Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Long Island Data Breach of 15,000 Students' Data Should Send Shudders in inBloom-Wary Parents

*Tech experts not confident with data cloud security  *School boards developing discipline score to feed to colleges *Data breach is third for the Sachem district *Where does deBlasio stand on inBloom?

Not making the headlines of major media was the breach of approximately 15,000 student records in 18 elementary, middle and high schools in the Sachem school district in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York a couple of weeks ago. In fact, briefly, confidential information was posted on an external website "Sachem Unspun", as reported on the News 12 television station. A Holbrook 17 year old was arrested on November 22 in connection with the hacking of student data. For parents and other activists, this incident should serve as a matter of concern as to whether families can school systems can rest assured that student records wold be secure. That this has happened, even before the ambitious aggregation and indexing of data under inBloom, is a matter of concern for the security of future databases.

InBloom -New York is the "non-profit"'s last committed client after the pledged states originally peaked at nine states (see this article for the list of the original states). As a Statewide Longitudinal Data System (a student database) it is dictated by Obama and Arne Duncan's Race to the Top. InBloom has 400 data points, lots of private student information that could be potentially misused in leaks or hacking.

New York Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch summarily dismissed Regent Roger Tille's concerns that she was too close to Joel Klein, that it led to favoritism in the New York State Education Department's contract with Rupert Murdoch's Wireless Generation (today WG's unit tending to inBloom is renamed Amplify, as Andrea Gabor reported in "Will Rupert Murdoch's Media Empire End Up Owning Your Child's Student Data?"), the company handling inBloom; education commissioner John King dismissed no-bid contract concerns about the deal, saying that New York was under time pressure from Race to the Top deadlines. InBloom represents a big project objective of the shadowy, unaccountable Regents Fellows that set NYS education policies behind the scenes. The King-Tisch duo, deaf to parent security concerns, are being consistent with their tone of contemptuous disregard for parent, educator and student opinion on Common Core. See the videos at the right on parent and student reactions to the Common Core and their test regimen. Their tests data will be a central data point in the inBloom database.

Yet, the recent Sachem district breach was actually the third such breach of the district's student records. In fact, inBloom's own site carries a disclaimer against liability for student data safety: "[inBloom] cannot guarantee the security of the information stored…or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.” In fact, information technology security professionals are not confident with the security of cloud storage of sensitive data, as Leonie Haimson reported in an op-ed contribution to the Daily News. Amazon is the commercial entity from which inBloom is renting the cloud storage for the data.

Is it that urgent that inBloom be imposed on the people of New York State? Consider the variety of ways that the data could be misused. From bullying to extortion, it is risky to have so much data that could be stored in clouds, information that could be exploited. We have already seen how seen how many fragile many teens are, in the face of cyber-harassment, a number of students have taken their own lives. Are taxpayers comfortable with prospect of footing legal bills when parents (understandably) sue the state or districts following breaches of student data security? And never forget how Murdoch's News of the World was engaged in scandalous hacking of people's private information, as revealed in press reports last year? See this video in which New York State superintendents themselves say that many of the 400 data points have little relation to assisting students with learning.

November 21, 2013 from SC magazine:

Data breach of Long Island school district affects thousands of students

Roughly 15,000 students enrolled in 18 Long Island elementary, middle and high schools – comprising the Sachem School District – may have had personal data compromised by an unidentified individual who posted the information on an online forum.

How many victims? Roughly 15,000.
What type of personal information? Posted on the forum was a list of 15,000 names with student ID numbers and school lunch designations, student records on 360 students who graduated Sachem High School East in 2008, and a report relating to approximately 130 students who attended Sachem High School North who were receiving instructional services in an alternate setting in the 2010-2011 year, the district confirmed.
On a separate forum, a concerned user posted about having seen medical records, doctor's letters, report cards, district registration documents that include names, addresses, dates of birth and parent information, and disciplinary records.
What happened? On separate occasions, student documents were posted on an online forum by someone who claimed the Sachem School District database had been hacked.
What was the response? Sachem School District audited its firewalls and intrusion detection systems. The website that hosted the forum has been contacted and has removed any posts containing school data. The school district is mailing letters to affected families. An investigation is ongoing with local and federal law enforcement.
Details: Sachem School District first became aware in July that school documents were being posted online. An official investigation into the schools' firewalls and intrusion detection systems revealed that a breach did not originate from the outside. Additional information was posted online in August and again a breach was not deemed to have originated from the outside. Student information was posted most recently on Nov. 8.
Quote: “The district has devoted every available resource to cooperate with and to assist law enforcement,” according to a post on the Sachem School District website. “Access to student records is an important daily internal function of any school district. This is a necessity, but can unfortunately render our data vulnerable to a determined criminal actor willing to misuse access to our systems.”

Source:, “Regarding the theft of student data,” Nov. 19, 2013
The bipartisan "Moms Against Duncan" Facebook group ("a NONPARTISAN, NONPOLITICAL, PRO-PUBLIC EDUCATION, ANTI-COMMON CORE place for parents to connect, find local groups and actively fight for their children" --caps in original) had this statement in recent weeks. It gets to concerns about the ultimate governmental and commercial uses of student personal data:
As the co-founder of MAD (Moms Against Duncan) we are linking groups of parents all over this country together. Our ultimate goal is a 10% standardized test opt out rate in every school K-8. We will corrupt the data so it is useless. No school scores, no teacher scores, no student scores. No databases, no prison planning data, no economic development data. Pearson, Gates and Duncan can kiss our multicolored backsides. Our children are NOT data. We want all this wasted money back in the hands of our teachers.
Patrick Sullivan, noted for his civic integrity on New York City's Panel for Educational Policy, drew attention this week to how the New York State School Boards Association is planning to develop an "inBloom score" on student to inform colleges on how students behaved in school. The school board's plan is troubling, because many students grow up to be responsible and academically proficient in college, despite having discipline issues in their school careers as minors. It is for this issue that student discipline records until recently have been sealed, off-limits after graduation.

deBlasio, Which Side Are You On?
[Postscript: NYC Public School Parents has a piece on the opposition in Chicago against the inBloom system. Leonie Haimson wrote on how Herricks Superintendent John Bierwith reported that all the Nassau superintendents are solidly against inBloom, “I don’t think there’s a person in Nassau County who thinks InBloom is a good idea." . So, how do things stand for next year in New York City? "Which Side Are You On?" Will de Blasio's chancellor support or oppose inBloom? Also, will deBlasio disband the private arm working inside of New York City education that Haimson referred to, Fund for Public Schools, that just in last year received $1.8 million from the Gates Foundation? We do not need the continuation of private, unaccountable operations setting government policy.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

PJSTA's Dimino Responds to Times' Bruni's on Common Core and "Coddling" Charge

New York Times food critic Frank Bruni in a recent column dismissed parental concerns over the Common Core State Standards (recently re-dubbed Common Core national standards) are premature and represent a coddling attitude toward school children. Bruni's attitudes echo New York City's outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg, who compared Common Core tests to any kind of test-like challenge one faces in life. Port Jefferson Station Teacher Association President Beth Dimino made blog headlines for her searing critique of John King, making the case that he was aiding and abetting child abuse upon New York State schoolchildren. One Long Island therapist has testified that her business has boomed thanks to trauma from the state-imposed Common Core curriculum and standardized testing.

