Friday, April 24, 2015

Merryl Wants an Extension

No, not on her mansion. Merry Tisch doesn't want to put Governor Cuomo's draconian evaluation system into effect next November, and prefers to wait until September 2016.  While Cuomo's minions are spitting out objections, the delay could be a great thing. For one thing, there will be yet another budget vote, and Cuomo could conceivably be even more unpopular then than he is now.

Personally, I don't think Merryl Tisch gives a golly gosh darn about the quality of education, or whether or not teachers are fired for no reason. Otherwise, she would lean toward positions that weren't insane. This not being the case, it begs the question--why is Merryl asking for more time? Could it be, as she says, that she needs more time to develop a system that works? Well, if she really wanted a system that worked, why would she have hitched her string of pearls to a junk science plan at all?

One of Merryl's most recent inanities entailed exempting high performing districts from the junk science plan. This may have worked to her benefit, as some of the largest opt-out voices come from such districts. Perhaps Merryl wanted to shut down some of these voices. This idea was not well-received, what with it being blatantly discriminatory and all, and inconvenient for Governor Andy to explain.

But think about what will happen in Scarsdale when Ms. Friendly, the best teacher on God's green earth, is fired because her 98% students slipped down to 97, and she therefore displayed negative value. What if not only that happened, but the independent evaluator took exception to the cut of her jib, and jabbed her jib with an ineffective rating? What happens when the beloved special education teacher is fired because his students have learning disabilities that impeded their tests? Was it his fault the independent evaluator doesn't know a special ed. class from a very special episode of Punky Brewster?

Some people might object when Governor Andy starts firing teachers for no reason. It could get even more inconvenient than those darn opt-outs. After all, programs like this one have failed spectacularly all over the country, and some are rolling back the misplaced reforminess. New York is swimming against the tide full speed ahead, and it could be a bumpy ride. It's one thing if someone like me gets fired for the offense of repeatedly teaching kids who don't speak English. It's another when people start not only noticing the blithering incompetence and ignorance of Merryl and her gang of corporate test enthusiasts, but also rising up in great numbers against them. And then there's her impending re-election, or not, come next April.

With the huge increases in opt-out, it's pretty clear NY State is waking up. I certainly hope this hurtful and destructive program is put off. That would give us a chance to actively lobby for something that makes sense, or at least more sense than the current fire union teachers program.

I don't care if Merryl is motivated by the right reasons, the wrong reasons, no reason at all, or the voices in her head. Delay is the next best thing to killing this awful bill, and I for one am willing to give the sleazeballs of the Heavy Hearts Club and opportunity to redeem their vile and worthless souls.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Merryl Draws a Line in the Sand

Merryl Tisch, who maybe taught in a religious school sometime, or something, is more or less in charge of education for our state. This is particularly true since Reformy John King got promoted and is now spreading reforminess for the whole country. Ms. Tisch supports Common Core wholeheartedly, and toured the state with Reformy John to pretend to listen to public school parents and teachers. Of course, she didn't, because they are special interests.

Tisch opposes opt-out, because tests are part of life. It doesn't matter whether the tests cover what kids learned, and it doesn't matter if neither teachers nor students know what's on the tests. It doesn't matter that teachers are sworn to secrecy about the contents of the tests and risk their jobs if they breathe a word to anyone. It doesn't matter that the tests are never returned to the students and they never find out what they get wrong or learn how they can get it right. It doesn't matter that they set cut scores after the tests are returned to produce whatever results they damn please.

However, when the feds talk about taking money away from NY State, Tisch gets serious.
“I would say to everyone who wants to punish the school districts: hold them to standards, set high expectations, hold them accountable, but punishing them? Really, are you kidding me?” said Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch.




While Tisch may know little or nothing about public education, she certainly knows about money. For one thing, she's got a whole lot of it. She's been around money all her life. When there's no money to hire help for the Regents, she hired some, and as they aren't state employees they aren't subject to all those nasty regulations about ethics and stuff. And why should they be? They're only making decisions for millions of public school children, and Tisch wouldn't place her own kids in a public school on a bet. Just not done in her circles. Our circles are the ones on standardized tests for our kids, not hers or Andrew Cuomo's or John King's.

Of course, Merryl Tisch may appear to be standing up for our kids in defending funds. That is likely her motivation for opposing financial disincentives. Tisch has seen the passion that fuels public school parents who stand up for their children, and may well be wary of further invoking or intensifying their already considerable wrath. If she is behind blocking funding to our kids, there are likely torches and pitchforks headed for her castle. If, on the other hand, she makes Arne Duncan the villain, she can not only pass the buck but also feign outrage. It's a reformy win-win.

It's unfortunate that our ostensible representative, the one none of us got to vote for or against, values appearances so much and public education so little. How did we get into a situation where people who know little or nothing about what we do have so much influence? How is it that we don't voice opposition to elected officials until after they're elected? How is it that we don't oppose anti-teacher, anti-public education bills until after we thank people for passing them?

Sometimes I think Merryl Tisch is exactly what we deserve. Please tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Update from Punchy Mike

Hi folks, It’s me,  UFT President “Punchy” Mike Mulgrew, and and usual you'll drag my Common Core from my cold dead arms!  Guess what? I have a new message. A committee in the Senate passed some encouraging legislation to reform NCLB. Ain’t that great? Sure, it hasn’t passed the Senate, and it hasn’t passed the Congress, and it hasn’t gone through any sort of conciliatory processes, and it hasn’t been vetoed by the President we supported with your COPE money, Barack Obama. But If all of those things happen, except the veto, and it still looks anything like the way it does today, NY State won’t be required by law to pass bills like the one they just did.

Of course, even if all that stuff happens and the bill passes as written,  it won't mean NY will have to repeal any of the law they've already passed, or that Cuomo's reformy pals will stop giving him money to push this stuff, but I'm Punchy Mike, not Gloomy Gus, so let's not dwell on stuff like that.

As long as we're not dwelling on stuff, will you please stop reminding me that I said that we had stopped Governor Cuomo dead in his tracks, and I thanked the legislators for passing that bill. In fact, I’d like you to just not remember that, and pretend it didn’t happen. Because now, I’ve taken your COPE dollars, and made a commercial critical of Governor Cuomo. So that should prove once and for all which side I’m on.

Now the blogs, which I don’t read and about which I know absolutely nothing, will no doubt say things like we blocked Zephyr Teachout’s nomination in the Working Families Party, and even suggest we threatened to withhold funding and perhaps end the party altogether.  Now let me be clear. While I have no idea what the hell is in these blogs, I have to characterize them as purveyors of myth. Now I say that to be nice, because I’m just a regular blue collar construction guy with no impulse control whatsoever, and I don’t want to call them a bunch of lowlife stinking liars. That would be not nice.

You see, in my position, a guy has to be careful, I mean, you send out an email to tens of thousands of people thanking the legislature for their hard work in passing a blatantly anti-teacher bill, and saying that we have won, and all of a sudden people jump to the conclusion you support the bill. Well, it meant nothing of the kind. All it meant was what it said, and I have to tell you I’m just a little bit miffed at those dirtbag bloggers, who I never read, coming to conclusions that just because I said that stuff it was what I really meant? I mean, who can really see into a man’s soul? Isn’t there a deeper meaning? I don’t know, because I’m just a regular blue collar guy.

That's why I'm really sick of those damn bloggers, who I never read, coming to conclusions that just because I don’t call opponents to resolutions that I don’t follow Robert’s Rules or democracy. Some even suggest voting is rigged. So now I’m very careful, because I can get into trouble. You see, that means I’m evolving. So don’t believe them when they say I support bills simply because I praise them and thank people for passing them. I’m evolving.

So maybe I wrote the thing saying we had beaten back Governor Cuomo and thanking the legislature for voting for the anti-teacher bill, and maybe I said our hard work had paid off, but that is like, so two weeks ago. Today I’m spending your money to make an ad attacking the governor, and that’s where you should be focused.

