Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, July 31, 2015

Notice To NY State School Boards: Feds Aren't Only Ones Pushing The Endless Testing Regime

Here are the findings of a survey of New York State School Boards Association members on the role of the feds in education policy:

The federal government should play a less active role in how schools evaluate teachers, test students or adopt learning standards, according to a poll of school board members.

“As Congress debates reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most school board members across the state would like to see the federal government take a less aggressive role in public education at the state and local levels,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer.

Kremer noted that the state’s annual testing mandate for students in grades 3-8 comes from the federal government. He also pointed out that a federal grant program, Race to the Top, provided states such as New York with significant funds in exchange for adopting college and career readiness standards and implementing teacher evaluation systems that incorporate student achievement on standardized tests.

Specifically, 80 percent of members responding to the poll oppose federal government intervention in how states evaluate schools and teachers, while only 13 percent support it, and 8 percent were not sure.

About two-thirds of board members (65 percent) oppose the U.S. Department of Education offering incentives to states to adopt any particular set of learning standards. Nearly one-quarter of respondents (24 percent) favored federal incentives, while 11 percent were not sure.

In addition, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents oppose the federal requirement that states test all students in grades 3-8 in English and math each year. About 29 percent support the requirement, while about 8 percent were not sure.

Yeah - feds out of ed policy!

Stop mandating testing of all students!

Enough with the Endless Testing regime!

Enough with test-based teacher evaluation mandates!

Except that even if the feds bowed out tomorrow, we have a governor, a legislature, a Board of Regents and a New York State Education Department that is totally on board with the Endless Testing regime and test and punish schooling.

It's swell to say "Gee, we wish the feds would mandate less stuff," but let's be frank here, it's not just the feds doing it.

Sure, there's a lot of pressure put on the states and local districts by the feds, but as we saw in the NY Times story from a few days ago (and earlier in the Times Union and Capital New York), there's a lot of money rolling into this state to push Endless Testing and education reform as well.

The feds could drop the mandates tomorrow, but Andrew Cuomo, the heavy hearts in the legislature, Merryl Tisch's Board of Regents and the MaryEllen EVILia NYSED aren't going to follow suit any time soon so long as they continue to skirt political consequences for promoting the Endless Testing regime and test and punish schooling.

Cuomo's Legacy? Corruption And Unpaid Bills For Big Projects

The NY Times today:

It is a commonly held belief among political leaders: Long after they have left office, they will be remembered in large part for legacy projects that outlast their political lives, if not their natural ones.

In less than five years, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, has managed to move ahead on two such projects: a replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester Counties, and an overhaul of La Guardia Airport in Queens.

Political analysts say the governor’s penchant for large-scale projects is unmatched among his recent predecessors, and is reminiscent of the administration of Nelson A. Rockefeller, the Republican who was elected to four terms as governor and whose lengthy construction resume included state office buildings and college campuses.

“It’s in the sinews of Andrew Cuomo’s very way of viewing what the role of a governor is,” said Bruce N. Gyory, a political consultant who served in the administrations of three New York governors. “In that sense, we haven’t had a governor who had both the interest and the financial underpinnings to sustain a building agenda since Rockefeller.”

The interest and financial underpinnings to sustain the biggest building agenda since Rockefeller?

What "financial underpinnings"?

But Mr. Cuomo’s zeal for marquee construction projects has come with some consequences. It remains unclear how, exactly, the state will pay for the estimated $3.9 billion Tappan Zee replacement, and how high the tolls may climb for those who cross it.

The state had hoped to use a $511 million loan from a clean water fund toward the Tappan Zee project, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency rejected most of that plan.

As for the improvements at La Guardia, Mr. Cuomo has said the first phase of the ambitious plan, which involves replacing the central terminal, would cost $4 billion. In January, he proposed constructing a rail link that would connect the airport to the subway system in Queens; he was vague about where the estimated $450 million needed to build it would come from.

Likewise, Delta Air Lines has not said how much it would spend to help achieve Mr. Cuomo’s vision of a “unified” La Guardia, but the company said this week that it was committed to redeveloping Terminals C and D in conjunction with the replacement of the central terminal.

Cuomo's legacy will be grandiose press conferences about grandiose building projects with grandiose price tags that eventually get paid by taxes, tolls, fees and levies against the not-so-grandiose in this state - the working and middles classes.

That and corruption, of course.

The Convoluted Disciplinary Process For Two New York Teachers Accused Of Cheating On State Tests

Somebody explain to me what's going in this story:

WHITEHALL | Two tenured Whitehall teachers have been suspended with pay, as the district seeks to fire them for their role in causing a security problem with Common Core state tests.
Interim Superintendent William Scott announced Wednesday that the teachers were placed on paid leave effective Tuesday.
The state Education Department has invalidated Whitehall students’ scores for the grades seven and eight English language arts exams because of an unspecified issue with security of the exams.

Scott said Thursday he was not able to specify the allegations against the teachers because he was not involved in the investigation. He does not believe any disciplinary actions will be brought against other employees, he said, unless other allegations are brought up during this process.

Whitehall will continue to pay the salary and benefits of the teachers, whose names were not released, as it pursues a formal process known as 3020-a to fire tenured teachers.

Scott said new legislation took effect on July 1 to expedite the hearings to fire tenured teachers.
“It’s speeded up the process much more than it used to be. Before, it could take two or three years,” he said.

Now, hearings are conducted before a single hearing officer. Also, the teacher must disclose witnesses that will be called in his or her defense, according to the New York State Education Department website.

The district is also paying the salary of former Whitehall Junior-Senior High School Principal Kelly McHugh, who agreed to resign for her role in this incident. As part of a settlement, McHugh will be paid until her resignation takes effect on March 1 and will continue to receive benefits. McHugh’s annual salary is $92,596, so that means she will be paid about $62,000 for nine months of not working.

Scott said, contrary to what school officials believed before, the state Education Department is not going to provide the district with a completed report about the investigation at this point.

“We keep waiting for the report and that’s not something they do,” he said.

Instead, the state is pursuing a parallel disciplinary process called a Part 83.

“Part 83 addresses morality, so it could be any range of interpretation of morality — lying and cheating,” he said. “They’re two separate laws and separately addressed.”

The law (Part 83) states a person’s teaching certificate can be suspended or revoked if there is information indicating the person "has been convicted of a crime, or has committed an act which raises a reasonable question as to the individual’s moral character.”

The matter can then be referred to the State Education Department’s Office of Teaching Initiatives for a professional conduct officer to review. A hearing may also be held on the issue if requested by the teacher or the school district.

The law states that teachers are presumed to lack good moral character if they are convicted on a drug charge, any crime involving the sexual abuse of a minor or student, or a crime conducted on school property while teaching. The teacher is free to rebut that during a hearing.

The teacher has 30 days to appeal any decision of the hearing officer or board.

Scott said he believes a report will be provided when everything is concluded. He said the state has told the district that Whitehall needs to pursue its own charges against these employees. State officials will use then use the local findings in its own report.

OK, so here's what I gather from this story:

Two teachers were accused of cheating on the state tests.

They've been removed from the classroom but are still on the payroll.

There was an investigation by NYSED, which then invalidated the test scores, but NYSED is not going to provide the report of that investigation to the local district.

