News and Links: March 15, 2015

A couple of good links to post on Facebook:

  • A quick summary of Cuomo’s education plan: “The Ugly Truth
  • Great article from Huffington Post about what schools should be
  • Good response to folks who think that tenure is just a wasteful perk that guarantees a job for life: “Why Tenure Matters.”

California Dreaming
The state of California is backing off from relying solely on test scores to evaluate teachers and schools. They are putting a one year delay on the use of a new test being rolled out this year, preferring to wait for “at least two years of results to judge school progress,” and will “shift from a school quality measure based solely on exam results to one that would include other factors.” Fully story from Daily Kos.

A bill has been introduced in the Senate and Assembly, to “require the state Department of Education to notify parents of their right to not have children in grades 3 through 8 participate in Common Core-based testing.”

Sell Outs
Ever wonder how it’s possible that some teachers come out in support of the “reform” movement? Maybe, like some teachers in New Mexico and Florida, they’re being paid or offered gift cards for writing blogs or posting comments on blogs that are favorable to the anti-public school movement.

More from William Cala
In case you missed it, a few weeks ago, Diane Ravitch posted this scathing critique of Governor Cuomo’s plans written by former SWR Superintendent William Cala. If you have time, there is also this video of a forum in Rochester on the State of Education in NY

James Milgrim on Common Core Math
This is not new, but it’s definitely worth sharing because a lot of people may not know about this.  James Milgrim, who is not only a mathematician, but was the only mathematician who served ON THE VALIDATION COMMITTEE, takes down the Common Core from a number of angles. (Thanks to Frank Uchman for the link)

State Budget Update

As noted last week, both the Assembly and the Senate have separated the Governor’s education deform proposals from their budgets. While this is great news, the Senate has introduced a separate resolution which gives Cuomo what he wants. (Click here for a summary comparing the Governor’s proposals with the the Assembly and Senate resolutions)

This is why we cannot let up. As former SWR Superintendent William Cala posted on Facebook, (incorporating a quotation from Malcom X) “ANY compromise with the 50-35-15 APPR system is a complete and total loss for teachers, children and public education . . . A compromise is capitulation to further damage. ‘You stick a knife in 9 inches, then pull it out 6 inches and call it progress.'” 

Is Pearson "spying" on our children?

Education blogs and social media sites are on fire this morning over reports that Pearson is spying on children via their social media posts. Here’s a quick summary and some thoughts.

A school superintendent in New Jersey reported that her district had been contacted by Pearson about a breach of test security. According to the test company, a student had posted a picture of a test question on Twitter. In actuality, the student had posted a comment about the test hours after the test was over. The story was reported by Bob Braun of the Star Ledger, who discovered that Pearson became aware of the alleged incident through a service which they use to monitor social media. Pearson’s response is essentially that monitoring public postings on social media is necessary to insure secure tests.   You can read more about this story at BobBraunLedger, The Washington Post, and DailyKos.

Most articles are focusing on the “spying” aspect, but that may be just a tad bit of hyperbole. The company Pearson is using doesn’t actually “spy” on individuals, it monitors social media for key words. Still pretty creepy though. Beyond that:

Pearson isn’t acknowledging any wrongdoing. But it’s interesting to note that until this morning, Tracx, the company that does the monitoring for them had a page on their website using Pearson as a case study for their service. As soon as the story exploded, they took the page down. Unfortunately for them, Google caches website pages, so you can still view it here. (note to anyone thinking about hiring Tracx, these guys don’t seem to know how the internet works).

Could be just a coincidence, but once Bob Braun’s story took off, his site was hit with a DOS attack and knocked offline. (Not making any specific accusations, but maybe Tracx DOES understand how the internet works)

What’s most disturbing about this isn’t just the spying / monitoring, it’s the fact that this whole story broke based on a FALSE ACCUSATION. Remember, Pearson claimed that there was a photograph of a test item taken during a test, but no such picture existed. That is not a simple mix-up, it is a HUGE distinction.  And this is the company that will be controlling all the data that will be used to determine who passes and who fails – who gets fired and who gets to keep their job.
Finally, if nothing else, this is just another reminder about the use of social media and posting things on the web. 
  • Everything posted on Twitter is public 
  • Things posted on Facebook, Instagram, etc,  are only private if you make them private – and even then they’re only as secure as your worst frenemy.
  • Even when you delete something, it may be too late (just ask Tracx)

News and Links: March 5, 2015

Some of the following links are, once again, pretty depressing, so we’ve made sure this post closes with some positive news.

  • You may have seen Dr. Cohen’s email which highlighted a job posting for “assessment evaluators” to grade state tests at $11.50 an hour. (If you didn’t read it, see this similar post from Diane Ravitch).  To get a sense of just how insane this is, read this first-hand account written by one of those temps. Key quote from the piece:

“If you’re a parent, just think about the fact your child’s test is being graded by some 23-year-old apathetic slacker who was hired without an interview, who has zero teaching experience, and whose main goal is to score as quickly as possible without getting fired. To the bigwigs at Pearson, your child is just a number, a statistic.”

