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

Charter School Enrollment/Demand Lies - 13,000 Empty Seats in Chicago Charter Schools

You think the same thing isn't happening here in NYC? This is not just about not backfilling, as the Democracy Prep charter's phony campaign will have you believe. So-called "waiting lists" are hidden behind walls of secrecy but accepted by a fawning press as fact.

I dare anyone in the press to actually try to uncover the Success Charter "waiting" lists - and actually call people to see if they are real or memorex - like "I was walking down the street and was asked by a paid person if I was in favor of good schools and signed."

In this post, Jim Vail at Chicago's Second City Teachers blog reports on the real charter deal while also pointing the legit massive waiting lists for magnet schools. Imagine if the charter public theft of monies were devoted to filling the need of real demand.

Charter Enrollment Lies

Nearly 13,000 Empty Seats in Chicago Charter Schools – Increase of more than 1,000 Since 2014

Raise Your Hand Calls on CPS to Stop Irresponsible School Expansions During Fiscal Crisis and Lowest Enrollment in Decades

Chicago – April 20, 2015 – In an independent investigation of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) data from the 2014-15 school year, parent education advocacy group Raise Your Hand has revealed that there are currently 12,637 empty seats in existing charter schools based on the CPS threshold for ideal enrollment. This equates to 64 schools or 50 percent of Chicago charter schools. 
“The issue here is that CPS continues to rapidly expand charters at a time of fiscal crisis and declining enrollment, starving existing schools of needed resources. The money and students are not there to justify this,” said Executive Director of Raise Your Hand, Wendy Katten.

These revelations combined with an enrollment decline of over 7,000 students since 2012 and mass charter, contract and alternative high school expansion since the district closed 50 district schools for “underutilization” have parents and community members across the city demanding a halt to charter expansion.  In light of its findings, Raise Your Hand is calling on Chicago elected officials to support efforts to curb proliferation of charter expansion during this time of fiscal crisis and declining enrollment. 

Parent and Raise Your Hand Board member, Jennie Biggs added, “The number one type of school with waiting lists in Chicago are magnet schools, with over 99,000 applications each year according to WBEZ data.  Parent decisions clearly are not what’s driving the decisions to open more charter schools.”

Below is a comprehensive list of charter schools with empty seats based on CPS’ space utilization data (subtracting reported enrollment from CPS’s ideal capacity figures.  For 2014 comparison numbers, please e-mail
 Jim had a school by school breakdown here.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

NY Times Reveals Bias on Opt Out by lack of and poor coverage as one of our CTS stalwarts,Nancy Cauthen, sends them a letter

Diane Ravitch has a piece today on the Times' awful coverage (Why Does the Néw York Times Ignore Parent-Led Mass Opt Out?), not only of opt out but of education in general. I can answer Diane's question - because they are ed deformers.

They revolve reporters out of the beat so often, no one gets a handle. And the few good people they've had,like Mike Winerip and Anna Philips were either shifted to other beats or not rehired. Few knew the beat like Anna, who talked to everyone on all sides. (I attended Anna's going away party when she left for the Tampa Bay Times.)

It was good to see Nancy Cauthen's letter printed. Nancy, who comes from the corporate world, has been an essential cog in our Change the Stakes Steering committee.  When NYSAPE, which is helping drive the statewide opt out movement, invited CTS to have a rep on their steering committee, Nancy was the unanimous choice. Here is Diane's piece, followed by Nancy's letter.

The Néw York Times has barely covered the historic parent Opt Out movement. Before the testing began, it ran a story about parents who decided not to opt out for fear their children would suffer. When the opt out was making news across the nation, given the huge numbers, the Times did not deign to report the story. Then, at last, the Times wrote a story about how teachers' unions had fomented the opt out, with no attempt to explain why nearly 200,000 parents from across the state might take orders from the unions.
But there was more trivialization and dodging. On Friday the Times published a story about districts that follow a "sit and stare" policy for children who opt out. It quoted several superintendents who disapproved of the opt outs, but not one of the superintendents who were sympathetic.
The parent-educator group that led the Opt Out movement published a letter to the editor asking why the Times has been dismissive of their hard work.
Parents’ Role in the New York Test Protest
APRIL 24, 2015
To the Editor:
From “Teachers Fight Tests, and Find Diverse Allies” (front page, April 21), readers would never know that the 185,000-plus students who opted out of the state English Language Arts test last week did so because of more than three years of organizing by a genuinely grass-roots movement of public school parents.
This year parent groups held more than 100 forums across the state; rallied, protested and raised thousands of dollars for billboards promoting test refusal; and engaged tens of thousands more parents via Facebook and Twitter. Sadly, this article epitomizes the media’s preference to portray every education story as a battle between the teachers unions and their opponents.
New York
The writer is on the steering committees of New York State Allies for Public Education and Change the Stakes.

