Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Governor Cuomo Not A Very Popular Guy On Social Media

Think about that for a minute - 1% of the 1,200 Twitter messages examined expressing a position on the governor's race were supportive of Governor Cuomo.

What does that say about our governor?

Why Isn't The Press Covering The Moreland Investigation Any Longer?

Thomas Kaplan reports many people around the state are taking the primary season to publicize their unhappiness with Governor Cuomo:
He has been snubbed by unions representing teachers and state workers. Editorial boards are skewering him. Political rivals are lobbing attacks from his left and his right.

A year ago, it looked as though Labor Day would mark the start of Andrew M. Cuomo’s smooth glide toward a second term as New York’s governor.

Now, Mr. Cuomo’s bid for re-election seems to have become more of a chore than a coronation.
Mr. Cuomo is expected to easily fend off a long-shot challenge by a law professor, Zephyr Teachout, in the Democratic primary next Tuesday. In November, his matchup against a Republican, Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, could wind up one of the most lopsided elections for governor in the country.

Instead of a nail-biting political contest, this year’s race has produced something else: months of grievances by union members, gun owners, liberal activists and others unhappy about Mr. Cuomo’s time in office.

Cuomo's shills tell Kaplan the complaints will all go away after he's re-elected:

At the same time, interviews with Democratic officeholders, labor leaders and political operatives suggest Mr. Cuomo’s unhappy days may be just that — a period of disquietude that will ultimately be overshadowed by a landslide victory in November.

“Would you rather not go through it? Of course you wouldn’t,” said Keith L. T. Wright, a state assemblyman from Harlem and the chairman of the Democratic Party in Manhattan. “But it’s a cost of doing business.”

Mr. Wright predicted Mr. Cuomo would emerge unscathed from his two electoral challenges. “It’s almost like a mosquito buzzing in your ear,” he said. “The question is, do you get the can of Raid or Off! and spray him? Or do you get the rolled-up piece of newspaper and smack him away? I think it’s a nuisance, because I don’t think either candidate is really up to his level.”

Nearly unstated in the article?

The Moreland investigation that US Attorney Preet Bharara is conducting.

What happens to Cuomo if he's re-elected but one or more members of his administration are indicted?

What happens if Cuomo himself is indicted. as has just happened to Rick Perry in Texas?

The Cuomo people want you to think his re-election is a done deal and once he's safely back in office for four years, he's going to settle all family business, helping the people and groups who helped him and damaging the ones who didn't.

That would be business as usual for Cuomo, but I'm not sure that's where things go.

Cuomo has been severely weakened by Moreland, the best he can hope for out of Bharara's investigation is a report that publicly criticizes him for horse trading away the commission for an on-time budget and there's an outside chance he's going to have deal with criminal cases against either himself or members of his administration.

I don't know why we're getting all these election horse race stories that deal with his re-election as a foregone conclusion but fail to mention the effect the Moreland mess will have on that.

Thomas Kaplan was one of the writers of the July Times story on Moreland that made the summer a very difficult time for Governor Cuomo.

Kaplan is very aware of the possibilities regarding Moreland, yet none of that showed up in the article.

It may be that neither side is leaking, so nothing's making it into the papers.

But what Bharara does with this Moreland investigation will have a large impact on what happens to Governor Cuomo for the next four years.

Let's Be Careful Out There

When Mayor Bloomberg was running the NYC school system, his attitude toward teachers was easy to read - he despised them, thought little of teachers as people and even less of teaching as a profession and wanted as many fired as possible.

Every year around March we'd start the budget layoff season in which Bloomberg would threaten thousands of teacher layoffs.

Every year those layoffs would be averted, but the message to teachers was quite clear from the Bloomberg-run DOE:

We don't like you, we don't respect you, we don't care about you, we don't trust you and we are doing everything in our power to screw with you.

Bloomberg hired chancellors who carried out this anti-teacher campaign - Klein despised teachers, Black was brought in to lay some off (one of her specialties as a magazine exec was downsizing), Walcott replaced the woeful Black and picked up where Klein left off.

Now we have Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina, two individuals who claim to respect teachers, two individuals who say they want to bring dignity back to the teaching profession, and while those words sound good on the surface, so far many teachers in the system have seen little actual change from the Bloomberg/Walcott Years when it comes to the anti-teacher campaign.

I know I continue to see administrators target teachers, humiliate them in front of students, and do everything in their power to wreck careers and ruin reputations.

Something the chancellor said that showed up in the NY Daily News last weekend makes me think the message coming from the NYCDOE to administrators is to continue with the teacher targeting:

Fariña pledged to announce in the next two weeks a big reduction in the number of teachers getting paid despite not having steady classroom jobs. Earlier this month 114 of the roughly 1,100 teachers — known as the Absent Teacher Reserve — accepted $16,000 buyouts.

Fariña said the numbers would dwindle further as principals are taught best practices for writing up teachers and beginning the arduous termination process.

As I noted in a Sunday post, these paragraphs came right below this one:

She also expressed confidence she could improve teacher retention by restoring the dignity of the job. But it won’t be easy. A recent teachers union survey found that 32,000 teachers walked away from city classrooms in the last 11 years, with about 4,600 going to jobs elsewhere in the state — mainly to city suburbs that offer higher pay and less challenging teaching conditions.

Farina is playing fast and loose with the language here, sending out dual messages at once about the importance of teacher retention and restoring dignity to the teaching profession even as she says she plans to make sure every principal knows exactly how to target teachers and get rid of them.

Now I don't know about you, but I found the statement about making sure "principals are taught best practices for writing up teachers and beginning the arduous termination process" ominous.

It seems to me not much has changed from the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott Years except for this:

The de Blasio/Farina DOE is less honest and forthcoming in their anti-teacher campaign than the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott DOE.

With Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott, you knew they were looking to screw with you.

