Thursday, December 10, 2015

Don't be Fooled by Cuomo's Mea Culpa on Testing

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pretends to listen to parents and teachers, he hopes they don't know how to read.

Buried at the bottom of a recent press release announcing the "recommendations" of his education task farce is proof that Cuomo is open to changing nothing

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 will remain in place, and no new legislation is required to implement the recommendations of the report, including recommendations regarding the transition period for consequences for students and teachers. During the transition, the 18 percent of teachers whose performance is measured, in part, by Common Core tests will use different local measures approved by the state, similar to the measures already being used by the majority of teachers. 
Yes, tests will still count for 50% of a teacher's evaluation.

The so-called “local measures" will require the state’s seal of approval, and the cut-points on the convoluted “matrix” that determines if teachers keep their jobs will be tweaked just enough so heads roll—regardless of how “fair” the tests appear. Moreover, the number of tests will double as students will take one test to grade their teachers, and one test that will, according to Cuomo, be "meaningless" until the 2019-2020 school year. So much for reducing the amount of testing. 

School districts can now expect a full-court press by Cuomo and his slimy associates to convince them to agree to his asinine teacher evaluation law (APPR) or lose more funding. After all, the (Common Core) tests won't count for another four years, even though communities and careers will still depend on tests.   

Additionally, everything else in the Lobbyist for the Student's infamous Education Transformation Act remains, including receivership and weakened due process rights. As Cuomo maintains, the law will not change. The test is still king.   
Though federal law now says states don't have to use test scores to rate teachers, Cuomo doesn't care. He will use any means necessary to break public education and hand the pieces over to his Wall Street donors. Cuomo is too greedy and prideful to try to save face. 

Education historian Diane Ravitch recently wondered why Cuomo thinks he can control education since the New York State Constitution grants that power to the Board of Regents, not the governor. Cuomo gets control by linking ludicrous laws to budgets which are rammed though in the middle of the night. As he once said, he is the government, and public education and all of its democracy threatens Cuomo's control.   

It's time for spineless, heavy-hearted legislators to take control away from Cuomo and ram through legislation on behalf of the communities they claim to represent. 

Nothing short of a complete rebuke of Cuomo's toxic agenda will stop 500,000 test refusals now. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Paladino Attacks B-Lo Blogger, Invokes Roosevelt

B-lo blogging brother Sean Crowley recently drew the ire of former New York gubernatorial candidate and all-around assclown Carl Paladino:
"As for Sean Crowley, I observe him as an irresponsible, muckraking conspiracy theorist who...commands no respect in the Buffalo community." 
Note how Paladino refers to Crowley's fine educational musings as "muckraking." A close reading of an American history textbook reveals that President Theodore Roosevelt popularized the term at the turn of the 20th Century, when public corruption and abuse ran as rampant as rats.

Revolutions in printing created a media vacuum that was rapidly filled by writers whose words scraped the depths of injustice. Muckraking extraordinaire Upton Sinclair exposed the horrors of meat factories in The Jungle, for example, while Nelly Bly faked insanity to expose the horrors of a women's lunatic asylum in New York City.

Far from "irresponsible", Sinclair, Bly and others prompted plutocrats to be responsive to the public, the essence of any healthy democracy. 

Perhaps Paladino agrees that we've entered a new age of muckraking. With the 
explosion of the internet, bloggers and social media gadflies are subsuming mass-printed paparazzi. Meanwhile, the truth is just as tenuous as it was 100 years ago, though lies now circle 
the world before the truth gets its pants on.

Like the First Amendment, the truth has always been a messy thing, especially when it's buried in the muck of graft. Paladino must therefore carefully consider the veracity of such toxic tags as "commands no respect" before slinging them at others.

It seems Paladino's own brand of respect includes physical barbs, as demonstrated by this 2010 confrontation with muckraking journalist Fred Dicker:

In the midst of his gubernatorial campaign, Paladino, ever the conspiracy theorist himself, accused Dicker of being a "stalking horse" for New York Governor and King Bullshit Andrew Cuomo. It's one thing to rake the muck; it's entirely something else to add to it.

It should surprise no one that an unabashed privatizer of public education like Carl Paladino has allowed B-LoEdScene to breach his skin. 

On the other hand, as also seen recently with this blog, it should appall everyone that yet another leader of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) seemingly has more in common with Carl Paladino than the First Amendment.

NYSUT's western New York director Mike Deely recently used Facebook to second Paladino's sentiments about Crowley, commenting:
"As long as your [sic] reading Bloedscene consider this: AFT, NYSUT, UFT and BTF fought and continues to fight corporate education reforms. Your enemy is not your union. Instead of conspiracy theories get involved." 
Though working teachers in Buffalo and across the state are in the cross hairs of receivership (i.e. we don't give a fuck what your contract says), Deely and NYSUT executive vice president Andy Pallotta think that if they say something often enough, people will believe it—even if it rings more hollow than a dead man's fart.

