Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, August 27, 2015

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Puts Together A "Goon Squad" To Intimidate Parents, Teachers

Readers of Perdido Street School blog will not be surprised to find out that NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is fast wearing out her welcome as the new head of the New York State Education Department nor that she is proving to be a tone deaf figure with a talent for divisiveness and controversy.

Elia was fired from her previous gig as superintendent of Hillsborough School District because she openly feuded with members of the school board, treated many of those who worked with her or under her with disdain and scorn, and refused to take responsibility for student safety problems or  district complicity in the deaths of three students.

In sum:

She had a reputation for creating a "culture of fear" in her office where subordinates felt "browbeaten" and "bullied."

Was accused of trying to cover up district complicity in the death of a 7 year old special needs child.

Was the target of parent protest for lack of district response after a second special needs child died at a Hillsborough school.

Oversaw a school district that has been accused of racial discrimination in its discipline policies and is the target of a federal complaint.

Oversaw a school busing and choice program that created a "reign of chaos" at McLane Middle School for ten years.

Was dubbed "MaryEllen EVILia" by some parents for pursuing district policies that harmed children with special needs.

Couldn't play nice with the school board and was ultimately whacked in a 4-3 vote in January.

When Elia was hired to replace John King at NYSED, she was hailed by members of the Board of Regents, many in the Legislature, the education reform community and NYSUT as a great hire, someone who would listen to and work well with others.

Given her track record at Hillsborough, it was absurd to think that she wouldn't be as divisive, controversial and tone deaf here in New York as she was in Tampa.

It hasn't taken too long for Elia to demonstrate exactly that.

Last week she said parents who choose to opt their children out of the state standardized tests are "not reasonable" and called teachers who support or encourage opt out "unethical."

She threatened "ramifications" for schools and/or districts with high opt rates in 2015, then after that "tool" was taken from her when Regents Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo both stated there wouldn't be punitive measures taken against parents or schools for opt outs this year, promised that she would engage parents and teachers for next year to make sure that opt out rates drop in a way that sounded awfully threatening.

Elia has said "it's the law" that students take standardized tests and she's going to make sure that educators are aware of where the line in the law is drawn over what they can and can't say about opt out.

Her engagement plan has some thinking that she plans legal action against teachers who encourage or even support opt out, like this commenter at Perdido Street School blog:

Cuomo's, Tisch's, and now Elia's recent statements are suggesting how they will be approaching Opt Out.....3020A'ing any "educator," Admin or teacher, who in any way support or do not OPPOSE opt out. Cuomo and Tisch were putting the happy face on it to penalties! And Elia was very clear in saying that any educators who support opt out are "unethical." That suggests the "moral character" language of a 3020A.

Their path forward cannot be penalizing parents, kids, or funding of schools...that's a political shit storm and they know it. The only thing left on the table are those that they are trying to destroy that's where the hammer will fall for opt out.

Today some members of the Assembly have joined in the public warnings over Elia's parent and teacher engagement plans:

Elia told Politco New York that she’s putting together a “tool kit” to help school superintendents reverse the boycotts in their schools, and has been talking to the education department’s legal staff, in order to provide the school administrators with more information on laws requiring that the exams be administered.  Those remarks set off some lawmakers.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco spent a decade as a special education teacher in the Schenectady school system.

“I call this the goon squad,” said Tedisco. “ They are going to intimidate the parents.”

Assemblyman Bill Nojay, a Republican from the Rochester area who describes himself as libertarian leaning, was never a teacher, but his mother was one. He says education officials should be listening to the parents instead.

“The parents, the teachers and the students have got more than enough information,” Nojay said. “They don’t need somebody who is new to New York State to say ‘listen to me, I know better than you do’.” 

In addition, Al Graf has started a petition to call on the Legislature to pull back support from both the Common Core and NYSED Commissioner Elia.

Graf, Tedisco and Nojay are part of a Republican minority in the Assembly, so they will have little opportunity to influence policy in the Legislature, but their public statements warning over Elia's so-called engagement plans with parents and teachers will put pressure on Assembly Dems in the majority carrying water for NYSED and the Cuomo education agenda as well as Cuomo himself.

As Elia goes to war with parents and teachers over opt out (and make no mistake, that's what she's doing by threatening legal action), Assembly Dems and Cuomo are going to have to decide whether they want to back her in that war and risk enmity from the growing number of public school parents who are opposed to the state's education reform agenda and Endless Testing regime.

Same goes for the Board of Regents.

We know that both Regents Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo support that reform agenda and Endless Testing regime but neither wants to be the face of it - that's why Tisch made some soothing statements about opt out and special needs children and Cuomo backed parent right to opt children out of state tests.

Nonetheless as Elia gets more and more shrill over opt out and threatens punitive measures (or even levies them) - as she puts together her "goon squad" to fight her war against opt out - the Board of Regents, the Legislature and Governor Cuomo are eventually going to have to take sides.

You would have to think given Cuomo's careful statements over opt out, given Tisch's softening tone on whether children with special needs should take the standardized exams, given Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's recent statements that maybe there's more to education than just testing, that Elia may not get the public support she's going to need in her war against opt out.

Elia can only use her goon squad if she's got the political support for it.

Her political support is already waning - you can see that in the statements from Graf, Tedisco and Nojay as well as the anger she is engendering among some parents for her opt out threats.

When a member of the Legislature says the NYSED Commissioner is preparing a "goon squad" to intimidate parents and teachers over state tests, the writing is already on the wall:

MaryEllen Elia is wearing out her welcome in a New York minute and whatever political support and leverage she thinks she has to threaten parents and teachers is tenuous and thin.

To top it all off, Elia's going to war over opt out at the same time she is fighting a second front back in Tampa - she has had to defend herself from allegations by some members of the Hillsborough School Board and her successor as Hillsborough superintendent that she left a financial mess in the district.

For some reason, the New York press and political establishment haven't taken an interest in the mess Elia made in Tampa nor in the harm she has done to students there, but as the political fallout from her Hillsborough days continues to follow her, it won't be long before they do.

