt outs coming in this week for the math exams) continues.

Tisch can call for a delay and make it look like she's responsive to students, parents and teachers all she wants - the move does not erase the years of her autocratic imposition of the state ed agenda with nothing other than lip service paid to parents or teachers about their concerns.

I continue to echo the Journal News and NYSAPE in calling for Merryl Tisch to step down as chancellor or be forced to step down by the heavy hearts in the Assembly who ultimately can pull rank on her and let her know it's time to go.

Perdido Street School readers aren't fooled by Tisch's gambit either, with Michael Fiorillo calling it a "bad cop/worse cop" game she's playing with Andrew Cuomo:

With this transparent bit of misdirection, Tisch apparently wants us to be taken by a phony "Good cop, Bad cop" scenario.

But, as always, she's being dishonest; it's really "Bad cop, Worse Cop."

There is some conjecture out there that Tisch's delaying tactic is a way to ultimately defeat Cuomo over evaluations, but as one reader notes, that is something we can't count on:

Tisch is playing political games and the politicians and her fellow Regents might just be dumb enough to fall for it. Let's not forget that Tisch wrote a letter to Cuomo advocating for raising the testing component of APPR to 40% and lengthening the time it takes to get tenure, etc. In other words, Tisch is certainly no friend of public school teachers. Tisch has to go and the sooner the better.

A friend of mine who is a superintendent feels that the delay Tisch is advocating for will mean the end of the newly enacted evaluation law. He said he has seen things like this play out for 40 years. The delay gets it off the burner and then something else happens in the interim. I hope he is right, but I have serious doubts.

NYSUT and all of us have to keep up the pressure on the coward Assembly and Senate members, letting both groups know that we intend to hold them to account for their votes against us. It's the only thing these liars respect.

I agree - the pressure must be kept up, on the Assembly, on the State Senate, on NYSED, on the Board of Regents and on Cuomo himself.

The 10 month APPR delay is nothing more than a misdirection by Tisch to save herself and her precious ed deform agenda.

Tisch must go, the Tisch/Cuomo/NYSED ed deform agenda must be stopped and politicians that continue to support the Endless testing regime mus pay a political price for that support.

Merryl Tisch Plays Political Games

Jessica Bakeman at Capital NY:

ALBANY—When state Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch announced late Wednesday a plan to delay implementation of new teacher evaluations, she turned some of her high-profile critics into supporters overnight.

She also earned the ire of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

For her, it’s a win-win.

Tisch’s decision to use the board’s regulatory authority to circumvent what she called an “unrealistic” statutory deadline for districts to adopt new evaluation plans addressed critics’ contention that the board has forced reforms on schools without providing enough time or resources to implement them properly.

 It also allowed her to shift the blame for the already unpopular rating system back to Cuomo, with whom she has played a political game of hot potato for years.

If Merryl Tisch thinks she can survive as chancellor by playing off Cuomo, she's got another thing coming:

A coalition of parents’ groups that organized a boycott of state English and math exams is calling on Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to resign, claiming she has left New York’s education policy in shambles.

The group released a list of demands that include a reduction in testing and establishing an independent review of state Common Core standards.

This is as much Tisch's education reform agenda as Cuomo's and if she thinks calling for delays in the implementation of the evaluation plan is going to make people forget that or her record as chancellor, she's wrong.

As New York State Allies For Public Education put it yesterday:

This past week, the national attention focused on the parent uprising taking place in New York State. Spurred to action by the refusal of both the Governor and the NYS Education Department’s failure to respond to legitimate concerns, thousands of parents fought back to protect their children.

At this time, estimates indicate parents of close to 200,000 students this year have refused New York State's Common Core testing agenda and the final figures are expected to be even higher. The educational program of the state is in chaos. Leadership is more important than ever.

On Sunday, April 19th the Editorial Board of The Journal News declared, "The stunning success of the test-refusal movement in New York is a vote of no confidence in our state educational leadership" in calling for Chancellor Merryl Tisch to step aside.

New York State Allies for Public Education, a grassroots coalition of over fifty parent and educator advocacy organizations from all corners of the Empire State, stands with the Editorial Board of The Journal News. Chancellor Tisch must step down.

The only way for the Board of Regents, Assembly, and Senate to regain trust of their constituents is to call for the Regents to empower a new leader to fix within its authority, the Cuomo budget legislation fiasco and the misguided Regents Reform Agenda.

“Parents have been left with no choice. We will submit our refusal letters, which is our parental right, on day one of school, next year and every year and if those in power will not listen, we will free our children from a test driven, developmentally inappropriate education,” said Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and Long Island Opt Out founder.

“For the past two years Chancellor Tisch has repeatedly ignored parents at forums throughout the state. She is incapable of leading the state in a new direction because she believes what is happening is just fine and her latest plea for asking for more time is just a distraction from the real issues. Her repeated calls for critics to “calm down” indicates her unwillingness to change course.” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester County public school parent and NYSAPE founding member.

