Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, August 31, 2015

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Supports Opt Out - For Vaccinations

Given that NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has said parents who opt their children out of the state tests are "not reasonable" and teachers who support or encourage the Opt Out movement are "unethical," I'm a little surprised at this:

A New York Russian Orthodox mom has won the right to exempt her autistic son from getting the school-mandated measles/mumps/rubella vaccination after citing her moral opposition to abortion, The Post has learned.

The woman said she objected on religious grounds because of the MMR vaccine’s link to the cells of aborted fetuses.

The city Department of Education rejected her bid for exemption after questioning the sincerity of her religious beliefs during the summer and fall of 2013.

But the mother, a Russian immigrant whose name was withheld under privacy laws, filed an appeal with the state Education Department.

Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia sided with the parent and granted the student exemption in an Aug. 3 ruling.

“Her opposition to the MMR vaccine stems from sincerely held religious beliefs. … Furthermore, petitioner produced information relative to specific ingredients … which appears to provide the linkage between vaccines and aborted fetal tissue,” Elia said.

The mom said in her pitch for exemption that “abortion is clearly considered a mortal sin and is [an] abhorrent act to any Christian.”

“The vaccine manufacturers’ use of aborted fetal cells in its products and research means that I cannot associate with them or support them financially (by buying their products), for such support would make me complicit to their sin and answerable to God for this violation,” she said.

The law currently provides for a religious exemption, but it must be documented in writing and heartfelt.

Interesting response from Elia.

So, opting out of MMR vaccinations for religious reasons is fine and dandy, opting out of state tests because parents believe the Endless Testing regime is harmful to their children is not.


Happy Labor Day: Bloomberg Cutting 3.3% Of Its Newsroom Employees

When Mayor Bloomberg was in charge of the NYCDOE, New York City teachers could look forward to threats of layoffs every budget season.

Mayor Mikey has taken his fondness for layoff private in his retirement:

While a big round of layoffs is expected to hit this week, the number of pink slips handed out will likely be lower than previously expected.
The financial news and data giant will cut 80 people, or about 3.3 percent of its 2,400 newsroom employees, as early as Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the plans.
The Post first reported Aug. 19 that Bloomberg was gearing up to cut as many as 100 employees by Labor Day — but that number has been whittled down, sources said.


Layoffs are rare — but not unprecedented — at a company that has long stressed loyalty above all else. In 2013, Bloomberg trimmed 50 journalists who wrote about arts and sports, along with much of its projects and investigations team.

There are a lot of complaints that de Blasio hasn't changed much about the Bloomberg ED policies and DOE agenda, but one thing he has changed:

We haven't had the annual "10,000 teachers are slated to be laid off" news when he announces his budget the way we did under Bloomberg.

Cuomo's SUNY Legacy: 30% Higher Tuition And More Hikes Coming

From Joseph Spector at Gannett:

ALBANY – As students at the State University of New York head back to class, they will be doing so with fewer classmates and higher tuition.

Enrollment at the 64 SUNY campuses has dropped 3.5 percent over the past five years, with the biggest dropoff at its 30 community colleges, a review of records by Gannett's Albany Bureau showed.

At the same time, tuition has increased 30 percent since 2010 to $6,470 a year for incoming freshmen this fall.

Tuition hikes every year for the last five years?

You betcha!

And more coming:

SUNY officials, however, head into the new semester facing uncertainty over future tuition increases as a five-year agreement with the state Legislature to increase tuition $300 a year, called SUNY 2020, expires next year.

Zimpher said SUNY would ask for a five-year renewal of the $300-a-year tuition increase, but may try to limit the increases to less than $300 each year.

"We're still at the limit of $300. We don't think it has to go to $300 for every one of our sectors. So our primary theme will be: roll it over. We had a 2020 goal," she said.

When I first started teaching fifteen years ago, a student who was living in public housing could attend a SUNY school and receive a degree with a minimal amount of debt.

Pell, TAP and FSEOG would cover all of the tuition and almost all of the room/board expenses.

They would have to take out a small subsidized loan a year to cover the rest - usually no more than $2000.

If the financing stayed the same for all four years, they were graduating with loan debt of less than $10,000 - not optimal, but certainly not prohibitive to starting a career, having a family, going to grad school, etc.

These days, those same students are getting loaded up with the maximum in both subsidized/unsubsidized Stafford loans ($5500), they may be getting a Perkins loan as well, the parents are getting a PLUS loan and even then it's not enough to cover tuition/room/board/books.

Since the amount in loans a student can take out goes up from freshman year and some of their loans are unsubsidized, after four years they're graduating from a SUNY with over $25,000 in debt - and that's not including the PLUS loans the parents got nailed with (which have to be paid back immediately, plus inteterst.)

Take a look at Stony Brook this year:

The total cost of attendance - tuition, fees, room and board - is $20,811.

That's before any other expenses - books, living expenses, clothing allowance, etc.

Here's how the financing works for a student in need in my experience as a high school teacher of seniors.

The maximum Pell grant award $5,775 a year, the TAP award is usually about $5,000 a year.  So that's $10,575.

Some students receive the FSEOG grant (which can be as high as $4,000), but I've never seen it higher than $1,500.

Let's add $1,500 to our student's grant total - $12,075.

The DIRECT costs of attendance - the money Stony Brook takes right away at the beginning - is $20,811 (broken up by semester, but you get the idea.)

Our student is $8,736 in the hole for the DIRECT costs.

They've gotten some work-study aid, but that money has to be worked for, won't come until much later in the semester, so that's no help here.

Stony Brook gives our student the maximum Stafford loans for a freshman - $5,500 - and that takes the student down to $3,236 still needed to cover expenses.

Stony Brook doles out $2,500 to the parent with a PLUS loan and hands out another $1,500 in a Perkins loan to the student.

The student now has all DIRECT costs paid for, though there's no money left over because origination fees for the loans (over 1% per loan) take away the excess.

How do they buy books, pay for living expenses, etc?

Well, you hope they've got a little money saved from a summer job or the parents have a little money to give them when they head off to school.

They'll have to work during the school year - that's not so bad, they have work study money, so they can get a job on campus - but money's going to be tight and they're looking at an awful lot of debt when they graduate (on top of which, the parents are looking at some debt while they're in school.)

This is an imaginary scenario, but it's one I see with high school seniors who come to me for college advisement.

This same student, if attending a CUNY, would come out with little to no debt because there are no room/board costs (though tuition and fees at CUNY have skyrocketed the last few years as well), so I often say think long and hard about attending a CUNY school, at least for the first two years, then going away as an upperclassman, to minimize the loan debt to themselves and their parents.

But these are young adults and young adults will do (and should do) what young adults want to do - an important component of the college experience is for students to learn how to make judicious financial decisions or understand there may be consequences when those decisions are made less judiciously.

So many often sign up for the SUNY because they want the "college experience" - the going away from home, the dorm-living, etc.

Also, the CUNY schools have gotten much more competitive in terms of admissions over the past few years and I have seen some students get into four year SUNY schools but get locked out of the four year CUNY schools (City, Hunter, Baruch, Brooklyn) and have to attend the SUNY school.

The Gannett story says while enrollment at SUNY has dropped 3.5% over the past five years (mostly due to the improving economy that sees fewer go to community college for retraining and some a choose a private school over a SUNY), employment at SUNY is up 2%.

SUNY claims the tuition increases - and after five straight years of them, they promise they'll be more - are necessary to keep up with costs, infrastructure, etc.

I understand that costs go up over the years (though I'm not sure what they're spending that money on is worthwhile, that's a post for another day), but passing the costs on to students and their families DIRECTLY instead of helping out by getting more money from the state, is NOT the way to pay for them.