And once that happens, Elia will have the notoriety she truly deserves as just another incompetent, tone deaf educrat who refuses to take responsibility for the messes she makes even as she threatens accountability and responsibility for others.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quid Pro Cuomo: NY Gov Gets Campaign Cash, Polluter General Electric Gets $50 Million In Tax Subsidies And A Greenwashing

More Cuomo corruption:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week proudly declared that he had successfully lured General Electric into “coming home.” It took $50 million in taxpayer subsidies to convince the company to build a new manufacturing facility in upstate New York, but this was money well spent, Cuomo asserted, noting that GE used to be “such a big part of this community and provided so many jobs and was such a vital player in this community.” Cuomo is now pushing to authorize an additional, undisclosed amount to entice GE to also relocate its corporate headquarters from Connecticut back to New York, some 40 years after it left.

The welcoming rhetoric from the New York governor, a Democrat, presents a stark change from recent years, in which GE was known throughout the state as a large-scale industrial polluter: During the mid-20th century, the company dumped more than one million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer into the Hudson River.

Since 2009, the technology and manufacturing conglomerate has contributed more than $466,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns and political groups that have supported his bids for governor, according to state and federal campaign finance records.

New York state and federal authorities have for decades sparred with GE over the pace and extent of its promised cleanup of the Hudson from years of manufacturing-related chemical dumping, a battle that continues even as Cuomo now extends the state’s largess. In the same week Cuomo was promoting his plans to subsidize GE, federal officials told New York authorities that the company had been underreporting the volume of toxic chemicals that are still in the river’s ecosystem. Meanwhile, New York lawmakers, businesses and environmental groups have been raising concerns that the company is now moving to prematurely abandon the cleanup operations, while a report from federal government scientists said GE needs to conduct additional dredging to fully clean up the river.

PCB's remain in the Hudson, but GE is claiming the clean-up's all done, it's time to move on.

 Cuomo's move here essentially greenwashes them from responsibility.

Hey Andy, why not see if Union Carbide is looking to move headquarters next?

I hear they're owned by Dow Chemical - I bet you can get some campaign cash in return for tax subsidies and some greenwashing from them too.

Al Graf Petition Calls For Legislature To Rethink Support For Common Core, MaryEllen Elia

I've already signed this - you should too:

Dear Governor Cuomo & New York State Board of Regents Members:

Recent news articles attributing statements made by the State’s new Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia raise serious concerns about her vision and policies regarding the course of education in this state.

It was troubling to read that Commissioner Elia was advocating for a financial punishment for school districts with high percentages of opt-outs. It appears that she believes her role is to continue the detrimental policies of her predecessor and to some extent double down on former Commissioner King’s policies.

New York State has continuously expressed a desire to partner with parents, teachers, and all the stakeholders in supplying a quality education for all of our children.

Commissioner Elia, through her statements has labeled concerned parents, teachers and other stakeholders who have expressed concerns about education in our state as adversaries. Parents attempted to communicate their dissatisfaction with the direction of education through an act of civil disobedience. The high number of opt-outs was meant to send a clear message to Albany.
Instead of digging in and threatening the people that are trying to send a message about policies they believe are harmful to our children, the State Education Department and the Regents should take a step back.

The debate over opposition to the Common Core curriculum is taking place in state after state, as well as on the federal level. It has also become a leading issue in the presidential campaign. Here in New York we have had an overwhelming opt-out movement, and more than 50,000 people actually voted on a Stop Common Core ballot line. It is time for the Regents to re-evaluate the direction they are determined to steer education in this state.

The Regents should further re-evaluate their appointment of Commissioner Elia. This state should not be threatening parents, teachers and other stakeholders involved in the education of our children to bend to the will of the state. The state has to consider the concerns expressed through civil disobedience and re-examine the appropriateness, and the impact that the common core curriculum is having on all our children.


[Your Signature]

CC:      Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia

It is time to take back the public education system from the educrats who seek to impose their own agenda on the state's students, parent and teachers no matter the opposition.

Stop Chris Christie PAC Shuts Down Because Christie's Campaign Is DOA

Love it:

The Stop Chris Christie PAC is shutting down because it says Christie is doing a better job at stopping his own campaign.

Said PAC treasurer Tom Bjorklund: “Our committee believes that Mr. Christie has already performed the service of stopping his campaign in spirit.”

Christie is in low single digits in the latest GOP primary polls.

His chance to make headlines and get some momentum going for the campaign has been diminished by the Trump circus.

It's looking pretty much over for Christie - he has to have a strong showing in New Hampshire's primary.

Given that he's not polling very well there, the chances of that happening are not too good.

You never want to bet on a 100% certainty in politics, but it's looking 99.9% certain that Chris Christie is done as a presidential contender.

Union, NYSED Argue That Campbell Brown's Anti-Tenure Suit Is Moot With New APPR Changes

From the Post:

The teachers union and state officials argued Tuesday that a lawsuit challenging New York’s tenure policy should be tossed because Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature approved a new law tightening teacher accountability.

The changes make the tenure suit moot, lawyers defending the state claimed during oral arguments in Staten Island Supreme Court.

“We live in a different world ­today than when this action was filed,” said Assistant State Attorney General Steven Banks.

Cuomo and lawmakers approved in April a tougher tenure law that more closely links teacher job ratings to the test scores of their students. The new law also awards tenure after four years instead of three.

The lawyer representing plaintiff Campbell Brown and the NYC Parents Union claimed the changes to the tenure law were just "windowdressing" and the suit should go forward.


Tenure is effectively abolished under the new APPR law.

If a teacher receives two consecutive ineffective ratings, the district may bring a 3020-a proceeding and the burden of proof shifts to the teacher with the hearing completed within 90 days.

If a teacher receives three consecutive ineffective ratings, the district must bring a 3020-a and the only defense a teacher can use is fraud or mistaken identity with the hearing completed within 30 days.

How the hell are those windowdressing changes to tenure?

Those are drastic changes that essentially abolish tenure protections since a tenured teacher can be fired based upon his/her APPR rating.

Brown is also aiming at LIFO seniority - the last in, first out rules for layoffs - so it's possible the suit will go forward based on that.

But for Brown's lawyer to claim that the new APPR law only provides "windowdressing" changes that do not affect the core tenets of tenure - well, that's just absurd.