De Blasio and Farina like to talk about "dignity" and "teacher retention," but as Norm Scott always says about people, watch what they do, not what they say.

When I drown out what they say and instead watch what they do, I'm not seeing much of a difference from the previous administration when it comes to the treatment of teachers - all teachers.

So let's be careful out there this year, folks.

And yes, I'm echoing Michael Conrad.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cuomo Campaign Tries To Pre-Spin Teachout Primary Numbers

From Buffalo News:

ALBANY – Poll after poll has shown Andrew Cuomo nearly invincible over the past four years.
So imagine an unknown liberal law professor at a Jesuit college who has never run for office before capturing a quarter or perhaps close to a third of the votes in the Democratic primary next week.

That is not a scenario Cuomo’s opponents are pitching. That’s what insiders on the governor’s own campaign are looking at. The governor’s people say that would not be an unusual outcome, but independent analysts say it could dent Cuomo at home and damage his prospects of ever living in the White House.

That a political neophyte like Zephyr Teachout could so rattle the New York Democratic Party and Cuomo, its titular head, is a story in itself. But, as Teachout would say, there is more than Cuomo at play. She contends it is a contest for the liberal heart and soul of the state’s Democratic Party as she challenges a governor she accuses of being too tight with big corporations, millionaires and special interests.

They're pre-spinning the numbers, setting the bar for success for Teachout at 25%-33% of the vote, so that if she doesn't hit that range, they can declare her candidacy a failure and Cuomo's a success

Beware the pre-spinning of Teachout's numbers.

I have no idea what percentage of support she'll hit in the primary.

Neither Siena nor Quinnipiac have polled the primary.

The Cuomo campaign says they haven't polled either - and I haven't heard any scuttlebutt about people getting calls about the Cuomo/Teachout primary, so I'll take that at face value.

Teachout has PEF and NOW and the Sierra Club - she'll garner some decent support in the primary.

But don't pass on the Cuomo spin about 25%-33% support.

Who knows - maybe she will hit that.

But if she doesn't, that gives Cuomo's goons the opportunity to declare CUOMO SUPREMACY in the state.

The idea for the primary here, at least from my perspective, is to weaken Cuomo, both for the general election and for a second term if he's re-elected.

Using the Cuomo campaign's messaging frame certainly won't accomplish that.

So let's see how much support Teachout can take in the primary.

Let's see how well Tim Wu does over Kathy Hochul.

Let's see.

Politico: Obama's Teacher Evaluation Reform Agenda In "Disarray"

It's a mess out there:

The idea seems simple enough: Identify the best teachers and reward them. Pinpoint the worst and fire them.

That’s been a linchpin of the Obama administration’s education agenda from the start.
But now the administration’s initiative is in disarray, with states scaling back, slowing down and, in some cases, putting off tough decisions until Obama is out of office.

Teachers union pressure, error-riddled evaluations and a wave of more difficult tests for students have won many teachers a reprieve from the newfangled evaluations during the school year now getting underway.

Teachers have filed suit in a half-dozen states to block complicated new evaluation formulas that in some cases have rated them based on the test scores of students they never taught. Parents have protested that their children have been required to take tests created for the sole purpose of evaluating teachers. One county in Florida is developing 724 new final exams — in classes like welding and P.E.

And after spending millions to develop modern evaluation systems, many states find they’re not identifying all that many bad teachers. In Rhode Island, 95 percent of teachers were rated effective or highly effective last year. In Florida and Indiana, it was 97 percent. In Tennessee and Michigan, 98 percent.

“It would be nice if we could have some kind of objective external measure to say, ‘This is what constitutes good teaching — or good enough teaching.’ But the fact is, there’s no way the statistical measures can do that,” said Brian Gill, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research who works on so-called value-added calculations.

How much longer until it all falls apart?

Hard to say in New York, where Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is a staunch education reformer who claims teacher evaluation reform as one of his big accomplishments in his first term.

But the more these systems are revealed as error-riddled, the more the public learns that teachers are being rated on test scores for students they didn't teach or for subjects they aren't licensed in, the more teachers sue over the error-riddled ratings, the more teachers remind parents angry over testing that many of the tests their children are taking are for the sole purpose of rating teachers, the faster this evaluation reform agenda falls apart.

With NYSED and the Board of Regents in New York State now looking to make the test score component of the APPR teacher evaluation system 40% of a teacher's rating, you're going to see a lot of teachers getting rated using test scores for students they never taught or for subjects they aren't licensed in.

It behooves teachers rated "ineffective" or "developing" on that test score component to sue SED, the Regents and the governor over that system.

And of course continued pressure on the politicians who back this crap is important - helping Tim Wu beat Kathy Hochul for lieutenant governor is a way to send a message to the Common Core-supporting, education-reform shills in Albany that they may pay a price for pursuing that agenda.

A few years ago, the Endless Testing regime, the Common Core implementation and evaluation reform seemed like a done-deal in New York State, baked into the system, with little parents or teachers could do to fight them.

But as it becomes more and more apparent that much of this reform agenda is half-baked, error-riddled, indeed, even harmful to students and teachers, the more likely it is we can get this stuff pulled.

When Joe Nocera starts writing columns about the toxicity of the Endless Testing regime and test-based accountability for teachers on the Times opinion page, we're starting to get there.

Much work to be done yet.

But as we start a new school year here in New York City, you've got to smile to see a front page story in Politico about the Obama administration's evaluation reform agenda being in "disarray" and on life support that looks like it will be pulled when Obama leaves office.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Carmen Farina Vows To Drain ATR Pool By Having Principals Target ATR's

Buried at the bottom of this Daily News story on Chancellor Farina's goals for the new school year is this:

Fariña pledged to announce in the next two weeks a big reduction in the number of teachers getting paid despite not having steady classroom jobs. Earlier this month 114 of the roughly 1,100 teachers — known as the Absent Teacher Reserve — accepted $16,000 buyouts.

