Sunday, April 28, 2013

Revised (Corrected) Update: UFT's MORE Caucus Wins the Moral Victory

MORE (Movement of Rank and File Educators) Bests New Action 2 to 1, Taking New Position as #2 Caucus, across a few divisional levels.
Considering the brazen negligence of the union to emphasize the United Federation of Teachers election, what with the buttons and posters for the municipal elections while keeping the union election on the hush-hush, this is a relative victory for the new MORE caucus.
Also, the union, cynically knowing that it has a lock on the retiree vote, rigged the rules to allow the retirees to have greater power.
An interesting question is how many unions allow their retirees to vote?

* * *
It is very telling how the Unity capitalizes on voter alienation, demobilization and simple apathy; yet in spite of all this, MORE bested New Action. The most striking voting result feature is that Unity won a minority plurality (45 percent) at the high school level. Translation: at the high school level, a majority oppose the Unity leadership.
The stark facts as reported at the ICE-UFT blog:
Here are the slate numbers for the 2013 and 2010 elections.

2013 High Schools Ballots Returned: 3808 Votes Counted: 3595
MORE: 1430 (40%) NEW ACTION: 452 (13%) UNITY: 1592 (45%)
The remainder are people who split their ballot.
2010 High Schools Votes Counted: 5203
ICE-TJC: 1369 NEW ACTION: 774 UNITY: 2595

2013 Middle Schools Ballots Returned: 1879 Votes Counted: 1875
MORE: 398 (21%) NEW ACTION: 161 (9%) UNITY: 1185 (63%)
The remainder are people who split their ballot.
2010 Middle Schools: Slate Votes Counted: 2881
ICE-TJC: 248 NEW ACTION: 421 UNITY: 1981

2013 Functionals (non teachers) Ballots Returned: 7704 Ballots Counted: 7113
MORE: 951 (13%) NEW ACTION: 754 (11%) UNITY: 5167 (73%)
The remainder are people who split their ballot.

2013 Elementary Schools Ballots Mailed: 34,163 Ballots Returned: 7331 Ballots Counted: 6870
MORE: 1140 (17%) NEW ACTION: 534 (8%) UNITY: 5111 (74%)
The remaining votes are those who split their ballot.
2010 Elementary Ballots Returned: 10,292
ICE-TJC: 703 NEW ACTION: 978 UNITY: 7337

2013 Retirees Ballots Mailed: 58,357 Ballots Returned: 22,462
MORE: 1490 (7%) NEW ACTION: 1880 (8%) UNITY: 18,155 (81%)

TOTAL SLATE VOTES, 2013: 40,400
MORE: 5409 (13.4%) NEW ACTION: 3781 (9.4%) UNITY: 31,210 (77.2%)

Something is wrong with the UFT electoral system when New Action gets only 13% of the high school votes but wins half of the UFT Executive Board seats for the high schools while MORE's 40% will get MORE no representation on the Executive Board.
It is obvious that a clear majority of the high school teachers who vote do not want a Unity monopoly on power. Had this been a traditional two party UFT election, there would be truly independent opposition representation (no Unity cross endorsement needed).
Two other stories emerge at first glance. First, the turnout was pitiful as only 43,138 ballots are being counted. More significantly, 22,462 of those votes are from retirees. That constitutes 52% of the voters. I would question if having retirees as the majority of the electorate is healthy for the union.
In addition, Mulgrew's vote will more than likely drop in a major way compared to 2010 among active UFT members. It appears many members did not vote for the opposition but they certainly didn't vote for the incumbent. For the next election, those members need to be persuaded to vote.
* * *

Before any Unity operative or any media journalist bandies about president Michael Mulgrew's apparent 84 percent victory, certain hard facts need to be acknowledged. A close examination of these facts will blow away any pretense that this election victory is any kind of victory that Unity or New Action can be proud of, let alone claim a mandate.
A crucial part of the story is that 52% of the voters in the 2013 vote were retirees, as the ICE-UFT blog, the source of the above details, attests.
(This is an essential fact that Unity caucus' press release, hosted on the UFT website, conveniently skips over.) This shows that Unity is very cynical in terms of how deeply it attempts to cultivate support among the rank and file.
--That it relies on people that are finished with the New York City educational system.
Unity cultivates the retiree bloc, touting member benefits. Yet, as an observer of the UFT scene noted three years ago, this allows Unity to ignore actual conditions of working in the classroom.

NEW ACTION GETS 9% - ANTICIPATES GETTING 18 PERCENT OF EXECUTIVE BOARD SEATS New Action, the caucus that fuses with the dominant Unity caucus, is such a bemusing entity. Sells its soul for seats at the table. It is a total cognitive disconnect, it ignores that its partner Unity brings on the train of conditions that are destroying our working conditions. Their latest blogpost acknowledges that its nine percent of the vote was a set-back. It ignores that it lost its number 2 position to MORE. Yet, due to its power sharing agreement (in exchange for not challenging president Mulgrew [Unity]) it gets executive board seats. By my math, if they are getting 10 seats out of 55 they are getting 18% of the executive board seats.

Furthermore, Unity, recognizing the huge pro-Unity skew among retired voters, and their greater proportional turnout, reconfigured the voting rules in January, 2013, to expand the pull of retired members. See this piece from Gotham Schools, this March:
Certain to make an impact are retirees, whose votes go overwhelmingly to Unity. It’s worth watching how big that impact turns out to be, since those votes have gained influence through a rule change made by the UFT this January. The total number of retirees’ votes counted had been capped at 18,000 since 1989, which meant that an individual retiree’s vote counted for less than an active member’s vote — about seven-tenths of a vote in 2010. The union raised that cap to 23,500 retiree votes in January, and because a high percentage of retirees vote, Mulgrew could potentially receive an even higher share of the votes than in 2010.
But, why the January, 2013 expansion of the retiree vote allotment? Could it be that Unity was facing a strong challenge from the MORE caucus? Note how no division other than retirees went over 74 percent for the Unity slate, yet the winning percent that Unity is able to cite is 84 percent. The retiree vote was instrumental in allowing that to reach that level.
Serving, retired 2007 2010 2013
In-service 24989 29005 20722
Retirees 22427 24978 22462
Total 47416 53983 43184
Yet, the counted retiree votes were capped at 18,000 in the 2007, 2010 elections. As Anna Phillips said, writing during in the 2010 election, the concern was that retirees could “outnumber active UFT members and effectively govern the union.” The cap was raised in January, 2013, to 23,500. (Funny how that figure was reached. 22,427 was the number of retirees voting in 2007.) Given that retirees voted at 52 percent of the total voters in 2013, for the first time in the majority of votes cast (see above table), they do now govern the union.
In March, Mulgrew went to Florida to speak at a retirees' luncheon. We imagine that if he were an in-service teacher, like Julie Cavanagh, the MORE presidential candidate, he might be inconvenienced to make a long-distance trip during a non-vacation time.

Nevertheless, this should not be a point of antagonism by progressive teachers. What we should be pointing out is that the Unity faction is collaborating with conditions that will make it far harder for teachers to have the opportunity to reach and enjoy retirement as the retirees are enjoying. Unity has ceded the narrative of education failure to the deformers. Related to this is Unity's agreeing to the quota of seven percent of teachers per year targeted for termination via unsatisfactory ratings. With all the ramped up stress that teachers are going through --that Unity is not fighting, but just counseling teachers on how to comply with the mandates that it has never questioned-- the Danielson Frameworks, the Common Core, the data binders, the increased administrator/network leaders (or consultants) harassment, it is likely that there are thousands that will quit the profession, for their physical and mental health, and thus not be able to enjoy a full UFT retirement. Progressive teachers need to find a way to reach retirees to let them know how their union has acceded to working conditions that are thoroughly nightmarish compared to what they experienced.
Division Ballots mailed Ballots returned Percentage participating in vote
High schools 19040 3808 20.0 %
Middle schools 10807 1879 17.4 %
Elementary schools 34163 7331 21.5 %
Functional, 51040 7704 15.1 %
Retirees 58357 22462 38.5 %

