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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lloyd Lofthouse: Public Schools Are Not Failing

Lloyd Lofthouse

New post on Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé

Why the public school in the United States are NOT FAILING!

by Lloyd Lofthouse
  •         There are NO bad schools unless we are talking about schools that are falling apart, because they are starving for funds to repair and update the infrastructure
    Americans believe a lack of financial support is the biggest problem currently facing public schools, according to the 44th annual Phil Delta Kappa International/Gallup poll of public attitudes toward public schools released Wednesday, but they also say that balancing the federal budget is more important than improving the quality of education.
    ·         There are NO FAILING schools except when VAM is used to measure them and VAM has been proven to be misleading and does NOT work.
    As is the case in every profession that requires complex practice and judgments, precision and perfection in the evaluation of teachers will never be possible. Evaluators may find it useful to take student test score information into account in their evaluations of teachers, provided such information is embedded in a more comprehensive approach. What is now necessary is a comprehensive system that gives teachers the guidance and feedback, supportive leadership, and working conditions to improve their performance, and that permits schools to remove persistently ineffective teachers without distorting the entire instructional program by imposing a flawed system of standardized quantification of teacher quality. - Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers from the Economic Policy Institute
    ·         There is poverty and very little is being done to deal with it
    The negative effects of poverty on all levels of school success have been widely demonstrated and accepted; the critical question for us as a caring society is, can these effects be prevented or reversed? A variety of data are relevant to this question, and recent research gives us reason to be both positive and proactive. The impact of poverty on educational outcomes for children, U.S. National Library of Medicine

  •        Some families are dysfunctional
    Communities and schools are currently facing unprecedented levels of unmet mental health needs, and children with emotional or behavioral challenges are less likely to learn while at school. Dysfunctional Family Structures and Aggression in Children: A Case for School-Based, Systemic Approaches With Violent Students
    ·         Most public school teachers work 60+ hours a week teaching, correcting, planning, prepping and calling parents
    Annual teaching hours by education level, 2010 among OECD nations. The U.S. ranked 3rd place for most hours worked by teachers behind Argentina in 1st place and Chile for 2nd place. - Figure 4.7
    The average number of teaching hours in public primary schools is 782 hours per year in OECD countries but ranges from fewer than 600 hours in Greece and Poland to over 1,000 hours in Chile and the United States. … Teaching time is defined as the number of hours per year that a full-time teacher teaches a group or class of students. … Working time refers to the normal working hours of a full-time teacher and includes time directly associated with teaching as well as the hours devoted to teaching-related activities, such as preparing lessons, counselling students, correcting assignments and tests, and meeting with parents and other staff. Data are from the 2011 OECD-INES Survey on Teachers and the Curriculum and refer to the 2009-10. How much time do teachers spend teaching? OECD
    ·         There are children who learn and children who don’t learn—for whatever reason—that has little or nothing to do with the quality of teaching, and the children who don’t learn are causing the low VAM scores
    >Just because a teacher teaches, that doesn’t mean a child will make the effort to learn and the parent or parents will support the learning process so learning takes place
    Researchers have evidence for the positive effects of parent involvement on children, families, and school when schools and parents continuously support and encourage the children's learning and development. The Benefits of Parent Involvement: What Research Has to Say
    ·         There is an overwhelming avalanche of evidence that there are MANY crooks and liars in the corporate supported public education reform movement using VAM scores to drive their goals toward more wealth and profit that has nothing to do with the learning of the most at risk and difficult to teach children, the children who cause the low VAM scores in the first place.
    There's been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.  FBI Tracks Charter Schools
    In Ohio, “$1.4 billion has been spent since 2005 through school year 2012-2013 on charter schools that have never gotten any higher grade than an F or a D," Collins said.NBC4 Investigates: Taxpayers Left Holding Bill for Charter Schools
    A compilation of news articles about charter schools which have been charged with, or are highly suspected of, tampering with admissions, grades, attendance and testing; misuse of funds and embezzlement; engaging in nepotism and conflicts of interest; engaging in complicated and shady real estate deals; and/or have been engaging in other questionable, unethical, borderline-legal, or illegal activities. This is also a record of charter school instability and other unsavory tidbits. Charter School Scandals
  •    In conclusion, the case for public school success in the United States:
    The average high school graduation rate, ages 24 – 65, for all OECD countries—including the United States—is 75%.
    The high school graduation rate for the United States, by itself, ages 24 – 65, is 90%
    The 4-year+ average graduation rate among all OECD countries—including the United States—is 37.7%.
    The 4-year+ college graduation rate in the United States is 42%—the 4th highest in the world, but the U.S. has about 3 college graduates for every job that requires a college degree.
    Among major English speaking countries, the United States is ranked 2nd for functional literacy.
    1.  In the United Kingdom, the child poverty rate is 17% and the adult functional literacy rate is 80%
    2.  In the United States, the child poverty rate is 22%, and the adult functional literacy rate is 65%
    3.  In New Zealand, the child poverty rate is 22%, and the adult functional literacy rate is 55%
    4.  In Australia, the child poverty rate is 10.9%, and the adult functional literacy rate is 53.6%
    5.  In Canada, the child poverty rate is 14.3%, and the adult functional literacy rate is 51.5%

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mercedes Schneider: Common Core State Standards is a Laundered Curriculum

Common Core Is Designed to Drive Your Local Curriculum.
Mercedes Schneider, November 9, 2014

Proponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) like to promote the idea that CCSS is “not a curriculum.” The CCSS website further states the disjointed idea that local districts somehow retain true freedom over what is taught in the classroom.

