News and Links

Here’s our weekly-ish collection of news and links from the education blogs/websites/etc:

Following up on our previous post about the letters between the Governor’s office and the Regents, The Riverhead Times Review published an article by SWR Superintendent. Dr. Cohen showing the Tisch letter for what it is – a further assault on democracy in public education, and the Stronger Together Caucus published a response on their website.

On December 31st, in an effort to reinforce his anti-union agenda, Governor Cuomo made the audacious, and completely false, claim that “we have teachers that have been found guilty of sexually abusing students who we can’t get out of the classroom.” This is not the first time this trope has been trotted out, but it’s such an effective method of demonizing the teachers’ unions, that liars like CuomoMichelle Rhee, and Campbell Brown, just can’t help themselves. The truth is simply this: Teachers who are charged with sexual misconduct are automatically suspended without pay. If a teacher is convicted of sexual misconduct it is mandatory that they will be terminated. Even if unions wanted to defend pedophiles – which they do not – there isn’t even an opportunity for them to do so.

new report suggests that the Common Core requirement that all students read by the end of kindergarten may be harmful.

Probably nothing here you don’t already know, but maybe some good ammo for your next debate: From Edutopia, 8 Myths That Undermine Educational Effectiveness

Possibly the most depressing news of the week: The Majority of U.S. public school students are now living in poverty.

Close to home, the divide between rich and poor schools has grown even wider under Cuomo’s watch. This blog post details how Cuomo has deflected his failure to fund education by blaming teachers. It also provides a great history lesson on school funding in New York State.

To end on a happy note, SWR grad Eric Lopez won over 2 of the 3 judges on American Idol to earn a trip to Hollywood, If you missed the show, you can watch his audition here (thanks to Danielle Algiere for the link)
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Act NOW on NCLB

This Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee will begin hearings on the re authorization and/or revision of No Child Left Behind.  One of the biggest issues is whether or not to maintain the federal mandate for annual testing.

Committee chairman Lamar Alexander is asking for public input and has set up an email account for citizens to send in their comments: fixingNCLB@help.senate.gov

This is a critical moment and it is absolutely essential that EVERYONE take a moment to respond. As Peter Greene wrote on his Curmuducation blog, “You do not have to be brilliant or super-articulate. Just speak from the heart. Don’t write Moby Dick in email form. Keep it brief (aka “readable”) and if you have a lot more to say, send several emails. If you just have a sentence or two and can’t figure out how to add to that, just send that. If you’ve read something that really said it for you, email a link to the piece and write ‘Read this. I believe it’s true.'”

This is sound advice, but we need to go one step further. Writing your own email is great. Writing a few is even better. But that’s still not enough. Now is the time to apply pressure to your colleagues, your family, your friends, etc, etc, and get them to send emails as well. Post this on Facebook, Twitter, Google+. Send emails to everyone you know – especially folks around the country. The ONLY way to counter the tremendous influence of corporations and lobbyists is through an overwhelming public outcry.

As Greene writes: “This is the biggest opportunity we’ve had to be heard in the education debates since the federal government first stuck their nose in. We have no excuse not to use it, and shame on us if we don’t.”

Send your email now: fixingNCLB@help.senate.gov

The Case Against Tenure

Oral arguments began this week in the “Wright vs. New York” case. This is the case in which the plaintiffs are trying to show that tenure laws violate students’ right to a sound basic education. If the results follow the Vergara verdict in California (currently being appealed), tenure protection could be stripped from all teachers in New York State.

This interview, with attorney Rich Cassagrande, does a great job of countering the plaintiff’s claims, explaining what tenure really is and showing how it benefits not just teachers, but students themselves. If you’ve ever found yourself being attacked over tenure (or even having your own doubts about whether it truly is necessary, please watch the video.

NYSUT: The last 30 days

As noted previously, a lot has happened over the past few weeks. NYSUT has asked that we share the following timeline, which details how they have responded to recent events.

The Last 30 Days

December 17: After the governor hinted he may not sign the moratorium bill, we used his own words against him in a press statement: http://www.nysut.org/news/2014/december/nysut-statement-on-governors-remarks

December 18: After the Malatras letter was released, we immediately tagged the governor as “clueless” in a press statement, and in social media. Numerous media interviews and press statement can be found here:http://www.nysut.org/news/2014/december/nysut-condemns-cuomo-letter-as-clueless  #cluelessCuomo became a rallying cry.

December 23: Karen Magee appears on statewide radio and television to criticize the governor’s comments and rebut some of his more mis-informed comments. You can listen to the audio clip here:  http://www.wcny.org/cpr122214/

December 29: After the governor vetoed the moratorium bill we reacted strongly. (Press release here:http://www.nysut.org/news/2014/december/nysut-slams-governor-for-vetoing-moratorium-bill) 

December 31: Rally at the executive mansion. Coverage from at least 10 news organizations, including New York Timesand Wall Street Journal.  Gallery of photos at www.nysut.org and, of course, clips can be found through a Google news search and were sent to local leaders through the NYSUT Leader Briefing.  During this time, we also blasted the King/Tisch letter in a number of radio, television and print interviews.
In addition, we want to specifically note that, over this time frame, we strongly supported the NYSAPE letter.  It’s responding to Malatras resulting in a great ride on social media.  NYSUT constructed a special MAC blast urging our members to read it and share it. 

