Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, December 31, 2011

NYPD Refuses To Take Crime Reports To Keep Crime Stats Low (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Proving my point, the NYPD arrested over 50 Occupy Wall Street protesters out of the 500 or so who had gathered in Zuccotti Park to ring in the New Year.

According to the NY Times, the police also tussled with a credentialed news reporter who was trying to document an arrest.

Just more proof that the NYPD is out of control on Occupy protesters even as more and more evidence is coming out that their not doing the job of investigating real crimes.

The City Council needs to drag Ray Kelly's fascist ass before them and have him explain how it is the NYPD is always arresting a slew of Occupy Wall Street protesters but just can't get around to documenting and investigating pickpocket crimes, gropings and intruders...

My wife had her wallet stolen in Herald Square two years ago.

She walked into a crowd at 34th and 6th Avenue with the wallet in her pocket, when she came out of the crowd, it was gone.

The NYPD refused to file a crime report on the pickpocketing.

They claimed since she didn't "feel" anybody steal her wallet, see anybody steal it or notice anybody jostle her, they couldn't classify it as a crime.

Instead it was "lost property."

That night somebody used a credit card from that "lost property" to buy a Happy Meal in an uptown McDonald's.

Now the NYPD had to file the "lost property" as a felony because a credit card was used.

Had my wife only had cash in the wallet and that same Happy Meal been paid for with the stolen cash, the crime never would have been documented in an official report.

At the time I posted that it was clear to me the NYPD was deliberately not filing the stolen wallet as a crime in order to keep crime stats low.

In the end they did document it as a crime only because they had to - using somebody else's credit card is grand larceny.

But you an bet that what happened to my wife two years ago is EXACTLY what happens to thousands of New Yorkers every year when they go to report a crime - the NYPD try and find any way to keep from filing an official crime report for crimes.

Now the NY Times confirms that's EXACTLY what Raymond Kelly's NYPD does:

Crime victims in New York sometimes struggle to persuade the police to write down what happened on an official report. The reasons are varied. Police officers are often busy, and few relish paperwork. But in interviews, more than half a dozen police officers, detectives and commanders also cited departmental pressure to keep crime statistics low.


The reasons for not taking a report, police officials said, can vary. Some officers seek to avoid the dull task of preparing reports; others may fear discipline for errors in paperwork. Sometimes officers run out of time because they are directed to another job.

There are certainly calls that do not merit a crime report: a victim’s account of an alleged crime can be deemed dubious, for example.

However, some commanders said, officers sometimes bend to pressure by supervisors to eschew report-taking. “Cops don’t want a bad reputation, and stigma,” one commander said. “They know they have to please the sergeants.” Like several other officers and supervisors, he spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The sergeants, in turn, are acting on the wishes of higher-ups to keep crime statistics down, a desire that is usually communicated stealthily, the commander said. As an era of low crime continues, and as 2011 draws to a close with felony numbers running virtually even with last year’s figures, any new felony is a significant event in a precinct and a source of consternation to commanders.


On the Upper West Side in July, a man in red shorts climbed through a window into the living room where Katherine Davis, 65, was reading the paper. She ran, a few steps ahead of him, and locked herself in an adjacent apartment, where she watched through the peephole as the man searched for her before he left.

Officers drove her around to look for the intruder, unsuccessfully. Ms. Davis asked if they could take fingerprints. But the officers said, “Oh, no, that’s only if you have a detective, or investigation,” she recalled. She asked for a case number.

“They said, ‘There is no case number,’ ” she said.

No one came to interview her or to seek videotape from the numerous surveillance cameras nearby, she said. That is where things ended.

“I just assumed it was laziness,” Ms. Davis said. “Why bother to take a report?”

Even when New Yorkers follow up, they are sometimes surprised to learn that their complaints were never classified as a crime. In one case, Sandra Ung, 37, went to the Fifth Precinct in Chinatown after her wallet disappeared at a Starbucks.

“I had it and then it was gone,” she said of the Feb. 23 episode. She said she believed her wallet had been stolen, but could not prove it. She assumed the police had recorded it as pickpocketing, but when she retrieved a copy of the report days later, she saw it was recorded not as a crime, but as lost property that had gone “missing in an unknown manner.”

That report also reflects the line of questioning Ms. Ung faced; it noted that “she wasn’t bumped nor jostled.”

In June, the Police Department issued a guidebook that instructed officers how to categorize all imaginable variations of crimes — including 24 situations involving identity theft and 3 types of strangulation. Its section on pickpockets could be viewed as a rebuke to how officers handled Ms. Ung’s case and possibly others like it.

The guidelines focused on the very words that the police used to discount her suspicions: “The victim does not need to have witnessed, felt or otherwise been aware of being bumped or jostled in order to properly record the occurrence as grand larceny.”

New York's Era of Low Crime - something Bloomberg and Kelly like to brag about over and over - is the result of deliberate data manipulation by the cops.

I have no doubt that the crime stats in Bloomberg's New York are as manipulated as the graduation rates and tests scores in the schools.

But I have a solution for getting the cops to take a crime report even when they are reluctant to because they want to hold their monthly stats down.

Just tell them the crime was perpetrated by a member of Occupy Wall Street.

They hate Occupy Wall Street and absolutely love arresting anybody associated with the movement and giving them the business in the station house and keeping them in lock-up for 72 hours without access to a lawyer.

If you want Ray Kelly to arrest somebody, just have him hear the words "This guy from Occupy Wall Street did it!"

As I have written before, when the history of the Bloomberg Era is really written (i.e., by somebody not on the Bloomberg, the Zuckerman or the Murdoch payroll), people will find out just how much manipulation and out and out fraud was perpetrated on this city by the man and his minions.

Why The UFT Must Not Give In On The Evaluation Fight

Once again, the tabloids shriek about the federal funds that will be lost if the NYCDOE and the UFT do not come to an agreement on test score-based teacher evaluations for 44 so-called "failing" schools.

Here is the Daily News on the impasse between the city and the union (and of course they lead with how both the city and NYSED Commissioner and unofficial Pearson Education employee John King both blamed the teachers for hurting the kids):

The city could lose nearly $60 million in federal aid for its failing schools after officials were unable to reach a deal with the teachers union on instructor evaluations.

State Education Commissioner John King had given schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott until Sunday to hammer out an accord with the United Federation of Teachers in order to keep the money for 44 failing schools.

On Friday, Walcott walked away from the tense negotiations and sent King a letter saying the city and union would “not be able to come to an agreement” because “the teachers’ union is not committed to real accountability.”

King responded to the collapse of the talks by announcing that he would immediately “suspend” the promised federal funding.

“Sadly, the adults in charge of the city’s schools have let the students down,” he said. “This is beyond disappointing.”

The impasse is not disappointing at all - frankly, given the way the DOE has already tried to use the new evaluation formula under the Danielson framework in these schools to tar veteran teachers as "ineffective," it is clear that if the UFT caves in this evaluation fight, the DOE will ram through a rigged evaluation system that will be used to fire most (if not all) of the veteran teachers in these schools.

This evaluation system will then be scaled up for the whole New York City public school system and the process will be repeated - the DOE will use the Danielson framework and the value-added formula based upon student test scores to declare tens of thousands of veteran teachers "ineffective" and get them off the payroll.

As I have posted many times, this value-added formula they use for the test scores has a margin of error between 12% and 35%, depending upon how many years of test scores are used.

In addition, since the tests do not yet exist that can be used to evaluate teachers in all subjects, the city and the state BOTH have to come up with new batteries of tests for all subjects in all grade levels.

Once the new evaluation system is implemented, students will take city tests twice a year and state tests twice a year in every subject.

Basically all they will do in school is either take tests or prepare to take tests.

Then, using a complex value-added formula, those numbers will be used to rank teachers as "ineffective," "developing," "effective," and "highly effective."

The city wants the right to fire "ineffective" teachers immediately without a hearing before a third party arbiter.

In addition, there is some concern that teachers who are ranked "developing" for a few consecutive years could also be on the chopping block.

The proponents of this system - from President Obama to Governor Cuomo to Mayor Bloomberg to computer mogul/education reformer Bill Gates to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to NYSED Commissioner and unofficial Pearson Education employee John King all say this system is "objective" and therefore fair.

