Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Video: Change the Stakes Rally at Tweed Apr 24 14 - Parents and Students Speak

Here are 2 videos extracted from the Change the Stakes rally on April 24 at Tweed. First parents speak and the 2nd one is a group of amazing high school students from The Student Union, a grassroots true student first bunch of kids. We met Primi at a Change the Stakes meeting last year and she is so articulate it makes me feel like I have marbles in my mouth. One note is that one of her teachers has been Jeff Kaufman's wife, Beth. Primi is entering Columbia next fall - so thank goodness we are not losing her here in NYC. If I had a daughter - or granddaughter, Primi would be my ideal. I think I'll adopt her -

Parent video

Student video

The MarketPlace on NPR reported on the rally.

Get the audio report:

New York parents opt out of high stakes tests

Last year, Amelia Costigan watched as her twin sons and their fourth-grade classmates prepared for the new state tests. It was the first year New York’s assessments were based on the Common Core, the nationally standardized curricula that many states have adopted in recent years. And, a lot was at stake in New York. The kids literally worried themselves sick. 
“My kids had trouble sleeping,” Costigan says. “Other kids had stomach aches. Kids were going to the doctors, and the doctors were saying it looked like it was stress from the test.”
The tests determined whether her sons advanced to the next grade, or got into a top middle school. Scores also played into teacher evaluations and school rankings. This year, Costigan and the parents of eight other kids at her school decided they didn’t want their kids to participate. 

UFT HS VP Doesn't Want to be Like Tennessee - Likes Current System

I'll leave you to judge this report from Murry Bergtraum CL John Elfrank-Dana for yourselves:
Janella Hinds, VP High Schools, was asked if the UFT sees that the Tennessee teachers union (TEA) got their state legislature to drop evaluating teachers by test scores in their Teacher evaluation scheme. Can we call in the Vote Cope chips to do the same here? Janella says we will work with the current system.
If you missed it, this from Diane Ravitch (note: TN State Ed Comm, Kevin Huffman, is Michelle Rhee's ex and father of her 2 children - and another Teach for America slug posing as an educator). 

In a stunning reversal,the Tennessee Legislature overwhelmingly repealed a law to evaluate teachers by test scores, and the law was swiftly signed by Governor Haslam. On a day when Arne Duncan withdrew Washington State’s failure to enact test-based teacher valuation system, this is a remarkable turn of events.
Joey Garrison of The Tennessean reports:
“Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill that will prevent student growth on tests from being used to revoke or not renew a teacher’s license — undoing a controversial education policy his administration had advanced just last summer.
“The governor’s signature, which came Tuesday, follows the Tennessee General Assembly’s overwhelming approval this month of House Bill 1375 / Senate Bill 2240, sponsored by Republicans Rep. John Forgety and Sen. Jim Tracy, which cleared the House by a unanimous 88-0 vote and the Senate by a 26-6 vote.
“That marked a major repudiation of a policy the Tennessee Board of Education in August adopted — at Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s recommendation — that would have linked license renewal and advancement to a teacher’s composite evaluation score as well as data collected from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, which measures the learning gains of students.
“The bill to reject the policy had been pushed chiefly by the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ organization, which engineered a petition drive to encourage Haslam to sign the legislation despite it passing with large bipartisan support.
“Huge, huge win for teachers,” the TEA wrote on its Twitter page, thanking both bill sponsors as well as Haslam for “treating teachers as professionals.”
“Eyeing a 2015 implementation, the state board in January had agreed to back down from using student learning gains as the sole and overriding reason to revoke a license. Composite evaluation scores, in which 35 percent is influenced by value-added data, were to centerpiece.”
Two interesting points here: one, Duncan has been hailing Tennessee as a demonstration of the “success” of Race to the Top, in which test-based evaluation of teachers is key. What happens now?
Second, state Commissioner Kevin Huffman is so unpopular that anything he supports is likely to be rejected. His enemies hope he doesn’t leave Tennessee because whatever he recommends generates opposition, even among his allies.

WAIT, WAIT. DON’T MISLEAD ME! - Charter Wait List Balderdash Debunked

I've always maintained the charter wait lists are a bunch of lies -- ask them to show you their lists. With Obama proclaiming National Charter Week, the charter lobby is going to trumpet some more phony numbers. A message from the Ravitch bloggers network:
Fellow Education Bloggers,
This is “National Charter Schools Week.”
The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools is expected to release their annual pronouncement about the number of students on charter school waitlists.
Thanks Kevin, Gary and NEPC for all you go to shine the light of truth,

Jonathan Pelto
Kevin Welner posted this message on Basecamp.

Charter Waitlist #'s: NEPC Resource for Monday's Announcement

Hi all. As part of National Charter Schools Week, the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools tomorrow (Monday) will be announcing their annual estimate of the number of students on charter school waitlists.  The number will be, I expect, well above a million.  In the past, the NAPCS and other charter advocates have use the waitlist estimate to lobby for more resources for charters.  But the number is misleading and poorly supported.