Governor Cuomo, ever happy to keep state costs low and pass the buck onto working and middle class people, is getting some pushback from the Heavy Hearts in the Legislature:

ALBANY -- A bill before Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo represents the opening punch in a fight that will determine how much tuition will increase for 700,000 public college students and their families in coming years.

The bill demands that the Cuomo administration keep increases in state aid in closer pace with annual tuition hikes, which have jumped 30 percent in the past five years at the State University of New York and City University of New York. While state aid increased far more in those years compared with the preceding era of flat and reduced funding, it still grew at less than half the rate of tuition.

 The bill overwhelmingly passed by the State Legislature would require the state to cover inflationary and mandated costs at the State University of New York and City University of New York, such as utility bills, building rentals and salaries and benefits. It also would require the state budget to cover mandated costs for programs and equipment at SUNY's three teaching hospitals in Stony Brook, Brooklyn and Syracuse.

Legislators seek to require a greater state commitment than is in the 2011 law that created the "rational tuition" plan of annual increases. The plan was created to better fund the systems, after state aid cuts, to hire and retain professors to raise academic performance, and to avoid unpredictable spikes in tuition forced by crises.

The public universities were hit with deeper cuts than many state programs in the state fiscal crisis of 2008-2011.

In that 2011 law, the Cuomo administration agreed to a "maintenance of effort" in state aid. That law only required that the state not cut SUNY and CUNY aid from 2011 to 2016.

"The maintenance of effort was maintenance-of-effort-light," said Assembly Higher Education Committee chairwoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), the bill's co-sponsor.

That tuition plan, however, sunsets next year. Cuomo, SUNY and CUNY are expected to ask the legislature to extend it in what will be one of the major initiatives of the 2016 legislative session.

"We are looking at what is actually needed to maintain a level of support," Glick said, a level "that ensures that the promise to students that, if they pay more -- and it's a big jump -- that the state will ensure the promise of more full-time faculty and additional sections of course work to make it easier to complete your degree in four years."

We'll see how this all plays out - you can pretty much bet Cuomo will look to pass most of the increased costs onto students and the Legislature, not exactly the bravest of assemblies in standing up to Cuomo, will agree to some "compromise" that continues to screw students and their families.

New York State used to have an excellent state university system that was very affordable.

The state continues to have an excellent university system, but the affordability part of the equation is by the wayside.

SUNY officials point out that SUNY remains cheaper than private schools in New York and some other state university systems.

That's swell.

But the affordability factor has still be eroded away over the years, helped greatly by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and that certainly doesn't help students from low income families having to take out $25,000+ in loans or their families who may be taking on debt for them as well.

Cuomo's always worried about his "legacy" - how he will be thought about in the future.

One big part of his legacy is what he hasn't done to help SUNY students and their families.

His SUNY legacy is, 30% higher tuition (and more hikes coming), SUNY costs up, and state aid held flat. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pro-Charter School Cuomo Official Spends Night In Drunk Tank, Second Alcohol-Related Arrest

Ken Lovett in the Daily News:

ALBANY — A former state assemblyman from Brooklyn who is now an aide to Gov. Cuomo spent a night behind bars last month after a late-night arrest in Buffalo's party district, the Daily News has learned.

Karim Camara, a pastor who heads Cuomo's new Office of Faith-Based Development Services, was arrested at 1:35 a.m. July 11 and charged with misdemeanor trespassing and a disorderly conduct violation after police said he became belligerent at Jim's Steakout sub shop.

Though the charges were ultimately dropped, Camara, who shop staff say was heavily intoxicated at the time, was forced to spend the night in a police holding cell.

Camara, who was previously arrested in 2007 on drunken driving charges, was hired in April by Cuomo for the newly created $150,000-a-year position after spending nearly a decade in the Legislature. He was in Buffalo to meet with religious leaders on state business, sources said.

Camara got aggressive with staff:

Camara had finished eating when he began "making threats to the staff," according to the Buffalo Police arrest report.

“Give me my food,” Camara demanded even though he had already eaten his sandwich and was holding the empty bag, the report says.

The staff asked him to leave, but he refused.

"The defendant was causing the staff and other patrons to be alarmed and annoyed," the report states.

Police intervened, telling Camara he had to go. "I don't have to leave, you can't tell me to leave," he responded, according to the arrest report.

When a cop persisted, Camara shot back: "I know my rights. You don't have the authority."

He was then arrested and placed in a cell until his arraignment later that day.

The store chose not to press charges because no one was physically assaulted, according to the Jim’s Steakout manager.

The case was ultimately dismissed by the court on July 21 and the record sealed.

Gee, funny that the store chose not to press charges.

Wonder if that had anything to do with the Camara's position in the Cuomo administration?

Camara told the DN no big deal:

"This was a regretful, unfortunate and as demonstrated by the fact that everything was dismissed overblown situation," said Camara. "I'm glad it's behind me."

Overblown situation?

Considering it's his second alcohol-related arrest, I'd say it's not 'overblown."

Rather I'd say it's an incident that demonstrates a pattern of bad and/or criminal behavior while intoxicated on Camara's part.

Here's how the first arrest went:

ALBANY – A Brooklyn state assemblyman was busted early yesterday in Albany on a DWI charge after police say they saw his car weaving and traveling at more than twice the speed limit.
In addition to being a state lawmaker, Karim Camara, 35, is also the executive director of the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights.

Police said Camara, a Democrat elected to the Assembly in November 2005, was driving a gray 2005 Honda 65 mph in a 30 mph zone and weaving when they stopped him at 1:45 a.m.

According to the police report, his speech was slurred, his eyes were glassy and bloodshot, there was a “strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath.”

After failing several sobriety tests, Camara refused a Breathalyzer test, cops said.

The assemblyman appeared later yesterday morning in Albany City Court and was released on his own recognizance. He did not return a call for comment.

Sullio wonders:

Indeed, it seems to me that Camara ought to be subject to a moral character review given the previous DWI and now the night he spent in the drunk tank.

Camara is a big supporter of charter schools, btw - you can see stories on that here, here and here.

Given the "no excuses" policies Camara's pals at the charters pursue, it's nice to see the boozy Camara wave off the night in the drunk tank, his second alcohol-related arrest, as "overblown."

Where I'm from, two alcohol-related arrests suggests, you know, an alcohol problem.

Where Camara's from, it's no big deal.

MaryEllen Elia Staring At A "No-Confidence" Vote

Fred LeBrun in the Times-Union on MaryEllen Elia and the heavy hand she's showing in dealing with the Opt Out movement:

There was nothing politic about her emerging strategy for taking on the Opt Outers. It seems confrontational, rather crude and patronizing. Good luck to that. Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo knows enough to be conciliatory when armies of parents become irate.

Remember the state Education Department's own statistical analysis of Opt Outers, the one-third of eligible upstate and Long Island third through eight graders who chose not to take the standardized tests last spring. Their families are white, solidly middle class, well educated, generally from low needs — that is to say, not impoverished — school districts. Regardless of what the new standardized tests might suggest about them — more would fail than pass — these students routinely grow up to hit the appropriate SAT benchmarks, graduate and go on to two- and four-year colleges.

These are not the kind of parents who are likely to be intimidated by vague assertions that, as Elia now suggests, a reason to take the standardized tests is because, ''listen, it's the law.'' It may be the law that public schools must offer the tests. But nothing I've read even suggests it's the law a student must take them. Parents do have rights. If anything, Elia's tack is likely to throw fuel on the fire rather than quell it in terms of opting out. Likewise, any back handed attempt to paint the Opt Out movement as being fanned by teachers is as insulting to the legions of parental volunteers who are Opt Out's core, and know it, as it is to teachers. Nor is Elia's condescending suggestion that fuller knowledge of what Common Core is and these standardized tests are about will turn Opt Outers around.