For some reason, the district "keeps waiting for the report" but that isn't something NYSED will give them.

Gee, that makes sense.

Instead there are "parallel"disciplinary processes, with the local district pursuing expedited 3020a removal for the teachers while the state pursues a Part 83 disciplinary process, which addresses the "moral character" of these teachers.

Despite the state pursuing the Part 83 disciplinary process, the state says the local district must still pursue its own charges against these teachers - thus the parallel 3020a proceedings.

Once the 3020a proceedings are completed, the state will then use that "report" as part of the Part 83 process.

After everything is said and done the interim superintendent says "he believes a report will be provided when everything is concluded."

Gee, I'm so glad that's all clear now.

Franz Kafka, party of one, we have your cell.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

West New York Mayor's Son Gets Off Probation, Gets Government Job

Here's a sweet New Jersey story that will make you think of Shelly Silver's and Dean Skelos' New York:

After completing the probation term he received for his conviction in a computer hacking scandal, the son of West New York Mayor Felix Roque now has a new government job, West New York's spokesman said.

"Joe's never had a government position before. He's a very good young man, well-educated. Everyone in life deserves second chances. He's paid his dues. He finished his probation," said West New York town spokesman Pablo Fonseca.

Fonseca confirmed a report in the Hudson County View that 25-year-old Joseph Roque is now working for the county's Department of Roads and Public Property.

"He's starting a new chapter of his life," Fonseca said.

"I love my son very much, and like every father, I am so proud that he's working and helping the community like he's done in the past," the mayor said Thursday afternoon. He said he did not help his son get the job and declined to comment on the accusations of nepotism.


Nahh - they don't know what you're talking about.

They also don't know any of the details of Joseph's new job:

Joseph Roque, who was convicted of hacking his father's political opponent's website, is already working at the new county job, according to Fonseca. Joseph Roque was sentenced in Feb. 2014 to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.

The spokesman said he would need to consult with Joseph Roque before giving NJ Advance Media his contact information.

Fonseca did not know the specifics of the new position, including when Joseph started, his title, new salary, job duties or when he was hired. He also said he did not know if Joseph Roque has higher political aspirations. The mayor said he also did not know his son's new salary, title or duties.

Nahh - we don't know nothing about this.

As for Joseph, he hacked into a website run by an opponent of his father in order to delete the contents.

But now he's done his service to society, learned to do the right thing and is walking the straight and narrow - unlike his dad:

The West New York mayor was indicted a second time in June, when the state Attorney General's Office accused him of involvement in a medical kickback scheme led by the now-convicted owner of a Hackensack medical imaging business. Felix Roque, 59, allegedly accepted $250,000 in bribes to send patients to Rehan Zuberi's imaging service.

On Monday in Hackensack, Felix pleaded not guilty to the charges.

What a sweet story - it's like a combo Shelly Silver/Dean Skelos thing, with the kickbacks for medical referrals and the nepotism.

Every time you think nowhere in the U.S. could be more corrupt than Albany, you see a story like this in New Jersey.

Sorry, New York, you may think you're Number #1 in corruption, but Jersey's really old hand at this. 

Randi Weingarten Engineers A Putsch In A Florida Local Union

You teachers still pissed about the lack of transparency and democracy in the AFT endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president are going to get a lot of laughs out of this story:

Orange County Classroom Teachers Association President Diana Moore, union officers and the board of directors have been relieved of their duties, according to officials with the American Federation of Teachers.

The AFT announced Wednesday that its executive council voted to place the OCCTA on administratorship and relieve Moore and others of their duties, saying, "The action follows a year of dealing with officer and member complaints about the erosion of democratic rights and the increasing dysfunction of their local union, and attempting every voluntary mechanism to right the ship."
The AFT executive council voted to take the action.

“The AFT and the Florida Education Association have exhausted every possible effort to help the union operate by its own bylaws. The current president, Diana Moore, has refused to comply, believing she is above the union’s governing documents. This has led to members’ rights being denied, their voices not being heard, member services being diminished, and an increasingly dysfunctional union,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a press release. “Today’s action, while permitted under the AFT constitution, is rarely exercised. It’s intended as a temporary measure to restore credibility and order and to return democratic rights to members.”

More on the absurdity of using the words "Weingarten," "credibility" and "democratic rights" in one sentence in a future post.

For now I want to stick to the story as we have it.

First, here's why the AFT claimed they took this action:

The national president said officials spent months investigating and found financial concerns, but
the biggest issue was that Moore wasn’t following the bylaws and forced them to re-run four elections because she interfered and campaigned on the clock.

Investigators findings showed Moore "made unbudgeted purchases exceeding $1,000 without board approval."

To avoid getting approval, Moore would allegedly use a union credit card "that draws payments directly from the OCCTA's money market account."

AFT leaders said Moore used union resources and emails to push for candidates she endorsed in the elections she interfered with.

"There was an allegation she was working on the clock doing union business and in schools while campaigning at the same time. That's inappropriate," Andy Ford of the Florida Education Association said.

"There was a repeated and systemic and intentional interference with elections, even when those elections had been supervised by the state affiliates,” Weingarten said.

Repeated, systemic and intentional interference with elections?

You don't say.

I wonder if Moore increased the weight of retiree votes the way the UFT did here in New York.

In any case, I dunno if the financial impropriety story is real or Weingarten-engineered b.s. because another story reports this:

The Orange County Classroom Teacher's Association represents 13,000 teachers and appeared to be doing a good job for its members when it came to contract negotiations.  But officials from the union's national office said the inner workings of the Orange County CTA were dysfunctional and consistently violated the union's bylaws. Most of the blame was placed on the union's president, Diana Moore.

"Diana believed that her way was the way as opposed to following rules, regulations, bylaws and constitution of her local," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Officials with the AFT said while there was no financial impropriety, Moore denied members their voice and improperly influenced the union's elections.

Ah, yes - the classic AFT/UFT/NYSUT muddle.

Some say this, some say that, but no one really knows because there's conflicting information out there meant to distract and divert.

Regardless for why Moore was the target of a Weingarten putsch, I do know that clearly the AFT leadership meant business:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —A local teacher's union saw its leadership team gutted this week and officials from the national office are in town to take over.

The Orange County teachers union president and board of directors have been let go because many members reportedly felt their voice wasn't being heard.

The takeover of the Orange County teachers union by the national union was drastic. A locksmith was called to change all the locks in the building and a spokeswoman said the president and the board of directors were no longer allowed in the building.

Yeah, they brought in the locksmiths to change the locks.

Nice, eh?

Moore, the deposed president of the local, was on vacation at the time of the putsch and didn't know she had been whacked until after the fact:

Moore told Channel 9 that she is on vacation and was unaware of the decision.

“As a dues-paying union member, I was not afforded the opportunity to have representation all throughout this matter. What I have tried to do is preserve the rights and due process of all members of Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. I’m shocked that the national union does not honor a paying union member’s rights to due process. Our members in Orange County are quite happy with their union. NEA has remained silent despite reaching out for support. This is all about members and money. They’re losing members and money in the national organization. It’s politics at its worst,” Moore said in a statement to Channel 9.