This is a lie.

CCSS is a laundered curriculum. That is, in order for schools to truly adhere to CCSS, classroom materials must be brought into line with CCSS. Even though CCSS might not do so directly, it requires as much of those purporting adherence to CCSS.

Moreover, the ever-looming, very-high-stakes, CCSS-aligned tests seal the curricular lock-in deal.

CCSS is designed for the masses, not the elite. Elite schools do not adopt CCSS, and that ought to be a real wake-up call for those who view CCSS as Saving American Education.

If CCSS is so great, why are the prestigious schools not in the media promoting its adoption?

Catch the clue, America. In conjunction with CCSS, the term “high standards” might as well be followed by TM.

CCSS ELA Is New Criticism

CCSS ELA emphasizes New Criticism literary analysis, which excludes moving beyond the text itself in deriving meaning from a text. No historical context considered in understanding a text. No reader experience tied to understanding a text.

This type of “interpretation” seriously limits critical thought and pigeon-holes cross-curricular instruction.

CCSS ELA tells the masses, “Consider the text in isolation.”

As an intelligent being, I have a really hard time being told that I must not exit a text in order to justify my understanding of it.

CCSS ELA disregards the con-text of texts.

CCSS ELA “lead architect” David Coleman prefers New Criticism. As such, Coleman prefers to stay “inside” of a text. Moreover, he has peddled a technique to do so, one that has gained national popularity for its coming from the mouth of non-teacher, edupreneur Coleman: close reading.

Teachers who follow CCSS ELA must disregard any instructional materials that direct students to consider context not mentioned inside of a text, whether historical context or (certainly) the reader’s personal experience, in approaching a text.

It is one issue to utilize New Criticism sometimes and its alternative, Reader Response, other times. But CCSS lacks this balance.

Thus, CCSS ELA does indeed restrict curricular decisions, and not for the better.

CCSS Math Intended to Alter Math Instruction

As for CCSS math, the “chair” of the CCSS math development group, Phil Daro, has acknowledged purposely constructing CCSS math in a manner that alters the way math is taught. In other words, CCSS math was purposely created to drive local curricular decisions in Daro’s et al. preferred direction.

Daro prefers conceptual math. I wrote a post on Daro-monitored Eureka Math. In the post, I include two videos of Daro speaking, one of which includes a demonstration of CCSS-aligned Eureka Math. The lesson is a conceptual math lesson. Students are speaking to an instructor, who is conducting a conceptual math lesson using post-it notes.

So, what is the issue with CCSS math?

CCSS math is a disjointed business that is arguably age inappropriate, especially for younger students but stops short of including calculus, the absence of which CCSS math “lead writer” Jason Zimba admits as limiting a student’s chances at both STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers as well as admission into prestigious post-secondary institutions. So, as a pro-CCSS cover, schools are told that they can include calculus if they want to. However, that might mean trying to combine other math courses, such as algebra and geometry, in order to “make room” for calculus.

All of this will indeed drive curriculum and directly affect the so-called “freedom” that districts have over curriculum.

Also heavily dependent upon a student’s abilities with language and expression, CCSS math arguably becomes a test of language skills and even personality. I know a number of individuals who have a penchant for math and who are not given to detailed explanations on the processes they followed for arriving at correct calculations. I did my doctoral work in stats with many of them. They chose to major in the theoretical, and I chose to major in application.

Many of them struggle with expressing their ideas in writing to those who are not as adept with numbers and at public speaking.

Are they to be classed as “not college and career ready” in math?

Those “Willing to Help” with CCSS-aligned Curriculum

And then, there are the education corporations such as Pearson counting on offering curriculum to go along with their CCSS high-stakes assessments. Districts desperate to make those high CCSS test scores in order to survive test-driven, state evaluation systems will bend to surrendering curriculum decisions to the creators of the high-stakes tests.

However, whether purchased or locally created, CCSS curriculum must follow the restrictions and problems introduced by CCSS itself.

Though it claims to be “internationally benchmarked,” CCSS exists in no other country. It is at best an untested, Frankenstein created in cut-and-paste fashion by taking qualities of other countries’ education systems, compiling them, and declaring that This Will Work.

And why “benchmark?”

To beat the competition.

It does not make sense to emulate pieces of other education systems in an effort to somehow “beat” them. And it makes even less sense to forge ahead and tie local curricular decisions to unproven “higher” (TM) standards.

