See Leonie's account of the meeting at NYC Parent blog.
See my post game video interview with Leonie on you tube:
I wrote late last night about the New York Law School event featuring Class Size Matters' Leonie Haimson and the NYC Department of Education's Chief Accountability Officer Shael Suransky. But it was late and this piece, Leonie Haimson KO's Tweed in a Knockdown, didn't do justice to Leonie's spectacular work in laying waste to the ed deform movement and BloomKlein as she took a wrecking ball and kept smashing it into their faces - boom, one blow after another until the virtual Tweed was not left standing.
Poor Suransky. He tried his best to defend Tweed but if this room semi-filled (more on this later) law students were a jury, BloomKlein would have been sent to the hangman's tree.
UFT/AFT SidebarAhhh, that felt good. Back to our program.
How a one woman operation can accomplish such a feat while a hundred million dollar (or is it two hundred?) union operation flails helplessly does make people scratch their heads. But not me since I view the UFT/AFT as a virtual arm of the ed deform movement - whether they agree philosophically or not they take the position that it is here and they have to work within the framework. Thus my comparing them to the mentality of Vichy. (See UFT/AFT: Think Like Vichy)
As you all know, I am not a reporter and my scatterbrain mentality makes it hard for me to take notes, plus I can never read my own handwriting - think it's time for an Ipad? But here is what I have until I coral Leonie to do a voice over her presentation - and I should point out that she had to rush through it in her 15 minutes so a lot was skipped. One witness came over and suggested we do it as a series.
The symposium was titled "NCLB and the Effects of high stakes accountability systems (NYC and elsewhere)". I thought it interesting that Tweed was even willing to send one of their top people to get in the same arena with Leonie but maybe it is a sign of their desperate attempts to spin their side of the story after this summer's testing fiasco. It wasn't that Shael is not competent to defend them (I wish he were on our side) but that he has so little he can defend. However, he does seem to drink the Kool-aid.
His presentation went after Leonie and people were so wowed there was little he could do. He pointed to his experience at Morris HS where he claimed they graduated only 70 kids out of a cohort of 700 - when I challenged him later on this 10% grad rate he hedged, saying that some kids went to other schools and came up with a 25% figure. He claims that the 4 new schools, one of which he ran, had 75-80% grad rates with the same type of kids. Sorry, I don't believe it. That rivals Michelle Rhee's claims she performed miracles, raising her class' reading from 10% to 90% in a year. No don't get me wrong here. I do believe we can reverse the numbers. But Real Reformers (our new code name) know what it will take - smaller teaching groups to start - but I won't do the drill again.
Leonie talked about how the high stakes testing game has so totally distorted education. She laid waste the Tweed's report card system, how schools that got F's one year got A's the next, quoting Aaron Pallas, "A monkey could do a better job by randomly picking schools."
She devastated the value added approach, pointing to research that showed how the same teachers measured on student performance on different tests could turn up as the best on one and the worst on another. (See new Sean Corcoran study - link on my sidebar.) How high school grad rates were distorted by the pressure on teachers to mark up on Regents exams and credit recovery. And oh, those discharge rates. Campbell's Law in action.
Leonie went into the data that shows that lower class size is one of the 4 measures proven to have an effect on student performance - an obvious fact to anyone who spent time in the classroom. (Where does Suransky who says he was a teacher stand on this?)
She repeatedly returned to Campbell's Law:
"The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."Yes, give people incentives to cheat based on rewards (bonus pay) and punishment (closing schools, loss of jobs) and people will do what it takes to assure high scores.
When asked later what was her prescription for the ills of schools? Reduce class size and do what it would take to cut the attrition rate of teachers - these are related, of course.
One very interesting interchange took place between Leonie and Shael over a question about how the international standing of the US has fallen. Shael fell into this trap by talking about the higher standing of European schools - how teachers are so much more respected than here.
Duhhhh! European teachers have some of the strongest teachers unions in the world. Maybe that has something to do with how they are respected while also calling out our own AFT/UFT as bearing a major share of the blame for the lack of respect in the US.
In Finland he said, the top quarter of college grads went into teaching while in the US it is more like the bottom third.
Leonie pounced. Finland is the highest performing nation in the world. No high stakes testing at all, though there are some tests.
And how about those teacher unions there? Think that has an impact on luring the top college grads into the profession as opposed to the US where the lure is to go into finance so you too could take part in destroying the economy?
After burn: NY Law Mopes
I won't go into it in depth because we finally got in. But the PR person from the Law School and the NY Law School Assistant Dean were some of the nastiest people we have met.
When I arrived I was surprised to see Lisa Donlan there as I thought she was still in Paris. But she had flown in the night before – there is dedication to the cause. She told me we would not be allowed in without reservations, which we didn't know we needed. Worse of all Lisa said, when she asked if there was room could we come in, she received a firm "no." That this event was for students and they expected it to be filled. And besides, they ordered pizza. "I won't eat," I chimed in (but I managed to sneak a slice later - na, na, na, na, na, na.)
[This section updated and clarified]
I tried to get in as press and was told I needed a reservation. Just them someone without a reservation came up and said he was with Tweed and was there at Suransky's request. He was Deputy Press Secretary Matt Mittenthal and he seemed like a nice guy but got caught in my tirade once it was clear he would be allowed in. I raised a ruckus: if Tweed can have someone come why can't Leonie have people even if they don't have reservations? I was at my most obnoxious and during our interchanges I was threatened numerous times - "leave this lobby immediately," the PR person screamed at me. More than once (I had tried to take a picture of the sign at the entrance that talked about justice). I told her to call security and I would go kicking and screaming, taping all the way. Matt told me that if other press was upstairs he would argue to get me in (yes, there are some likable people at Tweed even with my pal David Cantor gone.)
Anyway, as more and more of Leonie's people arrived, few with reservations, the Law School people got more and more nervous, finally relenting and saying they would count seats and let us in. So we got in. And the joke is the place was half empty. Lisa did a chair count and came up with these numbers give or take a few: 62 attendees, 46 empty seats at around 1:30 (the numbers varied as people came and went). 16 of these were FOL - Friends of Leonie. Poor Shael only had a few friends, including one of my faves - James Merriman, uber charter school pusher. I love to tweak Merriman. "How did that Perkins/Smikle thing work out?" "Incumbency" he harumphed. He later told Leonie that Sam Hoyt was winning big in Buffalo as a sign of the charter school lobby influence. See Leonie's comment on this in Postscript below.
Did Tweed make demands?
We have info that the Law school was contacted by the DOE to keep press out. NY 1's Lindsey Christ was told she could not tape and was apparently not happy and didn't show (Leonie posted emails between Lindsey and NY Law that upset these mopes no end - I'm getting a feeling she won't be asked back.)
I heard through someone connected to the Law School who was present and not happy with the way we were being treated by the Law School officials that Kathleen Grimm had told them that Leonie was advertising the event as a smackdown - not true as Gotham's Elizabeth Green had done that - and the press should be kept out. NY Law people seemed so nervous we wondered whether there is some funding coming from Bloomberg.
Postscript from Leonie
Hoyt is a big favorite of the charter school lobby and beneficiary of the hedge hog dollars. He outspent his rival by 4-1 and only is ahead by 250 votes out of more than 10,000 cast. His opponent wants a recount. Bloomberg gave Hoyt big $, and he was one of DFER’s Hot List. He also briefly subscribed to this list serv, for reasons I could never figure out.