We at NEPC found out about the announcement a few days ago, and Gary Miron and I rushed to create a Policy Memo that outlines the problems with this estimate.  The Memo is now available online at

Stand Up, Opt Out: Support Teacher Test Refuseniks

MOREistas (and supporters):
Almost 30 teachers are refusing to give the NYC ELA Performance Assessment to our high school ELL students. This is very big news and we're excited!!!!! We need as much support as we can get! Please pass this around in your schools and on your networks and send us a solidarity picture or message from your school chapter on our website,

In Solidarity!
Emily and Rosie
Support the First High School Teachers to Join
Growing Opt Out Movement in New York City!!!!

On Thursday, May 1, 2014, we, the teachers and school staff, at the International High School at Prospect Heights are refusing to give the NYC English Language Arts Performance Assessment Exam.  We are standing in solidarity with the more than 50% of our parents who have opted their students out of taking the test. 
Please support the teachers and staff members who have joined together to abstain from administering a test we we believe is harmful to English Language Learners (ELLS).  We are not willing to sacrifice the trust of our students, their feelings of self worth, and our professional duty to do what is best for them. In good conscience, as educators dedicated to the learning of our students and the welfare of our school communities, we are not administering this test. We ask that Chancellor Carmen Fariña remove the New York ELA Performance Exam in favor of an assessment created by educators who best know the individual needs of their students and classrooms.

Ways to support the staff at the International High School at Prospect Heights:

      Sign a Pledge of Support
      Send a Photograph with a Physical Sign or Message of Support to
      Join our Press Conference on May 1st at 8:00 AM at 883 Classon Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11225

Here is a sample pledge below:

We, _________________, stand in solidarity with the 30 teachers and school staff at the International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn who are refusing to administer the New York City ELA Performance Assessment.  Teachers at IHSPH are standing up for all teachers and parents who feel that these tests that are traumatic for students, serve no instructional purpose, and do nothing to prepare students for college. It is clear that the feelings here in New York about these tests are felt nationwide. As _______________, we are grateful for your courage and we share your struggle.

Press Advisory from this morning:

26 Teachers and Staff of International High School at Prospect Heights Campus in Brooklyn refuse to give NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test

Breaking: 26 Teachers and Staff of International High School at Prospect Heights Campus in Brooklyn refuse to give NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test

Oy! Can I get up that early tomorrow to cover this? Well, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden plant sale is still on tomorrow and it's right across the street. Maybe I'll have some sleepy video for you by Friday. Much irony in that so many PEP meetings take place in this building.

CONTACT:          Emily Giles,, (917) 575-2936  
                         Emily Wendlake,, (413) 657-7255
                         Rosie Frascella,, (917) 767-1001
                         Anita Feingold-Shaw,, (510) 872-1712

**Media Advisory**
26 Teachers and Staff of International High School at Prospect Heights refuse to give NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test
WHEN: Thursday, May 1, 2014, 7:45-8:20am,

WHERE: International High School at Prospect Heights, 883 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

WHAT: Teachers will hold a press conference to announce their refusal to administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment. 26 teachers and staff at Prospect Heights International High School are refusing to administer a new assessment that is part of the new teacher evaluation system pushed by Bloomberg’s DOE and the UFT last spring.  50% of parents have opted their children out of the test. The high school serves almost exclusively recently arrived English Language Learners.  

WHY:  The test was constructed and formatted without any thought for the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their first language. The level of English used in the pre-test administered in the Fall was so far above the level of our beginner ELLs that it provided little to no information about our students’ language proficiency or the level of their academic skills.

Furthermore, the test was a traumatic and demoralizing experience for students. Many students, after asking for help that teachers were not allowed to give, simply put their heads down for the duration.  Some students even cried.  

Teachers at Prospect Heights are drawing a line with this test.  Standardized, high stakes test dominate our schools, distort our curriculum and make our students feel like failures.  This test serves no purpose for the students,  and ultimately only hurts them.

26 Teachers have signed a letter to Chancellor Farina declaring that they will not give the exam.  The letter expresses gratitude for Farina’s immediate turn around of the DOE’s attitude toward teachers, and asks that the Chancellor reconsider the use of the NYC ELA Performance Assessment with English Language Learners.

WHO:  Teachers and support staff from the International High School at Prospect Heights.

RSVP: This event is open to press and coverage is welcome.

The International High School at Prospect Heights is a public high school located in Brooklyn, NY. Read their letter to Chancellor Farina at


Will the mainstream media - if they bother to pay attention - go after these teachers and ignore the issues being raised? Where will the UFT stand? Peter Goodman was whining on a list serve about this issue, urging moderation and for teachers to "encourage" the deformers to be reasonable.

MOREista and Change the Staker Jia Lee and 2 teachers from her elementary school also refused to give the tests. The Nation reported about their
--> "open letter from a group of “Teachers of Conscience” at the Earth School, an elementary school in Manhattan. Accompanied by a philosophical position paper detailing principles of a progressive education, the teachers declared their opposition to English language exams for third-to-eight graders." As did Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.
Rosie and Emily Giles are active MOREistas. See video of Rosie at the Change the Stakes rally last week where in an off the cuff interview she elucidates the thinking of more and more teachers. Much of the test flux has come from elementary schools so it is important that this is coming from high school - there is a chain of international schools here in NYC that are linked and at some point this may spread.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

LA Dreamin: Alex Caputo-Pearl Wins Run-Off for Presidency with 80% Over Incumbent Warren Fletcher

Breaking: Alex Caputo-Pearl, the Union Power candidate for UTLA President, just defeated Warren Fletcher, the incumbent UTLA President, in the run-off election, winning 80% of the vote, completing a Union Power sweep. Alex won just short of 50% in round 1.

