News & Links: Non Political Edition

Just for a change of pace, here’s a collection of news and links that have nothing to do with testing, evaluations, or politics.

  • You know how  sometimes you feel like you’re doing everything you can possibly do and there’s still that kid in your class who hates school?  Maybe it’s in his genes.

  • Nancie Atwell, teacher, author , and winner of the first annual $1 million Global Teacher Prize  has some thoughts on what innovation in education really means and wants to reclaim the term back from technology like “tablets, e-readers, and assorted digital platforms” that “are doing children more harm than good.” Click here to read about what she calls “the simplest and most powerful classroom innovation that she has used in during her 40-year career.”
  • The Teaching Brain, a book that came out at the end of last year, attempts to answer some fundamental questions about education using research, the authors’ own experiences in the classroom, and brain science. Here’s an interview with Vanessa Rodriguez, one of the authors.

  • Peter Greene blogs calls his blog “Curmudgucation,” but here’s a pretty un-curmudgeon-like post on NOT counting down the days 


New York State Looking to Ban Snowblowers

Using Data to Fix the Weather

by Trevor Krebbec, staff reporter, Education Weak

In a move they say will help protect the residents, businesses, and schools of New York State from the effects of more harsh winters, officials are seeking to ban snow blowers.

The recommendation was made using the same data analysis system recently used to solve the education crisis.

Earlier, the State Education Department had looked at standardized test scores and realized that since teachers who work in schools with the population segments that tend to do most poorly on tests are less likely to be rated effective, the problem can be fixed by moving the teachers from one set of schools to another. As a spokesman said,”We looked at these groups who are far more likely to be dealing with the effects of poverty or to live in homes where English isn’t the primary language, and we said, clearly the issue here is the teachers. We can’t think of any other explanation.”

With this problem out of the way, state officials turned to the weather, another issue that, like public education, they see as “a huge drain on taxpayer money.” Analysts poured over years and years of national sales data for various products and realized that in states where snow blowers are sold, snowfall levels are much higher than in areas where they are not sold. In fact, Florida and Hawaii, two states in which snow blowers are not sold, get no snow at all. As one state official said, “We believe that by banning these items, we can drastically reduce, maybe even eliminate days lost due to snowfall. In fact, we really want to push this a step further. The plan is to confiscate all snow blowers in New York state and ship them to Southern California to help solve their drought.”

If this succeeds, the next area of focus will be medicine. One analyst said, “We created cluster maps of people suffering from various illnesses and were shocked to find an undeniable correlation between the location of hospitals and concentrations of sick people. This is a true health crisis, and it’s about time that they be held accountable. Why are we paying all this money for medical care when there are still sick people?” Plans are still in the works, but the state is looking to implement a system in which hospitals with too many sick people would lose funding and doctors and nurses who work there would be be rated ineffective.

News and Links: April 19, 2015

The latest collection of news and links:

First, a bunch of stories related to the Board of Regents

  • NYSED and the Board of Regents are in the process of re-making APPR. They have a deadline of June 30th (which they don’t think they will meet). If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to send a message to the Regents insisting that they hold public hearings rather than work in secrecy.

  • Whether they get it done on time or not, ever the Regents themselves are not optimistic about the quality of what they’re going to come up with. Regent Tilles was quoted as saying, “I am willing to make this as good as we can get it, but I’m not sure we can get it to the point where it’s good.”

  • Speaking of communicating with the Regents, here’s a great letter to the Board of Regents written by Comsewogue teacher and SWR parent Melissa McMullan.

  • Last week we posted a link to the video of Merryl Tisch and Diane Ravitch on “All In with Chris Hays.” Many people were disappointed at how short it was, especially given that Ravitch could have eviscerated Tisch. Still, there were some important points made, and Valerie Straus explains here why it was remarkable.

  • And on the topic of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch herself, an editorial in the Lower Hudson Journal News is calling for her resignation

In other news


  • The Senate Education Panel unanimously approved a re-write of the ESEA, to be known as the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. This long-overdue fix for NCLB will now go to the full Senate, where it is likely to face much more partisanship and haggling. While there are some good aspects to the new measure – it eliminates AYP (annual yearly progress) requirements as well as federal requirements that teacher evaluations be tied to test scores – it does maintain the mandate for annual testing in grades 3-8.

