Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Phony "War On Charters"

That's the frame that Eva's getting on the stories today - de Blasio is waging a "war on charters."

Saw that frame in the Post.

Heard it on WCBS 880 too.

NYC Educator says WNBC 4 ran with the same frame.

It's Eva's frame, plain and simple.

That's called stenography, not journalism, and that's what you're seeing around a lot of the Eva stories today.

Let me know when de Blasio starts closing charters by the dozens and then we can talk about a "war on charters."

Shelving three of Eva's eight charters slated to open next year sure ain't it.

Governor Cuomo Pushes Mayoral Control Of Schools In Cities Around The State

Governor Cuomo, who last week told us he has nothing to do with education policy, is this week pushing to give some mayors around the state control of school districts in their cities:

ALBANY – If Mayor Byron W. Brown wants to take control of the Buffalo school system, he is going to have to spend political capital – and taxpayer money.

Property taxpayers in Yonkers, whose mayor exerts influence over that city’s school district, fund 41 percent of the school system’s budget.

Buffalo taxpayers, by contrast, now fund only about 8 percent of the city school district budget.
And while Brown has not yet made clear whether he wants an outright takeover of the School Board, or just some of the seats, history suggests that his path would be difficult in Albany, which needs to approve any increase of mayoral control or input into the district decision-making.

Brown’s path could become easier if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gets out front and uses his political muscle to drive the matter.

That has not happened, but sources suggested that the idea Brown floated this week did not begin at City Hall. These sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuomo quietly has been promoting the idea of giving mayors in a couple of cities – Buffalo and Yonkers – new powers over their school systems.

Last year, Cuomo vowed to push a “death penalty” plan for failing urban schools, but that never materialized. The mayoral takeover idea could be part of a Plan B, officials suggested.

Just something to keep an eye on from the governor who has no control over education policy in the state.

Eva Moskowitz Holds Children Captive To Get Parents To Stay For Anti-De Blasio Press Conference

From Ed Notes:

Eva Moskowitz held a press conference today in our school- for free- all the while utilizing NYC DOE property (and our sound system) while blatantly refusing to follow DOE protocol. 

She did not obtain the proper permits for holding a press conference/rally inside the building, let in press without prior approval from the DOE and risked the safety and security of all the children in the building who were attending after-school programs when her staff opened the back doors of the building to usher in adults who never signed in with security- this includes those members of the press who most likely knew they would never have gotten past security!!!

Security officers stated that they were never informed that any meeting, rally, or press conference would be held inside the school building.  They had been notified that there would be one outside the building in the school yard. The head custodian was never notified of any such event.  The principal of the school- who is solely responsible for submitting all permits to the DOE was not notified as well.  

Each of the above-mentioned parties called their supervisors when confronted with the "impromptu" decision to move the event inside- all of whom stated that this was not in accordance to DOE protocols and should not be allowed. School Safety stated they would be sending more officers to the site to shut it down as we only had two officers on site and one was scheduled to leave at that time. It was not deemed safe for these officers to handle the situation on their own without back-up.  The Custodial supervisor was not happy and went to call his supervisor. The school's Network personnel requested that a public school staff member be present at this event (to perhaps witness any further assaults on DOE protocol/procedures??).  

Success Academy parents were in attendance not because they chose to be there but because their children were held captive so that their parents would attend. Success Academy staffers greeted parents arriving to pick up their children (at 4:30) and directed parents into the school's auditorium telling them they could not pick up their children until after this meeting. Many parents were furious and complained but to no avail. They would not get access to the children until Eva had their captive attention.

She then proceeded to persuade them that the de Blasio was closing one of their schools (interesting twist on not allowing more schools to open in space already occupied by existing schools.) Eva spoke to parents about her schools being the only successful schools- and the evil de Blasio stealing that away from parents- not allowing their children to get a real education. Because only she can provide a "real" education.  She then paraded out two black staffers (mind you- she is surrounded by almost all white staffers- everywhere) but parades out these two black staffers to speak to the parents- 99% of whom are black by my eyewitness account) to pressure them into attending Tuesday's lobby day in Albany. Her schools will be shut down that day- students missing an entire day of education- so that she can bring busloads of folks to Albany. I call this child exploitation- children should be in school learning- not spending half the day on a bus, paraded around the state capital, used as a pawn in one women's quest to monopolize and privatize public education.   

When the pre-event concluded, parents were ushered out to the school yard to attend a second "real" press event.

The event was kept short- probably knowing that she only had so much time before official were alerted and actually arrived on site- so that approximately 20-30 minutes after the event began- she moved everyone outside. 

Unfortunately- the DOE was unable (or maybe unwilling) to mobilize fast enough to stop this blatant disregard of protocol's set in place for all public schools- but apparently not for Eva. She will do anything to get more free space to run her schools- her own way- with no respect or regard for the same institution which feeds her. 

None of this made it into the evening news stories about de Blasio's overturning three Success co-locations.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Poor Eva

Love the frame from the NY Post on this story - De Blasio starts his war on charter schools:

The de Blasio administration is blocking the opening or expansion of three Success Academy charter schools run by Eva Moskowitz.

The charter schools received approval last year from former Mayor Mike Bloomberg to operate rent-free in existing city buildings starting in the fall.

But at de Blasio’s behest, the Department of Education conducted a review and rolled back the “co-locations” in buildings that also house traditional public schools.

The actions block a new Success Academy elementary charter from opening at the August Martin HS complex in Jamiaca, Queens.

It was to open there with 200 kindergarten and first graders in the fall and eventually serve 500 students grades K to 4.

The administration’s decision also prevents another Success charter K-4 elementary school from opening at Murry Bergtraum HS near City Hall.

Also, fifth and sixth grade Success Academy students will no longer be able to attend middle school classes at the PS 149/Sojourner Truth building on West 118th Street.

The students were expected to come from two other schools, Success Academy 4 elementary school and Harlem Central Middle School.

The de Blasio administration also told a fourth charter school, American Dream Charter School, that it would be getting less space inside The Bronx’s PS 30, which could force it to reduce enrollment by 25 percent.

Three Success Academies canceled, others given the go-ahead.

Some war on charters.

If de Blasio were really waging war against charters, he would have canceled all 10 Eva schools.

But he didn't do that - he simply canceled the most egregious co-locations:

The chancellor’s office provided alternative sites — “better matches” for three of the six affected public schools.

After bumping the Success Academy elementary charter from the Murry Bergtraum site, the administration set aside the space for two new high schools.

“We do not believe new elementary schools should be opened on high school campuses,” Department of Education spokesman Devon Pugia said in explaining some of the rollbacks, including two of the Success Academy charter schools.

DOE officials defended the decisions, saying they followed a painstaking, objective and thoughtful process.

Eva isn't used to be told "No," so she's upset about this news and has got a whole bunch of Success parents out there on the news tonight giving statements about how they feel betrayed by de Blasio.

But quite frankly, de Blasio is simply following through on his campaign promises and in the end, Eva still gets to open a lot of new charter schools next year.

Not exactly a war on charters, no matter how the Post or Eva want to frame it like it is.

Chancellor Farina May Get Another Beautiful Day

There is the possibility of a major storm early next week that could make for an interesting school day on Monday.

Here's the National Weather Service from this morning:




Chancellor Farina may get a re-do on the snow call she made a few weeks ago, when she kept schools opened as a foot of snow fell from rush hour on.

It's weather forecasting, so who the hell knows if this will play out the way Upton thinks or if it will all fall apart and we truly will have a beautiful day on Monday, but it is something to keep an eye on, that's for sure.

Andrew Cuomo Looks To Help State Senate Stay Republican

Tony Avella joined with the Republican-leaning "Independent Democrats" yesterday, so the chances of the State Senate going back to the Dems is fading fast, but the NY Times reports Governor Cuomo may also be helping to try and keep the State Senate Republican:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has raised an imposing $33 million, is riding high in the opinion polls and is expected to cruise to a second term this November.