Video: Pearson Defends Tests - It's Stupid to Opt Out

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lost in Yonkers at the RTC - Opening night tonight - Norm in the Wave

Memo from the RTC: Lost in Yonkers Opening Night Friday, April 24
By Norm Scott

When I heard the Rockaway Theatre Company was doing Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers”, a play I had not seen, I watched the movie version on TCM.  Given it was a Neil Simon play, while still funny, I was surprised at the level of serious drama  involved in the story and blown away by the performance by Mercedes Ruehl as Aunt Bella, who should have run an academy award. I still haven’t seen the play, but an looking forward to the April 24 opening night at the RTC. There is so much complexity and depth to this story.

Here is a quick synopsis  from Wikipedia:
“Brooklyn, 1942, Evelyn Kurnitz has just died following a lengthy illness. Her husband, Eddie Kurnitz, needs to take a job as a traveling salesman to pay off the medical bills incurred, and decides to ask his stern and straight talking mother, from whom he is slightly estranged, if his two early-teen sons, Jay and Arty can live with her and their Aunt Bella Kurnitz in Yonkers. She reluctantly agrees after a threat by Bella. Despite their Grandma owning and operating a candy store, Jay and Arty don't like their new living situation as they're afraid of their Grandma, and find it difficult to relate to their crazy Aunt Bella, whose slow mental state is manifested by perpetual excitability and a short attention span, which outwardly comes across as a childlike demeanor. Into their collective lives returns one of Eddie and Bella's other siblings, Louie Kurnitz, a henchman for some gangsters. He is hiding out from Hollywood Harry, who wants what Louie stole and is hiding in his small black bag. Jay and Arty's mission becomes how to make money fast so that they can help their father and move back in together, which may entail stealing the $15,000 their Grandma has hidden somewhere. Bella's mission is to find a way to tell the family that she wants to get married to Johnny, her equally slow movie theater usher boyfriend; the two could also use $5,000 of Grandma's hidden money to open their dream restaurant. And Louie's mission is to survive the next couple of days.”

I worked with master builder Tony Homsey and his crew in building the set, which is the apartment above the candy store.  We put final touches on last Friday and I noticed how the set is dressed with such wonderful details. I wish the audiences could go on stage to explore the photos and other brilliant “40s” touches. (See cast photo.) Here are some comments from the cast and crew.

Steve Ryan: People connect to Lost in Yonkers because Simon touches on harsh realities that many will deal with at one point or another in their lives; loss of a parent, loss of a child, lack of affection, leaving home.  Everyone will leave the play thinking about this family, and admitting (perhaps not out loud) that the Kurnitz family could easily be their own. 

Lynda Browning: I'll be playing Bella. It's no surprise that Neil Simon won the Pulitzer for this play. It's so beautifully written and the characters are so real. Playing Bella has been challenging but so rewarding. And you couldn't have asked for a better cast, director or crew to work with. Everyone is so supportive of each other and we're having so much fun!

Susan Corning: I am absolutely thrilled to be in the cast of Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize winning drama. The role of Grandma Kurnitz is the most complex and unique character that I have ever had the opportunity to portray, and I love the challenge of bringing her to life. Director David Risley has such a passion for this project, and has put together what I consider a dream team- production, cast and crew. I have the pleasure of working with four amazing talented young actors, who play my grandsons. It is wonderful to watch their characters grow and our relationships develop. My favorite moments is when I get to share the stage with the incredibly talented Lynda Browning, a dream that has finally come true for me.

