Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Time For Teachers Unions To Put Away The "Seat At The Table" Strategy

For years now I have heard teachers union leaders say the reason they continue to support politicians - mostly Democrats - who push anti-teacher, anti-public school reforms is because it is important to have "a seat at the table" where decisions on policy get made.

This is why I heard it was important to support Barack Obama in 2012 even though he had spent his first four years in the White House pushing education reform policies that I am almost certain the teachers unions would have opposed had it been George W. Bush pushing them.

This was also why I heard it was important we supported Andrew Cuomo for governor in 2010 (even though he had already signaled that he was going to be a reform-friendly governor taking a lot of reformer cash) and it was also why I heard it was important we not pick public fights with Cuomo even as he turned increasingly anti-public school/pro-charter as his first term waned.

Last May, the unions could have supported Zephyr Teachout for the Working Families Party nomination, an event that terrified Andrew Cuomo because polls showed he would struggle to get 50% in the general election with a third party candidate from the left on the ballot.

The union heads - including Michael Mulgrew at the UFT - instead decided to throw their lot in with Cuomo, threatening WFP activists with the dissolution of the party if Teachout were given the ballot nomination.

They wrested "concessions" out of Cuomo, including a hostage video he made where he pledged to push for policies and items WFP activists wanted, but the video camera wasn't even cool yet by the time Cuomo started breaking those pledges.

Having failed to get the WFP nomination, Teachout ran against Cuomo in the Democratic primary and, behind the scenes, the unions helped Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, fend off her challenge.

When it looked like Teachout's running mate, Columbia law professor Tim Wu, might beat her in the primary, AFT President Randi Weingarten began making robocalls for Hochul in order to help her win her primary.

In the end, even though most unions did not endorse Cuomo, the unions did a lot to help him win this past election.

Without union help, Cuomo might have had a third party challenge in the general election take double digit support away from him, making the 13 percentage point victory he won over Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino much, much closer.

With Teachout on the ballot in November, it was possible Cuomo could have barely eked out a victory at all or even lost to Astorino.

But he never had to worry about that possibility because the union heads - including the teachers union heads - made sure Teachout was not on the ballot in November.

In the days before the election, the Daily News revealed that Cuomo was threatening to "break" the public school system after re-election - that he saw public schools as a "monopoly" that needed to be busted.

Rather than express alarm at that statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten merely dismissed it as "campaign rhetoric" and said there was nothing to worry about, she would make Cuomo aware through a private letter that he was wrong in his statements.

It turned out later that Weingarten had heard Cuomo make the monopoly statement personally before that - she was sitting next to him at a Forbes forum on education in June when he first trotted out the "break the public school monopoly" rhetoric.

So Weingarten should have known - indeed, probably did know - that Cuomo wasn't kidding when he said he was going to "break" the public school system.

Alas, we still had our "seat at the table," so teachers union heads signaled no change in strategy toward Cuomo.

Fast forward to this week - Cuomo publicly said his APPR teacher evaluation system is in need of "toughening" since not enough teachers were rated ineffective last year and he planned to address that problem in the next legislative session.

The next day, he made public a letter from his state operations director to outgoing NYSED Commissioner King and Regents Chancellor Tisch that signaled he intended a large-scale reform of the education system in New York in the next budget negotiation and/or legislative session.

The letter indicated that Cuomo would look to reform or address:

1. The evaluation system
2. The 3020a disciplinary process
3. The ATR pool in NYC
4. Teacher certification
5. Probationary period for teachers
6. Making it easy to close schools
7. Increase in charter schools, especially in NYC
8. Adding more technology to the system, including online classes
9. Consolidating districts
10. Reforming the Regents appointment process
11. Making the hiring of NYSED Commissioner King's replacement transparent

Post-letter, it is clear Cuomo's planning a broad assault against public schools and teachers in his next term, but also planning to subsume as much power from the rest of the education bureaucracy into his own office as he can.

This broad and sweeping attack was not lost on members of the Board of Regents or the legislature - Jessica Bakeman at Capital NY reported they will be pushing back against Cuomo to make sure that he does not get control over NYSED or Regents appointments (as he indicated he would like in the letter.)

This broad and sweeping attack was not lost on the heads of the teachers unions either, who immediately put out statements pushing back against Cuomo's planned reforms.

Here was NYSUT President Karen Magee:

The governor says he wants to put students first,” Magee said. “If that were even remotely true, he would listen carefully and act on the advice of the real experts — parents, educators and students — about what’s best for public education,” she said. “Instead, New Yorkers get clueless, incendiary questions that do the bidding of New York City hedge fund billionaires who have letterhead and campaign donations, but know absolutely nothing about how public education works. If the governor wants a battle, he can take the clueless New York City billionaires. We’ll take the parents, teachers, higher education faculty and students in every ZIP code of the state.”

And the UFT's Michael Mulgrew:

“This letter comes right out of the playbook of the hedge funders for whom education “reform” has become a pet cause and who poured money into the Cuomo re-election campaign,” Mulgrew said. “The Governor owes these people big time, but unfortunately the children of New York will end up paying his debts.”

Cuomo plans to destroy the public school system and the teaching profession, is looking to pay back his charter school and education reformer donors by privatizing the school system, making teaching into an at-will job, lowering labor costs by increasing the burn and churn in the teaching force, and increasing the opportunities for the edu-entrepreneurs to make millions off the system reforms.