In my experiences, those in the Opt Out movement are very well informed already, which is why they're involved. With a better and wider perspective, incidentally, than state education officials trying to peddle as fresh fish stale educational policy on its way out on the national level. If there were indeed persuasive justifications for the these high stakes tests, we would have heard them by now. Nationally, the latest Gallup poll shows the public is overwhelmingly figuring that out.


The short of it is Elia doesn't seem to recognize the seriousness of the Opt Out movement, or the high stakes game she's in. Come next spring, it's her credibility now on the line as well as the public's confidence in her agency's ability to guide public education in this state. And right now, they're staring at a no confidence vote.

Elia's support in Albany is soft and thin - many politicians, the unions and other stakeholders said nice things about her when she was hired (even Fred LeBrun acknowledges she's more adept at PR than John King was), but that support will disappear quickly the more she throws down with parents, educators, schools and school districts over opt out rates.

Some Republicans in the Assembly have already displayed no-confidence in Elia, with James Tedisco warning that Elia's putting together a "goon squad" to intimidate parents and teachers over the Endless Testing regime and Al Graf putting together a petition calling for the Legislature to have her canned.

As she puts together her "goon squad" to punish educators, schools and districts that have high rates of students opt out of the state tests next year, she's going to discover that the politicians who said nice things about her this year will throw her under the bus next year quicker than you can say "LLC loophole," that the Board of Regents and Chancellor Tisch will do the same (Tischie threw King under the bus a few times - most notably during the Dr Ted fiasco), and Cuomo will out and out scapegoat her and NYSED whenever he feels the need to distance himself from his own education policy.

It will be interesting to see what Elia's standing is like next August compared to this one after a year of her opt out and Renewal School heavy-handededness, condescension toward parents over opt out and the general shrillness and incompetence we can expect from her given her track record in her old gig in Florida where she left a financial mess, safety issues that resulted in the deaths of three students, and a lot of enemies.

I suspect Le Brun is right, that Elia will have worn out her welcome in New York and will be staring at a no-confidence vote from the public and political establishments for herself and her education department.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Chris Christie Says He'll Track Immigrants Like Fed Ex Packages

Trying to out-Trump the one and only Donald Trump, Chris Christie today:

Laconia, New Hampshire (CNN)Chris Christie said Saturday that if elected president, he will track undocumented immigrants like FedEx packages.

"I'm going to have Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, come work for the government for three months. Just come for three months to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and show these people," the New Jersey governor said at a town hall event here.

Christie added that while FedEx can track boxes, the U.S. can't track undocumented immigrants.
"You go online and at any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is," he said. "Yet we let people come into this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them."

Christie added, "We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in and then when your time is up," he said. "However long your visa is, then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say, 'Excuse me, it's time to go.'"

Christie went on to say that all this talk about "anchor babies" makes the Republican Party look hostile to immigrants.

Oh, but saying you're going to track them like Fed Ex packages doesn't?

The Next Time You Hear Some Edubabble Starting With The Words "Research Shows..."

...You can cut the person off by asking if they're sure the "research" they're citing isn't horseshit:

A painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work. Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.

The vetted studies were considered part of the core knowledge by which scientists understand the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning and memory. Therapists and educators rely on such findings to help guide decisions, and the fact that so many of the studies were called into question could sow doubt in the scientific underpinnings of their work.


More than 60 of the studies did not hold up. The project began in 2011, when a University of Virginia psychologist decided to find out whether suspect science was a widespread problem. He and his team recruited more than 250 researchers, identified the 100 studies published in 2008, and rigorously redid the experiments in close collaboration with the original authors.

Only 36% of the studies held up to scrutiny.  If you add in the so-called research in other fields, even that kind of accuracy is probably too high:

Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford, who predicted in the early 2000s that about half of the findings across medicine were inflated or wrong, said that the 36 percent replication rate for psychology might even be high once the results for other disciplines, like economics, animal research, cell biology and other areas of biomedicine, were also tested.

“Many of the biases found in psychology are pervasive,” Dr. Ioannidis said.

It would be interesting to see a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies of education research to see what the replication rate is.

You hear people on all sides of education reform issues throw out the words "Research shows..."

Our culture has fetishized "research" and "science," as if to say if something has been found by "research" in a "scientific study," it must be so.

This is not so, as one commenter at the NY Times notes:

I applaud the researchers ability to recognize the limitations of their research and their standard of peer review. There is an old saying in medical research: "half of what is published is worthless; the challenge is figuring out which half." The measures adopted help figure that out.

The bigger danger, however, lies not with the scientists but by the talking heads that like to cite (often incorrectly) these studies. President Obama famously said he would "restore science to its rightful place", implying that science was the highest level of understanding. These findings prove what every honest researcher knows- that published studies are often incorrect, that established but untested norms of behavior are often correct, and claiming science as an authority is limiting. Placing blind trust in science is just as foolish as placing blind trust in faith.

The take home message is simple- if a single scientific study claims something different than experience suggests, it needs to be re-tested before it is claimed to be true. Remember that the next time someone proposes a sweeping social change based on shoddy and poorly explained science.

Gee, re-testing scientific research before proposing sweeping social change based on shoddy and poorly explained science - that would never happen in education, would it?

Nahh - the accuracy and validity of the studies on VAM, the Common Core State (sic) Standards, the small schools initiative, teacher evaluations based upon test scores, students who have teachers who raise test scores make more money over their lifetimes, et al. were all tested and re-tested and have been found to be "objective science," as Governor Cuomo is fond of saying.



And "untested norms of behavior" that have stood the test of time are always suspect until Raj Chetty or some other "researcher" gets his/her hands on them for some of their rigorous, scientific research to test them.


No, not right.

As the commenter at the Times writes, blind trust in so-called science is no better than blind trust in faith.

When you get back to school in a week or so, you can bet you'll hear the words "Research shows..." at some PD meeting sooner rather than later.

It is high time to challenge the research fetishizers when they throw out their "Research shows..." jive to prove that the "research" they're citing is part of the 36% that can be replicated and not the 64% that can't.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Kathy Hochul Hears It From A Teacher, Lies Directly To Her Face In Response

Governor Andrew Cuomo was supposed to be at the New York State Fair but he canceled his appearance and sent Kathy Hochul in his place instead.

Hochul met with a teacher protesting the Cuomo administration's imposed education policies and agenda:

Beth Chetney, a ninth-grade English teacher who has been teaching at the Baldwinsville Central School District for 24 years, gave Hochul a fair-sized litany of frustrations. On their list? Teacher evaluations, student testing, a growing lack of control they feel inside their own classrooms, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself.

"The stress that they are under right now is incredible," Chetney said of fellow teachers. "We have a lot of teachers that are feeling the pressure, that if they don't instruct based on what they can guess is going to be on this asinine test."
The teacher described how five or six third-grade questions were released online recently, and most adults she knew were getting at least one of those wrong.

Hochul paid some lip service to saying the administration was dealing with these problems:

"The issues you raise are legitimate," Hochul said. "I assure you they are being talked about at high levels. And you're going to see some changes."

That's a lie, of course - these changes that have brought about more pressure, more stress, more emphasis on testing, and an increased sense of control over what teachers teach and how they teach it came DIRECTLY from the Cuomo administration and Cuomo himself.

Cuomo said not enough teachers were being fired under his vaunted APPR teacher evaluation system, so he had it re-engineered as part of the budget process to ensure that more will be found ineffective and fired next time around (even though these changes actually keep "effective" teachers from teaching in schools with the most vulnerable populations.)

How in hell can Hochul look this teacher in the face and say ""The issues you raise are legitimate...I assure you they are being talked about at high levels. And you're going to see some changes" when Hochul knows this is exactly the way her boss, Andrew Cuomo wants things to work in the public education system?