Bloggers who dare question the Union's obtuse political postures are divisive conspiracy theorists who should have their keyboards confiscated. With the possibility of dues soon becoming optional, the least Deely can do for members is identify what other "conspiracy theories" Crowley is spreading. Maybe Deely can compare notes with Paladino and release a joint statement.      

Those who rake the muck provide an essential service to democracy, so long as they don't underestimate the intelligence of their readers by spewing unproven pejoratives and platitudes, as our political leaders often do. The First Amendment is a tool to unearth the truth, which festers and fades in absence of this tool.  

And though in a 1906 speech called "The Man with the Muckrake" Roosevelt cautioned about being drawn too deeply into the muck, his words ring louder today than ever before:


Friday, November 27, 2015

On Cuomo and Incompetency Based Education

Like sweet soma in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World, a dose of "competency based" education has arrived to pacify the public.

Rather than with super-sized standardized tests taken once a year—tests which are less popular than purgatory—the profiteers of public education now seek to lure schools into oblivion via the sirens of software.

If the plutocrats get their way—and they usually do—steaming piles of tests will be served even more frequently, albeit sealed in smaller, digital packages. The fates of schools will ride on kids' keyboards, as each log-in will at long last expose the incompetency of their principals and teachers. 

With No. 2 pencils soon going the way of pay phones and mix tapes, politicians will call for even more computers inside (and out of) the classroom. Besides, it's the 21st century, and technology is finally smarter than people. Tying teacher evaluations to computer-based tests will make sense to many, at least at first. Kids will enthusiastically complete tasks formerly known as high-stakes tests and be cajoled by computers into achieving proficiency.

Over time, however, this will become a fool's errand; the "bar will rise" just enough to placate parents and turn effective teachers ineffective. Educators will also ironically have no choice but to embrace this software since their careers will depend on it. Computers will spew forth weekly ratings of teachers and schools that will make Bill Gates swoon. Meanwhile, companies like Pearson, Questar and Google will collect pearls of data on our kids, for sale on the open market.  

Though the opt-out movement has apparently burrowed deep enough beneath the skin of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the Lobbyist for the Students is reportedly considering amending his test-centric teacher evaluation law (APPR), it remains to be seen what, if anything, will actually change. All signs point to Cuomo once again including education "reforms" in the state budget—a cynical and selfish ploy which leaves schools in the hands of the infamous three men in a room.

If Cuomo was serious about improving education, he would compel the legislature to take up changes to his APPR immediately instead of five minutes before the budget's due.

Embedding education in the budget has forced heavy-hearted legislators to either forsake funding or vote for ludicrous laws they don't even read. And though Cuomo has hinted that he now wants nothing to do with high-stakes tests, don't be surprised if the words "technology" and "competency" are peppered throughout his proposals. Cuomo may indeed offer to remove traditional tests in exchange for competency based benchmarks, technology touchstones or pathways to proficiency; he's still searching for the right euphemism. As usual, all of this will come at a cost, with districts who agree to these deforms promised increased bandwidths and refurbished iPads. Sleazy budgetary bribes are how Cuomo "gets things done", after all.

It was just ten days ago that Cuomo expressed a desire to replace teachers with computers.  
Parents and teachers must therefore verify but not trust his overtures on education, be they from anonymous "administration officials" (i.e. Cuomo) or Cuomo himself.

And if Cuomo thinks computers are the answer, he should first try replacing himself with one. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The College and Career Readiness is All

A recent report by anti-public schools group StudentsFirstNY alleges that New York City schools are passing too many kids. The charter school charlatans request "an independent audit of school coursework to ensure New York City public schools are not lowering the bar and giving parents a false picture." 

Translation: Give us your schools.

And exactly what data do they use to support this claim of "scandalous" grade inflation? Yes, results from tests which over 250,o00 New Yorkers refused to take last year, tests intended to measure readiness for community colleges and careers.

How does New York State define "college and career readiness", anyway? Not even education commissioner MaryEllen Elia seems to know, though she does agree that the teacher evaluation system (APPR) is "random."

The truth is, thanks to College Board President David Coleman—yet another education "expert" who taught for zero seconds—only kids on track to score a 1630 on the SAT are apparently prepared for life beyond high school. Coleman pulled this number from his rear in 2013 when the New York State Education Department (NYSED) needed hard evidence that public schools were indeed "failing." Never mind that only 34% of kids who take the SAT score a 1630, or to what degree financial success equates with college and career readiness; Coleman had the cure. 