There can be no more equivocation by the leaders of the teachers unions - Weingarten, Mulgrew, Magee - that Cuomo means no harm, that this is "campaign rhetoric" or "just politics."

He means business and his business is destroying us - he has picked up the proverbial "seat at the table" the union leaders like so much and is beating us to a pulp with it.

I am happy to see that the leaders of NYSUT and the UFT have responded with public alarm over Cuomo's letter.

In the past, they might have ignored the letter or defended it in some way (as Weingarten did earlier with the "campaign rhetoric" statement), but this time around, they seem to understand that open warfare has come and there can be no working with Cuomo on this.

Now it is time for action from the unions to back up the words.

We saw plenty of action from them over the last four years helping Cuomo (as I detailed above), so I know they're capable of taking actions to hurt him too.

There are plenty of stakeholders who are going to be upset about the coming Cuomo attack on the education system.

Two items Cuomo did NOT address in the reform letter were Common Core and high stakes testing - two items that really, really concern many parents in the state.

If anything, Cuomo's planned reforms to the evaluation system are going to exacerbate the problems the state has with Common Core and testing, so common ground can be forged with parent activists on both right and left who have been fighting the education establishment on CCSS and testing.

Of course, since the unions still support CCSS, that may have to mean a shift in stance on the standards, but given the alternative - fighting Cuomo without parent allies - I think a modification on the CCSS support is warranted here.

Next, Cuomo is not a very popular governor.

As I detailed yesterday, his job approval in the Siena poll taken this week is 15% underwater:

 How would you rate the job Andrew Cuomo is doing as Governor?

Excellent - 7%
Good - 35%
Fair - 40%
Poor - 17%
Don't Know - 1%

The way these polls get analyzed, excellent and good become the "approval" number, fair and poor become the "disapproval" number.

Take a look at those approval numbers for Cuomo just six weeks after he won re-election with 54% of the vote.

He's underwater in approval by 15%.

For some reason Siena led with Cuomo's favorability rating (58%) in their press release and the media coverage of the poll followed suit, making Cuomo sound more politically powerful that he is right now.

The truth is, he has a 42% job approval rating, the casino and fracking decisions he made this week may win him some fans on one side of those issues, but they're going to lose him some fans on the other side, so I don't think those approval numbers are going to move much in a positive direction.

But even if they did shift up, so what?

He's 8 percentage points under 50% job approval, 15% under water overall, he needed to outraise his GOP opponent Astorino 9 to 1 in campaign donations and he still won the lowest vote total of any New York governor seeking re-election since FDR in 1930.

Let me state again, this is NOT a politically popular governor, he does NOT have the political juice to pull off the large-scale attack he plans on schools, teachers, the education system or the political system.

Finally this dude's got more enemies than you can number.  He's spent the last four years running roughshod over his fellow politicians, other politicians and the education establishment in Albany are already indicating they view his power play over the system with alarm, and he's got a federal prosecutor looking into him for tampering with the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.

As I wrote yesterday, Cuomo is NOT coming from a place of strength, but he wants us to think he is, which is perhaps why he is signaling he's going to go for total reform of the system rather than little nicks and cuts.

It's a head fake to get you to think, "Geez, he must really be powerful if he can do all of this!" when the reality is, he can do NONE of this if we fight him on it.

Which brings me back to the "seat at the table" strategy.

For a long time now, we have had that seat at the table and here is where it has brought us - Cuomo beating us over the head with it.

It is time to put away the "seat at the table" strategy and replace it with a "mattresses strategy" a la The Godfather.

We are at war with the governor, we did not want this war but he has brought it on us and now we have to "Go To The Mattresses" in order to defend ourselves.

I implore the teachers union leaders to back up their words of alarm with action now that open warfare has come.

Partner with parents, develop a public relations strategy to counter the one that is sure to come from Cuomo (though it will probably be funded by private interests like his campaign donors), work to weaken Cuomo further in a war of attrition that will leave him politically battered when all is said and done.

He CAN be beaten in this war over public education and the future of the school system and teaching profession.

But in order to do it, we must put away the "seat at the table" strategy for good, acknowledge he is our enemy, and there can be no compromise strategy with him any longer.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Arrogance Of Cuomo's Power Play Over Education Policy

Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to take over the entire education system in New York State.

The letter he had sent to Regents Chancellor Tisch and NYSED Commissioner King makes clear he wants to call the shots on everything, including Regents appointments.

The amazing thing about this power play is, he's sitting at 42% job approval in the latest Siena poll (out this morning.)

He outraised his GOP opponent 9-1 during the campaign season yet won the fewest number of votes for any governor seeking re-election in New York since FDR.

He is under investigation by a federal prosecutor for tampering with "his" Moreland Commission on Public Corruption and he's got a ton of enemies in politics, the media and the general public who would like nothing better than to see him hurt politically.

This is not a popular governor with a popular agenda, yet he acts as if he's got the political muster and backing to ram through an epic education reform agenda that would completely change the way system runs in the state.

He does NOT have the political muster to do this.

To reiterate, in the latest Siena poll, he has a 42% job approval rating, 57% disapproval rating.

He won re-election with 54% after outspending his opponent by $40 million+, yet still couldn't get more votes than FDR in 1930.

He is under investigation for corruption and has many more enemies than friends to help him out.

If the various stakeholders, including the union leadership, come together for this fight, Andrew Cuomo CAN be beaten.