Remember, when those bloggers, who I never read, say things like we should’ve attacked Governor Cuomo during the WFP nomination procedure, during the Democratic primary, or during the general election, they’re full of crap, or rather purveyors of myth. Stop looking backward, and start looking forward.

In summary, remember, committee passes bill, good, current commercial, good, punchy prose from Punchy Mike, good, past does not exist except as modified by us, good, pro-Heavy Hearts email in memory hole, good, a thousand points of light, good, and God bless the United Federation of Teachers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beth Dimino Talks Teacher Evaluation and More

I don't know who your favorite union president is, but mine is Beth Dimino of Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association. She has boundless energy and is close to the heart of the Long Island opt-out movement, they one that makes Merryl Tisch quake in her string of pearls. In the interview below, Beth talks about the Heavy Hearts Club agreement the assembly made to target and fire teachers.

My faith in humanity and education is affirmed when I talk to people like Beth. I hope yours is too. Pour yourself a drink and hear tomorrow's message today.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Standardized Testing Your Way to Equality


Standardized testing is the Civil Rights issue of our time.  How do I know?  I heard it from Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust and Wade Henderson, chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.  Henderson conveniently lobbies for tests as he sits on the board of trustees for the Educational Testing Service with a 2013 annual salary of close to $90,000.  There is clearly no conflict of interest here because as he states his work at ETS has provided a "useful grounding in understanding the science of psychonometrics [sic]."  Since there's no such thing as "psychonometrics," one would naturally guess he is grounded in either psychometrics or psychoticmetrics.

According to the logic of this new civil-rights rhetoric, we need to measure kids every year so as not to deny them equal access to education.  Who cares about all the test prep?  Who cares about losses in those things that are not tested like music, arts and science?  Who cares about the inherent biases of the tests?  If our minorities are failing at higher rates, we need to know.

Of course, we already know they are failing at higher rates through NAEP scores.   But, the only way to guarantee equality is through more expensive and frequent testing.  Pearson and ETS will tell you as much.  It gives us cause to fire their teachers and close their schools.  It's off to one of Eva's schools, employing non-unionized workers and focusing narrowly on test prep as it banishes those who cannot make the grade.  Segregation was yesterday's problem.  Opting out is today's problem!

Wasn't this the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Wasn't he the one who said, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together" and take standardized tests?


Let us imagine a formula by which Civil Rights plus Annual Testing equals Freedom.  Let us imagine a world where the lack of decent jobs, decent pay and adequate housing really stemmed from bad teaching.  And, Unions are completely unnecessary.  If anything, they protect the grossly ineffective teachers, the ones who work almost exclusively with poor kids, immigrants, special-needs children and any others who have trouble with standardized tests.

No Longer the Reality

The New Reality
The Civil Rights Movement of fifty years ago can serve as a reminder to us of the uphill struggle ahead.


The business is unfinished.  You can sit side by side in schools, but if you can't take your annual standardized tests that, in itself, is a measure of how far you have to go!



And while you're busy reflecting on the glory of this new twist and turn in the U.S. Civil Rights movement, if you have time, take a moment to reflect on the Louisiana Literacy Test (1964). 

If minority students hadn't been stuck with such bad teachers, they could have aced those exams and proven they had the skills prerequisite to voting!  If you can complete the test in ten minutes, try a Common-Core aligned test.  As you practice away, never forget that you are following in the footsteps of freedom!  You are following in the footsteps of equality!  Too bad it's such a long and stupid test to freedom...or failure!

Voting Test 1


Test2
Test3

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Absurd Assertions from UFT-Unity Apologist

Peter Goodman has a pretty cool gig as unofficial UFT Unity blogger and often broadcasts the rationales for various and sundry counterproductive decisions by leadership. He wrote pieces in Edwize defending the 2005 contract, and like every good UFT Unity Caucus member, supports all their decisions. His most recent blog, cited by Randi Weingarten on Twitter, concerns the Heavy Hearts Club Agreement to rate us largely on state test scores. I will not link to his blog. 

Goodman wrote maybe a thousand words and they seem to move here and there. He's got a roundabout approach to writing. His primary point, which he takes some time at reaching, appears to be that there is marginally less chance you will be rated ineffective under the matrix than the percentage plan. This is an absurd contention.

For one thing, UFT insisted there was little chance anyone would be rated ineffective under the current system. Leo Casey wrote various posts on Edwize attacking Carol Burris and showing charts that suggested people would have to get very low scores on exams for that to happen. More importantly, a very small percentage of people were rated ineffective. While of course this is no consolation whatsoever to those who were, now possibly facing job loss, this is a fact Mulgrew regularly brings up at the DA to ridicule those of us who've opposed the junk science system from its inception.

More to the point, the new system was expressly designed for the purpose of firing more teachers. Cuomo's right out there in public, saying he wants to break the "public school monopoly," you know, the school system it's ostensibly his job to champion and run. If indeed Mulgrew is half as clever as he claims to be, if indeed he planned this system so as to result in few poor ratings for teachers, this plan has backfired, and quite spectacularly.

The new law, passed by our so-called allies in the Assembly, grants little flexibility to districts and strongly ties our jobs, our tenure, and our fate to state test results that will have little to do with what happens in our classrooms. For this, Mulgrew thanked the legislature. Any teacher who's actually read this is unlikely to do the same.

Someone has to stick his hand in the freshly produced elephant dung and try to pull out a prize. I'm grateful that it's Peter Goodman and not me. I have no reason whatsoever to believe this new system will help a single teacher or student, and am very much persuaded it will result in dissuading thoughtful teachers from entering the profession. It will cause deserving, potentially great teachers to not only be denied tenure, but also be dismissed.

If you don't think the do-or-die test scores will be an incentive for administrators, fearful for their own jobs, to issue negative observation and performance reports, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Tough Sell for Punchy Mike

NYSUT analysis that follows was sent to me via an email list I'm on. I'll preface it with UFT President Michael Mulgrew's commentary on the new legislation from Andrew Cuomo's Heavy Hearts Club Band:

And now all of our hard work is paying dividends. The governor's Draconian agenda has, in large part, been turned back. We want to thank the Assembly and the Senate for standing up for our schools and school communities. 
Read it for yourself and let me know whether you agree. It might look long, but you need to know everything.

NYSUT Preliminary Analysis of S.2006-B/A.3006-B

Effective date – the new APPR will apply in the 2015-16 school year.

Student Performance and Teacher Performance Measures:

-will dramatically increase the weight of state standardized testing, increase use of tests developed or approved by SED or outside vendors in the evaluation system, and increase use of state growth models in evaluations.

-Teachers will not receive a score but instead will be rated using a matrix approach, with two subcomponents – student performance and teacher observations.

-if you receive an ineffective rating in the student performance side of the matrix, you cannot achieve an effective rating overall; the most you can attain is a developing rating.

-if the district and union choose an optional second assessment detailed below, and you receive an ineffective rating on student performance, you cannot receive anything but an ineffective rating overall, a disincentive to choose the optional second assessment.

-For tested teachers, the student performance subcomponent will be:

(1) use of a state growth score

and

(2) an optional second state-provided growth score on a state-created or administered test or a growth score based on a state-designed supplemental assessment, calculated using a state-provided or approved growth model. The use of the optional student performance subcomponent is subject to collective bargaining, but is limited to the choices in (2) above.

-For non-tested teachers, the student performance subcomponent will be:

(1) a student learning objective consistent with a goal-setting process determined or developed by the commissioner, that results in a student growth score

and

(2) an optional second state-provided growth score on a state-created or administered test or a growth score based on a state-designed supplemental assessment, calculated using a state-provided or approved growth model. As with the tested teachers, whether to use the optional second measure is subject to collective bargaining.

N.B.

The state-designed supplemental assessment, that can be used in the optional second student performance subcomponent is defined “as a selection of state tests or assessments developed or designed by the state education department, or that the state education department purchased or acquired from (i) another state; (ii) an institution of higher education; or (iii) a commercial or not-for-profit entity, provided that such entity must be objective and may not have a conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest; such definition may include tests or assessments that have been previously designed or acquired by local districts, but only if the state education department significantly modifies growth targets or scoring bands for such tests or assessments or otherwise adapts the test or assessment to the state education department's requirements.”