It is striking that that there has been a fall-off in turn-out, across the school level types.
The anemic turnout can really be cast as the doing of the Unity caucus, for the union did little to authentically get the message out that there was an election. Beyond that, before and during the election, it has kept the members in a passive alienated state, it has the president and district reps speak in a loud barking style, as though that serves the members. It does not foster mass participation; it fosters a jolted state on the part of the listener. This is how Unity likes things.
Never will you hear Unity sincerely reach out and listen to the members, as UFT ELECTIONS: A VICTORY FOR MORE," as MORE pledges to do in the next three years.
TURNOUT IN SOME OTHER RACES The turnout among the practicing teachers was pronouncedly low –even lower than the turnout of registered New York State voters in the last presidential election.
Entity Election Turnout measure Turnout rate
New York State, 2012 presidential election, general election Voting-eligible population, ballots counted turnout rate 53.6 %
Source: “2012 General Election Turnout Rates,” United States Election Project, Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University, March 25, 2013
Excerpt from April 12, 2010 piece by Rick Hess, "Voice of Classroom Teachers Stifled... By UFT Election Rules," at Education Week, April 12, 2010
What you might find surprising about the UFT election, though, was the degree to which it was dominated by people who aren't teachers. Might this help explain the UFT's focus on gold-plated health care, pensions, and employee prerogatives, even at the expense of measures to attract talent or address instructional quality?
In last week's UFT election, 28% of the 36,907 elementary teachers voted, 20% of the 11,697 middle school teachers voted, and 30% of the 19,931 high school teachers voted. The result: a total of 18,713 ballots were cast by elementary, middle, and high school teachers. (These data are all available at New York City's Education Notes Online).
Those teacher ballots were swamped by votes from retirees and "functional" teachers. What exactly is a "functional teacher," you ask? Good question. The UFT New Teacher Handbook reports that examples include "attendance teachers; guidance counselors; hearing educational services; laboratory specialists and technicians; nurses and therapists; paraprofessionals; school secretaries; social workers and psychologists; [and] speech teachers." There are 45,889 functional teachers. Twenty percent voted, yielding 10,629 ballots.
And the union's 53,560 retirees voted at a 50% rate, yielding 24,978 ballots. Now, a recent rule change diluted the impact of retiree votes so that they count "only" for about 0.7 of a standard vote. This adjustment meant that the retirees cast the equivalent of about 18,000 votes. As Anna Phillips at GothamSchools reports, active union members voted at about a 24% rate, while the 53,000 retired members voted at a rate of about twice that.
So, do the math. From classroom teachers: 18,713 votes. From nurses, lab specialists, school secretaries, and such: 10,629 votes. From retirees (after their votes were diluted): 18,000 votes. So, 60% of the votes counted were not cast by active classroom teachers. That doesn't make it easy for reformers focused on improving work conditions and pay for today or tomorrow's teachers to marshal the votes for change.
Another observer of the election scene, Mike Antonucci, addressed this skew and Mulgrew's special advantage:
The largest teacher’s union local in the nation sent out 173,407 ballots, of which 43,138 were returned (about 25%). The most interesting detail is that Mulgrew received 34,919 votes, even though only 20,722 ballots were returned by working public education employees. How is that possible? Because 22,462 ballots came back from retirees – including many from Florida, where [the] UFT has offices, and Mulgrew can visit on the union’s dime, but his challenger cannot.
Is it any wonder, then, that the NYC Educator blog penned its latest post, "The United Federation of Retired Teachers"?

UNITY NEVER DEBATED IN ANY FORUM, live or Internet-discursive
MORE has won the moral debate. MORE and its lead members have consistently expressed deep concern for the issues surrounding education today. For example, here is Julie Cavanagh's November, 2012 statement on Race to the Top. And here is a critique, April, 2013, of Unity/New Action's Mulgrew's endorsement of Race to the Top, and a lengthy piece, also this April, with a deep analysis into the profound threats to New York City teachers, and Unity's role in abetting by these threats.
Unity and New Action's leader, Michael Mulgrew, shied away from ever debating MORE's presidential candidate.
Aside from a few weakly argued posts at a pro-Unity blog, Unity never defended its atrocious record. All of that receding from engaging the issues or defending its strategic posture or record, all the while, MORE's blog and about half a dozen blogs in New York City (in fact, all teacher blogs except for one) consistently plugged for MORE.
MORE on the other hand, has had its members appear in print, radio and television media, opposing the Unity perspective of education in the couple of years prior to the election. Never did Unity's Mulgrew appear in like media and directly articulate why he takes the strategy of mass professional suicide that Unity is pursuing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Boycott Is Happening in Chicago—And This Time It Isn’t Teachers


A Boycott Is Happening in Chicago—And This Time It Isn’t Teachers Yahoo News

Students in Chicago have had enough with their school system.
A group called Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools boycotted the state-mandated test, PSAE, on Wednesday and protested citywide. Like many people against standardized testing, the students, which numbered in the hundreds, have had enough with test taking. But their objections, however, go further.
They are also fed up with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the public school system’s leaders in their attempts to shutter 54 school programs and 61 school buildings, mostly in underprivileged and minority neighborhoods.
Brian Sturgis, a senior at Chicago’s Paul Robeson High School and an organizer of the boycott, wrote in an Education Week blog, “Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education are supposed to make the CPS system work for all of us. But instead they are putting too much pressure on standardized testing and threatening to close schools that don't have high test scores. When schools are under so much pressure to raise test scores it leads to low-scoring students being neglected, not supported.”
The protestors posted frequently on social media to keep people updated on their activities. Their Twitter feed shows a picture of students lined up, arms interlocked, in front of school. One student held a sign that said, “The best way to learn is by taking a test—No child ever said.”
The students’ activities haven’t sat well with administrators.
Earlier this week, the school district made robocalls to students’ parents, warning how important the test results are to a their children’s academic future.
Every student must take at least one day of the two-day exam to be promoted to 12th grade and graduate. The second part of the test, given on Wednesday, included science, math and reading. This part, in turn, gives a career-readiness certificate endorsed by employers to students. Of course, as is the norm in America’s classrooms, the tests are also used to help evaluate each school and teacher.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Chicago Public Schools CEO said on Wednesday, “The only place that students should be during the school day is in the classroom with their teachers getting the education they need to be successful in life. Today's PSAE is one of the most critical exams our students will take. Every adult should support and encourage our students to make sure they are in school.”
Mark Naison, a Fordham University academic who monitors educational movements in the United States, compared the Chicago protest to the student lunch counter sit-ins that began in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960.
“In both instances, you had a situation that many people thought was outrageous—and yes, many people do think the level of testing in schools has become so intrusive and counterproductive that it is national tragedy—but people in elected office seemed unable to change, so young people decided to take history into their own hands,” he said. “I would not be surprised to see these walkouts and boycotts multiply next year.”
Last week, New York parents, teachers, and students participated in a similar protest when students decidedly opted out of tests administered by the state of New York. An overabundance of testing has, according to critics, contributed to a rise in cheating by teachers and administrators, a segregation of students based on test scores, high teacher turnover, and the decrease of classes that teach enrichment, such as the arts.
Some see these protests as a last resort to help students and teachers in a broken system with few benefits.
Shaun Johnson, a Maryland-based teacher educator, former public school teacher, and blogger for At the Chalk Face, feels that while a boycott to prevent data from being collected may not be the most effective tool, it's perhaps all we have left.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist whose work frequently appears in The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor. She is the author of two books.@SuziParker |
* * *
The Opt Out Update: Protests planned in Chicago and Colorado this week as the Opt Out Movement continues to grow and Louisiana opts out of the Common Core Standards
Bush, Obama focus on standardized testing leads to ‘opt-out’ parents’ movement
A decade into the school accountability movement, pockets of resistance to standardized testing are sprouting up around the country, with parents and students opting out of the high-stakes tests used to evaluate schools and teachers.
From Seattle, where 600 high school students refused to take a standardized test in January, to Texas, where 86 percent of school districts say the tests are “strangling our public schools,” anti-testing groups argue that bubble exams have proliferated beyond reason, delivering more angst than benefits.
“Over the last couple of years, they’ve turned this one test into the all and everything,” said Cindy Hamilton, a 50-year-old mother of three in Florida who founded Opt Out Orlando in response to the annual Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which starts again Monday. Her group is one of dozens of new organizations opposed to such testing.
The opt-out movement is nascent but growing, propelled by parents, students and some educators using social media to swap tips on ways to spurn the tests. They argue that the exams cause stress for young children, narrow classroom curricula, and, in the worst scenarios, have led to cheating because of the stakes involved — teacher compensation and job security. To read this article in full, go to the the Washington Post. ["Bush, Obama focus on standardized testing leads to ‘opt-out’ parents’ movement," April 14]