“On Chancellor Tisch's watch, the work of the State Education Department has been outsourced to a privately funded ‘Regents Fellows’ think tank. It is not surprising that the reforms put forth by this think tank advance the agenda of the wealthy ‘yacht set’ and corporate-linked groups that fund the Regent Fellows: The Robin Hood Foundation, Gates Foundation, and even Chancellor Tisch herself. When you replace a public service with a private organization that advances corporate agendas, New Yorkers know that is corruption,” said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent and Schools of Thought Hudson Valley, NY founder.

“While the Governor has demonstrated blatant disregard for the will of the people by doubling down on the use of high stakes testing, the State Education Department and Chancellor Tisch similarly ignored parent concerns regarding inappropriate test content by forcing children to read passages on last week’s ELA tests that were up to four years above grade level followed by vague and confusing questions,” said Jessica McNair, Oneida County public school parent, Central NY Opt Out co-founder, and educator.

Fred Smith, testing specialist, NYC public schools retired administrative analyst, and Change the Stakes member said, “Instead of transparency and disclosure of complete and timely test data that would open the quality of the ELA and math exams to independent review, Tisch has ruled over an unaccountable testing program that flies at near-zero visibility--in a fog of flawed field testing procedures, age-inappropriate poorly written items, the covert removal of test questions after they have been scored, arbitrarily drawn cut off scores, and the misapplication of the results to reach unsupportable conclusions about students, teachers, and schools." 

Delaying a horrendous teacher evaluation system by a few months will not erase Merryl Tisch's record or calls for her to go.

Merryl Tisch must step down as chancellor and if she does not, pressure must be put on the "heavy hearts" in the Assembly to let them know that a political price will be paid for their continued support of Merryl Tisch and her education reform agenda.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lawmakers Are Paying Attention To The Barrage Of Emails, Calls And Visits They're Getting Over Education Policy

Lawmakers are paying attention to the anger out there over the Endless Testing regime and the state's education reform agenda:

“Upon returning from a two-week break, the Senate Republican majority met behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss the ‘barrage of e-mails, visits [and] phone calls’ members have gotten from constituents regarding education policy changes that were included in the state budget, education committee chair John Flanagan said. The conference began having ‘extensive conversations’ about a bill dubbed the ‘Common Core parental refusal act,’ sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, a new Republican member from the lower Hudson Valley. The bill would require school districts to notify parents of their right to refuse Common Core-aligned tests.”

Yes, they're paying attention to the opt-out numbers, the social media barrages, the visits/emails/phone calls.

Now whether they do anything of consequence is a different matter.

I'm skeptical about that, as I wrote earlier.

These politicians have been softened up by the sheer intensity of the test opposition and anger over Cuomo's reform agenda that many voted for .

But so far, not one Albany politician has paid a political price for supporting the Endless Testing regime, Common Core or Cuomo's deform agenda.

No doubt the pols are listening but I'm not sure they're really had any "Come To Jesus" moments over this yet.

Until a political price is paid for supporting the Endless Testing regime, the Common Core or Cuomo's deform agenda, I suspect that we'll get more lip service out of our Albany politicians than actual change.

It's going to take one or two of these politicians getting taken out in a primary or general election for them to see that supporting deform can cost them politically.

Albany Pol: Opt-Out Numbers Are "Shocking"

From State of Politics:

State lawmakers this week said the effort to alter and trim some of the education policy measures approved in the 2015-16 budget plan are being spurred in large part by the large number of students opting out of the current round of standardized tests.  
“It’s not my colleagues, it’s being generated by the people of the state of New York,” said Buffalo Assemblyman Sean Ryan. “Last week’s opt out numbers are really shocking.”

Cathy Nolan pays some lip service to democratic values:

 “We’re only here through the consent of the governed,” said Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan, a Queens Democrat. “If people are unhappy, then we have to respond. And the Assembly is responding.”

Put me down as skeptical that the "Assembly is responding" to the "consent of the governed."

So long as Merryl Tisch remains in power, so long as NYSED continues to impose its ed deform agenda on students, teachers, schools and school districts, so long as Cuomo can shove through an education reform agenda as easily as a Sandra Lee meal goes into the garbage, I'm not ready to believe the "Assembly is responding" to the "consent of the governed."

On Long Island And Elsewhere, A Repeat Surge Of Opt Outs For State Math Exams

From Newsday:

Tens of thousands of Long Island elementary and middle school students refused to take the state math exam on the first day of testing Wednesday -- a repeat surge of the record boycott on last week's English Language Arts assessment and a huge increase over last year's opt-outs, a Newsday survey shows.

In 39 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties, 32,704 of 67,612 students in grades three through eight opted out of the state math exam.

That's 48.3%.

From Putnam County, there is this update:

MAHOPAC, N.Y. -- A majority of Mahopac Central School District students eligible to take the state Math exams for grades 3 through 8 this week have opted out, Interim Superintendent Brian Monahan disclosed Wednesday.

According to data provided by the school district, out of 1,946 eligible students, 1,013, or 52 percent, have opted out. Just 933 have participated.