But there are a growing number of organizations willing to “help” teachers do just that. On my school email account, I receive each day a numerous emails from organizations offering to “help” me become “CCSS ready.” On my personal email, I’ve had two emails come my way this week, one from the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), offering “rewriting textbooks for Common Core.” I’ve written two posts (here and here) related to both “economically driven education” and NCEE director Marc Tucker, author of the infamous “Dear Hillary” letter, written in 1992 to Hillary Clinton. In it, Tucker posits that education should provide the means centralizing governmental control and, consequently, ending local control.

This is the man whose organization is “helping” teachers “rewrite textbooks for the Common Core.” Pause and think about that.

Another email I received is from a nonprofit called EdReports. It hastaken upon itself the role of publishing “Consumer Reports-style reviews of curricula and textbooks early next year.”

EdReports is organizing “training sessions” to “help” teachers evaluate whether classroom materials are CCSS-aligned.

Motivations behind these “offers” range from “creepy ideological” to “fiscally opportunistic.”

I think it’s safe to assume that teachers and administrators nationwide are being inundated with such “offers to help” align their local classrooms to the Great and All Powerful CCSS.

CCSS: Intended to Standardize, Not Localize

So. If after reading this email, one still holds to the idea that CCSS seriously allows for local, curricular freedom, let me suggest that you perform another *close read* of this entry.

But do not hesitate to think for yourselves by drawing on your own experiences and knowledge of various education “reform” efforts that were supposedly The Answer and ended up not being so– not the least of which is the test-driven, punitive No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which now has most states “waiver-beholden” to CCSS and its assessments.

What a great addition to local curriculum such history makes.

Time to push back, local-level America.
spider and fly

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Betsy Combier: Silencing Opposition - Education Policy Implementation Becomes a Matter of National Security

From Betsy Combier, Editor:

E-Accountability OPINION: Governments that want to take public money for politically desired projects without opposition must close the government procurement to prying eyes. This means that contracts are signed without competitive bidding, Freedom of Information requests are not honored, and the media is co-opted. The NYC BOE is our model. by Betsy Combier

    Betsy Combier and Colin Powell, SAIS 60th Anniversary Gala, Washington DC October 13, 2004    
While attending a course on International Affairs at Columbia University in 1973, I heard about the trillions of dollars spent on armaments by the Pentagon. The class discussed why, when so much money is spent on tanks, bombs and missiles, there has to be a process for creating a war with minimum opposition. A year later, as a student in The School For Advanced International Studies' Master's Program in Bologna, Italy, I researched the growth and development of the Soviet Military Industrial Complex. I saw that the amount of money spent on American defense was not justified because by all accounts the Soviet defense industry was in almost total disrepair at the time. Of course, we know that for 'national security' the end justifies the means, and we must support our military if their work protects us. We needed the US government to keep secret the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, and we need to keep our spies away from exposure. There are, therefore, many reasons for secrecy in providing homeland security and global justice, but even in the defense area there must be oversight and accountability.

The defense industry, nonetheless and by necessity, has perfected a process which uses secret no-bid contracts and highly paid 'consultants' to acquire public support for the spending of public money. This effort is non-partisan, which means that it has nothing to do with the political party in power. It has everything to do with 'who is friends with whom', and who owes someone a 'favor'. Friends help friends make money in the business of defending our country. This is the way the system works. We, the public, elect people to the highest level of power with the hope that they will honor the Common Good while they spend public funds, and few will deny the fact that if you work for the defense industry, or work for one of it's subsidiaries, then you will benefit from the expenditures, even if - especially if -it means war.

An Editorial published October 31 2004 in the NY Times ("More questions About Halliburton") shows the closed government that we are hidden from knowing too much about. Vice President Dick Cheney used to work for Halliburton, a company now charged with price gouging and improper influence over providing the Pentagon with lucrative deals in Iraq. The article explains this process:

"There is a reason that big defense contractors often recruit well-connected former government officials as their chief executives. They do not operate in a normal business environment, where companies must compete on the basis of their performance and efficiency. Instead, they sit in a kind of financial wonderland where huge profits can be made with minimal risk. Lucrative contracts are awarded without competitive bidding, and unexpected cost overruns and other dubious charges are simply passed along to the taxpayer. Most of this is, unfortunately, completely legal."

Whether the President is Bush, or someone else, the secret government is here to stay.

This same process is being used in our nation's public schools to stop the public from participating in, or knowing anything about, the allocation of taxpayer money to public school education. Our research into how School Boards, education officials and even PTA Presidents get elected has shown us that this process is not democratic or open. In fact, there is 'systemic sabotage' of open government rules often so complex that a person actually looking for the misinformation or non-compliance has difficulty finding it. But it is definitely there, because the system depends on maintaining control over the process of getting lucrative contracts signed, sealed, and delivered.