Though not quite "independent", the "audit of school coursework" StudentsFirstNY seeks is already well underway. After all, charter school bootlicker Governor Andrew Cuomo has used the same bogus test scores to justify his recent education "reforms" encased in the budget. So alarmed was Cuomo by the lack of college and career readiness in his state he decided to use tests he recently called "meaningless" as an excuse to shutter schools, fire middle class workers and paint a "false picture" of public education.

Now, with a twirl that would make a ballerina blush, Cuomo reportedly wants to stop using tests to destroy public education. The Lobbyist for the Students is evidently entombed in low poll numbers and needs working families to break him out. But don't be fooled: Cuomo merely wants to somehow swap standardized tests with "technology" to fire veteran teachers and steal their pensions. Maybe heavy hearted legislators like Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) will at least sniff the budget before they vote for it this year:

Something's rotten in Jeffrey Dinowitz's New York

With one putrid vote, Dinowitz—who New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has generously
supported over the years—helped bring high-stakes tests, receivership, and weakened rights for workers to New York State.

How did NYSUT respond to Dinowitz? By publicly thanking him with a glossy mailer, of course. 

Rather than condoning the budget votes of Dinowitz and others, NYSUT would better serve teachers, parents and students by loudly repeating the following question the next time the likes of StudentsFirstNY accuses our schools of "lowering the bar":

How does New York define college and career readiness? 

If the answer has anything to do with test scores, NYSUT wins the argument.        

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Good, the Bad and the Putrid

This blog has never been about a person. It's about ideas—the good, the bad and the putrid.

However, people who stunt good ideas and try to graft putrid ones upon them are regularly rebuked in this blog. Take New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for example, whose inane quest to grind public schools into the ground continues unabated, as demonstrated by recent statements that this blog was the first to report on. Consider what you will about Cuomo the person, but Cuomo the politician has even more ideas for public education, ideas that should alarm many New Yorkers.  

Though Cuomo has yet to comment on the ideas in this blog, another Andy would like to make The Pen is Mightier than the Person about the person.

At a recent New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Board of Directors meeting, NYSUT executive vice president Andy Pallotta announced that he had called the state attorney general to file a discrimination complaint against this blog, claiming that a recent post likens him to a character from the film Goodfellas. Like a few dozen other enthusiastic readers, Pallotta subjected the piece to a semi-rigorous close-reading and instantly identified with it, even though his actual name or likeness appears nowhere in the piece. Satire is wasted on the stupid, evidently, though Martin Scorsese's film and the blog, if anything, attempt to unearth a theme that often offends people in power: follow the money.

Does Pallotta's absurd attempt to censor this blog mean he's offended? Most likely. Is Pallotta offended by following the money? Let's hope he addresses this in his next lecture on unions and organized crime.

The fact remains, as NYSUT's director of political operations, Pallotta holds power over a lot of money, money that dues-paying members have every right to see is wisely spent.

Since high-stakes tests are the lynch pin of privatization, for example, NYSUT can and should do more to wield the bully pulpit and pocketbook against them. 
Pallotta and others might begin this campaign by at least asking teachers if they realize that their careers now essentially ride on students getting a 1630 on the SAT—New York State's asinine definition of "college and career readiness." NYSUT might then be in a better position to encourage members not to have their children take the tests—in solidarity with thousands of exasperated parents around the state.

With a decision looming in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, NYSUT must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If and when dues become optional, thousands of working teachers will need more persuasive reasons to opt-in than saving a few dollars on patio furniture or dancing the nae nae.

People will join a Union that can be seen and heard fighting against the dismantlement of their schools, a Union that vigorously counters the putrid with the good. 

We look forward to hearing Pallotta's ideas. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cuomo Wants to Replace Machines with Technology


In a recent interview at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo continued his assault on public education, logic and the English language: 

I was watching some crazy science fiction movie the other night, I couldn't sleep. And this person designs a computer that becomes smarter than the person. And he's trying to tell the computer to do something and it's telling him, "I'm overriding and I'm [inaudible]."

That's what we created. We created a government machine that we say, "We want to make a change in how we educate students...and the bureaucracy says, "No. We like it the way it is." And you say, "Yeah but you're my machine, I built you and I operate you." And the machine says, "Not anymore you don't."  
I hope technology can come in over that. And technology can almost say, "Forget the machine, forget the machine. You know how we're going to do education now? Every kid gets a computer. That computer has a piece of software that adjusts to that child and how that child learns. And that technology is going to fundamentally change the dynamic of the classroom."       
The movie which kept Cuomo awake sounds a lot like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film features a computer named HAL 9000 which rebels against its operator on a voyage to Jupiter.