Fariña said the numbers would dwindle further as principals are taught best practices for writing up teachers and beginning the arduous termination process.

This threat comes just one paragraph after Farina talks about the importance of teacher retention:

She also expressed confidence she could improve teacher retention by restoring the dignity of the job. But it won’t be easy. A recent teachers union survey found that 32,000 teachers walked away from city classrooms in the last 11 years, with about 4,600 going to jobs elsewhere in the state — mainly to city suburbs that offer higher pay and less challenging teaching conditions.

Okay, so let me get this straight.

Farina says she wants to restore "the dignity of the job" in order to improve teacher retention but she intends to have her NYCDOE minions go around the city making sure principals "are taught best practices for writing up teachers and beginning the arduous termination process."

Anybody else see the contradictions here?

How do you restore "the dignity of the job" while having principals schooled in the ways to write up teachers in order to terminate them?

Seems to me that's the same kind of teacher-targeting that we got during the Klein and Walcott Years.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anti-Tenure Lawsuit Groups Battle Each Other

The NY Post reports of dysfunction among the anti-tenure groups fighting to end teacher protections in New York State:

The powerhouse law firm that was supposed to represent parent advocates suing to overturn the state’s teacher tenure laws has withdrawn from the case, The Post has learned.

One of the parent advocates, Mona Davids, charged that the firm Gibson Dunn pulled out after “bullying” by rival parent advocate Campbell Brown, the former CNN anchor who has her own set of lawyers.

“We are moving forward with our lawsuit,” said ­Davids. “Campbell Brown does not speak for Davids vs. New York.”

Brown declined to comment.

Gibson Dunn spokeswoman Pearl Piatt said the proposed consolidation of lawsuits filed separately by Davids and Brown “advances the same issues.”

But multiple sources said the firm pulled out because several of its longstanding education clients complained about previous run-ins with Davids.

Also withdrawing was the California group Students Matter, which funded the landmark case overturning that state’s tenure laws.

Love it - "Multiple sources said the firm pulled out because several of its longstanding education clients complained about previous run-ins with Davids."

Norm Scott's early July post on the Davids lawsuit was prescient:

The news that self-serving Moaning Mona Davids, hoping  to get a piece of the hedge fund ed deform anti-tenure action, has filed a Vergara copycat suit over teacher tenure, has spurred me to dredge up this blog post that's been lurking in draft mode for many months. I hadn't bothered  because the idea that anyone actually takes Moaning Mona Davids seriously causes me constant amusement as to just how naive so many people are. Her press release regarding the suit is laugh out loud reading.

I'd like to see if this law suit has any real financial backing. Mona may just be trolling, knowing full well there will be a well-financed suit coming. Her hope is to get her pitiful attempt combined with others. If you had a choice between Moaning Mona Davids and Crappy Campbell Brown, both desperate to use the teacher bashing issue in an attempt to remain relevant, who would you choose? Hmmmmm.  Let's see if there are any ed deform funders out there will to take a chance on venturing forth into a Moaning Mona minefield loaded with IEDs. Today's NY Times piece indicates that this is a trolling law suit looking for publicity.

Education reform groups, some of them supported by Wall Street philanthropists, are expected to support a wave of Vergara-inspired suits. Ms. Davids contended that her suit was different because it was not being bankrolled by outside interests.
However, Ms. Davids said she expected that if multiple cases were to be filed, they would eventually be lumped together by the courts.
Sure, not bankrolled by outside interests because they are too smart to get involved in Moaning Mona's shenanigans. Her main hope is to have hers combined with the heavy hitters and pick up a few crumbs on the way.

Looks like the heavy hitters decided Mona will get no crumbs.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Joe Nocera Turns Against Test-Based Accountability

How often do you see something like this from a Times opinion page columnist?

What should teacher accountability look like?

We know what the current system of accountability looks like, and it’s not pretty. Ever since the passage of No Child Left Behind 12 years ago, teachers have been judged, far too simplistically, based on standardized tests given to their students — tests, as Marc S. Tucker points out in a new report, Fixing Our National Accountability System, that are used to decide which teachers should get to keep their jobs and which should be fired. This system has infuriated and shamed teachers, and is a lot of the reason that teacher turnover is so high, causing even many of the best teachers to abandon the ranks.

All of which might be worth it if this form of accountability truly meant that public school students were getting a better education. But, writes Tucker, “There is no evidence that it is contributing anything to improved student performance.” Meanwhile, he adds, test-based accountability is “doing untold damage to the profession of teaching.”

Tucker is one of the grand old men of education policy. In the 1970s, he worked at the National Institute of Education, followed by a stint at the Carnegie Corporation. In 1988, he founded the National Center on Education and the Economy, whose premise, he told me recently, is that, in order to meet the demands of a global economy, our educational system needs to be re-engineered for much higher performance.

Not long after founding the N.C.E.E., Tucker began taking a close look at countries and cities that were re-engineering successfully. What he came away with were two insights. First was a profound appreciation for the fact that most of the countries with the best educational results used the same set of techniques to get there. And, second, that the American reform methods were used nowhere else in the world. “No other country believes that you can get to a high quality educational system simply by instituting an accountability system,” he says. “We are entirely on the wrong track.” His cri de coeur has been that Americans should look to what works, instead of clinging to what doesn’t.

How often do you hear a columnist at the Times opinion page write "'test-based accountability is 'doing untold damage to the profession of teaching'" or "this system has infuriated and shamed teachers, and is a lot of the reason that teacher turnover is so high, causing even many of the best teachers to abandon the ranks"?

Not often, that's for sure (though Nocera has sometimes expressed skepticism over ed deform before in his columns.)

Tucker's report attacks the unions and union contracts, so it's possible that this whole "Fixing Our National Accountability System" is just coming at union-busting from another vantage point.

But that the report shows how much damage the testing regime is doing to children, teachers, the teaching profession, and schools is important - especially since its now making its way onto the Times opinion page in Nocera's column.