As for where things go from here:

The national union's vice president, Dennis Kelly, will be brought in from California to serve as interim leader. The officials from the national union say they do not believe Orange County teachers have suffered any significant harm from the issues with their local leadership. The Orange County CTA recently negotiated one of the highest contract settlements in the state.

Gee, Moore must have been terrible, having just negotiated one of the highest contracts in the state.

No wonder Weingarten had her goons jet down to Orange County and whack her out of a job.

Perhaps Moore was tampering as the AFT leaders claim.

Perhaps she was engaged in financial impropriety, as one story says the AFT claimed.

Or perhaps Weingarten and her Unity goons didn't like Moore and wanted her out.

I'm sure we'll get more on the story in the near future, but as with most stories involving the AFT or Randi Weingarten, we'll have to work closely to pull the nuggets of truth out of all the b.s.

More as we get it.

And more on the laugh riot of Weingarten whacking a local president and board for a lack of transparency, eroding the democratic rights of members and silencing rank and file voices in a future post.

That's a hoot, isn't it?

Eva Moskowitz Cries Poverty Even As She Rakes In Tens Of Millions Of Dollars In Hedge Fund Donations

Remember when Eva Moskowitz declared it an existential crisis if charter schools were forced to pay for co-locations or God forbid, had to find their own space?

I do.

Today Eliza Shapiro at Capital NY reports the following:

The Success Academy charter school network has received an $8.5 million donation from the philanthropic foundation of John Paulson, a billionaire hedge fund manager.

The donation, which was announced on Thursday, will be used to build new Success elementary, middle and high schools.

The network is expanding significantly, with 14 new schools opening in the next few years. By 2020, the network will have about 50 schools educating about 36,000 students.


The network's critics, some of whom are allied with teachers' unions, have assailed its close ties to hedge fund managers. The new donation is sure to give those groups more ammunition, although Moskowitz has said that charity goes to an array of worthy goals, including education. Success raised $9.3 million at its most recent benefit, almost exclusively from financiers.

That's $9.3 million at the spring benefit and $8.5 million from Paulson for a cool $17.8 million dollars from just two events - the benefit and Paulson's largesse.

Add in the $9.7 million pro-charter Families for Excellent Schools spent lobbying and carrying Moskowitz's water in Albany and in the media and you have Moskowitz doing pretty good for herself despite that existential crisis she declared if mean ol' Bill de Blasio forced her to pay rent for co-locations or pay for private space on her own dime.

If Moskowitz can raise this kind of money in so brief a period, isn't it time she pull her own weight and stop taking money away from New York City's public school children?

NYSED Acknowledges School Administrators Can Use APPR As Weapons Against Teachers

Coming on the heels of the acknowledgement by Chancellor Farina that teachers who teach at Renewal Schools may have their APPR ratings adversely affected comes this news:

The Department of Education is moving to upgrade the ratings of teachers at Brooklyn’s Dewey HS who were rated as “ineffective” after they challenged grade-fixing by then-principal Kathleen Elvin, The Post has learned.

Elvin was fired on July 8 after DOE investigators substantiated that widespread grade-fixing went on at Dewey to boost graduation rates — a practice students mockingly referred to as “Easy Pass.”


Teachers complained that Elvin and other administrators punished them with poor ratings for refusing to participate in the fraud.

The “ineffective” ratings of at least four of 16 tenured teachers who received them were overturned following appeals to a state arbitrator, sources said. 

Those teachers had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the changing of their ratings.


Records revealed that half of Dewey’s 101 instructors got ratings of either “ineffective (16 teachers) or “developing” (35 teachers) in the 2013-14 school year.

That 50 percent failure rate compared to a citywide average of only 8 percent.

Given an "ineffective" rating for refusing to participate in fraudulent behavior involving grade-fixing.

Gee, that doesn't sound like an "objective" evaluation system to me.

And NYSED admits as much by overturning at least four of the "ineffective" ratings of tenured teachers who appealed them.

There may be more overturned ratings - we don't know the exact number because of the confidentiality agreements

But what we do know is this - if Elvin and her assistant principals used APPR as a weapon against teachers to perpetrate their fraud, other principals and assistant principals can use APPR as a weapon against teachers for other reasons as well.

Had Elvin not been exposed in the grade-fixing scandal, these teachers at Dewey would still be working with "ineffective" ratings on their records.

You can bet there are other administrators elsewhere who have handed out "ineffective" ratings for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the effectiveness of the teacher.

We learned from Chancellor Farina this week that APPR is a sham when she acknowledged that "effective" teachers can have their ratings adversely affected by switching schools and going to teach  in a school with high poverty/high homelessness demographics.

And now we've learned from the NYSED that teachers can have their APPR ratings manipulated by administrators with agendas - such as the one by Kathleen Elvin, which was, join her in her grade-fixing fraud or receive and "ineffective" rating for the year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Michael Mulgrew: Governor Cuomo Is For Sale

Much of this isn't new information about how education reformers are rigging the political system, having been covered well by others including Chris Bragg in the Times Union on Sunday and Eliza Shapiro at Capital NY in February, but now the NY Times has it too.

Read the whole piece, but I just want to highlight the part that relates to the governor:

Among the backers of StudentsFirstNY are major donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and to the Republican majority in the State Senate, two of the three parties to all negotiations. Emails and interviews show that StudentsFirstNY has been in regular contact with the governor’s office since his re-election.

At the same time, the two groups have become a major nuisance to Mr. Bloomberg’s successor as mayor, Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who campaigned on reversing some of his predecessor’s policies and is friendly with the city teachers’ union.

The groups have delivered a drumbeat of attacks on Mr. de Blasio’s education policies, in television advertisements, rallies where parents upbraid the mayor for not confronting what they call an education crisis, and weekly, or at times daily, emails to reporters. Amid this onslaught, Mr. Cuomo and the Senate delivered a rebuke to the mayor this year by agreeing to only a one-year extension of mayoral control of city schools. (By contrast, Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent, was initially given control for seven years, then received a renewal for six.)

In language that echoed that of important figures in both groups, Mr. Cuomo suggested that Mr. de Blasio had to earn the right to govern the city’s schools.

“Next year we can come back,” the governor said, “and if he does a good job, then we can say he should have more control.”

The governor speaking in reformyist terms with language coming straight from the reformers?

You don't say.

Here's more:

Making teacher evaluations more dependent on test scores, reforming tenure and increasing the number of charter schools in the city were all priorities of StudentsFirstNY and became significant pieces of the governor’s agenda for the 2015 legislative session, which he announced in his State of the State speech on Jan. 21.

Emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, as well as interviews, show that Mr. Cuomo and his senior education advisers were in close touch, by email and telephone, with Ms. Sedlis and her board members in the weeks after the governor’s re-election last November.

On Dec. 9, for example, the governor met with Ms. Sedlis and several of her board members at the Harvard Club to discuss education policy issues, a spokesman for StudentsFirstNY said.

The governor’s proposals, particularly one that would base 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations on their students’ test scores, stirred fierce opposition from state and local teachers’ unions, as well as many principals and parents.

“If you look at the governor’s State of the State speech, it was almost taken word for word from their website,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, said of StudentsFirstNY.

“We’re going to just tell everyone the governor is basically for sale at this point, because that’s what it is,” Mr. Mulgrew added. “It’s not a belief system.”

For once, I agree with Mulgrew.