He wants you to think he is strong and the other stakeholders in this fight - parents, teachers, the teachers unions, Assembly Democrats - are weak.

The truth is, he has only as strong as we allow him to be.

Governor Cuomo's Job Approval Rating In Latest Siena Poll: 42% Approve, 57% Disapprove

Capital Confidential led with Cuomo's "favorability" rating when they wrote up the story about the latest Siena poll today (it is 58%), but they should have led with his job approval rating.

Here are the job approval numbers:

How would you rate the job Andrew Cuomo is doing as Governor?

Excellent - 7%
Good - 35%
Fair - 40%
Poor - 17%
Don't Know - 1%

The way these polls get analyzed, excellent and good become the "approval" number, fair and poor become the "disapproval" number.

Take a look at those approval numbers for Cuomo just six weeks after he won re-election with 54% of the vote.

He's underwater in approval by 15%.

Cuomo released a letter from one of his hacks yesterday to NYSED Commissioner King and Regents Chancellor Tisch that has such a wide-ranging agenda, he'd need to have 80%+ approval to ram that through.

But the reality is, he's got a 42% approval rating.

This is an unpopular governor with an unpopular agenda.

He CAN be beaten when he tries to ram through his education reform agenda next year.

He's at 42% approval.

Cuomo Employs Shock Doctrine To Blow Up New York's Public Education System

You claim the following:

The fact that only about one third of students are proficient on state tests in math and language arts was “simply unacceptable,” the letter said.

In fact, the test scores were rigged by NYSED Commissioner King and Regents Chancellor Tisch so that only one third would be "proficient."

Here is Diane Ravitch from 2013 on that rigging:

New York City’s chief academic officer–a testing zealot–here announces that scores will plummet on the new Common Core tests administered last spring for the first time. They will plummet because the state decided to align its standards to NAEP, which are far more demanding than those of any state.

Over the years, many researchers have maintained that the NAEP achievement levels are “fundamentally flawed” and “unreasonably high.” If you google the terms NAEP and “fundamentally flawed,” you will find many articles criticizing the NAEP benchmarks. Here is a good summary.

What you need to know about NAEP achievement levels is that they are not benchmarked to international standards. They are based on the judgment calls of panels made up of people from different walks of life who decide what students in fourth grade and eighth grade should know and be able to do. It is called “the modified Angoff method” and is very controversial among scholars and psychometricians.

Setting the bar so high is one thing when assessing samples at a state and national level, but quite another when it becomes the basis for judging individual students. It is scientism run amok. It is unethical. It sets the bar where only 30-35% can clear it. Why would we do this to the nation’s children?

Nonetheless, these “unreasonably high” standards are now the guidelines for judging the students of Néw York.

Consequently, teachers and parents can expect to be stunned when the scores are released.

The good news is that teachers and schools will not be punished this year. The punishments start next year.

This is Shock Doctrine in action from Andrew Cuomo and the so-called education leaders in this state.

They artificially lowered the scores by increasing the "rigor" of the tests (done before any of the new curriculum for the new tests was developed, btw), now they claim the lowered scores are reason for why they must blow up the school system and radically "reform" it.

They created the problem, now they use it to push through the policies they want anyway (i.e., school privatization.)

Cuomo Press Flack To Teachers: Don't Be Upset, The Governor's Just Asking Questions!

NYSUT and the UFT responded to Governor Cuomo's letter to Regents Chancellor Tisch and NYSED Commissioner King which sets out his anti-public school privatization agenda.

First, NYSUT:

The governor says he wants to put students first,” Magee said. “If that were even remotely true, he would listen carefully and act on the advice of the real experts — parents, educators and students — about what’s best for public education,” she said. “Instead, New Yorkers get clueless, incendiary questions that do the bidding of New York City hedge fund billionaires who have letterhead and campaign donations, but know absolutely nothing about how public education works. If the governor wants a battle, he can take the clueless New York City billionaires. We’ll take the parents, teachers, higher education faculty and students in every ZIP code of the state.”

Then the UFT:

“This letter comes right out of the playbook of the hedge funders for whom education “reform” has become a pet cause and who poured money into the Cuomo re-election campaign,” Mulgrew said. “The Governor owes these people big time, but unfortunately the children of New York will end up paying his debts.”

Cuomo's press flack - one of the few people still working for the governor as the rest of his administration seems to be quitting by the day - responded:

“New York state spends the most money per pupil, while continuously ending up in the middle of the pack on results,” she said. “It is mind-boggling that asking questions to start a dialogue on improving our public education system would provoke a hostile response, unless you view your responsibility as protecting a broken status quo at the expense of New York’s children.”

Oh, sure - the governor's only "asking questions" to "start a dialogue."


This isn't a dialogue starter Cuomo issued today - it's a blueprint for his plan to "break" the public school "monopoly."

In case you missed it, here's what he plans to "reform" and/or address in the coming legislative session:

1. The evaluation system
2. The 3020a disciplinary process
3. The ATR pool in NYC
4. Teacher certification
5. Probationary period for teachers
6. Making it easy to close schools
7. Increase in charter schools, especially in NYC
8. Adding more technology to the system, including online classes
9. Consolidating districts
10. Reforming the Regents appointment process
11. Making the hiring of NYSED Commissioner King's replacement transparent

Notice that two items that had a lot of parents upset over the last year aren't on Cuomo's list - that would be testing and Common Core.

Funny how that goes - apparently the dialogue Cuomo wants to have about education won't include the two topics parents in New York State want to dialogue about most.