This language essentially eliminates any truly locally developed tests or assessments, or other locally developed tools, from the evaluation system.

-Scoring bands and scoring ranges will be set by the commissioner, through regulation.

Prohibited Items:

The legislation expressly prohibits measures of student achievement that are not test-based, such as evidence of student development and performance derived from lesson plans, other artifacts of teacher practice, and student portfolios, use of an instrument for parent or student feedback, use of professional goal-setting as evidence of teacher or principal effectiveness, or any district or regionally-developed assessment that has not been approved by the department.

Independent Evaluators:

The legislation mandates the use of so-called “independent” evaluators, which could result in someone with limited or no knowledge of a teacher, or the school, determining the fate of a teacher or school. Observations will be conducted by both the school building principal, and an outside evaluator, which could either be

-       a trained evaluator from another building within the district,

-       a trained evaluator from another district,

-       or a trained evaluator with no affiliation with any school district.

Collective Bargaining:

-significantly reduces the role of collective bargaining. Student performance measures (formerly the local 20 percent) and observations were previously developed locally, through collective bargaining, to ensure the appropriate measure of student achievement and teacher performance at the district or building level. This is almost entirely eliminated, with SED having new powers to develop evaluation assessments and expanded use of growth scores, set student performance targets and goals, and drastically changes locally developed assessments to a new growth model.

-prohibits use of non-test based measures from being used in the student performance subcomponent, and non-observation measures being used in the teacher evaluation subcomponent.

Collective bargaining was retained in two areas:

-       whether to use a second student performance measure (optional subcomponent),

-       and in the event that the second measure is used, which measure to use.

However, the universe of measures that can be used is limited to state tests or previously selected local measures that the Commissioner modifies. The implementation of the greatly limited teacher observation measures can be bargained.

Ineffective Teachers:

Where practicable, a student cannot be taught by two ineffective teachers in a row. If a school district deems it impracticable to comply, the district must seek a waiver from the department from this requirement. This waiver process will be determined by regulation.

State Aid and APPR Plan Approval:

-requires school districts to receive approval for a new APPR plan that complies with the new statute by November 15, 2015, in order to receive their scheduled 2015-16 school aid increase or any increase in state aid thereafter. There was a previously enacted statute to ensure that the most recent approved APPR plans would remain in effect until a new plan is approved by SED. However, this new legislation eliminates these protections and districts will not receive their 2015-16 increase in school aid over their 2014-15 aid levels unless the district has a new APPR plan approved by SED by November 15, 2015.

Existing Collective Bargaining Agreements:

-provides that all collective bargaining agreements entered into after April 1, 2015, must comply with the new APPR law, unless the agreement relates to the 2014-15 school year. The law states that it does not abrogate any conflicting provisions in collective bargaining agreements in effect on April 1, 2015, but that upon expiration and entry into a successor agreement, new agreements must comply with the new law.

However, as noted above, for a school district to receive its school aid increase, an APPR plan compliant with the new APPR law must be agreed to by November 15, 2015. Thus, the school aid linkage virtually eliminates any collective bargaining protection.

Regents and Commissioner Authority:

While many of the new APPR procedures are outlined in statute, the Commissioner and Regents, through regulation adoption, will set scoring bands within subcomponents, and targets for SLOs.

Regulations and guidelines must be adopted no later than June 30, 2015 by the Regents to implement this new APPR system, “after consulting with experts and practitioners in the fields of education, economics and psychometrics and taking into consideration the parameters set forth in the letter from the Chancellor of the Board of Regents and acting commissioner dated December 31, 2014, to the New York State Director of State Operations.” This letter detailed a support for an APPR system with 40 percent of a teacher’s score tied to the state exams.

The commissioner must also establish a process for public comment for the new regulations, and is mandated to consult, in writing, with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, currently Arne Duncan.

TENURE/PROBATION

-mandates four-year probationary periods for new teachers hired after July 1, 2015, with the requirement that a teacher attain an effective evaluation rating for at least three of the four years. Further, if a teacher achieves ineffective in their fourth year, they cannot achieve tenure.

A board can agree to extend probation by one year for teachers who have not achieved three effectives or who are ineffective in their last probation year.

For teachers who have achieved tenure in another district and have not been dismissed from the other district, they will remain in probationary status for three years, so long as the teacher did not receive an ineffective in their last year at the prior school.

N.B.

-a school board will now have the “unfettered” right to terminate a probationary teacher for any constitutionally permissible reason, including performance based reasons, during probation without regard to the teachers APPR rating.

DUE PROCESS/3020-a

-mandates that two consecutive ineffective ratings on APPR will be prima facie evidence of incompetence, rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence.

-a new 3020-b process is outlined, “Streamlined removal procedures for teachers rated ineffective,” which will apply to teachers and principals who receive two or more consecutive annual ineffective ratings.

-mandates that school boards bring 3020-a charges for three consecutive ineffective ratings, with fraud or mistake the only defense available. There is no discretion for a board to not bring charges for three consecutive ineffective ratings.

-A teacher convicted of a violent felony against a child pursuant to penal law section 70.02, when the intended victim was a child, will have their certification revoked.

-3020-a proceedings, brought after July 1, 2015, will be before a single hearing officer. There is no carve-out for Part 83 proceedings.

-For 3020-a proceedings where charges of misconduct constituting physical or sexual abuse of a student are brought, the hearing shall be conducted before and by a single hearing officer in an expedited hearing, which must commence within seven days after the pre-hearing conference and must be completed within sixty days after the pre-hearing conference.

-For 3020-a proceedings, a child witness, under fourteen years of age, may be permitted to testify through the use of live, two-way closed-circuit television, as explained in section 65.00 of the criminal procedure law. The hearing officer must provide the employee with an opportunity to be heard, and determine by clear and convincing evidence that such child witness would suffer serious mental or emotional harm which would substantially impair such child's ability to communicate if required to testify at the hearing without the use of live, two-way closed-circuit television. The hearing officer must also find that the use of such live, two-way closed-circuit television will diminish the likelihood or extent of such harm.

-For all 3020-a cases, hearing officers must further give “serious consideration to the penalty recommended by the employing board,” and if the hearing officer rejects the recommended penalty, the rejection must be outlined in a written determination based on the record.

RECEIVERSHIP

-adds a new section, section 211-f, to the education law regarding the takeover and restructuring of failing schools by external receivers. It allows the Commissioner, under given circumstances, to place a school into receivership where a receiver will manage and operate the school, subject to annual review by the Commissioner, until such time as the school has improved sufficiently.

-allows for the state takeover in schools;

-27 “priority” schools that have been struggling for more than 10 years would have only one year to dramatically turnaround,

and

-other “priority” schools would have two years to turn around, until an outside receiver is appointed to control the school.

-New priority schools in 2016-17 are automatically eligible for receivership.

Failing Schools:

After being identified as a “failing school” or “persistently failing school” for a certain period of time, a district may be subject to a performance review by SED which may result in the Commissioner placing the school into receivership.

A “failing school” generally is one in the “lowest achieving 5 percent” of schools under the state’s “accountability system” for at least three consecutive years or identified as a “priority school” for such period.

A “persistently failing school” generally is one in the “lowest achieving public schools in the state” for 10 consecutive school years. There are two ways of being found to be a “persistently failing school,” each with its own look back. Such “persistently failing schools” either have been “priority schools” during that period starting in 2012-13 school year or a “school requiring academic progress year 5, 6 or 7 or a “school in restructuring” for each applicable year from the 2006-07 school year to the 2011-12 school year. Special act schools are excluded.

Path to Receivership:

The path to receivership differs slightly for “persistently failing schools” and “failing schools.”