Alex is well-known nationally:

...half the teachers at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles found out they had been dismissed from their jobs as part of a "conversion" process. Among them was Alex Caputo-Pearl, who I first met two years ago when I reported on Crenshaw. This isn't the first time the district has attempted to remove Caputo-Pearl, an outspoken activist, from Crenshaw. In 2006, as he was organizing neighborhood parents to fight for better school resources, such as up-to-date computers, he was forcibly transferred to a more affluent school across town. Parents complained and he was eventually reinstated. Caputo-Pearl is part of a dissident, left caucus within the L.A. teachers' union, and he has written in the New York Times about why he has become a critic of Teach for America. He opposes tying teacher evaluation and pay to student test scores, and is critical of the expansion of the charter school sector. 
---- Dana Goldstein"An Activist Teacher, a Struggling School, and the School Closure Movement: A Story from L.A.", May 2013
For those who say only a caucus with a bread and butter program can win, we give you the latest developments.

We expected Alex to win but this is overwhelming. Alex was in the first class of Teach for America over 20 years ago but never left the classroom. He did social justice work and was a target of administrators for his organizing ability.

Back in the summer of 2009 I went to LA with Megan Behrent and Sally Lee for meetings with unionists from Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and LA. We learned a hell of a lot. On my last day I had the wonderful experience of hanging out with the crew from CORE when they were invited over to Alex' house for breakfast. What deep education conversations took place, especially between Alex and CORE's Jackson Potter and Kritsine Mayle, both of whom were helping run the Chicago TU less than a year later.

The LA people had a share of power on the Exec Bd, went backwards in the next election but formed new coalitions with Alex leading the way.

The CORE crew from Chicago also had to take part in a runoff after getting about a third of the vote. In the runoff against the Unity Caucus-equivalent caucus in power, they captured over 60%. The broom sweeps clean.

One of our friends from DC who was at the 2009 event, Candi Peterson, is not VP of the Washington Teachers Union.

It is astounding that the ed press has such little recognition of this revolution going on in so many urban school systems, mostly from the impact of ed deform and the collaborative nature of the union leadership in power for so long. 

Of course MORE, in the belly of the beast, with a Unity Caucus still powerful and geared up to fight off any challenge from the school level up, has a long way to go.

Randi is smart enough to recognize this threat and she has been taking mildly stronger stances -- but always watch what she does, not what she says. Remember - she joined the original board of inBloom, now defunct and buried (by Leonie). Her instincts are ed deform, but she is no dummy - Alex's victory by such a large margin will get her attention.

Of course we will see the ultra left attack Alex for not being willing to drive the union off a cliff. And there will be attacks on Alex from the right and ed deform crew in general.

Below the jump are just a few links to EdNotes articles mentioning Alex - Or just use the search box.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ravitch and Weingarten Misdiagnose Pearson Issue --- by A Newark Teacher

Note - This article is written by a teacher in Newark who often writes for Ed Notes, not by me. I take a more nuanced view of where Ravitch stands on Randi and the teacher unions but I won't get into that here.

By shrouding the test in secrecy, Pearson denies information to teachers to help diagnose student needs. The tests become useless by having no diagnostic value. ...teachers will be fired and students will be failed and schools will be closed without seeing the validity of the instruments of punishment.  This is wrong.

Diane Ravitch

These gag orders and the lack of transparency are fueling the growing distrust and backlash among parents, students and educators in the United States about whether the current testing protocols and testing fixation is in the best interests of children.

Randi Weingarten

Diane and Randi have the Pearson issue ass backwards.  High stakes tests were never intended to assist in the diagnosis of student academic needs.  In my district in Newark, scores are not reported to teachers until the following school year when most teachers are no longer responsible for instructing those particular students.  The purpose of the tests is to impose the consequences of closing "failing" schools and firing the teachers employed in those schools.  Gag orders on exposing test questions are not fueling backlash against standardized testing.  Common Core tied to high stakes testing tied to punitive consequences are the bedrocks of the marriage of the federal government to the school privatization industry.

Alan Singer reported in the Huffington Post that Pearson may be in serious financial trouble. According to, Pearson underperformed the SandP Index by 23%. Singer suggested that Pearson may be over-extended in its ambitious push to expand its education, digital services and testing programs. The company is concerned that the United States market might shrink due to resistance to Common Core and testing. Will Pearson losing market share bring good tidings to Randi? Randi would be dismayed to discover any chinks in the armor of the federal privatization movement. Henry Mance of Media reported a 6 percent decline in Pearson sales in the first quarter of 2014. Randi shrewdly calculated that she might bolster Pearson sales in the United States by pressuring them to be more transparent in releasing test questions to the public. Randi miscalculated the depth and the breadth of the anger amongst students, parents, teachers and administrators over Common Core inextricably linked to endless testing. As a teacher, I am  fully competent to assess and plan appropriate instruction for my students. I could not care less about ludicrous test questions devised by Pearson and others.