Ohanian Issues a History of Pearson's Legacy of Test Failures

from Washington Post, Answer Sheet: "A brief history of Pearson’s problems with testing"
Posted by Valerie Strauss on April 24, 2013
Visit original Post site for inline hyperlinks for details of the errors.
A brief history of Pearson’s problems with testing
Posted by Valerie Strauss on April 24, 2013 at 4:00 am
A few days ago I wrote a post about how Pearson, the world’s largest education company, was forced to apologize for making errors in its scoring of assessments for entry into gifted-and-talented programs in New York City public schools. I noted that it was hardly the only time Pearson has had problems with testing. Here’s a list of problems that the company has had with standardized tests over the years, in different states. It was compiled by Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, or the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a non-profit dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests.
1998 California – test score delivery delayed
1999-2000 Arizona – 12,000 tests misgraded due to flawed answer key
2000 Florida – test score delivery delayed resulting in $4 million fine
2000 Minnesota – misgraded 45,739 graduation tests leads to lawsuit with $11 million settlement – judge found “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.” — (FairTest consulted with plaintiffs’ attorneys)
2000 Washington – 204,000 writing WASL exams rescored
2002 Florida — dozens of school districts received no state grades for their 2002 scores because of a “programming error” at the DOE. One Montessori school never received scores because NCS Pearson claimed not to have received the tests.
2005 Michigan — scores delayed and fines levied per contract
2005 Virginia – computerized test misgraded – five students awarded $5,000 scholarships
2005-2006 SAT college admissions test – 4400 tests wrongly scored; $3 million settlement after lawsuit (note FairTest was an expert witness for plaintiffs)
2008 South Carolina –“Scoring Error Delays School Report Cards” The State, November 14, 2008
2008-2009 Arkansas — first graders forced to retake exam because real test used for practice
2009-2010 Wyoming – Pearson’s new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state declares company in “complete default of the contract;” $5.1 million fine accepted after negotiations but not pursued by state governor
2010 Florida – test score delivery delayed by more than a month – nearly $15 million in fines imposed and paid. School superintendents still question score accuracy –
2010 Minnesota -- results from online science tests taken by 180,000 students delayed due to scoring error
2011 Florida – some writing exams delivered to districts without cover sheets, revealing subject students would be asked to write about
2011 Florida – new computerized algebra end-of-course exam delivery system crashes on first day of administration
2011 Oklahoma – “data quality issues” cause “unacceptable” delay in score delivery ; Pearson ultimately replaced by CTB/McGraw Hill
2011 Guam – score release delayed because results based on erroneous comparison data; government seeking reimbursement
2011 Iowa – State Ethics and Campaign Finance Disclosure Board opens investigation of Iowa Education Department director Jason Glass for participating in all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil sponsored by Pearson Foundation
2011 New York – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenas financial records from Pearson Education and Pearson Foundation concerning their sponsorship of global junkets for dozens of state education leaders
2011 Wyoming – Board of Education replaces Pearson as state’s test vendor after widespread technical problems with online exam
2012 New York – “Pineapple and the Hare” nonsense test question removed from exams after bloggers demonstrate that it was previously administered in at least half a dozen other states
2012 New York – More than two dozen additional errors found in New York State tests developed by Pearson
2012 Florida – After percentage of fourth grades found “proficient” plunges from 81% to 27% in one year, state Board of Education emergency meeting “fixes” scores on FCAT Writing Test by changing definition of proficiency.
2012 Virginia – Error on computerized 3rd and 6th grade SOL tests causes state to offer free retakes.
2012 New York – Parents have their children boycott “field test” of new exam questions because of concerns about Pearson’s process
2012 Oklahoma – After major test delivery delays, state replaces Pearson as its testing contractor
2012 New York – More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school students wrongly blocked from graduation by inaccurate “preliminary scores” on Pearson tests
2012 New York – State officials warn Pearson about potential fines if tests have more errors
2012 Mississippi – Pearson pays $623,000 for scoring error repeated over four years that blocked graduation for five students and wrongly lowered scores for 121 others
2012 Texas – Pearson computer failure blocks thousands of students from taking state-mandated exam by displaying error message at log on
2013 New York – Passage from Pearson test-prep book appears in Pearson-designed statewide test, giving unfair advantage to students who used those materials
2013 New York – Pearson scoring error blocks 2,700 students from gifted-and-talented program eligibility
Visit original Post site for inline hyperlinks for details of the errors.

High Stakes Test Protest Press Release Points to Poverty Factor in Education

(From Change the Stakes)


Parents, teachers and students gathered today to demand an end to the policy of high-stakes testing (HST), which they claim interferes with the teaching of subjects in depth and deprives the city’s children of a high-quality education, inflicting damage on them and their communities.
Parents and teachers, sharing the fears caused by threats of school closure and grade retention, said they are fed up and determined to put an end to HST. In fact, the closure and retention policies are what make the tests “high stakes.” Parent Jeff Nichols objects, “I find myself thinking, ‘Duh!’ Get the bureaucrats out of the picture! NO to the state tests because of the whole panoply of abuses they facilitate, but also NO to the whole concept that children are to be judged by paper-pushers who have never met them!” Loretta Prisco, a retired teacher states, “I am totally opposed to holding kids back. It doesn’t work. Think about the kid who is reading on level but has not mastered the math of his grade.”
Martha Foote, a parent of a 5th grader at PS 321 in Brooklyn, says: “High-stakes testing is corrupting and ruining our children’s education. It’s turning our schools into test-prep factories and turning our children away from learning. . . . Parents—from Buffalo to Rockville Centre—are saying enough of this insanity. It’s time to bring real learning back into the classroom.”
Researchers acknowledge an education crisis but say that it is not caused by the public schools. The real cause is our country’s increasing poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor—and the segregation that results. Children who are not living in poverty score as high or higher than students in Finland and other countries with strong school systems. However, a UNICEF study of the well-being of children in wealthy countries issued this month, the Innocenti Report Card, states that the US ranks near the bottom and in some categories second to last, just above Romania; in all large US cities public schools are so segregated that there is no evidence of the former impact of Brown v. Board of Education. [Ed.: UNICEF, Innocenti Report Card: "Report Card 11 released by UNICEF charts the well-being of children in 29 rich countries"]
Teachers have been gagged by the DOE, warned that they must not speak out. Some have been threatened with loss of jobs and even of their licenses if they share their concerns about the pressure to do test prep rather than teach and the required use of the “Core Content State Standards,” which they find to be shoddy and age inappropriate.
Corruption of the purpose of education is paired with undue corporate influence on policy. One teacher said, “Boss Tweed’s legacy of corruption has rubbed off on the present occupant of the Tweed Courthouse, the NYC DOE, whose policies are most responsive to rich and powerful corporations that are rewarded with no-bid contracts for billions of dollars.”
Meanwhile, most public officials’ children are in private schools, getting the meaningful education that public school students are deprived of. An elementary teacher says, “The children deserve schools just as good as the private schools political leaders choose for their children. . . . It’s hypocritical for politicians like NY State Education Commissioner John King and President Obama to send their children to private schools where there are no high-stakes tests, and then impose them on our kids.”
A sixth grader recently wrote about her view of the limitations of HST: “The test doesn’t let you learn much about the students or their teachers. A project could show more because . . . the students can express what they can do and have the time to show what they know. . . . If the DOE wants to know anything on how smart we are, this test is not the correct answer.”
The DOE claims it has no choice but to use HST. When DOE Deputy Chancellor Polakow-Suransky stated last December that “the federal government has a rule that you have to do this testing,” parent Patricia Padilla responded: “I don’t think that we have to wait for federal law to change for there to be a change in high-stakes testing—because if that were the case I would still be picking cotton or drinking from the colored water fountain."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Walcott Confirms: Danielson is Official; Yet Why Does Unity Play Us for Dumb with Danielson Evaluations Doublethink Line?