Though Kubrick's film points out the pitfalls of technology, Cuomo bizarrely uses it to praise technology and chide human beings. Cuomo apparently wants to replace teachers—who he compares to machines—with yes, actual machines.

As if our kids aren't already hooked on devices, Cuomo—who was a teacher for zero seconds—wants them staring at screens for at least 8 hours a day. The Lobbyist for the Students and other public education deformers envision classrooms of 50 or more students pointing and clicking their way into dreary, automated futures. And you can forget about them forming relationships with other children or compassionate adults—their best friend will be an iPad.

It's unsettling to consider that Cuomo might actually believe a "piece of software" can do a better job at educating our kids. What's more disturbing, however, is that he sees technology as a means to a destructive end. After all, Cuomo's goal all along has been to "break" the teachers union, and believes technology can help him achieve this while also enriching his campaign donors. Cuomo's slimy crusade against working teachers brought us last year's Smart Schools bond, for example, which spends $2 billion on educational technology, and Dick Parsons, the curmudgeonly head of Cuomo's Common Core Task Force who just happens to work for an educational technology firm. Cuomo condones turning our kids into drones as long as people like Parsons get their cut.

Teachers unions were not the inspiration for HAL 9000, but rather politicians like Andrew Cuomo, who choose to pass laws first and ask questions later. And if Cuomo thinks he can once again use his budget to "change the dynamic of the classroom", he should first try answering HAL's question:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Memo to New York Teachers: F*ck You, Pay Me.


Lost seniority rights? Fuck you pay me.

Lost due process rights? Fuck you pay me. 

Lost your pension? Fuck you pay me.

Just keep paying and absolutely nothing will change—that's a promise.

It's a proud New York tradition:


NYSUT Unity Caucus

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NYSUT to Charge Members for Meetings, Not Sure How Much Yet

From Beth Dimino, President of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association and ST Caucus Chair:

The letter below is the kind of Bullshit that will be NYSUT Leadership's undoing. The Unity Caucus has been having meetings in NYSUT headquarters since the building was constructed and they only thought to develop a policy for meeting spaces after STCaucus requested space for Local Presidents to meet in Utica and after NYSUT BOD meetings!
Bill us Ass Clowns!
We will meet!
We will continue to grow our numbers because the rank and file know we are with the rank and file! 
Dear Ms. Dimino: 
I am writing in response to your inquiry about using space at NYSUT headquarters for meetings of the ST Caucus after NYSUT Board of Directors meetings. 
NYSUT does allow certain external groups to use its headquarters facilities for a fee, subject to the attached guidelines. Consistent with the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), NYSUT charges a fee for internal political caucuses to use the union’s facilities. The next meeting of the NYSUT Board of Directors, which takes place on November 20, 2015, is scheduled to conclude by 6:30 p.m. on Friday, November 20. Please advise Amie Marois of NYSUT Travel and Conference Services at of your group’s needs with regard to meeting at that time, including confirmation that the request is for November 20, 2015 after the Board of Directors meeting, the duration of the meeting, the approximate number of people who will be in attendance, and which room or type of room is requested. The fees listed in the attached guidelines are for a full day usage of NYSUT’s Headquarters facilities; half day usage at half price is also available. 
NYSUT has not previously received a request from an internal political caucus to use its regional office space. NYSUT is in the process of establishing the fair market rate for groups seeking to utilize its regional office facilities. It is anticipated that the fair market rate will be set shortly and, once set, it will be sent to you and the Regional Offices. 
As also noted in the attached guidelines, NYSUT functions have precedence over all meetings of external groups and although there is likely to be no NYSUT function conflicting with your request, NYSUT may pre-empt such groups’ meetings as necessary. NYSUT does not permit internal political caucuses to meet in its facilities during normal office hours of 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. If necessary to cover any expenses incurred, NYSUT reserves the right to charge external groups a fee for staffing the Conference Center for the relevant time period. 
Future requests for meeting space should be sent directly to Amie Marois in NYSUT Travel and Conference Services at 
Please don't hesitate to contact me with any further questions or concerns. 
Rob Lamoureux
         Assistant to the President
        New York State United Teachers
        800 Troy-Schenectady Road
        Latham, NY 12110-2455

Faced with an existential case before the Supreme Court which could make dues optional, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) continues to give its members plenty of reasons 
not to opt in.

On the other hand, renting out its offices to "external groups" might become the norm if and when the Union blows up. 


Monday, November 9, 2015

NYSED Updates Cuomo Core Toolkit

Amid uproar and mockery, it seems the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has finally decided to tell us what standardized tests are really all about.