For schools identified as “persistently failing,” the local district shall continue to operate the school for an additional year provided that there is an approved intervention model or comprehensive education plan in place. The superintendent in this case shall have all the powers of a receiver. At the end of the year SED will conduct a performance review to determine whether the designation of persistently failing should be removed, the school should remain under control of the superintendent, or the school should be placed into receivership. But if the district makes “demonstrable improvement” it shall remain under district operation for another year, subject to annual review, with the same three possible outcomes, one of which being placed in receivership.

For schools identified as “failing schools,” the local district shall continue to operate the school for an additional two years provided there is an approved intervention model or comprehensive education place in place. The superintendent in this case shall have all the powers of a receiver. At the end of the two-year period SED will conduct a performance review to determine whether the designation of persistently failing should be removed, the school should remain under control of the superintendent, or the school should be placed into receivership. But if the district makes “demonstrable improvement” it shall remain under district operation for another year, subject to annual review, with the same three possible outcomes, one of which being placed in receivership.

N.B.

The district must notify parents that a school may be placed into receivership and hold a public meeting or hearing for the purpose of discussing the performance of the school and the construct of receivership.

Definition:

A “community engagement team” will be established by the district upon designation as failing or persistently failing. This must include community stakeholders such as principal, parents, teachers, staff, and students. The team will develop recommendations and solicit public engagement. The team will present its recommendations “periodically” to the school’s leadership and the receiver.

Appointment of a Receiver:

Upon determination by the Commissioner that the school will be placed in receivership, the school district shall appoint an independent receiver, subject to approval of the Commissioner.

The receiver will manage and operate all aspects of the school and develop and implement a school intervention plan, considering recommendations of a community engagement team.

The receiver may be a non-profit, another school district, or an individual.

The receiver will have the power to supersede any decision, policy or regulation of the district that conflicts with the school intervention plan.

The receiver will have authority to review proposed school district budgets and modify them to conform to the school intervention plan.

The receiver will contract with the Commissioner and be paid by SED, unless there is an open administrative staffing line at the district and the receiver will be taking on the responsibilities of that position, in which case the receiver will be paid by the district.

School Intervention Plan:

Consultation:

The receiver will create a school intervention plan. Before developing plan, the receive shall “consult with” local stakeholders including the board of education, the superintendent, the principal, teachers assigned to the school and their collective bargaining representation, administrators assigned to the school and their collective bargaining representative, parents, social service and mental health agencies, students as appropriate, career and workforce development programs as appropriate, pre-k programs as appropriate, representatives of local higher ed as appropriate and the “school takeover team.”

Considerations:

In creating the plan, the receiver shall consider the recommendations of the “community enragement team,” include provisions intended to maximize the rapid academic achievement of students at the school, ensure the plan addresses school leadership and capacity, school leader practices and decisions, curriculum development and support, teacher practices and decisions, student social and emotional developmental health, and family and community engagement. The receiver shall base the plan on the findings of any recent diagnostic review or assessment and student outcome data including, student achievement growth data based on state measures, other measures of student achievements, student promotion and graduation rates, achievement and growth data for subgroups, and long-term and short-term suspension rates.

Elements:

The receiver must include the following in the plan: measures to address social service, health and mental health needs of students in the school and their families in order to help students arrive and remain at school ready to learn, provided that this may include mental health and substance abuse screening; measures to improve or expand access to child welfare services and, as appropriate, services in the school community to promote a safe and secure learning environment; measures to provide greater access to career and technical education and workforce development services provided to students in the school and their families, in order to provide students and families with meaningful employment skills and opportunities; measures to address achievement gaps for English language learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students; measures to address school climate and positive behavior support, including mentoring and other youth development programs; and a budget for the school intervention plan.

Goals:

The plan must include measurable annual goals with respect to student attendance, student discipline including short-term and long-term suspension, student safety, student promotion and graduation and drop-out rates, student achievement and growth on state measures, progress in areas of academic underperformance, progress among subgroups, reduction of achievement gaps, development of college and career readiness, parent and family engagement, building a culture of academic success among students, building a culture of student support and success among faculty and staff, using developmentally appropriate child assessments from Pre-K to 3, and measures of student learning.

The receiver “shall” convert schools to “community schools” to provide expanded health, mental health and other services to the students.

In addition, the receiver “may” expand, alter or replace the curriculum and program offerings, including

(i)                     the implementation of research-based early literacy programs, early interventions for struggling readers and the teaching of advanced placement courses or other rigorous nationally or internationally recognized courses, if the school does not already have such programs or courses;

(ii)                    (ii) replace teachers and administrators, including school leadership who are not appropriately certified or licensed;

(iii)                   (iii) increase salaries of current or prospective teachers and administrators to attract and retain high-performing teachers and administrators;

(iv)                   (iv) establish steps to improve hiring, induction, teacher evaluation, professional development, teacher advancement, school culture and organizational structure;

(v)                    (v) reallocate the uses of the existing budget of the school;

(vi)                   (vi) expand the school day or school year or both of the school;

(vii)                 (vii) for a school that offers the first grade, add pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten classes, if the school does not already have such classes;

(viii)                (viii) in accordance with paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subdivision, to abolish the positions of all members of the teaching and administrative and supervisory staff assigned to the failing or persistently failing school and terminate the employment of any building principal assigned to such a school, and require such staff members to reapply for their positions in the school if they so choose;

(ix)                   (ix) include a provision of a job-embedded professional development for teachers at the school, with an emphasis on strategies that involve teacher input and feedback;

(x)                     (x) establish a plan for professional development for administrators at the school, with an emphasis on strategies that develop leadership skills and use the principles of distributive leadership;

(xi)                   and/or (xi) order the conversion of a school in receivership that has been designated as failing or persistently failing pursuant to this section into a charter school.

-Upon designation of a school as failing or persistently failing, tenure and seniority rights are modified. Two ineffectives at any time in the teacher’s career defeats seniority rights of that teacher. The teacher with the lowest APPR rating is laid off first. Seniority is only used to break ties.

The receiver “may” abolish all teacher positions and require them to re-apply. The receiver shall define new positions for the school aligned with the school intervention plan.

For hiring teachers, the receiver shall convene a staffing committee including the receiver, two appointees of the receiver and two appointees selected by the school staff or their collective bargaining unit. The staffing committee will determine whether former school staff reapplying for positions are qualified for the new positions. The receiver shall have full discretion regarding hiring decisions but must fill at least 50 percent of the new positions with the most senior former staff whom the committee deems qualified.

Remaining vacancies filled by receiver in consultation with staffing committee. Anyone not rehired placed on a PEL*. Teachers rehired maintain prior status.

*(Editor’s note: This is a Preferred Employment List for Layoff.  It does not apply to New York City where State Law 2588 describes layoff by citywide seniority in licence only.)

In order to maximize the rapid achievement of students, the receiver “may request” that the collective bargaining unit representing teachers negotiate a receivership agreement modifying the applicable collective bargaining agreements. Bargaining is to conclude in 30 days with ratification within 10 days.

Any unresolved issues will be resolved by the Commissioner within 5 days. For failing but not persistently failing schools, there is an option for a AAA conciliator prior to the Commissioner.

Within 6 months of the receiver’s appointment, a final school intervention plan must be submitted to the Commissioner for approval.

The plan shall be for a period of not more than three years. During that time any additional components or goals must be approved by the commissioner.

The receiver shall make quarterly progress reports.

The Commissioner will evaluate each school with a receiver annually.

If the school is not meeting its goals, the Commissioner may modify the plan.

Upon the expiration of a plan, the commissioner shall evaluate the school and determine either to renew the plan, appoint a new receiver, or take the school off the failing school list.

TEACHER REGISTRATION

Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, all holders of a professional teaching certificate, or Level III Teaching Assistant certificate will now be required to complete 100 hours of continuing education and leader education every five years. These certificate holders will also be required to register with SED every five years to prove they have met these requirements. A teacher may not practice unless these requirements are fulfilled. In addition, all certificate holders will be required to register with SED every five years even though the new continuing education provisions only apply to holders of professional teaching certificates or Level III Teaching Assistant certificates.