But for a political tactician as restless as Mr. Cuomo, a nearly foregone conclusion is not good enough.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, is taking the unusual step of involving himself in the selection of his challenger, telling some top Republicans that they should be leery of nominating Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon.

People with knowledge of the conversations have offered differing explanations for the governor’s motives. Some think he is simply trying to muddle the Republican race in hopes of gaining a stronger margin of victory when he seeks re-election in November. Others suspect that Mr. Cuomo may view the ambitious Mr. Astorino, who won re-election last year in the heavily Democratic suburbs north of New York City, as a more capable rival than he is letting on.

A third explanation, however, is full of palace intrigue: A number of people who have spoken to Mr. Cuomo say he also has expressed his desire to ensure that his eventual opponent is not far to the right on social issues. This, he has argued, could alienate moderate Republicans and other voters so much that Republican candidates for the State Senate could suffer too, potentially costing Republicans control of the chamber.

Such concern for the Republican Party’s fortunes may seem counterintuitive for a heavyweight in the national Democratic Party who is often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. But Mr. Cuomo actually has a friendly working relationship with many Senate Republicans. He and those senators have been at odds on social issues, but he has relied on their backing for his fiscal agenda, which has focused on issues of great importance to Republicans, like restraining government spending and cutting taxes.

Your progressive Democratic governor in action looking to keep the State Senate in Republican hands so he can continue to cut taxes for rich people.

Apparently he'll get some help from the "progressive" Tony Avella.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chancellor Farina Says Make Light Of The State Tests To Relieve Student Anxiety

Beth Fertig at NYC:

As city teachers prepare for the second year of more difficult state exams, Chancellor Carmen FariƱa urged them to lighten up a little.

In her weekly email to principals, the chancellor acknowledged teachers and families might be stressed about the state assessments in April. Her advice?

"A good way to ease these concerns, especially for younger students, is to share Judith Finchler’s book, Testing Miss Malarkey (Walker Children, reprint 2003), which offers a humorous take on the world of standardized testing. While standardized tests are a reality of public school life, we must remember that our driving focus is on teaching and learning."

There's only one problem with this advice - the governor of the state has doubled down in the last few weeks on the test-based evaluation system for teachers, so it's really kinda hard to make light of the tests when you're wondering if you'll still have a job after the scores come in and get run through the value-added measurement mechanism in Governor Cuomo's APPR teacher evaluation system.

While I try and minimize the anxiety for my students around the Regents exams as best I can, I also make sure they understand that their scores have real-world consequences for themselves, for their teachers and for their school.

I also let them know that if they think that this is unfair, unjust or plain crazy, they should throw the politicians who put systems like this in place out of office when they reaching voting age.

In theory, Chancellor Farina has given good advice here.

Alas, as the chancellor is giving this advice about lightening the burden around testing, Governor Andrew Cuomo in the same month is letting everybody know that test-based evaluations WILL be used on teachers and, as he told the Buffalo teachers union last year when they tried to make a deal to avoid APPR firings the first year the system was in place, teachers WILL be fired as a result.

Nothing funny about that.

Governor Cuomo Says There Should Be A Superhero Named After Him

Try not to take a sip of any liquid while reading this:

Super Mario, meet Super Andrew.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today suggested a new superhero based on his stint as governor, while taking a break from budget negotiations in Albany to announce a deal to film a new series based on the Marvel comics characters in New York.

“It just occurred to me as I was sitting here, there’s a sequel here … I can see it: Boy from Queens goes to Albany to fight the evil empire and bring justice to the people of the state,” joked Mr. Cuomo, who made the announcement at the Good Morning America studios in Times Square.

“It is a very, very big deal. It’s also very cool, especially for a guy like me who deals with what he deals with all day long. To be in the world of Superheroes is pretty cool,” he gushed.

The deal between Netflix and Marvel will bring the “flawed heroes of Hell’s Kitchen” characters to the popular online streaming service. The series, set to begin filming in September 2014, will include four live-action shows focused on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and will culminate in a mini series starring all four characters teaming like in “The Avengers,” said Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company.

The deal will drive $200 million in revenue to the state and create 400 full-time jobs–marking the largest film or television production commitment in New York State history, said Mr. Iger, who credited the deal to the state’s generous tax credit system, which gave away nearly $500 million last year.

Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Mr. Cuomo–who said that he already had a cape at the ready–eagerly repeated his pitch to the gathered crowd.

“I think that work, right? Boy from Queens. Think about it. Goes to Albany, fights the evil empire on behalf of the people of the state to bring justice back. In the end, the sun shines again,” he said.

Asked by Politicker to identify his superpower, he didn’t hesitate.

“Oh, superior intellect!” he said with a laugh, pointing to his head.

The fevered ego this man has to have to "joke" about this sort of thing, framing his "joke" with the story of the kid from Queens who fights the Big Bad Corrupt Criminal Class in Albany.

It's a joke all right.

As we have demonstrated again and again here at Perdido Street School, Cuomo is as corrupt as anybody else in Albany.

He takes millions from gambling consortia and expands gambling around the state.

He takes hundreds of thousands from real estate developers and they get tax breaks in return.

He takes nearly a million from the charter school industry and gives them their favored education reforms in return.

And he goes to Hollywood for campaign fundraisers and hands tax breaks back to the movie studios so that they actually get paid by taxpayers to make movies or TV shows here in the state.

If Albany needs a superhero to come in and clean up the corruption, Sheriff Andy sure the hell isn't it.

Eva Moskowitz Only Closes Success Academies When She Needs Kids For A Photo Op

Students at Success Academies don't get too many days off from school - except when Eva Moskowitz needs them for political reasons.

New York City charter school leaders are planning a massive rally at the state Capitol next Tuesday, as they pivot their advocacy to Albany after failing to make progress with the de Blasio administration.

About 2,000 students and parents from New York City and upstate charters are expected to attend the rally on March 4.

Eva Moskowitz's Success Academies will be closed on Tuesday and students and parents will be bused to Albany for the rally.

Buses will be organized by grade and will leave the city's 22 Success Academies at 7:15 a.m.
Success instructors will teach lessons on "civics, think mastery and other subjects" on the bus, according to a flier distributed to parents that was obtained by Capital. No classes will be offered at the Success campuses on that day.

As you can see from the Capital NY piece, parents need not fear students will lose out on the day's lessons - they'll be taught "think mastery" on the buses on the way up to Eva's photo op.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How Is Pushing Through A Mandated Teacher Evaluation System Not "Setting Education Policy"?

From State of Politics:

It’s a “silly question” to wonder who should setting education policy in New York: the governor, or the state Education Department, Gov. Andrew Cuomo argued in a radio interview on The Capitol Pressroom on Tuesday.

Cuomo was responding to a Siena College poll released this morning that found a broad majority of New Yorkers — 62 percent to 21 percent — support the state Education Department to set the policy, not the governor’s office.

Cuomo noted it was the Education Department that was in charge of the much-maligned implementation of Common Core standards, which is overseen by the Board of Regents.
Without mentioning the Assembly by name, Cuomo noted the Regents were appointed not by him, but by state lawmakers.

Cuomo has devised his own education panel to come up with legislative recommendations to slow the roll out of Common Core that he wants voted on by June, when the legislative session ends.  
The governor insisted in the radio interview that he doesn’t want any changes to his teacher evaluation law made as a result of reform to Common Core.

Cuomo suggested that many of the concerns raised over Common Core itself has to do more with late concerns about the evaluation measure, which had been agreed to by the state’s teachers unions.

The Regents suggested a minor tweak to the evaluation law, allowing teachers to challenge their ratings based upon their district's poor implementation of the Common Core.

Cuomo got apoplectic over the proposed change and made some vague threats to go after the Regents if they pushed through this tweak to the system.

The next day, the Regents backtracked and said they would allow months of public comment before addressing any change to the evaluation system - in other words, they tabled the proposed change because Cuomo threatened them.