Suzanne Riggs, Stage Manager: I think any Neil Simon fan would love to see this show because it's beautifully done. This set is fantastic and the boys (all 4 in the double casting) are very endearing as the two brothers. I'm excited because this set is comprised of a lot of my aunt Martha and uncle Harry Raphael's original furniture. They lived in the Rockaways from the very early 1900s and started the first taxi cab service on beach 116th St. So I feel this show has a lot of them in it and it's like a happy memory for me seeing their things on the stage.

Performances: Apr. 24, 25, May 1, 2 – 8PM, Apr. 26, May 3: 2PM

Video: John Stewart on Atlanta Cheating Compared to Wall St. Cheating

From Varerie Strauss at WAPO:
This is one of those videos that make you want to laugh and cry at the same time. I you didn’t watch it, take a few minutes, and if you did see it, watch it again and see what you missed amid the layers of deep analysis for which “The Daily Show” is known.
Jon Stewart on Wednesday night made the inevitable comparison between the former teachers and administrators in Atlanta who were sentenced for cheating on standardized tests — a few for as much as seven years — with Wall Street denizens who in 2008 connived in a way that nearly brought down the country’s financial system. Only one was sentenced to 12 months in jail.
The Atlanta convictions, of racketeering and other crimes in a standardized test-cheating scandal, were believed to be the worst of a wave of test cheating in nearly 40 states and Washington, D.C. — not by students but by teachers and administrators who were under pressure to meet certain score goals at the risk of sanction if they failed.
The case stemmed from a 2013 indictment by a grand jury of Beverly Hall, the now-deceased Atlanta schools superintendent, and 34 teachers, principals and others. Twelve teachers eventually went to trial; one was acquitted of all charges and the 11 others were all convicted of racketeering — under a law used against the Gambino organized-crime family — plus a variety of other charges. Prosecutors alleged that Hall had run a “corrupt” organization that used test scores to financially reward and punish teachers. Hall passed away earlier this year.
The judge in Atlanta is said to be reconsidering his harshest sentences.
Stewart compares the cases and finds a surprising number of similarities — except the sentences.

Principal to Arne Duncan: It's not the teachers unions - ITS YOUR POLICIES - THAT'S WHY WE OPT OUT!!! - and besides - you're a fraud and DFER tool

Dorie Nolt kisses off opt out parents as union influenced
We heard from Rahm Emmanuel all about how bad Chicago schools are - well who was in charge for all those years?? ARNE DUNCAN!  
This came in over the transom to ed notes HQ from a school leader:
I  called Dorie Nolt (  the spokeswoman for US Sec. of MIS-Education in DC who was quoted in a Gotham (Chalkbeat) Schools piece  as saying something like "THE PARENTS WHO OPTED OUT IN NY WERE put up to it by the teachers unions"....

I told her that Arne Duncan, her boss, is a fraud and has no record of demonstrated classroom experience.

He is a corporate/DFER tool. 

As she did not like or agree with my assessment of her boss as "a shill with no license nor qualifications " and tried to cut me off repeatedly after I read her her own comments , she just kept thanking me for my service as an educator and a parent... email to ed notes
I told her that 61% of my home district opted out and I doubt she interviewed each and every one of the parents there...we are not all teachers nor beholden to their unions.

I encourage EVERY PARENT WHO SHARES MY OUTRAGE to CALL Dorie Nolt at 202 453-6544... DEMAND AN APOLOGY!!!

Tell her WE KNOW OUR CHILDREN not her and Obama and Duncan his new deputy John King, Cuomo and Tisch.. LEAVE OUR KIDS ALONE!!!

Its not the teachers unions- ITS YOUR POLICIES- THAT'S WHY WE OPT OUT!!!

Stick it up your ___ not mine! 
I also called multiple State Senators today to support Sen. Terrance Murphy's "Common Core Parental Refusal Act", which would protect students, teachers, principals, schools and districts from any retaliation or negative consequences from parents exercising their right to opt out.
I called State Sen. John Flanagan about this. I told him that despite proof that annual screening can help us avoid prostate cancer, it was his choice to go and get an annual digital rectal exam. Should other men decide not to - that was their legitimate choice and despite any possible negative consequences down the road - he can stick it up his _____ but has no right sticking it up anyone else's.