  • There have been a few stories lately about Hillary Clinton and the tough line she has to walk between conflicting voices on education. That’s nonsense. As this piece in the Progressive says, Hillary Clinton needs to champion public schools. End of story.

  • Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre, and outspoken critic of the Common Core and the reform agenda overall, has announced that she’s retiring from her position and will “dedicate all of [her] energies to fighting the assault on our public schools and our teachers.” This is certainly a loss for Rockville Centre, but a gain for the children of New York. Read her announcement here. (Thanks to Frank Uchman and Leeann Kraus for sharing the link).

  • CBS News aired this report on the effect of Common Core assessment on special ed students.

  • In case you missed it in the mainstream media, the teachers in the Atlanta cheating scandal were sentenced last week. Some will spend up to seven years in prison.

Caution: Face Palm Warning

Last week it was reported that the Regents are worried they may not be able to make the June 30th deadline for issuing new evaluation regulations. Today, Newsday quotes Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch as saying she didn’t think schools will be able to meet the November 15th deadline. The response from the Governor’s office?

“The legal deadline for the state to approve the district evaluation systems will not change and we fully expect the law to be complied with,” spokeswoman Dani Lever said.

Administration officials noted that hundreds of districts across Long Island and the rest of the state managed to quickly adopt evaluation plans in 2012, despite widespread complaints that the plans rushed into place were seriously flawed.

In other words:

  • In 2012, Governor Cuomo forced through an evaluation system which EVERYONE agrees was a failure (albeit for different reasons), and most blame the unrealistic deadlines in whole or in part for that failure. 
  • Cuomo then used the failure of that system to justify scuttling the it in favor something completely new.
  • When the Board of Regents, the people he tasked with creating the new system, say it can’t be done in the time allotted, his administration refuses to budge, insisting it can be done. And their evidence for why it’s possible? The failed system that he rushed through in the first place.
The publishers of this blog/website apologize for any self-inflicted injuries caused by reading this post.

News and Links: April 13, 2015

Two Important Stories You May Have Missed

Last week the New York Times published an in-depth look at Success Academy, the charter school chain run by former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. It contrasted the unparalleled passing rates their students achieved on state tests (65-90% vs. about 30% for NYC overall) with reports of just how they manage to get those scores, including long hours, public embarrassment of students and teachers, and stress so high that elementary students often wet themselves during practice tests.

Eleven Atlanta teachers were convicted in what is being called the largest test-cheating scandal ever. Of course, calling it that ignores the fact that the entire NCLB testing movement is based on fraudulent data, and that in the next few weeks students in New York alone will cumulatively be cheated out of literally tens of millions of hours of instructional time for invalid tests.  These teachers were prosecuted under RICO laws, which were created to target organizwst crime syndicates. Not to condone their actions, but there is a supposed to be a standard in this country that the punishment should fit the crime and that mitigating circumstances should be considered. but these teachers, who insist they received tremendous pressure from above to change tests, and who say they believed they were doing the right thing to keep their schools from being closed, now face as much as 20 years in prison.

Clinton and Cuomo

Probably not news to anyone, but Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for 2016. The Badass Teachers Association offers their congratulations along with a reminder of earlier statements she’s made about education.

Now that Hillary is officially in, Andrew Cuomo is officially out, throwing his full support behind Clinton. This is not a complete surprise either, as his poll numbers have made it clear he didn’t have a shot, and he’d already begun preparing for his third term run.

New Education Laws
In the summary of the new education law post, we wrote that the section on reducing testing was just there “to give cover to the Governor and the Legislature so they can say that there is language in the budget about reducing testing.” They wasted no time in proving us right.

A lot of people have expressed concern about how the outside evaluator portion will work. Don’t worry,Thomas Kane, who knows all about teaching because he worked for the Gates Foundation has it all figured out. Outside observations can be done by video.

A few weeks ago we posted a story showing that enrollment in teaching programs is declining in the US. That story mentioned NY, but did not have specific numbers.   This story gives NY numbers and they don’t look good (and of course, that’s prior to the new laws that were just passed.)