The majority refusal rate for the math tests comes following last week's administration of state English Language Arts (ELA) testing. The opt-out rate for ELA was about half, Monahan said.

From the Times Herald:

MONROE - The second round of a burgeoning boycott was in high gear on Wednesday as thousands of students sat out the state's math tests.
Just as many school officials and opt-out supporters expected, the number of students to refuse the tests appeared to be way up, including here in the mid-Hudson.
Locally, the preliminary opt-out numbers are even higher than last week's, when the state English Language Arts tests were offered. Some advocacy groups estimate at least 155,000 students statewide refused the ELA tests, which is about triple the total number of kids that opted out last year. In the Monroe-Woodbury district, nearly 47 percent, or 1,535, students, did not take the math tests on the first day, according to district officials. 
Last week, 43 percent of eligible students refused the ELA tests.

From the Poughkeepsie Journal:

The "opt-out" movement to refuse Common Core-aligned state exams continues to gain momentum, with a growing number of students refusing the math tests in nearly every Dutchess County district.
State math tests started Wednesday, about a week after some local districts saw more than 40 percent of their students refuse a round of state English Language Arts tests.

A conservative estimate shows more than 5,000 Dutchess students refused last week's ELA tests: at least 27 percent of about 18,400 plus public school students in grades 3-8, according to a Journal analysis of refusal numbers and enrollment data.

That's up from 2014, when less than 1,100 students in the county refused ELA tests.

It's a trend seen across the state: at least 184,000 students refused ELA exams, according to United to Counter, an activist group that has been tallying test refusals and is opposed to Common Core.

But officials report that even more students are refusing the math tests.

Wappingers mom Tracy Amenta said "the absurdity" of the ELA tests, which her son took this year, prompted her to have him refuse the math tests.

Her son, a seventh-grade Van Wyck student, was never anxious taking exams, she said. But on day one of the ELA assessments, he became "frustrated by the actual test and...the wording and questions," she said. He was also upset because "most of his friends" had refused the ELA tests.

And the Times-Union:

State math tests began Wednesday, and many of the students who opted out of the Common Core exams are sitting out again this week.

Many Capital Region districts reported slightly more students refused to take the math tests than sat out last week's English Language Arts test. The math assessments will wrap up with a final day of testing for grades 3 to 8 on Friday.

In previous years, state math tests have had higher refusal rates than the ELA exams, so the increase was expected, officials from area school districts said.

But the percentage at Mohonasen schools in Rotterdam, which posted the highest Capital Region opt-out numbers last week with 55 percent of students refusing state ELA tests, jumped to 60.6 percent as the first day of math testing came to a close. District spokesperson Adrienne Leon said 71 more students opted out on Wednesday.

"We had a good system in place last week, so we were ready today for it again," she said.
The opt-out percentages for districts in Bethlehem, Albany and Schenectady also increased by at least 5 percent from last week's numbers in each district.

United To Counter The Core had this update this morning:

ELA: 190k; Math: 34k and rising... (yes, we know it's anticlimactic. But it takes time to get the numbers. Stay tuned...)

Right now our numbers come from news reports, administrators, union representatives, teachers, and other individuals inside the schools who are willing to give us information. We will verify these numbers by FOIA letters beginning immediately after the math tests.

Watch… for these headcount totals to rise throughout the week, and keep an eye over the next month or so for the FOIA numbers to come in!

These math counts United To Counter The Core has are very, very preliminary - these numbers are going to rise sharply as we get more information.

The Van Wyck student who took the ELA exam, became frustrated by the actual test...and the wording and questions..." and then opted out of the math exam is most telling.

While only anecdotal, that story suggests that all the propaganda the Endless Test regime proponents are throwing out there to convince parents to have their kids take the tests isn't going to work when the tests are designed to frustrate students and have a high failure rate.

More and more, parents are learning just how rigged these exams are (as opposed to "rigorous.)

They're designed for high student failure rates, they're designed to make the system look like its failing, they're designed to make teachers look like they're failing  - but in the end, the Endless Testing regime is failing as more and more people opt out of it.

More as we get it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Happens If Merryl Tisch/Regents Can't Create An "Effective" Teacher Evaluation System?

If they can't create an "effective" evaluation plan, does anybody get fired?

I mean, other than teachers.

Arne Duncan Blames Adults For Causing "Test Trauma" In Children

The tone deafness coming from the educrats on testing continues with this doozy, courtesy of Gotham Schools:

Duncan also said that students in some states are tested too much, and acknowledged that the exams are challenging for many students. But he argued that annual standardized exams are essential for tracking student progress and monitoring the score gap between different student groups. 
He also said the tests are “just not a traumatic event” for his children, who attend public school in Virginia. 
“It’s just part of most kids’ education growing up,” he said. “Sometimes the adults make a big deal and that creates some trauma for the kids.”

Duncan said if states don't get parents to stop opting their children out of state tests, the feds "will have an obligation to step in.”