The more we see columnists like Nocera writing that the test-based accountability system in American schools is a failure, the better.

I might also note, this kind of thing will make Arne Duncan, John King and Merryl Tisch very, very sad.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NYSED Releases District-By-District Principal/Teacher Evaluation Ratings Nine Months Late

Jessica Bakeman at Capital NY:

ALBANY—Teachers and principals in New York's large, urban school districts received lower ratings on the first year of state-mandated evaluations than their counterparts in other districts, according to data released Thursday by the Education Department.


The state education department released data in October 2013 showing statewide averages for teacher evaluations. At that time, commissioner John King said the district-by-district ratings would be released to the public, as required by law, by “late fall or early winter” 2013.

Capital informally requested the data on multiple occasions, but the department stalled, citing privacy concerns about individual teachers. The information released on Thursday follows a request by Capital in June for records under the state's Freedom of Information Law.

“Today's release of evaluation data will enable New Yorkers to see, for the first time, the results of their schools' teacher and principal evaluations,” department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said in a release. “The goal of the evaluation process has always been to improve teaching and learning by targeting professional development where it is most needed in order to improve student outcomes. When teachers and principals receive the right tools to improve their practice, their students benefit—it's really as straightforward as that.”

NYSED promises the district-by-district ratings by "late fall or early winter" 2014.

It's now August 28, 2014.

They're at least nine months late with the data.

Even longer if you hold them to the "late fall" deadline they offered last year.

How trustworthy is data that is this late?

Just why is the data this late?

And who does the SED flack think he's kidding when he says "When teachers and principals receive the right tools to improve their practice, their students benefit—it's really as straightforward as that"?

The data is so delayed, I could have had a kid faster than they got this released publicly.

More evidence of the APPR sham and the sheer incompetence of the educrats at SED.

Quick Poll On UFT

This "Quick Poll" is on the UFT website:
Which classic television show most accurately portrays the high school experience?

I don't really care about that poll, so I didn't respond to it, but it did give me the idea for our own little "Quick Poll" here at Perdido Street School blog:

Which classic film most accurately portrays the experience UFT rank & file have with the UFT leadership?


We'll tally up responses and let you know the winner.

Time To Send Tony Avella To The Political Trash Heap

I have nothing but disdain for the the Independent Democratic Caucus, the group of breakaway Dems that governed with Republicans and helped Governor Cuomo with much of his pro-Wall Street, pro-education reform agenda.

The member of the IDC I have the most disdain for is Tony Avella, the "maverick" who stuck the knife into his fellow Dems earlier this year when he joined the IDC, allegedly because he felt the Democratic caucus was "dysfunctional" and he wanted to be able to pass legislature as part of the governing majority.

Avella was full of shit, of course - he had simply been paid off to join the IDC and help promote a center-right agenda.

Since the time of Avella's defection, Governor Cuomo was forced to agree to help Dems retake the State Senate as part of the deal that got him the Working Families Party endorsement, an agreement that is supposed to render the IDC non-operative, since a Dem-run State Senate would have no place for the breakaway IDC.

Too bad for Avella - it is starting to look like Avella joined the IDC at exactly the wrong time in its history.

We'll see if Dems actually retake the Senate and, if so, the members of the IDC actually rejoin the Democratic Party rather than continue to govern as Republicans.

In any case, Tony Avella's now whining because John Liu is targeting him in a primary:

In February, Mr. Avella joined a five-member group of breakaway Democrats that has shared control of the Senate with Republicans. By June, Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, the leader of those Democrats, who is also facing a primary challenge, ended that power-sharing arrangement by agreeing to reunite his coalition with fellow Democrats after the fall general election.

But depending on how the elections turn out, in September and November, some suspect Mr. Klein might make more political moves, particularly if he trounces his primary opponent, G. Oliver Koppell, or if the Republicans gain strength in the narrowly divided chamber.

“If the Democrats keep the same number of seats that they have now, which is one more than a majority, I think there will be that agreement,” State Assemblyman David I. Weprin said of Mr. Klein’s promises as he campaigned last week with Mr. Liu. “If for some reason the Republicans pick up a seat or two, all bets could be off.”  

Still, Mr. Avella wonders why Mr. Liu did not drop his challenge. “His whole issue with running was, I joined the I.D.C.,” Mr. Avella said, referring to the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference. “If the whole Liu candidacy was about the I.D.C., well, we’re going back.” 
Mr. Avella called it “a disgrace” that the party bosses were trying to disenfranchise his campaign. He joined with Mr. Klein, he said, because the “Democratic conference was dysfunctional.” The conservative Democrats in the Senate made cohesion on liberal issues difficult, and votes elusive, Mr. Avella continued. Come January, he said, Mr. Klein’s agreement to join his Democratic colleagues is solid.

For their part, some Democrats in the district think Avella is "paying the price" for his disloyalty:

Representative Joseph Crowley, the leader of the Queens Democratic organization, said it was too late to turn back the forces lined up for Mr. Liu. He said Mr. Avella’s “empowerment of the Republican caucus” in the chamber was a betrayal because the party had backed Mr. Avella so strongly.

He predicts a close race, but said he believed Mr. Avella “will pay a price” among voters in the Democratic base for defecting.

Liu has more money than Avella but Avella has "roots" in the district.

I haven't seen any polling on the race but I'll take Joseph Crowley at his word that he thinks it will be close.

I do hope John Liu beats Tony Avella and sends him - and his expedient political career - to the trash heap.

Few pols running in this cycle deserve to be thrown in the trash heap more than Avella.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eva Moskowitz Can't Pay Rent For Her Charter Schools But Can Afford $31 Million For New Offices

Eva Moskowitz criticized Mayor de Blasio as a hater of children in the latest issue of More Magazine (whatever that is):

Controversial Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz attacked Mayor de Blasio in an interview with More magazine, calling him a "former operative of the teachers' union."