Recent addendums to the state's "Assessments Tool Kit" includes a sample letter schools may send to parents to inform them of the value of the tests, a win-win for all.

The letter reads:

School Letter to Parents

Dear Parent/Guardian:

This past spring, many of your brats children participated in the 2015 Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and Math Tests. This was the third year that New York students took assessments aligned to rigorous careers and community college readiness. The tests ask students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and skills in areas such as critical confusion, analytical antics and bizarro logic. 

While no single test provides a complete picture of student achievement, when combined with grades and smear campaigns, annual assessments provide important information about a student’s teacher's incompetence. The tests also give us an objective measurement of how long it will be before your child's school is placed under state control, otherwise known as receivership. Additionally, the tests help ensure that teachers get the bullying they need to be successful.

With the help of Meryl's Tisch's lackeys, the State Education Department has worked hard to ensure that these tests provide a completely random assessment of your child’s learning. Every question on the State assessments was written specifically by people found on Craig's List, and all test questions have undergone an extensive review process that includes feedback from dozens of people who couldn't teach their way out of a wet paper bag.  

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has demonstrated a commitment to improving New York’s testing program and firing as many teachers as possible. She recently announced a contract with a new test company that should nearly double the bank accounts of billionaires. She also announced that this spring’s tests will include even more nonsensical questions for all grades.

The State has taken steps to ensure that your child can digest all this grit and rigor. State law and Commissioner’s regulations prohibit school districts from making placement decisions based solely on a student's performance on the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests. 
Also, Governor Cuomo recently announced that the tests are "meaningless" until December 31, 2018 or his poll numbers rise—whichever comes first.

In October, the Education Department launched an online survey of the learning standards that pervert the instruction in your child’s classroom. The survey is available at and allows respondents to provide feedback that we plan to ignore. We believe the only voices that must be a part of the conversation are the billionaires who want to steal teachers' pensions. You are encouraged to participate in the survey if you're not busy defrosting your freezer. 

Please feel free to reach out to no one with any questions you have, because no one will return your call or email. There are also extensive resources for parents available online at our website

                        Thank You,



NYSED maintains that this letter is optional and customizable unless and until your school is taken over by the state.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

NY Education Commissioner Calls Teacher Evaluation System "Random"

At a recent meeting in Albany, New York State education commissioner MaryEllen Elia called the state’s teacher evaluation law “random" and could not explain just how her department determines so-called “college and career readiness.”

Welcome to New York, where Andrew Cuomo has stacked the bullshit so high it can be seen and smelled from outer space.   

It should reassure no one, however, that Elia—who Cuomo handpicked to enforce his asinine education laws—can give no good reasons why high-stakes tests should not cease and desist; for the profitizers of public education have thrown empirical evidence overboard in dragging us to the depths of their hubris and greed.

In the name of “equality”—but at the expense of justice—more schools must be closed and more teachers must be fired. It is the only way Cuomo’s donors can feel better about themselves and their portfolios. Students are to be siphoned and sorted by standardized tests, the only data that matters to the Lobbyist for the Students, even though he recently called the tests “meaningless.”

So what if no one wants to become a teacher in a few years? Computers will give the weakest children a more “personalized” education anyway and can be evaluated via less random updates to their operating systems.

As for the Holy Grail of education deform—“college and career readiness”—should we not be concerned when children are ready for colleges and careers, but choose neither? What then? Have their teachers failed them? Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, education means something beyond financial success?

On the other hand, should we not be concerned that the careers of thousands of middle class workers hang in the balance, all because a few ass clowns in Albany are convinced that being ready for life means getting a 1630 on the SAT?

Public education is under assault by a confluence of affluence and ignorance. And though leaders like Obama and Cuomo have feigned concern by rolling out comical committees and “testing action plans”, nothing will change until these leaders and their lackeys are rolled out of office for enabling the false philanthropy of education deform.

And with the Opt Out movement poised to gain even more traction in 2016, possibly reaching 500,000 test refusals, the chances of this happening may be less random than we think.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Cuomo to Sign “Cilantro on Shit” Standards into Law

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is sick of the Common Core. So much so, he’s formed another panel to “reboot” the controversial standards, and has even recruited former banker Dick Parsons to once again lead the charge.

Though the panel has yet to meet, their report is in—and it’s not pretty for New York schools.  

According to sources close to the panel, Cuomo will include virtually all of the panel’s recommendations in this year’s state budget—a budget which he fully expects most legislators will not even read. 

