Thursday, April 30, 2015

Are You Missing Your Local Unity Caucus Slug? 800 have shuffled off to Buffalo at your expense for NYSUT convention

Message to RA Assembly this weekend from Lace to the Top:
I highly encourage like-minded rank and file teachers to join the ST Caucus
My message is:  Join Stronger Together to challenge the Unity state and city slugs at the state level. As we hear from the crew up in Buffalo, we'll report events. Friday night ST is calling a caucus meeting at the same time state Unity is meeting. Let's see who stands up.

Stronger Together, Tabling - I want one of those tees - Port Jeff Station union pres Beth Dimino on right

This weekend is the first NYSUT convention since last years war between the Mulgrew/Randi/Magee Revile slate which attacked the NYSUT leadership, which formed a new slate called Stronger Together (ST). They lost but are coming back stronger this year.

I would also like to see ST make a showing at the 2016 AFT convention in Minneapolis.

By the way, in the 2016 UFT elections, which I will be urging people to boycott, those 800 slugs will be re-elected just in time for the AFT convention, where they can punch those who oppose common core in the face.

The always awesome Beth Dimino has been a leader of the growing opposition on the state level. ST and MORE have been in an alliance and MORE may have a rep on the steering committee. ST wants to work with the leading opposition to Unity here in the city and when the next NYSUT election (2017 - with the same 800 Unity slugs) comes along in 2 years - here at the Hilton, I imagine, we expect to see the state and the city Unity caucuses sweating. MORE may end up running with them to make a point about the lack of democracy in the UFT. 

In the last election, Unity with 31% of the voters in the RA also had the support of the other big 5 city unions, plus the semi-slugs from the CUNY union. In the last year, there have been some changes brewing in some of those big 5 and this weekend should be an interesting test of how much progress ST is making. 

NY Teachers- join ST Caucus and bring real change to your school house

We represent the combined effort of parents and teachers. We are ignored by politicians and union leadership alike.

Our strength comes in our numbers and our agenda is simple- we want what is best for our children.

I have tried to hold Randi accountable and have attacked NYSUT’s leadership every time they have taken us down a path that is harmful to our children. I am but a mosquito to these people, but there is hope…

I highly encourage like-minded rank and file teachers to join the ST Caucus. In full disclosure, I am not an officer nor do I play any significant role in the ST caucus (other than supporter). I know the people that have constructed this caucus. They are student centered and share our values. I believe in them. If teachers want to bring real change into their school houses, I encourage you all to join.

ST Caucus will be present at the NYSUT RA in Buffalo. Please tell your reps that you want to join or ask them to bring back more information.

Memo from the RTC with Video clip: Lost in Yonkers is Broadway Quality - Norm in The Wave

I could go see every performance of this show and still want more. I'm going back twice this weekend. At least three of the performers are NYC teachers. Check out the video clip below to see the kind of work this little theater puts out. And current and retired teachers play a major role in making this happen.

Memo from the RTC: Lost in Yonkers is Broadway Quality

By Norm Scott
Published Friday, May 1, 2015 at

I filmed last Sunday’s matinee of the Rockaway Theatre Company production of Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers. It was my 2nd time seeing it after taping opening night on Friday. I wanted to see it again with the rotating cast of four boys playing the key roles of Jay and Arty. On Friday Steven Wagner and Aidan Lawrence had played the roles to perfection. Could Raimondo Graziano and Andrew Feldman pull it off again? Can the little theater that could, located in isolated Fort Tilden, actually find 4 young teen actors of such high quality they could carry a major production? Kids who could play comedy and drama equally well? Well, of course, if you know the production team at RTC did you have any doubts?

Before the show began I was talking to a young couple in the audience who had discovered the RTC a year before. They gushed at having what they described as “Broadway quality” theater in their own backyard. “Going to shows on Broadway is so expensive,” they said, “and here we don’t feel we lose anything from that experience.” My wife, who attends many Broadway shows and is a very hard grader on quality theater, also attended this show and afterwards said, “I can’t imagine see this show done any better, even on Broadway.”

I’m running out of space and will write more next week, but I must mention the other equally great performances of the adults. Lynda Browning as Bella delivers a performance as powerful as Mercedes Ruhl in the movie. Steve Ryan as the gangster, Uncle Louie, was told “You were better than Richard Dreyfus in the movie,” by one audience member. And as always, Susan Corning as the frightening Grandma Kurnitz., blows everyone away with her authentic performance. I told her husband, “Aren’t you afraid to go home?” Kim Simeck and Bob Alpert played crucial roles as Eddie and Gert (I’m going to see Jessica Mintzes play Gert next Friday and Sunday). And of course bravo to first time Director David Risley, who has been such a major actor at RTC for a dozen years. The final 3 performances are this weekend: Friday, Saturday at 8PM and Sunday at 2PM. The theater was packed last weekend so call to check availability of tickets (718-374-6400).

I put up a 12 minute video clip from both performances I taped on vimeo:

I dare you to watch this clip and stay away.

RTC Lost in Yonkers Clip from Rockaway Theatre Company on Vimeo.

Mike Francesa Makes an NFL Draft Day Data Point We Can Apply to Teacher Ratings

I've been listening to Mike since he began on WFAN almost 30 years ago. The other day he was discussing tonight's NFL draft (Will the Jets screw it up again? I'm going to start early - Boooooo!). Every player is tested and measured at the NFL combines. Mike was complaining that too much can be made of all this data. His guest said that some teams make their draft choice based on data and not the actual player. "A football player is a football player," Mike said. "Sometimes you have to look at the person, not the data."

Data is a funny thing. We know that the Bloomberg grad rates were phony, yet they are accepted by a fawning press as real.