But as has been shown already by the arbitrary nature of the value-added evaluations the DOE uses for 4th-8th grade math and ELA teachers, there is nothing "objective" or "fair" about the system at all.

Teachers who are respected by their administrators, peers, students and parents, teachers who work hard and know how to teach, can come up "ineffective" in this system as Michael Winerip so ably showed in this NY Times article from last year:

No one at the Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies works harder than Stacey Isaacson, a seventh-grade English and social studies teacher. She is out the door of her Queens home by 6:15 a.m., takes the E train into Manhattan and is standing out front when the school doors are unlocked, at 7. Nights, she leaves her classroom at 5:30.

“She’s very dedicated,” said Tejal Bahtt, a fellow teacher. “She works way harder than I work. Yesterday I punched in at 7:10 and her time card was already there.”

Last year, when Ms. Isaacson was on maternity leave, she came in one full day a week for the entire school year for no pay and taught a peer leadership class.

Her principal, Megan Adams, has given her terrific reviews during the two and a half years Ms. Isaacson has been a teacher. “I know that this year had its moments of challenge — you always handled it with grace and presence,” the principal wrote on May 4, 2009. “You are a wonderful teacher.”

On the first day of this school year, the principal wrote, “I look forward to being in your classroom and seeing all the great work you do with your students,” and signed it with a smiley face.

The Lab School has selective admissions, and Ms. Isaacson’s students have excelled. Her first year teaching, 65 of 66 scored proficient on the state language arts test, meaning they got 3’s or 4’s; only one scored below grade level with a 2. More than two dozen students from her first two years teaching have gone on to Stuyvesant High School or Bronx High School of Science, the city’s most competitive high schools.

“Definitely one of a kind,” said Isabelle St. Clair, now a sophomore at Bard, another selective high school. “I’ve had lots of good teachers, but she stood out — I learned so much from her.”

You would think the Department of Education would want to replicate Ms. Isaacson — who has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia — and sprinkle Ms. Isaacsons all over town. Instead, the department’s accountability experts have developed a complex formula to calculate how much academic progress a teacher’s students make in a year — the teacher’s value-added score — and that formula indicates that Ms. Isaacson is one of the city’s worst teachers.

According to the formula, Ms. Isaacson ranks in the 7th percentile among her teaching peers — meaning 93 per cent are better.

This may seem disconnected from reality, but it has real ramifications. Because of her 7th percentile, Ms. Isaacson was told in February that it was virtually certain that she would not be getting tenure this year. “My principal said that given the opportunity, she would advocate for me,” Ms. Isaacson said. “But she said don’t get your hopes up, with a 7th percentile, there wasn’t much she could do.”

That’s not the only problem Ms. Isaacson’s 7th percentile has caused. If the mayor and governor have their way, and layoffs are no longer based on seniority but instead are based on the city’s formulas that scientifically identify good teachers, Ms. Isaacson is pretty sure she’d be cooked.

How did this happen? How did a good teacher respected by all with numbers and data to back up her teaching skill get rated 7th percentile?

Easy - the value-added numbers are ginned up in a formula so complex that not even the DOE experts can explain it and they MAKE NO FREAKING SENSE:

Everyone who teaches math or English has received a teacher data report. On the surface the report seems straightforward. Ms. Isaacson’s students had a prior proficiency score of 3.57. Her students were predicted to get a 3.69 — based on the scores of comparable students around the city. Her students actually scored 3.63. So Ms. Isaacson’s value added is 3.63-3.69.

What you would think this means is that Ms. Isaacson’s students averaged 3.57 on the test the year before; they were predicted to average 3.69 this year; they actually averaged 3.63, giving her a value added of 0.06 below zero.


These are not averages. For example, the department defines Ms. Isaacson’s 3.57 prior proficiency as “the average prior year proficiency rating of the students who contribute to a teacher’s value added score.”


The calculation for Ms. Isaacson’s 3.69 predicted score is even more daunting. It is based on 32 variables — including whether a student was “retained in grade before pretest year” and whether a student is “new to city in pretest or post-test year.”

Those 32 variables are plugged into a statistical model that looks like one of those equations that in “Good Will Hunting” only Matt Damon was capable of solving.

The process appears transparent, but it is clear as mud, even for smart lay people like teachers, principals and — I hesitate to say this — journalists.

Ms. Isaacson may have two Ivy League degrees, but she is lost. “I find this impossible to understand,” she said.

In plain English, Ms. Isaacson’s best guess about what the department is trying to tell her is: Even though 65 of her 66 students scored proficient on the state test, more of her 3s should have been 4s.

But that is only a guess.

Moreover, as the city indicates on the data reports, there is a large margin of error. So Ms. Isaacson’s 7th percentile could actually be as low as zero or as high as the 52nd percentile — a score that could have earned her tenure.

Now when Winerip wrote that article, the value-added system was only being used to evaluate 4th-8th grade math and ELA teachers for tenure decisions.

If the DOE, the NYSED and the Regents get their way, that system will be used to "objectively" decide who gets to remain a teacher and who gets fired.

Michael Winerip has since shown how a similar system has played out in Tennessee, an early winner of the Obama administration's Race to the Top program that put all these new teacher evaluation systems in place by dangling out federal funds to cash-starved states.

In that article, Winerip shows how insane the new test score-based evaluation system is:

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Last year, when Tennessee was named one of the first two states to win a federal Race to The Top grant, worth $501 million, there was great joy all around.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has the job of implementing President Obama’s signature education program, praised Tennessee officials for having “the courage, capacity and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”

Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, called his state “the focal point of education reform in the nation.” Tennessee’s new motto is “First to the Top.”

So you would think that educators like Will Shelton, principal of Blackman Middle School here, would be delighted. The state requires that teachers be evaluated by their students’ test scores, and that principals get into classrooms regularly to observe teachers.

Mr. Shelton is a big believer in both.

But not this. “I’ve never seen such nonsense,” he said. “In the five years I’ve been principal here, I’ve never known so little about what’s going on in my own building.” Mr. Shelton has to spend so much time filling out paperwork that he’s stuck in his office for long stretches.

The new rules, enacted at the start of the school year, require Mr. Shelton to do as many observations for his strongest teachers — four a year — as for his weakest. “It’s an insult to my best teachers,” he said, “but it’s also a terrible waste of time.”

Because there are no student test scores with which to evaluate over half of Tennessee’s teachers — kindergarten to third-grade teachers; art, music and vocational teachers — the state has created a bewildering set of assessment rules. Math specialists can be evaluated by their school’s English scores, music teachers by the school’s writing scores.


The state is micromanaging principals to a degree never seen before here, and perhaps anywhere. For example, Mr. Shelton is required to have a pre-observation conference with each teacher (which takes 20 minutes), observe the teacher for a period (50 minutes), conduct a post-observation conference (20 minutes), and fill out a rubric with 19 variables and give teachers a score from 1 to 5 (40 minutes).

He must have copies of his evaluations ready for any visit by a county evaluator, who evaluates whether Mr. Shelton has properly evaluated the teachers.

He is required to do at least four observations a year for the 65 teachers at his school, although the changes suggested last week would save paperwork by allowing two of the observations to be done back to back.

Teachers have it worse. Half of their assessment is based on their students’ results on state test scores, a serious problem for those who teach subjects with no state test.

To solve that, the state is requiring teachers without test results to be evaluated based on the scores of teachers at their school with test results. So Emily Mitchell, a first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary, will be evaluated using the school’s fifth-grade writing scores.

“How stupid is that?” said Michelle Pheneger, who teaches ACT math prep at Blackman High and is also being evaluated in part based on writing scores. “My job can be at risk, and I’m not even being evaluated by my own work.”

For 15 percent of their testing evaluation, teachers without scores are permitted to choose which subject test they want to be judged on. Few pick something related to their expertise; instead, they try to anticipate the subject that their school is likely to score well on in the state exams next spring.

Several teachers without scores at Oakland Middle School conferred. “The P. E. teacher got information that the writing score was the best to pick,” said Jeff Jennings, the art teacher. “He informed the home ec teacher, who passed it on to me, and I told the career development teacher.”