The allowable activities which qualify for these 100 hours are determined by SED and the department is directed to “issue rigorous standards for courses, programs, and activities.” Districts may collectively bargain more hours if they so choose. The activities are supposed to “promote the professionalization of teaching and be closely aligned to district goals for student performance.”

The current regulatory requirements for holders of the professional certificate must complete 175 hours of professional development and holders of the Level III Teaching Assistant certificate must complete 75 hours every five years in order to maintain certification. These requirements are replaced by this new 100 hour requirement.

Friday, April 17, 2015

1984 Redux--UFT Unity Caucus

My nephew found out I had never read 1984, and gave it to me for my birthday. I started to read it just this week. I had it with me at Wednesday night's UFT Delegate Assembly, and finished it the next morning. I am simply gobstruck by the parallels in our union structure and Orwell's dystopian vision.

Ignorance Is Strength

That resonates on many levels. First of all, look at the masses of us who don't even vote in union elections, over 80% in fact. Most of us have no voice in the union at all, and don't even think it's worth the time to write an X on a ballot. Those of us who do know how rigged the winner-take-all election is, how so many positions are "at large," and how high school teachers, in particular, have been prevented from selecting their own VP, simply because they once dared to choose one that wasn't Unity.

Then there is the rewriting of history, which takes place on a regular basis. Just the other night at the DA, Mulgrew was saying the new Cuomo APPR was better than the current system because "student achievement," AKA junk science, can trump principal judgment. Oddly, I heard the same thing at a citywide HS CL meeting, from a DR who was indignant that I dared question VAM. Conversely, Mulgrew says principal judgment can trump test scores, but forgets to mention that outside observers will now be a factor.

The rewriting of history is regular and predictable at the DA. I remember the UFT transfer plan, which got me out of a school in which I was punished for not throwing kids out of class. Mulgrew says Open Market is better because more transfers occur, but clearly doesn't consult with ATR teachers, for whom he's procured second tier due process and the right to be fired for missing two interviews.

Year one of APPR, the one where John King designed it for us, we won a great victory by getting all 22 components of Danielson. Bloomberg wanted only 7 but we held firm. Year two we won another great victory by winning 8. Whatever they do is a victory, and every year the new system is wonderful. Even next year's atrocity is a great victory.

Of course, Mulgrew is not a teacher and has not been one for years. He doesn't know the anxiety that faces those of us who actually do the work. He can stand there and say only this many people got poor ratings, but he doesn't actually have to face the people looking at job loss.

We are the proles, the proletariat. We are not members of the party, and have no access to the perks and privileges they have. At the lowest level, it means they ostensibly represent us in NYSUT and AFT. They do this, of course, by voting precisely as told and sign an oath to do exactly that. Anyone violating party rules is expelled, and has been ever since its inception, when Shanker bounced people for opposing the Vietnam War.

Some in the party get extra privileges, like jobs doing this or that, and then there is the mysterious Inner Party, where the actual decisions are made. Who actually makes the decisions in the party? Who knows? Mulgrew? Has he got the imagination to do that? And if he's so smart, why is he constantly telling the DA how smart his decisions are? Is it Weingarten? Honestly I have no idea. I just know that most of us have no voice whatsoever, and that's precisely why there is so much cynicism and apathy in the ranks.

There's no actual torture, but all the NYSUT delegates had sandwiches and things from their NYSUT meeting taking place at some other part of the building not open to us unconnected chapter leaders. I suppose that might be an incentive for some to join the Party. I once had a Unity chapter leader to whom sandwiches were very important. Me, I just got creeped out and ran to Chipotle's down the block.

They don't have actual Thought Police watching us proles who haven't signed the oath, and their arguments can't weather a whole lot of public scrutiny. Still, they've got their 80% of disconnected, disinterested teachers and their power looks assured no matter how we suffer at the bottom.

Related: Mr. A. Talk also finds the antics of Unity Orwellian.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DA Report--Mulgrew Warns Against Opt-Out

Michael Mulgrew—says we have a lot to do today. Wants to discuss work union has to do and how we’ve done it. Says we’ve always been passionate, tough, and that intelligence in strategies have caused us to grow. Also wants to talk about tests. Seems disorganized.

Speaks of how he resisted working for union, was too important for him. Was intrigued by offer of going to Albany and discussing NCLB. Mulgrew calls himself a ferocious reader. Said the good thing about NCLB was that it disaggregates students by different categories. Said it was good that it talked about how children were achieving, and how it focused on achievement gap. Said results would become yearly testing, would punish teachers of the neediest, and that he anticipated this problem.

Mulgrew said he recognized that ESEA money would be deprived from schools who didn’t follow programs. He says he anticipated school closings. Said it would discourage teachers of high needs kids and that he argued a lot about it because that’s what he does. He walks around and argues with people. He was told GW wouldn’t be reelected and lost faith in politics.

Mulgrew speaks of Obama’s new plan to avert all schools failing under NCLB, offered waivers. Race to the Top. Said GOP and Dems all said NCLB was awful but other side prevented reason.

Mulgrew speaks of groups that want to privatize and destroy union, groups that don’t want public ed. to work. Mentions bad rollout of CCSS. Says he predicted issues with CCSS. Says not hard to figure out when you see this and you are an educator. Calls Bloomberg a liar. Says he stood up and called him that when people told him not to.

Speaks of rest of state, with eval. before ours, having large capacities of bad ratings. Says they had formulas that placed their members at risk. Says he was warned not to use 100 point system, but he couldn’t prevent it because pols likened it to student tests.

Says we did what was best year one, making sure people would not be harmed, had lowest % of bad ratings in state. Says state ed. dept. didn’t look good when all the kids failed test, so state simply adjusted dial ,made for better teacher ratings. Says we are going through an evolution in education that will not stop this year. Says we believe tests are not to be used for stakes. Says if  UFT’s Frank Carruci were governor, we would still have test eval. because of federal funding.

Says NYC receives largest title 1 funding in US. Says first and foremost issue was federal law, that we cannot stop any of this until we change it. Acknowledges Obama and Duncan made it worse. Says we may be able to change law because pols of both parties worry about elections, having gotten nothing done. Says ESEA may be where that happens. Randi took the lead and they worked with people, including Lamar Alexander.

Says as they are negotiating with DC, they have Cuomo deciding despite bad rollout, massive frustration wants to increase use of tests, and that’s why we call him “Governor Genius.” Says Cuomo is getting just desserts, all of this will be blamed on him.

However, standardized tests are the only thing recognized by feds, and if we don’t give them we will forfeit title 1, 2, and 3 funding. UFT got wording bipartisan agreement in Senate that feds will no longer mandate testing to be used in eval. in US. Mulgrew gets applause. Also got agreement there will be no mandate to close or turn them to charter schools. Says agreement says testing will be used only for measurement purposes, will require standards but won’t care which standards.

Says ESL students will get three years before they are required to be tested in English, instead of one. Says nothing about this being a one-house bill.

Says we wait for things to move in our direction, that bill is being fast-tracked. Says NY US Senators are on board and that in may be passed in May. This will be when we work on Congress. Says important that people who hate us didn’t know about this during construction, and that we always have to be smart about the work that we do. Asks that people thank Randi.

This is the game-changer, he says. Mary Poppins would have to give test if governor.

Recalls three major battles with Bloomberg trying to lay off teachers. Says we fought him back each and every time, including 400 million dollar cut, in which Christine Quinn was our partner. Says ESEA funding for us is 900 million and if we lost it, it would be catastrophic.

Calls our fight with Cuomo successful in that his approval rating is down. Says we first had to get people on our side. Recalls Bloomberg’s precipitous drop in approval rating and says that’s why Klein was fired. Says he did us great favor with Cathie Black. Was great victory for UFT in that we did nothing.

Says we had our strategies, worked hard, that approval rating is key. Mulgrew says individual merit pay is not there, but that it may be negotiated. Says that was always a right, but will not happen while he is leader. Says charters were pushed out of budget. Says tax credits pushed out.

