Monday, December 28, 2015

Coal in the Stocking for Bill de Blasio: Point by Point Case How His DOE is as Heartless as Any Reformy Mayor

How different is Bill from Mike?
De Blasio: which side are you on? Your education record shows that you are on the same side as Bloomberg, Cuomo, Tisch and Coleman

De Blasio to sick and injured teachers: Drop dead
The New York City Department of Education is still as heartless as ever, denying injured people their due days off. People with iron-clad doctor's documentation of valid sick claims are being denied their days off. After their return to work, the DOE comes after them for AWOL issues. Yet, the DOE is at fault, its modus operandi is to drag its feet on medical claims, and then after the injured teachers exceed their ten annual sick days, it targets them.
The NYC DOE is suddenly finding fault in the teaching acumen of a veteran teacher. He so happened to have taken a medical leave, yet in a likely case of retaliation for disputes over his leave and for his years of activism he is being targeted with repeat observations.
Interpretation: the DOE is being very tight-fisted with its budgeting, and that's why it is nickel and dime denying granting sick time to the injured or chronically ill.

De Blasio to teachers exercising free speech: our Stasi is still active
The DOE still has people dedicated to monitoring teachers' use of social media, such as Facebook. The DOE still has an alphabet soup of agencies with trench-coat men that administrators use against teachers over the flimsiest of accusations. From the number of 3020a's that the city is pursuing, it is doubtful that the city has dismissed its huge posse of attorneys in its teacher performance unit. The TPU works hand in glove with vindictive principals to target teachers on the most spurious of charges. This is continuing unabated under de Blasio/Farina.

De Blasio to teachers: we're coming after your pensions
As the Chaz School Daze and the NYC Rubber Room Reporter have been documenting for years, the DOE has particularly set its sights on terminating senior teachers. (See previous section for the TPU's role here.) This is continuing at full strength and it includes the DOE's program to “thin the herd,” and terminate ATR's.

Harassment until teachers quit serves the same tight-fisted budget mentality: when the administrators harass teachers until they quit the DOE will be spared paying unemployment pay to these teachers.
Bill de Blasio is just as much dedicated to prematurely ending careers as the previous mayor.

De Blasio to teachers: we could care less as to whether technology distracts students
De Blasio and chancellor Carmen Farina lifted the cell phone ban and they lifted the DOE filters on YouTube videos and other highly distracting sites. It is very ironic that one cannot do certain legitimate searches on DOE computers (yet, in continuation from the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott years, the DOE allows floods of commercial spam on DOE emails); and meanwhile filters on certain searches in place four years ago have vanished. Students are using the cell phones in schools and in class rampantly. Police are suspecting that gangs at the Lehman high school complex are using them to coordinate fights and in the Westchester Square section of the Bronx this has led to weeks of mayhem, jeopardizing the neighborhood's commercial viability.

On distractive technology Bloomberg actually had the better policy than de Blasio. Either the new mayor is just coddling the students or he is intentionally adding to factors that will distract students and thus bring down teachers' productivity.

De Blasio to teachers: just dare to evade Common Core and you'll be sanctioned for defying its mandate
Common Core was drafted by people with no K-12 teaching experience; it fits perfectly into plans for standardized testing. These tests had alienated students across the country as hundreds of thousands refused to cooperate.
Common Core channels narrow interpretation of texts. It conceives of limited interpretations of text. Its methods mitigate against critical thinking. It demands the marginalization of literature. Its mathematical methods are highly unusual and profoundly alienate parents, thus disenfranchising parents from helping with their children's homework.
In contrast to de Blasio's public fights with New York governor Andrew Cuomo, he has said nothing on Common Core. As of this December 28, 2015 writing Common Core has virtual force of law in New York State and New York City. Administrators continue to insist that teachers follow it. 
Thus, it is inappropriate that the media have interpreted recent federal ESEA legislation and NYSED Common Core pronouncements as meaning there is a New York state shift away from Common Core. As any NYS or NYC teacher will tell you, administrators are still using Common Core to evaluate lessons.

The New York City Department of Education's own house sub-agency of standards refinement continues to adopt and enthusiastically refine New York state's version of Common Core. The NYC DOE, despite the widespread popular rejection of Common Core still cooperates with plans to further impose Common Core's focus on textual analysis on science, social studies and even physical education, dislodging the conventional agendas of those subjects. It continues to indoctrinate and train administrators and teachers in the methods of Common Core. 

Teachers have cited the CCSS-related tests' inappropriateness and their negative emotional impacts on many students. Parents have objected to the CCSS-based high stakes tests fundamental purpose in stack-ranking evaluations of teachers. Parents, and some teachers, have created a massive statewide movement against these tests, citing cooperating with the tests as educationally inappropriate and morally compromising. 

Your morals or you job:
NYC imposes a gag order on teachers and principals, forcing them to not advocate opting out; this mirrors NYS mandates that these professionals cannot even quote questions or answer choices from the tests. The NYC DOE under de Blasio and Farina is sticking by these stances against test opt-out just as tenaciously as the DOE under Bloomberg and Walcott, and just as tenaciously as the NYS under Cuomo and state regents chancellor Merryl Tisch.

NYC mayor Bill de Blasio is cooperating with the most insidious aspect of the education reform movement: the turning education into an experience restrained from critical reflection and centered around teaching for standardized tests. NYC mayor by his complete cooperation with Cuomo and his perpetuation of the Bloomberg Common Core commitment is on the wrong side of the education's central conflict in our era; he is on the same side as David Coleman, Arne Duncan, John King and so on.

De Blasio to students of color and low income students: we're a Jim Crow system and we're not going to sincerely move to correct it -- Teachers, we'll punish you if you openly criticize it
New York City as of Spring, 2014, ranked as the most segregated school system in thecountry. In just two years it moved from position of being reported as the third most segregated school system, behind Chicago.  Yet, not only does the city maintain different standards of school tone, curriculum offerings, sports offerings, library, P.E. resources for different ethnic populations, it maintains this by a class dynamic as well. Note that it was under de Blasio that the citytargeted a Bronx teacher for daring to speak out on behalf of student-athletes, on how their options were inferior to those in more privileged schools. 