One of the nicest things said about me as a teacher - not to my face but to the teacher trainer in my school -- yes, Virginia, in the late 60s there were so many new teachers many schools had a full-time teacher trainer to work with them - we have regressed - was from the principal, a guy who, like most principals at the time who rose through the ranks of teacher, AP. He had dropped in to observe me and told her I was a born teacher. No data -- just watched me interact with the kids.We all knew - some years my data would be good, others not so good. In addition, there was a guy at my school who the principal loved -- this guy was a data guy -- his scores were out of sight every year -- but then again he was given the top class every year -- but still they were 2 years above level. I'm not even assuming he cheated - but that was what he focused on. I focused on other things - the whole child, lots of trips for kids who barely ever left their neighborhood. Even with the same kids I never could have gotten the scores he did because I was not comfortable teaching his way.

That is why I think that today I would not, could not, be a teacher. I would be thinking electrician or carpenter - and I can't think why Michael Mugrew would wanted to switch.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lily Eskelsen Garcia (NEA) and Randi Weingarten (AFT) turn their backs on the opt-out movement - Ken Priviti

When Lily Eskelsen Garcia (NEA) and Randi Weingarten (AFT) both turn their backs on parents who oppose the corporate education scam of mandated high stakes testing, it is time to question why they are doing this....Carefully listen to their very carefully worded comments.
This is precisely the corporate ploy being used by legislative cronies in state after state. By promising to beat children and teachers less often, somehow or other the beatings become acceptable.
.Reclaim Reform blog.

Weingarten at Pearson Stockholders' Meeting: In a scene right out of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, AFT President Randi Weingarten goes to London, hat-in-hand, to plead (more sir) for Pearson's Board of Directors to stop spying on students who may have been chatting on social media about the PARCC exam....But there was something in RW's pathetic appeal to these global education profiteers -- recognizing their sovereign right to profit, while at the same time, asking them politely to temper their spying activities and to "mediate the contract language" that allows such practices -- that shamed me as an educator and a public school parent..... Mike Klonsky (see the video)

Ooooh, I know, I know why they support corporate deform - but I'm not going to tell you - now. Actually I have sort of told you in past blog posts - there will be a test.

Opt out leader attended the NPE event in Chicago this past weekend and raised the issue of: Why can't they all be like Karen Lewis?

Opt-Out Movement and Teachers: Opportunity Lost?

Randi Weingarte and Lily Eskelsen
The National Opt-Out Movement is the single greatest grassroots opposition to corporate education ever. Hundreds of thousands of parents and their children have refused this attempt at a corporate attempt, in collusion with politicians they own by legally (?) financially supporting them. Many of these parents staunchly support their children’s teachers.
At the 2015 Network for Public Education National Conference both Lily and Randi mentioned the importance of the parental support of teachers. To push away from supporting parents in their efforts to stop and do away with corporate commanded high stakes testing is self destructive for both NEA and AFT as well as all of the teachers they are supposed to represent.
Randi said, “Every parent should have the right to opt out or not to opt out.” Huh?
Lily said, “
The opt out movement will not end toxic testing.” Huh?
Listen and view both of their comments HERE.

A short time later during the same NPE Conference, Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union President, proudly and thankfully told Diane Ravitch how parents with their supportive presence during the Chicago Teachers Union rallies played a vital role.
Listen and view HERE.

Since the vast majority of teachers are parents themselves, and since all teachers realize that all children are their children, this wonderful support should be no surprise.
The superb founders of United Opt Out National are parents and teachers. What this small band of good people began is astonishing. Separate local opt-out and refuse movements have flourished and multiplied.
Why won’t the two leaders of NEA and AFT return the favor?
Lily wants the mandated high stakes tests to continue in lessened numbers at state levels and on grade span testing. She made no mention of what private corporations will get these juicy contracts with money taken from public education tax funds.
Randi also wanted less testing and was even vaguer in her euphemisms.
Carefully listen to their very carefully worded comments.
This is precisely the corporate ploy being used by legislative cronies in state after state. By promising to beat children and teachers less often, somehow or other the beatings become acceptable.
As noted Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes so clearly stated in the early 1900s, “If it’s a bad rule, there is no reason for making a bad exception to it.”
High stakes testing and all of its accompanying abuses must end.
Teachers who legally act in loco parentis (in place of the parent) and parents are partners. Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten know that. Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten are in favor of CCSS which is used to fire teachers based on CCSS compliant tests which have no proof of being either valid or reliable. This is unconscionable. (Mercedes Schneider explains this in detail.)
Randi also went to the UK to grovel before Pearson as she recognized their right to power over American children, parents and teachers. OMG! (Mike Klonsky gives details and video footage of this.)
Lily claims that teachers should not ally with parents but must “change the world.” OMG! (Fred Klonsky gives his inquisitive opinion.)
As leaders of their separate teachers unions, there is no valid reason for this.
As individuals with separate power structures that form the basis for their social positions and incomes, there are indeed reasons for their behavior.
The cause of public education is larger than their personal positions. NEA and AFT need leaders, not egos with smiles and carefully selected words that preserve their personal careers.
Support the National Opt-Out Movement. Unite with parents. Serve the needs of all children.
It is not too late. The opportunity need not be lost. The teachers Lily and Randi serve know and want this. Unite with parents and serve the needs of our children.
Karen Lewis did.

Newark Teachers Union Upcoming Job Action: SAY NO on TURNAROUND SCHOOLS

CASA has sent us a letter of support instructing their principals not to interfere with our constitutional right to protest!  SAY NO!  The only way to eliminate chaos is to escalate it!  ...NTU
Do you think the UFT would take a stand on the Faced with an upcoming election challenge from NEW (Newark Education Workers) Caucus, the NTU has taken some action. (NEW VISION Platform).

I always have said that the stronger an opposition the more likely it is for the people being challenged to turn more militant - a good thing for all. Do you think the UFT would support the 94 schools under assault here in NYC in the same way?