Oh, but don't worry says the Cuomo press flack.

This is just a dialogue-starter.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cuomo Ignores Parent Outrage Over Common Core, Testing In His Ed Reform Agenda

If you missed it, Governor Cuomo made public his coming assault on schools and teachers in a letter from one of his hacks to Regents Chancellor Tisch and NYSED Commissioner King that was made public.

The general gist is, he plans on addressing the following:

1. The evaluation system
2. The 3020a disciplinary process
3. The ATR pool in NYC
4. Teacher certification
5. Probationary period for teachers
6. Making it easy to close schools
7. Increase in charter schools, especially in NYC
8. Adding more technology to the system, including online classes
9. Consolidating districts
10. Reforming the Regents appointment process
11. Making the hiring of NYSED Commissioner King's replacement transparent

The Cuomo hack who allegedly wrote the letter, State Operations Director Jim Malatras, wrote that the list partially comes from interactions the governor had with members of the public during the campaign season (that statement is in paragraph 5 of the letter to Tisch and King.)

It's interesting that Cuomo claims his education reform agenda is coming as a reaction to what members of the public had to say to him abut education over the course of the campaign season, since what I remember most about the last year in politics is parent and teacher outrage over Common Core, testing, and data tracking.

In fact, Cuomo criticized NYSED Commissioner King and the Board of Regents over their Common Core rollout when he was greeted by anti-CCSS parent protesters in Rochester.

Parents met King and Tisch at town halls all over the state to express their anger over Common Core and the Endless Testing regime that the state is pursuing.

How is it that the anti-Common Core sentiment and anger over testing that many parents have expressed publicly - including to Cuomo himself - didn't make it to Cuomo's education reform list?

Let's face it, it's because Cuomo's ed deform agenda was drafted by his ed deform constituency - the ones who provided lots of cash to him both before and during the campaign season - not members of the public he met on he campaign trail.

Hell, he barely met anybody on the campaign trail anyway, since he barely campaigned publicly, and even when he did, he stayed as far away from people as possible.

So Cuomo's full of crap when he says this agenda is coming in response to concerns the members of the public had that they expressed to him on the campaign trail.

This list came from his charter school and education reform/hedge fundie donors, pure and simple.

That's one way he can be beat on this issue.

There is a lot of anger from parents and teachers over education and that anger can be used to bring people together to fight Cuomo on his threat to "break" the school system.

Cuomo has decided to ignore a lot of what is really pissing parents off to focus on stuff that his education reform constituency wants.

I'm going to bet that much of what that reform constituency wants is a lot different than what so many of the parents who are complaining about CCSS and testing want.

Cuomo Goes Public With Details Of His Plan To "Break" The Public School Monopoly

From Capital Confidential:

The Cuomo administration has sent a letter to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and outgoing-Education Commissioner John King outlining the governor’s intention to make teacher reforms a top priority.

The letter from State Operations Director Jim Malatras also seems to bolster Cuomo’s controversial campaign season comments that he’d like to break up one of the last remaining public monopolies: public education.

“Several weeks ago Governor Cuomo said that improving education is thwarted by the monopoly of the education bureaucracy,” Malatras writes. “The education bureaucracy’s mission is to sustain the bureaucracy and the status quo and therefore it is often the enemy of change. The result is the current system perpetuates the bureaucracy, but fails our students in many ways.”

The monopoly busting plan is addressing the questions outlined in the letter, which include those about how the state’s current teacher evaluation is credible, how the administration would address the problem of removing poor-performing teachers and what Cuomo’s vision for charter schools is.

Here are some of the areas Cuomo suggests could see so-called reform or push in the next legislative season:

1. The evaluation system
2. The 3020a disciplinary process
3. The ATR pool in NYC
4. Teacher certification
5. Probationary period for teachers
6. Making it easy to close schools
7. Increase in charter schools, especially in NYC
8. Adding more technology to the system, including online classes
9. Consolidating districts
10. Reforming the Regents appontment process
11. Making the hiring of NYSED Commissioner King's replacement transparent

I'll have more later on this.

But suffice to say, there's a lot here that Cuomo says he wants to tackle.

Does he have the political juice to pull this kind of agenda off?

This is the kind of agenda you see from a governor with an 80% approval rating (like he had in the first term), not a governor who won re-election with the lowest totals of anyone since FDR.

So he can be beaten on a lot of this if the union leaders at the AFT, UFT and NYSUT actually decide to fight him.

But will they?

Open Letter To Randi Weingarten About Andrew Cuomo And New York's Teacher Evaluation System

Dear AFT President Randi Weingarten,

I wanted to write you an open letter asking what you intend to do now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has signaled that he is not happy with the teacher evaluation results in New York City and will look to impose a much more punitive system that rates more teachers "ineffective."

One thing the governor says is right - there is a huge problem with the way the current evaluation system is constituted.

The changes we have seen as a result of the current system have been numerous - 4-6 annual classroom observations (known colloquially by teachers as "Danielson drive-bys"), ratings tied to student test scores, the use of the Danielson rubric to "assess" so-called "effective" teaching so that every teacher must teach in a standardized way or risk a low rating.

This evaluation system that Cuomo helped put into place here in NYC requires many more hours of a teacher's time and energy, takes away a lot of time that could be spent with students and forces teachers to spend much of that time on compliance work (paperwork "proving" their "effectiveness.")