Driving the caste system that the DOE maintains is a competitive application system. Students not only have to apply and compete for a high school slot, they must apply to intermediate and other lower level schools. Sickeningly, parents must apply to have their child enroll in pre-Kindergarten programs. As the subway ads emphasize, there are deadlines, much as colleges have deadlines. And the program itself is plagued by problems of failing to adequately serve the neediest populations.

What Fuller and his team found is that the preschool seats are more prevalent in the city’s most affluent neighborhoods than they are in the poorest ones. Whereas 41 percent of the slots are located in the most affluent one-fifth of the city’s zip codes, just 30 percent of them are in the poorest one-fifth—a dynamic that researchers in part attribute to New York’s real-estate limitations. Upper-middle-class areas appear to have gotten about as many new pre-k seats as have the poorest ones. And roughly 11,000 4-year-olds living in those poorest neighborhoods aren’t even enrolled in the program, according Fuller.

 .   .   .

But the study finds that, though de Blasio’s office insists that the new program is benefitting lower-income parts of the city, that claim fails to take into account the much higher numbers of 4-year-olds living in poor neighborhoods than in more affluent ones. Following up on the administration's response, Fuller said the percentages reveal that de Blasio is "evenly spreading new seats across the city, rich and poor ... and this fails to move the system toward equitable access."

The high school placement program, in fact, was developed by the same developer that developed a medical school resident placement program
With the new competitive school choice model, the system concentrates level 1 (in English Language Arts or Math) students into “troubled schools,” and it concentrates levels 3 and 4 into “successful schools.” Thus, it is no wonder that the city's underperforming students are concentrated in the city's most segregated schools. Even the New York Post recognizes this fact. Yet, de Blasio, who is supposed to be a better, more compassionate mayor than Bloomberg cannot recognize this fact.
Also, as a New School study documents in great detail, with accessible maps to illustrate the point, New York City's school placement process actually creates schools that are far more segregated than the neighborhoods where they are located.

The fraud of school choice leading to school excellence has a huge infrastructure toll as well. In a city that is already strained to the limit with high population and a growing number of public transit users, school choice has forced thousands of students to commute, exacerbating the great

Gone are the days when a student could go to the school of his or her neighborhood, “school choice” means that students apply and that they are sent all over the city. This erodes the neighborhood-school connection for students to identify with. Also, if students must spend an hour on multiple transportation modes getting to school, you can be sure that parents have as hard a time getting to parent engagement nights.

Bloomberg transposed the competitive model for education with his demolition of the traditional zone system in favor of school choice. Schools often realized their potential as spaces for social heterogeneity. Now, with the competitive model, the separation means that inequality worsens. De Blasio has perpetuated Bloomberg's caste-school system with no significant changes to eradicate the inequalities of opportunity.

Summative interpretation:
Bloomberg was on a mission to transform the teacher from a respectful profession to one which is demeaned and harassed. This means that this teaching force would be a transient one that did not know its rights. De Blasio has done hardly anything to lessen the severity of how the DOE despised teachers. 

The Bloomberg changes did not produce educational improvement. The proof of this is the widespread de facto policy of "just pass everybody," the credit recovery programs that give a semester's worth of credit for merely completing a single assignment. This is blatant cheating, used to desperately cover a tremendously failed record. This has given a poor lesson to New York City students: that they can pass, regardless of taking personal responsibility. This has meant that New York City students are poorly prepared for even CUNY community colleges. This has meant that the scholastic worth of a New York City diploma is rather contestable, particularly if the school is one that practices the intellectually dishonest practices just mentioned. Yet, all the trends of administrator lax standards, as documented on the Chaz School Daze blog, are continuing under de Blasio-Farina with no apparent change from the Bloomberg years.

If the 2013 mayoral election were to mean anything it would have meant correction of the many ways that the DOE had taken a wrong course since 2002. Yet, Farina failed to clean house and replace the principals that fostered a climate of fear. Farina and de Blasio failed to appoint Tweed (DOE headquarters) officials that would part from the destructive ways of the Bloomberg administration. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Farina "Buy Rosetta Stone" Statement Illustrates Basic Bloomberg Term IV Nature of De Blasio's DOE

Bill de Blasio's New York City Department of Education is clearly operating as a continuation of the Michael Bloomberg regime. De Blasio campaigned as a progressive, but his actions speak louder than words. Schools chancellor Carmen Farina has stepped to a new low with her new statement.

Parents were upset with the city's cuts in foreign language instruction.  Farina told them to buy the Rosetta Stone language program if they were so keen to have their children learn a foreign language. Foreign language has been a rarer offering in middle and high schools. Just fourteen years ago many high schools offered language study of several languages. This has been scaled back to just Spanish. And many schools offer no foreign language. This is a casualty of the city complying with the small schools policy prerogative of Microsoft mogul Bill Gates.

Here is the critical passage from the DNAinfo article reporting on Farina's statement:

Parents worried about cuts to school foreign-language programs were told by education chief Carmen Fariña that, if they don't like it, they should buy the pricey audio course Rosetta Stone.
The schools chancellor slapped down concerns about the loss of language classes at a recent town hall meeting to discuss the effectiveness of dual-language programs and second-language learning in Uptown's District 6.
When the mother of a seventh-grade student at the Mott Hall School told Fariña that her son had his French courses cut from twice to once a week amid a growing emphasis on STEM education — short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — Fariña gave an answer that drew gasps from the room.
Moreover, the fact that Farina made this admonition in NYC DOE District 6, which serves the Washington Heights part of Manhattan, strikes this writer as a racist and classist policy. For, I highly doubt that she would have the same gall to resist offering foreign language in the whiter and more affluent schools, such as those in southern Brooklyn (Murrow or Midwood High Schools) or eastern Brooklyn (Cardozo High School). And just where is the United Federation of Teachers on this? Silent, and I expect them to remain so. The UFT takes a policy of aligning with the most viable liberal it thinks it could find, and if that candidate is elected, publicly supporting the candidate. Don't wait for Michael Mulgrew to denounce Farina's cavalier statement.