Members of school boards often have an agenda that seems to be very similar to the BOE in town and the BOE Attorneys. In addition, many Chancellors across America are 'consultants' for law firms and corporations that make money from the links to education. In order for this to happen smoothly, Boards of Education have taken the defense industry model for procurement and made it their own. The same links between education and industry are there, as are the same tactics used to keep all transactions secret and away from the public eye.

Public education has, in other words, become a matter "of national security". Secrecy, harassment of those who do not go along with The Plan, and whistleblower retaliation are all used to promote and maintain programs designed by Those Who Know What Our Children Need. In New York City, the venue we know best, the 'national security' program for our public school children is called at the present time "Children First". The problem is that Bloomberg/Klein are not skilled defense industry tacticians, and are not implementing correctly the military model they have adopted.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's takeover of the NYC Board of Education in June 2002 was, in our opinion, a good thing. In 2002 many Superintendents were not performing their jobs with integrity, statistics proved that the NYC education system was failing the children, and there was very little proof of any success in the System. Then, it seems that the Mayor and his appointed Chancellor Joel Klein took the defense industry strategies to promote their education reform program, "Children First". Evidence of this top-down defense model includes:

1. Tweed Courthouse has become the education Pentagon, where in the name of security all people entering must be photographed, and everyone sits in open rooms where The Boss rules with an iron hand. We love the lack of closed doors so that everyone can be watched at the same time. This is creative thinking at work, literally.

2. All telephone calls to the Tweed Pentagon are screened so that any serious complaints are not responded to right away or at all, in the hope that the person who made the complaint can be 'persuaded' to leave the issue alone, or go away without resolving the problem. If an issue is responded to - which, by the way, does not mean resolved - false assurances of "I'll look into it" are normal. Complaints are, of course, against "national security".

3. As all complaints by parents, teachers, paraprofessionals or anyone else threaten the security of the system, almost all those who bring a problem to the attention of a BOE employee are told that they are wrong. The complaint is 'not valid'. The issue is not the problem, the person making the complaint is. If a complaint or problem has an easy solution, such as there is no toilet paper anywhere in a school, this may be taken care of quickly because the resolution has nothing to do with changing the core autocractic nature of the system. The BOE employee who obtains the money for the toilet paper gives all credit to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, for acting so quickly and decisively, or to "The System" for it's efficiency. Send in the Press! The potential threat to our 'national security' - a complaint - is thus disposed of. No one asks how the bathrooms in our city's public schools got so dirty and decrepit in the first place, or how they stayed that way for 30 years. No one goes back 1 month later to check and see if there is any toilet paper left after the reporters have gone onto another story. Why? Because the story isn't really about toilet paper, it's about media, press releases, and political successes that can be touted in the future. Isn't it interesting that the amount of toilet paper in a school can be made into such a political media event? No one wants to touch the Big Stuff, the $ billions that are misallocated on a daily basis.

Indeed, resolutions of complaints such as the toilet paper issue are staged to get maximum press exposure, and BOE officials all make false promises that they have no intention of keeping. Not only is all this a show, but all the actors know that there are no consequences for what they say or do. No one who works for the BOE in defense of our national security need explain anything to anyone. There is no accountability.

4. Teachers who may jeopardize 'national security', are laid off, fired, forced to resign, or harassed, and the people doing the harassing don't care about the violation of due process going on. We have, over the past four years, heard from countless teachers, paraprofessionals and school aides who, merely by asking questions such as "Where's the money?", or "Why do I have to Teach it this way?" find themselves attacking 'national security' and out of a job. The National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse focuses on this problem, and gives many examples.

A closed government can also go after innocent people in order to 'show' others what might happen to them, and this is one major reason for closing the door.

Leo, a Math teacher given unexplained U ratings, may not understand what he did to incur the wrath of the system, and as he is ushered out the door of his school, still doesn't. Neil, Tom, Ed, Dr. B., Yolanda, Iris and I and so many others have been accused of wrongdoing that was 'made up' by the Tweed ring, and we were all pursued by the Office of Special Investigations whose modus operandi resembles that of the CIA or MOSSAD. We have all been told that our "crime" is known, and the 'proof' has been found, so all we have to do is move out of state, hide, ask for forgiveness, or repent. Neil was told that he could not be hired by anyone but he still doesn't know what his 'crime' was. We presume his name, mine and all the other parents and teachers who have crossed the line into jeopardizing 'national security' are on The Monitoring Unit website.

If these threats dont work to scare off, silence, or put the victim on the run, tougher measures are called for, and one lovely example of this is NYC Office of Legal Services' Chad Vignola's email about my "crimes" and about his very helpful resolution to all the problems, all of which were completely false, sent to all the members of the New York State Assembly on April 1, 2002, April Fool's Day in America.

Attacks such as this serve no useful purpose other than to intimidate. The questions that we, the intended victims, all ask are: how and why do Board of Education officials get away with this? We believe that the answer is in the pocketbooks of the people acting under color of law to make sure no one stops the removal of troublesome people from the process (of secretly taking public money). Keeping the answers to these questions hidden from the public is a matter of 'national security'.