How is this threat - along with the way Cuomo pushed through the teacher evaluation system in the first place, tied to education aid in his budget - not an example of the governor "setting education policy"?

Cuomo can try and distance himself all he wants from the CCSS/APPR mess - the truth is, he has much to do with the state's reform agenda on both Common Core and teacher evaluations through his budgets.

In short, Common Core and APPR teacher evaluations are Andrew Cuomo's education policies, whether he wants to take public credit for them or not.

And here at Perdido Street School, we'll make sure that Cuomo doesn't get to distance himself from his own policies and displace responsibility onto others.

Will Governor Cuomo Help His Charter School Allies?

Eliza Shapiro at Capital NY:

Operators of charter schools in New York City are looking to Albany for support after failing to gain traction on a series of core issues with local elected officials or the de Blasio administration.


Charter groups are beginning to plan Capitol-based actions for the next few weeks and looking to assemblymembers from city districts to push for state funding to help co-located charters.

"With the environment around ed reform changing, we're asking for fairness for charter schools," Brett Peiser, C.E.O. of the Uncommon Schools network, which has schools in the city and upstate, told Capital in a statement. "We're pursuing every possible angle for support, including the State Legislature and Governor Cuomo."

What are the chances of getting help from the Legislature?

David Bloomfield, a professor of education at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, said going to the Capitol for funding assistance is a "predictable and potentially successful strategy in that it doesn't implicate New York City public school buildings."

"It's still a heavy lift," he added. "If the Legislature wanted to [help fund charters] in the first place they would have."

I wouldn't be surprised to see Governor Cuomo come in with lots of money for his charter allies, since they have come with lots of campaign money for him.

Siena Poll On Common Core Almost Worthless

The headlines on all the stories about the Siena poll released this morning that asked New Yorkers about Common Core look something like this one from the Rochester paper:

Poll: NY voters split on the Common Core, back moratorium 

The story starts like this:

Half of New York voters believe the state should delay implementation of the Common Core, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Siena College found 50 percent those polled support a two-year moratorium on the more-stringent education standards, compared to 38 percent who said they should "continue to be implemented as quickly as possible." Support for a moratorium was strongest upstate, where 63 percent backed a two-year pause, according to the survey.

New Yorkers are split on the merits of the Common Core, the poll found. More than a third -- 36 percent -- said the standards are "too demanding" for students, while 23 percent said they are "about right" and 24 percent opting for "not demanding enough."

"As the controversy around the Common Core and its implementation continues to swirl among politicians, education advocates, parents, and teachers, New York voters remain divided on whether or not the new standards are too demanding, and whether or not those standards will better prepare students for college or the workplace after graduation," Siena pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement.

What the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle  and Greenberg himself fail to tell us is that most New Yorkers don't actually know what the Common Core is:

How familiar are you with the Common Core learning standards in math and English that the State Education Department has adopted for all public schools in New York?

Very familiar 23%
Somewhat familiar 38%
Not very familiar 21%
Not at all familiar 18%
No opinion/don't know 1%

18% of the responders to the Siena poll said they didn't know anything at all about the Common Core but still gave an opinion about whether they thought the state should delay the implementation of the Common Core.

Think about that for a minute - it's almost 1/5 of the people who were polled.

Don't you love when people who don't know anything at all about an issue give an opinion on it and are taken seriously by some pollster as if what they say matters?

Then if you add up all of those who are either "somewhat familiar" (whatever that means, "somewhat" being a fairly vague term), "not very familiar" and "not at all familiar" in the poll results, you get 76%.

Think about that for a minute - more than 3/4ths of the people who were polled barely know what the CCSS are (or have no idea at all), but they're being asked to give an opinion about the value of the standards and whether the state should delay implementation or not.

With all of this uncertainty over the CCSS in NY, the poll finds New Yorkers support a two year moratorium on implementation and are negative about the impact the standards will have on schools and students.

Imagine if Siena actually asked public school parents who know what the CCSS are - then you might get much more informed poll takers and more useful poll results, since the people answering the question "Should there be a two year moratorium on Common Core in NY State" would actually know what the hell Common Core is and how it is affecting children.

How about it, Mr. Greenberg - why not poll public school parents whose children are most affected by CCSS and see what they tell you about the value of the standards?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Governor Cuomo Says Common Core "Is The Right Direction" But Implementation Has Been "Too Hasty"

Sheriff Andy Cuomo today in Buffalo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in Buffalo offering a summary of his executive budget proposal and talking about new IBM jobs, said the implementation of the Common Core standards has been “too hasty” and needs to be slowed down.

While the demand for a slowdown of the State Education Department’s rollout of the new national standards — and the related use of tests to measure student accomplishment for use in teacher evaluations — has been part of the rhetoric of Common Core opponents for most of the past year, Cuomo himself has until recently held back on calling the problem a matter of excessive speed.

Instead, the governor has in recent weeks acknowledged unspecified mismanagement in the implementation plan developed by SED. Last week, he emphasized that he feels common cause with Common Core opponents and said the Board of Regents had “utterly failed.”

In the Q&A that followed the appearance, Cuomo was asked about his Common Core comments:
“Common Core is the right direction. … How they did it I believe is the problem. This was very different than in past curriculums, and it was almost traumatic to the system. Children that would get grades that were in the 90s now came home with grades that were in the 60s. And the parents weren’t probably briefed; the students weren’t properly briefed. The consequences of what those lowered grades might mean wasn’t adequately handled. … So I think that the implementation of it was flawed, and I’m working with the Legislature about slowing the actual rate of movement toward the Common Core.

So now we have the governor finally on record where he's at - he still supports the Common Core State (sic) Standards, just thinks the Regents and the SED rolled them out too fast before students, parents and teachers were properly prepared for the testing, a problem which has caused all kinds of chaos, confusion and anxiety around the state.

Interestingly enough, the same criticism can be aimed at Cuomo's APPR teacher evaluation system, which Cuomo has insisted will be the evaluation system for teachers all around the state even though the first year of ratings is so screwed up that SED is months behind schedule releasing them to the public.

In fact, Newsday reported earlier this month that the ratings for teachers around the state (except in NYC, where the system was not in place for 2012-2013) have "significant flaws" and are being delayed so that SED can get the ratings right.

Somehow Cuomo is fine with the half-baked APPR teacher evaluation system that he insisted be implemented even though it has "significant flaws," but the CCSS he criticizes because it was hastily implemented and has been flawed.

Let's see how long Sheriff Andy gets away with this.

When SED finally releases the final evaluations and teachers begin the lawsuits against the state for the unfair ratings, Sheriff Andy is going to have own the same criticism over APPR that he has launched at the Regents and the SED for CCSS.

Wall Street Bankers, Real Estate Titans For Cuomo

From the Post:

Gov. Cuomo is making another pitch Monday for Republican heavy hitters to back his re-election campaign.
Home Depot founder Ken Langone is hosting a “Republicans for Cuomo” event at the Harvard Club at 8:30 a.m. Cuomo will address the well-heeled Wall Street and real-estate titans and field questions.
David Malpass, who ran in the 2010 Republican US Senate primary, also was involved in planning the breakfast, sources said. Cuomo attended a similar event last month.
The Cuomo campaign wants to woo Republican backers to keep their big bucks from going to the eventual GOP nominee.

Gee, what is it about Cuomo that Wall Street bankers and real estate titans like?

Well, whatever it is, they sure are raising a lot of money for him.

President Obama Shouldn't Have Disparaged The Liberal Arts

A few weeks ago, Obama made fun of art history, comparing it to a useless endeavor that sentences college students who major in it to a lifetime of poverty and misery.

But the NY Post has an editorial that suggests the liberal arts are not the poverty-inducing, misery-causing majors people like Obama claim them to be:

In popular lore, a liberal arts major is held to be a prescription for poverty in the hard-charged information economy we now live in.