Some Republicans Not Sold On Eva Moskowitz For Mayor

A trial balloon was floated yesterday in the Murdoch Post about Mistress Eva of Success Academies running for mayor on the Republican line, but some cold water was thrown on that dream later in the day:

Rejecting a Manhattan GOP leader’s interest in having Democrat Eva Moskowitz run for mayor as a Republican, Republican chairs said today that they would prefer a registered Republican challenging Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I’m not a big fan of Wilson-Pakulas,” said Craig Eaton, the chairman of the Brooklyn Republican Party. “I’m hopeful this time around we’ll have registered Republicans running on our line.” Mr. Eaton was referring to a state law that requires the approval of three out of five New York City party chairs for a candidate to run on a party line different than their own.

Ms. Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools and a top de Blasio critic, has never expressed interest in party-switching or renting the GOP line. The practice drew scrutiny after Malcolm Smith, a former Democratic state senator, was convicted of trying to bribe his way into the 2013 GOP mayoral primary.

Adele Malpass, the chairwoman of the Manhattan Republican Party, wants Ms. Moskowitz to give the Wilson-Pakula more thought. “I would be very excited about Eva running for mayor,” she told the New York Post. “Education is a top priority for the next mayor and Eva is eminently qualified to do that. She’s outstanding.”

Ed Cox, the chairman of the State Republican Party, told the Post Ms. Moskowitz is a “visionary” on education issues, though he didn’t say outright she should run as a Republican.

Staten Island’s Republican chairman, John Antoniello, joined Mr. Eaton in calling for a real Republican to get the nod. “Without a doubt I’d prefer a registered Republican to run,” he told the Observer.

I don't see why Moskowitz, a registered "Democrat" can't switch parties and become a Republican?

Bloomberg did it, why not Eva?

Frankly she's a better fit for the GOP line than the Democratic line.

Her union-busting, anti-public education agenda won't sit well with labor and other traditional Democratic constituencies that put on big GOTV operations in primaries.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Republicans, Hedge Fund Managers Look To Run Eva Moskowitz For Mayor On Republican Ticket

As has been speculated here at Perdido Street School blog, if Success Academies Mistress Eva Moskowitz decides to run for mayor against Bill de Blasio, it will probably be as a Republican:

GOP leaders searching for a challenger to topple Mayor de Blasio in 2017 are so excited that Democratic charter-school champion Eva Moskowitz is weighing a run that they’re open to letting her enter the race as a Republican.

“I would be very excited about Eva running for mayor. Education is a top priority for the next mayor and Eva is eminently qualified to do that. She’s outstanding,” Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, said Monday.
Malpass said wealthy backers of charters are prepared to bankroll a Moskowitz campaign.

Moskowitz, who, as a member of the City Council chaired the Education Committee, is the founder and CEO of the city’s largest charter network, Success Academy. She has said she’s considering taking on de Blasio, but would need GOP permission to run as a Republican.

There's little chance Moskowitz could beat de Blasio in a Democratic primary - the unions and other key Democratic Party constituencies would make sure the anti-union Moskowitz would lose that contest.

That's why she has to run as a Republican, though even there she faces an uphill battle (and is a registered Democrat to boot):

Political insiders said de Blasio would be difficult to beat in a Democratic primary dominated by minorities, left-leaning voters and unions — unless he falters and an insurgent can chip into his base.
A challenger on the GOP line faces an even more daunting task, but former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he’s proof that a GOP fusion candidate with a reform agenda can beat the odds.

GOP county leaders can use a “Wilson Pakula” procedure under state law to allow a Democrat to run on the Republican line.

The practice has been frowned upon — particularly after two party leaders were convicted of scheming to sell the ballot line to former Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith.

Of course Eva could just change parties and become a Republican - hell, Mayor Mike changed parties more often than he changed tuxedos, so it's not like it hasn't been done before.

Even so, if the hedge fundies and charter school shills want to beat de Blasio in 2017, Eva isn't the best candidate to do it.

She's got baggage as head of the controversial Success Academies where diapers come as part of the school uniform (so that the kids can keep taking their practice tests instead of going to the bathroom, of course!) and she has sued to keep from being audited.

Couple the Success Academies controversies with her prickly personality and temperament (if the press thinks Bill de Blasio doesn't answer their questions, just wait until they got a load of Mayor Moskowitz gaggles) and you see how flawed she is as a candidate.

No, I actually think running charter school shill Hakeem Jeffries against de Blasio makes more strategic sense for the charter school operators.

Jeffries can eat into de Blasio's support among the black community, Mayor Bill's strongest supporters in the latest polling, while sucking up a lot of Wall Street cash and charter school donations to be able to run plenty of attack ads against de Blasio.

I suppose the charter shills could try and run Jeffries AND Moskowitz, with the idea that Jeffries softens de Blasio up in the primaries and Eva finishes him off in November, but that seems unlikely.

I think Eva, ego maniac that she is, loves the attention over whether she'll run for mayor and is using the story line to push her personal and charter school brand, but I'm skeptical that in the end she decides to actually run.

She makes an awful lot of money now as Success Academies Mistress, she and Success get limited scrutiny from media now that would change if she decided to run for mayor, and she really isn't the best pro-charter candidate to knock de Blasio off.

De Blasio could be vulnerable to a center-right pro-charter school candidate in a general election in November, but given her flaws, I don't think Eva Moskowitz is that candidate.

My money is on either Jeffries or Ruben Diaz Jr. to try and get the charter school operators and hedge fund managers to bankroll a primary challenge against de Blasio and to get a receptive audience from them, while Eva continues to make sounds like she's going to run but in the end bows out against a less controversial pro-charter figure to run in 2017.

But we'll see how it all plays out - you never know how things go in politics.

Donald Trump's massive poll lead among Republicans even as he beats up on FOX News and hedge fund managers is just the latest demonstration of that, isn't it?

Gallup: Support For Unions Up, Young People Most Supportive

Interesting findings:

After falling to an all-time low in 2009, Americans’ support for labor unions has been inching up, according to Gallup, the consulting and polling company.