The Newark Teachers Union has decided to take direct job action starting next week. As law abiding citizens and union members we are required to exhaust all legal remedies to our grievances. We believe that we have.  88.6% of the members said they are ready for a job action!

It is vital that we prepare staff, parents, and students for what’s to come.  They are not to blame for Cami’s Chaos.   We have attached flyers in English, Spanish, and Portuguese to distribute to patents explaining what is to occur.   This is to be done before and after school.  Remember, the sidewalks in front of our schools and playgrounds are PUBLIC spaces.  You have every right to give out flyers in this space before you punch in and after you punch out.

Started next week, staff is to cease any volunteer work before or after school.  You punch in together at your scheduled start time.  You punch out at your scheduled end time, and you LEAVE!   The district stole jobs away from Newark Citizens, and we must stop covering up their crime. We will stop being co-conspirators in the dismantling of public education in the state of New Jersey.

CASA has sent us a letter of support instructing their principals not to interfere with our constitutional right to protest!  SAY NO!  The only way to eliminate chaos is to escalate it!

Is it important that we stand united against Cami’s failed Renew/ Turnaround School Program.  Last year, 25% of the staff at Renew Schools did not sign EWA’s, and suffered no consequences.  This year, about 50% of the staff at Renew Schools said they would not sign.   The NTU believes in staff-driven reform.  Cami’s Turnaround Schools has been an absolute failure and supporting a failed program is in no one’s best interest.

- East Side said “NO! We will not sign!”

- Elliott said “NO! We will not sign!”

- Speedway said “NO! We will not sign!”

- Early College said “NO! We will not sign!”

- Central High School said “NO! We will not sign!”

- Ivy Hill said “NO! We will not sign!”

- Weequahic High School said “NO! We will not sign!”


Major rally to protect Weequahic HS from being labeled a Turnaround School is this Saturday, May 2, 2015 at Weequahic HS, 279 Chancellor AVE, Newark, NJ 07112!

In solidarity,


John M. Abeigon

Director of Organization

Newark Teachers Union

Local 481, AFT/AFL-CIO
Here is the flyer:
Newark Teachers Union calls for job action!

The Newark Teachers Union has decided to take direct job action starting next week. As law abiding citizens and union members we are required to exhaust all legal remedies to our grievances. We believe that we have. The lack of response from the State DOE on Anderson’s sale of 18th Ave School to a selected list of friends and business partners of the former Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf et al goes uninvestigated, the absence of a waiver from NCLB to using Regional Achievement Centers in Turnaround Newark’s schools, Anderson’s continuing failure to attain any significant score achievement at her existing extended day/extended year schools, proves to us that she is an ineffective, inexperienced educator.

Commencing next week we will be begin preparing our staff, parents, students and community for Informational Picket lines and will begin signing in/out en masse. Following that we will cease doing any volunteer work before or after school. We will stop covering up this crime. We will stop being co‐conspirators in the dismantling of public education in the state of New Jersey. 

Anderson’s anticipated $75,000,000 debt, her continuing support for the expansion of Charter Schools, her complete lack of support for Traditional neighborhood schools. Not once has she gone to Trenton to lobby for new schools or restoration of lost funding. 

We are forced to do this because acting in loco parentis (in place of the parent) we can no longer sit by and watch the needs of Special Needs children go ignored by the NJDOE and the USED. We cannot watch as children are babysat each day of the school year by substitutes or inexperienced and uncertificated new teachers struggle day in and day out in their new career without resources or mentors. Meanwhile experienced, veteran teachers are cast to the waters by a superintendent who classifies them as Employees without Placement and uses them as scapegoats for her every failure she creates. 

We will, by these actions, force the moment to its crisis. We will say no! we will escalate the chaos!
‐ Newark Teachers Union 

Juan Gonzalez Exposes Sham Dewey Principal Kathleen Elvin Grad/Credit Recovery Schemes

How do those phony Bloomberg grad rates look? Let's explode the bullshit whenever the press puppets the story that Bloomberg raised grad rates from 50-67%. Three quarters of that is based on lies like the Dewey case. Every time Chalkbeat talks about the rise in grad rates under Bloomberg, leave a comment saying "Bullshit credit recovery -- and other slick tricks".

Ed Notes readers are well aware of the John Dewey story and Kathleen Elvin. There has been a lot I have not been able to talk about in order to protect my sources at the school - we've been waiting for this DN Gonzalez piece. One thing we do know is that Tweed and Carmen Farina have been told what is happening for almost a year and have done nothing. It is much worse than credit recovery, as there has been a general assault on teachers by the administration, especially the nontenured. One story is that they have to give Do Nows and mark then and enter the grades every day. Farina was informed of this waste of time 6 months ago. Her recently installed superintendent is as big a shit as the one he replaced - Amy Horowitz who was given an even bigger job at the DOE.

By the way, the investigations at Dewey have been going on forever and somehow nothing gets resolved. How about expedited investigations of principals instead of teachers?

Let's keep an eye on the teacher with guts, Wade Goria, and how the vindictive admin comes down on him. I'm betting they will find a reason to rubber room him -
Gonzalez: Protesters eye bogus classes used to boost graduation rates

Last spring, a teacher at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn was assigned to oversee 16 students in a single class who were seeking credit for subjects they’d previously failed. The topics included Earth science, global studies, trigonometry and English — 14 in all — yet the teacher was only certified as a math instructor.
A second teacher became her own virtual high school.

Records obtained by the Daily News show she was put in charge of a course titled Project Graduation. Students in the course had failed 35 different subjects, including U.S. history, geometry, living environment, Earth science, global studies, algebra, art and Spanish. But the teacher’s license was for special education.

How is it possible to teach so many subjects simultaneously — all outside your expertise?