But a new report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the ­National Center for Higher Education Management Services says it may not be as bad as you think.

Inside Higher Ed sums up the report this way: “By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an ­advanced or undergraduate degree are on ­average making more money than those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates.”

In short, while liberal arts majors may start off more slowly, over the long run they hold their own.
Now, it’s true that compared to engineers and math and science grads, those with liberal arts degrees lag behind in earnings.

But the findings also point to something too many of the debates on college miss: The real test for both college and life is whether students are learning.

In a book released three years ago, NYU Professor Richard Arum noted that 36 percent of college students show “little or no evidence of improvement in critical thinking, complex ­reasoning and writing” after four years of ­college.

Even worse, students with degrees that parents might regard as more practical — business, communications, social work, education — had, according to Arum, “the lowest measurable gains.”
By contrast, “students majoring in traditional liberal arts fields” demonstrated significant gains in these areas.

The American Council for Trustees and Alumni has been making this point for years: A genuine education depends on a real and demanding curriculum that is the only way to develop young minds so they can realize their full potential.

So, Mom and Dad, here’s the bottom line: It’s not that liberal arts are not practical. It’s that it’s worthless to pay tens of thousands of dollars to put your sons and daughters through college if they are not going to take courses that require them to work hard, master the knowledge and learn how to think.

Hard to believe this is the NY Post editorial board writing this laudatory piece about liberal arts.

But they ought to send it to Obama and Arne Duncan, and Governor Cuomo while we're at it, because these guys keep saying the only majors worth anything these days are the one's related directly to STEM careers.

Governor Cuomo Pals Up With Banker/Criminal John Mack For Wall Street Outreach

Jimmy Vielkind at Capital NY:

ALBANY—Governor Andrew Cuomo is utilizing John Mack, a senior adviser to Morgan Stanley who the governor recently brought on to be an adviser on global trade, to help him navigate the titans of Wall Street, according to schedule documents released by Cuomo's office.

Cuomo began regular meetings with Mack, a former C.E.O. of the investment bank, in the fall of last year.

The schedules show Mack accompanied Cuomo to a meeting with current Morgan Stanley C.E.O. James Gorman on December 12, and to a meeting with Goldman Sachs C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein on the following day.

Mack also attended an afternoon meeting on Veteran's Day that included senior officials from Empire State Development as well as Leslie Whatley, the director of the governor's new program to create tax-free zones rooted at public university systems. She was formerly the global head of corporate real estate at both Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan

Cuomo administration spokespeople did not immediately say what the governor discussed with Gorman and Blankfein.

Matt Taibbi on John Mack:

John Mack, the former CEO of Morgan Stanley and one of the more irritatingly unrepentant dickheads of the crisis era, gave an incredible interview to Bloomberg TVIn a discussion about executive pay, Mack said we're all being too rough on his fellow too-big-to-fail bank CEOs.
He would love, he said, "to see people stop beating up on Lloyd and Jamie," endearingly referring to Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein and Chase chief Jamie Dimon by their first names (Mack must be in a bowling league with both men). He added: "I think that would make a lot of sense, and I'm in favor of that."

Mack went on to say that the debate over compensation was healthy, just not always warranted. "As long as shareholders reward performance," he said, "we can argue." But, he added, "The last time I checked, this business is still a business that pays people extremely well."

It's already funny that of all the injustices in the world, this was the one Mack decided to worry about on TV: the criticism of poor Jamie Dimon's 74 percent raise. But more to the point: If we really did live in a world where shareholders rewarded performance, would a CEO who just oversaw a record $20 billion in regulatory penalties even have a job, much less be getting a raise?

Mack had stones enough to be whining about people "beating up" on Jamie Dimon, given the year Chase just had. But to do so and simultaneously scold us that high compensation on Wall Street is just "shareholders rewarding performance," that's either Nobel-caliber chutzpah or laboratory-pure stupidity.

John Mack of all people should be quiet when it comes to the issue of public outrage over bank corruption. How about this, John: All of us malcontents will promise to stop beating up on your fellow CEOs, if you share with us the entire contents of your conversation with Pequot hedge fund honcho Art Samberg on June 29th, 2001?

Mack, readers may recall, was at the center of the controversy involving SEC whistleblower Gary Aguirre. Aguirre is a lawyer and investigator who began working for the SEC in September 2004. One of his first assignments was to look into a case involving a hedge fund called Pequot Capital Management, which had made a highly auspicious series of trades just ahead of, and after, a merger involving GE and a company called Heller Financial in the summer of 2001. The man making the deal was legendary Pequot trader Art Samberg.

As evidence in a Senate investigation into Aguirre's firing later revealed, Samberg made a huge investment in Heller on July 2nd, 2001, apparently without having done any research into Heller before that time. He had, however, talked the previous business day (Friday, June 29th) to John Mack, who had recently left a job running Morgan Stanley and had just returned from Switzerland, where he'd interviewed for a job with Credit Suisse. Both Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse had worked on the merger for Heller financial. and, the Senate explained, "possessed material, non-public information about the deal."

Right after Mack talked to Samberg and Samberg invested in Heller, Pequot cut Mack in on a lucrative deal involving a Lucent spinoff that ended up more than tripling Mack's $5 million investment. When Aguirre asked permission to interview Mack about all of this, he was denied such permission by his superiors at the SEC. When he pressed, they fired him (Aguirre later won a wrongful termination settlement with the SEC in the amount of $755,000).

Ultimately, the government did not interview Mack about the Pequot deal until August 1st, 2006, exactly five days after the five-year statute of limitations on the incident had expired. In that testimony, Mack denied having foreknowledge of the Heller deal, and claimed that Samberg had wanted him to invest in the Lucent spinoff, not the other way around – despite the fact that the SEC had emails from Samberg saying Mack had nagged Samberg to let him into the lucrative deal, "busting his chops" to get in.

The government never really pursued the matter further and Mack's role in what the Senate called a "highly suspicious" trade was never fully investigated. He ultimately returned to Morgan Stanley to serve as the bank's CEO from 2005 to 2009.

All of which means exactly nothing today, over a decade after the original incidents. By now it's just one of a pile of stories about cases that never got made against Wall Street executives for questionable behaviors in the pre-crisis years.

Still, it seems to me that after having been saved by the gods from the jaws of death in the Heller episode, Mack should probably henceforth stay on the sidelines in any debate about financial corruption. That he doesn't should tell us a lot. I'm not sure these guys can even spell "shame," much less exercise any.

So Sheriff Andy Cuomo brings on Wall Street criminal John Mack to work the room when Cuomo goes to chat with other Wall Street criminals like Lloyd Blankfein and James Gorman.

What a cozy group of criminals Sheriff Andy is palling around with.

No wonder he had such a piss-poor record bringing indictments against Wall Street criminals when he was attorney general of New York State.

He's pals with them.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mulgrew Helps Push De Blasio's Pre-K Plan

Via State of Politics, here's a Crain's piece showing UFT President Mulgrew pushing de Blasio's pre-K plan:

Ahead of budget negotiations in Albany, two of the state's most powerful labor leaders are meeting with New York City lawmakers to encourage them to push Mayor Bill de Blasio's city pre-kindergarten plan, a source in attendance said.

The Friday afternoon meeting is being held at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers, where president Michael Mulgrew is being joined by George Greshman, the leader of the health care workers union 1199 SEIU. A number of city Democratic senators and Assembly members are in attendance, the source said, including Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright, the chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Party and co-chair of the state Democrats; and Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the chairman of his borough's Democratic organization. Pressure from powerful leaders of the Assembly could help Mr. de Blasio's efforts.

The UFT is also engaged in contract negotiations with the de Blasio administration, which could give the union extra incentive to push the mayor's pre-K plan.