  •  Fortunately Dr. Cohen is not the only local superintendent railing against the reform agenda. Along with Dr. Rella of Comsewogue and Michael Hynes of Pat-Med, David Gamberg of Southold has been very vocal. Here’s an excellent, short, piece from School Leadership in which he articulates how foolish it is to evaluate teachers by test scores (esp. art, music, PE. etc). 

  • Here’s another petition that’s just been started up calling out the Governor for attempting to destroy our schools.  Thanks to Greg Schmit who teaches Social Studies at the Middle School.
  • The question came up in one of the meetings about why NYSUT doesn’t advertise more, and the basic answer was money. To address this, NYSUT is looking for contributions to fund their “Call Out Cuomo” campaign. Click here to contribute.

  • Also in last week’s meetings, we made reference to the money the state took away from schools through the GEA. The state has also failed to deliver funds that were owed through the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit. SWR is currently owed $5.1 million by New York State. Click here to see how much other districts have been shorted. 
  • In late 2013 we conducted a member survey on the Common Core and 90% of SWRTA members expressed dissatisfaction with them (about half of those members felt they should be revised, 1/4 thought they should be scrapped, and 1/4 thought we should just work through the problems). The NEA posted a piece calling for keeping the CCSS, but with a “course correction.”  We aren’t going to do another survey, but we’re curious how many teachers have had a shift in their opinions in the last 18 months. Please feel free to email us your feelings on the topic. (Thank you to Linda Blasko for the link).

A little good news:
Over the past few weeks, there have been rallies and forums all over the state, including not just teachers, but lots of parents as well. Attendance has been impressive, and many more are planned. Early this week over a thousand educators filled the steps of the Capital.

Locally, we have been getting incredibly positive feedback from members, many of whom wrote letters or made phone calls for the very first time (and found, as promised, that it was really not at all painful).  We’re getting more questions like “what else can I do?” than every before.

The result so far?  More legislators are speaking out against the Governor’s proposals, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (who replaced the ousted Sheldon Silver). Heastie promises he will will join [teachers] in calling for the support and investment that our students need to succeed,” and says”there are other factors that should be considered when you look at why schools don’t perform… To me, it is unfair to blame teachers.”

News and Links: March 2nd (Special All Cuomo Edition)

Under the philosophy of “know thy enemy,” here are a whole assortment of stories and links related to Governor Cuomo.

In a way, you’ve got to hand it to Cuomo. The man is the walking embodiment of chutzpah. For his first term, he ran on a platform of transparency and anti-corruption. He began his second term, along with pushing education reforms, by tying the budget to ethics reform for the state legislature. And yet…

  • In full view of everyone, the Governor’s office, which is a potential target of a Federal investigation related to the shutdown of the Moreland Commission and other possible wrongdoing, announced a new policy whereby all emails will be deleted after 90 days. They claim it is to facilitate a new email system, but EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS BS. The Microsoft system the Governor’s office uses can store thirty years worth of email. Nonetheless, they’re going forward. Does the email deletion constitute and obstruction of justice? We’ll never know, as the evidence will have long been destroyed before the Feds get close enough to ask the question.
  • Andrew Cuomo wrote a book. Nothing big about that – politicians write books all the time. What’s notable though, is that Cuomo will get more than $700,000 for this book, which so far has sold 3,000 copies and isn’t exactly on the upswing. If you’re wondering how a publisher could be so foolish as to set themselves up to lose more than a half-million dollars on a book deal, consider that “the Cuomo administration was lobbied both before and after … the book contract by the owner of HarperCollins, News Corporation, and News Corp received tens of millions in tax breaks as a result of that lobbying.”  Read more at the Perdido Street School Blog.
  • HS Social Studies teacher Greg Schmit passed along this link from the Washington Post, and says we should start referring to Cuomo as Governor Oscar Meyer. The article takes Cuomo to task for a few things, not the least of which is his claiming the APPR system is “baloney” despite not only praising it, but having taken credit for it just three years ago. (Read that directly from his office here.)
  • Sign this petition to tell the Governor that his failure to fund NYC schools is a violation of students’ civil rights.
  • PJSTA Teacher (and SWR parent) Melissa McMullan, who spoke eloquently and passionately at last week’s SEPTA meeting, takes on the Governor in this open letter
  • From the same district, you need to watch this video from Dr. Rella, Superintendent of Comsewogue Schools. It’s a great explanation of the problems with the GEA, Common Core, and the evaluation system, and includes the line ““I don’t think he [Gov. Cuomo] likes us. It might be mutual.”