Here is the problem folks. Randi is beholden to Bill Gates for his financial contributions to the AFT. Randi loves Bill's Common Core experiment. She enjoys hobnobbing with the financial elites of our society. Diane seeks to portray BFF Randi in the best possible light. Randi was "deeply disturbed" to read in The New York Times about issues teachers, principals, parents and students were raising about Pearson tests. Randi is handsomely compensated to represent the interests of teachers in this country. She has to read The New York Times to familiarize herself with teacher opposition to Pearson testing? 

She could talk to any teacher in my school for five minutes to get a run down on the quagmire of standardized testing. Those teachers would patiently explain the correlation between low standardized test scores and high poverty neighborhoods. Unlike the teachers in schools in more prosperous neighborhoods across town, who are for the most part rated effective or better, the hard working, highly qualified teachers in schools in our neighborhoods are more likely to be caught in the partially effective and ineffective traps. Randi's strategy is to minimize the onslaught on public education by pinpointing gag orders one time and VAM on another occasion thereby avoiding both a big picture analysis and an action plan.

In Newark, State Superintendent Cami Anderson's One Newark Plan has encountered some glitches in the past week.  The administration was unable to meet its self-imposed deadline for informing families which schools their children will attend in September. They are having difficulties working out the transportation details.  If the goal is to move children all over the city to purportedly advance equity, transportation would appear to be a key component of the plan.  So Randi when you get done writing BS letters to Pearson about marginal issues, you could hop on Amtrak from DC to Newark and help Cami and her pals figure out transportation routes.  If you have any spare time, there is a long line of teachers who would benefit from real union leadership.

A Newark Teacher

Friday, April 25, 2014

Parent Activists Expose Chalkbeat Bias in Letter to Editor

We are concerned that your inadequate and one-sided coverage of the forced privatization of our schools has been unduly influenced by the same forces that have biased the Governor – the huge pocketbooks of the organizations and financiers that back them.  ...
Is Chalkbeat a wholly owned subsidiary of Walmart?
Chalkbeat’s failure to assign a reporter to the event  glaringly contrasts with your close and detailed coverage of every move made by the charter operators and their backers.  Indeed, you published two different stories on the charter march across the Brooklyn Bridge, three different stories on the Albany rally for charters (though you failed to disclose that Gov. Cuomo was actually behind it) ,  and  on March 29  you ran two stories on reactions to the budget bills, BOTH from the point of view of the charter operators.  ...Letter from parents elected to public school community education councils
We know all about the bias at Charter - er - Chalkbeat - even worse then when they were Gotham. Look at the lame response that they can't cover everything -- the hypocrisy of which this letter notes. But also note how they tried to bury this letter from parents who are actually elected in their local Community Education Council school districts. Compare this to the coverage charters, which often don't even allow PTAs, get.

Some disagree with calling on Chalkbeat to attend and report on our events because they will shade them to look inconsequential. "Better no coverage than Chalkbeat coverage" is one mantra. Let them spend their time reporting on their fellow ed deform fundee, E4E.

Leonie commented
Interesting no mention of the words of “charters” or “co-location” in the title.  A very thin and unconvincing response.  No mention or link to the letter on the homepage, in their morning newsletter, or anywhere else that I can find. 
Read the letter and comment -- if you can (I couldn't)

Here is the entire letter and Chalkbeat response. 