5. Parents are kept out of this web of secrecy for good reason. What is going on in our city schools is, by all accounts, disastrous for the success, health, and welfare of the children inside. In NYC, despite the thousands of pretty fliers streaming out of the Tweed pentagon, our children are not being protected from terrorists; we do not have enough defibrillators or trained personnel who know how to use them (we called approximately 60 schools); safety of the school (building and personnel) comes before the protection of students from discrimination, physical violence and emotional harassment; special education children are being kicked out of their classrooms, locked up, physically and emotionally hurt, and the politico-educational complex is powerful enough to persuade judges at the city and state levels to go along with The Plan.

Below is an email received from a teacher when Chancellor Klein took over and changed the Math Curriculum:

From a Bronx teacher:

"I just wanted to share with you my thoughts on the High School Choice of Curriculum. We all know that a Book is NOT a curriculum, so that is Klein's first mistake... And then he said that he picked this book because it was aligned with Math A. Well I do not know how I will share this with him, but I have on my shelf, and in my possession a Prentice Hall Algebra Book "Algebra, Tools for a Changing World" That is identical to the Prenctice Math A book!!! The only difference is the COVER!!!! The first 500 pages are identical!!! (I am NOT kidding!) SO how could this book be aligned with the regents!!!

Two years ago my school purchased $65,000 worth of IMP books... Last year after fighting the superintendent we purchased $30,000 worth of Amsco Math A books... and now i have to purchase Prentice Hall books???? And did you know that they are $58 each!!! who can afford that!! The IMP book was $35 each and the Amsco book is $20. Is Bloomberg going to help us re-sell our IMP books?? They were only used once?? He is the buisness man.. shouldnt he know what to do? I am going to take a picture of my book rooms on monday and I am going to mail these pictures to the chancellor... Do you think it will make any difference??

Everyone is threatened into silence. Almost everyone, that is.

My story, Tom's story, Leo's story and all the other parents and teachers who have contributed to this report and website are proof that not everyone can be harassed enough to run from the abuse that the NYC BOE levies every day against those 'They' do not like because they cannot control us. This is, for Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein, Michael Cardozo, Richard Condon, Rebecca Loughran and all the others who stand under the 'national security' "Children First" banner, the primary reason for their failure. They simply cannot win a war - education reform - without the support of the troops: the parents and teachers. They will fail, and after a new Mayor is elected and a new Chancellor appointed, many of the mistakes and secret dealings will be exposed for years to come. The tragedy is that the children in our public schools are the victims. Too many of them are not getting the help they need, and are being treated as if they are felons rather than kids in need.

6. The Tweed ring could not succeed at all without the support of the publishers, Editors, and producers of the news. Reporters who work at The New York Post (Rupert Murdoch's newspaper) have told us that they will not use any material that threatens The System, nor are any reporters allowed to quote parents who speak out in opposition to The System. Mr. Murdoch is, we have heard, a teacher for The NYC Leadership Academy. We wonder what he is teaching.

Who is Rupert Murdoch?

The Center for American Progress has on their website: "How one right-wing billionaire uses his business and media empire to pursue a partisan agenda at the expense of democracy". They write that he "has used the U.S. government's increasingly lax media regulations to consolidate his hold over the media and wider political debate in America. Consider Murdoch's empire: according to Businessweek, 'his satellites deliver TV programs in five continents, all but dominating Britain, Italy, and wide swaths of Asia and the Middle East. He publishes 175 newspapers, including the New York Post and The Times of London. In the U.S., he owns the Twentieth Century Fox Studio, Fox Network, and 35 TV stations that reach more than 40% of the country...His cable channels include fast-growing Fox News, and 19 regional sports channels. In all, as many as one in five American homes at any given time will be tuned into a show News Corp. either produced or delivered'."

Exerpts from this website: Mr. Murdoch is a Media Manipulator, a War Monger, Neoconservative, Oil Imperialist, Intimidator, Far-Right Partisan, Bush supporter and Bush family employer ( hehired Bush cousin John Ellis), Apologist for Repressive Regimes (China), Union Buster, and more. Some or all of these claims may be true, but the point is to show how politicized our media really is. Money always 'talks'.

Of course, there are powerful others.

Most of us who read the news or listen to TV news know about the memos Dan Rather tried to pass off as true. Yet "ordinary" citizens just trying to find out what happened and why, cannot. We are 'allowed' every once in a while to take a peek behind the curtain, but this is rare. We have been told also by reporters who work at the Daily News that they cannot print anything about the potential breakdown of The NYC Education System because of a close relationship between the paper and Chancellor Klein.

The NYCBOE Office of Legal Services decides on a random basis whether or not to comply with Freedom of Information requests. Not one of my FOIA requests for information on MS 54 Principal Larry Lynch, Superintendent Patricia Romandetto of District 3, or The Review Committee, were complied with from 2001 to 2003. Then Mr. Robert Freeman of The Committee on Open Government told me that he had called the OLS, and someone there told him that they had complied, therefore, Mr. Freeman told me, he could "not give me the material a second time." I called Mr. Freeman up and asked him if he would agree to anything I said if it contradicted the OLS, and he said "no".