It’s a bit like Vegas, and if you pick the wrong academic subject, you lose and get a bad evaluation. While this may have nothing to do with academic performance, it does measure a teacher’s ability to play the odds. There’s also the question of how a principal can do a classroom observation of someone who doesn’t teach a classroom subject.

The answer is, the principal still has to observe them teaching something. Erin Alvarado, a librarian at Central Magnet, a combined middle and high school, picked eighth-grade descriptive writing. One of the rubric variables is how well the teacher knows her students. There are 938 students at Central, and she knew few in that class by name. “Fortunately, the teacher put all the names on index cards for me,” Ms. Alvarado said. “I’d take a quick peek down at the card, pick a name, look around and hope the student was there.”

This would all be hilarious, except these evaluations can cost people their jobs.

Indeed, people can lose their jobs in all of this insanity over "objective" teacher evaluations that are ANYTHING BUT OBJECTIVE.

And that's the point.

This system has been put into place, pure and simple, to give districts the ability to fire veteran (and therefore expensive) teachers at will.

All the districts have to do is put pressure onto administrators to declare a certain percentage of teachers "ineffective" every year and the value-added formula with the MOE between 12%-35% will back those labels up.

Actually, the bell curve that is used to evaluate teachers in the four designations - "ineffective," "developing," "effective," and "highly effective" - will ensure that some teachers are declared "ineffective" every year no matter what.

You can pretty much bet most of those teachers will be the expensive veteran ones.

Districts will save millions of dollars in wages, benefits and pension costs by firing hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of teachers every year, depending upon the size of a district.

And as Alexander Russo showed in this post here, there are plenty of newbies without jobs waiting to replace the vets who get fired, so finding newer, cheaper replacements will NOT be a problem.

If worse comes to worse, Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein stand waiting to step in with their for-profit, online education programs that can replace teachers completely.

But what will be a problem, ultimately, is the education experiences for students and the consequences these policies will have on the nation as a whole.

You can be sure that education will be narrowed to only include items that will be tested.

You can be sure teachers in the same school will no longer collaborate or work together in any way since they are now in "competition" on the great bell curve that is the value-added evaluation system.

You can be sure that students who need extra time, help, or care will not receive any of that from teachers scared for the jobs who know that taking time away from the endless test prep they have to do could jeopardize their jobs.

You can be sure that students will learn less and less in this Brave New World education system based upon test scores, value-added systems and Darwinian competition for teacher rankings that has been brought to us by Obama, Cuomo, and Bloomberg.

Finally, you can be sure that no one in their right mind will go into teaching in the future once they come to understand how badly the system is rigged against teachers and how easy it is for districts to scapegoat them (and ultimately fire them as well.)

The writer of the Daily News article, Ben Chapman, exposes his bias by quoting a member of the Educators4Excellence education reform group that is funded by the Gates Foundation who makes a living carrying water for the corporate education reformers:

Former teacher and Educators 4 Excellence school activist Sydney Morris called the breakdown in negotiations a “shame.”

“Teachers want and need a system that gives them meaningful feedback to improve their craft,” Morris said.

We sure do, Sydney.

But this system isn't it.

And you aren't a teacher looking for feedback to improve your craft.

You're a paid lobbyist looking for an even bigger corporate payday for carrying corporate education reform water.

Which is exactly the problem with the teacher evaluation system pushed by the state - it's been created and promoted by corporate education reform philanthropists, lobbyists and bureaucrats who either are "former teachers" who worked just year or two in a school system and then quit (like Sydney Morris, Joel Klein, Dennis Walcott or Michelle Rhee) or have never worked in a school system at all (like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, etc.)

The real world consequences this system is going to have on students, teachers and schools is stark.

But what do these people care?

They're not teachers, they're not working in schools day-to-day and they don't have to worry about having a value-added formula with a 12%-35% MOE and a bell curve evaluation system that declares a certain percentage of teachers failing every year come between them and their jobs.

This is why the UFT MUST stand fast in this fight against the new evaluation system.

It is a rigged system put together by people looking to scapegoat teachers, close traditional public schools with a unionized workforce, reopen them as privatized charters with nonunionized (and instantly fireable) rookie teachers, and make a profit either form themselves or their corporate cronies.

As James Eterno wrote in a post over at ICEBLOG, the best tact in this fight is to push for legislation to overturn this system rather than try to find common ground in one that is so rigged against teachers.

Over 1,100 principals statewide have already begun that fight.

The UFT and the NYSUT must join it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

DOE And UFT Declare Impasse Over Teacher Evaluations

Mulgrew wrote the following about the impasse:

The UFT is seeking an agreement that meets the spirit of the teacher evaluation legislation in two important ways:

1) The agreement must focus on creating a process to help teachers improve their performance by providing them with feedback on the specific classroom issues that need to be addressed, recommended strategies to address these issues and specific assistance from supervisors and other school personnel in implementing the recommended strategies.

2) for teachers rated ineffective — an impartial outside review by a qualified and mutually-agreed-upon third party.

The DOE wants teachers who are rated "ineffective" or "developing" to suffer immediate and severe consequences - including the "ineffective" ones losing their jobs - all on the say-so of a value-added evaluation system with a margin of error between 12%-36% and the word of a school principal.

In addition, the evaluation system uses a bell curve for all teachers, so every year some teachers will HAVE to be declared "ineffective" whether they really are or they really aren't (even according to the criteria the state is using - so-called student performance on tests.)

So the system is set up to declare a portion of the teachers in every district "ineffective" every year, fire those teachers, and replace them with newer (and cheaper) ones.

Is this system REALLY meant to improve public education or simply provide a way for cities and districts to fire as many teachers as they can every year, regardless of quality?

The UFT offered to go to binding arbitration on this but the DOE refused.

Norm at Ed Notes thinks this was the UFT's way of giving the DOE what it wants on this issue while keeping their hands clean.

I agree with that.

The UFT should NEVER have agreed to the evaluations based upon test scores from the beginning.

Once they did, it was inevitable that the corporate education reformers running the NYSED and the NYCDOE would attempt to ram through a system that would arbitrarily punish veteran teachers as "ineffective" using a value-added system based on student test scores that is so complex NASA scientists couldn't explain it.

They're not looking to get rid of "bad teachers."

They're looking to get rid of the expensive (i.e., veteran) ones.

The new evaluation system based upon so-called student performance is the means to do this.

You can bet if Bloomberg, Walcott and King get their way on this, thousands of veteran teachers will be declared "ineffective" with the new system and immediately fired.

That has ALWAYS been the plan.

The corporate education reformers ginned up a phony education crisis in order to bust the unions and fire veteran, tenured teachers.

Let's see if the UFT REALLY means to stop this or if they're playing games.

I am not convinced there still will not be a sell-out on this in the end.

Teacher Evaluation Deal Brings Massive Change For Federal Funds That Amount To 0.2% Of The Budget

The Daily News and the Times and Gotham Schools make it sound like the world will end if the UFT doesn't cave to pressure from NYSED Commissioner and unofficial Pearson Education booster John King's threat to agree to a teacher evaluation system that requires 40% of teacher evaluations to come from state and city tests (20% for each) for teachers in 33 schools deemed "failing."

NYC Educator covered a bit of that media hysteria in this post here.

But the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal puts that hysteria into some perspective:

New York state warned city officials Tuesday that they are just days away from losing nearly $60 million in federal funds that hinge on an agreement with the teachers union to use test scores in evaluations.

State officials said they would enforce a Dec. 31 deadline for school districts to strike deals with teachers unions over new evaluation plans that count student improvement on state tests for at least 20% of a teacher's score. Ten districts are eligible for about $105 million in federal education funds, but only two—Rochester and Syracuse—have submitted evidence that they've made the required changes.


New York City stands to lose about $58.6 million in federal funds slated for 44 low-performing schools if the deadline passes with no deal. The city and the United Federation of Teachers union agreed in theory last summer to implement a new evaluation system at those schools, but the details are still being negotiated.


The federal funds amount to only about 0.2% of the roughly $20 billion annual schools operating budget.

That's right - all of this fuss over 0.2% of the annual operating budget.

Hell, that's just a little bit more money than former NYCDOE official Judith Hederman helped some consulting firm steal from the DOE ($34 million.)

It's only a couple of months operating budget for the CityTime project that Bloomberg allowed to balloon from $63 million to over $700 million - much of which was stolen by crooks in what the US Attorney called one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated against NYC taxpayers, a project that was "corrupt to the core."