“Americans’ approval of labor unions has jumped five percentage points to 58 percent over the past year, and is now at its highest point since 2008, when 59 percent approved,” a report issued by Gallup said.

The low, at 48 percent, was in 2009.

“Perhaps most positive for the future of unions is the finding that young adults, those aged 18 to 34, are the most supportive of all age groups,” Gallup said.

Support for unions was at 55% when Gallup asked the question in 1979, so 58% support, bouncing back from the 2008 low, brings support back to recent historical levels.

But here's some cause for optimism in the future:

66% of people aged 18-34 approve of unions, while 53% aged 35-54 approve of unions and 58% of those aged 55 or older approve of unions.

It looks like younger people, seeing how badly they're getting screwed by globalization and other economic forces that are squeezing them on all ends are more open to unions than their elders - especially their Gen X elders.

Joel Klein Brought His Incompetence To News Corporation, Helped Rupert Murdoch Lose Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars

Buzzfeed with a post-mortem on Rupert Murdoch's Amplify digital education revolution:

Amplify, Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to disrupt the American education industry, had a lot going for it: a lot of hype, a lot of media attention, a lot of high-profile names, and a lot of money to spend. Then add to all that the fact that the education industry seemed especially vulnerable — dominated by big, cozy, slow-moving incumbents, just the way Murdoch likes it.

But none of that mattered in the end. As it turns out, Murdoch’s News Corp. couldn’t even make waves in the education world, much less disrupt it. During its short life, Amplify bled money, losing $193 million in 2014 alone.

On Aug. 12, News Corp. said it was in final talks to sell Amplify, had written down the value of the business by $370 million, and would wind down the education unit’s first and most ambitious project, a custom-made tablet computer that was supposed to revolutionize education technology. The venture lasted just three years at News Corp.

Amplify’s high-profile failure, despite the people and money backing it, is a sign of just how strange and difficult to navigate the education industry can be. The company underestimated almost everything about the industry: the deep entrenchment of the biggest players and the complexities of selling to school districts — not to mention the surprising political power of parents and teachers unions, who had a not-insignificant hand in the company’s troubles.

Amplify wasn't helped when news broke that their tablets set themselves on fire or broke when turned over.

Nonetheless, the Buzzfeed analysis is that Amplify thought they could "disrupt" the education world by going right at their competitors and getting districts to sign on to Amplify contracts but failed to grasp that they needed to build and develop relationships with districts and district personnel first.

Another reason for Amplify's failure?

Google beat them by offering cheaper hardware in their Chromebooks that came with built in keyboards (Amplify requires separate keyboards for the tablets) and offered more software  flexibility:

For one company, however, grabbing market share in the education business has been anything but slow. Google was hardly a blip on the education world radar in 2010, when News Corp. bought the testing company that it would eventually transform into Amplify. But more than half of all devices sold in education are now Google Chromebooks, outstripping even iPads in sales.

“Is the industry still ripe for disruption? Absolutely. The disruptor has been Google,” said Phil Maddocks, an industry analyst with Futuresource Consulting. “They’ve come from nowhere.”

Google Chromebooks had a lot of advantages over Amplify’s tablets. They are cheaper than almost any device on the market. They also come with keyboards — a necessity for many state tests, which are increasingly taken by computer, and a feature that is increasingly in demand for older students.
Chromebooks are also better suited to the “extremely fragmented” education market, where many districts and teachers prefer to piece together content and apps, rather than turning to one company for curriculum, apps, and devices. While Amplify’s tablet was technically “content-agnostic,” meaning it could run other companies’ software, it was envisioned as a “complete mobile learning system,” in the company’s words. It came designed to be bundled with Amplify curriculum, with hefty discounts for school districts if they bought Amplify’s content alongside it. That subscription cost an additional $99 a year.

“They were really offering only one solution,” Maddocks said. “In the past, when we’ve seen hardware try to link up with content, it hasn’t worked. It all comes back to the fragmentation of the [content] market — every district wants a different solution.”

Amplify also misread the competition - they thought Pearson and other textbook companies would be slow to move to digital.

They were wrong:

And despite how it had looked when News Corp. headed back into the education market in 2010, companies like Houghton Mifflin and Pearson were not as print-bound and slow to adapt as they had seemed. Houghton Mifflin, the biggest player in the elementary education space, made heavy investments in technology, and its sales are now mostly digital, though by a slim margin.

These were key mistakes that ought to cost Joel Klein his job at News Corporation, but as we see again and again, accountability is only for the little people.

Instead, they will cost other people at News Corp their jobs, even as Klein makes excuses for his poor leadership at Amplify:

In a long letter to Amplify staff announcing the company’s impending sale, Klein offered his own explanation. “Amplify’s work has been so innovative and transformative that we’ve been ahead of the market,” he said. “That, in part, helps explain what has happened with our tablet business.”

Ahead of the market?

Uh, uh - behind the market.

Chromebooks with keyboards are the way forward, not Amplify tablets.

Software flexibility potential is the way of the future, not "complete mobile learning systems" built into the hardware and available to access for a yearly fee.

The only way Amplify was "ahead of the market" is if you think that tablets that break easily are the way of the future.

More Klein incompetence, this time at News Corporation, but as is usual with Jeol Klein, there is no accountability for his failures.

Joel Klein keeps failing upward.

No Accountability Measures Or Expectations In Place For New Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash

Once again we get an example of how accountability is only for the little people:

 The four-year employment contract for incoming Buffalo School Superintendent Kriner Cash makes him the highest paid leader of any major urban school district in the state, but does not lay out any specific performance expectations. Those will be set later. Moreover, Cash’s contract includes unusually specific communication procedures designed to prevent individual board members from telling him what to do without official board authorization.

Oh, the specific performance expectations will be set later.

How much later?

Undetermined performance evaluation: While some superintendent contracts provide explicit parameters for how a superintendent’s work will be judged, Cash’s contract includes only one sentence stating that the adoption of specific performance expectations and measures will be developed through a collaborative process by Sept. 30.