Teachers aren't the only ones angry about the system - so are well-respected education leaders.

In fact, a group of Lower Hudson Valley superintendents called the state's evaluation system "demoralizing, expensive and ineffective":

The superintendents group contends that the evaluation system has been demoralizing, expensive and ineffective, resulting in the overtesting of students. The system has not made it easier to fire poor teachers, the group says.

This region's school chiefs would like to see legislators convene a group of educators, teachers, lawmakers and state officials to create a system that would help teachers improve instruction and make it easier for districts to fire poor teachers.

"We need to start over," Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool said.

...

A study commissioned by the superintendents found that scoring problems prompted school districts to give teachers high grades for classroom observations so they would not get undeserved poor overall grades. State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said the study deserves serious discussion so teacher evaluations can be made more effective. 

"It is always important to listen to the people that have the expertise and knowledge of the current procedures and standards," she said.


Cuomo, on the other hand, seems to believe a teacher evaluation system should be demoralizing, since he said he wants to use it to "break" teachers:

The governor told the Daily News Editorial Board in October he wants to toughen the evaluation standards in the coming year, calling it a big way to bust the public school “monopoly.”

Just yesterday, Cuomo said this about the current system:

“These results of these evaluations say one thing: not real,” he continued. “It’s not real. You are an evaluation system in name, and you have to go back to the table and try to come up with an evaluation system that is more accurate. The teachers’ union is trying to reduce the number [of teachers] that are deemed ineffective, right? And that’s what this evaluation system did. But it’s clear that an inaccurate evaluation system helps no one, not even the teachers.”

From what I see in the governor's statements, Cuomo will only be happy with an evaluation system that greatly increases the number of teachers deemed "ineffective" every year so that he can accomplish his goal to "break" the public school "monopoly" and privatize much of the public school system.

You were sitting next to him at a Forbes forum last June when he first made his "break the public school monopoly" comments, so I know you know he means this threat and has been thinking about it for a while now.

Rumor has it that he will try and add a quota for the percentage of "ineffective" teacher ratings a district must hand out every year.

Other ways he may "toughen" the rating system is to ratchet up the "effective" and "highly effective" categories so as to make them aspirational but nearly unobtainable, make 40% of the evaluation based on state test scores alone, and/or tweak the VAM used for the test score component so that "effective" or higher is difficult to reach.

What do you and your compatriots at the NYSUT and the UFT plan to do in order to fight Governor Cuomo on his threats to "toughen" the New York State teacher evaluation system in order to "break" the teachers in the public school system?

He's coming for us, he's coming to do harm and now is the time for you and the rest of the teachers union leadership in this state to fight him.

Will you fight him?

I have my doubts.

You claimed in the fall that the "break" the "monopoly" comment he made was simply "campaign rhetoric," there was nothing to worry about.

Do you still think that way?

Earlier this year you backed a putsch at NYSUT that knocked out an increasingly anti-Cuomo NYSUT leadership, you (along with Michael Mulgrew at the UFT) joined a contingent of union leaders that threatened the Working Families Party with financial ruin if they didn't endorse Cuomo last May and you made robocalls for his running mate, Kathy Hochul, when it looked like she could lose her Democratic primary.

All this help and he pays you back by threatening to "break" your members and the public school system they work in.

Doesn't sound like you got much payback from him for the political aid and comfort you have given him.

It surely would be nice if you stopped helping Andrew Cuomo and started helping us - especially now that he has stated publicly repeated times that he intends to destroy us.

So what's it going to be, Randi?

Fight or flight?

I see you all over the TV and newspaper with the UVA/Rolling Stone story, the Garner protests, the Ferguson protests.

All that political work you do for those causes is great, but now I (and my fellow union members) would like you to take some of the energy you put into those causes and put it into the cause of fighting Andrew Cuomo on his threat to "break" us.

Are you in, Randi? 

Or are we, as usual, on our own?

Sincerely,

An Embattled Member of the UFT, AFT and NYSUT
Perdido Street School

Cuomo Doubles Down: Teacher Ratings are Not "Real," Many More Ineffective Ratings Needed

From Jessica Bakeman at Capital NY:

ALBANY—Teachers’ high scores under the state’s mandatory performance rating system show that it is “an evaluation system in name” and “doesn’t reflect reality,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday at a Capitol press conference.

Cuomo cited data from last school year’s teacher evaluations that the state Education Department released on Tuesday in calling for an overhaul of his signature rating system, the design of which he called an “evolving process.”

Nearly 96 percent of teachers statewide earned the top two scores—“effective” or “highly effective”—last school year, according to the state data.

“It affirms the premise that you have to do a better job on designing a teacher evaluation mechanism,” Cuomo said. “It is incredible to believe that is an accurate reflection of the state of education in New York. I think we have to go back to work on the teacher evaluation process.”

...

“The version now that was done for New York City was actually done by John King at S.E.D.,” Cuomo said. “This is S.E.D.’s designed evaluation, where something like less than 1 percent were actually being ineffective. … So I think everybody knows it doesn’t reflect reality, and we have to go back to the table and go back to a system that is fair to the teachers, … accurate, objective—but realistic. You can do both.

“These results of these evaluations say one thing: not real,” he continued. “It’s not real. You are an evaluation system in name, and you have to go back to the table and try to come up with an evaluation system that is more accurate. The teachers’ union is trying to reduce the number [of teachers] that are deemed ineffective, right? And that’s what this evaluation system did. But it’s clear that an inaccurate evaluation system helps no one, not even the teachers.”