Couple points to make here:

First, considering that Duncan once blamed "soccer moms" whose kids "are not as brilliant as they thought" for opposition to the Common Core, we shouldn't be surprised that Duncan is scapegoating parents over the opt-out movement.

His argument is ridiculous, of course.

Given that these tests are now used to close schools and fire teachers, his argument that the tests are "just a part of most kids' education growing up" doesn't hold water anymore.

Before No Child Left Behind, before Race to the Top, that argument may have held some water.

But since then, there are so many high stakes attached to these tests for school districts, schools, individual teachers and even children themselves (remember when Bloomberg used the tests for class advancement?), that this argument that they're "just tests" leaks more water than the Titanic as it was going down.

Testing anxiety is rife throughout the system and while educrats and politicians want to blame adults for making a big deal over these tests when they say there is no big deal, the children know from all the anxiety that adults have over the scores that they are a very big deal indeed.

That's what happens when you take a couple of days of testing and make the existence of a school or the career of a teacher contingent upon the scores.

Second point to make here:

Duncan is not the only educrat/politician to make this argument that the tests are no big deal - so did NY State Senate finance committee chair, John DeFrancisco:

“Quite frankly, I grew up at a time—I’m ancient. If I wouldn’t take a test, … my father would have whacked me on the side of the head.” [PRO]

Is the Senator suggesting that's what parents should do now to their children who don't want to take the Common Core tests, "whack" them "on the side of the head"?

That's a bit unclear, but one thing is clear - DeFransciso, like Duncan, is trying to minimize the overtesting and test anxiety issues and make it seem like a bunch of cry babies just won't do what they're supposed to do and make their kids take the tests.

Now maybe this will be a winning argument for educrats like Duncan or politicians like DeFransciso, but frankly, I doubt it.

It's more likely that the parents who are opting their children out of the state tests will see this rhetoric for what it is - a desperate attempt to infantilize the opposition movement to the Endless Testing regime in order to keep the education reform train chugging on a little longer.

I suggest you call DeFrancsico and ask his office if the Senator is suggesting parents commit child abuse on their children in order to make them take their tests.

That certainly is one interpretation of the statement he made.

As for Duncan, he's irrelevant at this point.  He's a lame duck educrat in a lame duck administration that sunsets a year and a half from now.

But the politicians and educrats in Albany who continue to try and infantlize opposition to education reform must be dealt political prices to pay for their dirty work - and that includes DeFransciso and his "whack" statement.

Message To Corporate Media, NY Politicians And Educrats: The Teachers Union Is NOT The Moving Force Behind Opt-Out

Jon Campbell from Gannett:

On a plane returning Tuesday from Cuba, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked about the opt-out effort and the New York State United Teachers union's suggestion that parents consider refusing the tests.
Whether or not to opt-out of the exams is a parent's choice, he told reporters.

"From a parent's point of view, they have the right," Cuomo said. "What the teachers union advocated -- the legality of that, the funding, that I'll leave to the federal government and the (state Education Department)."

Cuomo is canny enough to know that when you already have 185,000 opt outs counted from 73% of the districts on the ELA exam, with 27% of district still to be counted, and the math exams coming up now with even higher numbers of opt-outs expected, it's not a winning political battle to take on parents.

So he, like some of the editorial boards around the state, like the awful reporting in the NY Times this week, tries to put the blame for the opt-out movement onto the teachers union.

Here's a message to the corporate media, the corporate journalists/public relations specialists, the educrats and the politicians:

Parents did NOT decide to opt their children out of the state tests because Karen Magee of NYSUT threw her support behind the movement after Cuomo's education reform agenda was shoved through in the budget deal.

The opt-out movement has been growing every year and the numbers were going to increase dramatically this year no matter what Karen Magee and NYSUT did or said about the movement.

For that matter, even as Magee and NYSUT have thrown support to opting out, Mulgrew and the UFT have criticized the movement and echoed the same jive warnings we're getting from the educrats, the politicians and the newspaper editorial boards (i.e., the feds will take school money away as a result.)

I don't quite get how the state teachers union, which couldn't manage to get Assembly members to vote the way it wanted to on the budget, somehow convinced 185,000 parents to keep their kids from taking the state tests, especially when the largest local in the state is warning against opting out of the state tests.

The only thing I can think is, the corporate-owned media, the educrats, the politicians, they need scapegoats for this massive grassroots rebellion raging in New York State and, as so often is the case these days, the teachers union provides a convenient target.

But they are fools if they dismiss the significance of the anger parents have over the state's Endless Testing regime and imposed Common Core implementation.

As Loy Goss, co-founder of United To Counter The Core wrote:

As we complete the first round of counts for ELA and move into the first round of counts for math, it is important to remember why parents do this.

Make no mistake, this wave of civil disobedience is not just about Andrew Cuomo and his teacher evaluation plan. Cuomo is the flavor-of-the-month in a long line of ill-prepared, ill-advised education reformers, each worse than the one before. These sometimes well-intentioned reformers have nevertheless damaged an entire generation of America's schoolchildren going all the way back to No Child Left Behind.