And it's a little over 10% of what Bloomberg is spending this year alone to upgrade the computer systems in the schools so that computerized tests can be used to grade teachers starting in 2014.

That allocation stands at $550 million. How much is being stolen from that fund by the outside consultants? We don't know because Bloomberg has labeled this as part of capital improvements and doesn't have to give any details on how the money is being spent.

But you can be sure that if former DOE computer consultant Willard Lanham stole $3.4 million from the city, former DOE official Judith Hederman helped steal $34 million from the city, and the CityTime crooks stole $700 million, much of the $550 million Bloomberg is spending on computer consultants and upgrades is being stolen.

And let's not forget the $36 million dollars Bloomberg spent on the NYCHA computer system that doesn't work, or the $15 million he spent on GPS systems for the FDNY and the Sanitation Department that also don't work, or the $55 million he spent on the SESIS computer prgoram that also doesn't work, or the millions they fail to recoup to city taxpayers in Medicaid costs for special education services, or...

Well, you get the point.

This money for the turnaround schools is peanuts to Bloomberg and the DOE.

Compared to the money they already waste, it's a drop in the bucket that will barely be noticed.

Except by the test prep companies and online education providers, of course, who stand to make millions from the testing and test prep this money will fund.

And that's the last point I want to hit on here - just what the money CAN and CANNOT be used for.

It CAN be used for tests, data tracking systems, test prep, curriculum consultants, and online education materials related to testing.

Ed Notes points out today what it CANNOT be used for:

We should remember what this money CANNOT be used to do. It CANNOT be used to increase the number of teachers in order to reduce class size. It CANNOT be used to hire more Guidance Counselors, Social Workers, Psychologists and other support workers that our students so desperately need. It CANNOT be used to buy new, badly needed textbooks. It CANNOT be used to buy classroom supplies, such as paper or ink, toner or stencil rolls for duplicating machines.

The best thing that could happen is the city LOSES this money, LOSES the harmful education policies like ENDLESS TEST PREP and new city tests added to every subject in every grade in order to evaluate teachers that this money will fund.

Education officials and politicians are using the Shock Doctrine here to gin up a phony crisis that absolutely has to be solved by December 31, 2011 or the world will end.

I hope the UFT sticks to its guns and refuses to agree to a new evaluation system in these 44 schools that will eventually be implemented in every school that will do more harm than good.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out in its evaluation article:

Unions and statisticians have argued that evaluations have large margins of error—especially for new teachers with only a few years of test scores to analyze. Others worry that some teachers will cheat on behalf of students if pay or layoffs are tied to scores, while other critics say it will encourage teachers to spend more time on test preparations and less on creative thinking.

Indeed, that is EXACTLY some of the problems that will be ushered in with this new system.

Media Producer Who Tried To Extort Millions From David Letterman Gets Hired To Work On Paula Zahn Show

What exactly do media people have to do to, you know, get blacklisted from working?

Robert Joel Halderman, the “48 Hours” producer who pleaded guilty last year to having tried to extort David Letterman, has been hired by a competing crime newsmagazine, “On the Case With Paula Zahn,” which is shown on the Investigation Discovery channel.

“We have been impressed with Joe Halderman’s professional accomplishments as an Emmy-winning producer for ’48 Hours’ and CBS News,” Scott Weinberger, the executive producer of “On the Case,” said in a statement to the blog TVNewser, using Mr. Halderman’s nickname.

Mr. Weinberger said that the program had received “prior approval” from Investigation Discovery before bringing Mr. Halderman on board. Mr. Halderman served four months in prison after trying to blackmail Mr. Letterman in 2009 with information about his sexual relationships with staff members.

After Mr. Halderman was arrested, he was fired by CBS News, according to his defense lawyer. Yet in July, Mr. Halderman, along with six of his former colleagues at CBS News, was nominated for an Emmy Award for an episode of “48 Hours Mystery” — “American Girl, Italian Nightmare” — about the Amanda Knox case.

Apparently outside of murdering your ex-wife and a waiter, media personalities just cannot get blacklisted from working their beat.

Just another example of a lack of accountability for people connected to finance, government and the media.

Do you think this guy would have his job back if he were a teacher?

Do you think the Daily News or Post wouldn't be screaming about that if it happened?

But convicted extortionist producer back producing news magazine that covers crime?

Oh, yeah - no problem...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bloomberg Can't Figure Out How To Get Support Service Medicaid Reimbursements

You can bet if this was about teacher evaluations, they'd get this right:

New York City has failed to recover tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements for services it provided to special-needs students in recent years, as the Education Department has struggled to adapt to new rules imposed after a devastating federal audit forced the city to return money it received for claims it could not properly document.

State Health Department data from 2006 to 2010 show that education-related claims by the city were 60 percent lower last year than they were five years ago. And virtually all of the $302 million in Medicaid reimbursements the city did receive during that period were for administrative claims that, under the rules that took effect in September 2009, are no longer eligible for reimbursement.

New York, where more than two-thirds of the 168,000 special-needs students are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, has lagged far behind the state’s other large school districts in filing claims. In fact, the city’s Education Department filed no claims related to nursing services, occupational and physical therapy, psychological counseling, audiological evaluations or transportation between 2006 and 2010; meanwhile, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers — where the combined special education populations are less than 10 percent of New York City’s — were reimbursed $77 million for such services.

The city’s Education Department did not try to file thousands of claims in the 16 months immediately after the new rules were announced, the state records show. A spokeswoman said it was because the department lacked the staff and the training to handle the more demanding requirements. (Data for 2011 was not available.) Claims can be filed for up to 24 months after the service is provided, but much of the required material cannot be retroactively documented.

“The Medicaid reimbursement process has become increasingly cumbersome,” the spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan, said.

Ms. Morgan said a city analysis found that the Education Department did not have proper documentation for all but 9,000 students during the 2007-8 and 2008-9 school years, a period covered retroactively by the new rules. The analysis shows, however, that even for those students, almost 20 percent of the $10 million in claims filed were rejected for not meeting the new criteria.

The city says the new claims process is really, really hard and gee, they just can't figure it out so well just yet, but they're getting there...they're getting there.

Except that lots of other cities are dealing with the same process and handling it pretty well:

At a time of tight budgets and grim economic forecasts, many districts and states — each with its own set of filing rules — have invested heavily in compliance. Bruce Hunter, associate executive director for policy at the American Association of School Administrators, said the reimbursements, generally from 50 percent to 70 percent of the cost of a service, had become “an enormous help to school districts” across the country.

In New Jersey, where the state treasury retains 65 percent of the reimbursements, filing the claims has been mandatory since 2008, and the state has set precise goals for its districts, including a 90 percent return rate on forms giving parental permission for schools to file on a child’s behalf. In Washington, Mayor Vincent C. Gray asked the accounting firm Deloitte in February to suggest, among other things, ways to improve the system used by local schools to apply for reimbursements.

Each of the 57 county-level school districts in Michigan, where 40 percent of the reimbursements are kept by the state, has had its own Medicaid coordinator for years. Their duties include hiring therapists and nurses whose certification meets federal requirements and, much like an attendant at a doctor’s office, keeping students’ prescriptions up to date to ensure the claims are not disallowed, said Jane E. Reagan, a Medicaid specialist at the Michigan Education Department.

“It’s a hassle, but once you’ve got the infrastructure and staff in place, the costs are almost always worth the benefit,” said Ms. Reagan, who is the president of the National Alliance for Medicaid in Education, a professional group.

In New York State, Buffalo hired a company to handle the claims; Syracuse sent social workers knocking on students’ doors to make sure their parents signed the required consent forms; and New Rochelle hired a consultant to train school bus monitors to note pickup and drop-off times for special-needs children, as mandated by the new rules, which district officials estimate will lead to $100,000 in additional claims each year.

“We’ll be able to put more teachers in the classroom and more staff in our schools without costing the local taxpayer any additional money,” said Yvette Goorevitch, New Rochelle’s director of special and alternative education.

So why can't New York City handle the process right?