He says he's going to design an "accurate" and "objective" system that is "realistic."

Rumors abound that he intends to place a quota on the number of "ineffective" ratings a district must give out in order to not be sanctioned by the state.

Does deciding on an arbitrary number of "ineffective" ratings for teachers and then placing that quota onto districts  make the system "objective" or "accurate"?

If they decide to tweak the VAM and ratchet up the scores needed to hit "effective" or "highly effective," will that constitute an "objective" or "accurate" system?

We know he is embarrassed by these results, that he wanted a high number of "ineffective" ratings so he could talk tough about teacher accountability.

Politically, he wants to bring the hammer down onto us.

It remains to be seen just how he decides to do that.

But the statements he has made, along with the statement issued by Regents Merryl Tisch this week after the NYC ratings were released, should tell you that whatever changes they make to the system, they will be punitive and odious.

This is Cuomo's reputation as a "reformer" at stake here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Open Thread: Does Any State Have A Quota For How Many Teachers Must Be Rated "Ineffective" Every Year?

The last 24 hours we've gotten an indication that Governor Andrew Cuomo and Regents Chancellor Tisch will look to impose some kind of "quota" on the percentage of teachers that a district must rate "ineffective" every year (see here and here)

This news comes after education reformers have complained that there weren't enough teachers rated "ineffective" either statewide or in New York City.

So here's a question I have for you out there:

Are there any states that have a quota for how many teachers have to be rated "ineffective" every year and, if so, how does that system work? 

Cuomo Suggests He Will Not Sign Common Core Teacher Evaluation Shield Bill For Teachers

This is not a surprise:


The bill was passed before the summer.

Cuomo never signed it into law even though he proposed it in the first place.

He's had plenty of time to sign it, but he clearly didn't want to sign it.

Hell, if he had time to make yogurt the official state snack, he had time to sign this bill into law.

And now it looks like he's not going to.

Wasn't the teacher eval shield negotiations one of the first acts the new NYSUT leadership took after disposing with the old leadership in a Randi Weingarten-backed putsch?

What's it say that Cuomo is giving them (and teachers) the finger by not signing it?

I know what it says.

It says NYSUT leadership sucks and Cuomo is out to get teachers.

That's what it says.

Just another sign a full out assault on teachers is coming from Cuomo and the union leadership will be useless to defend us.

Like Everything In Cuomo Administration, Fracking Decision Was All About The Politics

And so, years after the Cuomo administration starting to "study" fracking, the study is finally complete:

ALBANY — The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.
“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.
That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

This "report" has been years in the making.

It doesn't take a cynic to see that Cuomo waited until after the November election to release it, since polls show that no matter what he decided to do on the issue, it was a lose-lose for him.

But I suspect that, after he won his re-election that was paid for by $47 million in campaign contributions from the wealthy and the connected but saw his numbers drop because of faltering support on the left, he decided the best political decision to make here was to ban fracking.

This way, he can appear "progressive" on the issue while still largely catering to the wealthy and connected with his economic policies, education policies, etc.

Just as he used the gay marriage and gun control issues to appear "progressive" in past years, he is using the fracking ban to look like a good liberal.

I'm sure behind the scenes he's assuring all those business interests who are disappointed with this decision that he'll make it up to them with tax cuts and other corporate giveaways.

In the end, I'm glad fracking will be banned in New York.

But the announcement, the way the report was handled, the Hamlet on the Hudson stuff Cuomo played on the issue for years - the cynic in me says there was nothing "scientific" about this decision at all (no matter what his acting health commissioner says.)

This was all about the politics and these days for Cuomo, that means trying to look liberal enough to be able to run for the White House as a Democrat even though his economic policies make him a better fit for the GOP.

Cuomo And Tisch Are Accelerating The Attacks On Teachers And Schools

Michael Fiorillo notes in this comment that the attacks against teachers and schools are being synchronized with the Common Core tests that were rigged to have 70% of students statewide fail to hit "proficiency":

It's also being timed to accompany the skyrocketing failure rates on the new Common Core exams.

Teachers should realize that we're are in a temporary lull right now, but that the attacks will begin to intensify next year, with teachers and schools targeted as "failing" in accelerating numbers.

What will it be, NYC teachers? Self-respect and professional autonomy based on resistance to these vicious policies and the people who push them (including our union misleaders), or passive, willing acceptance of an ever-tightening noose?

As I posted earlier, they're going to set an arbitrary benchmark for "ineffective" ratings in every district (looks like 5%) and punish districts that don't hit the benchmark.

Cuomo said he wants a "competitive" evaluation system and that's certainly what you're going to get with a benchmark of 5% or higher.

It's Survivor for Teachers, Cuomo and Tisch Edition.

Can you survive this round of Danielson drive-by's?

Can you not get voted off the island this school year?

NYSED: Teacher Evaluators Must Rate At Least 5% Of Teachers "Ineffective" For System To Be Valid

This story is behind a paywall at Capital NY (previewed in the Capital NY's morning education email), but if you're looking for an indication of where Governor Cuomo and Merryl Tisch plan to go to "strengthen" teacher evaluations and make them more "competitive," here's a hint:

“There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated,” Tisch said in a statement. “The ratings from districts aren’t differentiating performance. We look forward to working with the Governor, Legislature, NYSUT, and other education stakeholders to strengthen the evaluation law in the coming legislative session.”