The main opposition to the plan, however, come from state Senate Republicans, who share control of their chamber, and from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wants the state to fund all pre-K across New York. Mr. de Blasio and the unions backing his efforts want a dedicated, five-year income tax hike on high earners to fund pre-K and after-school programs, but Mr. Cuomo's 30-day budget amendments released Thursday evening don't contain the increase.

And here's part of an opinion piece Mulgrew has in the Daily News that pushes for de Blasio's dedicated revenue stream for universal pre-K (i.e., a tax on those making over $500,000 in NYC to be used to fund universal full-day pre-K):

The unfortunate history for too many programs is that money is provided, then political priorities change and the money dries up. School districts cannot create quality programs if next year’s funding is always in doubt.

We need to provide a designated revenue stream, one set aside for pre-K and nothing else. We have the chance now to do this. We owe our children that chance.

Andy Cuomo wants nothing to do with the dedicated revenue stream for de Blasio's universal pre-K program, so Mulgrew's penning the opinion piece for the News that pushes de Blasio's plan and his having a meeting at 52 Broadway to do the same with members of the Assembly, the Senate and at least one other union leader may not make Sheriff Andy too happy.

Of course, Mulgrew may have sent the message to Sheriff Andy through round-about channels that while he is publicly helping push de Blasio's plan, he's still a Sheriff Andy man at heart.

In any case, Mulgrew's pushing the plan several different ways certainly can't hurt when it comes to smoothing over the hard feelings that were allegedly left over after the primary when Mulgrew and the UFT (along with Weingarten at the AFT) went after de Blasio pretty hard.

And who doesn't want good feelings all around when the UFT and the city sit down for contract negotiations?

In the end, I get the feeling Cuomo has the support to put a stake through the heart of de Blasio's plan.

And unfortunately as Mulgrew noted in his DN opinion piece, state-funded programs have a way of going under-funded or unfunded when priorities change, which means that when Sheriff Andy decides rich people need more tax cuts, the money he has set aside for pre-K around the state will disappear quicker than you can say Captain Jack.

The Daily News Can't Wait For The Security State To Replace Unionized Doormen

The Daily News has a propaganda piece cheerleading for technology that will replace doormen while still making sure the riff-raff don't get where they don't belong:

An Israeli general is at work on a “biometric security” system that he believes will have New Yorkers tossing out their keys and maybe ditching their doormen, too.

Using sophisticated scanners that can recognize a person’s face, voice, build and stride, the system can unlock your door in under two seconds. Any strangers not in the database will be denied access. 
“This is only the beginning,” says General Aharon Farkash, the founder and president of the firm FST21. “This is the way people will enter buildings in the 21st century.”

To help establish FST21 in the states, Farkash opened a North American office earlier this month at 7 World Trade Center. Should you drop by, you’ll be greeted by one of its security devices. But unless he’s beamed a code to your phone or you work there already, there’s no convincing the small 8-inch scanner to let you in.


“Cities are crowded, often dangerous places, with the gap between rich and poor growing,” Farkash says. “We need a way to live safely but also comfortably next door to one another.”

For those worried about privacy as well as security, Farkash stresses that the system is self-contained, so it is impossible to hack from outside. It also stores no data of users coming and going beyond two weeks.

“I was the Israeli NSA, so I can tell you I know privacy, and the best effort is being made to keep things private,” Farkash says.

Gee, sounds fabulous.

Except I don't buy that part about keeping things private and anybody who has even scanned an article in the last year about NSA spying shouldn't either - they'll be tracking everywhere you go via this "biometric security" apparatus, the cell phone you carry and the credit cards you use to purchase items.

Such is life in the 21st century.

But besides our privacy and humanity, what else do we lose in the tradeoff when every building starts using "biometric security"?

Why, unionized jobs of course!

For individual homeowners, it offers the convenience — and cool factor — of not having to fumble for the keys anymore, especially with the kids and groceries in hand. For condo and co-op boards, it could mean serious savings.

“It’s much cheaper than a doorman,” Farkash says. “To have 24-seven coverage, that’s four shifts a day, at least $250,000 a year. Our system is 70% less to install, and 90% less to maintain each year after that.”

Oh, goodie - another technological advance that will replace jobs humans do.

On the plus side, when the people who used to have jobs but can no longer find them in our increasingly globalized, technology-laden economy start to steal to eat, the "biometric security" will keep them out of your condo.

On the negative side, you (or I) may be the one the security is looking to keep out.

More plutocratic propaganda from the Daily News masking itself as "journalism".

How The Chinese Rig Their PISA Scores - And Why It Doesn't Matter Anyway

The next time some education reformer type spews alarmist clap trap around the PISA scores, you can lay this on them:

Chinese experts are also less impressed than Truss by the Pisa scores. "Even though Shanghai students scored well on the test, this doesn't mean that Shanghai's education system doesn't have any problems," said Lao Kaisheng, a professor in the education department of Beijing Normal University. "In fact, it's the opposite."

As long as China's education system remains vast but resource-constrained, Lao added, its schools will default to testing as a reliable indicator of competence. "The education system here puts a heavy emphasis on rote memorisation, which is great for students' test-taking ability but not for their problem-solving and leadership abilities or their interpersonal skills," he said. "Chinese schools just ignore these things."

According to an analysis of the rankings, the children of Shanghai's cleaners and caterers are three years more advanced than UK lawyers' and doctors' children in maths. Yet the figures are an unreliable measure of equality. Although Shanghai's 23 million people make up less than 2% of China's population, its per capita GDP is more than double the national average; its college enrolment rate is four times as high.

Furthermore, nearly half of Shanghai's school-age children belong to migrant families and were effectively barred from taking the test: because of China's residence registration system, these students are forced to attend high school in their home provinces, where schools are often debilitatingly understaffed. Although students from 12 provinces took the test in 2009, the government only shared Shanghai's scores.

"The OECD has not disclosed if other Chinese provinces secretly took part in the 2012 assessment. Nor have Pisa officials disclosed who selected the provinces that participated," wrote Tom Loveless, an education expert at Harvard University, on a Brookings Institute blog. "There is a lack of transparency surrounding Pisa's relationship with China."

In short, the Chinese PISA scores are rigged and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) help them to hide the chicanery - here's more from Tom Loveless:

Shanghai is portrayed as a paragon of equity in PISA publications. A 2010 OECD publication, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, highlights model systems that the world should emulate. Shanghai is singled out for praise. One section on Shanghai is entitled, “Ahead of the pack in universal education.” The city is described as an “education hub,” and the only discussion that even remotely touches upon migrants is the following:
 “Graduates from Shanghai’s institutions are allowed to stay and work in Shanghai, regardless of their places of origin. For that reason, many  ’education migrants now move to Shanghai mainly to educate their children.’ “[2]
That description is surreal. PISA’s blindness to what is really going on in Shanghai was also evident in the official release of PISA’s latest scores. The 2012 data appear in volumes organized by themes. Volume II is entitled, PISA 2012 Results: Excellence through Equity, Giving Every Student the Chance to Succeed. Shanghai is named as one jurisdiction where schools “achieve high mathematics performance without introducing greater inequities in education outcomes (p. 28)” and one with “above average socio-economic diversity (p. 30).” In the 336 pages of this publication on equity, the word “migrant” appears only once, in a discussion of Mexico. The word “hukou” does not appear at all.

The OECD responded to Loveless' criticism by saying he is relying on old stereotypes of Shanghai, that things have changed there and migrant families are able to send their children to high school in Shanghai rather than having to send them back to schools in their home provinces.

But Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post countered that rebuttal with this:

I asked Post reporters who have covered China about Shanghai, and they said that despite the 2008 change in Shanghai policy, things have improved slightly for migrant families but not very much. Children who do not have Shanghai registration can now in theory get into Shanghai public schools, but only through very complicated and often arduous means that require either a brilliant kid, valuable inside connections or bribe money. (See this Washington Post story that talks about how Chinese parents pay bribes to get their children into top schools.) And while  the government recently announced that the hukou registration system is going to be reformed in the next few years, this does not mean families can suddenly get registered in big cities such as Shanghai.