Well, it’s not. Pupils assigned to Project Graduation simply had to show up and fill out individual “course packets,” according to several teachers who were assigned to the course.

It was part of a brazen scheme by the school’s administrators to inflate graduation rates by manufacturing bogus “credit recovery” — a practice now being probed by the school system’s office of special investigation.

Just as test prep has overwhelmed elementary schools, with the politicians demanding higher standardized test scores, “credit recovery” will likely be the next big high school scandal.

At Dewey, The News obtained class rosters, individual student records and school emails, and interviewed a dozen teachers who claim sham credit recovery has gone on for years.

The documents show teachers were often assigned to grade students out of their expertise, supervisors altered failing grades to passing without consulting the original teacher, and students were passed without even attending class, all in violation of state and city education regulations.

What’s happening is incredibly fraudulent and criminal,” said Wade Goria, a social studies teacher at Dewey who is about to retire. Goria was willing to be quoted, but many of his colleagues who gave evidence to investigators asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. 

The News asked Goria about a student of his who graduated last year despite receiving a failing grade in a government course — one required for graduation.
“The student was absent more than half the time and had no idea of what was going on,” Goria said. “In no way, shape or form could I justify passing him.
“The next thing I knew, the boy was on the graduation line,” Goria said.

School records obtained by The News show that on July 1, a few days after graduation ceremonies, Goria’s student received a 65 in government from a supervisor as part of credit recovery.
“No one came to me about him,” Goria said.
“There was no discussion whatsoever. He just passed.”

As you might expect, Dewey’s graduation rate soared since Principal Kathleen Elvin took over in early 2012. It was 61% in June 2011, and 74% last June.
Elvin declined to comment and referred all questions to the Department of Education.

“The integrity of our academic programs is of the highest importance and the Department of Education takes any allegations of this sort extremely seriously,” said Devora Kaye, spokeswoman for Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “This matter is under investigation.”

Records obtained by the Daily News show a teacher was put in charge of a course titled Project Graduation. Students in the course had failed 35 different subjects, but the teacher’s license was for special education.

Records obtained by the Daily News show a teacher was put in charge of a course titled Project Graduation. Students in the course had failed 35 different subjects, but the teacher’s license was for special education.

A teacher at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn was assigned to oversee 16 students in a single class who were seeking credit for subjects they’d previously failed. Bryan Pace/for New York Daily News

A teacher at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn was assigned to oversee 16 students in a single class who were seeking credit for subjects they’d previously failed.

MORE Tonight at the PEP: Connecting charters to renewel to high stakes testing to opt out to ATRs -

58% of schools targeted for charter co-locations in NYC are Renewal Schools.... 60% of the renewal schools have class sizes of 30 or more
Charters Invade Renewal Schools Where Teachers Must Reapply for Jobs Leading to More ATS - get it?

Everything is connected. What some shortsighted people think is that a battle for ATRs is just a battle for ATRs and not connected to the bogus use of high stakes testing used to brand schools and teachers as failures, along with the charter movement to replace public schools with their unionized teachers. And then there's the opt out movement. Understanding all these connections was the basis of the original ICE offshoot, the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), the mother of both Change the Stakes (the leading opt out parent movement in NYC) and MORE.

Thank goodness some of my pals at MORE still see the big picture. Some of us have been going to charter school hearings. Even some UFT officials in certain districts - ie Dist. 21 (Coney Island, Bensonhurst), have also helped organize protests at charter hearings. (Kudos to UFT Dist 21 rep Judy Gewirtz). Tonight a MORE contingent will be at the PEP meeting to advocate for many of these issues in addition to supporting rubber roomed teachers David Garcia-Rosen and Maria Damato of NYCLetemplay (See SEGREGATED AND SIDELINED : A CIVIL RIGHTS STORY that documents the students beautiful civil rights struggle for equality and The students of NYCLetEmPlay are paving a path that will end  New York City's "Separate and Unequal" school system.)

Here is the MORE announcement.
The School Renewal Program rolled out last November was designed to support "low performing" schools. Since then, a disproportionate number have been the targets of charter co-location proposals. While some have already been approved, more are on the way. This Wednesday three charter school co-location proposals targeting Renewal Schools will be put to a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy. This opportunism on behalf of charter operators is not only shameful but it defeats the promise of The School Renewal Program. Show your support for public schools and demand the PEP vote NO on all charter co-location proposals!
Panel for Educational Policy Meeting
WED April 29th @ 6pm
M.S. 131 

100 Hester Street, Manhattan
New York, NY 10002

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Norm in The Wave: Opt Out and Politicians as Cuomo Declares “scores are ‘meaningless’ in terms of students' grades”

Published Friday, May 1, 2015 at

Opt Out and Politicians as Cuomo Declares “scores are ‘meaningless’ in terms of students' grades”

By Norm Scott

Times Union columnist Fred LeBrun wrote: “Thanks to Cuomo's thuggish war on teachers and his scant regard for the considerable collateral damage it's causing public education in this state, New York has become a national leader in the opt-out movement. Parents across the state have held their children out of third- through eighth-grade standardized state tests that are ostensibly designed to show student progress but in reality show not much of anything with reliability amid much anguish and anxiety. Except that they can be used to rank, rate and fire teachers, which is what the governor is really after.”

I read all the local Rockaway papers and websites and notice our local politicians often write regular articles. I also notice that they barely, if ever, mention issues related to education – one of the hottest items on the national and local agenda. What are they afraid of? Being held accountable for the positions they take and the votes they cast, unlike the accountability they all seem to want teachers to be held to? Next time you run into a local pol, ask them where they stand on opt out and whether they will support bills in Albany backing parent choice to opt out? (One local pol told me he was in favor of “choice” when it came to charter schools. Does he support “choice” on all the other issues?)