Must be a blue moon out there.

In any case, the article details some of the money the hedge fundies have given to Cuomo and state Senate Republicans to pass their education reform agenda, covers the record "shadowy" millions Families For Excellent Schools has spent on lobbying without disclosing who's donating to them and points out that this is probably all legal because of the way the law is in New York.

If you've been following Cuomo and his hedge fundie/reformer buddies, you know they've had a close relationship for years.

As Cuomo began his run for governor, he met some hedge fund managers/education reformers at what was billed as not a "formal fundraiser," just a meet-and-greet where some hedge fund managers/education reformers could get together and talk reform with Candidate Cuomo.

Cuomo left with plenty of promises for future campaign cash:

 After hearing from Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Williams arranged an 8 a.m. meeting last month at the Regency Hotel, that favorite spot for power breakfasts, between Mr. Cuomo and supporters of his committee, Democrats for Education Reform, who include the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.

Although the April 9 breakfast with Mr. Cuomo was not a formal fund-raiser, the hedge fund managers have been wielding their money to influence educational policy in Albany, particularly among Democrats, who control both the Senate and the Assembly but have historically been aligned with the teachers unions.
Mr. Cuomo also has expressed support for charter schools. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo declined to answer questions about the breakfast at the Regency, but Mr. Williams said it had gone well.
“We said we were looking for a leader on our particular issue,” he said, and as a result, when Mr. Cuomo is next required to disclose his contributors, “You will see a bunch of our people on the filing.”

When Eva Moskowitz was playing victim for having a couple of Success Academy school co-locations turned down by the NYCDOE, it was Andrew Cuomo himself who suggested a big Albany rally to stick it to de Blasio and make sure charters got either guaranteed co-locations or rent for space paid for by NYC:

It was a frigid February day in Albany, and leaders of New York City’s charter school movement were anxious. They had gone to the capital to court lawmakers, but despite a boisterous showing by parents, there seemed to be little clarity about the future of their schools.

Then, as they were preparing to head home, an intermediary called with a message: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to meet.

To their surprise, Mr. Cuomo offered them 45 minutes of his time, in a private conference room. He told them he shared their concern about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambivalence toward charter schools and offered to help, according to a person who attended but did not want to be identified as having compromised the privacy of the meeting.

In the days that followed, the governor’s interest seemed to intensify. He instructed charter advocates to organize a large rally in Albany, the person said. The advocates delivered, bringing thousands of parents and students, many of them black, Hispanic, and from low-income communities, to the capital in early March, and eclipsing a pivotal rally for Mr. de Blasio taking place at virtually the same time.

The moment proved to be a turning point, laying the groundwork for a deal reached last weekend that gave New York City charter schools some of the most sweeping protections in the nation, including a right to space inside public buildings. And interviews with state and city officials as well as education leaders make it clear that far from being a mere cheerleader, the governor was a potent force at every turn, seizing on missteps by the mayor, a fellow Democrat, and driving legislation from start to finish.

Mr. Cuomo’s office declined on Wednesday to comment on his role.

The coordination between the reformers and Cuomo was evident before he was elected and has continued to this day, with reformers and their backers spending handsomely to donate to either Cuomo or some of the shadowy groups that push his agenda (Families for Excellent Schools is one of the current groups, but let's not forget the Committee To Save New York, the PAC that pushed Cuomo's agenda with millions of dollars in ads before it shut down when the law was changed and it would have had to reveal its donor base.)

Cuomo is as corrupt as can be, completely in the pockets of the hedge fund managers and education reformers, but given the way the laws are written here in New York, much (or all) of this corruption is legal, depending upon how you parse it.

To that end, Families for Excellent Schools hired the former state regulator on lobbying to oversee their lobbying operation so that they know exactly where the line of legality and bribery is:

Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $1.6 million on New York lobbying so far this year, has an issue-oriented nonprofit arm that would have to disclose its benefactors. But the group does almost all its lobbying through its apolitical arm, which does not have to report its donors under New York lobbying laws and can take tax-deductible donations.

The apolitical arm spent a staggering $9.7 million on Albany lobbying in 2014, but did not disclose a single donor.

Such apolitical nonprofits, categorized as 501(c)3 groups, face restrictions from the Internal Revenue Service on how much they can spend on lobbying — a likely reason why such nonprofits are exempt from disclosing their donors under New York law.

The heavy lobbying spending as defined by New York law, plus the IRS restrictions on lobbying by such nonprofits, could raise potential issues regarding the group's tax status.

But David Grandeau, an attorney for Families For Excellent Schools and former top state lobbying regulator, has maintained that the IRS definition of lobbying is far narrower than the one found in New York law, a distinction that he says makes the heavy New York lobbying spending by the group permissible under federal regulations.

The group's lobbying spending has also dropped this year from its 2014 heights.

Grandeau said last year that the group had "correctly disclosed its spending in New York state, and we are confident that our activity is within the limitations allowable."

There you have it - all legal, or so says the former state lobbying regulator, now on the hedge fundie/education reformer payroll.

Corruption is endemic in New York State, as we've seen from the corruption cases taking down much of the political leadership in the state, including five former state Senate Majority Leaders, one Assembly Speaker and the state Senate Deputy Majority Leader.

But none of that has cooled the corruption going on in public education policy where the Masters of the Universe have rigged the system such that they run Albany and have a governor dangling on their strings, using their talking points as he successfully pushes for implementation of their legislative goals and public policy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Chancellor Farina Knows Teachers' Evaluation Ratings Are In Jeopardy At "Struggling" Schools

Eliza Shapiro at Capital NY sat in on a meeting between NYCDOE Chancellor Farina and the superintendent of District 8, Karen Ames.

Here's an interesting bit of that report::

30 percent of students in one of the Renewal Schools are in temporary housing. Fariña closed her eyes and inhaled sharply when Ames described the school’s challenges, and said she wanted to put an “asterisk” next to city schools with extremely high levels of student poverty and homelessness.

Fariña also said she wants to establish a so-called asterisk for highly effective teachers who move to Renewal Schools. While Fariña said “it’s been easier to recruit teachers to Renewals than ever” because of strong professional development and a sense of mission, she’s concerned that effective teachers’ ratings will drop when they move from high-achieving schools to struggling ones.

Fariña said she was planning to follow one teacher who was leaving a high-performing school to teach at a Renewal School in Ames’ Bronx district.

“She’s going to do the same assessments, she’s going to do everything she did before,” Fariña said. “But the scores are only going to go to a certain point. How is that going to affect her rating? It’s not going to make her any less of a good teacher.”

Here's a question I have:

If "effective" teachers should get asterisks next to their names because they've chosen to work in a school with high poverty, high homelessness demographics next year, is it just possible that those "ineffective" or "developing" teachers that are already there working in that school might face the same challenges the new "effective" teachers are going to face next year and deserve asterisks too?

The dirty secret of education reform is that the problems in schools and districts with high poverty/high homelessness demographics are NOT caused by "bad teachers" - they're caused by all the effects that poverty has on the psychological, emotional, physical and social development of the children in those schools and districts.

Does that mean there's not some mismanagement in schools and/or districts that are "struggling"?

Of course not.

To that end, Shapiro reports that "Fariña asked Ames to outline consistency goals for all the schools in her district by October" to address the hodgepodge of programs that may not be the most effective way to educate children in the district.

