Monday, March 31, 2014

Cliff Kasden Reviews Rockaway Theatre's "How to Succeed....

photos and selfies by Lauren Susan (above right)

Well, I survived the cast party - sort of  - but I'm heading back to bed now. Maybe some video later. Thanks to Fred Smith and friend for coming down Sunday and David Bellel Saturday night. Lots to write about but too tired, especially after just coming home from striking the set -- 2 hours and it was all gone. Tomorrow we start building the set for the next show.

Interesting that the 2 big numbers in the show are pretty much all men. The gals were complaining about it and at the cast party they did an hysterical version of Brotherhood of Man while some of the guys did their tap routine to Cinderella Darling. Then we all did some zumba. I should have stayed away from that Irish cream liquor.

This review appeared in the Queens Courier and the Home Reporter. It was so much fun playing a today yes man, but I had the role nailed just from years of watching the sycophants at Tweed.

A View from the Cliff: “How to Succeed…” in Rockaway

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 7:02 pm | Updated: 7:14 pm, Fri Mar 28, 2014. 
There’s trouble at World Wide Wickets! A young upstart is climbing the corporate ladder with alarming speed. His secret? A little known handbook that morphs into the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical comedy: “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.”
            At Friday evening’s performance, director John Gilleece and producer Susan Jasper skillfully utilize “everyman” John Panepinto as anti-hero J. Pierrepont Finch. His great voice and mischievous smile make him the perfect survivor in this comical chronicle of 1960s big business. Equally well cast is Katherine Robinson as very cute, often starry eyed and somewhat conniving Rosemary.  She is excellent as she sings and dances her way into Finch’s heart.
            The skillful satire continues as WWW president J.B.Biggley (Cliff Hesse) shows his multi edged-agenda. He’s part hatchet-man, part knitter but mostly skirt chaser. His favorite skirt is worn by curvaceous Hedy LaRue (Nicole Mangano). Both Hesse and Mangano earn high marks for their outstanding vocal and physical characterizations.
            Meanwhile, office weasel, snitch and boss’ nephew Bud Frump (David Risley) is rejected by office sharks and apple polishers alike until he hatches a plan to topple J.P. Finch. Risley, a familiar face at RTC, is perfect as the sniveling schemer who is ultimately caught in his own trap. It’s back to basics for you, Frump!
            The secretarial pool, along with personal secretaries Miss Jones (Susan Warren Corning) and Smitty (Najat Arkadan/Dana DiAngelo) are perfect pawns on the hilarious corporate chessboard.  They are challenged by the company’s executive “yes men.”  In the end, though, it’s love, laughs and wickets that win the day!

            The Rockaway Theatre Company continues their year of the musical with four more big productions through November.  Call (718) 374-6400 or surf to
            As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

Full review here.

Chapter Leader Takes on Murry Bergtraum Closer/Hatchet Princpal Lottie Almonte

The Bloodletting - The aftermath of 2012-2013
After the first year, over 51 staff members left, mostly voluntary in the form of transfers, hastened retirements and voluntary excess. This out of about 170 total staff in the building. No complaints from the Department of Education, not even UFT headquarters. Every instructional Assistant Principal, every secretary, every guidance counselor and dozens of teachers at the top of their game, including our staff developers and Broad Science Prize winner - GONE! With this I gave her the name "Lottie Neutron", as the neutron bomb kills people but leaves buildings in tact .... John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader
John writes:
When it was announced Lottie Almonte was coming to Bergtraum this story appeared in 

Ed Notes Online: Death Watch for Murry Bergtraum

Jul 22, 2012 - Death Watch for Murry Bergtraum. Lottie Almonte's rumored assignment to Murry Bergtraum would be an act of open hostility on the part of the ...
In spite of the tough allegations against her, I went on record stating:

"We stand ready at Murry Bergtraum with an open hand to work with anyone who wants to collaborate. We have the four Cs: Communicate, Consult, Collaborate in the context of the Contract. Dictators will be sent packing..."

Instead we got: 
1. Lack of transparency - constant grievances for information.
2. Comp-time Shell Games - now we have a senior advisor, now we don't. Now we have an IEP Coordinator, now we don't.
3. Programming Chaos
4. Special Ed violations up the wazzu. 
5. Intimidation - summons memos delivered by hand to teachers while teaching, like they are getting a regular court summons.
6. School security run amok - virtually no followup to teacher complaints
7. Observations that seek the glass half empty, and offer no support. 

I feel that I speak for the vast majority of staff that the situation has so deteriorated that they no longer care if they shut the school down. The only people who care are the Bergtraum family who want to keep the name up on the wall. 

Such is the reason for my new Blog Post: The Hatchet Principal

It's too bad that our good faith extension to work together was never part of the DoE agenda. Lottie, as a Closer, has done an excellent job. She will be rewarded. 

My new blog post, The Hatchet Principal
The "Hatchet Man" in the parlance of the business world is a manager brought in for the specific purpose of mass firings of staff...

In the parlance of the NYC Department of Education we have the "Closer Principal."