The opt out of the tests movement has been receiving national attention as parents on the left and right are in revolt. Common core has been dragged down with the tests. The right doesn’t like federal interference in local control of education – especially in some states that want to keep teaching that the earth is flat. Until recently, the left, worried about education in Mississippi, was for federal intervention, which used to be benign. But seeing the malignant impact on schools of policies that go back to the Clinton/Bush/Obama administrations, the left has turned. My attitude is “screw Mississippi, I have to deal with New York.”

The other day I was at a party and some guy, who used to teach physics, asked me what was wrong with the common core and standards since they seemed reasonable to him. Oh, let me count the ways – from inappropriate content for younger children, and especially children who are learning disabled, to an enormous overload in testing and test prep time, to the use to rate teachers based on faulty mathematical algorisms. Since he was a long-time teacher, I asked him if he taught any differently before common core? Were the pre-common core NY State standards, which were amongst the strongest in the nation, somehow deficient that we needed Bill Gates to come in and fix them? He ended up agreeing with me. I post loads of great – and often funny – opt out videos, including this Bald Piano Man parody:

The response from the ed deform community at all levels – government, DOE, press, astroturf orgs, and even the UFT – has been a vicious assault on the 200,000 (and growing) opt outers, including threats of withholding funding from schools with high opt out numbers. (By the way, even with 4000 opt outers here in the city, there are few reports of parents opting out in Rockaway or in District 27 – wait till next year.) Deformers have been trying to kill the movement through divide and conquer. Offers to exempt the “good” schools, delay teacher evaluation (causing a split between Regent Head Meryl Tisch and Cuomo, whose major goal has been to slam the teachers. The enormous donations to him have come from the anti-teacher coalitions who don’t give a fig about the kids.

Cuomo, in this Capital Education report, exposed his true aims:
“Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday said parents who have chosen to have their children ‘opt out’ of taking this month’s state exams don’t understand that the scores are ‘meaningless’ in terms of students' grades. ‘That’s their option,’ Cuomo, referring to parents who have participated in the unprecedented boycott of state exams, told reporters after an Association for a Better New York breakfast in Manhattan. ‘What I don’t think has been adequately communicated is, we passed a law that stops the use of the grades on the test for the student. So the grades are meaningless to the student.’”

There you go, ed deform in a nutshell: It’s not really about the kids. Let’s put them through months of misery so we can fire teachers more easily. Really, folks, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just offer tenured teachers a buyout and stop all this nonsense?

See Norm blog about how he solved a common core 8th grade math example: Where I Check the Condition of My Cognition by Doing some Algebra. And he even shows his work.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Daily Howler Slams NY Times Kristof for dishonest, agenda-driven ed column - Kristof’s reflexive dishonesty reached an astounding new level

Warning: Ed Deform slug - don't believe a thing he writes

Daily Howler:
Life-forms like Kristof have spent many years running down American students and their public school teachers. Some journalists do this out of sheer ignorance. Others do it because they want to help their upper-class minders and masters privatize public schools.... Why in the world would a life-form like Kristof deceive his readers this way? Beyond that, what makes him so eager to denigrate American kids?...Kristof had once again cast himself in the role of tool to his corporate masters, who want to destroy teachers unions and privatize public schools....
Daily Howler
I wrote about the Kristof column yesterday (Where I Check the Condition of My Cognition) not focusing on the details but on one specific problem which I solved as a test of how far my brain had deteriorated. Otherwise, as I usually do, I didn't pay much attention to noted ed deformer Kristof. But the Howler did and take Kristof apart.

I've written about Kristof before:
Below are more excerpts - read it all and the comments here.
Biggest journalistic hoax concerning test scores yet: In today’s first post, we discussed the “pseudo-journalism” which is so common at the New York Times.
For a truly stunning example, consider the way Nicholas Kristof started yesterday’s column.

Yesterday, Kristof created one of the most remarkable incidents yet. As journalistic deception goes, we’d call this passage jaw-dropping:

The High School Teacher's Voice Issue 2 - Share with your staff - Featuring - Fiorillo on Who Controls the UFT?

Unity will never face a serious challenge until the opposition builds a serious ground game that can compete with Unity's ability to use its control of the UFT to reach every school in the city. The schools are packed with hundreds of Unity people pushing the Unity line. Even though most UFT members seem to ignore the message to a great extent, they don't see any alternative views unless they read the blogs. Most clearly don't. Many don't even know what Unity is or that there are opponents.

We started this project a few months ago as a way to reach out to a manageable segment of the schools - the roughly 450 high schools with about 19,000 teachers, to which we must add the thousands of support staff. That's a whole lot of hard copy.

After our first issue back in February, we received feedback asking for some UFT primer stuff. So for this edition we commisioned Michael Fiorillo to write "Who Controls the UFT?" which examines the Unity Caucus machine.

We think this is an important article to share with the people you work with - and beyond. (See below for the text if you want to copy and paste it into an email.)

Our other main article,  Death By A Thousand Cuts, is by a high school teacher pointing out the enormous amount of wasted paper work and other tasks high school teachers are being asked to do - to the distraction of teaching.

We are starting with a limited distribution, aiming at the schools where we have contacts who will put them in the mailboxes as a way to establish the idea to people who may not be aware, that there are critical voices in the UFT. Another goal is to establish a smoothly running distribution network for as many high schools as possible. (We are urging people in MORE in middle and elementary schools to establish district-wide networks.)

While this project has been endorsed by the MORE steering committee, it is an independent venture led by our editorial committee, which maintains editorial control of the content.

Download Issue 2 here:

Please email me if you are going to distribute in your school either electronically or by printing them out yourself - or if you want copies we will get them to you - email me at

This is our 2nd issue (first one is here:

Here is the text of Michael's article. Feel free to share.