Hired first, performance expectations and measures later - this isn't sitting well with Crazy Carl Paladino:

Board member Carl Paladino, who served on the negotiating committee along with Sampson and board member Barbara Seals Nevergold, criticized the fact that Cash was given such a lengthy employment contract term without identifying specific performance goals. He was out of the country when the board approved Cash’s contract and said he attended only one meeting with the board’s negotiating team.

“There’s no standards set for this guy,” Paladino stated. “We’re telling him you’re employed for four years, and we’re not telling him what his job is.”

Silly Crazy Carl - expectations and accountability are for little people in the school district, not for the people who run it.

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Threatens Legal Action Against Educators Who Support Opt Out

Just as some commenters on Perdido Street School blog pointed out would happen, NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is going to target educators who support the Opt Out movement with legal action:

ALBANY — Education commissioner MaryEllen Elia already has begun a battle to stop the rapidly growing opt-out movement before next year’s state tests, reaching out to department attorneys and meeting with superintendents, she told POLITICO New York.

“We’re trying to pull together a tool kit, if you will, to support superintendents in how we can communicate in a much more effective way to people across the state,” Elia said.

That kit will include legal information, which is why she has reached out to lawyers, Elia said.
“I want the superintendents to understand the reflections and law that they can use as an information piece when they talk to people in their community … It’s important for them to be able to say, ‘Listen, it’s the law.’”

Ooh, it's the law!

I am so impressed by that statement.

Segregation and slavery were the law too, but that didn't make those laws right or just.

Many states continue to have sodomy laws on the books too, but that doesn't make those laws right or just either.

Same goes with the "law" regarding standardized testing in New York State.

Giving standardized tests that have been rigged to fail 70% of the children in the state may be the law, but that doesn't make that law right or just.

Implicit in her statement that giving the tests is "the law" is that legal action can be used against people who flout that law.

She has already said any educator who supports or encourages opt outs is "unethical," so you know when she dangles legal threats around over opt out, that's who she's aiming at.

If Elia wants to threaten legal action against teachers who support the Opt Out movement - go for it.

With opt out rates going from 5% in 2014 to 20% in 2015, I can understand why Elia feels threatened over the Opt Out movement.

But threatening legal action against teachers who support opt out, I don't think that's going to be a winning proposition for her.

When push comes to shove, will she get back-up from the Legislature or the governor in a battle over the tests?

Governor Cuomo is a huge fan of bashing and scapegoating teachers, but even he has tread lightly around the testing and opt out issue, knowing that there is a growing opt out movement in the state that can hurt him politically.

It remains to be seen what Elia can do to teachers other than threaten them for supporting opt out - unless she wants NYSED to engage in thousands of 3020a disciplinary cases over opt out, that is.

Is that the plan?

If so, it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Another thing that's not a winning proposition for Elia - equating support for opt out with ignorance on the part of parents.

Elia keeps saying (echoing Regents Chancellor Tisch) that NYSED has to get the message out to parents why testing is swell and kids should shut up and take their tests.

Elia even said last week that support for opt out is "not reasonable" - a statement that equates parent support for opt out with insanity.

This isn't sitting well with some parents:

When asked if she thinks opt out will continue to grow, Elia replied: “It’s incumbent upon us to get information and support out to those educators and leaders across New York … I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of communication and we have to do it a multiple levels.”

Some parents, like Jessica McNair, say they already are informed about Common Core and the opt-out movement should not be dismissed as a lack of information.

“I think she has a lot to learn about the parents in New York State,” McNair said. “We’re not going to back down until we see tests that are developmentally appropriate, and tests that are decoupled from the teacher evaluations.”

Opt Out CNY, which has 4,120 members, already has a 2015-16 refusal letter available to parents on its website — and some already have it signed and in their child’s book bags for the first day of school, McNair said.

Elia was supposedly hired because she is a "listener" and "consensus-builder."

From what I see so far, we've got John King Part Deaux, another a tone deaf corporate education reform water carrier for an NYSED Commissioner who reflexively attacks parents and teachers when they don't agree with her.

Let's see how that show plays over the next school year.

Daily News Carries Water For Cuomo, Continues To Ignore Systemic Prison Abuse In State System

Enough is enough.

The New York Daily News continues to hammer the Rikers prison scandal, putting stories on the front page day after day, calling for resignations and investigations and kinds of change at the prison.

Good for them.

But they inexplicably continue to ignore the systemic abuse, torture and murder of prisoners in the state prison system by corrections officers even as they hammer the Rikers story.

There have been 60+ allegations of prisoners being beaten, choked, abused, and threatened with waterboarding at Clinton Correction Facility in Dannemora and an allegation of a prisoner being beaten to death by corrections officers known as the "Beat Up Squad" at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon.

The NY Times reported on both of these stories the past few weeks, but other New York papers, including the crusading Daily News that never met a Rikers story it didn't want to put on the front page and editorialize about, has ignored them.

Today the Albany Times Union published an editorial, asking when the Department of Justice will investigate these allegations of torture, abuse and murder in the state prison system under Cuomo:

Cruel and All Too Usual

“There is no protection from the freezing temperature … the prisoners are still standing in the courtyard, shivering with cold, tortured by hunger and fainting from exhaustion. In such conditions, the prisoner has only one hope left, to die.”

So goes a description of a roll call by photographer-author Brian Gaylor in “Ghosts of Auschwitz,” about the most infamous Nazi death camp.

“Once the frisking was done, they continued to make us stand with our hands on the fence. Those of us that didn’t have gloves were suffering, and the staff didn’t care.”

That second account is not from World War II. It’s from an modern-day inmate of a Feb. 7, 2013, incident at Bare Hill Correctional Facility in northern New York. The incident, related by reporter Alysia Santo of The Marshall Project, a journalism nonprofit that focuses on criminal justice, involved a prison yard search for weapons after an inmate’s face was slashed. The search that went on, inmates claim, for 30 minutes or more in the 5- to 10-degree cold. Inmates say they were ordered to remove their hats and gloves and hold a chain-link fence, even after the search was over, as guards waited for someone to come clean about the assault. Ten prisoners suffered frostbite.

Which brings us, once again, to the question: What is going on in New York’s prisons, and when will the U.S. Department of Justice take notice?