Monday, December 21, 2015

DeBlasio's Cell Phone Policy Threatens Community Business and Positive Educational Outcomes

*Bronx neighb mayhem out of control *Problems of cell phone use as a social justice issue 

Bill DeBlasio has placated parents' desire for their children to take cell phones to school. However, the new policy has several negative impacts on communities and on educational outcomes. All parties concerned with peaceful neighborhoods and positive educational outcomes should argue for the mayor and the New York City Department of Education to re-think the cellphone policy.

News outlets across the country, in the Los Angeles area ("Parents Concerned by Fist Fights Posted on Social Media"), to Georgia ("Social Media Poses Challenge for Schools as Student Fights Spread, Schools and the community dissect the troubling student fights that are gaining notoriety online, are reporting that school fights are being captured by students and are being shared on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram") are reporting youth mayhem that is fed by the wide availability of cell phones.

In the last two months, Bronx schools and neighborhoods are slipping into chaos. Unless DeBlasio steps in, these neighborhoods will slip further into a Clockwork Orange kind of disorder. First this happened in the Evander Childs campus. Yet, this is taking a worsening, escalating course in the Westchester Square area. And local authorities are seeing these fights as gang-related.

Just as the Bronx is experiencing a renaissance, cellphone-triggered chaos is jeopardizing that progress. Several news outlets are reporting that, as in other schools in the city (as had been reported to me by a school safety agent also), only weeks after DeBlasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina lifted the cellphone ban, students started to arrange fights, coordinated by using cellphones, within the school and by contacting individuals outside of the school. As reported this week and last week, city councilors in the Bronx are suspecting that students at the Lehman campus have started a routine of setting off fire alarms, then coordinating fights via cellphone. Additionally, students are documenting the fights with their cell phones, and then sending the fights viral, by social media sites.

These fights are now happening a few times a week, and students are extending the mayhem to commercial districts, such as Westchester Square. Merchants' shop windows are being broken. Stoked by the adrenaline of the disorder, students are harassing store owners with racial slurs. Some shopkeepers have said that if this continues they will be forced to close. The continuing mayhem hit the New York Post this weekend.

Will this change? Hardly likely. The major stakeholders, the mayor, the schools chancellor, the city teachers union president Michael Mulgrew are committed to a permissive cell phone policy. The absence of a popularly elected school board means that reversal of this policy will be quite slow.

The legacy of Michael Bloomberg's school policies are worsening matters. Bloomberg, cooperating the Bill Gates' small schools initiatives, broke up large high schools. Cooperating with the influence of Eli Broad, a new breed of principals, with limited school experience and little or no initial training as school assistant principals, have taken office. As the schools were broken up, the numbers of deans shrank or disappeared. Also, guidance counselor ranks shriveled up, as the DOE replaced their roles with those of classroom teachers, assigning the latter "advisory periods."

The outcome of these policies is that greater numbers of students now roam the halls, unchecked by deans conducting sweeps. The new principals lack the institutional memory of years of experience as teachers and assistant principals, years that would give them experience in the basics of managing schools. Places like Lehman campus are stuffed with schools led by neophyte principals. Leading a school is more than supervising teachers. While the Leadership Academy principals think that their role is just to supervise teachers, experience school leaders know that setting school tone is important.

The critical negative impact of cell phones and the fruits of cell phone bans

Research reported this year indicated that when schools implement cell phone bans test scores improve.  The gains are even greater in schools with lower income populations. Researchers, being out of the classroom as actual teachers are missing the terrible scale of distraction that phones and game players provide: means for taking pictures, shooting video, viewing pictures, watching videos, viewing pornography. It is disingenuous for all the parties promoting their introduction into the classroom. Only the well motivated students will commit themselves to keeping them out of site and out of use. To the distractable student, few topics can compete with messaging gossip, porno pictures or bloody games.

The United Kingdom researchers directly criticized DeBlasio and Farina's decision to lift the cell phone ban, as reported this year in the Guardian ("Schools that ban mobile phones see better academic results: Effect of ban on phones adds up to equivalent of extra week of classes over a pupil’s school year"):
However, some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city’s chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

This view is misguided, according to Beland and Murphy, who found that the ban produced improvements in test scores among students, with the lowest-achieving students gaining twice as much as average students. The ban had a greater positive impact on students with special education needs and those eligible for free school meals, while having no discernible effect on high achievers.

“We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days.

“Therefore, de Blasio’s lifting of the ban on mobile phones with a stated intention of reducing inequalities may in fact lead to the opposite. Allowing phones into schools will harm the lowest-achieving and low-income students the most.”
Thus, DeBlasio's cell phone policy hurts the lower income and special education students.

So, we can safely call the situation: DeBlasio and Mulgrew vs. students, and teachers, whose positive evaluations hinge on positive test scores.

Cell phones threaten educational process and they threaten

Monday, December 7, 2015

Research-Backed Book on How Education Alone Does Not Overcome Poverty

The buzz in the media is that education is essential, and the only if teachers and schools would improve, then this would adequately address issues of poor jobs and poverty more generally. People paying attention to all the reality realize otherwise. Here's a new book, publicized on Diane Ravitch's blog.