Because the people at Tweed are morons, that's why:

But in New York City, according to a September letter from the State Health Department, officials were still submitting some claims using forms that are no longer accepted. A second state audit, released in April, showed that many of the city’s claims in 2009 were missing documentation or showed incorrect dates for services, forcing the Education Department to return $87,000 as a result.

The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, wrote to Dennis M. Walcott, the schools chancellor, in October, criticizing the city for failing “for years to apply in an organized fashion” for the reimbursements. “Funding for public schools have been cut to the bone, and it’s unconscionable that the D.O.E. will leave millions of dollars on the table,” Mr. Stringer, a mayoral hopeful, said in an interview.

Don't worry, though - the Children First folks at the DOE are going to get this thing right.

They've got a plan:

Ms. Morgan, the spokeswoman, said the city was working on the problems. In addition to putting a manager in charge of the claims, the department hired a Medicaid compliance officer last year. This fall, it added 15 doctors, who are paid about $60 an hour, plus some benefits, to work approximately four hours each week writing the service orders that must be attached to each claim. It also hired three medical consultants who are paid $110 an hour, without benefits, to do the same work.

The department has also screened therapists to determine whether they have the appropriate certification, and whether the services they provide are eligible for reimbursement. It has offered compliance training to more than 16,000 therapists, supervisors, outside providers and finance staff.

And it has spent $80 million to build a database — the Special Education Student Information System — that it hopes will make filing claims easier by making prescriptions, treatment plans and schedules of services readily available. Many teachers and principals, however, have complained about the time it takes to load the database and how often it crashes.

Ah, yes - the famed SESIS computer system that is so shitty it makes the famously buggy ARIS computer system look like it was created by divine intelligence.

That's their plan for fixing the problem.

As I said earlier, if this were about teacher evaluations tied to test scores so they can fire teachers or a new testing contract for an online servicer, you can bet your sweet ass they'd get it right the first time.

But this isn't about firing teachers or handing out computer contracts to corporate cronies (that part they already screwed up with SESIS) - so they screw this up and screw it up and cost the city millions and millions of dollars.

When the deadline for the new teacher eval system comes up and Chancellor Putzo holds a press conference to say the teachers are costing the school kids millions because they won't agree to having 40% of their evaluations based on two different sets of tests (one state, one city), somebody in the press needs to call him on this support services/Medicaid fiasco.

Frankly, it's not even true that teachers are costing city kids millions of school dollars if the eval agreement isn't hammered out - that money can only be used for useless crap like data tracking systems and new standardized tests.

But the Medicaid money IS useful and necessary and the city ought to figure out how to get the reimbursements.

After all, didn't Bloomberg say only his fiscal genius could save the city during a time of economic turmoil?

Wasn't that the rationale for his third (illegal) term?

I'll answer that for you - it was.

Yet we see time and time again how this man wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on computer projects that go way over budget because he allows crooks to steal tens of millions of dollars (and in the case of CityTime, hundreds of millions.)

Or he puts millions into garbage projects like the infamous GPS systems for the FDNY and the Sanitation Department that are so bad, they show trucks in the East River when they're actually in Astoria.

Or millions into garbage computer programs like SESIS or ARIS.

But he can't figure out how to get Medicaid reimbursements.

Bloomberg has a reputation for being a shrewd businessman.

The only thing shrewd about this guy is how he keeps the majority of the populace from seeing how incompetent he is as a manager.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Obama Governs As Centrist Republican

Glenn hits this right on the head:

In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party's defining beliefs. Depicting the other party's president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity.

In July, the nation's most influential progressive domestic policy pundit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, declared that Obama is a "moderate conservative in practical terms". Last October, he wrote that "progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion", because the president – "once you get past the soaring rhetoric" – has "largely accepted the conservative storyline".

Krugman also pointed out that even the policy Democratic loyalists point to as proof of the president's progressive bona fides – his healthcare plan, which mandates the purchase of policies from the private health insurance industry – was designed by the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation's most rightwing thinktanks, and was advocated by conservative ideologues for many years (it also happens to be the same plan Romney implemented when he was governor of Massachusetts and which Newt Gingrich once promoted, underscoring the difficulty for the GOP in drawing real contrasts with Obama).

How do you scorn a president as a far-left socialist when he has stuffed his administration with Wall Street executives, had his last campaign funded by them, governed as a "centrist Republican", and presided over booming corporate profits even while the rest of the nation suffered economically?

But as slim as the pickings are for GOP candidates on the domestic policy front, at least there are some actual differences in that realm. The president's 2009 stimulus spending and Wall Street "reform" package – tepid and inadequate though they were – are genuinely at odds with rightwing dogma, as are Obama's progressive (albeit inconsistent) positions on social issues, such as equality for gay people and protecting a woman's right to choose. And the supreme court, perpetually plagued by a 5-4 partisan split, would be significantly affected by the outcome of the 2012 election.

It is in the realm of foreign policy, terrorism and civil liberties where Republicans encounter an insurmountable roadblock. A staple of GOP politics has long been to accuse Democratic presidents of coddling America's enemies (both real and imagined), being afraid to use violence, and subordinating US security to international bodies and leftwing conceptions of civil liberties.

But how can a GOP candidate invoke this time-tested caricature when Obama has embraced the vast bulk of George Bush's terrorism policies; waged a war against government whistleblowers as part of a campaign of obsessive secrecy; led efforts to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs; extinguished the lives not only of accused terrorists but of huge numbers of innocent civilians with cluster bombs and drones in Muslim countries; engineered a covert war against Iran; tried to extend the Iraq war; ignored Congress and the constitution to prosecute an unauthorised war in Libya; adopted the defining Bush/Cheney policy of indefinite detention without trial for accused terrorists; and even claimed and exercised the power to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield and without due process?

Reflecting this difficulty for the GOP field is the fact that former Bush officials, including Dick Cheney, have taken to lavishing Obama with public praise for continuing his predecessor's once-controversial terrorism polices. In the last GOP foreign policy debate, the leading candidates found themselves issuing recommendations on the most contentious foreign policy question (Iran) that perfectly tracked what Obama is already doing, while issuing ringing endorsements of the president when asked about one of his most controversial civil liberties assaults (the due-process-free assassination of the American-Yemeni cleric Anwar Awlaki). Indeed, when it comes to the foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend, the only candidate in either party now touting them is the libertarian Ron Paul, who vehemently condemns Obama's policies of drone killings without oversight, covert wars, whistleblower persecutions, and civil liberties assaults in the name of terrorism.

In sum, how do you demonise Obama as a terrorist-loving secret Muslim intent on empowering US enemies when he has adopted, and in some cases extended, what was rightwing orthodoxy for the last decade? The core problem for GOP challengers is that they cannot be respectable Republicans because, as Krugman pointed out, Obama has that position occupied. They are forced to move so far to the right that they render themselves inherently absurd.

I'm visiting the in-laws for the holidays and got to watch a little cable TV last night. I haven't watched MSNBC in over a year-and-a-half. I watched a little of The Ed Show last night. The Obama shillery was just over the top - no mention of Obama's drone bombing campaigns, the hundreds of thousands of people killed as a result of Obama's foreign policy, the Bradley Manning case, Obama's assertion that he can murder anybody anytime for any reason in order to keep the country safe from terrorism. No mention of the bank bailouts, the bullshit health care plan that was purposely devised as a corporate giveaway to the insurance companies, the union-busting corporate education polciies or Obama's rubberstamping of the Bush policies toward Wall Street and the Federal Reserve.

Nope - just how awful Gingrich and Romey are.

No wonder I stopped watching the channel.

I don't give my allegiance to a party.

I give my allegiance to principles.

I am opposed to the increasingly corporatized economy we have in this country - an economy that has given us the largest disparity between rich and poor in over a century. I am opposed to Forever War, to torture, to the Surveillance State, to a government that promotes corporate policiy over the general welfare of the people. I am opposed to drone killings and presidential assassination orders.

I cannot be opposed TO these things and STILL support Barack Obama.

It doesn't matter if Gingrich is WORSE than Obama.

I don't vote the lesser of two evils anymore.

Evil is evil, even when it's the lesser variety.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The American Dream

As George Carlin said, they call it a dream because you've got to be asleep to believe it:

Esquire: "There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here's one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America -- a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you're gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you're gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world -- just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can't bear to tell themselves isn't real. It's the most dangerous lie the country tells itself."