"At best, we've prevented the mayor from acting on his hostility in the most dramatic, consequential way for children," she said of her former political rival in the City Council.

In February, de Blasio tried to revoke space in traditional public school buildings for three Success Academy schools, and received huge backlash from critics and Gov. Cuomo, who helped organize a wave of charter school students to rally in Albany and later signed protections to allow them free space in public school buildings.

In the profile, on newsstands Tuesday, Moskowitz decries the state of public education in New York City and paints herself as a warrior for students who face placement in struggling schools.

"I'd be bullied, maybe, if children weren't at stake," she said. "But my momma-bear instinct kicks in when people try to do bad things to children. And the school system on a regular basis is doing bad things to children."

She continued ripping into city public schools, saying the majority are "incredibly segregated and getting unbelievably poor results."

"There are many, many hundreds of schools I would not send my own children to," she added.

Juan Gonzalez reports that Moskowitz is taking in more than half a million dollars as CEO of Success and paying $31 million deal for new Wall Street offices - here is much of that Gonzalez report

Last November, Moskowitz, who for years boasted of opening her Success Academy Charter Schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, quietly shifted her corporate headquarters from Central Harlem to 95 Pine St. (aka 120 Wall St.).

The new offices will cost her organization $31 million over 15 years, according to its most recent financial report.

The same report shows Moskowitz received an eye-popping $567,000 during the 2012-2013 school year. That’s a raise of $92,000 from the previous year, and more than double the $212,000 paid to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The move to Wall Street took effect just months before the much-publicized battle between Moskowitz and Mayor de Blasio over who would pay the rent for three new Success Academy charter schools the mayor had refused to place in public schools.

In March, Moskowitz organized a charter school protest in Albany against de Blasio’s decision. She followed that with a multimillion-dollar television ad campaign financed by her hedge fund backers.
Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature responded with a new law requiring the city to pay rent for all future charter schools.

As a result, the school system is spending $5.3 million this year to house the three new Success Academy schools in buildings owned by the Catholic Archdiocese.

Meanwhile, Moskowitz and her administrators — records show the size of her central staff doubled last year to 258 — are headquartered in 58,000 square feet of office space in the Financial District, at a more than four-fold increase over their Harlem rent.

And Moskowitz is not the only Success Academy exec who enjoyed a hefty raise and salary last year.
At least five officials at the nonprofit network, which had some of the highest scores on state tests of city public schools, were paid more than $240,000 last year, though only 2,800 pupils were enrolled in its schools at the time.

The network’s Executive Vice President Kerri Hoyt, for example, received a $104,000 raise, to $366,000. Its director of pedagogy Paul Fucaloro jumped by $100,000, to $246,000.

Ryan Alexander, the network’s former chief financial officer, was paid $350,000.

So almost simultaneously as Moskowitz is pleading poverty over paying rent for her charter schools and having over $5 million in attack ads run against de Blasio last spring, she's finishing moving her staff into their new offices on Wall Street and raising the salaries of some of her consiglieres by a $100,000 or more.

Last week Moskowitz demurred answering a question posed by NY1's Errol Louis on whether she was thinking of running for mayor in 2017 - but it was a coy demurral and served very much as a trial balloon for a 2017 run.

When I posted about that story, I noted this:

There is a huge downside for Eva if she decides to run.

Success Academies will get the kind of public scrutiny it so far has mostly avoided.

There's nothing better than a run for a higher office like NYC mayor to shine some light on a person's business practices.

You can see a little of what I'm talking about in this Gonzalez piece - and that's just the stuff that Eva has to report in her public disclosure.

Imagine what an intrepid reporter like Gonzalez will find once he starts rooting around in her business and talking to former employees or Success parents who hate her and have an axe to grind (and reportedly, there are many of those.)

But even what's already out there is damaging enough.

Let's say Eva chooses to run in 2017 against de Blasio, claiming she's doing it for the children or whatever.

She attacks de Blasio over the rent issue and de Blasio, now in a campaign for his political life, takes the gloves off he kept on in the last fight with her and launches back with

a) You paid $31 million for new offices at the same time you were claiming you couldn't pay rent to the city for space.
b) You raised the salaries of your top five employees, some by more than $100,000
c) You paid yourself $567,000 - more than double what the NYC chancellor gets
d) Tell us again why Success Academies couldn't pay rent for space and now forces the city to pay millions to subsidize your salaries and office space?

And that's assuming there's not some other scandal between now and 2017 that supersedes this rank Moskowitz hypocrisy (e.g., financial improprieties, cheating scandal, etc.) 

Moskowitz is very good at garnering headlines and playing the poor victim, but once she throws her hat in the political ring again and runs for mayor, I think some of those headlines will turn on her and she really is going to be victimized - by her own business practices and track record.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cuomo Signed NYSUT Leadership Pension Giveaway At Same Time Evaluation Deal Was In Works

When I first learned about Governor Cuomo signing the NYSUT leadership double pension giveaway, I figured there was some quid pro quo going on between the governor and the union leadership to get him to sign off on it.

Tonight we learn from Jessica Bakeman that there was indeed a quid pro quo:

ALBANY—Under a law approved in the final days of this year's legislative session, New York State United Teachers' elected officers will, for the first time, be able to simultaneously accrue time toward their state and private union pensions.

The law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last month, allows NYSUT officers to accrue time toward their pensions through the state Teacher Retirement System while serving as union leaders. More specifically, it lets school districts offer paid leaves of absence to teachers who vacate their classroom positions to work for the union, while NYSUT reimburses the district for the officers' salaries and benefits.

After NYSUT officers serve for five years, they become vested in the union's private pension system, spokesman Carl Korn said. Therefore, officers could eventually be earning time toward both—a benefit former NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi said is inappropriate.