One of the concepts behind the closer principal is to knock any fight out of the targeted school community, in this case prime real estate in lower Manhattan that was much coveted by Eva Moskowitz, one of the 3 denials -- but I would look for her to be back - she wants this building and will be relentless in getting it.
John makes an important point:
Will this pass muster with a mayor who has a Progressive brand? If the teachers' union doesn't pressure the mayor to do away with these bully principals what incentive does the mayor have? School closings re supposed to be on the outs. So, what about the league of closer style principals out there? How do you change the culture of a bureaucracy that valued teacher bashing the last 12 years?
The majority of the staff at this point would welcome a shut down of the school. The misery is that palpable. Such is the work of the "Closer." What place does the Closer have in a de Blasio educational policy?
I did a follow-up in Ed Notes:


Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Work of Change the Stakes: Some History and How Organizing Bears Fruit

YES, word is spreading in Bed Stuy!... The teacher said the parent had the Change the Stakes refusal form!... Teacher in Bed-Stuy
I left this as a comment on the Diane Ravitch bloggers network when the issue of Who is Our Audience came up.

Organizational building: Blogging is a tool, not an end.

After over 40 years of educational activism I've gone through many stages and have learned something (I hope) at each stage. Currently I believe we must gather people together and build local democratic institutions that can link up with other like-minded groups. How did I get to this point?

I started publishing a newsletter for teachers in the UFT in 1997 as a way to share ideas and nudge the union leadership into a more  (real) reformist role. That hard copy newsletter, which by 2002 I was publishing 16-page tabloid editions with 20,000 in circulation - eventually morphed into EdNotesOnline in 2006. That was more a choice based on the cost and work involved, not that I believed blogging was more effective as an organizing tool than the hard copy.

By 2001 it was clear that if anything the UFT leadership was moving in the opposite direction - less democracy, partnering with the ed deformers, etc. That moved me to an understanding that one person could get only so far and into building an organization that could impact on policy. In late 2003 a group of us founded the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), a caucus in the UFT that challenged the leadership. There were other such groups and we made some headway but not enough. By 2009 the attacks on teachers and public education with a spurt in the charter movement led ICE to form a committee to focus on some of these issues. That committee began to attract people in a way that ICE did not -- it spun off into the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) which challenged charter co-locations and supported schools that were being closed.
GEM evolved. Teachers felt that it was essential to challenge the union leadership based on the Chicago model, which gave us hope. Thus in 2012 we formed Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE). But since GEM also included parents who were involved mostly due to the testing issue, another GEM committee evolved into Change the Stakes (CTS) which has been leading the opt out movement here in NYC.

I point to this evolution because we need to get people together in the same room on  a regular basis locally. This takes a lot of time and effort.

One of the issues we faced in CTS was that opt-outers are mostly white middle class. We were told repeatedly that in the poorer communities people supported the test. Some of us said that their kids were also getting sick from the tests. Our people started going out to various communities to speak and while slow, results are beginning to show.
One of our teachers in Bed-Stuy  - one of these communities - just sent this email as an example that the work is bearing fruit.
"My principal is running scared.....she said that she wishes the opt-out information in the news had come out before as she is now having parents come to her about opting out.  She is afraid of going over the 95% because we are a priority school.....we are very underutilized.  I witnessed her telling a 5th grade parent wanting to opt-out that the scores would count for admission to middle school.  The parent was saying she had heard in her church group (YES, word is spreading in Bed Stuy!), that only the 4th grade could be used for middle school admission.  The principal said, that students were admitted based on the 4th grade, but schools checked the 5th grade scores to make the final decision.  The 5th grade student's teacher was standing near-by so I told the teacher to tell the parent the truth.  The teacher said the parent had the Change the Stakes refusal form! "

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Audio: Jaisal Noor and Lois Weiner on the State of Teacher Unions

Mary Compton who is mentioned in this interview may be making an appearance at the April 7 Don't Tread on Educators event at Paul Robson HS - look for details here and on their blog.

Eterno at the ICE blog touches on this interview:

Lois Weiner is a professor of education at New Jersey City University. She brings to her wide-ranging scholarship first-hand experience, as a classroom teacher and union officer. Professor Weiner is the author of Preparing Teachers for Urban School, which was honored by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) for its contribution to research on teacher education. Her most recent book is The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice (Haymarket Press, 2012).

Teachers on Strike from the UK to ArgentinaJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

Tens of thousands of teachers walked off the job in England and Wales on Wednesday as the National Union of Teachers, or NUT, went on strike over a dispute over pay, working conditions, and pensions. Students in thousands of schools were affected, and police estimated 10,000 teachers and supporters took part in a march through London.

Teacher and NUT rep Jake Dodds talked to the Leicestershire news about why the teachers went on strike.


JAKE DODDS, REPRESENTATIVE, NATIONAL UNION OF TEACHERS: I'm out today with the NUT because of our ongoing dispute over pay, pensions, and conditions. The secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, continues to not talk seriously or properly with the teaching unions. And that's why we continue to take action, 'cause we're standing up for education.

For me, my main problem at the moment is conditions. Across the country, the kind of cuts we're having in education are really having a massive impact on student performance, on the level of teaching that you're able to give, and simply on workload and the stress of the job.

A recent DfE survey that was attempting to be suppressed or was suppressed for some time found that primary school teachers are working on average 60 hours a week. In secondary schools, it's well in excess of 55 hours a week. And those kind of workloads are unsustainable in terms of doing the kind of quality job that teachers wish to do. Because of the stresses and strains of the job, two out of five newly qualified teachers leave within five years.


NOOR: And we're also joined by Lois Weiner. Lois is a longtime professor of education, former public school teacher. Her most recent book is The Future of Our Schools: Teachers, Unions, and Social Justice. But she previously edited The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers, and Their Unions: Stories for Resistance with Mary Compton.

Lois, can you put what's happening in the U.K. in an international context? We know there was also strikes today in Argentina and Paraguay, and teachers in Iceland were on strike just last week.

