Tag Archives: government

Nineteen Legislators Tell Cuomo New Principal and Teacher Rating System is Unproven and Potentially Damaging; Urge Governor to Convert New Rating System Into Pilot Program

I’m a New Yorker and therefore a B-Ball fan – trash talk, elbows, grabs of jerseys, the subtle push off as you spin to the hoop – builds character. The British aristocracy proudly exhort, “The battle of Waterloo was won on the fields of Eton”? I prefer that the ability to thrive and prosper originates with lessons learned on the basketball courts in the schoolyards of New York City.

Amazing! Arne Duncan was playing in the celebrity basketball game at the NBA weekend. He hoisted up a few clinkers, a teacher called, “If I was only in that game – I’d abuse him.”

One of the worst decisions of President Obama was to select Duncan as Education Secretary. The massive testing industry is costing tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars: test creation, test prep in schools is rampant, art, music and physical education classes fading away, reductions in numbers of psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors, all to identify the same number of “bad” teachers that we identified under the former system (See Education Week here)

Every expert has decried the use of complex value-added measurements, (see Aaron Pallas here), apparently to no avail.

With the exception of the iconoclast governor of California, Jerry Brown, state, city and school district leaders have hopped onboard the Duncan bandwagon. The lure of billions of federal dollars and staying in the good graces of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is powerful.

Assemblyman Jim Brennan is one of the really “good guys.” He represents his constituents (Brooklyn: Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights) with a passion. The parents and principal at PS 321, an “A” school, have been adamant – they do not want their school turned into a “test prep” mill, and, they have actively organized like-minded parents around the city.

The testing system is deeply flawed.

“Testing and education experts have expressed serious concerns about the validity of the model, pointing to the inability of this methodology to identify the most effective teachers. As an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper mentions, one study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers rated in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, less than a third were in the highest rated group the following year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%.”

Nineteen legislators signed a letter to Governor Cuomo asking that he support legislation to turn the Principal/Teacher Evaluation law into a 3-year pilot program

The unintended consequences of this model extend beyond the teaching profession. This model creates incentives for an increased focus on test preparation and a corresponding narrowing of the curriculum. “The high-stakes testing model could have a direct, negative impact on the quality of the education our students receive. We must ensure that we do not mistakenly damage the teaching profession and our school system in a flawed attempt to increase accountability,”

Brennan plans to reintroduce legislation to turn the APPR into a three-year pilot program. In this three-year period, the Commissioner would be required to review and evaluate the APPR system and report to the Governor on the validity of the evaluations. High-stakes decisions, such as termination of employment and compensation based on student test data, would be suspended during this time.

The nineteen legislators deserve high praise – the governor has run roughshod over both houses of the legislature with very little opposition.

Hopefully the nineteen will turn into ninety and more.

(Assemblymember James Brennan, Assemblymember Steve Englebright, Assemblymember William Magnarelli, Assemblymember Alan Maisel, Assemblymember Joan Millman, Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Assemblymember Robert Sweeney, Assemblymember Matthew Titone, Assemblymember Addie Russell, Assemblymember Annette Robinson, Assemblymember Barbara Lifton, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee, Assemblymember Vanessa Gibson, Assemblymember William Magee, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Assemblymember Margaret Markey, Senator Liz Krueger and Senator Velmanette Montgomery)

Actually the proposed switch to a pilot is a win-win – school districts would implement the system, data would be generated, the specter of firing principals/teachers based on faulty data removed, space to tweak and adjust and improve a system without any history of effectiveness, and the anger of principals and teachers and parents eased.

The pilot concept would allow the governor, the legislature and the Regents to concentrate on far more pressing problems:

* how do we change the state funding formula to support “low tax” districts lurching toward insolvency?

* can we create a formula that is not based on year-to-year fixes but on longer term certainty?

* how do we address the appalling College/Career Readiness rates for Afro-American and English Language Learners across the state? (See Report on CUNY/SUNY Remediation)

* do the Regents and the Commissioner need expanded authority to intervene directly in low functioning schools and school districts? If so, do they have the capacity?