Two weeks ago, members of the city’s Community Education Councils protested the state budget deal outside the New York Public Library and then marched to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York City office. Chalkbeat covered the event with a short post (“Rally against state budget draws hundreds to midtown“) and received the following letter to the editor in response:
Dear Chalkbeat:
We are writing to protest your inadequate coverage of the April 10th rally and march on the Governor’s office. Outraged by the charter giveaway that Governor Cuomo engineered with the help of the Legislature in this year’s state budget bill, many hundreds of parents, teachers and students gathered on the steps of the NY Public Library before marching  to the Governor’s office.
This unprecedented rally, organized primarily by Community Education Council members citywide, in just a week,grew out the anger and betrayal felt by parents and community members at the way the Governor and legislature essentially gave away NYC public schools  to millionaire education investors.
Rather than sending one of your reporters to cover this event, you only posted a short blurb clearly taken from the press release after the fact.
Chalkbeat’s failure to assign a reporter to the event  glaringly contrasts with your close and detailed coverage of every move made by the charter operators and their backers.  Indeed, you published two different stories on the charter march across the Brooklyn Bridge, three different stories on the Albany rally for charters (though you failed to disclose that Gov. Cuomo was actually behind it) ,  and  on March 29  you ran two stories on reactions to the budget bills, BOTH from the point of view of the charter operators.
Even more importantly, you have failed to cover any of the substantive issues and reasons behind our anger, including how unprecedented these charter provisions are, how they apply only to NYC, how they will  detract from the city’s already underfunded capital plan and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, while thousands of public school students will continue sit in trailers or in overcrowded classrooms, without art, music, science or therapy and counseling rooms, or on waiting lists for Kindergarten.
The very headline on the short ex-post facto blurb you ran on the  rally omitted any mention of the charter school issue, Your summary of the charter provisions in the budget bill as “safeguards for charters” was biased enough to have been written by the charter lobby itself.  In reality, the bill forces PREFERENTIAL treatment for charters, not safeguards.  There are overcrowded school communities in NYC that have been waiting for over 20 years for a public school to be built for their children, and they will continue to wait, while hedge-fund backed charters will now automatically receive space, on demand and free of charge.
It has not escaped our attention that the Walton Foundation helped finance the expansion of GothamSchools into Chalkbeat, and that the same organization is a prominent backer of the school privatization movement and contributed to the virulent $5 million ad campaign that directly led to the preferential provisions in the state law.  Your organization also counts among its financial backers many other prominent charter school supporters and board members, including the Gates Family Foundation,  Whitney Tilson, Boykin Curry, Paul Appelbaum , Ken Hirsch, Charles Ledley,  Kate Shoemaker and others.
In order  to appear unbiased by the sources of your funding and safeguard any journalistic credibility, your organization  should  cover the  point of view of the thousands of NYC public school parents who, though we may not be wealthy,  feel that our children have been dispossessed, displaced, and potentially evicted from their public schools, cheated out of their fair share of space.  We, too, represent an important constituency in the debate over privatization, and constitute an important voice to be heard.   We are concerned that your inadequate and one-sided coverage of the forced privatization of our schools has been unduly influenced by the same forces that have biased the Governor – the huge pocketbooks of the organizations and financiers that back them.
We urge you to publish this letter in your blog and respond to it.
Yours sincerely,
Shino Tanikawa, CECD2
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters
Lisa Donlan, CEC1
Teresa Arboleda, CCELL
Eric Goldberg, CECD2
Deborah Alexandar, CECD30
Theresa Hammonds, CECD3
David Goldsmith, CECD13
Ann Kjellberg
Valerie Williams, CECD75
Rachel Paster
Angela Garces, CECD6
Beth Cirone, CECD2
Ellen McHugh, CCSE
Victoria Frye, CECD6
Miriam Farer, CECD6
Isaac Carmignani, CECD30
Eduardo Hernandez, CECD8
Amy Shire, CECD13
Michelle Kupper, CECD15
Jordan Margolis, CECD14
Debbie Feiner, CECD14
Organizational affiliations for identification purpose only
Chalkbeat responds - ho, hum
The bottom line is that the protest was clearly well-attended and unique in its CEC-wide organization, and we wish we had been there.

We make decisions about coverage every day based on the fact that we can’t be at every relevant event in the city or it would be impossible for us to provide any deeper coverage of these issues. We regularly attend, and skip, events that reflect a variety of viewpoints. That’s why we work to keep readers informed about events we don’t make it to with posts like the one we wrote about this protest.

Those decisions have everything to with our sense of how we can best add to the “education conversation” happening across the city, and nothing to do with our funders—who make it possible to do what we do, but don’t influence our coverage.

Other feedback? We’re all ears.

Rosie Rocks: Explaining Teacher Opposition to High Stakes Testing

I'm so glad I leaned in and taped this fantastic interview MORE/NYCORE member Rosie Frascella did with a PIX reporter -- you won't see this on the air --except for a few words from Rosie on Channel 11. As Rosie spoke I kept saying (to myself) - "wow, wow, wow" as she heated up and her passion about teaching came through so clear. Rosie's interview is the best commercial teachers could have - and if the UFT had any brains they would turn this into a commercial....

And a few pics.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Teachers Unite Meeting Saturday, noon at Ya-Ya

I can't make the TU meeting due to the MORE meeting

I am an original TU member. I just don't have the time to get involved deeply in the work they do ... I am more focused right now on the work MORE is doing in the union and the work Change the Stakes is doing on testing. But the work Teachers Unite does is very important. This Saturday they are focusing in the School Leadership Teams -- which I believe is a key to democratizing our school system by empowering staff and parents.
Note the great graphics below.

Info found here too:

Join Teachers Unite as we make democratic school leadership a fun and lovely topic!
Schools Are Us!How does decision-making work in NYC education policy? What levers of power do we have under mayoral control? How does knowing this stuff guide our organizing strategies when it comes to educational activism? Answer these questions through conversation with NYC’s coolest educators and community allies at our next Member Meeting.

Saturday, April 26th

@ The YA-YA Network
224 West 29th Street, 14th Floor
A/C/E/N/Q/R/1/2/3to 34th St.

Schools Are Us!

Democracy only works if you #useit
"Schools Are Us" is an instructional guide and grassroots organizing tool from Teachers Unite about the power that parents, students, and educators have to make change in their schools. 

We want to share it with you! 

Created in collaboration with CUP and designer Silas Munro, this issue of Making Policy Public includes a fold-out poster that lays out the different levels of decision makers who govern NYC’s schools. School and organizations across the city are using Schools Are Us to map out organizing strategies and engage school stakeholders in political education about school governance structures.