Last Tuesday, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent an announcement through the DOE emails. It matter of factly mentions the use of Danielson in the quest "to strengthen teaching practice."
He cited the new onset of the new state tests, which we might add, are (rightly) producing a storm of negative popular reaction. (See here, in Patchogue-Medford, on Long Island, and here on the island's north shore; and in New York City itself --see here. John King, the state education commissioner is feeling heat state-wide, but is defiant: "King Reassures, But Testing Opt Out Movement Grows in New York". And here's one summary of the disastrous week of marathon testing in New York State.)
And the parents' push-back against standardized tests is gaining nationally. See this story from Pennsylvania on the PSSA tests.
For the past two years, you have led your students to write more, to engage in more critical thinking, and to solve more real-world problems. As students in grades 3-8 begin to apply some of these skills on the new State tests today, I encourage you to continue to create a supportive environment for your students.
He then goes straight to punch: the new evaluations and Danielson. Note how first he refers to some details are yet undetermined. This is in reference to the anticipated state-imposed evaluation system. Readers will remember that New York City United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew rejected mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal without actually opposing the core facet, the test-based (VAM) essence of the evaluations. This way, governor Andrew Cuomo has taken Mulgrew off the hook, relieving him of the battle with the mayor. He then goes to cite Danielson. Again, remember that all of this is coming as a fait accompli, a pre-ordained decision. Make no mistake about this. This is a contract breaker. And watch Mulgrew do nothing and act like this is an act of nature that we cannot oppose.
Later this month,  as we all begin looking toward what lies ahead, one of the things that may be on your minds is the new teacher evaluation system that will begin this fall. While some details of the system will likely not be determined until June, it is important to remember that we have been preparing for this change for some time. More than 10,000 of you have been involved in an intensive pilot program that helped us build many tools, training materials, and understandings of best practices. Over the last two years, schools across the City have been using the Danielson Framework for Teaching or another research-based observation rubric to strengthen teaching practice.
Then, note that he directs readers to a new DOE site, for accessing information on following the Danielson Framework.
Today we are launching a new section of our website,, designed to keep you and your school communities informed about the new teacher evaluation system. The site will be updated in the coming months to communicate additional information about the evaluation system and the range of supports the DOE will offer you and your school leaders:
·         School leaders have been receiving hands-on training from DOE talent coaches—experts on the Danielson Framework—to build their ability to fairly and accurately assess teaching practice and provide you with support to continuously grow as professionals. In turn, before the start of the 2013-14 school year, each school leader will offer training on the new evaluation system to all teachers in their schools.
·         Beyond these school-based trainings, you will also have the opportunity to attend in-person information sessions on the new evaluation system this spring and summer with your district or high school superintendent, as well as training on the Danielson Framework led by the organization that created this tool.
·         This professional development can be supplemented by a number of online resources, all of which will be available on our new website throughout the spring and summer.
In saying, the organization that created this tool, he is referencing Danielson's group. Should be pretty awkward, as Danielson herself (read below) is protesting how her methods are being misused against teachers, at least in Louisiana. 
As we implement this new evaluation system, our primary goal is to make sure that you receive regular feedback on your teaching practice and useful information about your contributions to student learning. My team and I will continue to invest in the support you and your colleagues need to best serve the students of our City.
Note the manipulative language. Partnering. It's not like we have had any choice in the matter. We are only cooperating under threat of losing our tenure.
Thank you for your commitment, and I look forward to partnering with you in this important work.

Make no mistake: Danielson is a contract-breaker, plain and simple. The UFT membership never voted on this --perhaps because in deliberation on a vote, people would raise too many questions and note how it is perfect for writing biased hatchet-job evaluations of teachers.
* * *
The Danielson Frameworks, how they break the DOE-UFT contract, let us count the ways.

The breaking of the contract & the UFT's duplicitous message that Danielson does not count
First, there is the current rating. It remains satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Now, Michael Mulgrew and the Unity/New Action-led United Federation of Teachers are allowing the Danielson Frameworks replace this with a rating of four different possibilities.

In the reception of the Danielson Frameworks, the union is playing a dangerous game of recognizing a duplicitous verbal game with the New York City Department of Education. This allows the union to play a paradoxical dual role of calling the Danielson Frameworks oppressive and yet abiding by their implementation. The danger is that in a truly Orwellian fashion, the union is encouraging us to accept an argument that holds two contradictory arguments at the same time, alas classic doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs at once; this relates to the relatively newer term, cognitive dissonance. New Action/Unity's game allows them to collaborate and oppose these repressive protocols at the same time. This is consistent with Mulgrew's standard operating procedure with deform: a) endorse the reform as common sense, addressing some need for good learning and good teaching, and then b) play the role of teacher's guardian when they get attacked via the same deform policy.

With all the cooperation and the duplicitous game of collaborating and "opposing," then we must call them the Mulgrew-Danielson evaluations. Mr. Mulgrew, please do not tell us that they are not supposed to be used in evaluations, when at the Delegate Assembly you endorsed their introduction. Please do not tell us that they are not supposed to be used, when they are being posted with due compliance, along with the Common Core Standards, across the city. Please do not tell us they are not supposed to be used, when at professional development sessions across the city they are the focal point of discussion of how to see what good teaching looks like.

Charlotte Danielson said that she envisioned her Frameworks were intended as a device for constructive criticism, to aid the professional growth of teachers. Unfortunately, her Frameworks are being used by the Department of Education as a micromanaging program for attack and control. Mr. Mulgrew, dissenters already see how the Danielson Frameworks are being used against teachers. Mr. Mulgrew, please stop your refusal to fight them one hundred percent.

What will the union say when the Danielson Frameworks roll in officially this September? Remember, the union is waiting until the next mayor for the next contract. By the time that the next contract rolls in, the Danielson Frameworks shall be fully implemented. If the union's contract negotiating team really does not like how the Danielson experience worked out, the union will be in the position of having to argue for the city to yield on the Danielson issue. A very unlikely prospect, I would contend. Throughout the 2013 to 2014 academic year, across the city, hundreds of teachers will get their Mulgrew/Danielson unsatisfactory ratings via the Mulgrew/Danielson Frameworks. They will deeply betrayed by the union.

Note that the implementation of Danielson shows exquisitely how mayoral control, in combination with a collaborative union administration can bring in a thoroughly questionable program. Danielson came in with no state law; the city council or the defunct Board of Education did not approve of it; it came in with the initiative of the city, with the full support of the union, under Unity's control.

Let's look at Danielson's Frameworks
Essentially, the Frameworks are an all-purpose plan to take down careers. With 4 domains, 22 components and 76 elements, it will be exquisitely easy to nitpick at a teacher's style and pave the path for career termination. Teachers ideally should be concerned with teaching a topic, within a unit, and connecting with students, not navigating this 4 - 22 - 76 maze.

Ahem, let Danielson or the superintendent model how they will dot all of the 76 elements, reach the students and manage the class in a New York City classroom.

If you have any doubt, just read the MORE caucus UFT site for survey reports from the field on Danielson already in use in New York City schools.

And see this report of the results of the 2011 trial roll-outs of Danielson in Queens high schools:
Bryant High School (Queens) Chapter Leader Sam Lazarus called for voting against a resolution endorsing the use of Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Learning, arguing that the application of Danielson at his school has meant that nearly two-thirds of the teachers evaluated under the new system were rated sub-standard, setting them up for termination under 3020-a proceedings. And from the pattern of which teachers have been stuffed into the Absent Teacher Reserve ("ATR") --older, experienced, and expensive teachers, we can imagine which teachers will tend to be found ineffective. (So, Voila!, with accommodating to Governor Mario Cuomo's call for tougher teacher evaluation systems, the older-teacher elimination goals behind Mayor Michael Bloomberg's objective of ending Last In First Out --or LIFO-- would be accomplished.)
Savvy administrators, aware of the controversy the Danielson name evokes, currently use the Danielson rubric language in their observation reports. They just leave out reference to the specific numbers in the rubric. The Unity crowd in the UFT remains content because they can sustain the fiction that the Danielson frameworks are really not yet being used in the evaluations.

Essential reading is "A NYC teacher's observations on how the Danielson rubrics are being (mis)used" at Leonie Haimson's NYC Public School Parent blog, January 8, 2012. There she posts a letter by an anonymous teacher that points out several problems: sometimes there is one answer to a problem, a big problem in Danielson:
An excellent tenured math teacher was given an "ineffective" for questioning because he used questions with "a single correct answer." This comment comes directly from the Danielson rubric, yet this was a math class where yes, there often is a single correct answer and students do need to get that. You would hope that anyone would realize this was not how to use the rubric, but you'd be mistaken.
A math class. You'd think that it would be easy to argue the above common sense point. Not quite; appealing observations is very difficult, next to impossible.
The teacher points to the additional problem of judging an 80 minute class by a 5 or 10 minute drive-by informal (but written up as official these days). An observer might notice problems, but might not notice that the problem would be resolved in latter (unobserved) parts of the class.