Michael Cardozo, Chief Counsel for the NYC Law Department/Corporation Counsel, oversees the attacks on teachers, parents and children who seek special education services and resources, teachers complaining about the lack of due process in NYC, and violations of civil rights. He is also the Legal consultant for NBC television's "Today" Show where my old friend Gabe Pressman works. Gabe asked me, in 1971-2, to accompany him while he taped news shows for channel 5 (now FOX TV). Now he no longer returns telephone calls. Michael Cardozo signed the Motion to Dismiss Federal complaint 03 Civ. 10304 against the New York City BOE, the City of NY, and 11 Defendants, in which he and his Assistant Corporation Counsel state, "Plaintiff also vaguely alleges, without any corresponding prayer for relief, that she has suffered some retaliation due to her actions as President of the PTA at Booker T. Washington MS 54..." Yet his agency sent the parents at Booker T., on the Review Committee, the Contract indemnifying all of them as they were removing me from the PTA as paid employees of the NYC BOE.

The City Law Department wrote, in this Contract, that the parents were paid to scream at me such things as "You abused my daughter", ""You are a liar", and "You have raised too much money for the PTA, therefore you must be intending to steal it." The parents were not paid nor were they employees of the city government, and could not be indemnified. But they were, and Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer ordered that the City sidestep my lawyer and sanction me personally for filing a frivolous case against defendants who were protected by the City Law Department, whose salaries are being paid by my taxes.

Does the Mayor of New York City maintain a closed government? He certainly does. We can use the process whereby SNAPPLE became the drink of New York to prove it.

Tom Robbins on "Deals in the Dark: Snapple Town"
The Village Voice, June 1st, 2004

New York is Snapple Country now, thanks to the first-ever marketing deal that makes the beverage firm the city's exclusive brand. But that's not the only novel aspect of the arrangement. A $126 million pact gives Snapple the sole right to place juice and water vending machines in city buildings, plant its happy-script logo on sundry city properties, and promote itself as the city's official brand. A separate $40 million agreement allowed the company to place its machines in city schools.

But despite their size, neither deal underwent the kind of scrutiny normally accorded such contracts-and city and state officials are asking why not.

Last week, attorneys for comptroller William Thompson were before Supreme Court Justice Richard Braun seeking to overturn the citywide marketing deal on the grounds that Mayor Bloomberg skirted proper procedures by refusing to submit it to the city panel charged with approving all franchise and concessions.

Why didn't it require a vote? Because the deal was for "intellectual property," not tangible property like a parking lot or a bus shelter, which clearly calls for a vote in the city charter, a lawyer for the mayor argued. Thompson's attorney countered that the charter's definition was intended to be much broader. "These are the kinds of matters that need to be exposed to the public," said Judd Burstein, who is representing the comptroller.

The Snapple schools contract also sailed through without the usual vetting process. The mayor's people have dual explanations for that one. On the one hand, the new Department of Education is still under state legislation that doesn't require registration of all contracts with the comptroller. Also, in the case of the Snapple agreement, it was "a revenue type contract," not one involving the expenditure of public monies, an agency spokesman said.

Either way, two state lawmakers, Assemblyman Jim Brennan from Brooklyn and State Senator Eric Schneiderman from Manhattan and the Bronx, are sponsoring legislation that would change the education department's procurement policy. Their bill would obligate the agency to register its contracts, and to put no-bid deals-which have tripled under Bloomberg's reign-before the Panel on Educational Policy that replaced the old board of education.

"There would be the opportunity for sunshine, advance notice, and debate, as well as the necessity for justifying what they are doing out there," said Brennan."


Gulp! How Mayor Bloomberg's business pros dribbled their marketing mission: Snapple in the Apple
by Tom Robbins, The Village Voice, April 27th, 2004

A big part of the rationale for electing a billionaire businessman as mayor was just that: Michael Bloomberg was a businessman, he'd made billions, ergo, he could get the job done.

But consider the flap-now in court-over the Bloomberg administration's maiden voyage into the brave new world of city marketing: its $40 million deal to sell Snapple Beverage Corporation the exclusive right to place its vending machines in city schools, along with a separate, $126 million pact to make Snapple New York's official brand.

Since Bloomberg announced the agreements last fall, city comptroller William Thompson has blasted them as tainted and improper. Last week, Thompson went to court to block the "official beverage" contract, arguing that Bloomberg's aides sidestepped City Charter rules in awarding it. Bloomberg, baring his new tough-guy sneer, dismissed the complaint as "political red tape." Such quibbling, he suggested, threatened some hefty corporate cash for New Yorkers. But just how businesslike has the performance of Bloomberg's team been in handling the Snapple affair?