Like Charelton Heston yelled in planet of the Apes... This is a   MADHOUSE!!!!!   A MAAAAAAAADHHHOOOUUUSSSEEE!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

NYC Coalition of Community Charter Schools: STATEMENT ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS

For Immediate Release April 24, 2015

As stakeholders in the future of "public" education as long as the charter cap is listed and every school becomes a charter, the NYC Coalition of Community Charter Schools is concerned over the climate around teacher evaluations which we believe deters young people from pursuing careers in education. As independent charter schools, our autonomy allows us to hire unqualified, inexpensive teachers so we can turn over our staff on a regular basis. If one of our teachers manages to reach 30 they are counseled out. We evaluate staff and leadership using our own metrics. The power to develop our own criteria, free from any public scrutiny cannot be overstated as that power allows us to feed at the public trough without scrutiny.

It’s what drives us to innovate new methods of test prep and creative ways of counseling students out by nudging their parents to death and to give teachers the support they need to excel at their craft of getting high scores and making sure no child is allowed to move or speak without being given permission. This autonomy is at the heart of who we are - and if you happen to have extra underwear for our kids who are forced to sit still without bathroom breaks, please send them over.
Charter schools are public schools - when it suits us and private schools when it doesn't and C3S supports all public education - as long as they are charter schools that keep saying they are public schools.
From the desk of Norm Scott

The actual release is below the break - for a few more laughs.

Ken Derstine: Randi Weingarten: Sleight of Hand Artist – Part 2 - + Commentary - Collaboration Roots Go Back to Shanker

...what union leaders affiliated with Ms. Weingarten say at a union meeting should not really be taken seriously - it is just red meat to appease the huddled rank and file. This reveals her sleight of hand method – disrespect for the interests of teachers and public schools and respect for corporate education reform interests – or is her sleight of hand to say what she thinks the AEI audience will want to hear? It can’t be both!... Ken Derstine at Defend Public Education blog
Ken continues his exposure of teacher union connection to ed deformers.

I could title this "Randi continues 3-4 decades of AFT/UFT collaboration."

Randi's ties to the ed deform movement is not her innovation, but a continuation of the policies set by Al Shanker - directing the actions of the union toward variations of ed deform: he is the father of the charter school concept - even as they tried to disavow it as not being what he really meant. "Everyone makes a mistake," he glibly said.

I urged Ken to read the Kahlenberg Shanker hagiography, Albert Shanker, Tough Liberal, a book Eli Broad helped finance to celebrate Shanker as one of the key founders of the ed deform movement.

Note the opening of chapter 14: Education Reform, merit pay, peer review, a Nation at Risk - 1983-4. Shanker was still president of the UFT and the AFT at the same time:
As a social Democratic thinker, Albert Shanker took a number of posititions that made his fellow liberals [ed note -should be neo-liberal] uneasy. As an education reformer, he would ruffle many feathers among his fellow advocates of education reform – building alliances with business, acknowledging shortcomings in public education, and proposing innovative ideas on teacher pay and firing of bad teachers – all of which shocked the education establishment.... Shanker became a central figure, arguably the most influential American educator of the last quarter of the twentieth century.
I keep emphasizing this to those who feel things would be so much better if Randi went away. Not so when union policy has been tied up with the corporate and government interests for 40 years. 
When I look at the original standards in the Common Core: the going for deeper knowledge and for applying facts, and not just knowing things, but trying to come up with problem solving and critical thinking, what it took me back to was my teaching at Clara Barton High School …" Randi Weingarten at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), talking about her "six" years of teaching.
Randi lied about her credentials even to the AEI, since she only taught full time for 6 months. The rest of the time she would go in and teach a few periods - and was supposedly the coach of the debate team - and go off to the union. Shanker and Sandy had designated her as the successor in the 80s and she had to get credentials. The found her a safe school near her home in Brooklyn - Leo Casey was the chapter leader there. Her total number of days teaching was miniscule. By never having taught in real conditions like her constituents, Randi never had a sense of what it was really like.

Here is Ken's full piece. Also see my previous posts and commentaries on Ken's previous pieces:
 Randi Weingarten: Sleight of Hand Artist – Part 2
April 22, 2015

By Ken Derstine
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is one of the oldest and most influential of the pro-business right-wing think tanks. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism, and has been extremely successful in placing its people in influential governmental positions, particularly in the Bush Administration. AEI has been described as one of the country's main bastions of neoconservatism.Right Wing Watch / People for the American Way

Part 1 of this article noted that at a conference of the American Enterprise Institute held on February 5th, 2015, Randi Weingarten was praised by researchers for corporate education reformers for her collaboration in developing a teacher evaluation system based on standardized tests as part of the Gates Foundation’s “teacher quality” agenda. Part 1 concluded by pointing out that Randi Weingarten’s public labor persona differs from what goes on behind the scenes in her collaboration with corporate education reformers.