We made funding a major issue, and from outside it looks like we won, but state has continued with funding inequality. Says we got 20% more per kid but rich districts got 50% more per kid, and that this has worsened inequality. Says he told clergy this may result in legal action. We have largest % of needy kids and ed. should be based on need.

Says we halted Cuomo’s receivership plan for scores of schools. Says “out of time” schools have one year to show progress, others have two years. Says legislature should not determined proper growth, and that they have pushed this to NYSED and Regents. Says we know the law, and no matter what NYSED does, must be approved by Regents. We have worked two years to shift Regents to board of educators. We are now comfortable to push things to SED with Regents oversight. Says they will not be dictated to by SED.

On teacher eval, gov wanted 50% test scores, we wanted removal of 100 point test scores. Says he wanted to remove anomalies. When some areas were effective and others were not. Says he pushed everything to SED to avoid legislature, and now former teachers will do it. Says this will require a lot of work with Regents, including public meetings.

Says Cuomo’s ed. rating rivals Bloomberg’s, says we achieved our goal of public support, that opt-out is a public choice. Says feds clearly have authority to remove ESEA funding from districts that don’t have 95% participation rate, that there is no waver. Says we receive a lot of ESEA funding and that we have business smarts. Parents should opt out, we need better tests, not Pearson, teachers should design tests, he says. Says ratings depend on SED and their magic dial. As result we have no idea how much kids are achieving. No one knows what, if anything tests mean.

Says after these tests we still need to assess kids to know where they are, and that we are therefore moving toward federal regulation. We want state to be in control, he says, and to work toward what we know. Says it is tough because there is so much anger. Says he is not tester, but project based learning teacher.

Refers to Cuomo saying kids fail and teachers didn’t that it was nonsense. Says Cuomo asked what industry evaluates itself, and Mulgrew says every industry. Says Cuomo thought admin was unfairly biased toward us.

Says we will negotiate with SED, that there is a lot of leeway despite what people say. Says everyone said everyone would be rated poorly, and that didn’t happen, but that we must be ready for change because there will be multiple changes. Says SED may or may not mitigate, but that there are no percentages, that we have to get used to evolution of education and teacher eval. Says we have lowest number of poorly rated teachers and that people said here the world was ending.

Says we understand a teacher is 10% of what a child achieves, and we are at war with those who ignore other 90%. Says he doesn’t know if he should go to the matrix, the box. Makes joke about e-i-e-i-o. Is hilarious.

Speaks of school in which teachers rated poorly, but were rated high on student test scores. Ridicules good old days when principal completely controlled eval, and says with box student achievement can trump principal’s judgment. Says it’s not 50-50 because high grades take precedence over low ones. Shows box. Looks like Sudoko.

Says there is less possibility of poor rating, and that student achievement can trump principal judgment, and principal judgment can trump bad achievement. Says we are starting to understand it. Says many letters. I-I becomes popular.

Says 80% NYC teachers were effective in testing before a single observation. Says we are not gaming system. Says if he talks about it too much that people will say we are gaming system.

Says purpose of eval. is growth, development and support, but people focus too much on these things. Says eval. system should be constructive professional practice and that he did enough on the box. Says test scores could only be negative, but now they can save people.

Oddly, I’ve been in UFT meetings where reps said the same of the last system, the one Mulgrew says this improves on.

Says he’s sorry he did all of this, but that everyone should have this info. Says we are most important local in country, but that we have more on our shoulders than any other, that we will win or lose the fight for public ed. Says if renewal schools improve, we win the war. Says if we don’t win, it’s all up for grabs. Says we have to do our business smart, again. Says our predecessors were always three steps ahead.

Says what happened in last few days will help us to beat up governor, but none of it matters if we don’t move our school system. Says ESEA funding is important, and that people don’t want mayor and teachers working together, that we are their biggest fear because we may succeed.

Says 73 schools want to enter PROSE program, in addition to 62 there. Says this will be significant, thanks people who contributed. Thanks those who worked on renewal schools. Thanks teachers who proctored NYSESLAT with no help for SED on new exam they didn’t know.

Says we need to make sure we are smart, that we always need to be smart. Says we have more battles. Asks us to focus on moving our profession to a better place and that NYC will show how educators move things the right way.

Says May brings 3% raise. Gets applause.

Leroy Barr—please fill out teacher surveys. Encourages support, participation in rally for $15 minimum wage. Says CL elections should be in May, that it’s easier. Anyone in school first Monday can run and nominate, including ATRS. Next DA May 20th.

Questions—what about CFE? Mulgrew says if it’s up to him, he will go to court. Says CFE establishes formula based on need. Says we will vote on whether to go to court.

Charters are not backfilling. What are we doing to tell people? Mulgrew happy NYT reported on Moskowitz. Says all that info is given to press constantly. Battle on charters is now, he says, and getting it pushed out of budget was victory. Says need language would have fined charters. Says we have a charter division and that there are unionized charters. Says if we have to pay for their space why do they have 14 kids in room while we have 28 or whatever? Says Eva must have been disappointed.

NYSESLAT, CL says training gave much info, but no exemplars or practice test. What can we do to help kids? Mulgrew—it was joint training because they would be ashamed if we held it alone. There is no practice test because they are unprepared. Says educators would know better. We are moving on getting that done, he says. Our ESL population is exploding. Says there is special teacher training program. Will produce 30 teachers but we need 3,000. Says problems are ELLs and space.

Eval—says there was grace period where things didn’t count, and wonders will there be one on new one? Mulgrew says we have had two, will have third next year, not good educational policy. Says we need flexibility. Makes wisecrack about how what he says will be out on a blog and probably is already. Speaks of possibility of peer eval, says it is in law.

Resolution—Evelyn de Jesus—that Regents hold public hearings on teacher eval.—placed on this month’s agenda overwhelmingly. Motion it be moved to number two. Passed.

Resolution 1—Janella Hinds rises to speak in favor of  proper use of assessments, system all students need, that uses variety of assessments, that are fair, developmentally appropriate. This is UFT testing res. Jonathan Halabi offers amendment about multiple measures, moves phrase “to evaluate teachers and gauge success of schools”  be stricken.  Says student tests should not rate teachers or schools.
Other amendment—change “standardized” assessments to “state-mandated” assessments.Says word “standardized” enables Pearson, and that said tests are discriminatory. Says tests trick kids by using language they’ve never seen before. Says diagnostic tests must be built by teachers and used meaningfully. Says immediate feedback is crucial.

Marjorie Stamberg—against all educational principles to use test for students to evaluate teachers, says we should come out against CCSS, Mulgrew stops her.

Mulgrew says he gets in trouble for this and must therefore ask whether anyone will speak against amendments.

Motion to table—second—motion not tabled.

Francesca Gomes—raises opposition to resolution, as it validates standardized testing. Says if people are in fear of us, why are we asking for tiny insufficient changes, that they won’t protect good teachers against bad admin. Says standardized testing will always be a bad system, and that we should not validate tests. Says NAACP Prez in Seattle opposes them and says that opt out movement is important. Supports opt-out, Mulgrew rules her out of order.

Mulgrew says now that there has been speaker against, time to call the motion.

Amendment to remove “standardized” passes.

Amendment to change multiple measures passes.

Amended resolution carries.

Motion to extend 5 minutes. Passes. Mulgrew says we only have 2 left.

Reso for public hearings  Passes.

The Paper of Record Talks Opt-out

I was pretty amazed to read this piece in the Times. Based on the testimony of very few people who attended the massive anti Cuomo demonstration a few weeks back, they zapped out an article.  Apparently, two sets of parents oppose testing but are not opting out their own kids. On this basis, the Times saw fit to propel an entire article. As someone who finds it absurd when Chalkbeat NY writes up 100 signatures E4E collected to support more work for less pay, or whatever Gates told them to support this week, I find the Times article outlandish beyond belief. For one thing, they didn't even bother to cover the demonstration in question. It's unbelievable that they muster they audacity to criticize opt-out based on a rally they didn't even deem worthy of mention. And opt-out is alive and well despite what papers would like us to believe.