New Year’s Day to January 7: Out of respect, we held fire for a few days following the passing of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
NYSUT supported East Greenbush TA President Sean Crall in his efforts to get out the message that Gov. Cuomo’s staff made Crall remove a “Respect Public Ed” pin.  Here’s the clip which was widely shared on social media.http://nypost.com/2015/01/06/teacher-cuomo-staff-asked-me-to-remove-pro-union-button/

January 9: A new report ranked NY’s public education system 9th in the nation. This is a direct contradiction to the governor’s claim that schools are failing. Here’s our piece: http://www.nysut.org/news/2015/january/report-new-york-states-public-education-system-ranks-among-nations-best

January 10: A coalition partner, the Alliance for Quality Education, released a report showing that inequality and segregation have reached record levels under Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  Report and Daily News link can be found here:http://www.nysut.org/news/2015/january/new-report-calls-out-gov-cuomo-for-record-setting-inequality-in-school-funding

January 10: Albany Times Union columnist Fred LeBrun supported NYSUT and teachers and attacked the Governor in this column, which ran in the Sunday Times Union (circulation 150,000).  http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/LeBrun-A-disaster-dressed-up-as-reform-6006907.php?cmpid=twitter

January 11: Nearly 1,000 students, parents and teachers packed the Million Dollar Staircase at the state Capitol for a rally. Rev. William Barber and NAACP leaders scolded Cuomo for failing to properly fund public schools.  Andy Pallotta pointedly told the governor – at the top of his lungs – to stop making excuses and fund public education. NYSUT coverage and numerous press clips can be found here: http://www.nysut.org/news/2015/january/moral-mondays-parents-students-and-educators-take-to-the-capitol-to-call-for-fairness

January 13:  Karen Magee has a radio commentary that airs on 16 radio stations across New York. Here she takes on the governor in her monthly commentary: http://wamc.org/post/karen-magee-battle-public-education  This got a nice ride on social media.
Held an emergency Board of Directors call to Action

January 14: NYSUT offered a less-than-enthusiastic response to the governor’s circuit breaker proposal here:http://www.nysut.org/news/2015/january/tax-relief-plan-flawed-because-of-tax-cap-link

January 15: NYSUT launched a nearly $1 million ad campaign in advance of the Governor’s State of the State and budget.   You can find the ad and coverage on the NYSUT web site and coverage via this link.http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/nysut-putting-ad-calling-equitable-school-funding-blog-entry-1.2078223

In the coming days these activities will only become more intense.  Stay tuned! 

Frightening Proposals From The Board Of Regents

A lot has happened over the past few weeks, but what is probably the biggest news is the exchange of letters between the Governor and the Regents. I know that some of this was shared by Dr. Cohen and other administrators, but I thought it might be helpful to summarize it all in one place. 

On December 18th, Andrew Cuomo’s office sent a letter to Meryl Tisch (Chancellor of the NYS Board of Regents) and outgoing Commissioner John King listing 12 pointed questions that outlined the Governor’s vision for the future of education in the state. You can read the entire letter here (and you should), but among the highlights are his repetition of the misleading statistics that make it appear our students are failing, making the teacher evaluation process more test-based to insure that more teachers are designated as ineffective, and scaling back our due process rights to make it easier to fire teachers.

Two weeks later, Chancellor Tisch responded with a 20 page screed that included a wide range of policy recommendations (some of which could be implemented by the Regents, some of which would require legislative action). Again, as long and painful as it is, you really should try to read the whole thing, but here is a quick summary of some of the most critical recommendations:
  • Eliminate local measures from APPR and make state testing 40% of the APPR score
  • Take away local district’s ability to negotiate to 60% portion of APPR and replace it with state mandated criteria
  • Insure that teachers who receive two consecutive ineffective ratings are removed from the classroom (at present it is at the district’s discretion to do so)
  • Replace the independent arbitrators who oversee a teacher’s termination process with state employees
  • Make language explicit that untenured teachers can be fired at will – regardless of evaluations
  • Increase the probationary period for tenure to 5 years
  • Increase state aid to school districts by $2 billion
One item that was not part of the letter, but clearly goes along with it, is an education department recommendation that an expectation be put in place that at least 5% of teachers in every district MUST be rated ineffective. Districts that don’t comply would be subject to audits.
As you might guess, there have been a number of responses to this letter, but there is one, from the NYS Allies for Public Education, that everyone must read, in it’s entirety. It provided a important rebuttal and a very clear summation of the actual issues. Please click here to read it, and then