Another significant report is Geoff Decker's "What Charlotte Danielson saw when the UFT came calling," November 7, 2011 at Gotham Schools.
The UFT reported that principals are using Danielson Framework elements as checklists to evaluate teachers. Note that Danielson herself disapproves of this practice:
When the UFT obtained a copy of one of the checklists, it shared it with Danielson herself to get her thoughts.
Danielson was troubled by the checklists and disapproved of them, union officials said. With that endorsement, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel wrote a letter to the DOE and demanded an immediate end to the practice. He even threatened to cut off negotiations toward a larger evaluation deal that is required by the end of the school year.
. . .
The checklist she saw, Danielson said, was inappropriate because of the way it was filled out. It indicated that the observer had already begun evaluating a teacher while in the classroom observation. She said that’s a fundamental no-no.
Further annoying to the rank and file teacher, Unity/UFT has been the transmission belt for Danielson Framework implementation. Mulgrew did not just endorse --rather than oppose-- the Danielson program, since fall, 2011 Unity has led organizing UFT trainings on how to comply with Danielson rubric dictates.

Interestingly, Charlotte Danielson, showing professional integrity, has now identified the misuse of her Framework in Louisiana, with the added reliance on VAM measures, as having great potential to improperly damage professional teaching careers. The news report on this originated in the Monroe, Louisiana "News-Star," "Creator of teacher assessment tool says La. adopted flawed system." As summarized by the Louisiana Educator blog, Danielson
believes her carefully designed system has been inappropriately abridged and modified to the point that it may no longer yield valid results. She warned that Louisiana may face numerous legal challenges as flawed evaluations lead to damages to teachers careers and compensation.
Ooohh, legal challenges, now Mulgrew doesn't want to hear that, does he?

And one blogpost, "The District 75 Danielson Pilot: CRASH! Burn! Fizzle," faults the Danielson Framework for having too narrow a conception, so that it ignores the special considerations in special education classes. The Frameworks are highly inappropriate for many special education classes. As the author writes, they penalize teachers that work with these populations of students.
“It is not a trivial issue. Evaluating teachers of severely multiply-handicapped children with a rubric that is designed to evaluate teachers in general education settings with general education students is tantamount to punishing and penalizing teachers who go into this demanding , difficult and highly *specialized* type of teaching. Our union was formed in order to protect teachers from administrative malpractice… not to facilitate it. “
Aside from Danielson, the evaluations deal includes ten unannounced observations per year. As per the usual Orwellian spin of Mulgrew and the Unity reps and delegates that parrot his line, they tell us that this is a fair and objective observation measure.

The UFT lets information to critical information be a Chapter Leader elite only affair
The following is information in the UFT's April 12 email memo to chapter leaders.
As you know, between now and June, the city Department of Education, under orders from the state education commissioner, is required to train principals and teachers in preparation for the new evaluation system that will be in place in September.
. . . train principals and teachers in preparation for the new evaluation system . . . That training is the sound of the Danielson Framework being rolled in at professional development periods all over the city.
All chapter leaders should engage principals on all aspects of a new teacher evaluation system. You should focus on the fact that visits by the talent coaches should be supportive, not intimidating for teachers, and you should establish the ground rules and advocate for comprehensive professional development so our members will be ready when the new system is implemented in September. Chapter leaders also need to be vigilant. If your school’s principal is trying to turn this period of shared learning into “another ‘gotcha’ routine,” please notify your district rep and use our online form at For more detailed guidance, read our chapter leader alert on the DOE's training plan for the new evaluation system.
But note how the final line leads to a -dead end that says chapter leaders only. This section is for UFT chapter leaders only. If you are a chapter leader, please login to access this section of the website. How shameful. If this is information that is vital to members' evaluations, why leave the crucial details visible only to chapter leaders? Too often, chapter leaders lead infrequent meetings that are sparsely attended by the staff. Diligent chapter leaders need to have meetings during all lunch hours to disseminate the information to all. In that absence, the hidden information in that link needs to be accessible to all UFT members.

Again, we go back to the cognitive dissonance idea earlier in this piece. Teachers should beware of “another ‘gotcha’ routine”? But the 76 elements that no one can be perfect on, form a road map for gotcha routines against teachers.

Time for the UFT to stop falling for the false emergency ploy of the education deformers
Naomi Klein in her seminal work, The Shock Doctrine, wrote of how policy makers can create a false emergency, whip the public into a crisis frenzy, and then insist on their dubious policies.

We must now say declaratively, there is no educational emergency for which teachers are responsible. All of the deforms of the Bush-Bloomberg-Obama 2000s have produced no gains in New York City schools. Indeed, The Village Voice published a story noting that the percentage of New York City high school graduates needing remediation in City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges has risen from 71 percent a few years ago to 80 percent today.

The UFT must once and for all recognize the factors that poverty and class play in educational performance. Virginia principal Mel Riddile, writing in his Principal Difference column, "PISA: It's Poverty, Not Stupid," cited data that showed rising PISA scores with falling poverty rates between school districts.

Only a leadership so long removed from the classroom as the Unity leadership would have negotiated away such power; only a long removed leadership would be so insensitive to its members as to never consider putting this contract-busting protocol up to a membership vote. We need a leadership that will listen to its members.

You have a choice: Vote for the MORE caucus. Ballots are due April 24, 2013.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Noguera on BBA Report: Ed. "Reforms" in NYC, Other Cities a Wake-Up Call to Mayoral Candidates

The mayoral candidates are all clinging to mayoral control. Other questions remain in how the candidates stand on other educational policy questions.
Columbia University professor Pedro Noguera issued a press release announcing his outfit's study debunking claims as to various mayors' educational successes. The bold-italices are mine. This is a very important report, for it contains information on three "reform"-spotlighted school systems that debunks many tenets of education "reform".
Pedro Noguera, Top Expert: Report on Failure of Education "Reform" a Wake-up Call for Mayoral Candidates
NY, NY— In response to a new report called “Market-Oriented Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality,” Pedro Noguera, a leading education expert and co-chair of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), released the following statement:
“This report is a wake up call for the public and New York City mayoral candidates. Mayor Bloomberg’s focus on high-stakes testing, school closings, and an expansion of charter schools has failed to produce gains that were promised and needed for the district’s students or schools. In some cases, the approach taken has actually weakened the quality of public education in our poorest neighborhoods. The implementation of the common core assessments without adequately preparing teachers and schools to deliver the standards is just the most recent example of the flawed approach under the current administration.
Policies like mass school closures create a vicious cycle: transferring low-income and minority students from schools deemed “failing” destabilizes other schools that often end up targeted for closure as well. In NY City, the poorest students of color have disproportionately been affected by this policy. The evidence shows that instead of receiving adequate support, many schools have been set up for failure. . . . .
The next mayor must move in a different direction in order to transcend the failures of Mayor Bloomberg's agenda. Real reform requires that we provide high quality support to the neediest students and the public schools that educate them. That takes a greater investment and emphasis on the supports that are necessary to insure equal opportunities. It also requires a focus on staffing high need schools with highly skilled teachers, targeted professional development, and the resources needed (e.g. social workers, counselors, etc.) to help schools provide an excellent education to all students.”
* * *
The BBA report was written by Elaine Weiss and Don Long. It section on New York City opens:
New York City: Nine years of market-based reforms failed to improve test scores or narrow achievement gaps
In March, 2012, Mayor Bloomberg repeated his claim that the achievement gap between white/Asian students and black/Latino students in New York City public schools had been halved between 2003 and 2011 (American University 2012). Actually, averaged across state reading and math test scores in the fourth and eighth grades, the achievement gap had stagnated; it was virtually identical in 2011 (25.8 percentage points or 0.73 of standard deviation) to its 2003 level (26.2 percentage points or 0.74 of standard deviation), and not statistically significantly different. 50 Indeed, Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas, who calculated the actual size of the reduction in the gap (of 1 percent), pointed out, “The careful reader will note that the mayor has thus overstated the cut in the achievement gap by a factor of 50” (Pallas 2012b).51 Another study that compared NAEP test score gains from 2003 to 2011 averaged across reading and math in fourth and eighth grades found New York City to be second to last, ahead only of Cleveland, among the 10 TUDA districts, as illustrated in Figure L, with a gain of only 4.3 points (Haimson 2012). The average large district gained 8.8 points over this period, with Atlanta gaining the most—15.3 points.