On the heels of the Grey Lady is the Daily News, which also failed to cover the anti-Cuomo rally. The News believes, evidently, that opt-out is some sinister machination of the teacher union, and that it's not really to help public school parents. Apparently, we seduced public school parents with our evil ways. Pictured is Karen Magee, who kind of went rogue with opt out. Here in NYC, the real power in NYSUT has refused to consider not one, but two opt-out resolutions, and didn't even bother to offer up their own watered down nonsense, the one that supported "multiple measures" (read junk science) to evaluate teachers. According to DN, these tests are the only objective way to rate teachers. Yet the American Statistical Association says teachers only affect test grades by a factor of 1-14%, and that rating teachers this way may have adverse effects on students. Campbell's Law says pretty much the same.

Errol Louis underlines the DN editorial message, saying that teachers don't want to be rated, we don't care, we're unreasonable, and so on and so forth. Louis says nothing about the relative validity of the tests or lack thereof. There is no mention of how cut scores are set to prove whatever point the people in power wish to make this week. But the most incredible line, in my view, in his message is this one:

Parents who object to any type of high-stakes testing, especially now that New York has adopted the challenging Common Core standards, should realize that high-stakes testing is, for better or worse, the norm in our complex modern society. Universities base admissions decisions on SAT and ACT scores; graduate schools do the same with LSATs, GREs, MCATs and more.

The assumption that everything is fine because everyone's doing it is a poor one, to say the least. In fact, studies indicate that teacher grades are a better indicator of student success than SAT scores. Truth be told, I was a terrible high school student but a very good test taker. I woke up in college, but it took me a little while. I know students who are the opposite--I would vouch for them, write them beautiful recommendation letters, and help them any way I can. Kids I know, though, lack fluency in English, and are years away from fluency in standardized tests.

All of these pieces give a message that the opt-out movement is negative, a tool of the union, or at best hypocritical. I'd argue the opposite. I have seen parents speak with incredible passion about this, even as Mike Mulgrew offers to punch you in the face if you lay a hand on his precious Common Core. I have seen parents outraged that their children are faced with developmentally inappropriate tasks, and outraged that reading material their kids loved was prohibited in classrooms in favor of non-fiction books on The History of Cement, or whatever.

My own daughter took a standardized test in kindergarten, and had I been pre-warned, I'd have opted her out for sure. The results, which I received by mail, showed she excelled in reading but had no skills whatsoever in English. How could that be? I happened to know she did not know how to read, and I was happy to let her learn with her peers in first grade. I asked the teacher, who told me her pattern was common. Day one was the reading test. Day three was the English test, by which time all the kids were sick of taking tests.

I'm sorry, but Michael Mulgrew is the President of the UFT, and he thinks the agreement Cuomo rammed down the open throats of our state legislature is excellent, thank you very much. He told us in an email that I've yet to make heads or tails of. And even if, by some chance, the UFT passes its crappy watered down opt-out resolution tomorrow, it will be too late to have any effect.

We are behind the times, going the wrong way, and almost supporting the papers that hate us and everything we stand for.  It's a sad state of affairs. The Times has the worst education coverage in the city, and the quality of that article almost proclaims they're proud of it. I wish the News editorial board and Errol Louis were right, and that we were doing something.

But Karen Magee does not speak for Michael Mulgrew, and if he tires of her in 2017 she'll be gone in a New York UFT minute. That's a fact, Jack. And whatever the papers say about opt out, it is alive and growing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Does "Success" in Testing Lose Something in Translation?


Slip carefully

From the way education is being rewritten by reformers today, you would think success in life equates with scores on high-stakes tests concocted for political ends by people who probably would have failed these tests, themselves, in grade school.  You would think we are all suddenly failing in life.  You would think students, teachers, parents (see the thoughts of Duncan and Rhee here) and their schools are all to blame, not the "reformers" themselves.

But what if these tests themselves were failures?  Some have been shown to be flawed.  What if success on these tests didn't translate into success in life?  What if our children are guinea pigs of a failed experiment to which so many of the reformers refuse to subject their own children?  The Success Academy kids do well on State tests, but when they take the Citywide test for elite high schools, not one single kid can pass.  It's a classic case of studying for the wrong test.  "Success" is lost in translation.

Tests don't measure how the brains of a kid work.  They don't measure a teacher's skill.  They merely measure how well a student prepped or was prepped on a specific body of information--which largely seems to fail to translate outside of its own narrow scope.  It's time to evaluate the self-proclaimed testing "gods" for what they're really worth.  They are false idols.  If you think there's something lost in translation, you're right!

Nokia marketing


Monday, April 13, 2015

Oh, that Merryl and Her Zany Antics

Sure, she's arrogant, and sure, she walks around spouting inanities. Sure she makes empty threats of the sort every teacher would avoid. She doesn't like it when her BFFs are dismissed as Regents, and now wishes to bring them back as consultants. This reality thing is not for her, though she wants to impose harsh and unreasonable testing on us and our children. Of course, she's utterly unqualified for her job, and has not the slightest idea what ours entails.

Sure, she has no curiosity, and accepts boilerplate reforminess without question. She has no hesitation in making pronouncements about how standardized testing is necessary for high-needs kids, and she isn't bothered by the utter lack of evidence in that assertion. She babbles about how national testing will be necessary if too many kids opt out. She offers to exempt wealthy districts from the state's odious programs because they already get high test scores.

So it's tempting to dismiss Merryl Tisch as the preposterous figure she clearly is, and a number of my friends and acquaintances are already doing so. But we ought to take her seriously. After all, despite no evidence that any of her preferred programs would work, she's got them enshrined into law, with the help of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who shoved them through the Heavy Hearted Assembly without a whole lot of resistance. Note he did this despite his personal popularity being in the toilet.

So, OK, we can say how ridiculous she is, but the public message ought to be more on the lines of why her policies are hurtful. After all, we have all witnessed the results of NYSUT's juvenile "clueless Cuomo" campaign, and we will all have to live with the aftermath for at least one miserable year.  Apparently the whole name-calling thing did not resonate with anyone but already pissed off teachers. And we know well that Cuomo is not clueless, but rather cunning, unscrupulous, self-serving, self-important, and self-promoting.

We can't say whether Tisch is clueless. Certainly what she says is idiotic. But the important thing for us is to fight her policies and educate the public. I've seen some great commercials coming from New Jersey, commercials that reach out to parents and show the damage of test now, test tomorrow, and test all the time policies. Maybe we should reach out and send messages like those rather than the "It's just not fair" messages I've seen from UFT.

Maybe we should be telling parents about the consequences of a rating system that pretty much rules out evaluating anything but high stakes crap produced by incompetent and secretive Pearson. The whole "more than a score" theme rings really true now that we know a child's teacher cannot get a good rating if the test scores indicate otherwise. Will this lead to massive test prep in lieu of actual education? Will it lead to outrageous cheating? Will we see teachers frogmarched to prison as we just did in Atlanta?

Does anyone besides me wonder how Wall St. profiteers who tanked the economy are still walking around while a few Atlanta teachers are about to spend decades in prison? Does anyone wonder why not even the people who placed massive pressure on the teachers, the sort of pressure we'll soon be feeling in NY, have never been inside a courtroom? How is it, for example, that Michelle Rhee is selling fertilizer instead of making license plates?

We can joke amongst ourselves. But we need a serious and coherent message for the public. Too bad our union leadership is stuck in an echo chamber hearing some endless loop on solutions-based unionism. Because as far as I can tell, this policy provides neither solutions nor unionism.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Do "Failing" Schools Mean Failing Teachers?

There's an interesting point of view in the Daily News. Apparently, the issue with the "Renewal" schools in New York City is that they have an inordinate percentage of "lower quality" teachers. This assumption, of course, is based on the research of reformy Chalkbeat NY, nee Gotham Schools, which finds it noteworthy when E4E can muster 100 signatures on a petition demanding more work for less pay, but can't be bothered to cover a massive demonstration against Cuomo's policies.