The Sayville Patch published Dimino's letter lambasting Bruni's ill-informed comments:
Mr. Bruni,

It comes as no surprise to me that as a food critic you believe that you are uniquely qualified to comment on the ramifications of the high stakes testing portion of the Common Core on NY's children.

You're not a parent or an educator and you weren't at the forum where I spoke, but you believed that you could write an informed article for the NY Times and insert my speech without bothering to ask me why I made the comments or to familiarize yourself with the topic.

It seems like so many intelligent people, even NY Times writers, just don't get it or is it that you don't want to get it... Teachers give students tests to evaluate what the child has learned and to better inform themselves about their pedagogy.

These tests are not administered for those reasons... Are you aware that the students who are tested in the spring do not receive their grades until the fall? Did you know that Commissioner King created a test that he accurately predicted 70% of the State's children would fail? Does it matter to you that children as young as 4 years old are required to take these tests? I have some suggestions for you Mr. Bruni. 

Buy and Read Diane Ravitch's book, Reign of Error, if you want a different perspective about American Public Education. Investigate why more than half of the States are now reevaluating whether or not to withdraw from Race To The Top. Contact me if you would like to know what's really going in a NY public school classroom.

Count your lucky stars that your English teachers prepared you for your NY Times gig!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mental Health Professional Denied Speaking Slot at Common Core Hearing; CSW's Main Testimony Online

*CSW Mary Calamia testifies   *Dr. Gary Thompson testifies

We have been seeing a veritable prairie fire of resistance across New York State rural and suburban communities over the past month. Parents, students and teachers recoiled at the alienating curriculum that has stemmed from implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Initially, Education Commissioner John King was so frustrated by the nearly universal oppositional response to the Common Core that he cut short his tour on the new standards.

Fortunately, he restarted the tour. This time he has Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch as his accompanying partner, possibly to deflect the focus on him alone. Interestingly, he has spent less time responding directly to the audiences. The fact that he is merely uttering the same stock phrases over and over further highlights how out of tune he is with the people.

We have heard of the curricular and the democratic process concerns, and the concerns over the CCSS's connection with high stakes tests. Now we have reports from professionals that children subjected to the Common Core curriculum and tests are becoming clinically depressed. This was first widely reported by a teacher and union local president, Beth Dimino, from Port Jefferson, Long Island.

Now we have direct testimony by a clinical social worker from Suffolk County, Long Island. Apparently, she has an extensive practice with school-aged children and teachers. She attempted to speak at a Comm. King appearance in Manorville but she was denied the opportunity. The Sayville Patch posted this report:
 The only Mental Health professional in New York State who is publicly speaking out on the subject of the Common Core, Mary Calamia respectfully requested the opportunity to speak and present statement on record regarding the mental health ramifications of the Common Core State Standards before Dr. King.
 Ms. Calamia was denied the opportunity to present this important statement to Dr. King.  The reason was she does not reside in Senator LaValle’s district.

The following is the statement Ms. Calamia wanted to present at the Community Forum:
Statement for NYS Education Commissioner John King:

My name is Mary Calamia and I am a licensed clinical social worker.  I want to thank you for bringing us the Common Core. Business has never been better.
If not for the Common Core, I would never have met the 8 year old who is so afraid of the Spring exams, she has to be medicated just to go to school.
Or the 4th grader who vomits every morning, certain that he is "the stupidest kid in the class."
 Or the lady who has to leave work early, her job in jeopardy, because her 7th grader becomes so hysterical over his homework, she fears for his safety.
Or the 6 year old boy who is scratching the skin off of his face, drawing blood every time he does his homework.
Or the 8 year old who picks his skin obsessively and has to go to school with band aids all over his face.
Or the honor student who carved the word "stupid" into her wrist with a razor blade after last year's math assessment scores came out.
Without the Common Core, I would not be working 10 to 12 hours days without a break just to treat all of the young people streaming into my practice with anxiety, depression, self mutilation, panic attacks, insomnia, school refusal, and a host of other maladies.
I thank you for the emergency phone calls at all hours of the night and the countless interrupted meals, leisure activities, and family occasions when I have had to address a "homework meltdown" that could not be resolved without professional intervention.
How many more children will you send my way? How far do you plan to go with this disaster that you call "education" but more closely resembles child endangerment? How desperate are you to be right? What will it take for you to do the right thing?
Ror further information Contact: Mary Calamia (631) 675-0080,
 Copyright 2013 - Mary Calamia, LCSW, CASAC
Calamia sent this press release:
Mary Calamia, LCSW, CASAC 1239 Route 25A, Suite 6B Stony Brook, New York 11790 (631) 835-1824
For Immediate Release
October 24, 2013
Contact: Mary Calamia (631) 835-1824,
Testimony at New York State Assembly Education Forum Mental Health Ramifications of Common Core
On October 10th, 2013 I testified at the New York State Assembly Education Forum on the mental health ramifications of the Common Core. The full text of my testimony can be viewed at:
My oral testimony may be viewed at: My testimony begins at 5:30.
I am a licensed clinical social worker in private practice on Long Island. I work with students, parents and teachers representing more than 20 different school districts.
Last year, the New York State Education Department fully implemented the Common Core State Standards in our schools. Since its implementation, I have observed:
· a [200]-300% increase in new referrals of adolescents who are self-mutilating. The majority of these newly referred youngsters are honors students with no prior history of self-mutilation. They cite the pressures of the increased workload, standardized testing, and feelings of failure as the top reasons for this behavior,
· a [200]-300% increase in new referrals of elementary school children due to school refusal and anxiety. The majority of these children say they feel "stupid" and "hate school." These are children with no prior history of anxiety or school refusal. They are throwing tantrums, begging to stay home, and are upset even to the point of vomiting,
· a marked increase in self-mutilating behaviors, insomnia, panic attacks, depressed mood, school refusal, and suicidal thoughts during the state exam cycle last spring,
· children are being exposed to age-inappropriate lessons geared to adult learning patterns, not childhood ones. Children are not capable of engaging in the critical thinking the Common Core requires. Critical thinking requires achieving a developmental milestone that does not occur until early adulthood,
· parents complaining that the educational system is driving a wedge between them and their children. They are the ones who have to enforce homework completion and make their distressed children go to school. Also, there are no textbooks to clarify what their children are learning. They cannot help their struggling children with their studies,
· a strain on the teachers that is causing a palpable level of distress in the schools.
I will be happy to answer any questions or interview on this issue.
Mary Calamia, LCSW, CASAC
In the past month Utah based child psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson testified at the Wisconsin state legislature, on the occasion of that state's Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) hearings, that the Common Core implementation amounted to child abuse. He cited the implementation of Common Core as a grand experiment upon 500,000 children, in violation of the standard procedure of providing "informed consent" to parents.