The question springs from Clinton Correctional Facility where, after the escape by two prisoners this summer, inmates told The New York Times that guards beat handcuffed prisoners, slammed them against walls and cell bars, and choked them or suffocated them with plastic bags over their heads.
The question lingers at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, a prison with a history of complaints of official brutality, where the Times recently reported on allegations that an inmate was beaten to death in April by what’s known at the prison as the “Beat Up Squad,” and witnesses put in solitary confinement and threatened.

The response from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on the allegations at Clinton Correctional? They’re being looked into. At Fishkill? Looking into it; State Police will turn over their findings to the Dutchess County District Attorney in the “near future.” At Bare Hill? No comment, since it’s a matter of litigation.
When is enough enough? When does one report of abuse after another add up to a possible pattern of systematic, dehumanizing brutality?

When will the Cuomo administration concede that this demands an outside investigation, not one by the same state government that operates these prisons and stands to be on the hook for possible civil rights violations and potential damages?

And when will the Justice Department take notice? When these prisoners’ terms are done, and they return to society, to put into practice all the lessons they have learned about how civilized people behave?

When will the DOJ take notice of these allegations?

Hell, when will the New York Daily News?

It seems that if prison abuse doesn't occur at Rikers Island, they're not interested in the allegations in the least.

The cynic in me wonders if they continue to do Rikers stories day after day because they get to hammer de Blasio but they ignore the state prison abuse allegations because that would reflect badly on Governor Cuomo and they wouldn't want to hurt his feelings (or his political standing.)

The same goes for the politicians in this state, all of whom continue to ignore the state abuse stories even as some talk about criminal justice issues.

Some of these politicians have been hailing Cuomo as a criminal justice reformer - take Hakeem Jeffries, for example, who gave Cuomo an award from the Urban League for being swellest politician on criminal justice reform issues even as allegations of systemic abuse, torture and murder of prisoners by New York correctional officers surface in the NY Times.

The newspapers and many in the political establishment have it out for de Blasio these days, the Rikers story being just the latest example of where they take the rhetorical bludgeon out and bash him over the head with it.

I think the Daily News is justified to do so with the Rikers mess.

Yet I cannot fathom why the Daily News and other newspapers (outside of the Times and Times Union) or politicians like Hakeem Jeffries stay silent on the state prison abuse allegations even as they speak out on the Rikers mess other than they have a political agenda to protect Andrew Cuomo and destroy Bill de Blasio.

Monday, August 24, 2015

American Public Rejects Evaluating Teachers Based On Test Scores

The PDK/Gallup poll has a decent majority opposing teacher evaluations tied to test scores - it's 55%-45% opposed.

But when you look at how public school parents responded - 63% opposed, 37% in favor - it's almost 2-1 in opposition.

One of the core guiding principles of corporate education reform - that teachers should be evaluated based upon test scores (what Governor Andrew M. Cuomo likes to call "scientific, objective evaluation") is not very popular with the segment of the American public that is most affected by that tenets - parents of public school children.

It's interesting how the more Americans get to see education reform in action - Common Core, testing, teacher evals tied to tests - the less they like it and it's even more interesting to see how the more public school parents see it in action, the more they oppose it.

Charter School Shills With Ties To Cuomo Plan To "Bankroll" Bid To Destroy De Blasio

Anybody else think this idea came straight from Cuomo?

Ken Lovett of the Daily News reports the following:

ALBANY — Business bigwigs — some with ties to Gov. Cuomo — have begun discussing the possibility of bankrolling an early effort to go after Mayor de Blasio in hopes of further weakening him in advance of the 2017 elections, sources say.

Home Depot founder Ken Langone, who once headed a “Republicans for Cuomo” effort, had private preliminary discussions last week about the idea of putting together a group to help raise money and coordinate a public campaign designed to chip away at the mayor, sources said.


The idea is to capitalize on de Blasio’s weaknesses early enough to make it easier for a challenger to come forward, several said.

Langone, in discussions with several business cronies, offered to immediately pony up a significant amount of money toward the effort if the others do the same, one insider said.

Besides Langone, who did not return a call for comment, others mentioned as potentially getting involved in the effort are billionaire Paul Singer, a big-time Republican donor who helped Cuomo in the effort to legalize gay marriage in 2011, and Tudor Investment Corp. founder Paul Tudor Jones.

Several hedge-fund backers of the pro-charter school movement — which has had close ties to Cuomo — like Dan Loeb have also been mentioned as possibly being part of the effort. Singer, Jones and Loeb could not be reached for comment.

I'll remind readers that when Eva Moskowitz was at odds with Bill de Blasio over the DOE's rejection of three Success Academy co-locations, it was Andrew Cuomo himself who suggested to Moskowitz she hold a big Albany rally that he would speak at in order to weaken de Blasio.

Considering the ties the names mentioned in the Lovett column have to Cuomo, it's reasonable to think Cuomo's got a hand in this latest effort as well.

Make no mistake, the charter school shills want City Hall back 100% in their corner and they're going to do everything they can to ensure that happens.

Looks like that may be happening with Cuomo's help.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

PDK/Gallup Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Reject Test-Based School Accountability

Lyndsey Layton in the Washington Post:

Americans overwhelmingly think there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in public schools and that test scores are not the best way to judge schools, teachers or students, according to a national poll.

The results released Sunday come from the 47th annual PDK/Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools, the longest-running survey of Americans’ views on public education.

 The survey showed that the public rejects school accountability built on standardized tests, which has been federal policy through No Child Left Behind, the signature education initiative of President George W. Bush.

64% say there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in schools.

That's nearly two-thirds of respondents.

Here's an interesting finding on teacher evaluations and test scores:

A majority of respondents — regardless of political affiliation — opposed the notion of evaluating teachers based in part on test scores, an idea heavily promoted by the Obama administration and fought by teachers unions.

As Americans move away from the idea that tying teacher ratings to test scores is a practical way to evaluate teachers, Andrew Cuomo is moving toward it.

Until he is made to pay a political price for pushing what is clearly an unpopular education policy, he'll continue to do it, of course. 

As for Regents Chancellor Tisch and NYSED Commissioner Elia, they say they're going to get the opt out numbers down next year by convincing parents that standardized testing is swell and a civil right and schools just cannot function without them.