But the truth is that most of the problem are not due to mismanagement, a lack of "consistency goals," or a plethora of "ineffective" teachers at those schools/districts, they're due to the effects of what Farina winced at - high rates of poverty and high rates of homelessness.

If Farina thinks the new "effective" teachers coming in to "struggling" schools deserve asterisks next to their names, then she also knows that a hell of a lot of the teachers already there deserve the same benefit of the doubt.

Co-Dependent Albany Dems Cave To Cuomo - Again

This movie's getting old:

When the Senate Republicans made a surprise announcement of the memorandum of understanding they had signed with a top Cuomo administration aide that appeared to indefinitely delay a key provision of the SAFE Act, the Senate Democrats immediately cried foul.

The minority conference questioned the legality of the MOU, signed by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and state Operations Director Jim Malatras, which seemed to derail creation of a database for ammunition sale background checks.

Deputy Senate Minority Leader Mike Gianaris said the Senate and Assembly Democrats were in talks about a potential legal challenge to the MOU, which he saw as a slippery slope and something that established a dangerous precedent.

Even as the Senate GOP declared victory – a claim gun rights advocates said was overblown – the Cuomo administration immediately downplayed the significance of the MOU, insisting the database would still go ahead as planned, though failing to explain exactly how and when that would occur.

Apparently, the administration’s assurances were sufficient to quell the Senate Democrats’ concerns – at least in the short term. During a CapTon interview last night, Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins revealed the conference is no longer planning to pursue legal action.

“At this point…I take him at his word that this will not stop anything,” the Yonkers Democrat said. “It will not weaken anything. And what I’m looking for is a timeline as to when we will be getting this done. That’s where we are right now.”

Leaving aside the issue of the SAFE Act (which is unworkable), since when does the state Operations Director get to sign a memorandum of understanding with just 1/4th of the state legislature - in this case, state senate Republicans - that derails some part of legislation that had been passed into law by 4/4ths of the legislature?

Senate Dems should be suing on the principle that the governor (or his state Operations Director) doesn't get to make MOU's with 1/4th of the legislature that affect legislation passed by 4/4ths of the legislature, but instead Senate Dems have caved to Cuomo and pulled back from the legal challenge threat.

You can bet there's some Quid Pro Cuomo between Senate Dems and Cuomo over the state Senate seat Tom Libous vacated after he was convicted of lying to the FBI last week.

Cuomo, who famously has promised to work for a state Senate takeover by Dems in the past, pushed former DMV commissioner Barbara Fiala for the seat.

Fiala is expected to announce that she will run for Libous' old Senate seat on Thursday.

Why Senate Dems would be bought off by Cuomo's promises is beyond me - his word is worthless, as is his backing for the Binghamton seat - it's a conservative district where Cuomo is not terribly popular.

Nonetheless we have another instance of the co-dependent Dems in Albany compliantly coming back to their abuser to give him what he wants.

Apparently the co-dependent Albany Dems will never learn.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Chris Christie's Full Of Crap When He Says He's Getting Rid Of Common Core In New Jersey

Another day, more jive from Chris Christie.

In May, the New Jersey governor running for president in the heavily anti-Common Core Republican Party, said this:

 The governor, speaking at Burlington County College in Pemberton, declared Common Core is "simply not working." Christie wants to assemble a team to develop a state-based group to develop "new standards right here in New Jersey, not 200 miles away on the banks of the Potomac River."


"It's now been five years since Common Core was adopted and the truth is that it's simply not working," Christie said.

"It has brought only confusion and frustration to our parents and has brought distance between our teachers and the communities where they work," he said. "Instead of solving problems in our classrooms, it is creating new ones."

About those "new standards" Christie's going to have implemented?

They're going to look a lot like the old ones:

The department announced earlier this month that it will establish a 23-member committee to oversee the Common Core review process and make final recommendations, as ordered by Gov. Chris Christie. Three subcommittees will review the math and English/language arts standards, which outline what skills students should master in grades K-12.

Any teacher can apply for the committees that review the standards, but only teachers nominated by their district can sit on the committee that makes final recommendations, according to the state.

The committees will also consist of parents, school board members, administrators, educational experts and business and industry representatives. For questions about how to apply, contact


Department of Education officials have said the review is intended as an opportunity to build on the existing standards through clarification, addition and omission.

"We will not be tearing down and starting over," Assistant Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington said on July 8. 

Let's see, a committee that makes final "recommendations" to the state education department which has already said that this is an exercise in building on the existing standards, "not tearing down and starting over."

That's not getting rid of Common Core in New Jersey.

That's creating an exercise in making it look like you're getting rid of Common Core in New Jersey while not really getting rid of Common Core.

I guess it's just as well since even though Christie said it was time to "move on" from the Common Core in New Jersey, he didn't think it was time to move on from the Common Core state tests, which are still going to be given.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How Education Reformers Fund Their Reform Lobbying Efforts Without Revealing Their Donors

Chris Bragg of the Times-Union with an illuminating piece about how education reform groups push their political agenda without revealing who's funding it:

Three groups pushing education reforms that spent heavily lobbying state government this year funded at least a portion of their efforts though donations whose original sources are essentially untraceable.


StudentsFirstNY Advocacy, the Coalition for Opportunity in Education and Families for Excellent Schools spent more than $8.3 million during the 2015 legislative session lobbying state government to promote charter schools and other issues, according to recent lobbying disclosure filings.

Here is one of the games the education reformers play to hide where the money's coming from:

Manhattan-based group StudentsFirstNY Advocacy, which pushes for charter schools and other causes, spent $2 million this year, but the sources behind roughly half that spending are unclear..

One million dollars were donated to StudentsFirst NY Advocacy by another nonprofit, StudentsFirst NY Inc., that heavily overlaps with it: The two groups share an office suite and staff.

Both StudentsFirst NY Advocacy and StudentsFirst NY Inc. are issue-oriented nonprofits that must disclose their donors if they engage in substantial lobbying spending. If StudentsFirst NY Inc. had itself spent its $1 million on lobbying, it would have had to disclose the sources behind the funds.

But because the $1 million passed from StudentsFirst NY to StudentsFirst NY Advocacy, which then spent heavily on lobbying, only the name of StudentsFirst NY Inc. appears on the lobbying disclosure filing submitted by the Advocacy arm in July.

How did StudentsFirstNY explain the interesting arrangement of having one wing of StudentsFirstNY write the other wing a check, have that second wing do the lobbying and thereby hide where the money was coming from?

 StudentsFirstNY responded with this:

Asked if the money transfer was meant to obscure the identity of donors, a StudentsFirst NY spokesman maintained the $1 million came from pre-existing StudentsFirst NY funds — not from new donations funneled through the group.

Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirst NY, added in a statement that "StudentsFirst NY is proud of the campaign we ran to increase high quality school choices for kids." Sedlis is also listed as a lobbyist for StudentsFirstNY Advocacy.

In short, the ends justify the means and that's that.

But wait, it gets better.

The StudentsFirstNY suite must be a pretty big place because it turns out the education reformers at Families For Excellent Schools also list the StudentsFirstNY suite as their base of operations - and boy do they drop some murkily-sourced cash on political lobbying:

Families for Excellent Schools, another Manhattan group that also lists the same address as StudentsFirst NY but says it operates separately, has taken a much more direct approach that has allowed its donors to remain anonymous.