Grawemeyer Award Goes to Alexander, Entwisle, and Olson

by dianeravitch
The University of Louisville's Grawemeyer Award in Education is a major honor for a book. This year's winners wrote an important book that shows that education alone does not overcome poverty. The implication is that society must have social and economic policies that reduce poverty in addition to providing equal educational opportunity. In 2015, the award went to Andrew Hargreaves and Michael Fullan for their book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School; in 2014, I received the award for The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education; in 2013, Pasi Sahlberg received it for his book Finnish Lessons. The judges have good taste and very high standards!
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Dec. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Those born into poverty are unlikely to escape it—even if they have access to better opportunities through education. That's a key conclusion drawn by the three scholars who have been named winners of the 2016 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education.
In their 2014 book "The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood," authors Karl Alexander, the late Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson followed nearly 800 Baltimore-area urban youths from first grade through adulthood and found that socioeconomic status trumps education when it comes to life outcomes. Their research spans nearly three decades and challenges the idea that access to public education means equal opportunity.
"Studies of this depth and breadth that include census data, historical narratives, personal interviews, race, gender, family background, neighborhood and school conditions and social mobility over a lifetime are quite rare," said award director Melissa Evans-Andris. "The authors conclude that children's life outcomes are substantially determined by the families they are born into. For example, just four percent of the youngsters from low-income families went on to get a college degree by age 28."
"The Long Shadow," published by the Russell Sage Foundation, is part of the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology and has earned widespread recognition for providing a better understanding of how disadvantaged beginnings impact future social mobility.
All three authors of "The Long Shadow" were employed at Johns Hopkins University. Alexander is the John Dewey Professor Emeritus of Sociology; Entwisle, who died in 2013, was research professor of sociology; and Olson, who recently retired, was an associate research scientist with the university's Center for Social Organization of Schools.
All 2016 Grawemeyer Award winners will be announced this week, pending formal approval by the university's board of trustees. The University of Louisville presents the prizes annually the prizes annually for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology and education and gives a religion prize jointly with Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The 2016 winners will present free lectures about their award-winning ideas when they visit Louisville in April to accept their $100,000 prizes.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Clearing the Confusion on the Good and the Bad in the ESSA, the rewrite of No Child Left Behind

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is well over 100 pages. The bill received wide bipartisan support, winning by 359 to 64 in the House of Representatives. It heads next to the Senate.

The usual suspects have dissected and drawn out the important parts for you.

At the Washington Post they point out that the ESSA shifts authority from the federal government to the states. So, in New York State we have been wondering when or how governor Andrew Cuomo will let up his onerous treatment of teachers. See Emma Brown's "How schools would be judged under ‘Every Student Succeeds,’ the new No Child Left Behind", November 30, 2015 in the Washington Post.

Until his recent moderating moves on Common Core, one would expect that he would continue to heavily base teachers' evaluations on test scores. So, New Yorkers are in a wait and see mode on whether he will continue to heavily weigh teacher evaluation by test scores.

Same thing about how to treat "struggling schools." Obama and Bush's previous bills and bureaucratic initiatives pressed states to shut down schools. This new bill eases that, relegating the matter to the states. Do not hold your breath waiting for Cuomo to end his receivership approach to low income "failing" schools in New York.

The new bill still sets the bar for 95 percent of students to participate. But again, this time the new bill leaves the matter up to the states to decide how to act.

The new bill includes disturbing provisions that are give-aways to teacher education programs such as those funded by the New Schools Venture Fund. NSVF heavily prejudiced resources and respect to new small schools in New York City under the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Similarly Mercedes Schneider points out how the new law benefits various pay for success initiatives.
Also, she has pointed out how, while the new law has provisions for security of student data, it still requires states to collect it.

* * *
The ESSA is a flawed bill, but it is a great improvement over the state of U.S. educational matters. It is an improvement over the extra-legislative stratagems and dictates of the Race to the Top, as imposed by the Obama/Arne Duncan administration.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Book on the Neo-liberal Assault on public education

There is a new book form on the ills that we have been talking about.

As publicized at Mercedes Schneider's blog. What is special in this instance is that the author pulls no punches in identifying the politicians responsible.