The Legislature considered the bill at the same time Cuomo and lawmakers were negotiating changes to the state's teacher-evaluation system. The bill was introduced in early June, when Cuomo's office was engaged in closed-door negotiations with NYSUT over changes to the rating system. The Assembly passed the pension bill on June 19, the same day Cuomo announced he had reached a deal with the union, and the Senate passed it the next day.

Rather than fight the APPR teacher evaluation system, NYSUT leaders agreed to a lame change to APPR, then got Cuomo to sign off on their double pensions.

Last week I said here's another case for Preet Bharara to look into.

Now after it's revealed the pension giveaway came at the same time as the evaluation deal was getting done, I'll double down on that:

Bharara needs to look into the Cuomo/NYSUT double pension deal.

UFT Decides Not To Challenge The "Stop Common Core" Ballot Line

Looks like UFT President Michael Mulgrew wanted to punch GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino in the face over the "Stop Common Core" ballot line but decided not to:

The major New York City teachers union considered challenging Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s attempt to create a Stop Common Core ballot line, but decided against it.


“We challenge petitions all the time -- especially in an election year – about all sorts of things,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which filed a general objection to the Astorino campaign’s effort but ultimately didn’t proceed.

State law allows candidates for office to hold multiple spots on the election ballot.

It takes 15,000 valid signatures from New York voters to create a new line on statewide ballots. But once those signatures are filed with the state Board of Elections, anyone can file an objection within three days. Six days after that, the objector has to lay out specifics -- what they object to, and why they object to it.

The deadline to turn in the signatures was Aug. 19. Astorino’s campaign turned in the Stop Common Core party petitions a week before that, and two employees of the teachers union filed a general objection three days later.


Mulgrew said the teachers union takes issue with Astorino taking an educational issue like Common Core -- tougher education standards being rolled out in New York and much of the country -- and using it “for clear political purposes.”

But the union ultimately decided against moving forward with the challenge; the deadline to file specifics was Thursday.

Interesting to see that UFT leadership started to go ahead with the challenge to the "Stop Common Core" ballot line, then pulled back.

Clearly they didn't pull back because they've had a sudden epiphany on Common Core - Mulgrew says the UFT loves Common Core and thinks Astorino is politicizing an issue that shouldn't be politicized.

So what made them pull back?

Did they think the challenge would ultimately be unsuccessful?

Could be - Astorino filed well over the 15,000 signatures needed for the ballot line.

Did they decide they didn't want to be the face of the pro-Common Core fight in the election battle?

I'm skeptical of that -  Mulgrew was quite vociferous over his Common Core support at the AFT Convention in July.

Are they worried about the growing parent revolt over Common Core in the state and decided it was best not to do Cuomo's pro-Common Core dirty work for him?

I'm skeptical of that too.

The AFT/UFT/NYSUT leadership doesn't care what anybody outside of Bill Gates and their corporate buddies think about anything.

Not their rank and file members, not parents, not students.

Did the UFT leadership decide that helping a weakened Cuomo by going after Astorino's anti-Common Core line doesn't help them much at this point?

That's possible.

Cuomo's Democratic Primary opponent Zephyr Teachout has been endorsed by PEF, NOW and the Sierra Club in the last few days.

There is clear opposition to Cuomo from the left bubbling up, there is clear opposition within the rank and file to Cuomo too, and while the UFT leadership still supports Cuomo behind the scenes (please note the work they did for him during the Working Families Party convention in May), political expediency may dictate that going out on a public limb for him at this time doesn't help the leadership much.

In any case, the UFT decided no to challenge the "Stop Common Core" ballot line.

And so it stands.

Monday, August 25, 2014

NYSED Looks To Make 40% of APPR Evaluations Based On State Tests

The APPR teacher evaluation system in New York is split so that 60% is based on "subjective" measures like classroom observations and (in some districts) student surveys while the other 40% is based on "student performance."

The "student performance" APPR component is divided into 20% that is based on state tests and 20% that is based on "local assessments."

There has been much criticism of APPR from educators and parents because of the reliance on so much testing to rate teachers.

Some of the "overtesting" criticism comes because the "local assessments" part of the "student performance" component can force schools to use pre-tests and post-tests for every student in every subject in order to rate the teachers.

These pre-tests and post-tests (sometimes called "performance assessments" or some other edu-jargon) come on top of the state tests that children have to take, though unlike the state tests, the "local assessments" don't actually count for the students - they just count for the teachers.

All this testing has weighed down the system, forced teachers and students to spend many days on either test prep or testing and now even the New York State Education Department is hearing the criticism and responding.

Unfortunately, their response is going to cause even bigger problems for teachers.

It seems SED wants districts to get rid of as many of the "local assessments" as possible and just rate teachers on the state tests - even if the tests are NOT in the subject that teachers are licensed in:

The New York state Education Department is urging districts to eliminate as much local testing as possible for the purposes of teacher evaluations, and is committing federal money to help make it happen. But some educators are opposing the increased reliance on state exams.


There is no prospect of eliminating Common Core-aligned tests or other evaluations mandated by the state or federal government, and it is those that have drawn the most complaints. Rather, the state sent a report to every district in the state this summer, identifying locally-designed tests used for teacher assessment purposes and presenting alternate ways for districts to assess teachers without testing children more.


The state also urges districts to swap out locally-developed end-of-year tests in their Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) formulas for state evaluations that need to be done anyway. The overall goal is for districts to eliminate local tests and lean more heavily on the ones mandated by the state.


Sixty percent of APPR is based on a personal evaluation by a teacher's supervisor; it is the other 40 percent, based on data, that the state is hoping to nudge.

In classes without a Regents exam, the recommended changes would entail sacrificing subject-specific tests for broader, semi-related measures.

For instance, the state suggests districts could eliminate end-of-year music tests and instead assess music teachers on how well their students — or students in the school as a whole — did on the state English language arts test.