Visit this YouTube site for the audio, when listening on limited speed systems. At better connection speeds visit this Vimeo address for the video of the hearing proceedings.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Principal at Mohawk School: Common Core Materials are Culturally Insensitive, at King's Plattsburgh Appearance

The critiques keep getting more astute and unsettling in new ways each week.

I was listening to "Commissioner King Attends Common Core Forum in Plattsburgh", a report on NYSED Commissioner John King's appearance in Plattsburgh (Adirondacks). The recording in this report from WAMC, North Country radio, had speakers with more subdued delivery than the suburban tours, but nevertheless had just as profound arguments.

I was very disturbed to hear about the culturally insensitive materials, but I believe the charge. The authors of the materials live in their own culturally isolated bubble, so it is hardly shocking that these cases will come up. Nonetheless, it is an intolerable situation. This is one more major reason to oppose the Common Core States Standards.

Shirley Thomas, principal of the St. Regis Mohawk elementary school in the Akwesasne Reservation:
. . . The quality of the ELA and math modules is shockingly poor. In addition to these errors, the modules are culturally insensitive with Native Americans depicted in stereotypical ways. What are the plans for overhauling the modules to be developmentally appropriate for students and the justification of tying these underdeveloped modules to high stakes testing which are directly tied to teacher and administrator performance?
An earlier speaker, a teacher in training, emphasized that "if you want to create life-long learners you need to stop creating an environment where they hate school, because it's only going to get worse."

 A response by John King in the report, "Does this mean we're going to stop the Common Core? No. We believe in the Common Core. We're committed to the work of the Common Core."

 There were only 100 guests allowed in the small studio for the taped event. But a small group of protesters stood outside in the cold.
The forum will be broadcast by Mountain Lake PBS Thursday and Friday evening and will be posted on the station’s website later this week.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported on deep parent frustration at another Common Core event in the area.
"I personally find Common Core to be an abomination to education," said one Schroon Lake parent named Heather, who said she had a son enrolled in third grade.

This kind of fury and distrust was nearly universal as parent after parent from across the North Country lined up to blast King for the content of Common Core and its implementation.

"Education was not a function of the federal government but rather the duty of each state," argued Jules Como, a parent from Long Lake. "The federal government has essentially bribed the states to implement Common Core with promises of money. Yet the funding that local schools have received from Race to the Top woefully is adequate for implementation of Common Core at the local level - another unfunded mandate from our local leaders in Albany." This idea, that Common Core has been rolled out poorly, with too much top-down design and without enough state funding, echoed again and again.
* * *

 First we heard of students hating school, then we heard of students thinking themselves stupid, then we hear of students getting physically sick. Psychologists are reporting that children are getting depressed because of the work that they are doing in the classroom. Now we hear of racially insensitive materials.

Just what will it take for the madness of these standards and the associated curriculum to stop? The New York State Education Department is committing child abuse. Bravo to the administrators that have stood up and denounced the Common Core.  Notice that students are against it, parents are against it, teachers are against it, supervisors from principals up to superintendents are against it.
Watch just some of the videos:

The only communities pushing for it are reporters with their sugar-coated reports and the politicians. Why is King so deeply invested in the Common Core? Could he have some financial interest in the matter? Is he receiving some stipend from Bill Gates that is conditional on his continued shilling for the Common Core?

Earlier I wrote a post making the Vietnam War parallel to the intractable stances of state education leaders and other proponents of the Common Core and other "reforms". In that war, the leaders and politicians did not listen to the people; they barreled on, in their steadfast closemindedness. We have the same situation here in New York State. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner King are not budging an inch. They are speaking like wind-up dolls, saying precisely the same things they said months ago. They are proceeding forward as though this was an article of faith. As Raging Horse blog wrote two days ago to speak against the Common Core in their minds is blasphemy.
State legislators must now hold hearings on the Common Core and must listen to the public's demand that King step down from his position. $212,000 (King's 3 percenter salarie not well spent.

 * * *
A ;etter frp, a certified Soi W:

Is Gov. Cuomo Trying to Dodge the Common Core Ball? How Cuomo, Obama Will Lose the 2014 Elections

*Who lost the 2014 election for the Democrats? Why Obama and Cuomo, of course!
UPDATE: links on John King / Assembly grills King on inBloom

New Yorkers have been engaging in an Autumn of fiery discontent against the Common Core, all across the state, as captured in many YouTube videos.  Education Commissioner John King has been predictably tone deaf to the people's pleas, offering a vague promise to "adjust" the Common Core State Standards in New York State.

Perdido Street School blog has been chronicling the ordeal, giving special attention to how the issue impacts Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo needs to think and act carefully on this issue, as many parents are outraged over the curriculum stemming from the standards, the standards coming from the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the private organization for the copyrighted standards, and organization that as noted in the New York Times, has no known board, salaried staff or address. At the moment he still seems strong enough to coast through his 2014 reelection bid next November 4. But that is nearly 12 months away and a lot could change. Fail to address the fiasco that is Common Core, the associated high stakes tests, the inBloom (Race to the Top student data mining program operating in New York) privacy steal could make him vulnerable to a challenge from a modest, professional acting Republican. (Scroll to end for 11/21 story on Assembly's grilling Commissioner John King.) The very real possibility is the loss of many local seats as New York and other states have state legislative elections in 2014.

The Daily News reported, "Gov. Cuomo calls transition to Common Core curriculum ‘problematic’ in parts."

The subtext is that Sheriff Andy is finally waking up and smelling the bitter aroma of the toxic Common Core coffee.

Critical Realignment in New York and the nation in 2014 and 2016?
You wonder if voters are reading through the tea leaves that if they want to shed King Common Core that voting against Cuomo alone won't do it, that it will take a general mobilization vs. the local reps in the state house to get King out. Beyond Cuomo's self-interest in salvaging his governorship, he needs to be mindful of how he could run for president if he comes off as obviously tin-eared and insensitive to the people's feelings as does John King. What a case the latter is. Here we have a Harvard College grad, Yale Law School grad, yet comes off as an empty-headed robot in terms of playing Charlie McCarthy puppet for David Coleman and ultimate manipulator Bill Gates.

Partisan realignment
Democrats worry about voter backlash over the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare? Greater concern to many voters, particularly those with children in the state and the nation's schools is the unending fiasco of Common Core. Between the double-whammy of Affordable Care Act backlash and the Common Core backlash, local Democrats have much to worry about as the party name is associated with key figures, nationally, Barack Obama, and in the state, Andrew Cuomo, Merryl Tisch and John King. Cuomo cannot so easily get away with passing the buck on saying it is all up to the legislature. When Cuomo sees political capital to be made (when catering to the top fiver percent as opposed to the bottom 95 percent) he gets right out there, speaking in public, and prodding the legislature. On Common Core, he might as well be prodding Russia or Syria. Oh, it's the legislature ... way out there. At least he can see the legislature more easily than Sarah Palin can see Russia.