David Hursh’s New Book, The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education November 3, 2015 University of Rochester (New York) education professor David Hursh has a new book coming out on November 23, 2015: The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education (Routledge). the end of public schools hursh (The Kindle version is already available on Moreover, this flyer from Routledge includes information on a 20 percent discount.) David_Hursh_2014-108-S David Hursh Hursh’s The End of Public Schools is divided into five chapters: Chapter 1: The Demise of the Public in Public Schools Chapter 2: Understanding the Rise of Neoliberal Policies Chapter 3: Governor Cuomo and the Neoliberal Attack on Public Schools, Teachers, and Unions Chapter 4: The Gates Foundation, Pearson, and Arne Duncan Chapter 5: Manufactured and Real Crises: Rethinking Education and Capitalism In this post, I offer a glimpse into each chapter via thought-provoking excerpts that attest to the overall quality of Hursh’s book. (Note: In-text citations removed for ease of presentation.) From Chapter 1, “The Demise of the Public in Public Schools”: We need to understand that the education reforms are not minor changes in how schools are administered, or how tests and curriculum are created, or teachers evaluated. Instead, the current reforms have transformed the purpose of schooling, teaching, and learning. The curriculum is being reduced to what will be tested, teaching to implementing lessons designed to resemble the test questions and often scripted by someone else, and learning reduced to test taking strategies and memorizing for the test. Good teachers are retiring early or finding other jobs and enrollments in teacher education programs are declining. … No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the rise of charter schools, and the increasing privatization and corporatization of public education are not accidental developments. Rather, I argue that the current debate over the direction of public education exemplifies a larger debate occurring in the United States and globally: On the one hand we can continue pursuing the neoliberal agenda that aims to create a society in which decisions about how we are to live are made through unregulated markets, with a diminished governmental role as what was once public is privatized, schools focus on holding students and teachers accountable [through a system] in which students and teachers are infinitely examined… and the rich and powerful become even more so. On the other hand, we can pursue what I will call a social liberal democratic agenda in which the government plays its required role in the creation and development of markets, provides services that are best provided through the government, creates schools as learning communities that support the development of trusting and caring relationships, and aims to create democratic institutions and structures so that everyone has opportunities to participate in democratic processes. From Chapter 2, “Understanding the Rise of Neoliberal Policies”: …Economic and political power has been concentrated in the hands of the rich, who are unelected and unaccountable, and gain influence through means outside the democratic process. Therefore, as I will describe, we need to develop forms of governance that are more transparent and promote democratic decision-making. …Corporate reformers focus on education as a means of reducing economic inequality to avoid confronting the inequalities created by neoliberal capitalism. Pushing back will require both promoting more democratic forms of education but also working to reduce economic inequality and poverty and provide health care, housing, and other services that improve the quality of life. … …Market fundamentalists promote the idea that societal and economic decisions should be made through markets, rather than the political process. In response, I concur… that all decisions are really political decisions. …Recognizing that neoliberalism is necessarily political and that it privileges some groups over others helps refute the notion that we can and should use markets to make all decisions. From Chapter 3, “Governor Cuomo and the Neoliberal Attack on Public Schools, Teachers, and Unions”: …Over the last fifteen years, corporate reforms have encompassed a widening range of reforms, including evaluating teachers through standardized test scores, privatizing the developing of curriculum and assessments, and promoting charter schools. …These reforms are part of larger effort to turn education into a profit-making industry and are promoted by those who desire to profit financially from the changes. …Understanding the motives behind these proposals that aim to restrict teacher autonomy and open up opportunities to invest in and profit from privatization requires understanding the financialization of education…. …When Cuomo tells us that he aims to destroy the “public school monopoly” because he is the only one that cares about the students… the opposite is the case. His reforms are motivated not by caring about the students but by a desire to provide investment opportunities and tax breaks to the lobby groups and hedge fund managers who have contributed to his and his allies’ political campaigns. … …Contributions [to New York legislators and politicians] come from numerous groups promoting privatization and the corporate reform agenda. Some of these groups, including Education Reform Now, Students First NY, Families for Excellent Schools, and NY for a Balanced Albany, have interlocking boards and shift funds between each another. … Cuomo’s now blatant attack on public schools, teachers and unions has been building steadily over the last year. In this chapter I highlight three events that reflect his increasing support for charter schools and denigration of the public schools. These events include his convening and participating in a three-day retreat in May 2014 on educational reform called “Camp Philos.” His speaking, in October, just ten days before election day, at an Albany rally promoting charter schools…, and his January 2015 State of the State speech….. These attacks have culminated in what Bill Cala calls“a war on teachers”…. From Chapter 4, “The Gates Foundation, Pearson, and Arne Duncan”: …Education policy-making has shifted from the local and state levels to the state, federal, national and international. Two exemplars of international organizations are The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pearson Education (hereafter Pearson). The Gates Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in the world, headed by the wealthiest person in the world. Pearson is the largest education corporation in the world. Duncan is, of course, the federal secretary of education. … …They promote privatization and markets to solve what are social and political problems. … …They propose solutions to societal problems that assume that the political, economic and the social do not matter. … …[They rely] on technological solutions. … …They promote private solutions to public problems. … …Proponents of unregulated free markets have an unreasonable faith or quasi-religious certainty that markets can exist without regulation. </blockquote>
See the rest of Schneider's blog for the continuation of the book synopsis.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Brooklyn event on NYC school segregation, 9/16: Why New York? Our Segregated Schools Epidemic

New York City schools remain highly segregated nationally, in terms of race and class, as indicated in this UCLA study last year. Both mayor Bill de Blasio and schools chancellor Carmen Farina have failed to adequately address the issue.

A forum at the Brooklyn Historical Society tomorrow addresses the issue. (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY)

Why New York? Our Segregated Schools Epidemic

Click here to register for the free tickets. 

Of course, the UFT, with its eternal mode of cozying to leaders, has failed to recognize or struggle on the issue publicly. It stood quiet while this segregation escalated in the Bloomberg years.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Narrow, Myopic Vision of the Solidarity Caucus

7/14 postscript on doublethink below.
A novice United Federation of Teachers (UFT) caucus, Solidarity, is making a premature run for the 2016 union election. Much attention has been given to related personal controversies. This article takes the opportunity to look at the caucus, its origins and its campaign program or platform.

The caucus had in its genesis an intense opposition to both the MORE Caucus and the Unity Caucus statements of empathy for Eric Garner, who was killed in a chokehold by New York Police Department officers. In the nearly one year since, deadly police brutality, particularly against people of color, has become the civil rights issue of the nation. People from across the political spectrum were shocked and quite disappointed when a grand jury issued no indictment against any of the officials involved in killing Garner. This is important to recall when considering the character and principles of the caucus.

In its founding it insisted on staying narrowly focusing on teacher issues and on eschewing any attention to any other concerns beyond teachers' issues. Yet, while it appropriates the images of Albert Shanker, Unity Caucus leader of the UFT, it ignores that more largely, the labor union movement has taken stances of solidarity with civil rights activists and anti-war activists. It ignores that in 1957 the American Federation of Teachers dismissed locals that refused to desegregate. It ignores that the United Auto Workers, the AFT and other unions marched in solidarity in the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.  It ignores that strikes have had their greatest popularity when they had reached out to the community. Witness the work that the Lawrence 1912 Bread and Roses textile strikers did in reaching out to the community prior to their strike. Witness the parallel work that the Chicago Teachers Union has done when it took a year of community outreach in preparing for its 2012 strike. The CTU won widespread parent support after making sure to have a two-way dialog to understand the concerns of parents and students, instead of simply pursuing an employee-centered contract and strike campaign. Teacher-community partnership continues to this day in other examples such as St. Paul, Minnesota

Hypocritically, in the quest for allies for its caucus once it had an election in mind, it opportunistically parted from the caucus' founding principle to eschew larger issues or the community and solicited support from a community anti-high-stakes testing group, Change the Stakes.

Now, let us look at the Solidarity Caucus' platform and what is missing

While it gives attention to the special needs of Absent Teacher Reserve teachers (ATRs) where others are silent, this is almost where its issue attention ends. It does not look to the experiences of the regularly assigned teachers. One wonders if the authors even consulted regular classroom teachers. There is no specific discussion about the Danielson Framework, the New York State-dictated Measures of Student Learning (MOSLs) or other aspects of New York City's Advance teacher evaluation system. There is no attention to structural dynamics such as mayoral control, which determine the parameters of what the City Department of Education can do. There is no attention to the Common Core State Standards, which are alienating teachers from their profession and are alienating students from learning. There is no attention to the parent-student solidarity movement which is so essential for teachers who are suffering under the over-testing regimen, the opt-out movement. 