Hundreds of thousands of parents are not making political statements, they are looking at crying, defeated children around their kitchen tables and demanding meaningful change. NY parents and teachers want education reform that is educator-driven, that is tested and proven, that addresses the real problems facing our schools and our children, and that is implemented with a modicum of competency.

A reduction of testing or evaluations does not address the underlying issue. NY parents want what parents have wanted since time began - a better education for our children.

Education reformers and their propagandists are so used to winning the education reform battles with their reflexive teachers union- and teacher-bashing that they're missing the very real anger many parents around the state have toward the state's education reform policies.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cuomo Says He Likes Cuba's Approach To The Press

Yes, I bet he does.

The Committee To Protect Journalists put Cuba at #10 on their 10 Most Censored Countries List:

10. Cuba

Leadership: Raúl Castro, who took over the presidency from his brother, Fidel, in 2008.
How censorship works:Despite significant improvements in the past few years-such as the elimination of exit visas that had prohibited most foreign travel for decades-Cuba continues to have the most restricted climate for press freedom in the Americas. The print and broadcast media are wholly controlled by the one-party Communist state, which has been in power for more than half a century and, by law, must be "in accordance with the goals of the socialist society." Although the Internet has opened up some space for critical reporting, service providers are ordered to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers who work online use websites that are hosted overseas and must go to foreign embassies or hotels to upload content and get an unfiltered connection to the Internet. These critical blogs and online news platforms are largely inaccessible to the average Cuban, who still has not benefited from a high-speed Internet connection financed by Venezuela. Most Cubans do not have Internet at home. The government continues to target critical journalists through harassment, surveillance, and short-term detentions. Juliet Michelena Díaz, a contributor to a network of local citizen journalists, was imprisoned for seven months on anti-state charges after photographing an incident between residents and police in Havana. She was later declared innocent and freed. Visas for international journalists are granted selectively by officials.
Lowlight: Though the government has for the most part done away with long-term detentions of journalists, author-turned-critical blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats has been imprisoned since February 2013 on allegations of domestic violence. The writer and other local independent journalists maintain that he was targeted in retaliation for writing critically about the government on his blog, Los Hijos que Nadie Quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted.)

I suppose Cuomo thought he was telling a funny with the crack over the speaker.

But there's often a lot of truth hidden behind the phrase "Hey, it's just a joke..."

Given that he tries to run the state like a one-man junta, there isn't anything funny about it.

Success Academy Raises $9.3 Million In One Night

From the Capital NY morning email:

SUCCESS ACADEMY RAISES $9.3 MILLION AT SPRING BENEFIT -- Capital’s Eliza Shapiro and Conor Skelding: The Success Academy charter school network raised $9.3 million at its third annual spring benefit on Monday night, according to an attendee, up from $7.7 million at last year's benefit. The figure was announced by Dan Loeb, a hedge fund manager who serves as the chairman of Success' board of directors. The event was held at Cipriani in midtown Manhattan.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries delivered the keynote address in lieu of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was to give the keynote before his trade visit to Cuba was planned for the same day. …

“I stand here because I unequivocally support quality public education and that's what Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy provide,” Jeffries said, according to a quote posted on Success' Twitter account. “It’s easier to raise strong children than it is to repair broken men.”

Television host Katie Couric, Weekly Standard founder William Kristol, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Gregory Meeks of Queens and former Department of Education chancellor Joel Klein also attended the benefit, according to the attendee and Twitter posts.

Governor Cuomo had been advertised as headlining the bash, but decided to go to Cuba instead.

Success does not seem to have suffered from Cuomo's absence.

Over $9 million in one night.

Not a bad take.

Tell me again why they need more money and free rent?

UFT Runs Ad Attacking Cuomo After Months Of Helping Him Out

The UFT's kidding with this ad, right?

“For months Andrew Cuomo attacked teachers and public schools. Now, with his support at record lows, so-called education reformers and their billionaire backers are running TV ads trying to rewrite history. But we know the truth.

“Cuomo wants to pile on high stakes testing, privatize classrooms, and divert money away from public schools by giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy.”

“Governor, New Yorkers agree: Put politics aside and put our kids first.”

First off, UFT President Mulgrew already declared victory after the budget:

The United Federation of Teachers on Sunday night declared victory in an email to its members, writing that most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Draconian agenda” had been turned back by state lawmakers.
“Now all of our hard work is paying dividends,” the teachers union that represents mostly New York City teachers wrote in the email to members. “The governor’s Draconian agenda has, in large part, been turned back. We want to thank the Assembly and the Senate for standing up for our schools and school communities.”

It turned out that the governor's draconian agenda had not been turned back, that he had, in fact, gotten almost everything he wanted in the budget (including higher weight of test scores in evaluations, merit pay, school receivership for the state, tenure changes and certification changes), but that didn't stop Mulgrew and the UFT leadership from doing what they always do and declaring everything a victory.