When APPR was first shoved onto teachers, the UFT pushed backed against criticism from some of their members over the testing component by noting that they had forced the state to break up the 40% "student performance" component into 20%-20%, with half based on state tests and the other half based on "local assessments" that would be created by the districts and subject to local negotiations.

But it seems the state is now moving to try and get as many districts as possible to just use the state tests to rate teachers - even when teachers don't actually teach subjects that have state tests.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle article, the NYSUT opposes the move to using just state tests to rate teachers:

A spokesman for the New York State Union of Teachers said that while the union supports less testing in general, it opposes a greater reliance on state exams.

But you can see what's going to eventually happen here if we're not careful.

The state is moving to have 40% of a teacher's evaluation based upon state tests only.

The "local assessments" part of the "student performance" component was always cumbersome and hard to pull off.

Some districts, according to the D&C piece, did pull it off and are happy with the "local assessments."

Many did not.

Indeed, in Rochester, the union is pushing to get rid of many of the "local assessments" and just use the state tests for ratings:

Rochester early education teachers, though, protested and filed a union grievance in June over unnecessary end-of-year testing for APPR purposes. Several teachers told the school board in June that they hadn't taught an actual lesson for more than a month because their end-of-year assessment demands were so burdensome. They described leaving entire classes of kindergarteners unattended while taking students aside one-by-one and administering a series of evaluations.

The Rochester Teachers Association is currently in negotiations with the district to amend the terms of its APPR agreement and remove as many local exams as possible, according to Adam Urbanski, its president.

"Our goal is to eliminate as much non-mandated testing as possible. To the best as I can discern, RCSD has a similar goal," he said. "Not because we think state tests are superior to local tests, but if you don't have local exams that are a significant improvement over state tests, then why do double testing?"

Local exams in Rochester are not superior to state exams by much, he said, because teachers haven't had sufficient time and resources to create them.

SED looks to be dangling out a little RttT money in order to get districts to agree to use the state tests for 40% of a teacher's evaluations.

Which can be a huge problem if you're a teacher who works in a school where students have not scored highly on the state tests in the past.

That was supposedly why the 40% "student performance" component was divided into 20% state tests and 20% "local assessments" - so that teachers who work in schools where students have scored low on state tests in the past would not be unfairly dinged on the 40% "student performance" component.

This is especially important because the SED and Regents, pushed by Cuomo, made it such that if a teacher is rated "ineffective" on the 40% "student performance" component, that teacher has to be rated "ineffective" overall no matter how they scored on the 60% subjective component.

With the state pushing to get districts to just use the state tests to rate teachers on the 40% "student performance" component, you're going to see an increase in teachers getting rated "ineffective" overall.

Cynics out there - including me - have thought that APPR was always devised to rate as many teachers as possible "ineffective" so that districts could fire them if they wanted (two straight "ineffective" ratings and a teacher can be subject to firing.)

The first batch of APPR ratings didn't bring a high number of "ineffective" ratings across the state, but in certain districts - like Rochester and Buffalo - where state tests were used two different ways to rate teachers, there was a high percentage of teachers rated "ineffective."

Don't think that isn't one of the strategies behind the state's move to get districts to use state tests for the whole 40% of the "student performance" component.

NYSED says they want to "reduce" testing and defend themselves from parent and educator complaints about "overtesting" and maybe even save districts a little money by killing some of the "local assessments."

And maybe that's so.

But a side benefit to all of this is that NYSED Commissioner John King, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and their merry men and women in reform in Albany will get what they wanted all along when it came to teacher evaluations - 40% of APPR based on just the state tests.

And it looks like at least some of the unions in the state - including the local in Rochester - are going to help them.

I get why people want to eliminate as many of the "local assessments" as possible - as I wrote above, they're cumbersome and they require a lot of time and effort.

But be careful of what may be the consequences of that assessment purge - 40% of a teacher's rating based solely on a state test (albeit, with the numbers crunched two different ways.)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Only States That Haven't Started Common Core Testing Are Eligible For Flexibility In Teacher Evaluations

Okay, here's an update on the late Friday post about New York not being eligible for the newly announced "flexibility" on teacher evaluations that Arne Duncan posted about on the USDOE website.

First a recap.

State of Politics linked to a Jessica Bakeman report at Capital NY on their Friday Extras round-up:
New York is one of two states not eligible for new “flexibility” policies announced by the federal government to help states transitioning to the Common Core standards.

The Bakeman article was behind the paywall at Capital NY,  no other news outlet reported specifically on New York's lack of flex eligibility for teacher evaluations and if that news was buried in other media stories about the flexibility announcement, I didn't notice it.

I did note in the Friday post that it seemed odd Duncan would announce flexibility for all states, including New York, after his DOE threatened the state back in June if they de-linked APPR teacher evaluations from student test scores.

I tweeted Bakeman to see what the story was behind New York's lack of flex eligibility.

She responded:

Under those rules, it would seem New York and Kentucky would not be eligible for flexibility on evaluations.

If I remember correctly, Kentucky was the first state to tie their state tests to Common Core, New York was the second.

More on this as I get it.

Daily News: Cuomo Not Much National Stature For White House Run

From Ken Lovett at the Daily News:

While Cuomo publicly dismisses talk of a candidacy, his people have hardly discouraged such speculation. A 2016 scenario goes like this: Hillary Clinton chooses not to run, blowing the Democratic field open.

The problem for Cuomo, party activists and Democratic insiders say, is that he has done little to put himself in a position to be a national candidate, while other Democrats, like Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and even Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), have.

“I just don’t think people can, unless they’re extremely well-positioned, just decide to jump in and run,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Cuomo’s focus on New York during his first term, including his reluctance to travel out of state or appear on Sunday chat shows, might be helping him with state voters, but it has left him with virtually no national profile.

“In my experience with volunteers, he’s typically not one of the names that they think of when it comes to early 2016 folks,” said Kevin Geiken, deputy executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party.