The PDK/Gallup poll shows they're going to have an uphill climb.

Same goes for Common Core - 54% oppose it according to the PDK/Gallup poll.

Also there's this interesting tidbit that goes right to the core of the testing issue:

In a rebuttal to those who say states should use common tests so that the public can compare how students perform across state boundaries, fewer than one in five public school parents said it was important to know how children in their communities performed on standardized tests compared with students in other districts, states or countries.

The rationale for the PARCC and SBAC tests was just that - to give the public the ability to compare how students perform in different states.

At less than 20% support, not so much on this tenet of the education reform agenda either.

So let's see, the public doesn't like standardized testing, doesn't think teachers should be evaluated using test scores, doesn't care about the PARCC/SBAC comparisons, and opposes Common Core.

Quite a victory for education reform, eh?

Oh, and one last thing - 57% of the respondents gave the public schools in their own communities (you know, the one's they're familiar with) either an A or B for performance.

So much for the "failing schools" crisis.

How Are Teachers Handling The Opt Out Issue?

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said any educator who supports or encourages the Opt Out movement is "unethical".

A commenter on a previous Perdido Street School post said she/he never encourages parents to opt children out of tests:

I am a teacher and I totally support the opt out movement. However, I do not believe it is ethical for teachers to ENCOURAGE parents to opt out. On the flip side I have no problem whatsoever for teachers to give information to parents who ASK for opt out information. It is the same with cops. They might not support a certain law like drinking in public but they can't encourage people to just brown bag it in dark corners.

In a reply to that comment, another commenter wrote:

At my school the principal asked us NOT to discuss opt out with parents, even if they ask. If a parent brings it up we have to tell them to speak to the principal. Talking to parents about opt out is a good way to get rated ineffective.

There is some conjecture that going forward, NYSED will go after educators with high opt rates, from superintendents leading districts to principals leading schools to teachers in individual classrooms.

Both Regents Chancellor Tisch and NYSED Commissioner Elia have made some not-so-subtle comments to back up that conjecture that they will look to punish educators over opt out rates.

So, there's an important question to ask here:

How do teachers out there handle the opt out issue?

LoHud: Teachers Union Not Behind Opt Out Movement

I keep seeing this allegation that the Opt Out movement was started, nurtured and spread by the teachers union.

The latest incarnation of that was from some woman arguing with Assemblyman Ed Ra on twitter about the wonders of Common Core and Common Core testing (Assemblyman Ra wasn't convinced of the the wonders of either) who claimed the Opt Out movement was "astroturf" created by the unions, including the UFT.

In an editorial today, The Journal-News dispenses with this myth that the union started opt out:

Many advocates and commentators continue to insist that the opt-out movement was surreptitiously created and nurtured by teachers unions, sort of like Frankenstein. This is simply not the case. At least in New York, the movement was built over several years — slowly, in stops and starts — by parent groups using social media. Local teachers unions started to publicly back the opt-out idea only in the final months before April's tests. And NYSUT, the statewide union, did not jump in until the final weeks, after it was clear that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not allow lawmakers to topple his much-despised teacher-evaluation system.

I would add that the UFT has continued to support the state's testing regime despite NYSUT leadership showing support for the opt out movement right before the state tests were given in April.

This came after UFT President Michael Mulgrew said he'd punch anybody who took his Common Core away last year.

When it comes to Common Core and Common Core testing, the UFT is squarely on board with the program.

So, to reiterate:

The Opt Out movement was parent-created, parent-nurtured and parent-supported - a true grassroots movement.

Assemblyman Ra himself said it:

Next time you see or hear some CCSS and/or Endless Testing regime supporter claiming the Opt Out movement is an astroturf thing started by the teachers unions, dispense with that jive using the LoHud editorial and Assemblyman Ra's statement that parents started opt out and spread it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Reality Punches Chris Christie In The Face

Politico reports Chris Christie's 2016 campaign for president is fading into darkness:

Chris Christie, the voluble New Jersey governor, is once again facing the possibility that he might be relegated to the junior varsity debate — and rival Republican campaigns and outside observers say his window to re-enter the top tier of presidential candidates is closing fast.

Wednesday night’s scene in New Hampshire showed the daunting challenge ahead of Christie. As CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC covered Trump’s first town hall live — breaking only to run clips of Jeb Bush attacking the real estate tycoon — Christie was gasping for air on C-SPAN. Because the governor’s dimly lit event — a town hall at a restaurant outside of Manchester — was outdoors, the few viewers watching saw the candidate gradually disappear into darkness. The next day’s headlines duly focused on the Jeb-Donald contretemps, ignoring Christie’s play for a state he has made central to his fading White House hopes.


Christie has become such an also-ran that the Associated Press and the New York Times recently reassigned reporters dedicated to covering Christie — Jill Colvin and Kate Zernike — to other beats.

Then there are the polls.

If current trends hold, the New Jersey governor will likely lose his spot in the primetime CNN/Reagan Library debate on Sept. 16, displaced by a surging Carly Fiorina. As of mid-day Thursday, Christie was in 11th place among GOP presidential contenders in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls — behind Trump, Bush, Ben Carson, Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz, Fiorina, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. John Kasich, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

On Tuesday, a new CNN/ORC poll found Christie in 11th place, with only 3 percent support among registered GOP voters. (A separate POLITICO analysis of the five most recent national polls that would factor into who would appear for the main debate finds Christie tied with Kasich for 10th place. For now.)

And with Trump owning the Straight Talk vote, said former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, there’s little Christie can do to claw his way back.

Christie tried punching teachers in the face rhetorically a little while back, but that didn't help him regain any campaign momentum.
He's tried sharing too much information about himself (Hey, I've used birth control!), but that only freaked people out. 

Perhaps if this was an ordinary year, Christie's bluster could create one of those video moments that would go viral and get his campaign back on track.

But that's almost impossible to do with Donald Trump trolling the race, as Kean notes in the Politico piece.
He's got a campaign infrastructure and some money to burn, but the cash will start to dry up soon enough as donors move to other more viable candidates (it's already starting to happen) and his campaign apparatus won't save him if he starts running low money.