Not very, according to an audit of the school vending machine contract released by Thompson last month. The audit depicts both outside expert consultants hired by the city and in-house bureaucrats as engaged in bumbling missteps and confusion, while promoting commercialism so crass that even Coca-Cola was appalled. Some examples:

With a pioneering, multimillion-dollar contract in the offing, exactly how did officials go about recruiting possible bidders? Answer: They made a couple of calls. According to the audit, Octagon, the high-priced private marketing firm retained by the Department of Education to handle the project, never sent solicitation letters to would-be vendors. Nor did it advertise. Instead, calls were made to two rather well-known companies, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola (Coke later dropped out, saying it couldn't get adequate information). The five other bidders all said they learned about the city's solicitation from "local vending machine operators." One company, Apple & Eve, told auditors that it learned about the contract opportunity in mid August, only one week before the deadline. In its response, the city said that advertising is ineffective and that Octagon called other firms as well-but they didn't apply.

How many vending machines can fit in the city's schools? This basic question, according to auditors, was a moving target. The outline provided by Octagon to bidders stated that there were 2,500 to 3,000 such machines in the schools. Was that a minimum? A maximum? A guess? One company, Veryfine, said that it was told that 3,000 was the limit. Snapple said it thought it was the minimum. Even those evaluating the bids expressed confusion. Octagon said it wanted to leave room for other vendors to provide milk and snack machines; agency officials said they wanted to keep the number secret to help evaluate the bids. The city response to the audit stated that Octagon and the agency "quite consciously" didn't set a figure.

Were teachers' lounges included? Three of five losing bidders said Octagon told them not to include them. Two others said they were told the opposite. The education department demonstrated just how confused it was on this score when it sought new bids for beverage vending machines in employee lounges just as it was agreeing to have Snapple provide 500 such machines. The new bids had to be cancelled.

How many ads can be beamed at school kids? Octagon's bidders' information package suggested that the lucky winner could place "six pages of advertising" in student planners, and affix its logo on "725 outdoor [basketball] backboards." Such product placements, Octagon said, offered a potential for 97.2 million annual "corporate identity impressions" on students. Logos placed in "general use facilities" could yield an additional 134 million such hits. Auditors said this approach runs afoul of state education policy, a claim the city denies. But Coca-Cola told auditors such direct targeting of students was "appalling," and even Snapple decided to forego the student planner and backboard ads.

Was Snapple's offer the highest bid? The mayor says yes; the comptroller said Snapple came in low, but hiked its bid significantly after Octagon and the director of the city's new Marketing Development Corporation drove to Snapple headquarters in White Plains to urge the firm to do so. Snapple was also preferable, the city said, because it is a popular brand with school kids. But Thompson said he found no evidence of market research to back the claim, despite city insistence that it had such information. Either way, both sides agree that the new 100 percent juice drinks proposed by Snapple for the schools had never been market tested anywhere before they were accepted by the city.

How did New York become Snapple country? The audit cites an exchange of e-mails between city officials and consultants, written on the eve of Snapple's selection, in which the controversial decision to dramatically expand the deal to include a citywide marketing arrangement was made. The decision was prompted by a desire to leave an opening for another city partnership with a carbonated soda firm, and also created a bias toward bigger firms that could handle a larger citywide deal, Thompson said.

In an April 12 letter ordering the comptroller to register the citywide contract, Bloomberg called the Snapple agreements "praiseworthy," but admitted problems. "They have not been the product of a perfected process that the city will seek to replicate in the future," wrote the mayor.


The latest stats over the secret SNAPPLE deal shows why no-bid contracts, secret deals, and political procurement processes are not good for taxpayers and non-defense government agencies:

Mayor's 'Snapple plan' running $750K deficit

"The city's controversial new marketing agency ran a deficit of nearly $700,000 during its first year of operation, despite landing a lucrative contract granting Snapple exclusive beverage rights in the Big Apple, according to an independent audit obtained by Newsday.

The York City Marketing Development Corp. had a $692,249 deficit when its first fiscal year ended June 30, according to the audit conducted by the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP.

The agency also had an outstanding loan of $1.2 million from the New York City Economic Development Corp., according to the audit.

The marketing development corporation's biggest expenses during the fiscal year were $1.1 million in personal services and $321,944 in contract costs, the audit showed.

In a statement yesterday, Joseph Perello, who heads the marketing agency, acknowledged the deficit and the outstanding loan but said the not-for-profit agency had been operating in the black since April.

"No other city in the country has a marketing office like this generating millions of dollars in new revenue for New York City to use for essential services," Perello said of the operation, which has exclusive authority to sell the city's sponsorship and licensing deals."

Really? How will the public ever know?

Education policy should not be implemented in secrecy without accountability. Children are not guns, missiles and tanks. We must make every effort to stop the education establishment from simulating the American military-industrial complex.

Related articles:

Debate on Secret Program Bursts Into Open
By DOUGLAS JEHL , NY TIMES, December 10, 2004


WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 - An intense secret debate about a previously unknown, enormously expensive technical intelligence program has burst into light in the form of scathing criticism from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

For two years, the senators have disclosed, Republicans and Democrats on the panel have voted to block the secret program, which is believed to be a system of new spy satellites. But it continues to be financed at a cost that former Congressional officials put at hundreds of millions of dollars a year with support from the House, the Bush administration and Congressional appropriations committees.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the panel, denounced the program on Wednesday on the Senate floor as "totally unjustified and very, very wasteful."