George Carlin also said that bullshit is the glue that keeps this country together.

That statement becomes more and more true these days.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hypocrites Go After Teachers Pensions While Padding Their Own

No wonder these assholes are promoting deficit reduction and tax breaks for millionaires and corporations:

Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group.

Congress has never been a place for paupers. From plantation owners in the pre-Civil War era to industrialists in the early 1900s to ex-Wall Street financiers and Internet executives today, it has long been populated with the rich, including scions of families like the Guggenheims, Hearsts, Kennedys and Rockefellers.

But rarely has the divide appeared so wide, or the public contrast so stark, between lawmakers and those they represent.


One likely cause of the rising wealth, political analysts say, is the growing cost of a political campaign. A successful Senate run cost on average nearly $10 million last year, and a successful House race was $1.4 million, significantly above past elections.

The prohibitive cost has inevitably drawn richer candidates who can help bankroll their own campaigns and attract donations from rich friends — while deterring less well-off candidates, political analysts say.

The data analyzed by The Times corroborated the idea that incoming members are in fact richer than those in the past. The freshman class of 106 members elected last year, including many Tea Party-backed Republicans, had a median net worth of $864,000 — an inflation-adjusted increase of 26 percent from the 2004 freshmen.

Once in Congress, members benefit from many financial perks unavailable to most Americans. Beyond a base salary of $174,000 — an increase of about 10 percent since 2004, somewhat less than inflation — members get extra pay for senior posts and generous medical and pension benefits, as well as accouterments of power often financed by taxpayers or their campaigns.

Congressional assholes railing against government employee pensions while padding (and eventually collecting) their own.

Hmm, where have I heard a similar story about a DOE asshole who railed against teachers' pensions, then cashed in as soon as he retired to greener passages at News Corp.?

Oh, yeah - now I remember:

Just weeks before former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein slammed teacher pensions as "hollowing out public education," Klein walked into the teacher pension office to collect his own annual windfall, sources told the Daily News.

Klein, who could rake in as much as $4.5 million this year at his new gig with News Corp., also will collect $34,000 annually for his eight years as chancellor.

Accepting the money seems to fly in the face of a harsh editorial he wrote last week, ripping into the guaranteed pensions earned by veteran teachers.

"Defined-benefit pensions helped bring the once-vibrant U.S. auto industry to its knees," Klein wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 10. "The promised benefits just proved too costly. In that industry, such pensions are mostly a thing of the past."

"Alas," he added, "the same kind of pensions are now hollowing out public education."

But Klein's eight-plus years as chancellor entitled him to a slice of the public pension pie and last month he helped himself. His $250,000-a-year salary allowed him to cash out at a much higher rate for fewer years logged.

A teacher with a master's degree can make up to about $34,000 in annual pension payments only after 20 years of service.

Klein said through a spokesman that he had no comment.

You better you bet he had no comment - even Joel "Running The Phone Hacking Cover-Up" Klein couldn't lie his way out of this hypocrisy.

It's a shame the corporate news media doesn't throw it into his face every time he rails about teachers and pensions.

Same goes for these assholes in Congress padding their own pensions even as they hawk deficit reduction on the backs of working and middle class people.

But that's the country we're in now - the system is broken, our leaders are hypocrites and crooks and the corporate news media seems to carry their water more often than not.

The times when they don't -as in when they expose a Joel Klein collecting his pension just a few days after railing about teachers collecting theirs - the stories disappear like so much mist into the ether.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Better Things

Ending the Christmas Day music spectacular with this Ray Davies beauty:

Occupy the New Year!!!!

Merry Christmas From The Kinks

Dedicating this song to all the crooks on Wall Street and in the hedge funds:

Merry Christmas From Ian Hunter

Merry Christmas From The Pretenders

Bought this 12 inch single on Christmas Eve at a record shop on Fifth Avenue in 1983 on the way back to the hospital to visit my Mom.

Funny how you remember those kinds of things...

Merry Christmas From Bing And Bowie

Merry Christmas From Marc Bolan

Merry Christmas From Slade

Merry Christmas From The Kramdens

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas From Roy Wood

Merry Christmas, I Don't Want To Fight Tonight

Visit your parents in fucking Mineola???

Fuck that...

My Favorite Christmas Carol

What A Surprise - Cuomo And Bloomberg Hate Each Other

The Times has an article today that chronicles the deteriorating relationship between Mayor Bloomberg And Governor Cuomo:

They fume about each other’s egos, moods and stunts. They have not appeared together at a single news conference all year. Each of their successes, real or perceived, can provoke envy or resentment in the other.

Who are these bickering nabobs? The new Odd Couple of New York politics: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

One year into Mr. Cuomo’s first term, it is something of an open secret that the relationship between the billionaire mayor and the gubernatorial scion has taken a deeply sour turn.

The men haggle for credit on all sorts of issues, like passing the same-sex marriage law and providing translation assistance to immigrants. When Tropical Storm Irene blew in, the governor tried to bar a state official from appearing at the mayor’s events. Some of their aides snipe and spar.

This week, when Mr. Cuomo convened a news conference in Albany to announce a deal on Mr. Bloomberg’s plan to improve city taxi service, the mayor was not given enough notice to trek upstate. Instead, he spoke briefly via speakerphone, his voice hanging over the podium where Mr. Cuomo was flashing a grin.

In public, the two remain circumspect, insisting that talk of any conflict is fiction.

“We’ve never had an argument,” the mayor said this week, before adding, “We’re not always going to agree on everything.”

But in private conversations with lawmakers and friends, they confide frustrations.

The governor portrays the mayor as inflexible, sanctimonious and someone who treats the democratic process as an inconvenience, according to people familiar with his thinking.

And Mr. Bloomberg is said to see Mr. Cuomo as the epitome of the self-interested, horse-trading political culture he has long stood against.

Each is ambitious, tough and accomplished, but the tension, as much about style as substance, has become a key factor in city-state relations, making it more difficult to settle complex issues. And as the ascendant Mr. Cuomo builds his national profile and the term-limited mayor seeks to solidify his legacy, the conflict is unlikely to disappear soon.

Gee, two arrogant, vindictive, my-way-or-the-highway assholes don't like each other and cannot get along - what a surprise!

Actually, not really.

What is a surprise is that Cuomo - who has sought to convert his reputation from being an arrogant, vindictive, my-way-or-the-highway asshole in order to appear presidential material for 2016 - is back to being portrayed as an arrogant, vindictive, my-way-or-the-highway asshole in the news media.

He's riding high with his 68% approval rating, so he seems to have much of New York fooled and he has the upper hand on the more unpopular Bloomberg.

But I say a couple more years of Little Andy's backscene bullying and that approval rating will be down to Bloomberg's level.

Cuomo can make believe he has grown up and matured into a wise, seasoned politician who puts the best interests of the people above politics all he wants.

He's still the same win-at-all-costs asshole who ran a racist campaign against Carl McCall and he will eventually have those colors exposed again for all of New York to see.

Perhaps the Bloomberg/Cuomo rivalry article is the beginning of that process.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pearson Was Hired To Restore Trust To New York's Tests

The news that Pearson officials have been subpoenaed in a corruption probe by the attorney general's office for allegedly bribing NYSED officials with lavish trips and gifts in order to garner a state testing contract has a bit of an ironic side to it.

Back in the summer, Merryl Tisch bragged that the new state contract with Pearson would allow the Regents and the NYSED to conduct quick, accurate analysis of test results across the state to see if there was any cheating by teachers, administrators, or districts.

So Pearson - the company that's going to make sure the state test results are on the up-and-up and tamper-proofed - engaged in criminal activity in order to get a state testing contract that asks them to make sure nobody engages in criminal activity and cheats.

Well, who better to make sure there's no criminal activity around the state tests than a bunch of corporate criminals who grease the skids with kickbacks and bribes?

The contract with Pearson is much more expensive then the previous state testing contract with McGraw-Hill, btw.

Pearson is slated to receive $32 million over five years (and perhaps even more if the state finds money to add additional standardized ELA and math tests to 9th, 10th and 11th grades, as NYSED Commissioner John King hopes.)

McGraw-Hill received $26 million over eight years for its contract with NY State.

Why the discrepancy in contract amounts?