After all, he said public education is a "monopoly" which he plans to "break" - that was a pretty clear statement of intent upon Cuomo's part, one which he stated more than once (herehere and here.)

Chetney gave Hochul more:

Chetney, the president of the Baldwinsville district's teachers union, kept going. She said she feels the governor has targeted teachers, calling them unethical. Chetney said she's heard the governor say that student tests are meaningless to kids. If that's true, Chetney said, then why does the governor insist that 50 percent of the teachers' evaluations are based on those same test scores?

Hochul said it wasn't true that Cuomo has targeted teachers - another lie:

Hochul listened and then pushed back, not on the teacher eval argument, but on the claim that Cuomo doesn't care about teachers and the pressures they face.

"It's easy to pull out these sound bites that sound the most contentious," Hochul said. "But I've sat in rooms with him, and heard his real concern for teachers and the students. And I don't think that gets covered."

It isn't true that he hasn't targeted teachers, intentionally ratcheted up the pressures in the system, deliberately tried to raise test scores in the evaluation to 50% (even though he said those tests are "meaningless" for students and they shouldn't worry about them)?

Of course it's true, whether Hochul says this is a "contentious sound bite" or not.  As for her claim that Cuomo cares for teachers and students, here's what she's basing that on:

Then Hochul laid out some of Cuomo's education proposals that have become law: less testing in younger grades, more bonus money for stellar teachers, and free tuition for qualifying new New York teachers.

"I'm here to tell that you he has a true commitment to supporting the profession and making sure that New York state regains its position as No. 1 in the nation in education," Hochul said.

These Hochul claims are, at best, distortions.

Since the tests count for 50% of a teacher's evaluation, even for teachers teaching younger grades, the pressure around testing remains, the so-called "bonus money" is based upon a bogus evaluation system that is currently under review by a judge in the Lederman case for "irrationality", and the free tuition for qualifying teachers, well, that doesn't have much value for a career increasingly viewed as a losing proposition by young people.

Chetney finished up her conversation with Hochul this way:

As Hochul and Chetney finished their talk, the crowd around them clapped.

Chetney made a final plea to Cuomo: "He needs to really engage parents and teachers and let them be a part of the solution," she said.

Hochul again said the governor shares the same goal.

"I haven't heard him say that," Chetney said, "and I invite him to my classroom in Baldwinsville anytime he would like to come."

Of course he'll never take Chetney up on the invitation to visit her in her classroom because he doesn't care about what's going on there.

He has an agenda that has been paid for by his wealthy donors to "break" the public school "monopoly" and help them to profit off public education and by golly that's what he cares about.

Hochul's full of crap and her responses to Chetney were lies, deceptions, distortions or empty words.

Teachers know Cuomo has targeted them for destruction no matter what talking points Hochul uses to say differently.

Too bad the cowardly Cuomo doesn't have the courage to meet with teachers directly - either in their classrooms or at the state fair - to hear their grievances and criticism.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Preet Bharara Launches Probe Into Homicide At State Prison

This news should throw chills into Cuomo:

ALBANY — U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the death of an inmate at the state's Fishkill prison.

The Manhattan-based federal prosecutor said in a statement that a joint probe with Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady is investigating the death of Samuel Harrell, who died after several prison guards beat him, according to affidavits from more than a dozen other prisoners first reported by The New York Times.

State officials announced Tuesday that Fishkill was getting a new superintendent whose mandate would include reviewing “all safety concerns” in the building where Harrell died. The Correctional Association, an advocacy group with a legislative mandate to inspect state prisons, had called on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a probe of conditions in the state's prison system, citing a “pervasive culture of violence and abuse.”

Spokespeople for the state's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The NY Times has reported over the past few weeks that there have been 60+ abuse allegations levied against guards at Clinton Correction Facility since June as well as allegations that a group of corrections officers known as the "Beat Up Squad" had beaten a prisoner to death at Fishkill prison, then covered the murder up by claiming he died of a complications from synthetic marijuana use.

Other than the Times and the Times Union, the abuse allegations and homicide were ignored by news media around the state.

The Daily News ignored the abuse allegations and the homicide even as they blasted Bill de Blasio and his handling of Rikers Island two days in a row on the front cover of the paper.

Same goes for New York politicos - for example, Criminal Justice Reform Warrior Hakeem Jeffries, who had just given Cuomo an award from the Urban League for his "leadership" on criminal justice reform issues, completely ignored the Clinton/Fishkill allegations.

With Bharara picking up the probe into the Fishkill homicide, the story ought to be ignored no more.

It's a big story and it needs to get the same attention that the Rikers abuse has gotten.

We'll see if it does.

Given that the story affects Cuomo and not de Blasio, I have a feeling it won't get the attention it deserves from either media or politicos.

That's how things have gone so far and I see no reason for any of that to change.

Hope I'm wrong - what's going on in the state prison system is horrendous, needs to be stopped and those responsible need to be brought to justice.

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Puts Together A "Goon Squad" To Intimidate Parents, Teachers

Readers of Perdido Street School blog will not be surprised to find out that NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is fast wearing out her welcome as the new head of the New York State Education Department nor that she is proving to be a tone deaf figure with a talent for divisiveness and controversy.

Elia was fired from her previous gig as superintendent of Hillsborough School District because she openly feuded with members of the school board, treated many of those who worked with her or under her with disdain and scorn, and refused to take responsibility for student safety problems or  district complicity in the deaths of three students.

In sum:

She had a reputation for creating a "culture of fear" in her office where subordinates felt "browbeaten" and "bullied."

Was accused of trying to cover up district complicity in the death of a 7 year old special needs child.

Was the target of parent protest for lack of district response after a second special needs child died at a Hillsborough school.

Oversaw a school district that has been accused of racial discrimination in its discipline policies and is the target of a federal complaint.

Oversaw a school busing and choice program that created a "reign of chaos" at McLane Middle School for ten years.

Was dubbed "MaryEllen EVILia" by some parents for pursuing district policies that harmed children with special needs.

Couldn't play nice with the school board and was ultimately whacked in a 4-3 vote in January.

When Elia was hired to replace John King at NYSED, she was hailed by members of the Board of Regents, many in the Legislature, the education reform community and NYSUT as a great hire, someone who would listen to and work well with others.

Given her track record at Hillsborough, it was absurd to think that she wouldn't be as divisive, controversial and tone deaf here in New York as she was in Tampa.

It hasn't taken too long for Elia to demonstrate exactly that.

Last week she said parents who choose to opt their children out of the state standardized tests are "not reasonable" and called teachers who support or encourage opt out "unethical."

She threatened "ramifications" for schools and/or districts with high opt rates in 2015, then after that "tool" was taken from her when Regents Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo both stated there wouldn't be punitive measures taken against parents or schools for opt outs this year, promised that she would engage parents and teachers for next year to make sure that opt out rates drop in a way that sounded awfully threatening.

Elia has said "it's the law" that students take standardized tests and she's going to make sure that educators are aware of where the line in the law is drawn over what they can and can't say about opt out.

Her engagement plan has some thinking that she plans legal action against teachers who encourage or even support opt out, like this commenter at Perdido Street School blog:

Cuomo's, Tisch's, and now Elia's recent statements are suggesting how they will be approaching Opt Out.....3020A'ing any "educator," Admin or teacher, who in any way support or do not OPPOSE opt out. Cuomo and Tisch were putting the happy face on it to penalties! And Elia was very clear in saying that any educators who support opt out are "unethical." That suggests the "moral character" language of a 3020A.

Their path forward cannot be penalizing parents, kids, or funding of schools...that's a political shit storm and they know it. The only thing left on the table are those that they are trying to destroy that's where the hammer will fall for opt out.