We can see a realignment of votes, decreasing the power of Democrats, as voters are revulsed by Democratic policies. Voters in the middle will switch to Republicans. Left-leaning voters will sit out the election or will vote for minor candidates. Yes, few left candidates will win in coming years. But the sapping of support for Democrats --by just a few thousand votes in key districts-- can shift races to the Republicans. In sum, Cuomo-type Democrats are playing a risky game of political alienation of the rank and file voter. They are practically giving away key seats in the 2014 elections.

Teachers, obviously, can see the hands of responsibility behind the NYS APPR law travesty. State workers, even the Daily News recognized, can bristle at Cuomo's sweeping attack on public employee pensions.

"I want to be very clear we are committed to the work on the Common Core . . .We are committed to the agreement we made collectively as a state. Our commitment to these principles shall not waver." --NYSED Commissioner John King
Back to King Common Core
[A note after Perdido's post, Children Have Only One Childhood,  PJSTA's Beth Dimino: This quote reminds us that this is a polarized situation with no middle ground exit in sight.  King and Tisch are committed for it; parents, many teachers, many superintendents are opposed to it. It all is up to King and Tisch at this point. They are the public face of education in New York State.]

John King is the number one face of the Common Core in New York State. (Above quote from Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.) A colleague in a crash Ed.D. program at Columbia with Merryl Tisch, he had scant teaching experience, established a charter school that has grown into a franchise in Boston, served as deputy commissioner under the leadership of David Steiner (the commissioner who infamously signed off on the waiver on Cathie Black to become NYC schools chancellor) and at age 36 became probably the youngest education commissioner in New York State in 2011. As he was (unanimously) appointed by the state Board of Regents getting him fired is extra tricky. The Regents themselves are insulated from popular pressure as they are chosen by the state legislature.

Technically of course, it is up to the legislature to remove the two of them. The petition campaign for King's resignation should be re-drafted as a state-wide bi-partisan litmus test put to legislatures: Do you or don't you pledge to remove Tisch and King? The Vietnam-like quagmire is that the two of them are so deeply intellectually committed to the Common Core that there is no chance, short of legislative hearings on Common Core and more localities pulling away from Race to the Top, that they will entertain the idea of backing down from the Common Core.
While it is up to Tisch, King and the legislature, Cuomo must play a part in getting them to withdraw from Common Core. Too few people are aware that King and Tisch are unaccountable directly to Cuomo. Aside from his original adamant support for Common Core, people are likely to look to him as the elected official to direct their frustrations towards.

Just look at the margins in the New York State Senate races in the last mid-term election (2010). Just a shift of five thousand votes in several elections could swing several seats from the Democratic column to the Republican column. We can also envision Democratic difficulty to gain any House of Representative seats. See this NY Times map on gradations of support for Congressional candidates in the 2010 election.

MSNBC has too often remained stuck in pedal 24/7 for the fraud progressive reformer in Chief Barack Obama. But this Ari's Angle video is just brilliant on why Cuomo has dwindling liberal credentials:

5 Reasons Why Andrew Cuomo Will Never Win the 2016 Dem [presidential] Nomination:
1. Democrats 2. The Koch Bros (yes, he's received $ from them)
3. Taxes 4. Teachers 5. Labor (Ari Melber cited The Brooklyn Rail's question, "ANDREW CUOMO: New York's Scott Walker?")

Some progressives might drift to Hilary Clinton for president in 2016. But this one will push for self-declared independent socialist Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

Read John Nichols' piece in The Nation, "Bernie Sanders Might Just Have to Run for President." Here watch the ten minutes highlights of the Senator's historic 2010 "Berniebuster".

His speech has been made into a book.

And watch here as Keith Olberman offers some summary commentary, particularly on how the rich have gotten richer, under both Republicans and Democrats.

UPDATE. From Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

Assembly grills education chief on data plan

A statewide furor about New York's plan to use a private company to aggregate student data boiled over Wednesday.
During a daylong state Assembly hearing, lawmakers and others heavily criticized plans to create a statewide website to store students' test scores and make the information available to parents.
At issue is the state's plan to use inBloom, an Atlanta-based technology company, to aggregate the student data.
As in the contentious Common Core debate, state Education Commissioner John King took the brunt of the criticism. Members of the Assembly spent two hours questioning King about potential security breaches in the system.
A group of New York City parents is suing to block the data from being released, and some downstate districts are dropping out of the program, forsaking federal aid.

"It helps no one if someone knows too much about an individual child in a way that is detrimental to that child and that family," said Assembly Education Committee chairwoman Cathy Nolan, D-Queens. "We're very concerned about what we've heard."
King repeatedly stressed that student information would be protected through a secure website, called the EngageNY Portal. He said the data would only be accessible to the parents of each child. The information would be valuable to teachers and students in comparing testing results and providing information about district policies and events, he said.
The site is expected to go live later this school year.
For rest of story go to link below:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Class Size Matters More Than Fresh TFAs, But Don't Tell Sen. Harkin That

"Progressive" Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) has gone reformy.

Jason Stanford, at Huffington Post, Nov. 6, 2013
Is your child's teacher highly qualified? Thanks to a loophole snuck into the bill to end the federal government shutdown, there's really no way of knowing.

Here's how it's supposed to work: Under No Child Left Behind, all schools -- even the ones where the poor and minority students go -- are supposed to hire "highly qualified teachers." If a school hires teachers who don't meet the federal definition of "highly qualified," they send letters home to parents about their kids' substandard teachers and come up with a plan to fix it.

This is a great idea. It used to be that inexperienced teachers would get stuck with the hardest jobs in underfunded, underperforming schools. As teachers would gain seniority, they would take their experience to better schools where the kids were easier to teach. NCLB recognized that the worst schools couldn't get better without "highly qualified" teachers.

Unfortunately for Teach for America, their graduates didn't qualify. Teach for America recruits smart college kids to teach in poor communities for two years. TFA gives them five weeks of training after graduation and places them in front of a classroom by the fall with only 15-20 hours of teaching experience under their belts.
Having our kids taught by someone with minimal experience and training is not what parents have in mind when they imagine a "highly qualified teacher," and it's certainly not what NCLB required. So Congress did what Congress does, and created a solution that made the problem worse by allowing teachers still enrolled in training to be classified as "highly qualified." That way, when schools hire TFA grads they don't have to let parents know their kids' teachers are barely trained, inexperienced, and unproven.

Putting someone with 20 hours of classroom experience on the same level as someone with National Board Certification in Teaching is like thinking a 15-year-old with a learner's permit and an adult with a commercial driver's license along with school bus and passenger endorsements are equally qualified to drive the school bus. Only one of those options will get you reliably good results, but congress says there's no problem entrusting your children with the riskier option.

This loophole has been a disaster in California, which tracked where teachers-in-training got placed. Predictably, these inexperienced teachers were more likely to find jobs in schools with low-income, minority students. Shockingly, half of the teachers-in-training were saddled with students with disabilities. Sticking the hardest-to-teach kids with the least-qualified teachers was exactly what NCLB wanted to prevent, so California recently created new rules to keep these rookie teachers away from non-English speaking students.