Christie's big on wanting to punch other people in the face, at least rhetorically.

Well, reality's punching back.

A 2016 victory, a longshot for Christie ever since BridgeGate, now seems all but impossible.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.

NY Times: Cuomo Should "Stop Being Ridiculous," De Blasio Should Stop Overreacting To Nonsense

A scathing NY Times editorial on the bullshit story that is the Times Square topless problem:

Times Square is not going to hell, or anywhere near hell’s vicinity. Mr. de Blasio’s enemies have been predicting New York’s downfall since before the mayor took office. He should not be feeding their false narrative by panicking over some localized crudeness. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently said that he thought what the women were doing was illegal and had to be stopped, and that they reminded him of the “bad old days,” should stop being ridiculous.

The Times has a long relationship with our namesake square. It’s in our backyard now, since we moved to Eighth Avenue, but it was our front porch for more than 100 years. We and the city have survived rallies and riots and many, many New Year’s ball drops. More seasoned members of our staff remember how shuttle vans used to take late-shift employees in safety from our old 43rd Street building to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pennsylvania Station.

Times Square can reveal New York at its bleakest and most brilliant. It took grit and resolve to stick with it through the bad times. This is not one of them.

It's a bullshit story and the Times is right to tell de Blasio to stop overreacting to the attacks.

De Blasio's foundering, the sharks are circling, shills for Hakeem Jeffries, Ruben Diaz Jr., Scott Stringer and Tish James are declaring they may primary the mayor in two years and Eva Moskowitz all but announced for mayor on the radio.

De Blasio's pushback early in the summer against Cuomo has set much of this stuff off - Cuomo's working overtime behind the scenes to do de Blasio in (see here for example.)

I dunno how he rights the ship, maybe he doesn't right the ship ever.

But it's important to point out when the attacks are unjustified - "ridiculous" in the words of the Times - and point out that the attacks are coming from pols and their shills with ulterior motives.

That doesn't mean de Blasio doesn't need to get a handle on this - he does.

The PR issue has been a problem from the beginning.

Ben Max has one idea how to handle it here. 

I'm no political expert, but I would say the mayor needs to put his head down, get to work (on time!), stop giving his enemies opportunities to nail him on stuff (i.e., stop with the unforced errors like wondering if Times Square toplessness can be solved by pulling out pedestrian plazas), focus on issues important to New Yorkers, have the friends he has left (though that group seems to be dwindling) push his message and his "successes," and watch his back as best he can.

Overreacting to the Times Square bullshit by wondering aloud if the pedestrian plazas should be pulled out was not the way to right the ship, that's for sure.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hakeem Jeffries, Eva Moskowitz Weigh Odds Of Challenging Bill de Blasio

This isn't a surprise.

Criminal justice reform hypocrite Hakeem Jeffries (it seems prison abuse only bothers him at Rikers, not in the state system) is said to be "reconsidering" a run for mayor against Bill de Blasio.

Oh, and guess who's pushing for him?

The Education Reform community, or more broadly the “donor community.” This is a group of people who have taken an “I told you so” attitude when it comes to de Blasio lately. They feel as though his tone deafness on education reform (mostly opposing charter school expansion) is emblematic of a problem on other issues – whether it’s the perceived explosion of the homeless population, or basic concerns about competency.

Some have even questioned the mayor’s interest in actually governing, which includes running the day-to-day operations of the city and ensuring that all is well. More importantly, many of these donors have always been “big fans of Hakeem.”

It's been a rough summer for de Blasio and if he doesn't turn the media narrative around soon, he will face a primary challenge or challenges in 2017.

State of Politics blog goes on to say that some leaders in the black community, once supporters of de Blasio, are now off the bandwagon and ready for a jump onto Hakeem's.

Also some in the "tech" world, which is pissed at De Blasio over his attempts to regulate Uber (how dare he regulate a tech company!)

In addition, Eva Moskowitz announced she's interested in running for mayor:

Success Academy founder and C.E.O. said Friday that she is interested in running for mayor, and that she will "let everyone know" when she decides whether to run against Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017.
"It's an interest," Moskowitz told the New York Post's Fred Dicker on his radio show, after Dicker asked Moskowitz about her oft-rumored mayoral ambitions.

"I'm not being coy, I just honestly haven't decided yet," said, adding, "my husband doesn't know, my children don't know."

"It's a ways away, so I don't feel the need to decide immediately," Moskowitz said.

I'm not that worried about Moskowitz as a candidate.

She couldn't win in a Democratic primary in this city, not with the animosity she engenders among many rank-and-file Dems, not against an incumbent mayor.

She would have to run as a Republican in the general election where she would still be a longshot to win, given her personality, temperament and track record at Success Academies (she has fought to keep from getting audited more than once, which suggests she's got stuff she wants to, you know, hide.)

Nonetheless, the sharks are circling Big Bill this summer.

De Blasio's got, realistically, about a year before the primary challenge train leaves the station.

It seems second years are often tough on NYC mayors - Rudy and Bloomberg also fell in the polling in their second year in office.

Still, I'm not that confident de Blasio's going to be able to pull out of this and that worries me.

If you're a teacher out there, you should be watching very, very closely what happens.

You could be looking at an education reformer-backed mayor in two years, one who will look to "bust" up the system, shed it of unionized teachers and pay back education reformers by pushing their agenda.

In a worst case scenario, it could be Moskowitz.

I wouldn't worry too much about her getting elected (or even running - it's a significant pay cut to be mayor), but I would watch Jeffries very closely.

Jeffries gave an award to Cuomo last week, and you know how Cuomo feels about de Blasio.

Don't be surprised if Cuomo doesn't push behind the scenes for a Jeffries run against de Blasio - they've got mutual friends and mutual interests.

De Blasio's got plenty of issues and God knows, there is much about the system that has not changed since he took over from Bloomberg.

But practically speaking, I would worry about an education reformer-supported candidate like Jeffries mounting a challenge and then getting elected.

He'd have a lot of payback to hand out, if you know what I mean.

And if the longshot comes in and Eva actually becomes mayor, well, I'm sure you can imagine how that would go for public school teachers.