Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Who Is Destroying Public Education in New York State?

From Diane Ravitch's blog, August 7, 2013

Carol Burris, principal of the year in New York state, has written a devastating critique of the leadership of New York state.

Let’s name names.

State Commissioner of Education John King (who taught for 2 or 3 years and founded a “no-excuses” charter chain that has a high suspension rate) chose to set the passing mark on the new tests so high that the failure rate was certain to soar.

NY Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, with her appointee, NYSED Commissioner John King, at the historic 8/7/13 NYS Common Core-based test score announcement. Note her straight face, despite the context of being close to people ensconced in the Education Commercialization Complex.
Merryl Tisch, chair of the New York Board of Regents, selected John King (he was in her cohort in a quickie doctorate program at Teachers College) and has supported his every step in setting the bar so high that large numbers of students would not reach it. Tisch is a billionaire who has a hard time imagining what the lives of other people are like. She once, many years ago, taught kindergarten in a religious school. When she was recently honored by Teachers College at its commencement ceremonies, many of the students and faculty protested and wore signs that said “Not a test score.” [Note: the College's President, Susan Fuhrman, is a non-executive director at Pearson PLC, earning about $100,000, and owns $240,000 in the company's stock.]

[Note that Tisch is Chairwoman of Thompson for Mayor; she is Chancellor of the New York State Regents, the body which appointed John King who imposed the draconian teacher evaluation system on New York City, probably the toughest in the state; she has been an endorser of the inBloom online database of student information; she has family connections to the online education system, K12, for homeschoolers and a charter school.]

King and Tisch seem determined to destroy public confidence in public education, to demoralize teachers and principals, and to crush students’ love of learning by making testing the only consequential aspect of their schooling.

Long before the new tests were given to students, state officials predicted that the passing rates would drop dramatically.

Why? Because they want it to.

Merryl Tisch said it was time to jump into the deep end of the pool (meaning that students, whether or not they know how to swim, should jump into the deep end and drown if they can’t swim); Dennis Walcott, New York City’s chancellor (with no educational experience, although he allegedly taught briefly in a daycare program 30 years ago) said it was “time to rip the band-aid off.” Meaning, it is time for students to suffer. Remember, folks, these are the people who are in charge of education in the state and the city. Merryl Tisch has been a member of the Board of Regents since 1996. For 17 years, she has been in a decision-making role in the state. Yet, they shrug off all accountability for themselves.

They made the tests so “hard” that many students who were previously proficient will now qualify for remedial services; the students and their parents will be devastated.

Parents, teachers, principals, and school boards should understand one simple fact: The passing mark on the state tests was politically determined. It has no scientific validity. None whatever.

The best response to the new Gradgrind regime is to opt out of testing next year.

Join other parents. Join organizations like United Opt-Out. Join the Network for Public Education to stay informed.
Say no. Say it loud. Say it often.

Postscript: We can add Governor Andrew Cuomo and his bipartisan crowd in his Education Reform Commission, from Geoff Decker, Gotham Schools: "[CUNY chancellor Matthew] Goldstein, who along with [AFT president Randi] Weingarten sits on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission, gave the maximum $4,950 to Republican candidate Joe Lhota [former MTA head, and deputy mayor to previous mayor Rudolph Giuliani], a member of CUNY’s Board of Trustees."