TFA touts a new Mathematica study that says their teachers are effective at getting results in middle-school math, but most evidence points to the conclusion that TFA alums don't do as well as credentialed teachers. More recently, the National Education Policy Center found that "class size reduction has 286% more impact than TFA." And a meta-study published in Teachers College Record reported that Pre-K showed improvements 1214 percent larger than what the Mathematica study showed.

Dozens of national, state, and local civil rights, disability, parent, student, community and education groups -- basically, everyone who represents the kids who get the teachers-in-training -- lobbied congress and the Obama administration to close the loophole. But Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate Education Committee, likes Teach for America and worked behind the scenes to use the bill to end the government shutdown as a Trojan Horse to keep the loophole open, according to Stephanie Simon at POLITICO. And Pres. Barack Obama, whose administration provided TFA with 12 percent of its funding in 2011, let it happen.

A better option would seem to be to invest in proven reforms such as Pre-K and smaller class sizes, to expand financial aid for college graduates to get certified as teachers, and to stop playing political games with the definition of "highly qualified".

But what do I know? I'm just a dad with two kids in public schools. No one tells me anything.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ed Reform is Vietnam War of Our Day; Resistance vs. King is Tet Offensive of Our Day

Common Core is a key weapon in the Vietnam War of today. It is the guns rather than butter issue of our day.

Which side is Bill de Blasio on? --Obama, Coleman, Cuomo's or the side of parents, students and teachers?

Even the New York Times took notice of the resistance against John King.

Vietnam War Education in NYS today
Containment; hawks stayed with this script; prevailed from McNamara to Nixon's years

Mobilization and radicalization of millions of draft age youth happened. Yet, it took years of this to make presidents shift their stances on the war.

Fixed tautology: All should go to college, but education is in crisis, and teachers caused the crisis as they are the only ones to be held responsible. Metrics-driven reform is imperative for turning out the teachers. Students must be tested 'til they drop, to root out the teachers.

No hope for leaders like NYS Education Commissioner John King or Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to change their minds on Common Core. Expecting them to listen to the people is like expecting McNamara to turn into an absolute dove.

Moreover, check for any flow of Gates Foundation money going their way.
Carpet-bombing Speaker at 4:30 speaks, in the video Commissioner King Scorned in Port Chester, to how the Common Core mandates will scuttle programs such as music in order to meet those mandates.
The above video, this video and this blogpost report that children are becoming ill and depressed from the Common Core.
Tet Offensive- set of Vietnamese rebel offensive caught the war leaders off guard.
The rolling protests will continue from Suffolk County to greater Buffalo.

But tin-ear Tisch and King won't get it. As noted by other bloggers hereherehere the more the public protests, the more the Tisch and King sing the same reformy script. The more they ignore the people, the more the people will become enraged. The town halls and the mass PTA meetings across NYS will be the Tet Offensive of 2011-2014.

What they (Tisch and King) worry? They're not directly accountable to voters. Besides, the Regents that appointed them to their posts are themselves in their own five year posts until 2015 (NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver 2010 announcement of their appointments). What the Regents worry about either? Legislative appointment insulates them from popular opinion. Already one Regent outright wrote that they will not depose King, whom they appointed in 2011.
It'll take a lot of popular rage to get the legislature to make sure that the halls of the Regents get rattled.
Now, even the Times took notice on Nov. 18, alas coupling with quotes of a TNTP reformer's insinuating that the parents venting at Comm. King are racists.
After Tet Offensive, worn-down president Johnson threw in the towel.
When will sheriff Cuomo or reformer-in-chief Obama throw in the towel and hear the people?

Unimaginable at this point. Definitely not 'til after 2014 elections. Watch for big Democratic losses as voters soundly reject these Common Core at the polls, taking out their rage on Democrats. Backlash against Obama over Affordable Care Act? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

When would Commissioner King ever make this concession? Could he ever make this concession?

The war against teachers, parents, students will rage on.

Tisch and King, listen up well. In the words of Bob Dylan:
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters [the parents of New York State schoolchildren]
Are beyond your command

The people are speaking:
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Human collateral in testing and firing campaigns against teachers

The collateral damage of job loss or Danielson/VAM-driven job stress
First off we have the stress, burnout and demoralization issues: the 2012 Met Life survey on the American Teacher showed teacher morale to be at its lowest in decades. This survey is cited in Burris at Strauss in Washington Post.  See Met Life study, Teacher job satisfaction continues to decline, page 45 and this earlier blogpost on plummeting teacher morale.

Beyond the general job stress, under corporate education "reform" we have the escalating stress in school districts as teachers cope with the increasingly burdensome conditions, first driven by the No Child Left Behind policies, and then by the Race to the Top policies, with their emphasis on Value Added Modeling teacher evaluation systems (metrics-driven analyses of teacher performance that take no consideration of social conditions, administrator irresponsibility, parental support or student initiative). Incredibly, there is little thorough public discussion of how the people establishing the evaluation protocols have limited or shady teaching credentials. Consider the case of Charlotte Danielson, the architect of the Danielson Frameworks, head of the Danielson Group. She has successfully masked where she taught, at what grades, and for how long. Has anyone asked why she has kept her credentials so secret? Note that these evaluation systems have been rolled out, even though some conscientious education professors and researchers, as in the case of Chicago last year, have questioned their validity and have asked for piloting before mass implementation.

Then we have the matter of greater acute concern to teachers, their families and the economy: Teachers will lose jobs. Those still retaining jobs will endure an ongoing hell, as they pass each day in trepidation that their lessons will be suspected for causing bad scores on high stakes tests (when in many cases these low test scores will happen even with the best of efforts --you can read elsewhere --here and here-- on the external social factors or the poor school administration factors that enable less than ideal school performance).

The profession will take on a menial reputation, impacting individuals, fraying families
It will become more evident that teaching is a menial job demanding pre-Progressive Era 14 hour shifts, whose humiliation and job security make teachers increasingly unattractive as potential partners. Word will soon leak out: teachers under the new conditions cannot "have a life."

Not making the headlines will be the job stress, the broken relationships as partners snap at partners, blow up at kids, make scenes at family gatherings, you can keep imagining the examples. Silently, out of the headlines, the partners and children in these families we compose a generation that has lost the opportunity for a decent, happy family life.

Teacher suicides

Mary Thorson, former Army Reserve; teacher who took her life
Additionally, we should consider that many terminated teachers will find themselves distraught, unsupported and with no options, particularly after experiencing on the job bullying, bullying sanctioned by media rhetoric and politicians' policies. Most tragically, there will be those without strong social supports and take their own lives. Already we have seen teachers commit suicide after harassment (Mary Thorson of suburban Chicago) and termination following shaming in publicly revealed metrics-driven comparison of teachers and their test rankings (Rigoberto Ruelas of Los Angeles).
On Mary Thorson, who took her life, on Thanksgiving, 2011, read this post and this post at Assailed Teacher. Filmmaker and former teacher Mary Richardson, contributing to the Socialist Worker, connected her plight to the larger societal scourge of bullying of teachers.
Rigoberto Ruelas, teacher who took his life

On Rigoberto Ruelas, who scored "average," then took his own life, read Christina Hoag's "Rigoberto Ruelas' Suicide Raises Questions About LA Times Teacher Rankings" at Huffington Post. Yet as his story got attention in the New York Times, "Teacher’s Death Exposes Tensions in Los Angeles," and NBC News, "LA teacher suicide sparks test score pushback: Union says the Los Angeles Times should remove teacher performance ratings from its website," stories such as Hoag's spoke of questions being raised about such stack ranking, sadly the momentum for reconsidering metrics-based evaluation faded from official public discourse.

