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":

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cuomo in Quid Pro Quo with Hedge Funders in His School Bill

[UPDATE, From the HedgeClipper blog's HedgePapers No. 15: "Cuomo’s Latest Scheme: Tax Refunds for Billionaires Who Donate to Elite Private Schools and Privatized Charter Schools"]
Don't let the group name fool you: Cuomo's 1%er friends are getting a payback.

*Resist the Trojan Horse hype: Don't let Cuomo's bill's enticement of tax credit for teacher out-of-pocket spending for classroom supplies keep you from seeing what this bill is: a massive shifting of public money to private schools. This is a distraction. The state government ought to provide adequate money for classroom supplies within the schools. Teachers should not be obliged to pay to pay for the supplies.

The real education progressives can keep on waiting for U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara to put New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in cuffs for the perp walk. In his boldest pay-back to his hedge fund patrons, he has pushed a new education bill that serves their interests.  Yet, in this age of the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision Cuomo can probably get away with this as there are no restraints on political donations to candidates. Short of finding a recording of Cuomo and hedge funders in an explicit "I'll do this if you do this for me" conversation, Cuomo will be able to get away with this brazen give away to his hedge fund patrons.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reported on their website (a day after "The New York Times" beat them to the punch in "Cuomo Promotes Tax Credits for Families of Students at Private Schools") that Cuomo in his new tax credit bill "Parental Choice in Education Act" will lower the taxes of large donors to private schools. Read also this UFT site on his pay-back/kick-back to his political contributors.
Quid pro Cuomo; somebody else is always to blame.

To dispel any doubt that Cuomo has benefited handsomely from the largesse of hedge funders, read, "Andrew Cuomo Has Taken Nearly $5 Million In Contributions From Hedge Funds: Report" from "The International Business Times," March 4, 2015.

On a closely related issue, read Juan Gonzalez' column, "Hedge fund executives give 'til it hurts to politicians, especially Cuomo, to get more charter schools," New York "Daily News", March 11, 2015.

To the UFT's credit it noted that Cuomo's proposal is a blatant give-away to elite donors.
The program allows for dollar for dollar write-off of donations to private schools.  For instance, someone donating a million dollars to a private school would have his or her taxes reduced by $1 million.

In his public pitch for the tax credit program in television ads, Cuomo is pitching this with social justice language, "giving every child an opportunity to excel" and similar rhetoric. Of  course the actual details are not in the ads. Yet, the actual intended beneficiaries of the program are private schools, for in order for the schools to receive the funds they must have foundations. Also, public schools can only get up to $20 million in tax credits, and tax credits to private schools can total $70 million.
As the UFT noted, this stands in irony, as the state owes more than $5 billion to schools, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit settlement. The governor has balked at paying this money, yet in the meantime he has found the funds to give $150 million per year to underwrite the private schools and Cuomo's donors.

The UFT closed its article with the following criticism. [It is all valid, but it is disingenuous, as the Unity caucus-dominated UFT was solidly allied with Cuomo up through the challenge that he faced last year from upstart Zephyr Teachout: recall that the UFT (i.e., Michael Mulgrew and company) and other major state unions threatened to dissolve the Working Families if they would shift their allegiance from Cuomo to Teachout. Furthermore, Mulgrew's proxy Andy Pallotta paid $10,000 for a table a year ago at Cuomo's birthday fundraiser.]
Most telling is that Cuomo’s proposed tax credit bill bears striking resemblance to model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group that wants to destroy public education and whose funders include the Koch family.

Our governor is in step with ALEC’s right-wing ideology against public schools. But he is far out of step with New York State residents, as recent polls show.

The state Legislature must reject this destructive proposal.
Michelle Rhee's group's link and legalized corruption
Former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee has moved on from her post-D.C. schools stint, StudentsFirst. Yet, the organization lives on. It is ever so active, in alignment with Cuomo and the Eva Moskowitz orbit of Democratic politics and "reform" education policies. Teachout last year excoriated the hedge-funders' influence as "legal corruption." From "A guide to what the big Cuomo donors want in 2015," Capital New York, December 8, 2014:
New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, an independent expenditure committee formed by the pro-charter organization Students First NY, spent $4.2 million this past election cycle to help Republicans re-gain control of the Senate.

The bulk of that cash came in the final weeks of the campaign and was given by a dozen donors, most of them current or retired hedge fund managers like Paul Singer, Dan Loeb, Julian H. Robertson Jr., and Paul Tudor Jones II.

The alarm about this sector’s given has been sounded most aggressively by Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, who has now mended fences with the labor-backed Working Families Party (which first floated her as a candidate but ultimately endorsed the governor) to take on wealthy charter school backers.

According to Teachout, these donors are trying to undermine public education in New York by buying support for charters. In her mind, this is tantamount to “legal corruption.”

Friday, May 1, 2015

NYSED Adds Detail to 3012c Law --WITHOUT THE LEGISLATURE Voting On It

 *NYSED subverts democracy in response to massive opt-outs

This just in : The New York State Education Department has issued a document that tells local school districts to create SLOs, in the context of missing data, due to the massive numbers of opt-outs. In particular read D99.

This is unsettling from a democratic perspective. They have just taken it upon themselves, in executive authority fashion, to augment state law, 3012c.

New York State United Teachers and Change the Stakes (acting as a good government group) ought to take the NYSED to court over this overreach of authority.

Please share widely . . .
UPDATED: April 24, 2015
Questions added to April 2015 Guidance
D99. Due to unforeseen circumstances, our district/BOCES has a number of teachers who will not receive a State-provided growth score as expected. What should we do?
Education Law §3012-c requires all teachers and principals in a district/BOCES who are subject to APPR to have a complete evaluation each school year. State aid increases are linked to the Commissioner’s approval of documentation that a school district has fully implemented the standards and procedures for conducting APPRs in accordance with Education Law §3012-c and Subpart 30-2 of the Rules of the Board of Regents by September 1 (see Sections C31 and 32 of APPR Guidance). Pursuant to Education Law §3012-c, a complete evaluation includes a score and rating for the State Growth or Other Comparable Measures, Locally Selected Measures, and Other Measures of Educator Effectiveness subcomponents, as well as an Overall Composite score and rating. The Department’s longstanding guidance to districts/BOCES for teachers and principals of grades 4-8 ELA and math with close to the minimum “n” size of student growth scores needed to generate a State-provided growth score has been to set back-up SLOs for the State Growth or Other Comparable Measures subcomponent, in case there are not enough students, not enough scores or are unforeseen issues with the data to generate a State‐provided growth score (see Section D52 of APPR Guidance).
If your district did not suspect that a back-up SLO would be needed and due to unforeseen circumstances, your district/BOCES has teachers or principals who will fall below the minimum threshold of 16 SGP scores in that grade/subject, district/BOCES leaders must determine the processes that will be used to set SLOs (e.g., short-term SLOs, back-up SLOs) to ensure that all educators are evaluated. As a reminder, pursuant to Education Law §3012-c, all teachers and principals subject to evaluation must have a complete APPR each school year. Therefore, district/BOCES leaders must put back-up SLOs in place for all educators who you anticipate may not receive a State-provided growth score, even if this occurs later in the school year.
Many educators set short-term SLOs for a variety of reasons – maternity leave, high levels of mobility, low threshold of student scores on State assessments, etc. The Department recommends that all districts/BOCES consult with their local counsel regarding the implementation of back-up SLOs for APPR purposes. You may also wish to review Sections D12, D19, D24, D52, E10, and M31 of APPR Guidance, as well as the “Alternative Target Setting Models within SLOs” webinar for guidance on SLOs based on small class sizes.