First, let's look at the definition of a "lower quality" teachers. This particular person is someone who scores developing or ineffective on a rating system even Andrew Cuomo labels "baloney" (notwithstanding his enthusiastic support for it at its inception).  Unlike Cuomo, those of us who actually believe in science and research called it junk science from the start. That includes people like Diane Ravitch. In fact, even Randi Weingarten, who ran around the country helping to negotiate crap evaluation systems eventually admitted "VAM is a sham."

These systems are all a result of the Gates MET study, a convoluted piece of crap that set out to prove yet another theory emanating from Mr. Gates' fruitful hind quarters--that we need to replicate whatever teachers do in classrooms in which students receive high test grades. This, of course, is the central theory behind reforminess. Public schools, Gates theorizes, are no good because kids don't score well enough on standardized tests.

The fact is, though, that every so-called failing school contains high concentrations of high-needs students. There are kids who live in poverty, kids who have special needs and kids who don't speak English. And please, before some preachy moron gets the notion I'm giving up on those kids, the fact is I spend every day of my working life trying to help those kids. And what my kids need is help learning English, not help passing a test.

I spent a few years teaching ELLs how to pass a test. Some genius in Albany declared that it didn't matter whether or not kids knew English, and in order to graduate high school they needed to pass the English Regents exam anyway. I was drafted. I made kids pass and didn't teach them fundamentals of English language because it wasn't necessary for the test. Kids who passed may have assumed it meant they knew English, but I can assure you they did not. It meant they knew a highly formulaic four paragraph essay good for nothing but that version of the test, and it meant they knew how to look for correct A, B, C, D answers in Regents texts. It meant absolutely nothing more.

I was happy for kids who passed, but I did not fool myself for a moment that it was because I was a great teacher. It was because I made them write until their hands fell off. It was because I made them rewrite everything, no matter how tedious, and it was because I read and critiqued every word they wrote. It was no fun, neither the kids nor I liked it, but they tended to pass the stupid test in higher numbers than they would have without it. Of course their actual writing was no better than before, and they surely failed college writing tests in droves.

Here's the thing--if you are the principal, charged with running a so-called failing school, are you gonna say yes, the school is failing, and all the teachers are excellent. It is therefore an anomaly, a veritable miracle of nature. Are you gonna say the students are no good? Are you gonna tell the truth, that you in fact have high concentrations of high needs kids and there is really nothing you can do about it? Is that gonna get you that desk job at Tweed that will afford you the much-needed time to work on your oragami? Those paper airplanes are not gonna fold themselves, after all.

Of course not. You're gonna observe the teachers and blame them. It's remarkable, in fact, that the negative observations are a mere 20%. Now, you can accept the observation system as the Ten Commandments and assume principals in troubled schools have no self-interest whatsoever.

Or, you can face the actual issue of rampant poverty in NYC and the United States. You can face the fact that non-English speakers tend to settle in cities, where there is work. You can face the fact that most of them cannot, in fact, afford to live in Scarsdale. You can face the fact that the necessity of working 200 hours a week to support one's self and family is not conducive to thoughtful and thorough parenting.

Or, you can accept Bill Gates' formulaic solutions, which are to education as my ELLs' four paragraph compositions are to writing. That is what much of the public does, and that is what many editorials, up to and including those of the NY Times, encourage.

It's on us to get the truth out, and we have our work cut out for us.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Blogger's Day Off

But you can still read my personal message to Governor Cuomo in today's Daily News.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Perfection Academy, One Step Up from Success


A few years back, two hedge-fund operators approached me.  We brainstormed a wonderful idea, a new, no-excuses charter chain to improve upon Eva's model.  We naturally named it the Perfection Academy, thereby letting everyone know that we are infinitely better than mere Success!

Eva's Academy publicly ranks its kids along walls of shame.  The kids at the bottom, those in the red zone, are the losers!  Everybody knows it.  Kids who do well stand up when their scores are called.  Kids who fail to make the grade stay glued to their seats.   We, at Perfection Academy, do better.  Anyone in the bottom 50% deserves public humiliation.  We issue  Perfection-Academy Dunce Caps in neon orange to match the color of our jumpers which serve as school uniforms.



Eva's students wee on themselves.  Have no fear there are closets chocked full of fresh underwear and sweatpants.  We do better.  We issue our students Depend Diapers, fitted for maximum protection.  Students wear them on all testing days, practice and real, including the two Saturdays prior to the exam when they practice with perforated sheets.  Parents want this.  They will tell you so.  It keeps their kids focused on achieving with "maximum absorbency."  We also use deodorizing powder to soak up vomit because it smells lovely!  During practice exams, students learn to aim away from their test papers.  Pearson accepts no vomit!

Eva's classrooms are named for the colleges from which their teachers emerged--even long after the teachers have quit in exasperation.  We have a better idea.  We name our classrooms for hedge-fund contributors.  They never quit!



Eva's kids suffer an inordinate amount of suspensions.  As she has aptly proven, kids who can't sit down and shut up don't deserve an education.   Kids can be brutal.  And, if you've just come to teach fresh out of the ivy League, you probably have no idea how to handle kids who don't sit straight, stare or kowtow.  We share in Eva's belief that students need to sit with hands clasped.  We, however, additionally recommend that while clasping hands, they genuflect, praying to do well on their State exams.  God's never too busy to listen to the fervent prayer of a Perfection-Academy student.  Our test scores are living proof!

Eva offers great rewards to kids who do well.  They get Popeye's chicken, candy, basketballs and Nerf guns.  We, at Perfection Academy, do better.  We know kids don't want books, science kits or any of that "shit."  So, we, give them pure sugar. It can be taken orally or administered intravenously.

Teachers at Success work eleven-hour days.  Our teachers show far greater dedication.  At our school, our teachers work seventeen-hour days because everyone knows the human body can survive on only a few hours of sleep.  If teachers burn out, there are always new kids, out of college, happy for any job.  They have no family and they live with Mom.  They love teaching.  They are the kind of people we want in our classrooms.  Experience means little and it sure saves a lot on pensions!

Eva stores student information on vast data bases.  Everyone is ranked.  We do better.  We sell this information to companies that proposition us.  Then, our students are free to receive lots of wonderful opportunities to buy stuff or have their identities stolen.  If necessary, this information can be used by future employers to help them track their workforce from Kindergarten forward.

At Success, they have closets always stocked full of every imaginable amenity.  We do better at Perfection Academy.  All you need to do is walk up to our closet.  Rap on the door three times, wish for what you want and the closet magically supplies it.*


*There is also an accompanying deduction of equal value from your paycheck.
Success Academy doesn't offer foreign language until eighth grade.  (We all know the lack of importance of language in our modern world.)  Kids who can't pass practice tests lose their extracurricular art and music.  But, remember, whatever isn't necessary for tests, isn't necessary for life.  At Perfection Academy, we agree.  Our curriculum is dedicated 120% to pure test prep.

At Success Academy, they don't backfill past fourth grade.  They can't have their carefully weeded kids mixing with God only knows who.  We can't either.  Parents don't want that!  That is why, we, too refuse to backfill.  We've taken the Success model and made it even stronger.  We do not backfill past kindergarten.  Such a policy proves extremely effective.  Last year, our first class had a 100% passing rate on the state tests.  Those three kids are destined for perfection!

We avoid subgrade soil by refusing to backfill past kindergarten.

I know you want your kids to be creative.  I know you have your doubts about whether performing well on one set of tests will transfer over to a healthy and productive life.  But why bother yourself by asking such questions?  Such questions never appear on tests.  Perfection implies you are compliant.  You follow orders.  You bow your head.  You're ready to work for "The Man" or it could even be "The Woman" (like Eva)!  If you're ready to work unquestioningly and do whatever you're told, whether you're a student or a recent college grad, Perfection Academy is the place for you!!!