Today some members of the Assembly have joined in the public warnings over Elia's parent and teacher engagement plans:

Elia told Politco New York that she’s putting together a “tool kit” to help school superintendents reverse the boycotts in their schools, and has been talking to the education department’s legal staff, in order to provide the school administrators with more information on laws requiring that the exams be administered.  Those remarks set off some lawmakers.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco spent a decade as a special education teacher in the Schenectady school system.

“I call this the goon squad,” said Tedisco. “ They are going to intimidate the parents.”

Assemblyman Bill Nojay, a Republican from the Rochester area who describes himself as libertarian leaning, was never a teacher, but his mother was one. He says education officials should be listening to the parents instead.

“The parents, the teachers and the students have got more than enough information,” Nojay said. “They don’t need somebody who is new to New York State to say ‘listen to me, I know better than you do’.” 

In addition, Al Graf has started a petition to call on the Legislature to pull back support from both the Common Core and NYSED Commissioner Elia.

Graf, Tedisco and Nojay are part of a Republican minority in the Assembly, so they will have little opportunity to influence policy in the Legislature, but their public statements warning over Elia's so-called engagement plans with parents and teachers will put pressure on Assembly Dems in the majority carrying water for NYSED and the Cuomo education agenda as well as Cuomo himself.

As Elia goes to war with parents and teachers over opt out (and make no mistake, that's what she's doing by threatening legal action), Assembly Dems and Cuomo are going to have to decide whether they want to back her in that war and risk enmity from the growing number of public school parents who are opposed to the state's education reform agenda and Endless Testing regime.

Same goes for the Board of Regents.

We know that both Regents Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo support that reform agenda and Endless Testing regime but neither wants to be the face of it - that's why Tisch made some soothing statements about opt out and special needs children and Cuomo backed parent right to opt children out of state tests.

Nonetheless as Elia gets more and more shrill over opt out and threatens punitive measures (or even levies them) - as she puts together her "goon squad" to fight her war against opt out - the Board of Regents, the Legislature and Governor Cuomo are eventually going to have to take sides.

You would have to think given Cuomo's careful statements over opt out, given Tisch's softening tone on whether children with special needs should take the standardized exams, given Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's recent statements that maybe there's more to education than just testing, that Elia may not get the public support she's going to need in her war against opt out.

Elia can only use her goon squad if she's got the political support for it.

Her political support is already waning - you can see that in the statements from Graf, Tedisco and Nojay as well as the anger she is engendering among some parents for her opt out threats.

When a member of the Legislature says the NYSED Commissioner is preparing a "goon squad" to intimidate parents and teachers over state tests, the writing is already on the wall:

MaryEllen Elia is wearing out her welcome in a New York minute and whatever political support and leverage she thinks she has to threaten parents and teachers is tenuous and thin.

To top it all off, Elia's going to war over opt out at the same time she is fighting a second front back in Tampa - she has had to defend herself from allegations by some members of the Hillsborough School Board and her successor as Hillsborough superintendent that she left a financial mess in the district.

For some reason, the New York press and political establishment haven't taken an interest in the mess Elia made in Tampa nor in the harm she has done to students there, but as the political fallout from her Hillsborough days continues to follow her, it won't be long before they do.

And once that happens, Elia will have the notoriety she truly deserves as just another incompetent, tone deaf educrat who refuses to take responsibility for the messes she makes even as she threatens accountability and responsibility for others.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quid Pro Cuomo: NY Gov Gets Campaign Cash, Polluter General Electric Gets $50 Million In Tax Subsidies And A Greenwashing

More Cuomo corruption:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week proudly declared that he had successfully lured General Electric into “coming home.” It took $50 million in taxpayer subsidies to convince the company to build a new manufacturing facility in upstate New York, but this was money well spent, Cuomo asserted, noting that GE used to be “such a big part of this community and provided so many jobs and was such a vital player in this community.” Cuomo is now pushing to authorize an additional, undisclosed amount to entice GE to also relocate its corporate headquarters from Connecticut back to New York, some 40 years after it left.

The welcoming rhetoric from the New York governor, a Democrat, presents a stark change from recent years, in which GE was known throughout the state as a large-scale industrial polluter: During the mid-20th century, the company dumped more than one million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer into the Hudson River.

Since 2009, the technology and manufacturing conglomerate has contributed more than $466,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns and political groups that have supported his bids for governor, according to state and federal campaign finance records.

New York state and federal authorities have for decades sparred with GE over the pace and extent of its promised cleanup of the Hudson from years of manufacturing-related chemical dumping, a battle that continues even as Cuomo now extends the state’s largess. In the same week Cuomo was promoting his plans to subsidize GE, federal officials told New York authorities that the company had been underreporting the volume of toxic chemicals that are still in the river’s ecosystem. Meanwhile, New York lawmakers, businesses and environmental groups have been raising concerns that the company is now moving to prematurely abandon the cleanup operations, while a report from federal government scientists said GE needs to conduct additional dredging to fully clean up the river.

PCB's remain in the Hudson, but GE is claiming the clean-up's all done, it's time to move on.

 Cuomo's move here essentially greenwashes them from responsibility.

Hey Andy, why not see if Union Carbide is looking to move headquarters next?

I hear they're owned by Dow Chemical - I bet you can get some campaign cash in return for tax subsidies and some greenwashing from them too.

Al Graf Petition Calls For Legislature To Rethink Support For Common Core, MaryEllen Elia

I've already signed this - you should too:

Dear Governor Cuomo & New York State Board of Regents Members:

Recent news articles attributing statements made by the State’s new Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia raise serious concerns about her vision and policies regarding the course of education in this state.

It was troubling to read that Commissioner Elia was advocating for a financial punishment for school districts with high percentages of opt-outs. It appears that she believes her role is to continue the detrimental policies of her predecessor and to some extent double down on former Commissioner King’s policies.

New York State has continuously expressed a desire to partner with parents, teachers, and all the stakeholders in supplying a quality education for all of our children.

Commissioner Elia, through her statements has labeled concerned parents, teachers and other stakeholders who have expressed concerns about education in our state as adversaries. Parents attempted to communicate their dissatisfaction with the direction of education through an act of civil disobedience. The high number of opt-outs was meant to send a clear message to Albany.
Instead of digging in and threatening the people that are trying to send a message about policies they believe are harmful to our children, the State Education Department and the Regents should take a step back.

The debate over opposition to the Common Core curriculum is taking place in state after state, as well as on the federal level. It has also become a leading issue in the presidential campaign. Here in New York we have had an overwhelming opt-out movement, and more than 50,000 people actually voted on a Stop Common Core ballot line. It is time for the Regents to re-evaluate the direction they are determined to steer education in this state.

The Regents should further re-evaluate their appointment of Commissioner Elia. This state should not be threatening parents, teachers and other stakeholders involved in the education of our children to bend to the will of the state. The state has to consider the concerns expressed through civil disobedience and re-examine the appropriateness, and the impact that the common core curriculum is having on all our children.


[Your Signature]

CC:      Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia

It is time to take back the public education system from the educrats who seek to impose their own agenda on the state's students, parent and teachers no matter the opposition.

Stop Chris Christie PAC Shuts Down Because Christie's Campaign Is DOA

Love it:

The Stop Chris Christie PAC is shutting down because it says Christie is doing a better job at stopping his own campaign.

Said PAC treasurer Tom Bjorklund: “Our committee believes that Mr. Christie has already performed the service of stopping his campaign in spirit.”

Christie is in low single digits in the latest GOP primary polls.

His chance to make headlines and get some momentum going for the campaign has been diminished by the Trump circus.

It's looking pretty much over for Christie - he has to have a strong showing in New Hampshire's primary.