Who Controls the UFT?
By Michael Fiorillo, Teacher, Newcomers HS

To most teachers, often overwhelmed by ever-increasing demands that have little or nothing to do with providing the best education for their students, the UFT seems remote from their daily experience. Beyond welfare fund services, when they think about the Union at all, it is often in terms of hefty dues deductions. Rarely so they think the union fighting for them, and with good reason: it rarely does other than little pantomimes of fighting back.

Teachers less and less see the Union as a vehicle for improving their lives at an ever more demanding job where they are increasingly less secure and respected. Higher salaried senior teachers often feel they have a target on their backs. New teachers see achieving tenure as an ever-receding mirage – as an obstacle course as they engage in a 3, 4, or more year endurance contest with their principal and/or local Superintendent. And if they get past that will they survive long enough to get a pension? The silence and impotence of the Union is apparent. How often do we hear exasperated, demoralized teachers asking, “Where is the Union?”

The Union often feels like a distant and largely irrelevant force because of the inbred, anti-Democratic practices of an ever-more indifferent leadership, which often seems complicit with the dysfunction and outrages we daily face in the schools. The UFT’s ruling faction, Unity Caucus, has been in power for over half a century, and suffers from most of the ills of too much power held over too long a time: out-of-touch, unwilling to consider new ideas, and often identifying more with management and so-called “education reformers” than with their own members.

What is Unity Caucus?
Caucuses are the political parties that seek to govern the union. Unity caucus has had sole, unlimited policy-making control since the UFT was founded in the early 60s. The UFT has had opposition caucuses vying for political power over the years, but Unity has structured the UFT in a way to assure them complete control and the creation of an entrenched political machine that has passively accepted, and sometimes actively collaborated with, policies inimical to teachers and students.

The lack of union democracy has very tangible consequences for teachers. Lately, virtually all of those consequences have been negative, and have correlated with declining participation from the rank and file. Less than 20% of active teachers voted in the last election and 52% of those who did vote were retirees. Unity has so rigged the election process, every single member of the 101 member UFT Executive Board is Unity endorsed.

Members must commit to a loyalty oath to ALWAYS support whatever dictates come down from the leadership and NEVER speak against them publicly. Hundred of chapter leaders are Unity Caucus members and if it comes down to supporting the interests of the teachers who elected them or the union leadership most Unity chapter leaders will force feed policies from the top to their members, thus putting the needs of the caucus over their colleagues.

Teachers who attempt to go above a Unity chapter leader to the borough or district reps are stonewalled since these reps have been appointed by the leadership since the UFT ended elections of District Reps in 2002, thus bringing Unity’s centralized, top-down governance to both the school, district and borough levels.

Other than a few exceptions, getting even part-time work at the Union is conditional on Unity Caucus membership, a powerful incentive for closely-policed conformity.

There are many reasons for the scapegoating, disrespect and attacks that public school teachers have been suffering for a generation. One of the reasons they’ve been so successful is that the Union leadership’s continuing anti-democratic practice has made it rigid and sclerotic, dangerously dependent on “friends in high places” – especially since their most important friend, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was recently indicted - and unwilling to tap into the knowledge and energy of its rank and file. Unity Caucus is so wedded to decades of power, so scared of the membership and intent on managing it instead of representing it, that they risk the destruction of the Union itself along with the mission of public education as we know it.

It follows that the survival of public education and teacher unions themselves are bound up with issues of union democracy. The continued entrenchment of the Unity Caucus Machine virtually guarantees the continuing success of attacks on teachers, their benefits, working conditions and dignity. If we are serious about saving public education and the teaching profession, then we must be serious about taking back our Union from the out-of-touch Unity Caucus Machine that controls it.

Death by a Thousand Cuts
Editorial Staff

CCSS, TKES, LKES, CCRPI, GHSGT, GAPS, SACS, CRCT, GMAS, SGAs, SLOs, PARCC, SLT, IEP,  3020a, TPTB,  MOSLs, CPT, Scope and Sequence, cumulative, baseline, interim, final assessments, differentiation, rigor, action plans, DO NOW!  Actionable feedback... 
The ancient Chinese called it death by a thousand cuts.  But in a contemporary New York City high school it is death by a thousand acronyms.  If you understand the above you already know that under the current educational regime, assessment and quantifiability are redefining the practice of education. Danielson, originally designed as a self-evaluation tool, is today being used to put the relation of student and teacher under the constant scrutiny of managers.  The idea is to deploy corporate-style control systems to create self-motivated critical thinkers.  Philosophically, this approach has a basic contradiction at its root, but the problems it creates are far from abstract:
Schools must keep extensive binders of data measuring student scores resulting from the comparison of baseline assessments to subsequent assessments in addition to the end of year city and state assessments.  Student data analysis charts based on data from interim assessments must be included with class action plans based on the overall data to figure out what skills need to be reinforced.
To accomplish the above, teachers bear the weight for providing the information on all their students (as many as 150 over 5 classes). Daily lesson plans correspond to unit plans and both documents must be available to whoever comes into the class to observe. Teachers are expected to regularly assess students’ writing in all classes including math and PE.  They also have to describe how they are differentiating for students at different levels and write up individual action plans for students that are failing. 
Administrators evaluate each teacher anywhere from 4 to 6 times a year based on the “Danielson Rubric,” essentially a checklist that administrators use in their observations.  Everything is documented and written up in a “post observation” that describes all things seen and not seen. The smallest “infractions” must be described so that if the superintendent comes in and sees a single example of errant behavior (ie. a student speaking out without permission) he will also see it reflected in the observation report.
Bulletin boards have to correlate exactly with what is being taught in the class.  Students’ work is posted along with the rubric and “actionnable feedback” notes from the teacher have to be written in the same language as the rubric. Lesson agendas, which include the aim, an essential question and a “Do Now” must be posted at the beginning of every class.   
In addition to all of the above, teachers are expected to meet for common-planning, grade teams, PD sessions plus advisories with groups of students—not to mention all of the work done  after school.  All of this work, on the part of teachers, is shrouded with a blanket of contempt from every corner of society.  Is it any wonder that teachers are counting the years left for their retirement?  