Dubbed the “Cilantro on Shit” standards (Cuomo has nothing against cilantro, though he may yet change the name), the new Cuomo standards include the following:
COS2.09: Parents, teachers and students must not question the standards. Those who do shall be told, “It is what it is.” 
COS4.04: Anyone who calls the standards “Cuomo Core 3.0” will be subject to arrest and deportation from the state.
COS4.7: Parents whose children refuse to take Cilantro on Shit tests—for any reason—must pay $500 per child for each test day missed.
COS9.11: Since teachers are likely to have their own children refuse Cilantro on Shit tests, as of 2016, any person employed in the State of New York as a teacher may no longer have kids.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President Karen Magee issued the following statement in response to Cuomo’s latest education reforms:
NYSUT would like to thank Governor Cuomo for fucking us over once again. Now that the standards are law, educators will take them even more seriously. And though working teachers have a lot more to lose than me, including their careers and pensions, NYSUT will not stand in the way of the standards; rather, NYSUT will work tirelessly to ignore members who call on the Union to lead New York’s kids and communities out of the morass of high stakes tests. NYSUT also encourages everyone to dance the Nae Nae, since we believe it is the only way to reclaim the promise of public education.
At press time, Cuomo's office has declined to comment on this story. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

NYSUT Shamelessly Ignores its Own Resolutions

With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to castrate teachers unions later this year, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) continues to give its own members reasons to celebrate if and when the hammer comes down on organized labor.

After all, given the option by the Court, most working teachers will choose not to feed dues dollars to an organization that doesn't know how to bite.

Look no further for evidence of NYSUT’s inaction than its reaction to resolutions passed in May at the Union’s annual Representative Assembly (RA). NYSUT delegates from around the state descended on Buffalo to unanimously approve two resolutions meant to shelter kids and communities from harmful Cuomo Core tests.

The first resolution opposes the bogus benchmarks used by New York to determine “college and career readiness”—while the second asks NYSUT members to “have their own children refuse to take the Grade 3-8 assessments.”

Whether in New York City or Buffalo, Washington or Rochester, NYSUT spends thousands of dollars each year on the RA, not to mention the professional and personal time delegates sacrifice to get there.

Evidently, NYSUT prefers burning this time and money, as Union leadership has done zero since the RA to either “oppose” or “refuse” tests which are choking the lives and livelihoods of New Yorkers. The Union’s vision of opposition has so far consisted of lamely-worded Friday afternoon emails and yes, a request for members to dance the Nae Nae.

NYSUT leadership is obligated to aggressively push all resolutions passed at the RA, even those opposed by the likes of Randi Weingarten and Andrew Cuomo.

Furthermore, the failure to give voice to these resolutions voids everything else voted on at the RA, including the Union’s officers and board of directors.

For if RA resolutions are meaningless, then RA elections are also meaningless.

Besides, why should NYSUT members respect their leaders if their leaders won’t respect NYSUT resolutions?  

Will it require a resolution not to pass anymore meaningless resolutions before leadership listens to rank-and-file educators?

Will NYSUT even be able to fund the RA if the Supreme Court makes dues optional? If not, where will NYSUT hold future elections? Will there even be elections? Will they occur remotely, a proposal which was ironically voted down at this year’s RA?

Maybe the Supreme Court is just what NYSUT needs to inject passion and democracy into its veins. Public education faces existential threats—and teachers unions must stop passing empty resolutions if they expect to save themselves and our schools.       

Leadership must act, before we are all swept off the stage.


A Union Made Meme

Friday, September 18, 2015

Memo to New Yorkers: Watch What Cuomo Does, Not What He Pretends To Do

New York lost a labor legend this week with the death of Thomas Kavunedus, one of the few who many can thank for keeping contracts current whenever ass clowns from Albany decide to wreak havoc on middle class workers. 

Kavunedus, a retired member of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers (LFT), spent 16 days in jail in 1977 during the longest teachers strike in state history. Most credit Kavunedus and seven other imprisoned members of the LFT for helping to bring the Triborough Amendment to New York State--a law which maintains salaries and job protections for workers if and when contracts expire.

Without the Triborough Amendment, lives and livelihoods could be shredded along with hard-fought contracts, with people held at the mercy of politicians and plutocrats who've made a sport of blaming economic downturns on "greedy" public servants.  

While the passage of his draconian teacher and school evaluation plan puts Governor Andrew Cuomo on the warpath against the Triborough Amendment, many unions outside of education do not seem to care...yet.

Union leaders of all stripes should seethe at Cuomo's blatant disregard for local, collectively-bargained work rules via his asinine "reforms" imposed on school districts across the state.

In addition to teachers, Cuomo's plan also subjects nurses, custodians, and cafeteria workers--to name a few--to even more job insecurity and uncertainty, as schools in receivership will likely be run by proteges of Wisconsin Governor and Cuomo's brother-from-another-mother Scott Walker.