Families for Excellent Schools, which spent $1.6 million on New York lobbying so far this year, has an issue-oriented nonprofit arm that would have to disclose its benefactors. But the group does almost all its lobbying through its apolitical arm, which does not have to report its donors under New York lobbying laws and can take tax-deductible donations.

The apolitical arm spent a staggering $9.7 million on Albany lobbying in 2014, but did not disclose a single donor.

Such apolitical nonprofits, categorized as 501(c)3 groups, face restrictions from the Internal Revenue Service on how much they can spend on lobbying — a likely reason why such nonprofits are exempt from disclosing their donors under New York law.

The heavy lobbying spending as defined by New York law, plus the IRS restrictions on lobbying by such nonprofits, could raise potential issues regarding the group's tax status.

But David Grandeau, an attorney for Families For Excellent Schools and former top state lobbying regulator, has maintained that the IRS definition of lobbying is far narrower than the one found in New York law, a distinction that he says makes the heavy New York lobbying spending by the group permissible under federal regulations.

The shell games the charter school advocates, hedge fundies and education reformers are playing are similar to the games Governor Cuomo plays with the LLC loophole - it's all about funding a political agenda with a lot of cash, doing it murkily but legally and ensuring that a small segment of the population (i.e., really, really wealthy interests)  can impose most of their political agenda on the rest of the state.

The corruption in this state is endemic and so deep-rooted that the US attorney can literally cart out most of the political leadership in Albany on corruption charges but the bribery, kickbacks and larceny continue apace like nothing's happened.

The Goal Of Education Reform Is To Exert Power And Control Over All

Education reformers love adding stress and pressure to the education system, ensuring people's livelihoods and reputations are tied to the high stakes testing scores.

Given the stress and pressure people are under, this kind of thing was inevitable:

The principal of an innovative West Harlem public school killed herself the day after her students took the state Common Core exams — which were later tossed out because she cheated, The Post has learned.

Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, 49, of Teachers College Community School, jumped in front of a B train in the 135th Street station on St. Nicholas Avenue on April 17, police said.

She was pulled out from under the train and taken to Harlem Hospital, where she died eight days later. The city Medical Examiner’s Office ruled it a suicide.

The leap came at 9:20 a.m., less than 24 hours after her 47 third-graders wrapped up three days sweating over the high-stakes English exam — the first ever given at the fledgling school.

It was also the same day a whistleblower reported the cheating to DOE officials.

Parents were shocked and saddened to learn Worrell-Breeden died but were given no details at the time. It was rumored she was killed in a car crash.

Parents were in for another shock in June. Superintendent Gale Reeves told them in a meeting that all the third-grade English exams had been “red-flagged” and “invalidated.”

Worrell-Breeden had some challenges outside of her work life according to the Post, including the death of a parent and a marriage break-up.

And there is some funkiness around the way the story was released - with details of the death dribbling out over time - to make you wonder if the DOE isn't just scapegoating Worrell-Breeden now that's she dead and can't defend herself.

To that end, the Post makes sure they get in how Worrell-Breeden had been caught falsifying her time cards in a previous gig before the Teachers College Community School and docked two weeks pay for those actions.

Nonetheless, the stress and pressure educators in public education are under these days is real, which even the Post article acknowledges:

The tough Common Core exams have raised anxiety. In 2014, only 34.5 percent of city students passed the math tests, and 29.4 percent passed English tests.

“A lot of people are getting sick and leaving the system because of the pressure the high-stakes tests are putting on them,” a veteran educator said.

It's not just the high stakes testing, it's the constant concern over drive-by Danielson observations, the micromanaging that's going on in many schools, the despair many feel as they see their autonomy torn from them and replaced with EngageNY scripts.

All these stresses and pressures are real, here for good and getting worse by the year.

And that's the way the education reformers want it.

The goal of education reform is FEAR.

They want a system in which everybody, from the students to the teachers to the administrators to the district officials are in constant FEAR, worried about grades, test scores, observations, and the myriad other accountability measures used to gauge so-called student, teacher, school  and district performance and they do not care about the human cost of any of this.

When the USDOE tells NY State it must test every student, even students with severe disabilities who have no chance to pass the high stakes exams, and count every test score in the accountability measures for teachers, schools and districts, you know the message is "We do not care about children or you, we care only about our political agenda!"

When Governor Cuomo imposes an evaluation system that ties 50% of a teacher's rating to test scores of students they don't teach in classes they don't teach, you know the message is "We do not care about children or you, we care only about our political agenda!"

When NYSED rigs the Common Core tests for 70% failure rates in order to prove how "failing" schools and teachers in this state are, you know the message is "We do not care about children or you, we care only about our political agenda!"

When the Board of Regents hires a new "reformy" NYSED commissioner whose callousness and incompetence led to the deaths of three children in her former school district, you know the message is "We do not care about children or you, we care only about our political agenda!"

I don't know whether this principal from the Teachers College Community School killed herself because she was worried she had been caught trying to cheat on the ELA Common Core exams or not, but I do know that given the stresses and pressure in the system, it's quite possible that's what happened and moreover, the education reformers who have imposed their reform agenda, the Endless Testing regime onto the system, want it that way.

If there are sick children throwing up on exams, teachers smeared as "ineffective" based upon similar test scores results that declared them "effective" the previous year, educators at all levels of the system in constant FEAR and anxiety over the data - well, that's exactly the point of education reform.

And if someone takes her life because of the stress and pressure in the system, you can bet reformers see that as a small price to pay for so-called accountability as well.

This is a toxic system devised by toxic people who do not care about anything other than power and control over others - and FEAR is the primary tool they use to exert power and control over all.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cuomo Said To Cancel Appearance To Avoid Protesters


Governer Cuomo won't be coming to Massena Sunday after all, but Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will.

A source told 7 News Friday that Cuomo was expected to be in Massena Sunday to help promote the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmasters Elite Tournament, which kicks off July 30 in Waddington.

On Saturday, Cuomo's office said the governor is not coming, but Lt. Gov. Hochul will be instead. No additional explanation was offered.

Hochul is expected to do some ceremonial fishing as part of the visit.

The New York Power Authority Hawkins Point Visitor Center and Boat Launch is closed Sunday until 6 p.m., in connection with the visit, according to a source.

Why the sudden cancellation on Cuomo's part?

Well, there's this:

If true, this wouldn't be the first time Cuomo has tried to avoid protesters by canceling an appearance.

There was that whole Lake Placid charter school thing a while back, where Cuomo "apologized" to his charter school donors who had made him honorary chairman of their conference.

Cuomo had cancelled, claiming he was stuck in Albany, but the real reason was, an anti-Cuomo protest was planned for outside the conference.

Cuomo, like all bullies, is a coward.

The Chutzpah Of Criminal Politicians Pushing Teacher Accountability

Rich Karlin in the Times Union runs down some of the week's criminal politician news:

Former Brooklyn Democratic Senator and one-time majority co-leader John L. Sampson has just been convicted on three of nine counts, including two counts of making a false statement and one count of obstruction of justice.

Being felonies, Sampson is out of office immediately.