LOIS WEINER, PROF. OF EDUCATION, NEW JERSEY CITY UNIV.: Yes. Well, Jaisal, if you look at Mary Compton's website,, which is supported by unions in two continents, what we're seeing is that this global project of capitalism to destroy systems of public education that were created 100 years ago is really being met by resistance from students and also from teachers globally. There's--almost every day, you see a strike someplace in the world. And the snapshot today of strikes in the U.K. by the National Union of Teachers and in Paraguay and in Buenos Aires is not unusual. It's not unusual to see strikes going on by teachers every day. What's slightly unusual today is that we have three strikes occurring simultaneously.

NOOR: And, Lois, what links the teachers in these different countries--and continents, even? Are they striking about similar issues?

WEINER: Yes, the issues are all the same. The project of capitalism globally has been to deprofessionalize teaching.

And it's important to understand that the reason there's this assault on teachers and teachers unions is that teachers unions are impeding the privatization and the defunding of public education--really, the destruction of the system of public education--and turning it into a source of profit for multinational corporations. That's what we're seeing globally.

And so the unions are being compelled by the members to defend the profession, to defend the existence of public schools that are run without fees, the professional conditions and the professional autonomy that allow teachers to do their work. They're striking against the mandates that are telling teachers--micromanaging teachers and measuring them against--measuring, evaluating them on the basis of standardized tests over which parents and students and teachers have no say. These tests are created by private for-profit corporations, evaluated by the for-profit corporations, and the results are being used to drive what goes on in the schools.

NOOR: Now, Lois, one place you don't really hear about strikes is right here in the U.S. You know, of course, the last major strike that people will have heard of is the Chicago teachers strike back in the fall of 2012. But you've been a longtime critic of teachers unions on the left, saying they don't work with--they don't do enough social justice unionism, they don't work closely enough with community groups. And the same problems you described that are happening across the world with these emphases on testing is happening across the U.S. I've talked to dozens, maybe hundreds of teachers over the past several years, and they all share that common criticism of the public education system. And, also, there's hundreds of schools being closed across the U.S. What is your take or critique of teachers unions here? Why aren't they going on strike the same way we've seen teachers going on strike around the world?

WEINER: Well, the unions here are calcified. That's the best way for me to put it. They're calcified at the national level. They're mainly calcified at the state levels. There are two major unions, the National Education Association and the AFT, and they're bureaucratic and conservative in different ways. They're not--the problems are not identical, but the results are the same. And the result is that the unions are--number one, they are not democratic. To me that's a key issue. Another issue is that they're not militant, they don't mobilize the members. And the third issue is that if they often--their bargaining demands or the way they're looking at themselves is they're fighting for members' interests as defined very, very narrowly by what's allowed in union contracts.

And I will say that we're seeing changes that are not being picked up by the corporate media. For instance, the Portland--Portland is the largest city in Oregon. It has the largest teachers union in Oregon. They waged a campaign for a new contract that put class size first and was not about salary. It was about working conditions of teachers that affected the learning conditions of kids, having what's called in some places specials, you know, making sure that teachers who teach phys-ed and music and art have jobs, because if we don't have phys-ed and music and art teachers, we don't have phys-ed, music, or art.

NOOR: And you see a lot of these programs being cut around the country, because schools have--.

WEINER: They are. They are. They're cut all over the world. Education is being stripped down to its most watered-down vocationalized essence. And the teachers unions in the United States have been late to addressing that. And I think that a fundamental problem is that--which I explain in my new book, is that they don't see themselves as leaders of a movement, of a social movement to push back on these terrible changes being made to education.

But we are seeing some really promising changes, sparked in good part by Chicago, mainly by Chicago.

I think that part of this, part of what we should be looking at in the United States, based on what we're seeing going on globally, is to set out for teachers the idea of a one-day national strike supported by both the AFT and the NEA that would focus attention on what's happening to education nationally. I really think that we need to shift the emphasis from a purely local level to both the national and global.

NOOR: Lois Weiner, thank you so much for joining us.

WEINER: Thank you, Jaisal, for inviting me.

NOOR: Lois Weiner is a professor of education at New Jersey City University.

You can follow us @therealnews on Twitter. Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Town Hall meeting at PS 30X re co-location - Monday March 31st, 6PM

See attached flyer and please share with your network, asociates, advocates & colleagues. Thank you!

In solidarity,

Carlos M. Lopez
PS 30x UFT Rep, SLT & Safety Chair.

Please pass this info to your advocates.
Town Hall Meeting
Monday March 31st, 2014
PS 30 Auditorium @ 6:00PM 
The Deputy Chancellor of the NYC DOE
 will like to hear your opinions
about a Charter School being located in our building.
Come and tell him how you feel!
WE  LOVE  P.S. 30!
Bring your family! 
Town Hall Meeting
Monday March 31st, 2014
PS 30 Auditorium @ 6:00PM

Norm in The Wave: Countering the Propaganda About Eva Moskowitz Success Charters

Published Friday, March 28, 2014

Countering the Propaganda About Eva Moskowitz Success Charters

By Norm Scott

If you happened to read Peter Stubben’s ridiculously misinformed pro-charter article in last week’s Wave, you might ask Stubben why he wants to throw autistic children into the street. Because that is exactly what would result if Eva Moskowitz, who makes almost half a million dollars a year to run 22 schools and is supported by $4 million dollars in advertising, gets her way. That money could have been spent to buy the Success Charter operation an entire building. But this is about politics, not education.