Worst of all, Cuomo Core will wield standardized tests to pollute and uproot bountiful learning environments for our kids and communities.        

Speaking of labor leaders who should care, consider Patrick "Blood on the Steps of City Hall" Lynch, President of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association (PBA).

Though thousands of New York City cops list teachers as family members, Lynch recently awarded Cuomo the PBA's "Man of the Year" award. It seems Lynch condones Cuomo's destruction of public education as long as Cuomo throws him a plastic bone now and again.

For example, Cuomo says cops should be paid more while while doing absolutely nothing about it. In fact, Cuomo has worked harder to pay public servants less than he has to pay them more. 

Consider also Cuomo's proposal to raise the minimum wage, yet another reason to watch what Cuomo does, and not what he pretends to do.

With a $15 minimum enacted for fast-food workers by another Cuomission, the Fight for Fifteen is over for Cuomo; he can now claim that at least fast-food workers got a raise if and when his proposal goes down in a hail of more tax cuts for his billionaire buddies.

Cuomo's playing with house money on the minimum wage, after all, and his donors will still benefit while McDonald's cashiers are replaced by iPads.

The death of 
Thomas Kavunedus should remind us--yet again--of where we've been, and where we're headed.

Labor needs leaders like Kavunedus--now more than ever--to fight for its life and legacy. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Leaders Alter the Optics of Opt Out, Steer Clear of Solutions


As much as people may not like testing, it’s the only way available for us to document and to hold schools and school districts accountable. We can’t close the achievement gap unless we know what it is and where it is and how big it is.  
 Marc Morial 
 President, National Urban League   

is the only way to hold schools accountable?

That’s like saying the only way to keep your car running is to glance at its gauges . But what if the gauges malfunction or break? What if your check engine light means only that you forgot to tighten your gas cap again? What if your seat belt sensor is set off by a box of books?
Much like cars, many problems in public schools are difficult to diagnose. And though learning is more complicated than your car's cooling system, proponents and pushers of standardized tests are desperate to deduce it to a number in order to justify their self-serving schemes.
Parents, students and teachers across the nation are passengers in a turbocharged testing machine with a broken speedometer which will soon round narrow, rocky ledges. Airbag lights may finally have a good reason to turn on as more and more public schools plummet into privatization.  

In order to gauge learning  or determine how well our teachers and schools are running  many variables must be considered, all of which have zero to do with standardized tests . If it's unsafe and expensive to leave our car at the mercy of its gauges, then it’s immoral to leave our schools at the mercy of tests.         

Unfortunately, when inspecting our schools, instead of looking under the hood and kicking the tires, our leaders continue glancing at the gauges. 
Speaking of lame lemons, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently doubled downed on deform, hoping a thesaurus might help convince himself and others that test scores are also the only way to hold teachers and schools “accountable.”  Like Jeb Bush, Duncan is loathe to utter the words Common Core these days, for example, and has even found a synonym for high-stakes tests, referring to them as “student learning” in a recent interview.  
Replace the words “student learning” with "testing" and Duncan's infatuation with high-stakes tests rings clear:
I think having some connection between teacher evaluations and student learning testing makes sense. The goal of all great teachers is to make kids learn. But for folks to say there should be no connection between teacher evaluation and student learning testing I think actually demeans the profession.
Note that Duncan says the opposite of what over 200,000 New Yorkers (and counting) believe. Testing actually demeans the teaching profession.  

As the interview continues, Duncan finally trots out the word "testing", albeit shrouded in lies and equivocation:   

I think on the kids' side, there has been too much testing where there's duplikative [sic] tests, or redundant tests, or too much time doing test prep. That makes no sense. Part of what we're asking Congress to do in the fix of No Child Left Behind is to put a cap on what states can do in terms of testing. And the vast majority of testing is not coming from the federal level—it's coming from the state and local level. I do think it's important for kids to be tested annually.
It’s laughable that Duncan blames the metastasis of tests on the states, when anyone who can see Donald Trump's hairline knows that the federal government has clearly used No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top to force states into accepting the test-and-punish regimes entrenched today.
Duncan and others are also desperate to change the optics of Opt Out so that fewer parents join a movement which exposes and threatens to topple the privatization of public education.
Sadly, Duncan, the National Urban League, and even the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) are also still spinning cynicism, suggesting that affluent (rich and white) parents in the suburbs are somehow robbing inner-city (poor and black) children of a sound education by Refusing the tests.  NYSED's characterization of students who opted out as being "mostly white" from "low-need" schools who performed poorly last year eerily echoes Duncan's infamous "white suburban moms" comment from two years ago.