[Note 50:
The author explains why and how he converted what had begun as Standard Deviation differences into percentile change differences: “Given the mayor’s penchant for reducing complex phenomena to a single number … I have summarized the shrinkage in the achievement gap on the NAEP and New York State assessments as the percentage reduction in the gap. (For the technically-minded, this involved calculating group differences in citywide standard-deviation units, weighted by the size of the four racial/ethnic groups, for each grade and subject area, and then averaging those group differences, in both 2011 and 2003. The ratio of the 2011 group difference to the 2003 group difference indicates the extent of the change in the achievement gap over that eight-year period.)
“So here it is: Looking across ELA and math scores on state exams for New York City students in grades three through eight in 2003, the achievement gap separating black and Latino students from white and Asian students was .74 of a standard deviation. In 2011, the achievement gap was .73 of a standard deviation. This represents a 1 percent reduction in the magnitude of the achievement gap. The careful reader will note that the mayor has thus overstated the cut in the achievement gap by a factor of 50.” (Pallas 2012b)
Note 51:
Pallas also noted that, when NAEP scores were used to assess the validity of the same claim, the gap grew by 3 percent.
Note 52:
Assessments of gains (or losses) in test scores could also take into account the starting point for a city or district as, of course, those with higher starting scores have less room to grow. It is not possible, in this context, to compare starting NAEP scores of every large city, or even a smaller subset of them, and such an analysis also requires more than simple comparison to be valid, since many other factors should be taken into account. For the purposes of this report, the goal is to compare promised, and asserted, gains, against those actually realized, so only these basic comparisons are employed.]
The report continues:
The gap failed to shrink partly because white fourth-graders gained three times as much ground as their black peers between 2005 and 2011, as shown in Figure M. Indeed, this gap grew by 6 percentage points during those years, versus a slight decrease in the same gap in large, urban districts overall. The income-based gap for that age grew by even more, also bucking both national and urban trends during the period.
Bloomberg made similarly exaggerated claims regarding the city’s public school students’ “proficiency” on state test scores. When the New York State Department of Education recalibrated the scores, however, the gains vanished, and the proportion of students passing the state reading test fell from 68.8 percent to 42.4 percent, and from “an astonishing 81.8 percent to a disappointing 54 percent in mathematics” (Ravitch 2010). Again, NAEP scores confirm unimpressive gains. Between 2003 and 2011, average NAEP math scores in New York City public schools rose 8 points in fourth grade and 6 points in eighth grade between 2003 and 2011, gains similar to those in the nation as a whole, and half the size, at the eighth-grade level, of gains in other large, urban districts that did not engage in similar reforms (NCES 2011a).53
As Figure N illustrates, New York’s eighth-grade students improved at rates similar to those of their urban counterparts in reading; between 2005 and 2011, the city’s white students gained just two points (versus three in large, urban districts on average), while the city’s black students gained seven points (versus five in large, urban districts on average). These gains slightly narrowed the black-white gap in the city, but not enough to counter growing gaps in other subjects and grades.
One definite bright spot in the New York City data come from graduation rates, which increased sharply under Bloomberg and Klein’s leadership, according to data tracked by the city. While just under half (46.5 percent) of the cohort of 2001 (class of 2005) graduated in four years, that share rose to just over 60 percent for the cohort of 2007 (class of 2011) (NYC DOE 2012). The most recent nationally collected data for New York City found similar gains, though the different method of calculating national data produced a lower overall percentage: 56.9 percent of the class of 2008 graduated, an increase of 11 percentage points from 46 percent for the class of 2005 (NCES 2005a and 2010a). It is unclear, however, what impact, if any, the Bloomberg/Klein reforms had on graduation rates. The National Center for Education Statistics tracks graduation rates for the 100 largest urban districts (some of which, such as Montgomery County, Md., are not cities). The 11 percentage-point average increase in New York City’s high school graduation rate from the classes of 2005 to 2008 is consistent with the 12 percentage-point increase in graduation rates for the 100 largest urban districts in the same period, and it still left New York City well below the 65 percent average class of 2008 graduation rate for those districts (NCES 2010b). It is also important to be aware of critical caveats pertinent generally to claims regarding high school graduation rates. Due to differences in definitions, graduation requirements, and data collection and calculation methods, such data are problematic, especially when used to make comparisons over time or across states and districts. For example, New York includes GED completers in its definition of a high school graduate, whereas the U.S. Department of Education does not, which is likely one factor in the difference between city and federal recorded rates. Researchers have also found that administrative data are often “jumpy” across the years for reasons that they do not fully understand (Roy and Mishel 2008). Other issues include disproportionate “discharges” by race that may inflate graduation rates by “pushing at risk students out of school” and not counting them as dropouts (Jennings and Haimson 2009).
The report says that New York City's "gains" were dependent upon unsustainable spending increases:
New York City: Reforms hinged on likely unsustainable spending increases
New York City has long been among the U.S. school districts with the highest per-pupil spending; it spent $19,597 per pupil in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available (U.S. Census Bureau 2012, 104). During Bloomberg and Klein’s control of the schools, spending increased at a far greater rate in New York City than it did, on average, across the 100 largest U.S. school districts tracked by the National Center for Education Statistics. In real dollar terms, New York City’s per-pupil education spending nearly doubled between the start of Bloomberg and Klein’s control of the district (2002–2003) and the 2008–2009 school year. The city spent $11,361 per-child in real dollars in 2002–2003 and over $22,000 by 2008–2009. As Figure S illustrates, this increase far surpassed that of the other reform cities and the 100 largest U.S. school districts overall (NCES 2010a).68 On average, including New York City (and the other two reform cities studied here), per-pupil spending in large school districts rose from $7,923 in 2001 to $12,572, a 59 percent increase. As demonstrated earlier, the added spending has not translated into improved student outcomes. New York City has, on average, achieved less than other large, urban districts whose students’ outcomes are reported, while outspending and out-reforming them. Nonetheless, in April, 2012, Klein and Rhee announced that their StudentsFirst New York chapter would spend $10 million a year for the next five years to sustain the reform model put in place by Mayor Bloomberg after he leaves office following the 2013 mayoral election (Fleisher 2012b).
New York City has also benefited far more in absolute dollars than any other urban district from private donations to its schools and education programs (Saltman 2010, 9).69 Under Mayor Bloomberg, the city created a Fund for Public Schools, which is described as “dedicated to improving NYC’s public schools by attracting private investment in school reform and encouraging greater involvement by all New Yorkers in the education of our children” (Fund for Public Schools 2012). Four foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and two corporations have each given $1 million or more, The Broad Foundation donated between half a million and a million dollars, another 19 forprofit and nonprofit groups have given between $100,000 and $499,999 each, and dozens more have provided smaller sums (Fund for Public Schools 2010). While reforms hew closely to the policy priorities of the larger donors, such as the Gates and Broad foundations, the Independent Budget Office’s analysis illustrates how little total outside donations account for in the system’s overall budget (IBO 2012a). Donors’ impact is thus hugely disproportionate, relative to that of the taxpaying public.
For the complete report, including the illustrations, inline references and end notes please go to the report Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality: The impacts of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, and increased charter school access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. itself.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Oppose High-Stakes Tests for Your Kids? Seek Religious Exemption

Parents: looking to opt out of the state tests?
Use a religious exemption.

Seattleducation2010 blog reported in "Part 5: High Stakes Testing and Opting Out: The Push Back" that United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries contributing to writing the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing.

Valerie Strauss, reporting last year in the Washington Post, cited Presbyterians among religious denominations signing onto the national resolution on high-stakes tests.
High-stakes testing protests spreading
*The national resolution has been endorsed by a variety of major national organizations have also endorsed the resolution. This includes education groups such as the National Education Association and National Association for Bilingual Education; civil rights organizations such as the NAACP-Legal Defense and Educational Fund and its Asian American counterpart, AALDEF; National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; religious denominations including Presbyterians; and more. The National PTA sent to its members a letter saying the resolution is congruent with PTA policy and urging locals to sign it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Yes, Rhee Did See Cheating Memo as D.C. Chancellor

(UPDATE: JOHN MERROW APPEARED ON CHRIS HAYES' MSNBC SHOW, DISCUSSING CHEATING SCANDAL - MEMO LINK BELOW) Valerie Strauss reported today that John Merrow reported that Michelle Rhee did see the January 30, 2009 memo about cheating in Washington, District of Columbia (D.C.) schools. Of course, she was well into her tenure as schools chancellor there, as her term of service began in June 2007 and ended October, 2010. So she could not pass this off as a development that began prior to her watch.
Just to be clear, because some have wondered, Rhee did see the memo, according to Merrow. He wrote in a post ["Michelle Rhee's Reign of Error"] on his blog, Taking Note:
I have a copy of the memo and have confirmed its authenticity with two highly placed and reputable sources. The anonymous source is in DCPS; the other is DC Inspector General Charles Willoughby. A reliable source has confirmed that Rhee and Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson discussed the memo in staff gatherings. Sanford came to Washington to present his findings in late January, 2009, after which he wrote his memo.
Rhee, however, did not push for a thorough investigation and instead, repeatedly, publicly minimized the extent of the cheating.