"This is the guide for parents to demystify the governance structure of the DOE, the largest school district in the U.S. For a parent to interact with and understand the governance structure [of the DOE] they need easy access. This is that entry point... This poster is it!"
-Rob Bowen, educational activist

You can see the whole guide here
To request hard copies for your school or organization, write to

In addition to the guide, Teachers Unite has developed complementary tools and resources, including:
  • BINGO game (attached) about School Leadership Teams, Comprehensive Education Plans, and NYC school system history. The answers to all the questions (plus a description of Presidents Councils, the Chancellor’s job description, and more) can be found in the guide
  • Workshops tailored to your school or organization about the guide, the power of SLTs, and more. For more information, visit our website.
  • Your Schools, Your Voicea report by Teachers Unite and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center about the impact of Mayoral Control on community participation in schools.

Where is the Right Wing on the Charter Takeover of Local Education?

How interesting that the right opposes common core because they see it as mandates from the federal government but ignores parent trigger laws and the charter school movement, which are more invasive takeovers of local education control - by both government fiat (see NYState Cuomo backed charter give-away law removing mayoral authority to charge rent or deny space in public schools.)

On the surface, the right and tea partiers support movements that kill teacher unions by signing onto the phony "choice" concept. In reality, the charter movement removes choice from local communities that pay for and support their public school. An outside charter management organization like KIPP, by gaining political support from outside the community - say the governor or state legislature - can force a community to divert funds from its own schools to support an invading charter.

In essence, this boils down to the very same issue the right is complaining about when it comes to the common core.

Glenn Beck, where are you?

Eva Moskowitz/Success Academy Once Again Prove It's About Real Estate, not Children

Today's reports at Chalkbeat point to the phony show Eva put on yesterday about gaining space for her 3 poor little denied charters. Even the usually fawning press looked through the cracks to see that there were actually negotiations going on while Eva openly lied to say they were not.

What the press is not getting is that what Eva is really complaining about is that she is not getting the 3 hand-picked public school buildings she really wanted:
  • The beautiful building in Harlem housing the Mickey Mantle school for special ed kids - PS 149.
  • The very large August Martin campus in Queens.
  • And the  Murry Bergtraum massive building in lower Manhattan.
I've been saying since day 1 of the Moskowitz political operation - this is about real estate -- the long-range plan is to totally take over public school buildings in targeted locations where the buildings themselves have value -- imagine the day when Eva occupies the entire building after getting the public schools kids tossed -- like she wants the autistic kids out at Mickey Mantle. Her hedge fund pals offer to "buy" the building for a song -- "hey, the DOE won't have to pay to maintain it -- we'll help you out by taking it off your hands - then shortly after - whammo -- air rights and condos. Imagine what Murry Bergtraum in lower Manhattan is worth?

She will not satisfied with the substitute buildings de Blasio is offering and will look to any excuse to raise a ruckus to try to get back into the buildings she wants.

Here are the links from Chalkbeat.

Inn fighting

Success CEO Eva Moskowitz ratcheted up pressure on the de Blasio administration to find new space for three of her schools.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Join CTS in Test Protest on the Steppes of Tweed Thursday, April 24th, 4PM

Bodies do count -- real bodies, not phony ones Eva closes her schools for. So if people help pack the steps of Tweed into overflow, it does make a difference. So, yes, I shall leave the comfort of my backyard and shlep into the city for the event - camera in holster. Hope to see you there.

Please join us for rally and press conference to demand Not One More Year Lost – Our Children are More than a Test Score!

    Thursday, April 24th @ 4 PM
WHERE:  NYC Department of Education, 52 Chambers Street
WHO:      All families, educators, and supporters of educational justice
HOW:      More info here and please accept and share the Facebook invite
WHY: We will be uniting to demand policies that support our children and our schools.
What do we want?
- We want real learning every day NOT test prep
- We want transparent, developmentally appropriate and valid assessments
- We want child-centered, rich curriculum
- We want standards that truly support child learning
- We want funding for schools not for private testing companies
Make your own signs!!  Some of the themes for the action are:
- We demand REAL accountability from the top, not on the backs of our children
- Listen to the parents
- Release the test
- Our children and our jobs as teachers are NOT FOR SALE
- Keep the money in the classroom

Change the Stakes
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Please sign our petition to demand that NYS give parents the right to opt out

Shades of the NYSUT Split: Cuomo Aims to Avert 3rd Party Challenge by Undermining Working Family Party

...the fact that the party’s activists and unions are not currently on the same page means, at the very least, a challenge from the left could get as messy for them as it is for Cuomo ... Does the party exist primarily for the purposes of contracts and pensions, or for the broader ideals of economic and social justice? If solely for contracts and pensions, is labor’s recent success at the bargaining table more likely to continue by pleasing the governor and harming WFP, or protecting the party that gave the movement its leverage in the first place? Is there any line an official can’t cross, if that official is willing to cut deals at election time?..... Blake Zeff, Capital NY.
A Smart UFT Leadership Would Begin a 3rd Party Anti-Cuomo Campaign Immediately.