Given that he's not polling very well there, the chances of that happening are not too good.

You never want to bet on a 100% certainty in politics, but it's looking 99.9% certain that Chris Christie is done as a presidential contender.

Union, NYSED Argue That Campbell Brown's Anti-Tenure Suit Is Moot With New APPR Changes

From the Post:

The teachers union and state officials argued Tuesday that a lawsuit challenging New York’s tenure policy should be tossed because Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature approved a new law tightening teacher accountability.

The changes make the tenure suit moot, lawyers defending the state claimed during oral arguments in Staten Island Supreme Court.

“We live in a different world ­today than when this action was filed,” said Assistant State Attorney General Steven Banks.

Cuomo and lawmakers approved in April a tougher tenure law that more closely links teacher job ratings to the test scores of their students. The new law also awards tenure after four years instead of three.

The lawyer representing plaintiff Campbell Brown and the NYC Parents Union claimed the changes to the tenure law were just "windowdressing" and the suit should go forward.


Tenure is effectively abolished under the new APPR law.

If a teacher receives two consecutive ineffective ratings, the district may bring a 3020-a proceeding and the burden of proof shifts to the teacher with the hearing completed within 90 days.

If a teacher receives three consecutive ineffective ratings, the district must bring a 3020-a and the only defense a teacher can use is fraud or mistaken identity with the hearing completed within 30 days.

How the hell are those windowdressing changes to tenure?

Those are drastic changes that essentially abolish tenure protections since a tenured teacher can be fired based upon his/her APPR rating.

Brown is also aiming at LIFO seniority - the last in, first out rules for layoffs - so it's possible the suit will go forward based on that.

But for Brown's lawyer to claim that the new APPR law only provides "windowdressing" changes that do not affect the core tenets of tenure - well, that's just absurd.

Some Republicans Not Sold On Eva Moskowitz For Mayor

A trial balloon was floated yesterday in the Murdoch Post about Mistress Eva of Success Academies running for mayor on the Republican line, but some cold water was thrown on that dream later in the day:

Rejecting a Manhattan GOP leader’s interest in having Democrat Eva Moskowitz run for mayor as a Republican, Republican chairs said today that they would prefer a registered Republican challenging Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I’m not a big fan of Wilson-Pakulas,” said Craig Eaton, the chairman of the Brooklyn Republican Party. “I’m hopeful this time around we’ll have registered Republicans running on our line.” Mr. Eaton was referring to a state law that requires the approval of three out of five New York City party chairs for a candidate to run on a party line different than their own.

Ms. Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools and a top de Blasio critic, has never expressed interest in party-switching or renting the GOP line. The practice drew scrutiny after Malcolm Smith, a former Democratic state senator, was convicted of trying to bribe his way into the 2013 GOP mayoral primary.

Adele Malpass, the chairwoman of the Manhattan Republican Party, wants Ms. Moskowitz to give the Wilson-Pakula more thought. “I would be very excited about Eva running for mayor,” she told the New York Post. “Education is a top priority for the next mayor and Eva is eminently qualified to do that. She’s outstanding.”

Ed Cox, the chairman of the State Republican Party, told the Post Ms. Moskowitz is a “visionary” on education issues, though he didn’t say outright she should run as a Republican.

Staten Island’s Republican chairman, John Antoniello, joined Mr. Eaton in calling for a real Republican to get the nod. “Without a doubt I’d prefer a registered Republican to run,” he told the Observer.

I don't see why Moskowitz, a registered "Democrat" can't switch parties and become a Republican?

Bloomberg did it, why not Eva?

Frankly she's a better fit for the GOP line than the Democratic line.

Her union-busting, anti-public education agenda won't sit well with labor and other traditional Democratic constituencies that put on big GOTV operations in primaries.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Republicans, Hedge Fund Managers Look To Run Eva Moskowitz For Mayor On Republican Ticket

As has been speculated here at Perdido Street School blog, if Success Academies Mistress Eva Moskowitz decides to run for mayor against Bill de Blasio, it will probably be as a Republican:

GOP leaders searching for a challenger to topple Mayor de Blasio in 2017 are so excited that Democratic charter-school champion Eva Moskowitz is weighing a run that they’re open to letting her enter the race as a Republican.

“I would be very excited about Eva running for mayor. Education is a top priority for the next mayor and Eva is eminently qualified to do that. She’s outstanding,” Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, said Monday.
Malpass said wealthy backers of charters are prepared to bankroll a Moskowitz campaign.

Moskowitz, who, as a member of the City Council chaired the Education Committee, is the founder and CEO of the city’s largest charter network, Success Academy. She has said she’s considering taking on de Blasio, but would need GOP permission to run as a Republican.

There's little chance Moskowitz could beat de Blasio in a Democratic primary - the unions and other key Democratic Party constituencies would make sure the anti-union Moskowitz would lose that contest.

That's why she has to run as a Republican, though even there she faces an uphill battle (and is a registered Democrat to boot):

Political insiders said de Blasio would be difficult to beat in a Democratic primary dominated by minorities, left-leaning voters and unions — unless he falters and an insurgent can chip into his base.
A challenger on the GOP line faces an even more daunting task, but former Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he’s proof that a GOP fusion candidate with a reform agenda can beat the odds.

GOP county leaders can use a “Wilson Pakula” procedure under state law to allow a Democrat to run on the Republican line.

The practice has been frowned upon — particularly after two party leaders were convicted of scheming to sell the ballot line to former Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith.

Of course Eva could just change parties and become a Republican - hell, Mayor Mike changed parties more often than he changed tuxedos, so it's not like it hasn't been done before.

Even so, if the hedge fundies and charter school shills want to beat de Blasio in 2017, Eva isn't the best candidate to do it.

She's got baggage as head of the controversial Success Academies where diapers come as part of the school uniform (so that the kids can keep taking their practice tests instead of going to the bathroom, of course!) and she has sued to keep from being audited.

Couple the Success Academies controversies with her prickly personality and temperament (if the press thinks Bill de Blasio doesn't answer their questions, just wait until they got a load of Mayor Moskowitz gaggles) and you see how flawed she is as a candidate.

No, I actually think running charter school shill Hakeem Jeffries against de Blasio makes more strategic sense for the charter school operators.

Jeffries can eat into de Blasio's support among the black community, Mayor Bill's strongest supporters in the latest polling, while sucking up a lot of Wall Street cash and charter school donations to be able to run plenty of attack ads against de Blasio.

I suppose the charter shills could try and run Jeffries AND Moskowitz, with the idea that Jeffries softens de Blasio up in the primaries and Eva finishes him off in November, but that seems unlikely.

I think Eva, ego maniac that she is, loves the attention over whether she'll run for mayor and is using the story line to push her personal and charter school brand, but I'm skeptical that in the end she decides to actually run.

She makes an awful lot of money now as Success Academies Mistress, she and Success get limited scrutiny from media now that would change if she decided to run for mayor, and she really isn't the best pro-charter candidate to knock de Blasio off.

De Blasio could be vulnerable to a center-right pro-charter school candidate in a general election in November, but given her flaws, I don't think Eva Moskowitz is that candidate.

My money is on either Jeffries or Ruben Diaz Jr. to try and get the charter school operators and hedge fund managers to bankroll a primary challenge against de Blasio and to get a receptive audience from them, while Eva continues to make sounds like she's going to run but in the end bows out against a less controversial pro-charter figure to run in 2017.

But we'll see how it all plays out - you never know how things go in politics.

Donald Trump's massive poll lead among Republicans even as he beats up on FOX News and hedge fund managers is just the latest demonstration of that, isn't it?