So bear all this in mind the next time you see a statement like this:

If we don’t emulate China by establishing common nationwide education standards and implementing even more standardized testing, we will fall behind internationally. So goes the argument of Common Core advocates like Michelle Rhee.

“You need to reframe the debate,” Rhee said, speaking to Florida lawmakers in May. “This is about China kicking our butts. Do you want China to kick out butts? No!”

Even if the Chinese PISA scores were accurate - which they do not seem to be  - writer Mitchell Blatt calls into question the lessons Rhee claims we can take from them:

China’s education system is uniquely positioned to produce students who will do well on tests. It’s based on national standards, the knowledge of which is evaluated in a series of nationwide tests. Before entering high school, students take the zhong kao — the high school entrance exam — and before entering college, students study non-stop for a year to take the gao kao — the college entrance exam. Schooling is based heavily on tests and rote memorization.

So it’s no surprise that China did well on PISA.

The important question to ask is, Is China creating a competitive, innovative economy?
China has 19 percent of the world’s population, but in 2011, China only accounted for 9 percent of the world’s share of patent applications. The United States, by contrast, has 4 percent of the world’s population but accounted for 26.7 percent of the world’s patent applications in 2011, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

In China, the use of standards has fostered a high-pressure system that kills creativity.
“When [my son] Star was young, he was very imaginative,” Frank Chen, director of Asian operations for OnSpeX, said. “Now, he appears to be losing his creativity.”

“If he writes whatever he wants in an essay, he will get a bad grade, because the teachers do not like it. But there’s nothing to do about it. I want him to go to a good college. The teachers get bonuses if he goes to a good college.”

Because a student’s performance on the college entrance exam determines which college he goes to, teachers teach to the test, and there is a greater emphasis on memorization than on learning.

This is stifling creative innovation. After Steve Jobs died, Jobs’ biography became a best-seller in China. Chinese people asked the question, “Why doesn’t China have its own Steve Jobs?”

Former Google China CEO Kai-Fu Lee said on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblog, that China’s education system has prevented China from developing such innovators.

It is a folly to think that raising America’s international test scores will automatically improve America’s education quality or economic competitiveness. A paper by Christopher H. Tienken, an assistant professor at Seton Hall University, notes: “According to the World Economic Forum (Schwab 2009), the United States has ranked either 1st or 2nd consistently in economic competitiveness since 1998. … Keep in mind that that U.S. students never scored in the top two spots on any international test during this same period or any prior time.”

An analysis by Keith Baker, a retired researcher for the Department of Education, found that when comparing the United States to countries that outscored us on the FIMS test, the U.S., on average, outranked those countries in the categories of economic growth, quality of life, livability, democracy, and creativity.

Moreover, even if we do make scoring higher on international tests a goal of education reform, Common Core isn’t the right way to do it.

“There is no strong, or even mild, correlation — and certainly not a cause-and-effect relationship — between national standards and national performance on international tests,” Tienken’s report notes.

Right now, the Chinese are discussing how to make China’s education system less reliant on standardized tests and rote memorization. If Michelle Rhee really wants to learn from China, she should look to Chinese reformers. As they know, standardization doesn’t build a globally competitive workforce.

Whether China is cheating on the PISA or not, the United States should not be trying to emulate an education system that is plagued by inequity, stifles creativity, and creates such high pressure on students, parents and teachers that nobody feels safe enough to, as the cliche goes, "think outside the box" and try something different, innovative or new.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Many In China Hate The Chinese Education System - Even If Arne And Barack Love It!

From The Guardian:

The streets surrounding Shijia primary school in Beijing were mobbed by a crowd of parents so dense that cars were obliged to beat a retreat.

At 3.45pm on Friday, 11-year-old Zou Tingting, five minutes late, bounded through the school's west gate and into her waiting mother's arms. Tingting's classes were over, but her day was just beginning – she had an hour of homework, plus lessons in ping pong, swimming, art, calligraphy and piano.
Tingting's mother, Huang Chunhua, said that, like many Chinese mothers, she once considered Tingting's academic performance her top priority; now she realises the importance of a well-rounded education. "I've seen British curricular materials, and I'm actually kind of jealous," she said. "British teachers guide students to discover things on their own – they don't just feed them the answers, like in China."

In recent weeks British parents and educators have been in a panic about the discrepancy between the Chinese education system and the UK's. In December the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the 2012 results for its triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) test – a reading, maths and science examination administered to half a million 15-year-olds in 65 countries. Shanghai students topped the rankings; the UK ranked 26th.
Next week education minister Elizabeth Truss will lead a "fact-finding mission" to Shanghai to learn the secrets of China's success. She plans to adjust the UK's education policy accordingly.

Yet Chinese parents and educators see their own system as corrupt, dehumanising, pressurised and unfair. In fact, many are looking to the west for answers. Huang said that some parents bribe Shijia primary school to admit their children (though she declined to say whether she had done so herself).
Tingting attends an expensive cramming school at weekends, leaving her tired. She will probably have to abandon extracurricular activities in high school to devote more time to the college admission exam, called the gaokao. Many parents consider the gruelling nine-hour test a sorting mechanism that will determine the trajectory of their children's lives.

Chinese experts are also less impressed than Truss by the Pisa scores. "Even though Shanghai students scored well on the test, this doesn't mean that Shanghai's education system doesn't have any problems," said Lao Kaisheng, a professor in the education department of Beijing Normal University. "In fact, it's the opposite."

As long as China's education system remains vast but resource-constrained, Lao added, its schools will default to testing as a reliable indicator of competence. "The education system here puts a heavy emphasis on rote memorisation, which is great for students' test-taking ability but not for their problem-solving and leadership abilities or their interpersonal skills," he said. "Chinese schools just ignore these things."

Read the whole article - this is an important piece of journalism that gets at the lie that Asian education systems like the one's in China or South Korea, are vastly outperforming public schools in the United States or Britain.

We keep hearing from Duncan, Obama, et al. that the Chinese or the South Koreans are vastly outperforming us.

We hear the same from Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein et al.

But the truth is much more complex than the test scores these deformers hawk.

Here's What Common Core And Education Reform Will Not Fix

We keep hearing that Common Core is going to make kids the nation over "college and career ready," but that platitude assumes that there are actually "careers" available for kids to do (and get paid for) when they grow up.

These days, that's a dicey proposition - as Robert Reich points out:

If you ever wonder what’s fueling America’s staggering inequality, ponder Facebook’s acquisition of the mobile messaging company WhatsApp.

According to news reports today, Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.
That’s the highest price paid for a start-up in history. It’s $3 billion more than Facebook raised when it was first listed, and more than twice what Microsoft paid for Skype.

Given that gargantuan amount, you might think Whatsapp is a big company. You’d be wrong. It has 55 employees, including its two young founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton.

Whatsapp’s value doesn’t come from making anything. It doesn’t need a large organization to distribute its services or implement its strategy.

It value comes instead from two other things that require only a handful of people. First is its technology — a simple but powerful app that allows users to send and receive text, image, audio and video messages through the Internet.

The second is its network effect: The more people use it, the more other people want and need to use it in order to be connected. To that extent, it’s like Facebook — driven by connectivity.

WhatsApp’s worldwide usage has more than doubled in the past nine months, to 450 million people — and it’s growing by around a million users every day. On December 31, 2013, it handled 54 billion messages (making its service more popular than Twitter, now valued at about $30 billion.)

How does it make money? The first year of usage is free. After that, customers pay a small fee. At the scale it’s already achieved, even a small fee generates big bucks. And if it gets into advertising it could reach more eyeballs than any other medium in history. It already has a database that could be mined in ways that reveal huge amounts of information about a significant percentage of the world’s population.

The winners here are truly big winners. WhatsApp’s fifty-five employees are now enormously rich. Its two founders are now billionaires. And the partners of the venture capital firm that financed it have also reaped a fortune.