Video: Now that Cuomo Has Declared Tests Meaningless for Teachers - Bald Piano guy strikes again

Bald Piano Boy takes issue with Governor Andrew Cuomo who called the NYS tests in ELA and Math "meaningless."

A review of CREDO's Urban Charter School Study issues concerns over conclusions that charters outperform public schools

Even I am surprised at the evidence that charters, with all their advantages, don't outperform public schools. After all, they cream, hide data and practices from public scrutiny, shave kids they don't want off their rosters, keep ELLs and Spec Ed down -- and probably classify kids with pimples or braces as special ed to get their numbers up.
The findings of this report cannot be regarded as compelling evidence of the greater effectiveness of charter school compared to traditional public schools, either overall or specifically within urban districts.... an academic review out today issues concerns with the methodology and reporting of the CREDO study.... reported by Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice
The GLC terms these "think twice" reports. Every day, we see the ed deform agenda being worn away, piece by piece.

A review of CREDO's Urban Charter School Study issues concerns

Andrew Maul, (805) 893-7770,
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

A review of CREDO's Urban Charter School Study issues concerns

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 27, 2015) – A recent report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University attempted to investigate whether charter schools generate better outcomes than traditional public schools (TPS) in urban environments. The report, part of a series of reports on the performance of charter schools relative to TPS, asserts charter schools in urban environments provide a slightly greater test score advantage than those in non-urban environments.  However, an academic review out today issues concerns with the methodology and reporting of the CREDO study.

Andrew Maul, assistant professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, reviewed the Urban Charter School Study for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report utilizes a methodological approach similar to previous reports from CREDO, and finds that students in urban charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.055 standard deviations higher on math tests and 0.039 standard deviations higher on reading tests than their peers in urban TPSs. 

In his review, Maul cites the following concerns: (1) the study's "virtual twin" technique is insufficiently documented; (2) the report's estimation of growth using "days of learning" requires accepting untested assumptions; and (3) the study includes a number of arbitrary and unexplained analytic choices. 

All the same, Maul states, "Even setting aside such concerns over analytic methods, the actual effect sizes reported are very small, explaining well under a tenth of one percent the variance in test scores."

Maul acknowledges the importance of the size and comprehensiveness of the data analyzed, and notes that the report is an interesting contribution to the charter school research base.

Nevertheless, in his conclusion, Maul says "The findings of this report cannot be regarded as compelling evidence of the greater effectiveness of charter school compared to traditional public schools, either overall or specifically within urban districts."

Read his full review at:
Find the Urban Charter School Study on the web:
Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Video: WHY OPT OUT - Brilliant Summary of Corporate Ed Deform, common core, high stakes testing and its impact - with historical context -

The best 17 minutes you will spend this weekend.

Joshua Katz at TEDxUniversityofAkron

Where I Check the Condition of My Cognition by Doing some Algebra

As Cognition Slips, Financial Skills Are Often the First to Go... NY Times

Early today I read the scary piece above from Saturday's business section of the NY Times about how age begins to affect your basic financial - and math skills. I went through the checkpoints and - phew - I passed. But having that big 70 in front of my age, I am nervous about slippage.

So this morning, glancing through yet another column on education no-nothing Nicholas Kristof, whose column I try assiduously to avoid, I noticed some math problems embedded in the column, Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?

So I tried to do this one without looking at the answer:

A piece of wood was 40 centimeters long. It was cut into 3 pieces. The lengths in centimeters are 2x -5, x +7 and x +6. What is the length of the longest piece?

I went back to 8th and 9th grade algebra -- that's 1958-9, folks -- about 60 years before common core. And like they ask, I am going to show my work.

First step: I have 2 options here. Either trial and error - take a guess and see where it lands you. This is often a process I follow and do pretty well.

But I decide on option 2 -- dredge up my old algebra.

I must find the value of x.

[NOTE - I taught 4-6 grade self-contained classes and math was easiest for me to teach --- and even without common core -- taught my kids they must first identify the crucial thing they must do first -- solving these things has an order --- not always a rigid order -- but you must work from a plan. I did teach them option 1 - just make an educated guess.]

Let's solve for x in the equation: 2x -5 + x + 7 + x + 6 = 40.
Got that so far? If the total length is 40, then the 3 pieces must add up to 40.

My pre-common core teachers taught us that an equation was like a see saw that always must have both ends in the same position -- you can't let one side tilt. Did I ever take kids to a park and try it? Can't remember but I think I did use a balance scale -- the law says you if you put stuff in one side you must put other stuff -- not the same necessarily - in the other side so they are balanced. A great way to teach the concepts of what an equation is. And I would teach this in 2nd - and maybe even 1st grade just by letting kids play with these as toys.

Now let's solve for x.

My pre-common core teachers taught us that in solving for x you must isolate x on one side of the equation (see-saw) -- use do unto one side of the equation as you would do unto the other -- as basic and important a rule anyone needs to know.
So -- I do +5 and -7 and - 6 to both sides of the = sign.

Thus -- we have the numbers on the left side all cancel each other out and end up with 2x + x + x (4x)

while on the right side we get 40 +5 -7 -6  =  45 - 13 = 32.

4x = 32. Follow our golden rule and divide both sides by 4 to isolate the x and we get x= 8

Now that we know x we are ready to solve the original question:
The lengths in centimeters are 2x -5, x +7 and x +6. What is the length of the longest piece?