Of course I'm being facetious. This fascinating article by Blake Zeff at Capital (Cuomo’s plan to undercut the W.F.P.) is an example of how unions can use their power to wrangle some concessions, even minor, from slug politicians like Cuomo over the idea of a 3rd party challenge to Cuomo that would siphon off a good chunk of support.

Perdido has a few good pieces on this issue:

  • Cuomo Seeks To Pit Unions And Working Familes Party Activists Against Each Other 

  • Howie Hawkins Says Working Families Party Should Nominate Him To Take On Cuomo In General Election
  • Working Families Party Leadership Doesn't Sound Like They Want To Take On Cuomo

  • Apparently Cuomo is worried, especially after the Sienna poll (What The Siena Poll Means For Cuomo's Re-Election Chances) about 3rd party challenges.
    Andrew Cuomo and his capable team will do all they can to dismiss Tuesday’s stunning Siena poll showing him increasingly vulnerable to a challenge from the left by the Working Families Party. But there’s no denying the threat such a challenge poses—to his margin of victory, and to his reputation in the national party.
    There is a split in the Working Family Party (WFP) - the activists despise Cuomo and want to run a candidate. The union faction (as expected) want to deal. Apparently this has worked as Cuomo is desperate to avoid having a 3rd party in the election.
    The governor knows he’s got two ways to mitigate this threat. One is to get the party to forgo its challenge and give him its ballot line, as it did in 2010. The other is for him to render the party impotent. The WFP’s largest union affiliates, such as 32BJ, 1199, and the Hotel Trades Council (1199), are in a position to help him in both of these regards. Remember the Andrew Cuomo who ran for his first term on a promise of bringing the unions to heel? That same governor has quietly but decisively reversed course in recent months, delivering key unions several items on their wish-lists, just as the threat of a Working Families Party challenge began to circulate.
    Back to that WFP factions:
    Behind the scenes, the Working Families Party is basically composed of two separate factions at this point: the activists and many of the large unions. For the most part, the activists deplore the governor, who has made a mockery of their progressive ideological vision, opposing them on everything from tax policy to charter schools to campaign finance reform. These are groups like Citizen Action, and individuals who have been active in the party for years and spend their time petitioning on weekends. For many of them, the idea of giving Cuomo the ballot line is abhorrent, and will remain so unless he delivers on one of their pet issues like public financing of elections--something he's shown no inclination to do to this point. 
    The WFP factions are analogous in some ways to the NYSUT split over Cuomo between Revise and Stronger Together, which would have been tougher on Cuomo that Revise. So don't expect my somewhat factitious headline about the UFT/NYSUT supporting a 3rd party candidate -- or threatening to do so - will have any legs. Remember, that split was basically over the Cuomo issue, with MulGarten concerned that the Iannucci faction would block an AFL/CIO Cuomo endorsement. So don't expect them to support any 3rd party move. But some interesting intrigue:
    ... realistically, if the governor is to have a chance at winning the WFP ballot line, it may have to be driven by the union side of the party. While the unions don’t particularly love his record either, they also have very practical concerns that the activists don't have to even consider: concrete items like contracts and pensions for their members that the governor can control directly. As a result, while many activists are firmly anti-Cuomo at this point, unions, who need things from the administration, are not.
    Watch what happened with some of the unions which wrangled some concessions from Cuomo, concessions that some consider birdseed.  
    It was no coincidence, in this context, that the governor reversed course last week and delivered a new contract for the Transit Workers Union with raises for MTA workers, despite his previous, long-running insistence that pay increases were a deal-breaker. That wasn’t the only Cuomo-blessed concession to key WFP union affiliates in recent months. The Communications Workers of America was able to kill what it called “ damaging deregulatory legislation” that initially appeared in both the governor’s and State Senate’s initial budget proposals, before ultimately disappearing.
    32BJ got a boost with its campaign for airport workers’ wages, when Cuomo’s appointee to the Port Authority, Patrick Foye, publicly announced his support in January for enhanced pay and benefits. (“We are thankful to Gov. Cuomo,” Figueroa declared in a press release in response).
    And 1199 got roughly $380 million in the recent budget to support a pay increase for home health care workers. In return for all this magnanimity, labor sources suggest, several of the key unions in the party—like 1199, 32BJ, HTC, and possibly, now, TWU—are leaning toward endorsing the governor and, certainly, away from supporting a protest candidacy.
     But -- there's a big BUT.
    While unions tend to play a key role in most political decisions made by the WFP (like the New York City mayor’s race, for example), statewide elections are different. They require that the party’s state committee—not the executive board—determine at the end of May who will represent the ballot line in November. And it just so happens that a significant number of the 200 or so seats on the committee are filled by anti-Cuomo activists in the Citizen Action mold. (As Liz Benjamin reported last month, more than 100 state committee members participated in a conference call at that time “to discuss the possibility” of not endorsing the governor.) Cuomo could still appeal to those activists by addressing one of their pet issues, particularly public financing, before the WFP state convention in late May. But doing that could also cost him some major concessions from GOP senate leader Dean Skelos.
    So let's get this clear. The decision on the 3rd party rests with the activists, not the unions. For Cuomo to try to buy off the activist faction he would have to alienate his Republican pals (Isn't he really a Republican after all? My suggestion is he run against Christie and the rest of the slugs for the Republican nomination against Hillary.)