Poor Peter must be living in an alternate reality given that De Blasio allowed Eva to get almost everything she was handed by Bloomberg except for 3 spots ­– 2 high schools which would need millions of dollars in renovations to keep the young children apart from the high school kids – and an expansion in a Harlem school that would toss out autistic kids.

You would have thought pro-charter Joe Lhota had won the election instead of losing by an enormous margin. How inept was de Blasio that he took such a public relations beating because he couldn’t effectively defend the autistic kids against the onslaught of TV commercials about the “poor” 194 Success “scholars” who were shoving special ed kids into the street? Stubben is a perfect example on how to get duped by the lies. Unfortunately, Chancellor Farina caved and said she would work to find the 194 Success kids seats. Eva doesn’t want seats in another building. She wants the building. This is also about real estate, not education.

We hear the lies about all those high achieving children being tossed. Remember that 2 out of the 3 schools de Blasio denied don’t even exist yet. But they would have been part of the Moskowitz political plan to set up outposts in certain neighborhoods in large high school buildings. She will take more and more space and ultimately toss out the public schools. It is an outrage that De Blasio actually gave her all the other schools she wanted. The school community at Seth Low middle school in Bensonhurst is outraged and have held 2 rallies demanding de Blasio rescind this decision.

Do we think it OK that Moskowitz got away with closing her schools and bussing all the kids, teachers and parents to Albany for a phony rally when she gets public tax money to run her schools – and skims a 15% commission off the top?  What a blatant misuse of children for political ends. How much outrage would there be if the Mayor closed all the schools to hold a rally to defend his decisions?

Distortions about Success achievement
Oh those supposed high scores. Experienced teachers know this game very well. Push out the potential low scorers as early as possible and leave a big bunch back early on so they will be a year older for each testing grade.

Some truths as a DOE insider reported on Success tactics as reported on the Diane Ravitch blog: “Not only do classes contain disproportionately few students with disabilities and English language learners (ELLs), but their numbers almost invariably decrease with each passing year. The ranks of students with disabilities consistently dwindle. In the first two years of available data, there were hardly any ELLs. In 2010 Success suddenly came up with a nearly representative portion of these students, but their numbers more than halved by the next year.  83 students entered kindergarten in 2006-07, the school’s first year of operation. When that class reached 4th grade in 2010-11, it had only 53 students — a drop of 36 percent. Harlem Success also took in a 1st grade class with 73 students in 2006. When that group reached 5th grade, it too had shrunk appreciably — by 36 percent. The attrition accelerated as the classes advanced. The 2006-07 1st grade class, for example, did not shrink at all as it entered 2nd grade, but
saw one sharp falloff between 2nd and 3rd and another between 4th and 5th.” If they ‘lost’ many students, these scores are tainted. Only one Success school has been around since 2007. That school started with 83 kindergarteners and 73 first graders. Those cohorts just tested in 6th and 7th grade, respectively. The school has ‘lost’ a big chunk of those original 156 kids. Of those 73 first graders in 2007, only 35 took the seventh grade test. Of the 83 kindergarteners, only 47 took the sixth grade test last spring. Overall, they have ‘lost’ 47% of the original two cohorts. The bulk of the attrition at
Harlem Success Academy 1 seems to have come in the tested grades. Success Academy’s approach of holding many students back a grade level which creates a 3rd grade bulge as those students don’t move on to 4th grade. Attrition rates approach or exceed 50% by the end of middle school.”

Video: 12 Days to Being Tossed Out By Eva Moskowitz Success Charter, an interview with former Success Charter parent exposes shady tactics. Karen Sprowal tells the story of her kindergarten son's 12 days at Success Academy Charter School and how her son was pushed out of the charter school and eventually embraced by a neighborhood public school, PS 75.

Follow the Evil Eva story on Norm’s blog:

Friday, March 28, 2014

De Blasio Rolled - Say no to this budget deal; call the Speaker & your Assemblymember NOW!

I hate to tell you I told you so, but I told you so. That Eva would never pay a dime in rent.
Not only that but now de Blasio will have to pay her rent. Here's the lesson boys and girls. We can't beat the 1% in the political arena. Massive grassroots organizing is what it would take. And having a tepid UFT not being able to lift a finger in opposition leaves us defenseless.
Even though I voted for deB in the primary when it came to the general election I just couldn't pull the trigger for him and wrote in some candidate.
There are 2 hopes now -- build MORE into a force in the UFT and Change the Stakes into a force on the opt-out movement. We have precious little else we can do.
For those who finally had hope due to the deB win - well, enjoy the bitter victory -- he is folding faster than a cheap suit -- can I predict right now -- one term. Go ahead, keep wasting your efforts in the increasingly stacked political arena - keep spitting into the wind. 

March 28, 2014

Today's Lead Story
Tentative Deal Struck To Protect Charters In State Budget
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders struck a tentative deal on charter schools during budget negotiations yesterday that would increase per-charter pupil spending statewide and force the City to provide rent assistance to charters. Per pupil funding would rise $1,100 over three years, starting with $250 the initial year, then $350 the next, and $500 the third. The boost would amount to an increase of about 3.4 percent. Also, the city would be forced to look for space for charters in public schools, or provide rent money for them to use in private spaces, which could cost up to $40 million a year. According to the deal, a third-party arbitrator would make a final ruling if the City and a charter school disagree over a co-location plan and the City would be barred from charging rent for space in public school buildings. The deal would also force the City to find space for the three Success Academy schools run by Eva Moskowitz whose co-locations were rolled back last month. The plan does not, however, offer building aid for charters to replace the $210 million in capital funding that Mayor Bill de Blasio recently diverted away from charters.