Gallup: Support For Unions Up, Young People Most Supportive

Interesting findings:

After falling to an all-time low in 2009, Americans’ support for labor unions has been inching up, according to Gallup, the consulting and polling company.

“Americans’ approval of labor unions has jumped five percentage points to 58 percent over the past year, and is now at its highest point since 2008, when 59 percent approved,” a report issued by Gallup said.

The low, at 48 percent, was in 2009.

“Perhaps most positive for the future of unions is the finding that young adults, those aged 18 to 34, are the most supportive of all age groups,” Gallup said.

Support for unions was at 55% when Gallup asked the question in 1979, so 58% support, bouncing back from the 2008 low, brings support back to recent historical levels.

But here's some cause for optimism in the future:

66% of people aged 18-34 approve of unions, while 53% aged 35-54 approve of unions and 58% of those aged 55 or older approve of unions.

It looks like younger people, seeing how badly they're getting screwed by globalization and other economic forces that are squeezing them on all ends are more open to unions than their elders - especially their Gen X elders.

Joel Klein Brought His Incompetence To News Corporation, Helped Rupert Murdoch Lose Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars

Buzzfeed with a post-mortem on Rupert Murdoch's Amplify digital education revolution:

Amplify, Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to disrupt the American education industry, had a lot going for it: a lot of hype, a lot of media attention, a lot of high-profile names, and a lot of money to spend. Then add to all that the fact that the education industry seemed especially vulnerable — dominated by big, cozy, slow-moving incumbents, just the way Murdoch likes it.

But none of that mattered in the end. As it turns out, Murdoch’s News Corp. couldn’t even make waves in the education world, much less disrupt it. During its short life, Amplify bled money, losing $193 million in 2014 alone.

On Aug. 12, News Corp. said it was in final talks to sell Amplify, had written down the value of the business by $370 million, and would wind down the education unit’s first and most ambitious project, a custom-made tablet computer that was supposed to revolutionize education technology. The venture lasted just three years at News Corp.

Amplify’s high-profile failure, despite the people and money backing it, is a sign of just how strange and difficult to navigate the education industry can be. The company underestimated almost everything about the industry: the deep entrenchment of the biggest players and the complexities of selling to school districts — not to mention the surprising political power of parents and teachers unions, who had a not-insignificant hand in the company’s troubles.

Amplify wasn't helped when news broke that their tablets set themselves on fire or broke when turned over.

Nonetheless, the Buzzfeed analysis is that Amplify thought they could "disrupt" the education world by going right at their competitors and getting districts to sign on to Amplify contracts but failed to grasp that they needed to build and develop relationships with districts and district personnel first.

Another reason for Amplify's failure?

Google beat them by offering cheaper hardware in their Chromebooks that came with built in keyboards (Amplify requires separate keyboards for the tablets) and offered more software  flexibility:

For one company, however, grabbing market share in the education business has been anything but slow. Google was hardly a blip on the education world radar in 2010, when News Corp. bought the testing company that it would eventually transform into Amplify. But more than half of all devices sold in education are now Google Chromebooks, outstripping even iPads in sales.

“Is the industry still ripe for disruption? Absolutely. The disruptor has been Google,” said Phil Maddocks, an industry analyst with Futuresource Consulting. “They’ve come from nowhere.”

Google Chromebooks had a lot of advantages over Amplify’s tablets. They are cheaper than almost any device on the market. They also come with keyboards — a necessity for many state tests, which are increasingly taken by computer, and a feature that is increasingly in demand for older students.
Chromebooks are also better suited to the “extremely fragmented” education market, where many districts and teachers prefer to piece together content and apps, rather than turning to one company for curriculum, apps, and devices. While Amplify’s tablet was technically “content-agnostic,” meaning it could run other companies’ software, it was envisioned as a “complete mobile learning system,” in the company’s words. It came designed to be bundled with Amplify curriculum, with hefty discounts for school districts if they bought Amplify’s content alongside it. That subscription cost an additional $99 a year.

“They were really offering only one solution,” Maddocks said. “In the past, when we’ve seen hardware try to link up with content, it hasn’t worked. It all comes back to the fragmentation of the [content] market — every district wants a different solution.”

Amplify also misread the competition - they thought Pearson and other textbook companies would be slow to move to digital.

They were wrong:

And despite how it had looked when News Corp. headed back into the education market in 2010, companies like Houghton Mifflin and Pearson were not as print-bound and slow to adapt as they had seemed. Houghton Mifflin, the biggest player in the elementary education space, made heavy investments in technology, and its sales are now mostly digital, though by a slim margin.

These were key mistakes that ought to cost Joel Klein his job at News Corporation, but as we see again and again, accountability is only for the little people.

Instead, they will cost other people at News Corp their jobs, even as Klein makes excuses for his poor leadership at Amplify:

In a long letter to Amplify staff announcing the company’s impending sale, Klein offered his own explanation. “Amplify’s work has been so innovative and transformative that we’ve been ahead of the market,” he said. “That, in part, helps explain what has happened with our tablet business.”

Ahead of the market?

Uh, uh - behind the market.

Chromebooks with keyboards are the way forward, not Amplify tablets.

Software flexibility potential is the way of the future, not "complete mobile learning systems" built into the hardware and available to access for a yearly fee.

The only way Amplify was "ahead of the market" is if you think that tablets that break easily are the way of the future.

More Klein incompetence, this time at News Corporation, but as is usual with Jeol Klein, there is no accountability for his failures.

Joel Klein keeps failing upward.

No Accountability Measures Or Expectations In Place For New Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash

Once again we get an example of how accountability is only for the little people:

 The four-year employment contract for incoming Buffalo School Superintendent Kriner Cash makes him the highest paid leader of any major urban school district in the state, but does not lay out any specific performance expectations. Those will be set later. Moreover, Cash’s contract includes unusually specific communication procedures designed to prevent individual board members from telling him what to do without official board authorization.

Oh, the specific performance expectations will be set later.

How much later?

Undetermined performance evaluation: While some superintendent contracts provide explicit parameters for how a superintendent’s work will be judged, Cash’s contract includes only one sentence stating that the adoption of specific performance expectations and measures will be developed through a collaborative process by Sept. 30.

Hired first, performance expectations and measures later - this isn't sitting well with Crazy Carl Paladino:

Board member Carl Paladino, who served on the negotiating committee along with Sampson and board member Barbara Seals Nevergold, criticized the fact that Cash was given such a lengthy employment contract term without identifying specific performance goals. He was out of the country when the board approved Cash’s contract and said he attended only one meeting with the board’s negotiating team.

“There’s no standards set for this guy,” Paladino stated. “We’re telling him you’re employed for four years, and we’re not telling him what his job is.”

Silly Crazy Carl - expectations and accountability are for little people in the school district, not for the people who run it.

NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Threatens Legal Action Against Educators Who Support Opt Out

Just as some commenters on Perdido Street School blog pointed out would happen, NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is going to target educators who support the Opt Out movement with legal action:

ALBANY — Education commissioner MaryEllen Elia already has begun a battle to stop the rapidly growing opt-out movement before next year’s state tests, reaching out to department attorneys and meeting with superintendents, she told POLITICO New York.

“We’re trying to pull together a tool kit, if you will, to support superintendents in how we can communicate in a much more effective way to people across the state,” Elia said.

That kit will include legal information, which is why she has reached out to lawyers, Elia said.
“I want the superintendents to understand the reflections and law that they can use as an information piece when they talk to people in their community … It’s important for them to be able to say, ‘Listen, it’s the law.’”

Ooh, it's the law!

I am so impressed by that statement.

Segregation and slavery were the law too, but that didn't make those laws right or just.

Many states continue to have sodomy laws on the books too, but that doesn't make those laws right or just either.

Same goes with the "law" regarding standardized testing in New York State.