No, the memo doesn’t prove that cheating took place, but it does suggest there was more going on than investigators have so far uncovered. There have been several probes, but two — one by a private testing firm and the other by the D.C. Inspector General — were limited. Another, by the U.S. Education Department’s Inspector General, resulted in no action taken, though the extent of the investigation is unclear.

If the memo isn’t enough to spark a new investigation, this should be: My colleague Emma Brown reported in this new story that teachers in 18 D.C. classrooms cheated last year on high-stakes standardized tests during the chancellorship of Henderson, Rhee’s successor in the post, according to the results of an investigation released Friday by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

This confirmed cheating took place after security was tightened as a result of the earlier suspicions. All in all, a new probe — by investigators with real subpoena powers, which is how the Atlanta cheating scandal was uncovered — is clearly warranted.
Here is the bombshell 2009 memo, as reported at Merrow's Learning Matters website. At that time, the brewing scandal already had a name, euphemistic we might add: Erasure Study.

All of this reverses the long standing official story on the erasuregate scandal, that it was limited to 2011, that it was limited to one school. Yet, as this recent April 11, 2013 story by Greg Toppo at USA Today attests, the memo shows that the cheating was more widespread than previously understood.
District of Columbia Public Schools officials have long maintained that a 2011 test-cheating scandal that generated two government probes was limited to one elementary school. But a newly uncovered confidential memo warns as far back as January 2009 that educator cheating on 2008 standardized tests could have been widespread, with 191 teachers in 70 schools "implicated in possible testing infractions."

The 2009 memo was written by an outside analyst, Fay "Sandy" Sanford, who had been invited by then-chancellor Michelle Rhee to examine students' irregular math and reading score gains. It was sent to Rhee's top deputy for accountability.

The memo notes that nearly all of the teachers at one Washington elementary school had students whose test papers showed high numbers of wrong-to-right erasures and asks, "Could a separate person have been responsible?"

It recommends that DCPS contact its legal department "as soon as you think it advisable" and ask them to determine "what possible actions can be taken against identified offenders."

DCPS officials have said they take all cheating allegations seriously, but it's not immediately clear how they responded to Sanford's warnings. Only one educator lost his job because of cheating, according to DCPS. Meanwhile, Rhee fired more than 600 teachers for low test scores — 241 of them in one day in 2010.

The cheating issue first came to light in 2011, after USA TODAY reported that, between 2008 and 2010, 103 schools had test-erasure rates that surpassed districtwide erasure-rate averages at least once.
So, with those mass firings Rhee did, we wonder, was the wrong person (Michelle Rhee) not fired?
* * *
Another matter that arises is in Merrow's account how Rhee catapulted to the top of education supervision with flimsy credentials. She was aided by elite school pedigrees, a B.A. at Cornell University and a Masters in public policy from the Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She then went on to teach her three year minimum in the elite Teach for America program in Baltimore. She never served as a principal or as another other sort of education administrator. She had no training or certification in educational supervision. Instead, she coasted along her stint supervising 120 teachers in the New Teacher Project (TNTP). She got the D.C. Chancellor position upon no standard credentials, instead by the recommendation of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. She billed herself as a student performance wonder in her bid as chancellor, yet her actual personnel file that would document her claims of supposed spectacular student performance were unavailable. (See the June 30, 2007 Washington Post article, "Council to Challenge Rhee's Résumé.") When someone did uncover her files, they indicated that her students' scores increase during the 2nd and 3rd years, but the gains were less than half what Rhee had claimed. (See February 8, 2011 Washington Post article, "Michelle Rhee's early test scores challenged.")

Furthermore, she practiced some cronyism. She hired her best friend, and that was just the start. Merrow wrote:
She surrounded herself with people with no experience running a large urban school system. Her deputy would be her best friend, Kaya Henderson, another former Teach for America corps member who was then Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at TNTP. She would be managing the District’s 11,500 employees.

Her Chief of Data and Accountability would be Erin McGoldrick, whom Rhee had met at Sacramento High School some years earlier and who was an avowed fan of Rhee. A classics major at Notre Dame, McGoldrick also studied public policy at UCLA. Although she was in charge of data analysis at the California Charter Schools Association when Rhee offered her the job, McGoldrick had no experience in Rhee’s ‘data-driven decision making,’ according to several reliable sources.

Rhee selected Jason Kamras, the 2005 National Teacher of the Year and a veteran of seven years in the classroom, to lead what she called her ‘Human Capital Design Team.’ Kamras’ assignments were to design a teacher evaluation system and create a model union contract.

That no one in her inner circle had any experience managing an urban school system did not seem to concern Rhee.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Quinn's Nixonian Threat to Time Warner Rivals Bloomberg's Napoleonic Power Impulse

Some labor union groups pooled money and hit against the front-runner in the 2013 New York City mayoral election, City Council president, Christine Quinn. The video ad, "Smoke-Filled Room," by NYC is Not For Sale, as the New York Times said, "conjures up ''The Wizard of Oz.''" So, she threatened Time-Warner's license.
(Gothamist reportign on Quinn's threatening letter, rant the headline, "A Mini-Giuliani Is Creeping Around Inside Quinn, Former ACLU Chief Warns." The Gothamist piece carried excerpts from opinion pieces by Ira Glasser and Norman Siegel. )
(See the video at right, under the link for Julie Cavanagh's interview with WOR's John Gambiling.)

You know, Quinn has been getting money from current mayor Michael Bloomberg, and presumably from other people. It is fair game, especially in the age of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.
Yet, she is threatening Time Warner brings to mind president Richard Nixon's assault on the New York Times in 1971. Not even Bloomberg went after Betsy Combier, Norm Scott or the legion of anonymous New York bloggers and their Internet access. Quinn's threat against the free speech rights of Time Warner or the sponsors of the video ad really is beyond the pale of political intimidation.
Here's the beginning of Crain's of New York's story:
Updated: April 9, 2013 1:51 p.m. Christine Quinn's effort to suppress a negative TV ad has drawn harsh criticism from her rivals in the mayoral race.
A lawyer for Ms. Quinn's campaign had sent a letter Monday to Time Warner Cable and NY1 urging them to yank the ad, calling it "false, misleading and deceptive." The station could lose its operating license if it continued airing the ad, wrote the Quinn campaign's lawyer, Jerry Goldfeder.
The ad, funded by a coalition of labor and business interests, accuses Ms. Quinn of flip-flopping on issues like paid sick leave and living wage mandates, and slams her decision in 2008 to extend term limits.
After a mayoral forum on waterfront issues Tuesday, her main rivals pounced on Ms. Quinn, the City Council speaker, for what they perceived as a threat against Time Warner and NY1.
"It's very over-the-top," said Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller. "When looking at that ad, there's a lot of accuracy in that. I think [the Quinn campaign's letter] is an attempt to intimidate the press … and I think it's wrong."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he opposes independent expenditures like the one that paid for the commercial, but said it was a mistake for Ms. Quinn to question its premise. He also said he resented Ms. Quinn for suggesting he was responsible for the ad, calling it a "baseless" accusation.
"It's clearly an independent effort, and her team should recognize and respect that fact," he said. "I have never asked anyone to participate in independent activity, and I never will."
He added, "She's in denial ... I think the notion of any candidate suggesting something shouldn't be aired publicly is problematic." Comptroller John Liu said it unwise of Ms. Quinn to provoke a news organization like NY1.
"I don't know of any legal strategies that would work here," he said. "There are still the golden rules, which are if you're running for office or you're serving in office, don't mess with people who buy ink in bulk quantities or don't mess with people with really big antennas or big broadband."
Then, to NY1 reporter Grace Rauh, Mr. Liu added, "Your station seems to fit in that category."
Crain's Business closed with a note arguing that Quinn had some hand in bringing this problem upon herself.
But it could be argued that Ms. Quinn is being hoist by her own petard. The speaker supported a bill in the City Council that would greatly expand the ability of unions, corporations and advocacy groups to spend in political campaigns. The bill allows those groups to work indirectly with candidates on communications to their members, without the costs counting against candidates in the public finance system.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Questions Mulgrew Still Has Not Answered About Evaluation Deals

Here is a Movement of Rank and File Educators (UFT) handbill of "Ten Questions for President Mulgrew About the Evaluation Deal," from spring, 2012.
Covering issues ranging from evaluations, evaluation deals, whether such deals will go to a membership vote, TDRs, observation appeals, "validators," PIP+, the new burden of proof on teachers (rather than the New York City Department of Education) to prove that they are not ineffective, mandated unannounced observations, test-based evaluations, most of these issues are still not properly resolved, and these issues point to the central failure of New Action / Unity's Michael Mulgrew's tendency to make easy deals with mayor Michael Bloomberg for the sake of making deals. Essentially, these topics point to many of the ways that Mulgrew has failed to properly lead the membership. X the slate box to Vote Julie Cavanagh for UFT president, and the rest of the MORE slate.