A clear picture of Ms. Weingarten’s thinking behind her collaboration with AEI can be seen in a one-hour forum held with AEI researchers on June 18, 2014. For an hour she spoke on “Unions in public education: Problem or solution?” Her speech came three months after the AFT quietly announced that it would no longer take money from The Gates Foundation

At this forum she spoke candidly to an AEI audience whose members want to abolish unions or turn them into company unions that are part of management. Weingarten’s sleight of hand method can be seen in her answer to a question by the AEI moderator Frederick Hess who asks Ms. Weingarten (42:07 minutes into the video):

Early last month the New York Post reported that your successor at the UFT, Michael Mulgrew, had told a gathering of the UFT leadership, “We’re at war with the reformers. Their ideas will absolutely destroy, forget about public education, they will destroy education in our country.” He said of slow walking efforts on evaluation, “It was a strategy to gum up the works because we knew what their lawyers were trying to do.”  So curious, when these things get out, how does that speak to this the issue of cooperation, or trust or finding common ground?”

 Ms. Weingarten’s reply:
So I think, number one, let me just say that whatever Michael said was said in the middle of a private union meeting. Now, I know the UFT, you have 3000 people in the room, probably NSA is taping every other word, nothing is private, right? But if you have what is set as a union meeting, just like if you had a board meeting that is a confidential board meeting, you would not expect that anybody would actually use whatever was said in that meeting. 

If it is not to curry favor with her corporate audience why would the President of a national teachers union respond in such a way to an AEI audience about a statement from a union official warning that public education is under attack? And to top it off, she says no one would expect that “anyone would actually use what was said in that meeting.” In other words, what union leaders affiliated with Ms. Weingarten say at a union meeting should not really be taken seriously - it is just red meat to appease the huddled rank and file. This reveals her sleight of hand method – disrespect for the interests of teachers and public schools and respect for corporate education reform interests – or is her sleight of hand to say what she thinks the AEI audience will want to hear? It can’t be both!

Immediately after the above exchange, Weingarten says the statements must be seen in the context of “the war” that was going on in New York City, with relentless attacks on teachers by corporate education reformers. This is immediately followed by praise for the recent UFT contract that included agreeing to a career ladder program and state law waivers by schools, along with other concessions.

The first part of the AEI meeting shows Randi Weingarten speaking prepared remarks explaining the AFT to this conservative audience. She informed the audience of three programs that the AFT is involved with. (6:51) In introducing each one, she had a hand vote from the audience to see who knew about the program, and to scold the members of the audience who were not aware of the program. If this was Ms. Weingarten’s method of teaching during her six years as a teacher, this shaming the students is one of the worst methods of instruction. In this case, she was not so much interested in the audience being informed about the particular program as she was interested in demonstrating how the AFT is collaborating with corporate education reform.

The first program (6:58) Weingarten described was the public-private partnerships the AFT is creating in McDowell County, West Virginia, one of West Virginia’s poorest counties. Weingarten said this corporate/labor model is to be expanded to all counties in West Virginia and Mayor deBlasio wants to bring it to New York to forty schools. Not mentioned at this forum, is the collaboration with Teach for America to build a Teacher Village for low income housing for low-income teachers in McDowell County.

The second program (8:40) Weingarten mentions is “one of the fastest growing online education companies in the United States of America called Share My Lesson” created by the AFT. This has thousands of lessons, including “250,000 lessons created by the AFT” and (not mentioned at the forum) The Gates Foundation Innovation Fund, which “are aligned to the Common Core.” Since 2012, AFT’s Share My Lesson has been a collaboration with the United Kingdom digital education company TES Global.

The third program (10:21) is a partnership under the Clinton Global Initiative with other unions to invest $10 billion of public employee pension funds “in a sound fiduciary way to fix crumbling infrastructure, create jobs, and deliver solid returns.” She claims that this has created 30,000 jobs. No mention of wages, benefits, union rights, etc. Weingarten does not mention what gives her the authority to use the pension funds of her members in this risky way.