The Principal/Teacher Evaluation system is a distraction – when the dust settles very little will have changed except that the crucial issues confronting families, students, teachers, principals and schools will have been put on a back burner as this foolish and fruitless struggle continues.


Cuomo’s State of the State: An Aggressive Agenda and Maybe Planning for 2016.

The second Wednesday in January the Governor presents his State of the State address. For decades governors stood in the ornate Assembly chamber and presented the address to a joint meeting of the Assembly and the Senate and a few hundred invited guest.


Governor Cuomo, initially to the distress of the state legislators moved the speech to the convention center with a few thousand invited guests – rather than a report to the legislators the governor announced the speech was an address to the people of the State of New York.


Three years later the governor began his speech with lengthy praise for the hundred and fifty members of the Assembly and the sixty-three members of the Senate.


The newly elected legislative bodies have more new members than in anyone’s memory.


Over the next two years over 10,000 bills will be introduced, about 500 will become law. The Democrats increased their overwhelming majority in the Assembly and the Senate will be jointly led by the Republicans and the five members of the Independent Democratic Conference.


State of the State speeches are lists – appeals to every nook and cranny of the state – especially upstate – the vast reaches of the state that have been devastated by the loss of industry over the past thirty years. Governor after governor has promised a revival for the isolated, poor rural communities across the state as well as the decaying cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and other smaller cities in which industry and jobs have fled.


Read a summary (http://www.cc.ny.gov/view.cfm?view=4C9BCFA3-A7F6-8AFB-91BE672D5108D56B_16D83094-5056-9D0B-1A8BC49FBF40DE27).



The couple of thousand in the audience represented staff, guests of the electeds and the governor – including lobbyists who represent business and labor, upstate and downstate, for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.


The Governor’s educational initiatives were basically a few sections from the recently released Cuomo Commission Report as well as a few of the priorities from the Board of Regents.


Full day pre-K classes in poorer, or to use the words of the Governor, “distressed” areas would be strongly supported by legislators in impacted areas – others would fear the dollars would come from their districts. The same with Community Schools, schools with “wraparound” services – the full range of medical and social services – once again – new money or a redistribution of current funds?


Extended school day and/or school year programs are a cost issue: will the state permanently support or provide a grant for a limited period of time, and, current or new dollars?


The “bar-type exam” for prospective teachers brought smiles from the old timers – sounds like the old Board of Examiners, created at the beginning of the last century to avoid political hiring and ended by a discrimination lawsuit in the early seventies.


The Governor prodded the 1% of districts who do not have a completed teacher evaluation plan, by number of teachers, more like 40% – including NYC and Buffalo.


The gubernatorial aspirational laundry list was very long – and very ambitious.

Part of the list is preparation for 2016, if the Governor decides to run for president, a first-in-the-nation Women’s Equity Law and the strongest gun control laws in the nation would stake out space for the governor.


As the assembled masses moved into the Speakers Reception the legislators and guests seemed to agree, the Governor’s best speech; however, speeches are easy – accomplishments are hard.


As we walked from the Legislative Office Building (LOB) to the convention center everyone had to pass a gauntlet of hundreds and hundreds of anti-fracking folk – with signs and chants and costumes, an example of a contentious issue- not mentioned by the governor.


Next Tuesday, the lobbyists both paid and citizens trying to influence the process will descend on the Capital, and will continue each and every week until the legislature adjourns in mid-June.


Editorial writers bemoan the chaos and dysfunction in Albany, actually the bickering and dueling and occasional back-biting amidst the flow of folks from around the state is the essence of a democracy.


James Madison in Federalist # 10 wrote,


The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.


On a Tuesday in February or March the teachers union, the UFT, will bring hundreds of union members up to Albany to meet with their local elected to plead their case for the issue of the moment. I would enlist kids in my class, a research project, and have the kids make the presentation, and we’d track the progress of our efforts.


Too many of us throw up our hands, and leave the dirty work of prodding and becoming part of the process to others.


My advice: get dirty.


Join your local political club, send emails to your local elected, and visit them in their local office, volunteer in a campaign,


To quote Madison, we may be, “…much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good,” it is our nature, the fight is worth it.


Listen to Paul Robeson singing “Joe Hill” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Kxq9uFDes) and take his advice.