Giving standardized tests that have been rigged to fail 70% of the children in the state may be the law, but that doesn't make that law right or just.

Implicit in her statement that giving the tests is "the law" is that legal action can be used against people who flout that law.

She has already said any educator who supports or encourages opt outs is "unethical," so you know when she dangles legal threats around over opt out, that's who she's aiming at.

If Elia wants to threaten legal action against teachers who support the Opt Out movement - go for it.

With opt out rates going from 5% in 2014 to 20% in 2015, I can understand why Elia feels threatened over the Opt Out movement.

But threatening legal action against teachers who support opt out, I don't think that's going to be a winning proposition for her.

When push comes to shove, will she get back-up from the Legislature or the governor in a battle over the tests?

Governor Cuomo is a huge fan of bashing and scapegoating teachers, but even he has tread lightly around the testing and opt out issue, knowing that there is a growing opt out movement in the state that can hurt him politically.

It remains to be seen what Elia can do to teachers other than threaten them for supporting opt out - unless she wants NYSED to engage in thousands of 3020a disciplinary cases over opt out, that is.

Is that the plan?

If so, it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Another thing that's not a winning proposition for Elia - equating support for opt out with ignorance on the part of parents.

Elia keeps saying (echoing Regents Chancellor Tisch) that NYSED has to get the message out to parents why testing is swell and kids should shut up and take their tests.

Elia even said last week that support for opt out is "not reasonable" - a statement that equates parent support for opt out with insanity.

This isn't sitting well with some parents:

When asked if she thinks opt out will continue to grow, Elia replied: “It’s incumbent upon us to get information and support out to those educators and leaders across New York … I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of communication and we have to do it a multiple levels.”

Some parents, like Jessica McNair, say they already are informed about Common Core and the opt-out movement should not be dismissed as a lack of information.

“I think she has a lot to learn about the parents in New York State,” McNair said. “We’re not going to back down until we see tests that are developmentally appropriate, and tests that are decoupled from the teacher evaluations.”

Opt Out CNY, which has 4,120 members, already has a 2015-16 refusal letter available to parents on its website — and some already have it signed and in their child’s book bags for the first day of school, McNair said.

Elia was supposedly hired because she is a "listener" and "consensus-builder."

From what I see so far, we've got John King Part Deaux, another a tone deaf corporate education reform water carrier for an NYSED Commissioner who reflexively attacks parents and teachers when they don't agree with her.

Let's see how that show plays over the next school year.

Daily News Carries Water For Cuomo, Continues To Ignore Systemic Prison Abuse In State System

Enough is enough.

The New York Daily News continues to hammer the Rikers prison scandal, putting stories on the front page day after day, calling for resignations and investigations and kinds of change at the prison.

Good for them.

But they inexplicably continue to ignore the systemic abuse, torture and murder of prisoners in the state prison system by corrections officers even as they hammer the Rikers story.

There have been 60+ allegations of prisoners being beaten, choked, abused, and threatened with waterboarding at Clinton Correction Facility in Dannemora and an allegation of a prisoner being beaten to death by corrections officers known as the "Beat Up Squad" at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon.

The NY Times reported on both of these stories the past few weeks, but other New York papers, including the crusading Daily News that never met a Rikers story it didn't want to put on the front page and editorialize about, has ignored them.

Today the Albany Times Union published an editorial, asking when the Department of Justice will investigate these allegations of torture, abuse and murder in the state prison system under Cuomo:

Cruel and All Too Usual

“There is no protection from the freezing temperature … the prisoners are still standing in the courtyard, shivering with cold, tortured by hunger and fainting from exhaustion. In such conditions, the prisoner has only one hope left, to die.”

So goes a description of a roll call by photographer-author Brian Gaylor in “Ghosts of Auschwitz,” about the most infamous Nazi death camp.

“Once the frisking was done, they continued to make us stand with our hands on the fence. Those of us that didn’t have gloves were suffering, and the staff didn’t care.”

That second account is not from World War II. It’s from an modern-day inmate of a Feb. 7, 2013, incident at Bare Hill Correctional Facility in northern New York. The incident, related by reporter Alysia Santo of The Marshall Project, a journalism nonprofit that focuses on criminal justice, involved a prison yard search for weapons after an inmate’s face was slashed. The search that went on, inmates claim, for 30 minutes or more in the 5- to 10-degree cold. Inmates say they were ordered to remove their hats and gloves and hold a chain-link fence, even after the search was over, as guards waited for someone to come clean about the assault. Ten prisoners suffered frostbite.

Which brings us, once again, to the question: What is going on in New York’s prisons, and when will the U.S. Department of Justice take notice?

The question springs from Clinton Correctional Facility where, after the escape by two prisoners this summer, inmates told The New York Times that guards beat handcuffed prisoners, slammed them against walls and cell bars, and choked them or suffocated them with plastic bags over their heads.
The question lingers at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, a prison with a history of complaints of official brutality, where the Times recently reported on allegations that an inmate was beaten to death in April by what’s known at the prison as the “Beat Up Squad,” and witnesses put in solitary confinement and threatened.

The response from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on the allegations at Clinton Correctional? They’re being looked into. At Fishkill? Looking into it; State Police will turn over their findings to the Dutchess County District Attorney in the “near future.” At Bare Hill? No comment, since it’s a matter of litigation.
When is enough enough? When does one report of abuse after another add up to a possible pattern of systematic, dehumanizing brutality?

When will the Cuomo administration concede that this demands an outside investigation, not one by the same state government that operates these prisons and stands to be on the hook for possible civil rights violations and potential damages?

And when will the Justice Department take notice? When these prisoners’ terms are done, and they return to society, to put into practice all the lessons they have learned about how civilized people behave?

When will the DOJ take notice of these allegations?

Hell, when will the New York Daily News?

It seems that if prison abuse doesn't occur at Rikers Island, they're not interested in the allegations in the least.

The cynic in me wonders if they continue to do Rikers stories day after day because they get to hammer de Blasio but they ignore the state prison abuse allegations because that would reflect badly on Governor Cuomo and they wouldn't want to hurt his feelings (or his political standing.)

The same goes for the politicians in this state, all of whom continue to ignore the state abuse stories even as some talk about criminal justice issues.

Some of these politicians have been hailing Cuomo as a criminal justice reformer - take Hakeem Jeffries, for example, who gave Cuomo an award from the Urban League for being swellest politician on criminal justice reform issues even as allegations of systemic abuse, torture and murder of prisoners by New York correctional officers surface in the NY Times.

The newspapers and many in the political establishment have it out for de Blasio these days, the Rikers story being just the latest example of where they take the rhetorical bludgeon out and bash him over the head with it.

I think the Daily News is justified to do so with the Rikers mess.

Yet I cannot fathom why the Daily News and other newspapers (outside of the Times and Times Union) or politicians like Hakeem Jeffries stay silent on the state prison abuse allegations even as they speak out on the Rikers mess other than they have a political agenda to protect Andrew Cuomo and destroy Bill de Blasio.

Monday, August 24, 2015

American Public Rejects Evaluating Teachers Based On Test Scores

The PDK/Gallup poll has a decent majority opposing teacher evaluations tied to test scores - it's 55%-45% opposed.

But when you look at how public school parents responded - 63% opposed, 37% in favor - it's almost 2-1 in opposition.

One of the core guiding principles of corporate education reform - that teachers should be evaluated based upon test scores (what Governor Andrew M. Cuomo likes to call "scientific, objective evaluation") is not very popular with the segment of the American public that is most affected by that tenets - parents of public school children.

It's interesting how the more Americans get to see education reform in action - Common Core, testing, teacher evals tied to tests - the less they like it and it's even more interesting to see how the more public school parents see it in action, the more they oppose it.