This came after Mulgrew and the UFT gave Assembly Dems the okay to vote for the budget while NYSUT leadership told legislators not support the education provisions:

ALBANY — State lawmakers raced to finish work on New York’s budget Tuesday amid simmering resentment over Gov. Cuomo’s education reforms - which opened up an unusual rift between the city and state teachers’ unions.


City teacher union president Michael Mulgrew angered NYSUT President Karen Magee and her team after he put out a statement Sunday night - before the education bill was even in print- claiming victory in beating back some of Cuomo's more strident proposals, sources said.

While Magee urged lawmakers to reject the education measures, city lawmakers said they were told by Mulgrew's team that voting for the package would not be held against them.

"They just weren't on the same page," said one legislator of the two unions. "The issue between them was whether to strike the best deal they could or whether to oppose it outright."

Then came the opt out movement, which the NYSUT leadership supported but Mulgrew and the UFT leadership criticized.

And we got UFT functionary Peter Goodman blogging how the new Cuomo APPR evaluation isn't so bad and Randi Weingarten, Mulgrew's mentor, retweeting that post.

This is not to mention that when the time to really fight Cuomo was at hand - during the election - Mulgrew and the UFT did all it could to help him out without looking like they were helping him.

When the Working Families Party was fighting over whether to put Cuomo on its ballot or give the nod to Zephyr Teachout, Mulgrew and the UFT ensured that Cuomo got the nod by threatening WFP with financial dissolution if Teachout were nominated by WFP.

When Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu, had a really good shot to knock off Cuomo's running mate, bank lobbyist Kathy Hochul, Randi Weingarten took to the air with robocalls for Hochul, helping her beat back Wu's challenge.

Now, after all the help Weingarten, Mulgrew, and the UFT have given to Cuomo, both before his re-election and since by barely fighting against his agenda, they send out an ad that's hard-hitting and calls Cuomo on his attacks.

It's too little, too late and useless for anything other PR for people not paying close attention - which is emblematic of nearly everything the UFT and AFT do.

Norm at Ed Notes called them a company union yesterday in a post.

Looking at how this re-election season and budget process unfolded, I think you can make a very good argument that is the case.

First the AFT and UFT ensured Cuomo would not have to face a third party challenger in November by threatening WFP with financial ruin if Teachout were given the nod, then helped ensure Cuomo would have his running mate, the bank lobbyist, instead of Teachout's running mate, the law professor, win in the primary.

When it came time to fight Cuomo's education reform agenda, they did just enough to make it look like they were fighting it without effectively fighting it.

Then they gave the okay to Assembly Dems to vote for it even as NYSUT leaders were saying not to.

The time for the tough ads attacking Cuomo, the really tough ones, was before the budget was passed, not after.

Alas, now that the battle is over and Cuomo won big time, the UFT trots out the attack ad.

Maybe that will fool a few rank-and-file that the UFT is fighting Cuomo.

But it doesn't fool those of us who have paid attention to this fight and have seen with our own eyes how they helped Cuomo out at critical junctures to ensure he got everything he wanted.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Common Core Shill Group Trots Out Bill Bennett To Defend Common Core

From the Wall Street Journal:

A group that supports Common Core is launching a two-week television ad buy in Iowa, the state that hosts the first presidential nominating contests, in an effort to counter a backlash from conservative Republicans against the national academic standards.

The new television ad by the Collaborative for Student Success features Bill Bennett,  U.S. education secretary under former President Ronald Reagan. “High standards are worth fighting for,” he says in the spot starting Monday. “That’s why so many conservatives are taking a fresh look at Common Core.”

This strategy - to sell Common Core as "conservative" to the Republican base was introduced earlier this year:

With Common Core set to be one of the political flashpoints in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and with it a topic at the upcoming CPAC conference (a Thursday panel is entitled "Common Core: Rotten to the Core"), conservative defenders of Common Core briefed reporters on Wednesday to begin pushing back against critics. 

Karen Nussle, executive director of Collaborative for Student Success - and wife of former GOP Rep. and Bush OMB Director Jim Nussle - said the Common Core are K thru 12 standards in math and English developed by the states. They aren't CURRICULUM standards, she maintained. 

Nussle also said that despite all of the opposition to Common Core, only one state out of the 45 that adopted the standards - Oklahoma - has repealed that support. 

And she adds that only another six Republican governors - 2016ers Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, plus Arizona's Doug Ducey, Maine's Paul LePage, Mississippi's Phil Bryant, and South Carolina's Nikki Haley - oppose Common Core. All other GOP governors support it. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is one of its biggest champions. 

Opponents of Common Core, Nussle said, "are pretty much the political outliers."

Core supporters think if they can rinse the words "Barack Obama" from the public perception of Common Core, they can bring conservatives back on board in support of the standards:

Why the opposition to Common Core? "It comes down to two words - Barack Obama. This is what this is about," added Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas Fordham Institute. While the Common Core standards were created by the nation's governors, the Obama administration tied its "Race to the Top" education money to the standards - and hence the association with Obama.