Did I have to know the lengths were in centimeters instead of inches? A bit of a red herring but maybe kids need to see through the red herrings.
And also - why use "x" as a variable when X is also the multiply symbol? A bit of confusion I would say. I say that because I want to notate this as 2x4 =8 but using the x as a multiplier here is confusing.
1st piece: 2 times 8 - 5 = 16 - 5 = 11
2nd piece: 8 + 7 = 15
3rd piece: 8 + 6 = 14

The longest piece = 15.
But let's always check out work - as those pre-common core teachers taught me using the old math in the 1950s - by adding up all the lengths to be sure they = 40.

11 + 15 + 14 = 40.


And I want to make the point that through the 8th grade I struggled with math -- or arithmetic. It was the simple logic of algebra that opened my eyes mathematically in the 9th grade. [Just a message to the debunkers of the value of math - who argue kids should only be taught consumer math.]

In the 10th grade , geometry really shook up my brain -- a 98 on the regents.
11th grade Intermediate algebra and trig are less memorable.
12th grade Advanced algebra--- 100 on the regents -- the only one in an exceptionally bright senior class at the now closed Thomas Jefferson HS  - where I did not feel very bright compared to the competition. That same year, calculus for me was a disaster - so I reached my limit. I tried to avoid higher math in my masters in computer science and then found I had an interest in artificial vision which required differential equations and beyond  -- did you know your eye was doing calculus?

Hey, any teachers out there looking for a guest lecturer for their class? Just don't ask me about quadratic equations.

Funny Video: "Opting Out" (Cuomo's Song) - version of Billy Joel's "Piano Man"

by Bald Piano Guy

He also did this funny video which I posted the other day:

Pearson Rep DEFENDS The Tests - It's Stupid to Opt Out!! (DON'T WORRY - IT'S JUST A JOKE!!!)

Blood and Guts Basic Organizing Grows Opt Out Movement - in Chicago

On Friday Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice had a 4-person team go  out to  the Murphy Elementary School at dismissal time. ... Report from secondcityteachers        
There is an interesting concept in this report from Jim Vail in Chicago on the opt out movement. Plant people in front of schools and hand out leaflets with opt out info to parents picking up kids and to the older kids to take home. If groups like AQE and other community groups were free to do that -- and I mean free from being under the influence of people - like the UFT - funding them, we might see true organizing efforts at the school - grassroots - level. But it is more "showy" to hold a rally somewhere or issue proclamations of semi-support for opt out.

Where are the equivalents of Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice here in NYC? The only group I know is Change the Stakes which is on such overload with such few resources - literally no money to even produce leaflets - or personnel to be out in front of schools. I believe the people in MORE could be doing more too - like try to get over to a nearby school to make contact, something that just hasn't been happening.

Note the reactions of school administrators to people leafleting outside their schools and the reaction to not having people listen to them when told to stop.

Opt Out Still an Option!

By Neal Resnikoff
Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice

Another very good experience taking the opt-out message to another school.
On Friday Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice had a 4-person team go  out to  the Murphy Elementary School at dismissal time.        
Many parents were very interested in learning about the issue.
Others already knew about the issue and had opted their children out of the Common Core PARCC tests in March, one estimating that about 10 students had opted out. One parent reported that there had been lively discussion in the Local School Council on the issue of the PARCC tests.
We also talked to a few teachers, most of whom opposed the tests and thanked us for distributing leaflets. One teacher tried to convince us that the tests are good for students. But she was willing to have a good exchange with one of the team members.
Students were very excited to learn they could opt of the PARCC tests.We told them that they had the right to refuse to take a harmful test, and that no one had the right to punish them for it. 

Many came over to get our leaflets after they saw their friends had them. They then gathered in groups of 10 or more to have discussion about the issues. They got especially enthused when we told them about the thousands of students across the country who are refusing to take the PARCC and other Common Core tests.  Students told us that they thought the PARCC tests that they took in March were a waste of time, and that they did not think they were fair or even clear.                 
This principal--like other authorities  we have been meeting was very upset. She said we were preventing students from heading home--about 50 were still hanging around when she came out. She and the assistant principal said we should not be handing out leaflets to students, only to parents. Though they were frantic and the principal even took a flyer out of a student's hands, they did not threaten to call the police the way the administration of North River Elementary did on Thursday
All of these administrators seem amazed that we would go right ahead--- after they told us--in effect-- to stop exercising the right of free speech, assembly and the press.                 
We are enjoying these opt-out experiences--feeling that whether or not we get more students to refuse to take the PARCC tests, we are getting some students and parents to think about the idea that they have rights and can exercise them despite what "authorities" tell them.

We are planning to distribute at two other schools at dismissal time and. If you would like to join with us, please let us know. It is very useful work. --Neal  


 A 4-person team from Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice had a good time distributing leaflets in English and Spanish against the Common Core PARCC tests  today at the small North River Elementary school.
Students were exceptionally receptive to hearing about how they can opt of the new upcoming round of the PARCC tests. Some did not know that more PARCC tests are coming. But many stopped to share their view that the tests they did take in March were unfair and too hard, and that they didn't see any point in taking them and didn't like it. And many came over to get copies of our leaflets and to discuss opting out with us and groups of classmates. Some who had already passed by without getting our flyer came back to ask for one when they heard about it from their friends.
Parents were also interested in getting the leaflets, and one said she opted her special needs child out of the testing.
One teacher said that about half of the students in grades 6,7,8 had opted out, about 30 in this small school.
Administrators were very upset with what we were doing. A vice principal and another administrator and a security guard sent by the principal separately told us  that we could distribute to parents, but that we could not ”solicit to minors” (their words), that this was against Board policy. They were a little late in threatening that if we continued to do this  they would call the police—because almost all the parents and students were gone by then. We pointed out that the school administrators solicit children every day, such as by telling them to take the PARCC tests, and we have every right, including the legal right, to urge the students not to take the tests. --Neal