And the rest of us? We’re winners in the sense that we have an even more efficient way to connect with each other.
But we’re not getting more jobs.

In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them. In fact, the combination of digital technologies with huge network effects is pushing the ratio of employees to customers to new lows (WhatsApp’s 55 employees are all its 450 million customers need).

Meanwhile, the ranks of postal workers, call-center operators, telephone installers, the people who lay and service miles of cable, and the millions of other communication workers, are dwindling — just as retail workers are succumbing to Amazon, office clerks and secretaries to Microsoft, and librarians and encyclopedia editors to Google.

Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line – or spread the gains more widely – our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.

Add the intern nation problem we have, wherein companies use unpaid interns to do jobs that used to be entry level without ever hiring those interns as regular employees, to the problem of the correlation in customer base to the number of employees necessary to serve them and you have a very, very poor work environment out there for everybody from the high school kids looking to work fast food and finding adults are doing jobs teens used to do to the college kids who have to work half a dozen unpaid internships to try and get a paying job to the middle aged people who get downsized and can't find work ever again.

The jive we hear from Obama and Duncan, Gates and Bloomberg, Cuomo and King, that Common Core and education reform will solve the jobs problem in this country is, quite frankly, bullshit.

We don't have an education problem in this country.

We have a jobs and inequality problem.

A very small segment of the country takes more and more of the wealth and leaves the rest of us to fight it out for the crumbs.

Until that changes, we are going to continue to have a jobs and inequality problem in this country.

And once again, Common Core isn't going to change that.

If anything, the drudgery that is CCSS is meant to get kids ready for a life of drudgery in the 21st century workplace where they will work long hours and get paid little to do what few jobs remain.

As Sarah Littman noted in a blog post:

In the preface to the 1946 edition of Brave New World Huxley wrote,  “a really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned…to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors, and school teachers”

That's what Common Core is meant to do these days, with the close reading of a story for seventeen days until the kids hate reading or the refusal to allow kids the background knowledge or context to know what they're reading about because the text itself is sacrosanct and answering text-based questions is all that we want kids to do after reading.

But the Common Core drudgery isn't for every kid.

That's why Obama's kids and Cuomo's kids and King's kids aren't learning Common Core in school.

They're not going to lead lives of drudgery - they're part of the political and economic elites in this country who still have a shot at the American Dream.

It's the rest of us who are screwed - unless we rise up and take back the opportunities that were stolen from us by the economic and political elites pushing globalization and technology as economic panaceas on us all.

One of the first battles in the fight is to put a stake through the heart of the Common Core State Standards and the education reform movement that pushes privatization and standardization for the unwashed masses in the public school system and going back to an education system that teaches kids a love of reading, learning and critical thinking.

That's what will keep kids from growing up to be the numbed-out drones Huxley wrote about in Brave New World.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The New Teacher Project Attacks The Unions For Pulling Back On Common Core

New Teacher Project leader Tim Daly wrote the following on his official TNTP blog today in response to NEA President Van Roekel calling for a "course correction" on Common Core:

  1. Change is hard – but this has almost nothing to do with “botched” implementation. Or standards. “Implementation” is a catch-all complaint that union leaders have often—and successfully—used to extract themselves from commitments they no longer wish to keep.  Aiding in the rollout of Common Core is just such a commitment. The unions routinely complain that states are moving too fast in transitioning to the new standards, but the truth is that educators have already had years to prepare. In New York, for instance, the standards were adopted in 2010—four years ago. Implementation was always going to be difficult and, with a change of this magnitude, no one could ever be 100 percent ready. No matter how long the lead-up time, it’s easy to balk when you are staring at the year when it all counts. If four years is not sufficient, how long is? Eight years? Ten? Stretching out the timeline amounts to nothing more than a slow pull of the band aid.
  2. This has everything to do with politics and job protection. On the right, debate about Common Core has been clouded by the Tea Party’s dislike of anything associated with the federal government. The debate on the left is clouded, too. There, the discussion about Common Core is really a discussion about accountability in the form of stronger teacher evaluation systems that factor in student learning results alongside other measures. The standards themselves are incidental. Unions hoped that the occasion of Common Core (and their support for it) might present an opportunity to roll back or dilute teachers’ accountability for results. (Never mind that, even when students begin to be measured against tougher, Common Core-aligned tests, there’s little evidence to suggest a drop in scores will put teachers at any real risk.) As it has become clearer that no such accountability holiday is forthcoming—and that educators, in addition to schools, will be on the hook for advancing students toward the standards—the union withdrawal has been a foregone conclusion. Many policy leaders were awaiting this moment for a year or more.
  3. There will be more political fallout ahead. The long-term implications of the loss of the unions from the Common Core coalition are meaningful. It’s easy to exaggerate the short-term effect of the NEA announcement or the AFT announcement that preceded it. Unions were already fighting accountability measures associated with Common Core at the state and district level. But officially, it was possible for the unions to claim some form of alliance with the Obama administration, however strained it might have been. That’s no longer possible. The unions are now taking aim at the administration’s central education policies. There isn’t much ground left for alliance in this fractured marriage. Going forward, the question is whether the unions hold the Democratic Party to its own views or seek new political patrons. If you need an illustration of what the future may hold, look no further than my home state of Illinois, where the state NEA affiliate is spending heavily on behalf of a Republican primary candidate for governor who is a member of ALEC, while withholding support for the incumbent governor, a Democrat, who crossed them on pension reform. If Barack Obama could run for a third term as president, it’s a very good question whether he could garner an NEA or AFT endorsement. . . and whether he’d accept one.

Does this sound like a guy looking to fix the "chaos," "confusion," and "anxiety" over Common Core in NY State, as Governor Cuomo himself described the environment in a statement he made to the press yesterday, or a guy ready to push through the CCSS reforms no matter what and blame any problems on teachers and unions?

Remember, Cuomo put the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The New Teacher Project, Dan Weisberg, on the Common Core panel, so what the president of The New Teacher Project is writing on his official TNTP blog matters.

Want to make a bet EVP Dan Weisberg, member of Cuomo's Common Core panel, feels the same way that Daly does over CCSS?

Want to make a bet Governor Cuomo knew that before putting Weisberg on the panel?

Want to bet that's the reason Weisberg is on the panel?

Andrew Cuomo's Common Core Panel Shills For The Common Core

Governor Andrew Cuomo may have tried to distance himself from the state education reform agenda yesterday when faced with parents protesting the Common Core outside a budget hearing, but the panel he named to look into Common Core implementation in NY State sure sounds like it's still fully on board with the state reform agenda:

ALBANY—At the top of the agenda for Andrew Cuomo's expert panel on Common Core standards was the question of how to improve public opinion.

Led at its opening meeting on Wednesday by chair Stanley Litow, an IBM executive and former deputy chancellor of New York City schools, the panel interviewed several representatives from advocacy and education stakeholder groups regarding their proposals for how to improve Common Core implementation.

The expert presenters stressed during the two-and-a-half hour meeting that the success of the standards relies heavily on support from parents and the general public.


Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, said it was “refreshing” to participate in a positive discussion about the Common Core standards. Most presenters at the panel's meeting spoke in support of the standards and went easy on the state regarding implementation problems. When a panelist asked the presenters to rate the state's rollout of the standards, some offered a six or seven out of 10, which represented a near-perfect implementation.

“I believe personally that many of the people who live in these communities have been misled,” Kremer said, responding to a question about school board members' outlook on implementation of the standards. “There are so many political moving parts out there that are trying to blame each other. Some of the detractors of Common Core and education reform have won the battle in the court of public opinion."

Kevin Kelly from Stop Common Core responded in the comments section of the Capital NY article on the Common Core panel meeting:

Is this an investigatory panel or aa ad agency? How about instead of cheerleading the CCLS, study how they stack up against the standards we had before? How about having early learning professionals look into how inappropriate the standards are? How about investigating the privacy issues raised by the longitudinal data bases collecting P-20 on our children?