This just in from Leonie. She says to call your local politician -- I'm going over to mine, Phil Goldfeder soon to yell at him.

According to today’s NY Post, the legislature is about to make the worst possible deal imaginable: considerably more per pupil funding for charters, including more than $1100 per student over three years, and free space or rent paid for by NYC  for any new or expanding  NYC charter going forward – just in NYC, by the way, where we have the most overcrowded schools in the state, with more than half our students sitting in extremely overcrowded schools by the DOE’s own metrics, which we know are an underestimate.

Thousands of kids on waiting lists for Kindergarten each spring, thousands more sitting in trailers, and the capital plan provides less than one third of the seats needed to eliminate current overcrowding and address future enrollment growth.  But charters will be guaranteed the space to expand – paid for by city taxpayers, while our public school students  are crushed into larger and larger classes with less space to learn.

Call the Speaker’s office now:  tell him to say NO to the deal forcing the city to pay for facilities forever for new or expanded charters, while public school students will sit in increasingly overcrowded buildings.

Speaker Silver: (518) 455-3791

Then call your Assemblymember and urge them to say NO to this deal as well; find their contact info here:

If this deal goes forward, this will truly create a two tier system in which the charter schools will  be the only ones in uncrowded facilities, with the rent paid for by NYC taxpayers, and all parents will be forced to apply to charter schools whether they want to or not,  just to guarantee a seat for their child in a school that is not hugely overcrowded. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Refuse the Tests: Change the Stakes Releases Video

Amazing - Lisa Donlan, parent, CEC 1
Join the hundreds of NYC parents -- let's make it thousands -- who are refusing to let their children take the NYS tests, which begin April 1st! Watch our powerful new video where parents explain why they're opting out! Visit the Change the Stakes website to view the video and access information that tells you how to opt your child out of the tests. If you have questions, email us at 
We don't have $4 million for ads, but we have great people. The UFT should take this and run it as an ad for one even one day. 

Kudos to the wonderful crew at Change the Stakes and  who organized this little gem with filmmaker Michael Elliot. What a cooperative effort - draft after draft with the crew offering comments and the clip getting better and better. We don't need no stink'n hedge fund scum.

Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014

What began two years ago as a small pocket of resistance has burgeoned into a full-blown protest movement: public school parents are demanding an end to the excessive use of standardized tests and top-down, corporate-backed reforms.  Change the Stakes estimates that three times as many NYC school children as last year – perhaps exceeding 1,000 – will refuse to take the annual English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams that begin next week. FULL STORY HERE

12 Reasons to Opt Out (pdf)

How to Opt-Out

Sample Opt-Out Letters

English: .html | .doc
Spanish: .html | .doc

Will My School Lose Funding?

See NYSAPE: The 95% Participation Rate and How Schools Do NOT Lose Funding

From the NYC Department of Education

For the official take, see the NYCDOE’s Student Participation in Grades 3-8 New York State Tests Parent Guide (pdf)

CEC 21 (Brooklyn) calls on Farina and de Blasio to reverse co-location plan for I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro and I.S. 96, Seth Low

I was at the rally this afternoon - Tish James and other politicos came down - I have some video - will update this space when processed.

Community Education Council District 21

Officers: Heather Fiorica, President · Anna Lembersky, 1st Vice President · Joyce Finger, 2nd Vice President ·
Linda Dalton, Recording Secretary ·Randi Garay, Treasurer
Members: Muneer Abualroub ·Mohammad Akram ·Sean Chin ·Maria Di Graziano · Yoketing Eng ·Evangelean Pugh
Community Education Council District 21 calls on Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio to reverse the decision to implement co-location plan for I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro and I.S. 96, Seth Low.
         The announcement made on February 27th  regarding the continuance of charter co-locations at I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro and I.S. 96, Seth Low, is a major setback for our community.  There was such hope that Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina would finally listen to the voices of parents and community members.  Many of us now feel only disappointment and frustration. In the fall of 2013, the Community Education Council District 21 passed two resolutions opposing both co-locations, we have rallied, gone to PEP meetings and still our voices were not heard.  2014 had such potential for parents and yet again, we have been pushed to the side.  We have been given a promise that they will do things better in the future.  What about the children and their families that are already attending I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro and I.S. 96 Seth Low, don’t they count too?  We understand that they based their decisions on families that applied for seats for September 2014 and the deadline was coming.  Our children’s educations should not be about deadlines.  We provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in district 21 and have seats in our traditional public schools for the children who have applied.  More time should have been taken to visit and speak to schools, families, and community members regarding these co-locations. There is no need to rush putting two more elementary schools in our district. We have and always will supply a high quality education for every student in our district’s traditional public schools.   Mayor de Blasio's plan is to provide full day, high quality Pre-K programs to 53,000 students in 2014. With two elementary Charter school co-locations opening in 2014 in district 21, what middle school space can the Chancellor guarantee will be available for these students in the future?
          It’s time to come together once again as a community with our elected officials! Let our voices be heard loud and clear “We say NO to the co-locations decisions on I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro and I.S. 96 Seth low”. The Community Education Council District 21 calls on Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio to reverse the decision to implement co-location plan for I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro and I.S.96, Seth Low.