Sampson, 50, was elected to the Senate in 1996 and came to statewide prominence in 2009 when he became Democratic Senate conference leader, sharing the top job with Malcolm Smith for the brief time the Democrats held a majority in the Senate.

Smith was convicted in February of bribery charges in an unrelated scandal. He had been voted out of office in November.

Sampson’s conviction was the second senatorial felony conviction this week.

On Wednesday former Republican Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous of Binghamton was convicted of lying to an FBI agent. And the convictions come as the former leaders of the Senate and Assembly majorities, Republican Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, also face federal corruption charges. Both men were removed from their leadership roles last session but remain in office and are awaiting trial.

In addition to the convictions of Libous and Sampson on felony charges, US Attorney Preet Bharara added two criminal charges to the indictments against former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, this week:

State Senator Dean Skelos and his son Adam had two new federal-bribery and extortion charges added to the buffet of corruption charges they were already facing this week. Adam Skelos was hired by a medical malpractice insurance firm that was then lobbying his father. A week after the new gig started, his supervisor wanted to set up a meeting to discuss the fact that "Adam Skelos had not reported for work for more than one hour during the previous four days," according to an updated indictment released on Tuesday.

Skelos called his supervisor back and allegedly threatened to "smash in" his head, adding that "guys like" him "couldn’t shine [Adam Skelos's] shoes." In case his desire to get paid without attending work was not yet clear, Adam allegedly ended by noting that he didn't have to go to work because his father was Dean Skelos. He then called up his father to complain that he was being harassed at work.

The company allegedly kept Adam Skelos employed because it was afraid of losing access to the state senator, according to the court documents. 

Skelos has set up a website where you can donate to the criminal defense funds for both himself and his son because, you know, they're innocent and are just having their reputations dragged through the mud by an overly zealous, overly ambitious U.S. attorney:

The purpose of this Fund is to assist in providing the financial resources required to mount an effective legal defense for Dean and Adam Skelos in recognition that a central strategy of the prosecution is to place the Skelos family in severe financial hardship and thereby put them at a strategic disadvantage in the courtroom.

Those who support the Fund believe in the personal integrity of Dean and Adam Skelos but, equally important, in the belief that this calculated and cynical prosecutorial strategy of breaking a defendant financially and manipulating media leaks must be confronted, and the only means of doing so is by providing financial support that allows for the retention of a strong defense team.

The Skelos Family Legal Defense Fund is inclusive, welcoming those who not only know, respect and admire the Skelos family, but understand that the basic principle of presumed innocence is being destroyed by deliberately seeking to force the defendants into bankruptcy and thereby prevent an effective defense. The courthouse steps are littered with the reputations of men and women who were indicted, then vindicated by a jury, only to find that a verdict of innocence left them destitute and broken.

Those who are part of the Skelos Family Legal Defense Fund will not let that happen to Dean and Adam Skelos.

Heartwarming, isn't it?

I don't know about you, but when I think personal integrity, I think of Adam Skelos and his patron dad, Dean.

A couple of years ago, I called Dean Skelos's office to lodge a complaint about the APPR teacher evaluation system and find out if Skelos supported a system where teachers were evaluated using test scores from tests that were rigged for high failures rates or a system where teachers were rated using scores from tests in subjects they don't teach or scores from students they don't teach.

The hack who answered the phone read off some boiler plate about state Senator Skelos supporting the accountability of teachers and schools, thus supporting the use of the APPR teacher evaluation system because it held teachers (and by extension, schools) accountable for student achievement.

Ironic that Skeos, who supported a rigged system of evaluation against teachers and a system that unfairly rates teachers using test scores from subjects they don't teach or students they don't teach, is now whining about having his reputation and career destroyed by an overly zealous, overly ambitious prosecutor unfairly targeting him, since he didn't seem to have much concern about any unfairness in APPR.

For years now, Albany politicians have been happy to use the language and rhetoric of the education reform movement to claim teachers are lazy, incompetent sots and/or outright criminals who need to be "held accountable" for their performances or fired.

Many of these Albany politicians are themselves lazy, incompetent sots and/or outright criminals, as the track record of the political leadership in this state shows:

For those keeping score of the Rogue’s Gallery:
Pedro Espada – arrested, found guilty, serving 5 years
Malcolm Smith – arrested, found guilty, serving 7 years
Tom Libous – arrested, found guilty, sentence pending
John Sampson – arrested, found guilty, sentence pending
Sheldon Silver – arrested, trial pending
Dean Skelos – arrested, trial pending
Andrew Cuomo – pending
“New York is Open For Business”

There has been a host of lower level Albany pols arrested, tried and convicted on corruption charges these past years as well, but I give you the above list to show you how rotten to the core the political leadership in this state is.

On that list you will find the last four state senate majority leaders and the assembly speaker either in jail, waiting to be tried or waiting to be sentenced.

The only pol on that list not yet arrested is Andrew Cuomo, the governor, but there's a theory out there, a pretty good one, that US Attorney Preet Bharara is working his way up the depth chart with Cuomo as his ultimate target:

These new charges (against Skelos) seem to be perfectly in line with Preet Bharara’s history of turning the screws hard on those he’s already busted. He gave disgraced former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver new charges with a superseding indictment and then indicted his son-in-law for running a $7 million Ponzi scheme (his son-in-law recently copped a plea to those charges) just to make sure he got the message. When the formal criminal indictment against Skelos and his son was submitted, it also included a new charge that Adam Skelos had accepted $100,000 in salary and benefits for another no-show job arranged by his father.

Preet Bharara is not conducting a bunch of separate, unrelated investigations. He’s conducting a big one and he’s going about it much the same way he would prosecute a mob case. He’s working his way up the food chain as he busts and pressures the folks under the kingpin, flipping cooperating witnesses along the way. Now he’s indicted two of the infamous “three men in a room” and there’s only one guy left.

The pressure for one of these men to cut a deal just got ratcheted up a few more notches. Soon, there will be one fewer “get of jail free” musical chairs to land on. My money has always been on Skelos to flip first. (Silver isn’t likely spending $1.5 million on lawyers to cut a deal) These new charges just up the pressure on Skelos even more.

I wonder how well Andrew Cuomo is sleeping these days.

I have no problem being "held accountable" for my performance as a teacher so long as the measure of that accountability is transparent and fair.

I do have a problem when the accountability system is so complex and convoluted that nobody can explain it to me, when it is devised not as a true accountability measure but as a punitive measure to target teachers and help districts shed them quicker and easier.

I have an even bigger problem when the politicians passing this system into law and/or imposing it from the governor's mansion are criminals like Espada, Smith, Libous, Sampson, Silver, Skelos and, criminal of criminals, Andrew Cuomo.

It take a lot of chutzpah to push accountability for others when you're as corrupt and criminal as these Albany pols pushing teacher accountability.

But one thing we don't have a shortage of in Albany, other than corruption of course, is chutzpah.

Friday, July 24, 2015

State Senator John Sampson Found Guilty of Three Felony Counts

What a week in New York:

If you're thinking, well, Sampson's making out here because he walked on six of the counts, don't bet on it:
Finally, the lesson for the week?

Indeed, so often it isn't the initial crime that gets people, it's the lying and covering it up.

More as it comes in.