Monday, April 8, 2013

X the Slate Box for MORE in the UFT Election (See article for MORE's 2nd leaflet)

The stakes in the United Federation of Teachers election are high. The choice is clear: continue the path of the destruction of the teaching profession (that the New Action and Unity caucuses' Mulgrew has helped to carry out) as a viable long-term career, saddled by the endless contract-breaking give-backs plus the curricular travesty of the Common Core, or vote for a positive alternative leadership caucus with a vision of fairness for teachers and students.
In the United Federation of Teachers elections this month, say good-bye to Unity and X the slate box for MORE caucus. Beat the April 24 deadline; mail in your ballot now. Download the full leaflet at this address.

The UFT elections are upon us.
UFT members have a choice for new officers, and MORE believes that this choice can make a difference. The Movement of Rank and File Educators believes the teachers union can and should be the fighting force to defend public education for all students. In the classroom we will fight for small class sizes, rich curriculum, push back on the testing regime and an end of harassment and incessant paperwork. Outside the classroom we will demand a fair contract and democratic governance of our schools instead of simply waiting for a new mayor.
We will partner with parents, communities and other unions because we understand that our teaching conditions are our students learning conditions, and together we can make a difference.

Ballots are out April 3 and are
due back April 24 by mail.
We urge you and any UFT members you know to vote for a positive leadership for our UFT. In past elections less than a quarter of the active UFT membership voted for their leadership. Please spread the word to Get Out the Vote and vote in a positive alternative leadership.

Vote MORE!
Demand MORE from the UFT.
No more waiting, no more concessions to billionaire mayors
and the corporate reform agenda that ignores the needs of students, teachers and communities. Together let's build a movement to fight for the quality public education that every students deserves!

Vote MORE in the election and encourage all the UFT members you know to do the same.

Forward this message to friends, relatives, activists circles and ask them to do the same.

Watch and share our video at:

For more ideas on how to help GET OUT THE VOTE for MORE, please visit


“In the last ten years, in a departure from the roots of our union’s founding, the leadership has failed to organize and mobilize the membership at the time we have needed their leadership the most. The tidal wave of unprecedented attacks on our profession, our schools and our children will not stop with a new mayor. It is time for change. It is time we demand MORE from our union.”
--Julie Cavanagh, MORE’s candidate for UFT president

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Weingarten, Tisch gave in '13 to Bill Thompson for mayor; Mulgrew for mayoral control in 2002, 2009 and supports it in 2013

Uh oh, what a combination: William Thompson as New York City mayor, supporter of mayoral control; plus Michael Mulgrew as United Federation of Teachers president, supporter of mayoral control, as you can see at this November 2009 conference video, sitting to the right of New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and supported it at last month's UFT Delegate Assembly. He has the chutzpah to say that mayoral control's 2009 form gave parents a "stronger voice."
-->>This week, you have the chance to change the latter part of this equation: replace Mulgrew with Julie Cavanagh of the MORE caucus as UFT president.

And now we see that Thompson has received four figure donations from Randi Weingarten and Merryl Tisch.

Credit Geoff Decker, Gotham Schools for scooping this story:
Bill Thompson lags behind his Democratic rivals in fundraising, but he’s out in front in one area of interest: support from high-profile education officials.

As he has ramped up his fund-raising efforts in recent months, Thompson has raked in thousands of dollars in donations from notable public figures in education, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and, most recently, Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York, filings show.

Weingarten, who worked closely with Thompson when the pair overlapped during previous city education posts more than a decade ago, gave $2,000 to his campaign in two installments on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11. Tisch contributed $4,950 — the maximum allowed by the city’s campaign finance laws — to Thompson’s six-month haul ending in January, which totaled more than $1 million.

In his latest three-month filing, which totaled $322,000 and ended last week, Thompson took in $500 from Goldstein, records show. Goldstein, who along with Weingarten sits on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission, gave the maximum $4,950 to Republican candidate Joe Lhota, a member of CUNY’s Board of Trustees.
Click to for the rest of the story.

Citizens' Committee on Children Issues Map for Advocacy: "Know Your Geography: City Council Districts and Community Districts"

The Citizens' Committee on Children recently (March 27, 2013) issued a pair of overlapping maps, New York City Council districts and Community Districts. As the title implies, these maps are useful for community advocates, professional and volunteer. (My blog's old address carries a map of New York City school districts. The shading refers to the mid-2000s "regions" that the New York City Department of Education had, in one of their numerous pointless reorganizations.)

In the light of the current scandal embroiling among New York City Councilors and New York State legislators, it is interesting to consider: are the apparent disparities in educational resources between one councilmanic district and an adjacent one (within a single New York City school district) the result of unfair power of certain city councilors or are the disparities the result of mis-placed priorities on the part of city councilors? (So far, among the arrested in this scam to rig the Republican nomination of Queens Democrat Malcolm Smith are: Smith himself, Dan Halloran, Eric Stevenson and Joseph "Jay" Savino. Link is to story by Bob Kappstatter and David Cruz in the Bronx Times, April 4, 2013)

(For those just becoming aware of the matter --steady attention to the issue is unfortunately not a first page priority for the New York Times-- During the week of April 1, 2013, a number of Democratic and Republican city councilors and state legislators, hailing from a number of New York City boroughs, were arrested for their involvement in a plot to rig the 2013 New York City mayoral election. Why did the New York Times put this article on Christine Quinn, mayoral front-runner, and by many reports, current mayor Michael Bloomberg's hand puppet for a fourth term, and complaints about her role in councilmanic funds disbursements on page 20 instead of the front page?: Michael Grynbaum, April 4, "Councilman’s Boast Revives Question of Quinn’s Oversight")


Keeping Track includes hundreds of indicators of child well-being at the community level. These data allow advocates, researchers, policymakers, and community members to understand the varying needs of children across New York City.

But when we bring Keeping Track to our local City Council Members, they often ask what the numbers mean for their constituents. Most of “community-level” data we collect from city and state agencies, and from other sources like the Census Bureau, are reported at the community district level.[1] But community districts and council districts are not the same.

Council districts are political boundaries and must be redrawn every ten years, after each decennial census, to ensure equal representation in city government, in compliance with the constitutional requirement of “one-person, one-vote.” Unfortunately for our local representatives, very few data – beyond basic demographic information – are available at the council district level.

Community districts, on the other hand, are administrative districts that exist mainly for community planning purposes. Their boundaries tend to (but don’t always!) follow natural neighborhood dividing lines (think large avenues or park boundaries) and encompass one or more whole neighborhoods. Many city agencies collect and report data by community district for planning purposes.

The map above shows the relationship between New York City’s current council districts[2] and the community districts. You can also download a more detailed version of the map that includes a table identifying the council districts and members and their corresponding community districts.

Understanding the geography of the data we report is critical to effective advocacy on a local level. We hope you use tools like these, along with the data in Keeping Track, to inform your local advocacy efforts. For more information on how to effectively advocate for New York City’s children, visit the What is Effective Advocacy page on our website.

[1] The U.S. Census Bureau reports data at several sub-borough geographies for New York City. The Census-designated Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) roughly approximate the city’s 59 community districts and are used in CCC’s analyses of Census data at the community district level. For more information on the relationship between New York City’s community districts and the Census Bureau’s PUMAs, see the Department of City Planning’s notes on city geographies:

[2] On March 1, the New York City Council adopted a Final District Plan with newly drawn council districts. On March 4, the plan was submitted to the United States Department of Justice for approval under the federal Voting Rights Act. As of the publication of this blog post, the U.S. Department of Justice was accepting public comments on the plan and approval was pending. The new council districts, when approved, will go into effect for the elections to be in 2013.
See the original CCC page for the hyperlinks.