Thus this kind of video from the Collaborative for Student Success that came before the Bennett video (which you can see here):

It's interesting that at least two of the Republicans in that "Cnservatives for the Core" video from 2013 are now opposed to the Core (Huckabee and Jindal.)

It remains to be seen if Core supporters can turn conservatives back onto the Core as the Obama administration sunsets.

Not sure running a video with Bill Bennett hawking the Core is going to do that.

UPDATE: Turns out Huckabee, who used to be for the Core before he turned against it, is kinda for the Core again.

What Gets Done With Dean Skelos Under Federal Investigation?

Not much, writes Ken Lovett:

With state lawmakers due back in Albany on Tuesday after a three-week break, many expect the probe into Skelos will cause paralysis for the remainder of the legislative session.

Issues such as the expiring laws governing rent regulation and mayoral control over New York City schools will have to be addressed, but most expect little else of consequence to get done.

Some close to Gov. Cuomo say he’s likely not thrilled at the prospect of having to negotiate with Skelos with a possible indictment looming.

Quite frankly, given the damage already done by Cuomo and the legislature, the less they do for the rest of the session, the better.

Lovett writes that rent regulation and mayoral control of NYC schools have to be addressed, but I would bet the charter cap gets lifted too.

No matter how "paralyzed" Albany is, I bet they're not so paralyzed that they can't give Eva Moskowitz and the rest of the charter school entrepreneurs and their hedge fund supporters what they want.

At Least 175,000 Opted Out Of ELA Tests, Math Opt-Outs May More Than Double That

The Times-Union:

Last week was a long one for school districts in the state as thousands of parents chose to opt out their children from standardized state English Language Arts exams.

And with math tests looming Wednesday to Friday, districts are unsure whether to expect more opt outs and what effect low participation rates will have on state and federal funding.

Statewide, one advocacy group estimates more than 175,000 students refused to take the tests so far.

The trend has been for more children to refuse to take the tests as the week went on:

Almost all districts contacted by the Times Union saw an increase in test refusals between the start of ELA testing Tuesday and Thursday's end.

The problem with the mid-test opt outs is that those tests will still be scored and counted in the data:
Students deciding to opt out late could also hurt the school more than not participating at all. Any student who began the test on Tuesday or Wednesday but failed to finish it for refusal reasons will still have their exam scored and counted toward the overall district evaluations, said Jonathan Burman, state Education Department spokesman.

With math tests coming mid-week and parents and teachers talking about how horrific the ELA exams were, many districts expect higher rates of children opting out of the math exams than opted out from the ELA exams.

In previous years, the opt out rate for math tests has been higher than the opt out rate for ELA exams, so it seems this starts to gain steam as the testing period goes on.

If the math opt out numbers only match the ELA numbers, we're looking at 350,000 opt outs for the year, well above the 250,000 number opt out proponents were looking to hit to send a message to Albany.

And if the math opt outs are higher than the ELA opt outs, as has been true in previous years, so much the better.

A clear message has been sent to the governor, the state educrats and the Board of Regents that the state's education reform agenda is harmful and they will not allow harm to be done to their children.

Will Albany listen?

So far, we've seen Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and NYSED say full steam ahead, this opt out movement is fueled by the unions mad about teacher evaluation changes.

They are fools if they really think that - this is a mass parent-led uprising, the kind that we've never seen before in education, and it will continue until the politicians and educrats stop trying to impose their harmful education reform agenda.

City Teachers Had Better Start Asking Some Hard Questions About Their Pension Fund Before It's Too Late

Guest Post By Harris Lirtzman, former Director of Risk Management for the New York City Retirement Systems in the NYC Comptroller's Office from 1996-2002 and former Deputy State Comptroller for Administration from 2003-2007.

During the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of news about the way that the City invests the money that backs your retirement benefit and none of it is good.

There are few things less interesting to read about than the condition of your pension fund system.  But, other than the financial condition of the City that prints your paycheck and the insurance company that provides your medical coverage, there is nothing more important.

Two weeks ago, the City Comptroller released a report that contained information that didn’t surprise anyone who follows these things closely but which should scare the bejesus out of any active or retired New York City school teacher.  According to an article in the New York Times, “The Lenape tribe got a better deal on the sale of Manhattan island than New York City’s pension funds have been getting from Wall Street.” 

Turns out that the trustees of the City pension funds, including your fund, the Teachers’ Retirement System of New York City, have been investing the money that backs your pension in ways that have given almost all of the market’s gains for the last ten years right back to the Wall Street firms they hire to do the job as big fat fees

Surprised?  I didn’t think so.

Wall Street has spent the last twenty years convincing public pension fund trustees, like the ones who run TRS, that only a company like Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase is smart enough to know how to invest your retirement money.  Our trustees bought this story lock, stock and barrel.  We all know how well Wall Street has looked after the rest of us the last ten years.  Wall Street knows a sucker when it meets one and our pension trustees have been suckered, good.