Chris Christie Says As President He'd Build Hudson Tunnel He Canceled As Governor

The "You Can't Handle The Truth" tour continues from Chris Christie.

Following yesterday's refusal to respond to a NY Times reporter who asked if Christie cares about NJ Transit riders after numerous delays on the transit system this week comes this news:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who killed a plan to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River several years ago, said that if elected president, he'd make sure the tunnel is built.

"If I am President of the United States, I call a meeting [with] my secretary of transportation, the governor of New York, and the governor of New Jersey and say, ‘Listen if we are all in this even steven, if we are all going to put in an equal share, then let’s go build these tunnels under the Hudson River,'" he said during a taped interview with host Larry Kudlow that will air on WABC on Saturday.

The existing tunnels, operated by Amtrak, are not only near capacity but were flooded and severely damaged during Hurrican Sandy. Amtrak C.E.O. Joseph Boardman said in 2014 that the tunnels were good for "something less than 20 years." NJ Transit riders faced delays Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday because of problems with the tunnels.

An $8.7 billion project, called Access to the Region's Core, would have doubled the number of cross-Hudson rail tunnels using federal and state funds. Christie's predecessor, Jon Corzine, had broken ground on it in 2009. In 2010, however, Christie made the unilateral decision to shut it down.

Add today to the list of days with delays on NJ Transit this week.

Hey, that's only four out of five days of nightmarish rush hour commuting under Christie.

What's four out of five bad days when we have one good one?

And now Christie promises to push for the tunnel, so long as the funding scheme is to his satisfaction and he's, you know, elected president.

Given that it will take about 20 years to complete a tunnel, that should be swell for New Jersey commuters facing four out of five nightmarish commutes a week.

How MaryEllen Elia Fools Some Critics (But Not All)

I've been writing for a few weeks now that new NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is engaging in a "rebrand" effort for New York's education reform agenda, but underneath the "repainting" we see the same old same old reforms - the Endless Testing regime, a pro-Common Core push, and a Blame Teachers attitude toward educators.

Jessica Bakeman writes that Elia comes at this agenda with a more deft touch than her predecessor, John King, and has managed to fool many critics so far that her agenda is different - even though it isn't:

ALBANY—New York’s new education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, and her predecessor, John King, both support the state’s controversial reform agenda, including implementing the Common Core standards, testing students on the more difficult material and evaluating teachers using students’ exam scores.

But it’s what makes her different from the former chief that state education officials have highlighted.
Elia is seasoned at 66, compared to King, who at 36 became the youngest education commissioner in the state’s history. Elia spent more than four decades working in traditional public schools, as a teacher, an administrator and a superintendent, while King had relatively limited experience in schools before founding a prominent charter school network. She has been described as a skilled listener, communicator and collaborator, while he was often criticized as being out of touch and tone deaf.

In hopes of turning King’s critics into Elia’s supporters without reversing course on the reform agenda they’ve pursued for five years, the new commissioner, her communications staff and the State Board of Regents, which appointed her in May, have pitched her as his opposite.

 So far—and granted, it’s still early—the strategy seems to be working.
Elia’s record, like King's, is that of an aggressive reformer. In her last position as superintendent of a large, diverse school district in central Florida, she implemented teacher evaluations before the rest of the state with a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and negotiated with teachers a merit-pay system. Since coming to New York, she has repeatedly described herself as a believer in “accountability.” She supports Governor Andrew Cuomo's receivership model to turn around struggling schools, a plan that could lead to the firing of principals and teachers, and she stressed just giving schools more money isn't the answer.

Bakeman has two pretty good examples of how Elia isn't doing anything different than what came before at SED, but is getting credit for "change" from her critics.

The first is when she said she was instituting a review of the Common Core standards.

That review is in state law as passed this year but Elia broached it as if it were her idea.

The second was in the new testing contract with Questar that "Elia emphasized that the new contract specifically requires teachers’ input in the tests’ content."

Her PR on this:

“New York State teachers will be involved in every step of the test development process,” Elia said in a statement. “Teacher input is critical to building a successful state test.”

But a former NYSED functionary points out that stipulation was in the Pearson contract too:

What’s not in her statement: The contract with Pearson, which ultimately totaled $38 million over five years, also required input from educators. Education officials for years stressed to critics that every question on the exams had been vetted by New York teachers.

Ken Slentz, former deputy education commissioner who now leads a small district in the Finger Lakes, said the department’s messaging suggested the new contract offered something the old one didn’t, which he called “disingenuous.”

“The Questar contract calls for the role of teachers; the Pearson contract had that as well,” he said. “Instead of going out and having these fact-based conversations, we’re being a little bit disingenuous about how we do business. That doesn’t help us in terms of overcoming these misinformed conversations.”

There has been no change to the state's education reform agenda under MaryEllen Elia, but that hasn't stopped critics of NYSED and John King from falling all over themselves to praise Elia.

Take NYSUT, for example.

NYSUT President Karen Magee declared Elia's appointment a victory for NYSUT.

Then there are the nice things NYSUT said about the Questar contract.

Bakeman reports how Assembly Dems like Patrica Fahy are saying nice things about Elia too.

But make no mistake, there are no changes to the state's reform agenda under Elia, as members of the Board of Regents acknowledge:

Board of Regents member Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island on the board, said he believes Elia will be better suited to convince Cuomo and lawmakers to increase state aid to the department.

“The new commissioner is in a much better position to ask for that than the previous commissioner,” he said. “She’s not tainted. There’s not the baggage. And maybe she’ll make exactly the same pitch that John King made. I’ve already seen it when she’s talked to the public in general. She could [talk about] the same issues, and the public will buy it, as opposed to John, when there was immediate antagonism.”

Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch said Elia's long career in public education has helped her gain the respect of skeptics.

“She has been very well received by all constituent groups,” Tisch said, referring to Elia. “She’s got 40 years of experience, so when she says something, people can’t just say to her, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ She speaks with authority. She speaks from experience. She speaks with conviction, and she speaks with deep knowledge. And that is important.”

Bakeman reports that NYSAPE are not fooled by MaryEllen Elia and see the Endless Testing regime continuing under her despite the new PR efforts.

If you're a reader of Perdido Street School blog, NYC Educator's blog, ICEUFT blog or Ed Notes Online, you know we're not fooled by the PR either.

MaryEllen Elia's reform agenda is the same as John King' reform agenda was and Andrew Cuomo's reform agenda is.

At the core is a "Blame Teachers" mentality, an attitude that accountability is for individual schools and teachers, perhaps for districts, but never for the geniuses in Albany who make the policy or put it into action, and a love of the Endless Testing regime and the Common Core.

Elia is pursuing that agenda right now in the receivership push, talking tough to officials and administrators in districts with "struggling" schools while dismissing funding inequity or any other issues other than mismanagement.

I'm not exactly sure what John King's critics who've become MaryEllen Elia's fans are watching with Elia - it's pretty obvious that her game is the same as John King's game (and the same as Andrew Cuomo's game.)

Nonetheless, I will continue to point out over and over that the state's reform agenda has no changed under MaryEllen Elia, I will continue to illuminate Elia's track record in Hillsborough which was abysmal bordering on the criminal, and do my best, in my little corner of the Internet, to get people to see MaryEllen Elia for the corporate reformer and jive artist she is.