Perhaps the McGraw-Hill people didn't treat NYSED officials as well Pearson has.

Pearson In Corruption Probe - Why Are The Regents And The NYSED Not Being Scrutinized Too?

The attorney general wants to know if the testing company gave free stuff to NYSED officials in return for contracts:

New York State’s attorney general is investigating whether the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of one of the nation’s largest educational publishers, acted improperly to influence state education officials by paying for overseas trips and other perks.

The office of the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, issued subpoenas this week to the foundation and to Pearson Education seeking documents and information related to their activities with state education officials, including at least four education conferences — in London, Helsinki, Singapore and Rio de Janeiro — since 2008, according to people familiar with the investigation.

At issue is whether the activities of the tax-exempt Pearson Foundation, which is prohibited by state law from engaging in undisclosed lobbying, were used to benefit Pearson Education, a for-profit company, according to these people. Pearson sells standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.

Specifically, the attorney general’s investigation is looking at whether foundation employees improperly sought to influence state officials or procurement processes to obtain lucrative state contracts, and whether the employees failed to disclose lobbying activities in annual filings with the attorney general’s office. The inquiry follows two columns about the conferences by Michael Winerip in The New York Times this fall.

If there is evidence that the foundation engaged in substantial lobbying and failed to disclose it, it could face fines and lose its tax-exempt status under state and federal laws. No subpoenas were issued to state education officials, the people with knowledge of the matter said.

My question here is, why isn't the attorney general looking into the NYSED too?

Or how about the Regents?

Isn't bribery a two-way street?

If Pearson handed out largesse in return for lucrative state contracts, didn't somebody on the state end take that largesse and in return hand out lucrative contracts?

The Times article suggests that's so:

In New York, Pearson Education most recently won a five-year, $32 million contract to administer state tests, and it maintains a $1 million contract for testing services with the State Education Department, according to state records. The last contract was awarded after David M. Steiner, then the state education commissioner, attended a conference in London in June 2010 that was organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers and underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.

This looks again like another instance of the Merry Pranksters at the Regents and the NYSED skating off without any accountability whatsoever.

We need a list of ALL state officials, including those at the Regents, who might have been on the receiving end of Pearson's largesse.

And then those officials need to explain how it is they signed off on Pearson's state contracts.

Because something smells here.

As Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman for FairTest, said:

“Despite a history of scoring errors, contract manipulation and corporate misbehavior, there’s been almost no public oversight of companies such as Pearson. It’s great that New York’s attorney general has now decided to examine the examiners and begin holding them accountable.”

Yes, it's great somebody's looking into Pearson.

They ought to look into the contracts of Wireless Generation and other politically-connected companies as well.

But the Regents and the NYSED need some scrutiny too.

Steiner needs to answer for his Pearson paid vacations

And how about Merry Merryl Tisch?

Did she go to Helsinki or some other exotic locale for an "education conference" at any point in time on somebody else's dime?

Expand the probe, Scheniderman.

Expand it to the NYSED and the Regents too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Silly Michael Winerip - Accountability Is Only For Teachers

Winerip takes apart the New York City and State education establishment in today's Times.

It's so good, I wanted to post it in full - to save for posterity.

Here it is:

On Education

10 Years of Assessing Students With Scientific Exactitude

DECEMBER 2002 The state’s education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, reports to the state Regents: “Students are learning more than ever. Student achievement has improved in relation to the standards over recent years and continues to do so.”

JANUARY 2003 New York becomes one of the first five states to have its testing system approved by federal officials under the new No Child Left Behind law. The Princeton Review rates New York’s assessment program No. 1 in the country.

SPRING 2003 Teachers from around New York complain that the state’s scoring of newly developed high school tests is out of whack, with biology and earth science tests being too easy and the physics test too hard. The state Council of School Superintendents finds the physics scores so unreliable, it sends a letter to colleges for the first time in its history urging them to disregard the test result. Dr. Mills does not flinch, calling the tests “statistically sound” and “in accordance with nationally accepted standards.”

JUNE 2003 Scores on the state algebra test are so poorly calibrated that 70 percent of seniors fail. After a statewide outcry, officials agree to throw out the results. The Princeton Review says that ranking New York first was a mistake. “We’re going to have to come up with a fiasco index for a state like New York that messes up a lot of people’s lives,” a spokesman says.

OCTOBER 2003 A special panel appointed to investigate the state math fiasco concludes that the test “can’t accurately predict performance,” was created “on the cheap” and was full of exam questions that were “poorly worded” and “confusing.”

DECEMBER 2003 The director of state testing resigns. It was his idea to leave, a spokesman says.

MAY 2004 For the fourth year in a row, scores have risen on elementary and middle school state reading and math tests. Dr. Mills urges the Regents: “Look at the data that shows steadily rising achievement of the standards in school districts of all wealth and categories. More children are learning more now than ever before.”

FEBRUARY 2005 Dr. Mills rebukes those who question whether state scores are inflated. “The exams are not the problem,” he said in a report to the Regents. “It’s past time to turn from obsessive criticism of the exam and solve the real problems — the students who are not educated to the standards.”

SPRING 2005 New York City fourth graders make record gains on the state English test, with 59 percent scoring as proficient, compared with 49 percent the year before. “Amazing results” that “should put a smile on the face of everybody in the city,” says Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who happily recites the numbers on his way to re-election.

FALL 2005 The federal tests (the National Assessment of Educational Progress), which are considered more rigorous than the state tests, show a drop in New York City reading scores. On the eighth-grade test, 19 percent are proficient in 2005, compared with 22 percent in 2003. Asked if city and state officials had hyped the state test results, Merryl H. Tisch, a Regent, says, “They have never, ever, ever exaggerated.”

SEPTEMBER 2007 New York’s national assessment test results are again dismal; eighth-grade reading scores are lower than they were in 1998.

DECEMBER 2007 In his report to the Regents, Dr. Mills notes, “A rich, scholarly literature has challenged NAEP validity since the early 1990s.” He announces a plan to develop the first new state learning standards since 1996, to further spur academic excellence.

JUNE 2008 Newly released state test scores show another record year for New York children. Math scores for grades three through eight indicate that 80.7 percent are proficient, up from 72.7 in 2007. “Can we trust these results?” Dr. Mills asks. “Yes, we can. New York’s testing system, including grades three through eight tests, passed a rigorous peer review last year by the U.S. Department of Education. State Education Department assessment experts commission independent parallel analyses to double- and sometimes triple-check the work of our test vendor.”

JUNE 2009 In the previous decade, New York students’ average SAT verbal score has dropped to 484 from 494; the math SAT score has dropped to 499 from 506. The national assessment’s fourth-grade reading scores have been stagnant for four years, and the eighth-grade scores are their lowest in a decade.

But somehow, state test scores again soar to record levels. In New York City, 81 percent of students are deemed proficient in math, and 68.8 percent are proficient in English. “This is a big victory for the city,” the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, says, “and we should bask in it.” In November the mayor is elected to a third term, again riding the coattails of sweet city scores.

JULY 2010 Finally someone — Dr. Tisch, the chancellor of the Board of Regents — has the sense to stand up at a news conference and say that the state test scores are so ridiculously inflated that only a fool would take them seriously, thereby unmasking the mayor, the chancellor and the former state commissioner. State scores are to be scaled down immediately, so that the 68.8 percent English proficiency rate at the start of the news conference becomes a 42.4 proficiency rate by the end of the news conference. Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief accountability officer for the city, offers the new party line: “We know there has been significant progress, and we know we have a long way to go.” Whether there has been any progress at all during the Bloomberg years is questionable. The city’s fourth-grade English proficiency rate for 2010 is no better than it was in February 2001, nine months before the mayor was first elected.

Mr. Polakow-Suransky says that even if city test scores were inflated, he is not aware of any credible research calling the city’s 64 percent graduation rate into question.

FEBRUARY 2011 The city’s 64 percent graduation rate is called into question. The state announces a new accountability measure: the percentage of high school seniors graduating who are ready for college or a career. By this standard, the graduation rate for New York City in 2009 was 23 percent.

MAY 2011 Embracing the latest new tool in the accountability universe, the governor, state chancellor and education commissioner ramrod a measure through the Board of Regents, mandating that up to 40 percent of teachers’ and principals’ evaluations be based on student test scores.