Another commenter writes:

What a joke. This commission that Cuomo has set up is more akin to a kangaroo court than an impartial panel. A week and a half ago, the Board of Regents finally budged under the weight of public opinion, reason, and common sense. I don't think they did it out of some idealistic notion of what is best for our schools-- in my humble opinion, they were simply tired of taking heat for what Cuomo helped to usher in. Heads are going to roll anyway (John King's, for starters), so what's the sense of continuing on a state tour taking one black eye after another? Approaching an election year, Cuomo has tried to hide behind the State Ed. Dept. and to distance himself from this mess (remember when he rushed the implementation of APPR, CCSS, etc., only to later say that "State Ed. doesn't answer to the governor" when pressed for comment?). 
At least this "commission" has one thing right: in terms of public relations and 'selling' the CCSS, there has been no involvement by New York's executive branch. That might mean that our Governor might actually have to sit down and examine the Common Core. He might have to listen to teachers, administrators, parents and students. He might be expected to generate an informed opinion rather than playing the Fed's hand maiden and passing the buck of responsibility, implementation, and accountability to others. Let it be known that this is Cuomo's M.O.: ride the polls and capitalize on those hot button issues that are relatively safe bets in a liberal leaning state (same sex marriage, gun control, etc.). But when the noise gets loud (Common Core, hydrofracking,etc.), Cuomo hides behind curtains.

I think that's exactly right - this Common Core panel convened by Governor Cuomo, stacked with Common Core supporters and proponents (as demonstrated here) is meant to keep the Common Core status quo moving forward but give Governor Cuomo some political cover and distance from that status quo.

The first meeting of the panel shows just how rigged the process is - the takeaway from the meeting was "Common Core is great, messaging around Common Core not so great!"

And so, they decided that the p.r. around the Common Core has to get better, that they have to "sell it" more effectively to the public, specifically parents.

This isn't the first time that we've heard this complaint around messaging - NYSED Commissioner John King complained last spring that the news media wasn't adequately explaining the "complexities" of Common Core to the public.

But the truth is, this has nothing to do with the "messaging" or the media - this has to do with the Core itself.

As more and more parents become familiar with the Common Core, see their kids struggle with the homework and fail the age-inappropriate tests, see the quality of the Common Core lesson plans or modules, they're turning against Common Core.

The same is happening for teachers all across the country, a message echoed by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel to Politico yesterday.

The Cuomo Common Core panel has already decided that the Common Core is swell, it's just the propaganda selling it that needs to be improved.

In short, they're shilling for the Common Core (which is pretty much what I expected we would get from this panel), but they're going to be surprised (as will the governor) when they discover that no amount of improved messaging or heavy doses of propaganda can sell the Common Core to the public.

You see, you can't sell garbage as gold when people see their kids living with the garbage every day in school and at home while they're doing their homework.

And therein lies the problem for the Common Core proponents and ed reformers - Common Core and the testing/data collection/teacher evaluation reforms that go along with it are half-baked at best and everybody who comes in contact with them can see that for themselves.

Maybe if the reformers had fully developed curricula around CCSS, maybe if they had delayed the CCSS tests or the high stakes for students, teachers and schools, they could have sold the CCSS to the public.

But they chose to go "all-in" and push all the reforms at once and as even Andrew Cuomo noted in his statement about Common Core yesterday, it has caused major problems:

“I think the way they have implemented Common Core has failed utterly,” he said. “There is massive confusion, massive anxiety and massive chaos all across the state. It may have been a good idea, but it has to be a good idea that is done properly. And this was not done properly.” 

You won't see me write this too often, but Governor Cuomo is absolutely right in part - there has been massive chaos, confusion and anxiety all across the state as a result of the CCSS and the state's education reform agenda.

The SED and the Regents have no idea how to fix any of this, so they pretty much tinker at the edges and pay lip service to critics and opponents.

Given that the deformers who pushed this agenda through have no idea how to fix the mess, how to clean up the confusion and alleviate the anxiety, I don't think all the improved messaging in the world is going to work to sell the CCSS to the public.

But as usually happens in 21st century America, our political elites figure they can sell garbage as gold if they just go heavier with the propaganda.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pro-Education Reform Andrew Cuomo Doesn't Get To Distance Himself From His Education Reforms

Governor Andrew Cuomo, ever the political realist, has weighed the merits (and political donations received) for remaining an unabashed Common Core State Standards supporter and education reform proponent as students, parents and teachers around the state rise in rebellion against the CCSS/state education reform agenda and has decided the downside outweighs the benefits.

Thus he said the following today when asked about CCSS at a regional budget presentation in Rochester that saw parents and children outside protesting the Common Core:

“The Common Core is being implemented by something called the Board of Regents,” Cuomo said. “The Board of Regents supervises something called the state Education Department People think the governor is in charge of the state Education Department. It sounds that way… You would think the governor is in charge of the state Education Department. Actually, I’m not, I have nothing to do with it. The Board of Regents supervises the state Education Department and I don’t appoint anyone to the Board of Regents, either. So I’m sort of where the parent is standing outside with the sign. I would hold the same basic sign that the parent is holding.”
“I think the way they have implemented Common Core has failed utterly,” he said. “There is massive confusion, massive anxiety and massive chaos all across the state. It may have been a good idea, but it has to be a good idea that is done properly. And this was not done properly.”

Now Governor Cuomo has done everything he can through his budget to make sure the Board of Regents and the State Education Department implement his education reform agenda.

He has provided millions for Common Core professional development for teachers, he forced districts to evaluate teachers using the CCSS tests and other assessments or lose some state aid, and he gave SED Commissioner John King the power to impose a teacher evaluation system onto NYC teachers when the union and the city couldn't come to an agreement in negotiations.

While the teacher evaluation system is not directly related to Common Core (a point Cuomo likes to make over and over as he shills for his APPR teacher evaluation system), the reality is that the teacher evaluation system, the CCSS tests, the Common Core standards themselves and the data collection program known as inBloom that will collect all the student data from the districts for K-12 (and possibly beyond) all go together as one big education reform agenda which is Andrew Cuomo's education reform agenda.

He has hawked this agenda in his State of the State speeches, he has promoted this agenda in his state budgets, and he has worked together with SED Commissioner King to warn anybody in the state that doesn't go along with the state education reform agenda that dissent will not be tolerated (see here and here).

Cuomo can make believe like he has nothing to do with this reform agenda, he can make like he never promoted CCSS or pushed to have teachers evaluated via the CCSS tests in his APPR teacher evaluation system, he can make believe he has nothing to do with the state's education policy at all.

But the parents out there protesting CCSS will not be fooled by his attempts at sleight of hand - many know who has been helping to push Common Core on the state, who is making sure that teachers are evaluated with tests scores taken from the CCSS tests taken by children who have yet to have been taught much of the CCSS because teachers haven't been given CCSS curriculum yet.

They know he attacked the Board of Regents when they attempted a very lightweight revision to their reform agenda. 

They know he threatened to shove Common Core down Regents Chancellor Tisch's throat if she couldn't get the implementation right.

They know the SED/Regents reform agenda that Cuomo is trying to distance himself from now is his agenda.

As I wrote in a post earlier this month:

Since it was Governor Cuomo who rigged the CCSS panel full of CCSS supporters who are sure to reaffirm NY State's commitment to CCSS while offering mostly meaningless compromises to CCSS critics and opponents, I propose we rename the Common Core State Standards the "Common Cuomo Core New York State Standards."

After all, these will be his standards, imposed through his budget, reaffirmed through his CCSS panel, and forced onto teachers through his APPR teacher evaluation system.

He cannot run from it, the text from his State of the State speeches exists, the budget deals pushing CCSS and APPR remain in effect.

Cuomo OWNS Common Core in NY State and he OWNS the rest of the SED/Regents reform agenda as well.