The caucus platform includes complaints about the use of tests in value-added metrics to evaluate teachers. However, the platform does not recognize how the testing emphasis is directly linked to other larger issues, some of which are issues that lead directly to the excessing of teachers into the ATR category: the DOE's testing focus narrows the latitude of what teachers can do in the classroom, the testing focus on core academic subjects crowds out attention to non-core subjects such as foreign language, the arts or physical education. Moreover, the platform studiously ignores larger social-economic-political realities. It ignores that there is a corporatist campaign by politicians in both major parties and an economic privatization campaign by privatizers that capitalize by the test-based stack ranking (rank ordering) of teachers and students and overall privatization of curricula, tests and schools.

Additionally, the caucus program's focus on the teacher involves an ignoring of the effect of the high-stakes tests on students themselves. It ignores the emotional stresses upon students and the attendant alienation from the schooling process in this overall climate of high-stakes testing and driving non-tested subjects out of the curriculum. Just as a decent doctor would care about a patient personally and their living and working conditions and how those impacted the person's health, one would hope that teachers would care about their student charges and the factors that impacted on their life. Just as one commenter on a blog in reaction to the formation of the caucus by saying that he cared about the living conditions of the students, I would echo those points. Teachers are choking under the attacks by corporatist politicians and by privatizatizers, and more rank and file teachers are recognizing this. Yet, Solidarity has made a big conceptual error to ignore this larger context in their program. In this sense, it is mirroring the conceptual errors that conventional, mainstream unions or caucuses, that Michael Mulgrew and the Unity Caucus makes.

Teachers ought to consider the larger social conditions impacting on students. As emphasized previously on this blog, income disparities are extreme in this nation and within the nation, income inequality is more extreme in New York city and state. (See this posting re inequality in the city; and regarding poverty impact on learning see introductory comments at this blog posting.) The stresses of race and class inequality impact on students' lives and negatively impact their educational performance. From issues of police mistreatment of youths of color to profound personal emotional stresses of poverty, these experiences inform the lived reality of the children that we teach in our classrooms. If we wish our students to have the best educational experience, we as teachers should not only attend to our own craft, our own performance, but we should also be concerned with recognizing the social inequality; we should work to change that inequality. This is why I am a social justice education unionist.

There are many aspects about the organizing tactics of the key personalities in the caucus that are at once deceptive and deeply disturbing.  Most recently, a social media page connected with the group has been created. A Solidarity page headline boasts an army of 10,000. It turns out that the organizers of the page snatched up 10,000 names and made them --unwittingly, mind you-- into "supporters." This is putschist organizing at its basest.
New exploitative techniques in political deception on Facebook:
Just when you thought it could not get worse. The leader of Solidarity has taken the names of a few dozen well-known opponents of Michael Mulgrew and posted their names in Facebook postings. The risk is that the uninitiated would think that these persons endorse the Solidarity cult.
Doublethink alert:
The Solidarity leader ignores that the New Action caucus supports Michael Mulgrew in every election in NAC's quid pro quo for executive board seats, and he cries foul when Mulgrew and Unity opponents challenge his desire to ally with NAC, questioning whether they are truly an opposition caucus. Yet, Solidarity claims to oppose Mulgrew and Unity. Thus, this is a classic example of doublethink: the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time, especially used in political indoctrination. If you cannot be clear how Solidarity leaders think, can you be clear where their true convictions lie?

Monday, June 29, 2015

New Blog Tells it Right: the Education Reformers are Humpty Dumpty Reformers

A zesty new blog, WagTheDog, with a catchy name, vigornotrigor in the URL, has a good article critique today's teacher evaluation systems, along with the thinking that drives these kinds of "reforms."

Here is the essential beginning:

EFFECTIVE teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING

The dictionary says developing means to grow, advance, and mature. In NY State a  teacher rated developing is not considered to be effective and a teacher improvement plan (TIP) must be implemented the following school year.
On any given day a teachers interactions with students can range from INEFFECTIVE to HIGHLY EFFECTIVE and ideally all teachers are continually learning and DEVELOPING.
Using a single standardized test score along with three to five classroom observations over the course of a 180-day school year is clearly an unreliable and INEFFECTIVE way to measure student learning and teacher quality.
Americans have been “sold” the Common Core by leaders who have carefully crafted and regulated the words, language, and narrative of the education reform movement. As Humpty Dumpty declared…
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’
~ Lewis Carroll, “Through The Looking-Glass”
Humpty Dumpty leaders with their penchant for doublethink rely on a litany of terms and  “educationese” to justify and sell their reforms to trusting parents using reinvented and redefined terms and phrases such as grit, rigor, college and career ready, data driven, personalized learning, flipped, 21st century skills, transformational, close reading, dive in, student learning outcomes, domain, unpack, complexity, human capital  leaving  parents and teachers confused and wondering why don’t reformers just…

