Perdido 03

Perdido 03

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law firm that was supposed to represent parent advocates suing to overturn the state’s teacher tenure laws has withdrawn from the case, The Post has learned.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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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

Back in June:

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is he fucking kidding me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Arne.

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

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

You can't make this stuff up:

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

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

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

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

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

And yet back in 2011:

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

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

Have you got that straight now?

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

New NYSUT Leaders Revive Their Own Pensions

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

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

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

A. 10019 2

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

The law can be read in full here - -- if you have the stomach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campaign To Drive Down Confidence In Public Schools A Success

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

How does this disconnect occur?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therein lies the way to pushback on some of this.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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

From State of Politics:

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

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

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

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

Two issues here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Common Core On Life Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about that for a minute.

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

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

What's the likelihood that trajectory gets turned around?

Not good:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember that travesty?

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

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

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

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

First, NPR's review:

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maggie Anderson in the Voice writes:

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


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

And David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder what they'll try next?

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

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

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

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

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

The movie critics get this.

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

Why can't President Obama?

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

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

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

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