The downward spiral from the Keynesian multiplier in reverse

We should consider the Keynesian multiplier and the sprawling impacts of a middle class income. Teachers are middle class. The better paid ones have some disposable income. They can take long distance trips with their families, they can pay for sports, camp, dance or music classes for their kids. The ancillary effects of teachers losing their jobs will be weakened local economies that rely on the discretionary spending of those formerly employed teachers, the restaurants, the barbers, hardware stores.

Note that in the industrial Midwest it is often cited that when an auto or auto parts plant closes it is estimated that thousands of jobs are lost beyond the factory gates. This is the Keynesian multiplier in reverse. Remove the economic growth trigger and you decelerate the economy. You can see this from Michigan to the Hudson Valley. The New York City metro region has been less susceptible to the down-turns that much of the rest of the nation, particularly those in which industry has been a large fraction. Yet, with the firings that the consecutive APPR "Ineffectives" there will be a slightly down-ward drag on the economy.

Much as the Vietnam War higher-ups spoke of burning down a village to save it, we have politicians from liberals like New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo (who has called for the "death penalty" for "failing" schools) to conservatives like Wisconsin's Scott Walker that speak of reducing state costs to save the economy. We should not fall for their Frank Luntz-type manipulation of language. "Slashing costs" means cutting jobs; reducing healthcare benefits, slashing pension benefits have very real costs. Lifestyle quality will get downgraded. We should note the aggregate (general, overall, taking all the parts together) economic decline that follows the very specific war on one part of the middle class.

We can add administrators to the mix, as they get thrown out of jobs when schools close. Yet, we will see exceptions to the downsizing of administrators, as we see in frequent columns in Chaz's School Daze, there is a double standard for administrators, as they can be charged with highly unseemly conduct, yet often remain in their positions. Watch administrators in closed schools get rotated over to other schools while teachers take the hit for the bad test scores. While administrators get rotated, many teachers will lose their positions. Watch also for the veteran teachers be in line to take the hit, as school leaders will be eager to replace them with younger, cheaper teachers.

It is particularly easy to get replacement talent. The stagnant economy means that there are limited positions for recent college graduates. There will be eager graduates will and ready to replace the veteran teachers. This is particularly a problem in vibrant cultural magnet cities that attract college graduates around the surrounding region. In our region it is New York City; in the Midwest, it is Chicago; in southern California, Los Angeles and so on.

Therapy: a growth industry
The only people benefiting from the ratcheting up of pressure on teachers will be therapists who will see a boom in the number of clients, until their insurance runs out after termination, and the moving companies that will move families from big suburban homes to downscale apartments or back in with mom and day.

Political expediency of scapegoating and mass bullying
We also have the amoral politicians that do not see the harm in their social policies. Ignoring the social factors that can contribute to less than ideal student test scores, they will scream for the heads of "ineffective" teachers, gaining political capital from these teachers' scarlet I status. Pundits and legislators with no teacher experience demand impossible results from teachers and create evaluation schemes that are increasingly becoming apparent to teachers and even superintendents as inappropriate and untenable. Yet, teacher union leaders, long absent for the classroom, as New York City's United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew endorsed every governmental step that created the evaluation mess that is degrading teaching and stealing administrators from their traditional school leadership duties. See this video on Mulgrew's endorsement of the new evaluation scheme from its 2010 inception roots.


(photo from demonstration of the Cranston Teachers' Alliance)
Out of humane empathy, more of the public should speak out against what education policy makers are doing with teachers.

Think of pastor Martin Niemoller's First They Came piece. What profession might be next, to follow teachers, in a broad-reaching political attack campaign? Really, who has spoken up for us, besides Diane Ravitch?

To the contrary, we have Democratic federal education official and president that cheer the mass firing of teachers, as Arne Duncan and Barack Obama in the Central Falls High School, Rhode Island case.

And more recently, we see New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie's becoming unhinged with anger at a teacher Melissa Tomlinson. His "I am tired of you people" outburst and the universal silence on this explosive public verbal abuse among politicians of either major political party, as well as the professional opinion shaping community, the pundits, speaks volumes to the social marginalization of teachers and the apparent legitimacy of the blanket targeting of teachers.

For the sake of the dignity of the profession, for the humanity of their families and their relationships, for the dignity of the national community, the scapegoating and the punishing policies must end.

Friday, November 8, 2013

NYS Probes Reports of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Hudson Valley School

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the state police and the state's Division of Human Rights to look into the rash of anti-Semitic attacks in one Hudson Valley town, according to published reports this afternoon by the Associated Press. Swastikas were scrawled at a school in the Pine Bush Central District.

These disturbing attacks come on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht attacks in Nazi Germany. Yet some of these attacks apparently have been going on for weeks now.

Students have been subjected to anti-Semitic slurs. Additionally, one Jewish youth was beaten with a hockey stick. One girl experienced a swastika being forcibly drawn on her face. Swastikas were left on school walls for months, not erased. Due to school inaction, families of three students took the schools to court. Pine Bush was the seat of Ku Klux Klan activity in the 1970s. One of the school board members had been a Klan member.

Governor Cuomo's letter today to Education Commissioner John King reads:
Dear Commissioner King,

I write to express my serious concern with reports of anti-Semitic harassment including physical attacks at Pine Bush Central School District.

The alleged behavior is nothing that should ever be tolerated in our schools: swastikas drawn on school property remaining for "weeks or months," anti-Semitic slurs and caustic Holocaust jokes directed at Jewish students – at times with school faculty present – and physical attacks including a Jewish student being beaten with a hockey stick and another having a swastika forcibly drawn on her face. As recently as last year, three of the students’ families filed suit in court.

Today I directed the State Police and the Division of Human Rights to investigate the alleged acts of anti-Semitism. I fully expect the State Department of Education (SED) to be forthcoming to parents across New York State regarding the Department's knowledge of these reprehensible acts and what, if any, steps have been taken to ensure Pine Bush students of Jewish origin can attend their school without being subject to anti-Semitic attacks.

If these reports are true, I would like to know what, if anything, SED knew about this situation and if you or your department was aware, when you became aware, and what SED has done to investigate and/or address the situation.


UPDATE: U.S. Cites Evidence of Anti-Semitism in School District:
The U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of the State of New York has asked a federal judge "for permission to file a “statement of interest” so the government could make its views known concerning the allegations in the private suit." The NY Times on Jan. 25 reported in "U.S. Cites Evidence of Anti-Semitism in School District" that federal legal officers wrote that information gathered after an investigation “is sufficient for a jury to find that the district failed to respond to pervasive anti-Semitic harassment in its schools.”