In her conversation with the AEI’s Frederick Hess, he asked (47:14) about the proposal at that time by the Gates Foundation of a two-year moratorium on the consequences of Common Core assessments. He noted this is what Weingarten had proposed in 2013. He also noted that Weingarten in June, 2010 said Common Core “is essential building blocks for a better educational system”, but in 2012 she said the implementation was far worse than the way Obamacare was implemented. He asked her position on the Common Core. After speaking of what she learned in her six years of teaching Weingarten replied (48:05):

If you think about all those statements, they’re pretty consistent. I’m a big believer in it and I am for the following reasons. I was a lawyer before I was a teacher so I had the opportunity to learn and practice the Socratic method.  I was also a litigator. That tool actually helped me more than virtually any other tool that I had for teacher prep in teaching my kids Civics and the Bill of Rights. When I look at the original standards in the Common Core: the going for deeper knowledge and for applying facts, and not just knowing things, but trying to come up with problem solving and critical thinking, what it took me back to was my teaching at Clara Barton High School …"

After a long monologue about her teaching, Hess interrupted her and asked why in 2013 was she upset by the implementation of Common Core.  She then went on for ten minutes explaining how the Common Core could be better implemented. She concluded that (54:08) “In some ways the Business Roundtable, the Gates Foundation, the Learning First Alliance; have all said a year later, “Wait a second, if you really want this to work, you got to do, not only the adjustments, but you have to give people the time to actually learn what we’re saying is an important new strategy for deeper learning for children.” 

At the beginning of her remarks (4:40), Randi Weingarten told the AEI audience that she engages with AEI because she believes in vigorous debate. As an example (6:20) she said, “We will have a real share of vigorous debate at the our (AFT) Convention this summer. I have promised that we are going to have an hour debate on the Common Core on the floor of our Convention. In New York… we call debate conversation.” The AFT Convention was held one month after Weingarten’s conversation with AEI.
George Schmidt of Chicago’s Substance News documented the “conversation” that happened at the AFT Convention over Common Core

It became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a debate about what’s best for the students, but what UFT -- and more broadly the leadership, which has always been centered in New York -- wanted. These “thugs” were not teachers, delegates noted. As the days of struggle unfolded, more and more delegates noted that they were bullies sent to block any attempt by the CTU to have an honest open debate about issues including Common Core, high stakes testing and special education in the context of "education reform" in 2014. The Educational Issues committee managed to shove through every resolution, including one supporting common core state standards for early childhood -- which is Pre-K – 3rd. The only resolution they did not push forward was anti-testing special education which was sent back to the executive council after a maneuver. It appeared to this reporter that the UFT was more interested in knocking down CTU resolutions than listening to the arguments and applying that information to the students they serve.

Also see The UFT’s Michael Mulgrew gets punchy. But only towards union members in the hall. | Fred Klonsky’s blog – August 7, 2014
Even Weingarten allies were outraged at how the AFT leadership stifled debate on the Common Core. After the Convention, Diane Ravitch commented:
Stephen Sawchuck did a good job reporting the heated debate about the Common Core standards at the AFT convention. The Chicago Teachers Union wanted to dump them. The head of the New York City United Federation of Teachers mocked the critics of the standards. One union official said that the critics represented the Tea Party. That’s pretty insulting to the Chicago Teachers Union and one-third of the AFT delegates, as well as people like Anthony Cody, Carol Burris, and me.

For a full description of the dispute over Common Core at the AFT Convention see Stephen Sawchuck’s column in Education Week AFT Common-Core Resolution Calls for Teacher Implementation.

To paraphrase Randi Weingarten’s questioning of her AEI audience about their knowledge of the collaboration of the AFT leadership with corporate education reform, who in the membership of the AFT and the general public knows about the depth of the collaboration of the AFT leadership with corporate education reform? Why don’t you know this?

Also see:
Randi Weingarten: Sleight of Hand Artist – Part 1 | Schools Matter – April 19, 2015
Which Side Are You On? | Defend Public Education – July 14, 2014
Understanding Why the TURN Cancer Has to Be Cut Out of NEA and AFT | Chalkface – July 18, 2014