The Community Education council of District 21 invites all community members to join them at I.S. 281 Cavallaro (  8787 24th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11214) to Rally on  Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 3:30 PM.
Heather Ann Fiorica
Community Education Council District 21
1401 Emmons Avenue – room 101
Brooklyn, New York  11235
Visit our NEW Website at:
"Like" our Community Education Council on Facebook at:

WAGPOPS, District 14 Resources for Opt-Outers

My old district where I worked for 35 years is beginning to come up big time in the opt-out movement -- and new alliances are being built with parents, some principals and the Superintendent -- many people I've known for decades plus the newcomers.

Below is a letter from parent activist Lorna. I taped the town hall last week. Link:

Hello Parents --
As you know, the state tests begin next Tuesday.

I have spoken to several of you on separate occasions about my family's decision to opt out. We are not opting out because we oppose testing and assessment of students, we are doing it because:
  • What used to be assessment has become corporate-driven, high-stakes tests that are used as an instrument  to punish teachers.
  • Overemphasis on testing robs our kids of a well rounded education, and robs teachers of their ability to offer individualized instruction.
  • Ultimately, Common Core Standards and all the curricula and tests that go along with it serve to enrich corporations instead of our children.
  • As part of Race to the Top, New York State sold away our children's personal data to third party vendors like Gates-funded InBloom, without allowing us to opt-out.
Please know that these tests are not desired or concocted by our teachers, principal, or any local administration. It's being forced by the State, and since our previous mayor and his staff were in full support of it, teachers and administrators could not speak out...


By agreeing to the Race to the Top initiative, the State has taken away our right to a decent education, the right of teachers being allowed to teach, the right to have well-designed curriculum materials that are designed to educate not confuse and confound, the right to preserve private & sensitive educational data about our kids, and the right to equitable funding.

The only hope we have to put a stop to all of this is to OPT-OUT. You will not just be opting out of the tests they put so much faith in -- you'll be sending a message loud and clear that we are taking back our rights.

This weekend, our local grassroots parents' organization, WAGPOPS, wrote a letter about the recent Town Hall that our Community Education Council hosted. The letter was sent to all the principals and parent coordinators in our district. Diane Ravitch, one of the most respected education experts/advocates in the nation posted it yesterday on her blog, so if you didn't receive it you can read it here:

  1. Read the link above and the attached "Why Opt Out" letter for more info.
  2. Download the sample "Opt Out Letter" attached, fill it in and send it in to your child's principal and teacher ASAP. I suggest email and print outs in backpacks.
  3. Talk to your child about it and call the school to make sure they are given an alternate activity to do, so they will not be forced to "sit and stare."

To live in District 14 because the opt out movement has the full support of all of our elected officials, our superintendent (who hosted the opt-out Town Hall last week) and many, many teachers and administrators. 
Because of this, you are backed by a team of powerful people who will not let your child be held back or your school lose funding.

Please reach out to me if you have questions. And if you haven't already, please "Like" WAGPOPS on Facebook to get up-to-date news & info about opting out, as well as all the educational issues that affect Williamsburg & Greenpoint parents.
If you're still not sure, I have provided some background reading below. :)



Lots of resources for info on opting out:

545 NYS Principals and 3,000 parents sign letter to opt out:

Carol Burris, NYS Principal and education activist:

Student data and privacy:

Bill Gates:

Pearson, and that awful curricula:
Diane Ravitch:

WPIX Video: Opt-Out, Test Resistance Breaks into Mainstream -

Diana Zavala of Change the Stakes,  Jeannette Deutermann of Long Island Opt out, Lisa Rudley of NYSAPE -  WPIX this morning. ..
Yea for our own Diana, former NYC teacher and parent activist supreme.

Finally, the key to the ed deform movement - high stakes testing for kids and teachers - is beginning to come apart. Even that bastion of media ed deform - NBC - The Today Show - did a segment the other day about that pre-k teacher in Mass. who quit. OK, so they had Michelle Rhee on, but their poll showed over 6000 opposed and less than 100 in favor on the current testing issue.

It is time for teachers to step up and inform and assist parents who want to opt-out - and we know some principals will go crazy, so we need to figure out ways to do that.

I believe this movement will also begin to impact on the test-intensive charter schools where parents will also begin to get fed up. We just have to get to them.

One thing - and you'll see when I post a video of the District 14 forum we took part in last week - is that right now it is mostly white, middle class parents who are opting out. So CTS has begun to penetrate into places like East NY and Brownsville and Bed-Stuy --  CEC 19 in East NY is holding a forum on Tuesday - Katie Lapham from MORE and Janine and Fred Smith from CTS will be there and I hope to tape.

Below is a great video segment where the parents opposed to common core did not come off as right wing nuts as the pro-common core people have tried to paint them.

Diana and parents from NYSAPE were part of a long segment in WPIX this morning where they were given an opportunity to address the high stakes testing issue in some depth. Diana gave a great response to the question about what has changed by linking the tests to teacher eval which has nothing to do with the child. And one of the other parents nailed the State Ed Dept statement asking why parents wouldn't want to know how their children are doing by pointing to the fact that neither they nor teachers ever get to see the results of the tests - other than a number 6 months later.

This is only the beginning -- lots more coming from our little flagship group of mostly parent activists. When all is said and done in terms of my 44 years of activism, being part of the founding of this group as an offshoot of the Grassroots Education Movement 4 years ago, will go down as one of my proudest achievements. And the best thing is that I don't have to do any heavy lifting - just watch them and kvell.