How black girls die in America: The outrage of the Renisha McBride shooting

SALON, FRIDAY, NOV 8, 2013 01:40 PM EST

How black girls die in America: The outrage of the Renisha McBride shooting

In the wake of senseless deaths, do we raise a generation of black children to be paranoid? Do we dare not to?

Demonstrators protest the killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride outside Dearborn Heights Police Station in Dearborn Heights, Michigan November 7, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott)

Seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was shot and killed during a police raid in Detroit in May 2010. In an article about the incident, Charlie LeDuff spoke to Chief Medical Examiner Cal Schmidt who said, “You might say that the homicide of Aiyana is the natural conclusion to the disease from which she suffered … The psychopathology of growing up in Detroit. Some people are doomed from birth because their environment is so toxic.”

This is how we think about Detroit, the once grand city that has fallen into urban decay, abandoned and given over to violence, a city so toxic that even when a 7-year-old girl dies from a gunshot wound, her cause of death is not the bullet.

Renisha McBride was 19. She was involved in a car accident and went to a house, seeking help. It was the middle of the night. She was shot in the head by a white man with a 12-gauge shotgun. He has not been arrested because, like Florida, Michigan is a “stand your ground” state.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Marissa Alexander is awaiting a new trial. During the original prosecution, Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a shot as a warning to her abusive husband. Florida is a “stand your ground” state. Marissa Alexander was standing her ground but the rules were different for her.

Meanwhile, in Florida, George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin, who was 17. Zimmerman’s defense team successfully used the “stand your ground” law to absolve their client in the eyes of the law.

Apparently “stand your ground” is only successfully invoked when people stand their ground against unarmed black teenagers.

Increasingly, we are faced with a horrifying truth. The environment in the United States is toxic for black people. There are exceptions, certainly, but Aiyana Stanley-Jones was murdered in her own home, by law enforcement. Trayvon Martin was murdered while walking home from a convenience store. Renisha McBride thought, like any reasonable person, that she could ask a stranger for help.

I want to be able to say something meaningful about all this but these are circumstances beyond words. These incidents, and so many others, are painful reminders about the value of black life. How do we bring black children into this world? How do we prepare them for a reality where they are in danger in their own homes, and when walking home from the store, and when driving, and when walking through the streets of New York, and when trying to ask for help? Do we raise a generation of children to be fearful and paranoid? Do we dare not to?

Last night, near midnight, I was driving out of the airport in South Florida when I came upon two cars — a minivan flipped over, mangled, and a truck on the median, the hood crushed, smoke filling the cab interior — the immediate aftermath of an accident. There was gas pooling in front of the minivan. A young black man in the car ahead of me pulled over and ran to help. He started shouting, “Help me. I need help to get this man out of this car.” I paused for a moment, trying to make sense of the scene, then pulled my rental car over. There was an older white man trapped, bleeding, talking — clearly in shock but lucid enough. He kept saying, “It wasn’t my fault.” The other driver stood, mutely, next to his truck. I think he was in shock, too. Three other cars stopped. Two of the young women who came to help were nurses — one white and one Latina. We needed a knife because the trapped man couldn’t unbuckle his seat belt. One of the young women asked her boyfriend, a tall, rangy guy sporting a mullet if he had his knife and he did. He ran to his truck to get it.

Several of us had called 911 and most of us were put on hold. Having watched a great deal of televised medical drama, I offered that perhaps we shouldn’t move the guy because of potential neck and spinal injuries, but one of the nurses explained something about all the blood rushing to the guy’s head and said other smart-sounding medical things. Before long, the tall, rangy guy was using his knife to cut through the seat belt. One of the nurses was telling the trapped guy, “Just breathe, honey.” A couple of us were holding the guy in place so he wouldn’t fall in on himself when he was finally cut free. A police officer finally showed up and took the lead. A group of us pulled the guy free and helped him to the curb. He said, “I’m fine, I’m fine.” He wasn’t. There was a huge gash on his forearm. His head was bleeding. The officer said, “I believe you are but why don’t you just sit here until the paramedics get here?” The nurses tended to him as best they could while we waited.

For a while after the man was free, we just stood around, the adrenaline ebbing. More police showed up, as did the paramedics. I noticed that we were a group of people of different races and ethnicities but we were also human. Individually, we saw someone who needed help and individually we stopped and together we helped. In the wake of so much terrible news, I needed that reminder that people can be as good as they are terrible. And still, all I know today is that a young woman is dead. Her name is Renisha McBride. May her name forever be on our lips. May outrage over her senseless death be forever in our hearts.

Roxane Gay's writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Oxford American, the Rumpus, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What will real regime change look like at the DOE?

*Will de Blasio battle the toxic character of the NYC Department of Education or will he peddle old Bloomberg wine in a new "progressive" bottle?

New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will face a teaching force that is the most demoralized and is eager for qualitative change. The NYC Department of Education under Bloomberg pursued a program of destruction of education and the teaching profession. Just look at the names of some of the blogs in this city, Assailed Teacher, Under Assault, Pissed Off Teacher, Exasperated teacher. The sheer volume of New York City oriented blogs alone (see the sidebar of this blog) suggests a definitely high degree of weariness.

For the good of education, and out of humanity to the people laboring in the schools, great changes are need to reverse and correct the damage. And the battle-scarred teachers will be extra-attentive to the quality of changes that the new mayor will make. There is a tall order of tasks for that he will have to attend to.

I would want to say that I am cautiously optimistic. I am not. I am guarded. The hints in the last couple of weeks have been discouraging. First was his identification to the business community that he is a fiscal conservative. Then this week we have his characterization of ruthlessly anti-labor Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel as a great mayor. Union activists are well aware of the latter's record. Such a characterization of Emanuel sound like fighting words targeted against the New York's municipal workers. De Blasio now has a negative reputation to undo. So far, it looks like we, the democratic left, have been thoroughly duped.

The Bloomberg record and the challenge of regime change
In schools, the break-up of large schools meant that students no longer enjoy the opportunities for English electives other than the test-prep treadmill. Schools no longer offer foreign language choices other than Spanish. (Actually, in the recent era, even Spanish has been scaled back as an option in the middle schools.) It meant the loss of arts choices. It meant the closure of school libraries. It meant the drastic reduction of guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists. Envision the thousands of youths harmed by being deprived by these staff eliminations. On many points it has meant the city violating state law in pursuit of these policies.

It meant a racist and classist policy, as these changes were pursued first and more thoroughly in minority and low-income neighborhoods. Truth be told, the break-up of schools into different "learning communities" within one building was pioneered in the 1990s, before Bloomberg, such as with the closure of Julia Richman High School in 1993 during David Dinkins and Erasmus High School in 1994 during Rudy Giuliani, when the schools were run by the Board of Education.

It meant the loss of departmental chair assistant principals or department coordinators to guide curricula in the middle and high schools. Now, in the smaller schools, there are one or two assistant assistant principals. Good luck having an observation with someone that has taught or understands your subject.