AUGUST 2011 With new, more rigorous state tests, city scores rise slightly. “We are certainly going in the right direction,” the mayor says.

NOVEMBER 2011 New York is one of two states in the nation to post statistically significant declines on the National Assessment tests. John B. King, the education commissioner, says the state is certainly going in the wrong direction, but has a plan to spur students’ achievement. “The new Common Core Learning Standards will help get them there,” he says.

DEC. 19, 2011 Nearly a quarter of the state’s principals — 1,046 — have signed an online letter protesting the plan to evaluate teachers and principals by test scores. Among the reasons cited is New York’s long tradition of creating tests that have little to do with reality.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Murdoch Post Paints Potential 2013 Mayoral Candidates As UFT Shills

The NY Post editorial writers responded to a NY Times report that Christine Quinn was handed $15,000 in campaign cash by charter school advocates by saying that it doesn't matter which of the leading 2013 mayoral candidates (De Blasio, Thompson, Quinn according to the Post) gets elected, they're all on the UFT payroll and they'll all carry the UFT's water in education battles.

Geez, if only that were so.

The reality is, the one potential 2013 mayoral candidate who might have been the most UFT-friendly has already been irrevocably damaged by a fund-raising scandal.

Comptroller John Liu - the man who told Bloomberg to go fuck himself the day after the 2009 election when Bloomberg invited him to brunch - has shown himself to be an opponent to some of the mayor's education agenda and to the mayor's unfettered love of unaccountable private consultants and has used his comptroller position to push back on those Bloomberg policies.

It's not a surprise that the powers-that-be in the city decided he was the most dangerous potential 2013 candidate and took him out early.

For his entire comptroller tenure, the Daily News and the Post have gone after Liu week after week on their editorial pages.

When the fund raising scandal broke, the News and the Post gloried in Liu's alleged criminal activity and called for his resignation.

Never mind that Mayor Moneybags himself was found to have laundered money through the Independence Party in 2009 (as revealed in the John Haggerty trial.)

Never mind that Bloomberg used his philanthropic unit at Bloomberg LP to encourage city non-profits who receive Bloomberg largesse in the form of charity to back Bloomberg's call to overturn term limits (but only for Mayor Bloomberg!)

In some circles, that kind of thing would be called "bribery."

But in the world of Mayor Bloomberg, the News and the Post, that's just business as usual.

Unless it's John Liu engaging in it, of course.

Then it's criminal.

Ah, well -despite the double standard of the Liu scandal, he's done for and it's his own fault.

He ought to know that you can only get away with criminal activity in this country if you're a criminal for the 1%.

So the way the Post frames the race now, having already seen the candidate they most feared - Liu - torpedoed, they try and smear three other potential candidates as UFT shills.

But these three are not even close to being UFT shills.

As Mona Davids at the NYC Parents Union pointed pointed out last July in a letter, De Blasio is not opposed to working with charter school proponents despite the Post's characterization of him as chief UFT water carrier.

He's not opposed to flip-flopping on one of the biggest issues surrounding charter schools - co-locations - and giving the charter people EXACTLY what they want.

You can bet if he flipped on that issue, he'll flip on any other issue the charter people want - so long as the money's right, of course.

As for Quinn, she has become very close to the Kathryn Wylde's in the business community, who say things like this about Quinn:

“In her role as speaker, Christine has established credibility and a strong relationship with many members of the business community,” said Kathryn Wylde, a former housing activist herself, now C.E.O. of the Partnership for New York City, a business lobby whose board, according to Businessweek, includes Henry Kravis, Richard Parsons and Lloyd Blankfein. “I was, as a young person, a radical too.”

And let us not forget just who engineered Bloomberg's third term by overturning term limits for him - and just him.

That would be one Christine Quinn.

If Kathryn Wylde, Lloyd Blankfein and Ed Koch all like Quinn for mayor, it's difficult to see exactly how she would operate as a UFT "shill".

After all, those three didn't fall off a turnip truck - they know who will promote 1%-friendly policies and who won't.

And Quinn knows EXACTLY where her campaign cash comes from - more and more, that's from the business community.

Quinn may carry water as mayor, but you can be sure the water she'll be carrying will be for Bloomberg and the business community, not labor or the working class.

As for Thompson, he's not worth mentioning in any serious way.

After the disorganized mayoral campaign he ran in 2009, after he failed to poll the race and failed to discover that he was (gulp!) just 4%-5% down from Bloomberg in the weeks leading up to Election Day, I don't see anybody seriously backing him again for mayor.

You get one shot at running a competent race and Thompson failed that shot.

That said, even if he did run and somehow win, I doubt he would carry the UFT's water either.

Just as Vincent Gray was bought off by charter proponents and education reform advocates in D.C. to continue Adrian Fenty's reform policies, you can bet that Thompson would find suitcases full of cash to sway him the right way on those issues.

So the Post editorial today is really an amazing piece of propaganda.

Having destroyed the (arguably) most labor-friendly mayoral candidate, they now look to paint three others as UFT shills in order to ensure that if they are elected, they'll work hard to NOT shill for the UFT (or any other labor group.)

Not to worry Post editorial writers - you don't need to hack into any phone messages or computers to know whoever gets elected in 2013 will do EXACTLY what you and the business community want on education issues.

After all, this is America and cash is king.

The Kathryn Wylde's of the world literally help print it.

Mulgrew and the UFT, even if they wanted to try and compete with that (and I know my friend Norm at Ed Notes argues that they really don't want to - he may be right), couldn't.

No matter who replaces Bloomberg at City Hall, the Bloomberg policies that are so 1%-friendly will continue unabated.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Obama Administration Thinks Its Doing a Heckuva Job On Education Policy

That's the only takeaway I get from this Jon Stewart interview with Melody Barnes.

Barnes actually claimed that the Obama Race to the Top program is a change from the "cookie cutter" approach to education that No Child Left Behind took.

Stewart didn't agree:

Stewart asked Barnes, who is leaving her post as director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council at the end of the year, what she was most proud of. She singled out the administration’s education policies, both K-12 and higher education, though Stewart steered the converation to the former.

When Barnes said that “we are turning schools around” and that the multi-billion-dollar Race to the Top competition is a paradigm shift away from the “cookie cutter approach” to education than the prescriptive No Child Left Behind, Stewart was clearly not buying it.

“The biggest complaint I hear from teachers, and by teachers I mean my mom... A) Why did you wear that shirt? and B) the teaching to the test. This idea that this Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, these benchmarks that have been given from Washington have caused schools to focus entirely on whatever benchmark or requirement they need to get funding, and it has removed from education the, I guess what you’d call it, the educating.”

How did Barnes respond?

With Orwellian jive:

“That’s what we’re trying to turn around. No Child Left Behind had that cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach to education. And instead what we’ve done through Race to the Top, and most recently because Congress wouldn’t move on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act and turning it around, we’ve used our flexibility in the executive branch to say, ‘You’ve got some relief if you are going to put in place some smart reforms from those mandates from No Child Left Behind so there’s more flexiblity, there’s more innovation, there’s more creativity so teachers can in fact teach.”

Oh, sure, there's flexibility to teach - so long as you add standardized tests to every subject in every grade and use the scores to evaluate teachers and schools, fire the "bad" teachers and close the "bad" schools.

But otherwise, the system is totally flexible and leaves lots of room for innovation.

Valerie Strauss notes Stewart could have lowered the hammer here on Barnes and called her on her lies, as he once did with Cramer from CNBC, but he chose to go easy on her:

“So your feedback... The feedback I’m getting is that Race to the Top has intensified the issue, not alleviated it, but I guess the people I talk to don’t work in the White House.”

It's a shame that Stewart let her off easy.

This was a great opportunity for somebody in the mainstream media, somebody who makes his living exposing political hypocrisy and chicanery, to show that he understands that the Obama administration's claim that Race to the Top and its other education policies are completely different from No Child Left Behind and are alleviating all the federal mandates is horseshit.

Maybe the next time Duncan goes on Stewart's show, Stewart can note how full of shit Duncan was with his pronouncement that 82% of the country's schools are failing and ask him how students, parents, and teachers can trust the administration's metrics on schools and teachers when they can't get the NCLB AYP numbers even close?