We know that the growth score model is deeply flawed. How flawed? In Florida, thousands of teachers will be penalized for the crime of having students who got perfect scores the prior year. liability for your evaluation. Yes, if they get perfect scores one year, the VAM model expects them to get higher than perfect scores the next year.

How insane has the evaluation system gotten? A teacher in New Mexico received an ineffective rating due to poor attendance. He missed time as a result of having lung cancer surgery. (Thanks to Linda Burke for the link)

Opting Out
Finally, for a quick chuckle, watch this parody of Billy Joel’s “Moving Out (Anthony’s Song)” (Thanks to Karla Roberts for the link). For those too young to know the reference, here’s the original.

Opt-Out Hysterics From Newsday

Yesterday’s Newsday featured an opinion piece claiming that “Opting Out Spells Disaster.” 

We get it. Anything the teachers’ union supports, Newsday opposes. But at this point they’re just phoning it in, as this has to be one of the most easily refutable Op-Ed pieces ever published.

The piece starts off with a comical level of hysterics (“when politics threaten to harm the well-being of children it becomes a dangerous game.”) throws out bogus statistics (“students spend less than 1 percent of their time in school taking state tests … 480 minutes [out of ] their 64,800-minute school year. Further, the state education department also limits “test prep” to no more than 2 percent of classroom time in a year.”), then moves on to three reasons opting out will bring about the end of times:

1. The tests are an annual “checkup.”

The authors state that “under the old system, hundreds of thousands of children — from the suburbs to the cities — slipped through the cracks and could drift along without intervention. That led to more than 60 percent leaving high school in New York without being college or career ready.”

First of all, that 60% number is more than debatable, but let’s leave that aside. Notice instead that the authors don’t even try to pretend that there is any evidence that annual testing has ever been shown to actually improve academic achievement. You’d think that something that has been federally mandated for over TEN YEARS would have at least some data to support its efficacy, no? After all, this is all about the magic of data, right?

2. The tests help high-need districts.

The authors rightly point out that “We need to make sure every child is advancing.” 

This is a good point, but once again, the authors provide no support for this, probably because there is not a shred of evidence anywhere that standardized testing does anything to help students in high needs districts. Rather, they promise a false solution instead of looking at the real underlying issues, and worse, tend to force higher needs districts to narrow their teaching and deprive these students of the benefits of a rounded education.

3. What does this teach your kids?

Great question. Opting out teaches students that people should think for themselves and stand up for what’s right. It teaches them that they should not just blindly do what they’re told, but use their judgment. It teaches them to be critical thinkers who are able to recognize flat-out lies like: “Opting out could be disastrous for our school districts. The financial stakes are incredibly high. Schools with less than 95 percent participation risk losing federal funding, specifically Title I, Part A funds. State aid tied to teacher evaluation requirements is on the line, too.”

Next question?

Fed. Testing Legislation Discussion

Congressman Lee Zeldin has co-sponsored legislation which would reduce the federal testing mandates – replacing annual testing with “grade span testing.”  If it were to pass, this legislation would go a long way toward reversing the current trend of reducing public schools to test-prep centers.

He is hosting a discussion this Sunday in Port Jeff Station (see details below).

In truth, this legislation has little chance of becoming law – it contradicts the agreement recently reached by the Senate Education Committee (which includes annual testing) and President Obama has promised to veto any legislation that does not include annual testing.
However, it is important that we show our support for this. Just as we need to stand up against representatives who are betraying our students, we need to be just as emphatic in standing with lawmakers who are pushing to do the right thing for public education.

From Congressman Zeldin:
Please join me this Sunday, April 12, 2015, at 1:30 PM, to discuss the Student Testing Improvement & Accountability Act at the atrium area of the Comsewogue High School located at 565 Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station.
I will be calling on Congress to pass the Student Testing Improvement & Accountability Act, which I co-sponsor, and discussing the importance of passing this bill to roll back federally mandated testing in our Long Island schools. You can view this legislation here.
Please feel free to call my Patchogue office at (631) 289-1097, if you have any questions. I hope you will join me on Sunday.
With Best Regards,
Lee Zeldin

Member of Congress