Beyond the school-break-up trend, the Department of Education changes meant the replacement of the schools' leaders, professional, seasoned educators, with businesspeople, utterly unfamiliar and unconcerned with issues of pedagogy. Having businesspeople run schools has made as much sense as car manufacturers running farms. Their singular concern with metrics and the bottom line has often led to schools ill-serving authentic educational goals. Again, fat chance on getting an empathetic observation, as the private sector originating administrator weighs in on what good teaching looks like.

It meant replacing the traditional career trajectory of seasoned educator moving onto AP, moving onto principal, moving onto superintendent. These people knew what it was like to teach in the classroom, to get to know students as they watched students progress through the grades in the school. Now, you get people that stick around for two years at best in a position before getting kicked upstairs.

It meant replacing a public institution's leadership with private, unaccountable, non-public bid (or no-bid) "networks" that have questionable practicality, as non-educators or people with fleeting classroom experience (and little or no content familiarity) inform teachers about proper teaching. Regime change will involve terminating this privatization boondoggle staple of the Bloomberg years. This was just one example of how the NYC DOE has been following the Broad Virus program.

The system, from top to bottom is poisoned and corroded. The institutional damage needs a complete rapid turnover to past practices. Even by establishment metrics there is no quantitative or qualitative evidence that the changes of the Bloomberg mayoral control years have improved schools, the teaching or learning environment.

This system has been one of repression. Edward Stancik passed away, but his spirit has continued, with an alphabet soup of investigation agencies. Real regime change and an unoppressive teaching climate will require the end of a no due process system for teachers. And as blogger Chaz has said, administrators can do all sorts of unseemly things and remain in the system, barely punished. Read his blog, Chaz's School Daze, for dozens of illustrations of such scandalously double-standard treatment.

The next mayor would do well to study this pattern of destruction and undo each and everyone of these destructive policies.

Alas, merely a change at the top, in and of itself, will not create changes. The mayor shall be gone, but principals will remain. Outgoing New York City Michael Bloomberg made changes that will last long. Even if broken schools re-unite, there is the issue of his thorough stamp of appointment of Leadership Academy principals and assistant principals. These new style principals are too often not professional educators (or have a token two years exposure to teaching). Their orientation is often decisively anti-union, creating a hostile work environment, routinely violating contract provisions and even standard labor law. Even a temporary wage-earning employee in Macy's has a duty-free lunch, as it is state law. Not so in many New York City schools. Many of the new style principals flagrantly ignore that and insist that teachers attend meetings or work in "inquiry groups." Really, many teachers work during lunch on their own choice, but that should be the teacher's choice.

Finally, all of the above is really an indictment of the leadership the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the New York City teachers union. The union's Unity leadership has not recognized the above transformation, it has not frontally challenged these violations. It has failed to recognize or challenge the not just the whole set of patterns violations but many of the individual violations.

Teachers in touch with the chapter leaders would have heard from president Michael Mulgrew and his statements at the Thursday, September 12 chapter leaders meeting at the Brooklyn UFT headquarters. (If your CL did not debrief you, read this report here. Added commentary is at Perdido St. School. Other commentary on the UFT leaders' defense of Advance APPR at NYC Educator, and this post has an important discussion of how Danielson will turn NYC teachers into factory workers: Assailed Teacher. Many teachers have not had a proper explanation of the new evaluation system, and would do well to read the thorough analyses from the MORE site, here and here, of what is involved. The uninformed veterans and new teachers are in for a shock.

President Mulgrew's mood and stance has been that the new Advance APPR teacher evaluation system is the greatest thing to have happened. The UFT, when speaking of observation patterns has often said if you see any violation issues, such as principal-imposed lesson plan formats let us know. This is outrageous. If they were really in touch with their chapters and were mobilizing their chapter leaders, they would know that these sorts of violations have been going on for a while. Witness many principals' declaration that the Danielson Framework was official and that they were implementing it, before Walcott made the official announcement. (A succinct overview of Danielson developments approaching late January 2013 can be read in this Ed Notes post.)

The naivete that Mulgrew evinces, most prominently in his emphasis that many properly behaving principals will follow the Advance program fairly. Many principals will, but hundreds will not. Mulgrew and the whole (Unity caucus) leadership's naive acceptance of this program, and their ignorance of rampant contract violations are expressions of a union leadership far removed from the classroom. Their naivete is predicted on naivete and ignorance of teaching conditions.

This lack of knowledge of how the Danielson Framework of observation will work in real world contemporary conditions is a case in point. For instance, Danielson, Mulgrew, and others are failing to consider factors that affect smooth teacher performance. In broken up schools in particular, space is at a premium. Whereby a teacher in pre-Bloomberg, pre-broken-up schools would have had their own classroom, that they designed and that they had arranged their materials in; the conditions are far worse in the split up school format. The teacher moves room to room, either keeping multiple sets of supplies or moving them. And teachers are to be judged on classroom environment in these conditions?

Their view of the classroom is from the halcyon pre-Bloomberg years, when the conditions, while imperfect, were far more often in keeping in keeping in with the contract. The more frequent condition these years are schools with no chapter leader or no teachers lounge which is generally off-limits to administrators. There has been such turnover in the schools in the last six years that the night and day contrast of teaching conditions between then and now is imperceptable to maybe half the city teaching corp today.

Teachers' roles in effecting change
If the NYC teachers reading this are disturbed by the issues above, they should come to the Movement of Rank and File Educators, MORE, caucus (democratic alternative UFT caucus) events. A prime campaign is a moratorium campaign against the evaluation system.

Finally, Bill de Blasio has spoken of two cities. In the United States there is tale of two standards: a standard against urban schools with a large percentage of impoverished residents and suburbs. The latter have democratic-republican-driven school policy, the former do not. From a democratic-republican perspective, real regime change will require the city and the state allowing New York City residents to have the right to democratically organize their school system, just as suburban schools do. In short, the city must have a popularly elected Board of Education. Right now, this is a separate but unequal standard for municipal democracy, biased against New York City. The legal myth of the Department of Education must end with the Bloomberg regime. Or will de Blasio perpetuate the bias against urban schools having popularly controlled school systems? Will we have real regime change? Or a Bloomberg fourth term, under a Democratic face? Many of us one-time partisans of Democrats are cynical because of the terrible betrayals and oppression coming from Democrats in recent years.

If de Blasio fails to make a 180 degree turn from Bloomberg's record and his own recent rhetoric and steer the school system away from the disastrous policies of the Bloomberg decade, he will put himself in the position of being challenged from the left in 2017. --Perhaps from Letitia James (incoming public advocate), the woman who ought to be mayor.

Perdido Street School put the matter most astutely yesterday:

Tish James, responding to questions of what happens if de Blasio governs as a corporatist like Andrew Cuomo:
 “I don't think he's going to have much wiggle room,” says New York City councilwoman Letitia James, who will replace de Blasio as public advocate come January. “I'm going to make sure that he stays focused on a progressive agenda.”