This stuff is a little complicated but hang with me for a minute or two:

  • Over the last 10 years, the return on very basic investments like stocks and bonds—more than 80% of the City’s pension portfolio—has exceeded expectations by more than $2 billion, despite the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed.
  • But nearly all that extra gain—about 97% of it—has been eaten up by Wall Street management fees, leaving only $40 million behind for the benefit of City retirees.
  • Around 20% of the City’s pension funds is invested in complicated and expensive things called “alternative investments,” such as real estate and hedge funds.  The City began to invest in these investments in 2000, just at the moment when they began to do significantly worse than other parts of the market.
  • The combination of the poor underperformance of these alternative investments and the huge fees that Wall Street firms charge to manage them for the City cost the pension funds—your pension funds—more than $2.5 billion since the end of 2004.

According to a New York Times editorial, “Even non-experts can grasp a primal personal-finance principle: buy low-cost funds linked to the overall performance of the stock market, be patient and don’t try to outsmart the market or pay someone an arm and a leg to do it for you. That a succession of fund trustees would never have thought of this before and found ways to reduce the damage done by excessive fees, is incredible.”

So let’s ask some of our trustees—members of the UFT who sit on the TRS board—what they think about all of this.  The UFT has three representatives on the TRS board of trustees: Mel Aaronson and Sandra March, who’ve been members for more than 20 years, and Thomas Brown.  Rank-and-file teachers elect these members to the board in some election process you probably never knew about or can remember.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the UFT, said that “he was happy that his union’s pension fund, TRS, had been performing well.  But he said the fees paid to some managers were ‘ridiculous’ and should be renegotiated if those managers are retained.  Education’s always being put under reform; maybe some of these financial practices should be put under reform as well.”

Ya think?

Teachers in New York City: According to an independent industry analysis, TRS now has money in it equal to around 58% of the future pension benefits that it must pay to current and retired teachers over the next 30 years.  As a comparison, the New York State Teachers Retirement System—which covers teachers who work in schools outside of the City—has around 96% of the money in it required to pay teacher pensions in the rest of New York State.  That means that your retirement benefit is only 61% as secure as the retirement benefit of a teacher who works outside of New York City.

Teachers in New York City:  The City TRS had a total investment return of 17.6% in 2014.  As a comparison, the State Teachers System had a total investment return of 18.2% in 2014—your retirement fund did 3.3% worse than did the retirement fund for teachers in the rest of the state.
Teachers in New York City: In 2014, the cost to run the City pension fund, including administrative expenses and fees paid to Wall Street firms, was almost twice the cost it took to run the State Teachers System. 

The UFT trustees sitting on the board of the TRS—the trustees your union nominated and that you elected—are guilty of gross negligence and of “investing-while-stupid.”

Teachers of New York City, if you don’t want to eat cat food when you retire start asking Michael Mulgrew, Mel Aaronson and Sandy March some hard questions about how they manage your pension fund.  If you make a big enough ruckus now there is still time to protect your pensions.  If you wait much longer I guarantee you that it will be too late.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cuomo Goes To Cuba Part II: Dems Provide Cover For Cuomo's Ridiculous "Trade Mission"

The entire Democratic Party brain trust, such as it is, is on Governor Cuomo's "trade mission" to Cuba, such as it is:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that leaders from business and higher education will be joining New York’s trade mission to Cuba – the first Governor-led state trade mission to Cuba since President Obama began the process to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. The trade mission delegation will depart on April 20, 2015.

In addition to the below industry leaders, the delegation is joined by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader and Coalition Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein.
The Governor’s trade mission includes representatives from a variety of industries, including air travel, health care, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, financial services, agriculture and higher education.

Now if I remember correctly, Stewart-Cousins wasn't included in budget negotiations because, as the ranking member of the minority party in the State Senate, Cuomo felt she wasn't important enough to be there.

The decision to exclude Stewart-Cousins from budget negotiations brought condemnation from Democratic activists and politicians, with one going so far as to say:

“We have to make sure that Gov. Cuomo understands that we will not be duped. We will not be hoodwinked. We will not be put in the back.”

Ah, but now that Cuomo needs as much cover as he can get for this ridiculous "trade mission" to Cuba, he's happy to invite Stewart-Cousins on the trip and she is happy to oblige him.

She says she's going so she can talk to him on the plane about her conference's legislative priorities.

And I'm sure he'll listen, just as soon as he and the representatives from a variety of industries get finished carving up the cake shaped like Cuba.

You know, like this:


What are the chances the next time Stewart-Cousins needs something from Cuomo, like being a part of the budget negotiations even though she's Senate Minority Leader, he'll be happy to oblige?

Cuomo rarely keeps his promises unless he is absolutely forced to (just as Working Families Party or Bill de Blasio) and he doesn't believe in ever owing anybody any favors.

Maybe Stewart-Cousins thinks being included on this trip is enough, but quite frankly, if I were a Democratic Party politician who kept getting screwed over by Andrew Cuomo, I'd be damned if I'd provide him political cover for it.