No visits to Iowa or New Hampshire, no network built for a national campaign, and then there's the animosity from certain segments of the New York population:

Cuomo’s problems with key unions in New York would also likely create obstacles in Iowa and New Hampshire. As in many parts of the country, the labor movement plays a big role in Democratic Party politics in both states.

New York’s public worker unions are angry with Cuomo over his push to lower the cost of government, enact pension changes and limit pay raises.

The Public Employees Federation, New York State’s second-largest government workers union, endorsed Cuomo’s gubernatorial primary challenger, law school Prof. Zephyr Teachout.

The state teachers union, which has battled the governor on issues like teacher evaluations, school funding and charter schools, decided not to make an endorsement. The state AFL-CIO is also staying on the sidelines for now.

“It’s pretty hard for everyone to get behind someone when the home team isn’t supporting him,” said Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor. “That would certainly be an indication that he doesn’t support the best interests of workers and, frankly, that message plays out here with our people.”

Not mentioned in the article but also looming out there is the potential indictment of members of Cuomo's administration in the Moreland investigation or even his own indictment.

Although maybe an indictment helps these days - Rick Perry's already been indicted, Scott Walker and Chris Christie may still be indicted, and all three are said to be running for president.

Maybe since all the cool kids are getting investigated by federal prosecutors and/or indicted by district attorneys, Cuomo's Moreland mess actually helps him.

Of course, he still has that temperament problem, an inability to do any news media that isn't friendly to him, a reluctance to go out into public and that whole the left hates him thing.

Not exactly a winning combination for a presidential primary in the Democratic Party.

I'm hoping he runs eventually, if not in 2016, then inn 2020.

Nothing's better for the soul of a narcissist politician like Cuomo than running for president and garnering little support.

Unless he's sporting prison stripes and can't run for president.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Arne Duncan Says New York Is One Of Two States NOT Eligible For Testing "Flexibility"

Yesterday I posted that it seemed ironic Arne Duncan was now giving states flexibility around testing and teacher evaluations since his DOE had just threatened New York State in June that de-linking teacher evaluations from student test scores would result in New York losing nearly $300 million in Race to the Top money.

Well, tonight we learn that Duncan is saying New York is one of two states that is not eligible for that "flexibility."

This is a report from Capital NY and it's behind the paywall so I have no more details than this from State of Politics:

New York is one of two states not eligible for new “flexibility” policies announced by the federal government to help states transitioning to the Common Core standards.

How about that?

Duncan says testing is sucking the oxygen out of the classroom, taking the joy out of education, and therefore waiver states get another year before they have to link teacher evaluations to test scores.

Except for New York and one other state - they have to use test scores in teacher evaluations or have their No Child Left Behind waivers taken from them. 

More on this as details come in.

Eva Moskowitz Puts Out Trial Balloon On Mayoral Run

Norm Scott at Ed Notes Online has written numerous times that Eva Moskowitz is setting up her charter empire in various neighborhoods around the city to use as a base of operations for a mayoral run.

We got some evidence last night that Norm may be right:

Mayor Moskowitz?

In an interview last night, Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools and a former city councilwoman, would not rule out a future primary bid against Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“It’s possible. I have always been very open about my respect for public service. My hope is though that we can really move this city forward,” Ms. Moskowitz said on NY1’s Inside City Hall in a response to a question about her rumored mayoral ambitions.

“I grew up in New York in the 1970s and I remember what it was like when governmental services did not work very, very well and I’m hoping we can keep the forward movement that we have seen in the city,” she added.

“If the forward movement doesn’t happen to your satisfaction, would we see a Eva Moskowitz in a candidacy as early as 2017?” host Errol Louis asked.

“Anything’s possible,” Ms. Moskowitz answered. “I love kids, I love what I’m doing, it’s incredibly hard. I love working with teachers and principals, they are my heroes. They are very dedicated to children and it’s very impactful.”

There is a huge downside for Eva if she decides to run.

Success Academies will get the kind of public scrutiny it so far has mostly avoided.

There's nothing better than a run for a higher office like NYC mayor to shine some light on a person's business practices.

Plus a Moskowitz run wouldn't be a done deal by any means:

Ms. Moskowitz, a Democrat like Mr. de Blasio, could be a formidable candidate if she chose to run. She has access to the wealthy donors who help buoy her charter network and enjoys relatively strong name recognition among primary voters. More moderate Democrats who passed on Mr. de Blasio in 2013 could find a candidate to unite around in 2017.

Still, a Moskowitz candidacy would face significant hurdles. Knocking off an incumbent mayor is exceedingly difficult. Labor unions and left-leaning community groups hostile to Ms. Moskowitz–the types of organizations that specialize in pulling out the vote for low turnout primaries–would rush to Mr. de Blasio’s defense. Ms. Moskowitz failed to win a Manhattan borough president’s race in 2005–Mr. de Blasio, to date, has never lost an election.

There are a lot of public school advocates and teachers out there who aren't happy with de Blasio and Farina, but there's nothing like the prospect of a Moskowitz mayorality to help with a shift in perception around that.

My guess is, even people who aren't happy with de Blasio and Farina would rally around them if Moskowitz was the alternative.

But, if I had to bet today on a Moskowitz run, I'd say she doesn't run.

Besides the scrutiny she'd take over her personal finances and charter network finances, she'd have to take a huge pay cut and develop a relationship with the public that she's just not temperamentally suited for.

Moskowitz has A reputation for being one of the most unkind, self-centered people in politics (just ask some of the people who used to work for her - they'll tell you.)

I have difficulty seeing her overcome that temperament problem, even with the money she would no doubt have at her disposal for political ads and her campaign.

Still, you never know how things will turn out in politics.

Even last summer, early on, few people thought de Blasio really had a chance to win.

So I won't rule out the possibility of a Mayor Moskowitz completely.

But for now I think she's just assuaging her own ego with the City Hall talk.

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

Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it couldn't do it.

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

$356 million dollars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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