The education department report includes recommendations for how to improve the system. For example, if more than 75 percent of teachers or principals are rated “highly effective” or fewer than 5 percent are rated “ineffective” on the component of the evaluation system that is based on observations, the lead evaluators in that district should be retrained and an independent audit might be appropriate, the department recommended. [PRO] http://bit.ly/1sByLgW

If they will "strengthen" evaluations next year by ensuring that school leaders rate at least 5% of teachers in every district "ineffective," that translates to ensuring that school administrators rate at least 5% of teachers "ineffective" in every building.

In short, they've come up with an arbitrary number - 5% - and are saying this is the benchmark we want to see for "ineffective" ratings handed out.

Just as NYSED and the Regents rigged the Common Core tests for 70% failing, they're now going to rig the APPR teacher evaluation system so that at least 5% of teachers are deemed "ineffective" every year and slated for firing.

Teacher Survivor: Cuomo & Tisch Edition - coming soon to a school near you.

Can you survive the next round?

Cuomo: More Ineffective Teacher Ratings Coming Next Year

From the Wall Street Journal on the release of the teacher evaluation ratings:

The vast majority of teachers and principals across New York got high grades for their work last year, state data showed Tuesday, prompting top education officials to call for tougher evaluations.

The release marked the first time New York City teachers received ratings under a new state-imposed system that aims to be more rigorous and objective than in the past.

State data showed 9.2% of city teachers were deemed highly effective, 82.5% were effective, 7% developing and 1.2% ineffective.

Outside the city, teachers got even better reviews, partly because each district had some leeway in setting goals for performance. Beyond city borders, about 58% were deemed highly effective. Last year was those districts’ second under new evaluation systems.

...

 Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a news release that there is a disconnect between student performance statewide and the reviews of teachers and principals. About 92% of New York City principals and 94% of principals outside the city were rated effective or highly effective.
She said she would push for legislation to make ratings a more powerful tool for professional development.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that “stronger, more competitive teacher evaluation standards will be a priority” for next year’s legislative session.

"Stronger, more competitive teacher evaluation standards will be a priority" means more "ineffective" ratings are coming next year.

As I posted last night, they will look to have the ratings mirror student test score results - that means a lot more "ineffectives" and "developings" for teachers.

I love the language the Cuomo hack uses to say more ineffectives are coming - "more competitive teacher standards."

Because there's nothing better in a school than competition between teachers for ratings.

Survivor For Teachers - Cuomo/Tisch Edition.

If you thought working as a teacher last year and this year were difficult, just wait until next year when Cuomo and Tisch get through "strengthening" APPR to make it more "competitive."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Percentage Of Ineffective Teachers On The APPR Ratings Would Make Education Reformers Happy?

Via Chaz, we learn that the state released APPR teacher evaluation results for NYC teachers and there was some difference between how NYC teachers scored and how teachers in the rest of the state scored:

9.2% overall were found either "developing" or "ineffective," much higher numbers than statewide, and there were far fewer "highly effective" teachers in NYC than statewide, but as Chaz notes, these numbers aren't going to make ed deformers like Governor Cuomo or Regents Chancellor Tisch happy:

Look for the newspapers to complain, the education reformers to howl with disgust, and the displeased Governor to demand a more stringent teacher evaluation system, since few teachers can be fired on the first round of evaluations.  Teacher season is just beginning with the second term of the Governor and a new NYSED Commissioner who's mandate from the Governor will be to go after teachers and not to help the students who will suffer with "high stakes" Common Core tests that they are ill prepared for and "Junk Science" for teacher evaluations.

In fact, Tisch is already signaled these numbers show the APPR teacher system needs to be "strengthened":

"The ratings show there’s much more work to do to strengthen the evaluation system,” Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Governor, Legislature, NYSUT, and other education stakeholders to strengthen the evaluation law in the coming legislative session to make it a more effective a tool for professional development.”

In short, they want to fire more teachers, this round didn't give them a high enough number of "ineffectives."

But here's a question I have:

What percentage of "ineffectives" on the APPR ratings would make Tisch, Cuomo and the other merry reformsters happy?

10% ineffective?

20% ineffective?

30%?

70%?

We keep hearing stuff like this from the deformers that makes me think they'll only be happy when the system is churning out 70% "ineffectives (this comes from a CBS piece entitled "Most New York Teachers Rated Effective Despite Poor Test Scores," so that should give you an indication of the frame for the story):

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch points to the contrast between poor student performance on standardized tests and how their teachers and principals fared in evaluations.

Evaluations are based on student performance on state tests, locally approved measures and classroom observation.

Executive director of StudentsFirstNY, Jenny Sedlis, spoke with 1010 WINS and said when all teachers get good evaluations but the students are learning just at grade level, there is an issue.
“In New York State, roughly a third of our kids are reading and doing math on grade level, but every teacher is considered good or better on the evaluation system and that just doesn’t compute,” she said.
“Parents deserve a teacher evaluation system that’s honest and that sets the bar high,” Sedlis said.

Clearly they want the APPR ratings to track test scores - if 70% of students "failed" the new Common Core tests that Tisch and Company rigged for that number, than 70% of their teachers ought to be rated "ineffective."

Expect them to "strengthen" the evaluation system by rigging it so that the APPR ratings more closely track test scores.

They may not rig it to get 70% ineffective next year, but you can bet they'll rig it so that there's a much higher percentage of "ineffectives" and "developings" both statewide and in the city.