Perhaps former 
New York State Education Commissioner
John King, who now works for Duncan in Washington, can tell us if he agreed with Duncan's ignorant intimations about Opt Out all along. Yes, John King is forgotten but not gone from the annals of New York education deform.

Maybe King could also investigate what the hell is going on in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, and finally get to the bottom of whether or not it was, as Duncan callously claimed at the time, "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans."

If tests are not the answer, skeptics will ask, then what is?
How do we rescue all kids from disillusion and degradation?

In other words, if its gauges are broken, how will we know which parts of the car need maintenance?

Since it seems education deformers treat windshield wiper warnings more seriously than most, perhaps they can assist in devising a formula to measure our schools that does not include test scores as a factor.

This formula will require our best and our brightest  schooled in the intricacies of Boron  who don't waste their time blogging.
The formula must include MANY variables to determine whether schools are succeeding or failing.
Below, The Pen is Mightier than the Person is pleased to offer eleven variables, adapted from Diane Ravitch's groundbreaking book Reign of Error, that could be used in this formula. And instead of calling the product a value-added measure (VAM), which sounds too much like a failed coupon campaign, we'll call it a Ravitch-added measure (RAM), much more valid than any multiple-choice test:
Ravitch-added Measures (RAM) of a 
Highly-Effective School:

      1. Is access to pre-natal care in your district free and convenient? If the answer is NO, your school's RAM will not be affected.  

      2. Is access to daycare and/or pre-school in your district free and convenient? Once again, your school's RAM will not be affected if the answer is NO.
How diverse is your school’s curriculum? How many art, English, and music electives do you offer, for example? Extra-points will be added to your RAM for any physical education electives.
      4. D
oes your school have small classes? This is one of the easiest variables to measure. Let’s cap classes at 20. The lower your average class size, the higher your RAM.
      5. A
ll charter schools within your district must be fiscally transparent, and PROVE they are not manhandling money. They must accept all students and also not discourage their faculty and staff from joining unions. Any infractions related to funding and/or the rights of students and workers will lead to an automatic revocation of their charter. Should corrupt charter schools be identified as operating within your district, however, your school's RAM will not be affected. 

      6. Are medical and social services widely available in your district? Once again, your school's RAM will not be affected if the answer is NO. 
      7. How much does your school embrace teacher-designed tests and lessons? The more autonomy teachers possess, the higher your RAM. Merit pay (yes, merit pay) could even be awarded to teachers who take extra classes for enrichment. Teachers could even be paid for uploading lessons and assessments to a state-run website which other teachers could access for ideas, free-of-charge. Let’s pay teachers $20 per lesson and go from there.
      8. Do 100% of the teachers in your school hold a teaching certificate? Do 100% of the administrators have at least 10 years of experience in the classroom? Any numbers lower than these will lower your RAM. Experienced administrators, by the way, know good teaching when they see it, and therefore will not need trumped-up charges and test scores to remove tenured teachers.  
       9. If your district is not controlled by an elected school board, your RAM will be lowered. After all, what would people say if one person controlled the United States government?   
       10. What efforts are being made by agencies within your district to reduce racial segregation and poverty? Little or no proof of these efforts will not affect your RAM. 
       11. Does your school recognize that public education is a public responsibility? As evidence of this, your school must produce an annual portfolio   created by teachers, administrators, parents and students   which documents how your school positively impacts the community. Examples of this might include fundraisers, attendance at plays and sporting events, and scholarships awarded to students by local groups and businesses.  

Implementing RAM will be expensive and require diligence, no doubt, but cities and states can no longer afford to shun their schools. Besides, who could deny aid to a school whose RAM is stagnant due to timid attempts by the community to reduce poverty and racism?

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is example of a politician who might consider adopting RAM. Overwhelmed by his bullying and bullshit, Heastie and other heavy-hearted legislators let Governor Andrew Cuomo have his way in this year's budget, and only threw gasoline on the Opt Out Movement when they voted to strip teachers of due process rights in the name of test scores.

If his recent statements are any indication, however, Assemblyman Heastie may have at last come to his senses about education, finally talking the talk:

I really think that we shouldn't be looking at education alone anymore or mental health alone anymore or poverty alone anymore. I think that we have to look at the total family structure and see why it is that students are going into school not prepared for these challenges. And I think a lot of it has to do with what's going on at home and their neighborhoods. Even super teacher may not be able to get through to a student whose life outside of school has issues.
                         Carl Heastie (D-NY)
                         August 17,2015
If Heastie and other legislators are finally prepared to walk the walk toward educational justice, people will join them.  

And unlike Cuomo and Duncan's plans, they won't have to RAM it down their throats.  
Not a sham.