Here is a summary from Fred Smith:
Questions allowed Lisa, Jeanette and Diana to be articulate about a wide range of issues.  Segment began with references NYSAPE website for information on opting out and went to a reporter on scene in anticipation of today's Hamilton Heights protest (Test Free Zone). Then it came back to the studio.  Lisa kicked off with being able to opt out.  Jeanette then told that there was no educator input in development of CC.  Diana- debunked the myth that there were no standards before the Core and the fact that the USA has been a world leader in innovation.  Other points built the case for opting out:
LR- Testing has come at the expense of instructional time; schools are now a test-driven environment.
JD- Whatever Andrew Cuomo is now saying, his policies (ATTR) have been at the center of the problem. Pervasive test prep--teacher careers in balance. Focus of school year is on testing. She points to upcoming ELA and Math tests, as well as field tests, as the place to opt out.
Reporter asked about financial consequences to schools/districts if parents opt kids out.  JD answered that no funding was withheld on LI.  She and LR said there is no evidence that federal money will be taken away (waivers) and that money would remain to be allocated in a different way--not lost.
LR- References an Academy of Sciences study that said there is no benefit to the testing--which does not provide a valid measure of educational outcomes or contribute to children's learning. The amount of ELA and math testing time alone has increased enormously since the start of NCLB. Testing companies like Pearson are calling the shots and making decisions aimed at profiting them.
DZ- Makes CtS points about how testing has gone much too far in NYC-- promotions denied to kids who do well all year but stumble on the test; teacher evaluation dependent on scores of 8-year olds; summary judgments being made about schools (school report cards).
An official SED statement was presented: Tests offer opportunity for parents to gauge the progress a child is making toward meeting standards.  Why wouldn't a parent want to know how well child is doing?
JD- Knocked that one out of the park: Teachers and parents don't get timely feedback.  Maybe some information six months after-the-fact. No details and results not useful diagnostically to improve instruction. Not useful to teachers. Curriculum has been "highjacked" and there is no benefit to children or classrooms.
At the end, the host of the show said that this is a story--to be continued....
(The above account is based on a DVR I made of the program.)
Thanks again to this trio, who have been unsparing in their efforts and commitment to do what is best for children and public education.

Change the Stakes Press Release: Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014

Change the Stakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                              
March 26, 2014

Number of NYC Parents Refusing State Tests Expected to Triple in 2014

New York City –What began two years ago as a small pocket of resistance has burgeoned into a full-blown protest movement: public school parents are demanding an end to the excessive use of standardized tests and top-down, corporate-backed reforms.  Change the Stakes estimates that three times as many NYC school children as last year – perhaps exceeding 1,000 – will refuse to take the annual English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams that begin next week.

At the Brooklyn New School, well over 200 students – nearly 80% of students in testing grades – will not take this year’s exams; last year only 4 BNS students opted out of the tests. The estimated test refusal rate at the Earth School in Manhattan is 50%, compared with 30% last year. At P.S. 446 in Brownsville, as many as 25 3rd grade parents have submitted refusal letters. At the Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene, the number is 40, representing 75% of the 3rd grade. Principals say they expect the numbers to continue to rise until the exams begin April 1st.

Although children not taking the tests span the full range from 3rd to 8th grade, parents of younger children often refuse the tests because of changes in their child’s attitude toward school as a result of the testing.

Roseanne Cuffy-Scott, parent of a 3rd grader in the East Village said, “My son used to love going to school until his evenings were filled with homework assignments that confused him with complicated and poorly written math and reading questions. His assignments are stressful for both him and myself. I have to spend hours explaining concepts that he's not ready for developmentally.” As for the tests, she said her son is nervous and “is fearful he will have to attend summer school or repeat third grade.”

Many parents refusing to have their children tested encounter supportive principals and teachers, while others are not so fortunate. Samantha De Los Santos, parent of a 3rd grader with special needs in Queens’ District 25, wants to opt her son out but says administrators and staff are pressuring her to allow her son to be tested. “They’re telling me he’ll be scored as failing if he doesn’t take the test and that he might not be promoted. They’re really scaring me.”

The lack of direction from the NYC Department of Education has led to uncertainty among administrators about how to respond to families refusing the tests; parents are still seeking guidance from the DOE. Although the new Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has made clear her intent to be more responsive to parents, her department’s efforts have been hampered by the transition falling in the middle of the school year and pressure to tackle a multitude of issues at once.

The information vacuum has fostered misinformation, with students being threatened with various punishments – being forced to attend summer school or denied promotion as well as being excluded from graduation ceremonies and other school celebrations – for opting out of the tests.

But many parents refuse to be dissuaded from protecting their children from a public education system gone wrong. Dawn Babbush, a 3rd grade parent in Brooklyn’s District 13, asks “What has happened to our schools? How did it get this bad? The voices of trusted educators and caring parents have been completely disregarded.  Our children are being subjected to a curriculum that lacks joy and life – it’s scripted and standardized and full of test prep. Test scores are used to sort students and rank teachers, creating a climate of competition and fear. It's no wonder teachers feel pressure to teach to the test.”

Ms. Babbush added, “This is not the education we want for our children and we will not stand for it any longer. Parents have a voice, and our elected officials need to recognize us. We'll be paying attention come November.”


Change the Stakes ( is a group of New York City parents and educators promoting alternatives to high stakes-testing. 


The End of My Brief Acting Career: How to Succeed... Heads for Final Weekend

So I am a few days away from ending my preoccupation with this once in a lifetime theater experience, so bear with me. Even though in the play, I've managed to do a bunch of video. Here is one I shot Sunday when I had to miss the performance due to a party but got there in time to shoot part of Act II. Here is the big number - missing me of course.

RTCBRotherMar 23 2014 from Rockaway Theatre Company.