    And here is where Cuomo gets the chance to break the WFP:
    Assuming the activists still oppose him, it raises the possibility of individual unions—like 32BJ, 1199, and HTC—backing the governor and the Working Families Party simultaneously challenging him. And that’s when Cuomo would go to work undercutting the party.  If WFP were to launch a challenge to the governor, one theory gaining currency in Albany circles is that he could urge the unions that want to continue to do business with him after he wins to cripple the party’s future efforts by starving it of funding. 
    Like I said above - some parallels to the Stronger Together/Revise NYSUT split. (And don't we know that Cuomo played some behind the scenes role in that scenario?)
    Several Albany insiders I (Zeff) spoke to suggested that the governor could even conceivably seek to revive the Liberal Party, which is reportedly eyeing a comeback after effectively having been killed off by the WFP (and, unwittingly, Cuomo) in 2002, as a new home for some of those large unions, instead of the WFP. Maybe. But the fact that the party’s activists and unions are not currently on the same page means, at the very least, a challenge from the left could get as messy for them as it is for Cuomo.
     Here Zeff raises an important fundamental point:

     Given this possibility, here are some questions the labor side of WFP must now consider: Does the party exist primarily for the purposes of contracts and pensions, or for the broader ideals of economic and social justice? If solely for contracts and pensions, is labor’s recent success at the bargaining table more likely to continue by pleasing the governor and harming WFP, or protecting the party that gave the movement its leverage in the first place? Is there any line an official can’t cross, if that official is willing to cut deals at election time? “The union doesn’t have permanent friends or enemies,” 1199 president George Gresham, whose union was famously known as Martin Luther King's favorite, said recently. “We have permanent interests.”
    Mull this entire scenario over with thoughts of the UFT/NYSUT political operation in mind.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    A Harlem Public School With Long Waiting List Struggles Against Eva/Succes Expansion

    I always questioned those phantom charter waiting list - used politically to claim demand. The press always mentions the point favorable to charters but never talks about demand for the public schools. Here is a great example where a Harlem public school sharing space with the avaricious Eva that had 10 applications for every open position - yet is being forced to give up even more space to one of Eva's schools.
    Harlem public School losing space to SucAcademy charter gets 10X application for every open seat; good story below. 

    See also interview with former Suc Academy teacher at Epoch Times here:

    Demand for Harlem School Spots Should Prevent Charter Growth, Leaders Say

    By Emily Frost on April 22, 2014 10:33am 



     The school is not offering to compromise with the DOE on Harlem Success Academy taking some of its space.  Frederick Douglass Academy II Fights Back Against Charter Expansion View Full Caption
    HARLEM — Leaders from a local public school that students are lining up in the hundreds to attend are fighting back against a charter school's controversial plan to take over classrooms in their shared building.
    Education leaders recently learned that Frederick Douglass Academy II received 950 applications for just 100 ninth-grade seats this coming school year.
    The huge uptick comes amid a push by Eva Moskowitz's Harlem Success Academy to move into three of FDA II's rooms, including the 6-12 school's only art room.
    In reponse, FDA II's school leadership team — made up of the principal, teachers and other staff — recently rejected a plan by the charter school to take over the art room, as well as an additional classroom and administrative space.
    However, a 2010 DOE space-sharing document gives Success Academy the right to expand next year.
    News of the demand for seats at FDA II stunned Community Education Council 3, which noted that the school previously struggled to attract interest. For the 2013-2014 school year, the school received just 391 ninth-grade applications, said Principal Osei Owusu-Afriyie. A year earlier, the number of ninth-grade applications was 350, he added.
    The increase in applications marks "a pretty clear call for making sure they have additional space, not doing a bait-and-switch with existing space," said CEC 3 president Joe Fiordaliso.
    The department tried to negotiate with FDA II earlier this spring — offering to move its existing art room into FDA II's administrative rooms — but the school leadership team held fast in its opposition to any encroachment by Harlem Success Academy, CEC members said.
    "The parents don’t feel secure in the DOE’s word," said CEC member Olayia Deen.
    Worried the current standoff will lead to Success Academy getting its way, the CEC is rallying behind the school and looking for ways to push the issue in FDA II's favor.
    "The situation is rotten... there’s no mechanism once these space plans are set up — they don’t check them," complained CEC member Noah Gotbaum. "They don’t look at whether the space allocation makes any sense at all."
    Gotbaum tried to push DOE Superintendent Ilene Altschul to stand behind FDA II at a recent metting, but she said the school's current enrollment numbers weren't high enough to justify keeping the rooms, if the DOE was going by the original space-sharing document.
    "I am concerned," Altschul admitted, noting she's personally not in favor of FDA II losing rooms. "I don’t want him to lose that space."
    CEC members decided they'd write a letter urging Chancellor Carmen Fariña to ask her to stop the takeover.
    "These DOE officials have to stand up for our kids," Gotbaum said.
    Neither Success Academy nor the DOE returned requests for comment