Education reform in a nutshell - they rig the Common Core test scores for 70% failing, complain when the teacher evaluation ratings don't mirror that number, then come back to rig the teacher ratings too.

Regents Chancellor Tisch Looks To Turn Page On The "Dr" Ted Morris Mess By Smacking De Blasio Over Charter Renewals

As we know from past experience with the "Dr" Ted Morris mess, literally anybody can get a charter school here in New York State.

So it's interesting when we see Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and the rest of her merry men and women on the Board of Regents publicly smack Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina over charter school renewals:

The Board of Regents refused Monday to issue renewals to six under-performing New York City charter schools and asked Chancellor Carmen Fariña to Albany to explain why the city bothered to send up their applications.

The city had asked the Regents to extend two charters through June 2017 and four others through June 2018, instead of the typical five-year period.

But the Regents questioned whether the schools, which fell below the average on state tests last year, could ever make the grade.

“I wouldn’t vote to keep most of these school open,” said Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, according to a Chalkbeat report.

Fariña was invited to the next Regents meeting in January to explain why the city backed the schools.

Make no mistake, Tisch and the Regents want to look "tough" on charters as Cuomo and the Regents prepare their "aggressive" charter expansion agenda for the next legislative session, so it's not hard to get cynical over Tisch's public smack down of Farina and De Blasio over these six charter renewals.

I dunno why De Blasio decided to renew the charters, although NY reporter Lindsey Crist raised a good point:



I had a little more cynical take:





In any case, I think you cannot underestimate the cynicism of Merryl Tisch here.

It's not a mistake that she publicly admonishes Farina and de Blasio over these renewals in the weeks after NYSED and the Regents handed a con man a charter school in Rochester.

Nothing like getting "tough" in the latest battle to make the memory of a former one go away. 

Education Reformers Not Worried Reform Agenda Will Suffer With John King's Departure

Jessica Bakeman has a piece at Capital NY reporting that NYSED Commissioner John King's departure from the scene will have little impact on the education reform agenda being imposed on the state's students, teachers and schools:

In the upcoming session, Cuomo has already hinted at a robust education agenda that includes further strengthening teacher evaluations and boosting the charter school sector.

Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY, a education group that’s closely aligned with Cuomo on issues related to schools, said she’s not concerned that her priorities will suffer in King’s absence.

“There is incredible momentum behind raising standards for students and teachers and for increasing the number of high quality charter schools,” Sedlis said. “So I think John King has laid a strong foundation, and we’ll all be able to build off of that.”

As I posted last night, Regents Chancellor Tisch has also indicated that the reform agenda will continue apace.

That means more charters, "strengthened" teacher evaluations, the continued implementation of the Common Core, more Engage NY curriculum, and continued teacher and traditional public school bashing from Albany.

The political functionaries come and go, the education reform agenda to privatize schools, bust the teachers union and deprofessionalize teaching goes on forever.

Governor Cuomo Seeks To Weaken Union

The Public Employees Federation (PEF) endorsed Zephyr Teachout during the Democratic primary.

Given that endorsement of Teachout, you can't be surprised about this latest Cuomo gambit:

In a move that has sent shock waves through the state's unionized workforce, the Cuomo administration on Monday sent notices to about 1,000 members of the Public Employees Federation telling them the state is seeking to reclassify the recipients as non-union workers.

The notices went to people in more than three dozen state agencies, including the departments of Environmental Conservation, Labor, Health, Housing and Motor Vehicles, the Office of General Services, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and more.

Affected job titles range from attorneys to auditors, program specialists, parole hearing officers and tax law judges.

The notices said that the state has filed with the Public Employment Relations Board to reclassify the jobs as managerial/confidential rather than unionized positions.

Employees who were handed the notices were asked to sign them on the spot to acknowledge that they received them, although not everyone complied.

"We were just handed this," one union member said of the notices.

...

The scope and number of positions that would be affected by this request was unusually large.

...

The Cuomo administration and PEF had been disputing the status of those jobs since March 2013, and PERB eventually ruled for unionization. The state then sued but lost in trial court. The state could appeal and if that happens the status of those employees may not be decided until next year. Some on Monday wondered if the move was in retaliation for that battle.

Another theory about the latest move centered on whether the state is simply trying to weaken PEF by reducing the union's approximately 54,000 members by 1,000.

Others wondered if the governor is angry at PEF's endorsement in September of Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law school professor who challenged Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

It's probably a combination of all three.

I don't think anybody who's watched Cuomo would be surprised to hear he wants to weaken a state workers a union nor that he would want to retaliate against them for fighting him on job reclassification in the past.

But the clincher had to be the Teachout endorsement.

This ought to be a little sign to union leaders and unionized workers of what is to come in the next four years of the Cuomo administration.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't Expect The Agenda At Merryl Tisch's Board Of Regents To Change

Behind a paywall at Capital NY, but the title says enough:

Tisch: King's Selection Affirms Board Agenda

Tisch makes it sound like Arne Duncan taking John King to the USDOE is some sign from the heavens that the corporate education reform agenda she's pursuing is the right one.

It's not.

It's like one part of the education reform team moving a player over to the other part of the education reform team - that's all.

Not that this is a surprise, but you can bet the Regents, in their secret process to find King's replacement, will look for somebody who will carry on like King, just without the public meltdowns with parents or the incompetence with the CCSS rollout and the charter school approvals.