Humpty Dumpty reformers claim the Common Core will ensure career readiness yet the standards do not call for additional trade/vocational pathways and job shadowing, apprenticeships, internships, job mentoring, work-based learning are nowhere to be found in the standards.
Humpty Dumpty reformers like Arne Duncan maintain that there is too much emphasis on testing and test prep…
“But the larger issue is, testing should never be the main focus of our schools…Yet in too many places, testing itself has become a distraction from the work it is meant to support…I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools..”
While David Coleman, the chief architect of the Common Core Standards declares in a 2011 Keynote Speech that the standards are designed to be measured by tests and teachers are expected to teach to them…
“… these standards are worthy of nothing if the assessments built on them are not worthy of teaching to, period…
There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that. There is no amount of hand-waving, there‟s no amount of saying, “They teach to the standards, not the test; we don‟t do that here.” Whatever. The truth is – and if I misrepresent you, you are welcome to take the mic back. But the truth is teachers do.
Tests exert an enormous effect on instructional practice, direct and indirect, and its hence our obligation to make tests that are worthy of that kind of attention.”
Humpty Dumpty reformers claim to support the Common Core with its single track college prep mandate for all students “ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.” while making inconsistent and contradictory statements like…
The Common Core will – by design – make some courses more difficult for many students, and for marginal students that may be enough to nudge them out of school altogether.
The Common Core Will Not Double the Dropout Rate ~ Paul Bruno
What if encouraging students to take a shot at the college track—despite very long odds of crossing its finish line—does them more harm than good? What if our own hyper-credentialed life experiences and ideologies are blinding us to alternative pathways to the middle class?…
“Kid, I’m Sorry, but You’re Just Not College Material” Is exactly what we should be telling a lot of high school students. ~ Michael Petrilli
Humpty Dumpty reformers say education reform and standardized testing is a civil rights issue while threatening to punish civil disobedient children and parents who opt out of standardized tests and placing gag orders on students and teachers to restrict and prevent them from discussing the poorly designed and written tests.
“Students in grades 3-8 are required by New York State to take standardized tests annually. No students should be required, however, to take tests that subject them to hidden advertising.
Clearly the trademarked products mentioned throughout the exam had no relevance to the stated goals of testing students’ reading comprehension and analytical skills. Surely Pearson can afford to edit standardized tests and remove all mention of trademarked products.”
Eighth grader: What bothered me most about the Common Core test, Isaiah Schrader 5/8/13
In the Humpty Dumpty world of the Common Core, “level the playing field” means providing accommodations for learning disabled students during classroom instruction and assessment AND denying those same accommodations during standardized testing at the end of the school year.
Humpty Dumpty reformers like Arne Duncan justify testing learning disabled students at their grade level without accommodations rather than their instructional level, by relying on sensational and unsubstantiated claims…
“The Obama administration said Tuesday that the vast majority of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in U.S. schools today are not receiving a quality education, and that it will hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress…
Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he’ll require proof that these kids aren’t just being served but are actually making academic progress.
“We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel,” Duncan said.
These are students with a range of disabilities, from ADHD and dyslexia to developmental, emotional and behavioral disorders. During his conference call with reporters, Duncan was joined by Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s education commissioner.
Huffman challenged the prevailing view that most special education students lag behind because of their disabilities. He said most lag behind because they’re not expected to succeed if they’re given more demanding schoolwork and because they’re seldom tested.”
Claudio Sanchez, “A ‘Major Shift’ In Oversight Of Special Education” 6/24/14 
Humpty Dumpty reformers claim the lack of academic progress and poor performance of learning disabled students on grade level standardized tests without accommodations is proof these students are receiving a substandard education and they are not being tested enough.
In contrast, The National Center for Learning Disabilities has reported on the lifelong challenges faced by learning disabled students and that individual academic progress may be incremental and inconsistent depending on the accommodations and services provided to the student, and the specific nature and severity of the disability.
“In an ideal world, students who struggle are able to overcome their challenges and grow to become adults who enjoy personal satisfaction, high self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and productive relationships within their families and in the general community. If only this was the case…
No matter how many times it’s been said, it needs to be repeated again and again: learning disabilities do not go away, and LD is a problem with lifelong implications.
Addressing features of LD during the early years can indeed help to circumvent and minimize struggles later in life, but we know that problems with listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, math and sometimes social skills can persist, even after years of special education instruction and support.”
While I fully support holding all students to the same high academic standards, I do not believe it is fair to deny learning disabled students testing accommodations that enable them to equally “access” the readings and questions on the test so they can fully demonstrate their knowledge and critical thinking skills.
Humpty Dumpty reformers convince parents that students must close read in order to be ready for college and careers while the National Institute for Literacy Equipped For the Future (EFF) program has determined that Reading With Understanding is a more appropriate skill because..
“The Common Core focuses on academic (and to some extent, vocational) purposes for all, while EFF contextualizes skills within a fuller range of adult family-related, work-related, and civic purposes at all levels…
Another key area of difference is in what the “standard” attempts to describe. Each EFF content standard describes a transferable skill process that can be applied to a wide variety of adult purposes and tasks…
In contrast, the Common Core documents target discrete skills and sub-skills which, like other sets of K-12 standards, may lead teachers to focus only on each sub-skill and not also provide learning activities which help students apply and transfer their skills outside of the immediate learning situation…”
Humpty Dumpty reformers claim in one breath that the Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments determine whether students are “on track” for college and careers while admitting in another breath that the tests are not a comprehensive or reliable means of measuring college and career readiness
Humpty Dumpty reformers promote and sell Personalized Learning as a way to catch up delayed and disabled students via technology and digital tools that deliver and pace course materials according to individual academic needs and abilities.
“Many fans of education technology believe that specialized technology is the most effective way to deliver “differentiated” instruction that is “individualized,” or “personalized” to a large number of learners, with diverse backgrounds and learning styles…
Personalized learning means instruction is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners.
In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary (so personalization encompasses differentiation and individualization).”
While Humpty Dumpty reformers convince parents that more screen time is actually a good thing for young children who are still developing critical social and emotional skills, ed tech leaders send their children to schools that shun technology.
“The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.”
A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” Matt Richtel, NY Times, October 2011

Click here to read the rest of the blog posting.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Early Education Gaps by Social Class and Race Start U.S. Children Out on Unequal Footing

How will attack teachers, because they happen to teach children from lower on the socio-economic ladder, do any good for the profession, for the students?

As long as we do not address the gripping inequality of the economy, the reformers will have ample opportunity to cite disparity in educational outcomes and continue the attacks on teachers, students and schools. What will activists do, to resist this?

Early Education Gaps by Social Class and Race Start U.S. Children Out on Unequal Footing 

Understanding disparities in school readiness among America’s children when they begin kindergarten is critically important, now more than ever. In today’s 21st century global economy, we expect the great majority of our children to complete high school ready to enter college or begin a career, and assume their civic responsibilities. This requires strong math, reading, science, and other cognitive skills, as well as the abilities to work well and communicate effectively with others, solve problems creatively, and see tasks to completion.

 Unfortunately, the weak early starts that many of our children are getting make it hard to attain these societal goals. Since key foundations for learning are established beginning at birth, starting school behind makes it likely that early disadvantages will persist as children progress through school, and last into their adult lives.