And here is my column in this week's Wave - where I get to push the show to try to fill the place up -- still tiks for Friday and maybe a few left for Sat and Sun. -

Memo From The RTC: “How To Succeed…” Roars Into Final Weekend
By Norm Scott - The Wave, March 28, 2014

With rousing performances in front of full houses last Saturday and Sunday, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Post Theater in Fort Tilden, now heads
into the stretch with 3 performances remaining – Friday, Saturday at 8PM and Sunday at 3PM. By 6:30PM on Sunday I hope to be at the cast party in the theater munching on my favorite food of all time, pigs in the blanket. Maybe the yutes in the cast will have a post-party cast party – I might have to disguise myself as a 25 year old.

The performances get better with each show as people not only work out kinks but come up with creative ways of presenting tiny slivers of their individual performances. The other night Steve Ryan (Bratt) told David Risley (Bud Frump) as he was collecting on a bet, “Don’t you know there’s no gambling on company time,” and grabbed some of the money: not in the script but a funny rif. Steve has been such a help with little tips.

The Executive washroom - He believes in himself while we want to Get That Man

David is a remarkable comic actor and mainstay of the RTC for over a decade playing major roles in Boeing Boeing, a brilliant Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened… and countless other roles. As a cast member, I had the honor of watching David up close as Felix in The Odd Couple, my only other acting experience. No one does the classic sad sack like David. The Bud Frump role was a much coveted one by other actors and David pulls it off with perfection.

Pirate girls

Katherine Robinson - Rosemary
The reputation of the RTC as a superb operation has attracted talent from the entire metropolitan area - from Brooklyn, Queens and even Harlem. To accommodate people, roles often have to be shared. Thus the female lead (Rosemary), is shared by two amazing talents. The breathtaking Katherine Robinson is in 6 performances. She has been in a number of RTC productions. (I first noticed her as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.) As we were greeting the departing audience after the show Friday night, a guy walking out said to her, “I wanted to be the one to marry you.” “Who wouldn’t,” I said? My young cousin who came to the show the next night said the same thing. I sadly informed him Katherine was already married - to the very talented Bill Hartery, currently appearing in The Producers in New Hampshire. They did the great Beatles song Getting Better in Rockaway Café: The Comeback. RTC newcomer, Devra Seidel, takes on the Rosemary role in the other performances and is a perfect ingénue with loads of musical talent . Not only can she act and sing, she is also a professional pianist. When she is not Rosemary she goes back to the secretarial pool, which does a rip-roaring tap dance to open Act II. (Video:

I only made it to the evening performances last weekend, as I had a 70th birthday to attend on Sunday afternoon, where I was on the younger end of the crowd and suffering sticker shock after having spent so much time working with a cast where I was 2 and 3 times older than almost everyone else.

L to R: John Panepento, Cliff Hesse, Joe Hagopian (playing me), Steve Ryan
I was replaced for the Sunday matinee with fellow cast member and Brooklynite Joseph Hagopian who spent weeks studying how to deliver my 4 lines while trying to look and sound 45 years older. Luckily Joe doesn’t need makeup to accomplish that feat. At the end of the big “Brotherhood of Man” number, Joe and I have to clasp arms and raise a fist. In my absence, the dexterous Joe managed the remarkable feat of shaking hands with himself while raising both fists.

Needless to say, the almost 40-member cast is a fun group – becoming a family over the months of rehearsals but really solidifying once the play opened. There will be the joy of a job well done on the afternoon of the final performance as most go on to future projects. But this particular group will never be together again and that is a sad fact of the theater. As a first experience for me, the process if disengagement will not be easy. Hopefully, joining chief set builder, designer and carpenter Tony Homsey and his crew Monday morning in taking apart the set will provide closure. Soon after we will begin building the set for the May opening of Moon Over Buffalo, already in rehearsals with a number of our cast members playing roles.

RTC videographer Jim Peithman, who runs VIDEOINVISION, a video and editing firm based in Belle Harbor, posted a 3-minute highlight of the show on you tube:

While RTC brings out the best of Norm’s nature, he is not so kind to the ed deformers on his blog,

The great tap number opens Act II
Greeting the audience as they depart

Morris Woodruff and Emily Stonebridge - Channel 5 news at 10pm
Cast members Dante Rei and Paivi Kankaro take on fantasy roles in the parking lot.

Emergency Education Rally (Thursday) Noon at Tweed

From Noah Gotbaum

Anyone who can make it should do so.  The state budget is hitting crunch time, with the Charter lobby spending millions on behalf of privatization and the 3% in charters, while firmly controlling both the Governor and the State Senate.  Support must be given to Speaker Silver and the Assembly Dems to hold fast for the 97% of our kids in public schools and for public education, and to allow Mayor de Blasio to determine his own education policies. 
The Senate/Cuomo proposal would force the DOE (and all local public school boards throughout the state) to provide public space for EVERY charter authorized at the state level, or else pay the charter's rent in private space; a colocation policy that would be worse than anything Bloomberg ever sought.  Additionally, the charter lobby boondoggle bill would give Charters more upfront money (aka tuition), and give Albany control of our NYC public school buildings and budget, while sending 25 cents of every new state education dollar to the 3 out of 100 kids in charters. Meanwhile, the City and State public schools are looking at 2009 funding levels which the courts said were $2 billion short - back then.  Outrageous.

Please join New York Communities for Change, Public School Parents, Elected Officials, Educators, Community Members.

Thursday, March 27
12 noon
Tweed Courthouse - 52 Chambers

noah eliot gotbaum
community education council district 3 (cec3)
twitter:  @noahegotbaum