 Knowing which groups of children tend to start school behind, how far behind they are, and what factors contribute to their lag, can help us develop policies to avert the early gaps that become long-term problems. Inequalities at the Starting Gate: Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills Gaps between 2010–2011 Kindergarten Classmates explores gaps by social class and race/ethnicity in both cognitive skills—math, reading, and executive function—and noncognitive skills such as self-control, approaches to learning, and interactions with teachers and peers. We refer to these skills gaps as gaps in school readiness. 
Low social class poses major barriers to young children’s readiness in reading and math 

Black and Hispanic ELL children begin kindergarten with the greatest disadvantages in math and reading, due largely to links between minority status and social class  

Low social class also affects children’s social, behavioral, and other noncognitive skills 

Read the rest of Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss' June 17, 2015 article at Portside here.

Here is the direct link to the major article at the National Institute for Early Education Research that they summarize:

Inequalities at the starting gate

Cognitive and noncognitive skills gaps between 2010–2011 kindergarten classmates
Friday, June 19, 2015
Emma Garcia
Economic Policy Institute
This study seeks to broaden the debate by examining the education gaps that exist even before children enter formal schooling in kindergarten, and showing that the gaps extend to noncognitive skills, which are also critical for adulthood outcomes (Heckman 2008; Heckman & Kautz 2012). Regarding the analysis of early education gaps, this paper is modeled on Lee and Burkam’s 2002 monograph Inequality at the Starting Gate: Social Background Differences in Achievement as Children Begin School, which found that cognitive gaps between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds and races and ethnicities were both sizeable and statistically significant at school entry in kindergarten.1 This is important for policymakers because, if unaddressed, there is the potential that gaps persist over time and compound. Such early-in-life inequalities point to the need for substantial interventions to reduce them, including early educational interventions, to ensure that children arrive in kindergarten ready to learn and for compensatory policies to support these children throughout the school years (from kindergarten through 12th grade). Moreover, the social and economic disadvantages that generate these gaps should be addressed directly and eliminated through social and economic policies, not just education policies (Morsy and Rothstein 2015; Putman 2015; Rothstein 2004).

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Countdown to Cuomo Perpwalk & The Smoke-Filled Room Insight on Deals in WFP Cuomo Endorsement a Year Ago

As the New York Post and the Perdido Street School blog report, the clock is ticking closer to a Preet Bharara move against hedge fund & charter school operator-beholden New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (Democrat).

New York Post Sunday night: "Preet Bharara creeps closer to Cuomo with latest indictment" 
[UPDATE: Cuomo administration implicated in federal probe, regarding improper dealings with the real estate industry. See the June 1, 2015 article by Andrew Perez and David Sirota in the "International Business Times."]

And this big piece Monday afternoon from Perdido Street School blog, from the Albany Project: "Preet's Working His Way Up The Food Chain: For the skeptics out there who remain dubious that US Attorney Preet Bharara is working his way up the chain to Governor Cuomo comes this theorizing from The Albany Project."

And  this from Perdido Street School, also from yesterday, citing Capital NY: "What Was Really Behind The Working Families Party Deal With The Devil/Cuomo Last Year"
Blake Zeff at Capital NY has an excellent analysis of the Cuomo/deBlasio/Working Families party deal a year later.

Monday, June 1, 2015

New NYC Parent Group Vs. School Overcrowding

From DNAinfo: news of a new group of NYC parents of schoolkids, fighting against crowding:

QUEENS — Parents affected by overcrowding at citywide schools have united to form a group to push for solutions.
The group, Overcrowding Advocacy for Zoned Schools NYC, was created after hundreds of parents were told earlier this year that there was not enough space in their zoned schools for their kindergartners. 
Currently, the group consists of parents zoned for P.S. 196 and P.S. 144 in Forest Hills,P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights, P.S. 78 in Long Island City and P.S. 199 on the Upper West Side, parents said.
“We are advocating for both short- and long-term solutions to address overcrowding within New York City public schools,” said M.C. Sweeney of Forest Hills, a mother of two whose children are zoned for P.S. 196.
Click here for the full article by DNAinfo of New York's Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, "Parents Unite to Fight Overcrowding in City Schools."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Meet MaryEllen Elia -- Another Meryll Tisch Kindred Spirit in Albany, as new NYS Education Commissioner

Here we go again?

For the recent years in New York State we were subjected to John King, recipient of a speedy Ed.D. degree, along with Merryl Tisch, THE grand doyenne of high stakes tests and the Common Core. King gave the whiny face to the hard sell of the Common Core across New York State. The problem was that he was totally tone-deaf to the people's (students, parents, teachers) pain over the Common Core States Standards Initiative, particularly evident in the 2013 to 2014 academic year.

Now we get MaryEllen Elia from Florida, fired just months ago from Hillsborough, Florida district (which includes Tampa), in a 4-3 vote, as their schools superintendent. Chancellor Tisch dismissed the flap (To her credit she has more classroom and schools leadership experience than King had.)

[Update: Tampa Tribune, September 19, 2013, on how she got an F.]

Yet, she got a unanimous nod from the New York State Board of Regents, from the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor. As with NYC principals, you can fall on your face, and rise to the top. But for teachers? Once you slip, never forgiven.

The controversy with Elia? This piece today in the Diane Ravitch blog gives important clues, and her points of controversy put her very well in sync with NYSED chancellor Tisch (pro-high stakes tests, pro-Common Core, pro-test-based evaluations of teachers, pro-merit pay of teachers --see this profile by the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss):

Parent activists are wary of Elia because of her past support for high-stakes testing. To win their confidence, she must clarify her views about testing, about the Opt Out movement, about detaching test scores from teacher evaluations, about merit pay, and about Common Core.

And for the anxiety factor: the New York teachers unions are rumored to like her. But who exactly is that (UFT? also NYSUT?) and why do they like her? Ravitch says that Elia was in the rightist Gov. Rick Scott's transition team.

Tisch's puppet? Fall woman for Cuomo?

"I'm Your Puppet":