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, later called it "unnecessary, ineffective, over budget and too expensive."

Neither senator would say much more about what he was referring to. Even in private on Thursday, most Congressional and intelligence officials who were asked refused to comment about the name, purpose or cost of the program. But former Congressional and intelligence officials who oppose it said it would duplicate capabilities in existence or in development, as part of the country's vast network of satellites, aircraft and drones designed for eavesdropping and reconnaissance.

Among the possibilities suggested by private experts, including John Pike of, a research organization in Alexandria, Va., were that the system might be a controversial unproven program to launch a reconnaissance satellite that adversaries could not detect. Former Congressional officials said they would discount speculation that the debate had to do with any antisatellite space warfare capability.

A number of satellite programs in development, including a Future Imaging Architecture system that Boeing is developing, have been the subject of considerable public controversy, because of technical problems and cost overruns. But current and former government officials said they did not believe that the Boeing program was the subject of the new dispute.

In addition to Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Wyden, two other Democratic senators made their opposition public on Wednesday, saying the money dedicated to the acquisition program could better be transferred to other intelligence gathering as part of what is widely understood to be the $40 billion intelligence budget.

The program being disputed by the senators is to be financed this year, but current and former government officials said Republicans as well as Democrats intended to redouble their efforts to block it.

The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency did not respond to a request for comment about the dispute. The Republican chairman of the House military appropriations subcommittee, whose support for the program has been instrumental in keeping it alive, also did not respond to a request for comment.

The most specific public hints on the program were by Mr. Wyden, who said on the Senate floor, "This issue must be highlighted, because it is not going away."

"Numerous independent reviews," he said, "have concluded that the program does not fulfill a major intelligence gap or shortfall, and the original justification for developing this technology has eroded in importance due to the changed practices and capabilities of our adversaries. There are a number of other programs in existence and in development whose capabilities can match those envisioned for this program at far less cost and technological risk."

The Senate Intelligence Committee first expressed concern about the program three years ago, and it has voted to block it for the last two years, Congressional officials said. A former Defense Department official said of the program: "This is something that does not pass muster and is indicative of the inability of intelligence agencies to prioritize or make decisions. There are billions of dollars of waste in the intelligence budget."

A former Congressional official said that "hard decisions should have been made to make choices" when Congress first authorized and appropriated the money several years ago.

"Instead," the former official said, "the decision was made to just go ahead with go with everything."

Even the $40 billion figure attached to the current intelligence budget remains no more than an estimate, because spending figures remain classified by law. But much of the budget is widely understood to be devoted to the design, construction and operation of satellites and other platforms used to collect images, signals and other forms of technical intelligence.

Many critics have long complained that human intelligence programs remain underfinanced, at least in relative terms. In a directive last month, President Bush asked the C.I.A. to spell out a plan and a timetable to increase its clandestine service by 50 percent.

A compromise negotiated between the House and Senate this week provides authorization for continued financing for the disputed program. It was approved by 13 of the 17 senators on the Intelligence Committee and all of their House counterparts.

Because the financing had been approved in a military appropriations bill, Congressional officials said, the authorizing committees did not have the power to transfer the money to other intelligence programs.

But an unclassified version of the conference report released on Wednesday reported that Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, both Democrats, along with Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Wyden, had refused to sign the compromise.

The report said the senators believed that the money dedicated for what was described only as "a major acquisition program" ought to be "expended on other intelligence programs that will make a surer and greater contribution to national security."

Secret Sessions of House and Senate

Texas Attorney General Vows To Prosecute Violations of the Texas Public Information Act.

Silencing Opposition: The Constitution is Suspended in New York City Until Further Notice

ALERT: Pentagon Officials are Considering Using Disinformation as a Tool to Win Allies, Conquer Foes

What happens if New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer decides to prosecute the FOIA violations and other secret no-bid contracts here in New York? 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Peter Greene: Without Tenure....

Civilians need to understand-- the biggest problem with the destruction of tenure is not that a handful of teachers will lose their jobs, but that entire buildings full of teachers will lose the freedom to do their jobs well.
Peter Greene
August 5, 2014

Yesterday, twitter blew up with responses to Whoopi Goldberg and the View having one more uninformed discussion of tenure (and, really, we need to talk about why education discussions keep being driven by the work of comedians).
"#Without Tenure I can be fired for...." was the tweet template of the day, and even though I rode that bus for a bit, it occurs to me this morning that it misses the point.
It's true that in the absence of tenure, teachers can (and are) fired for all manner of ridiculous things. That's unjust and unfair. As some folks never tire of pointing out, that kind of injustice is endemic in many jobs (Why people would think that the response to injustice is to demand more injustice for more people is a whole conversation of its own). That doesn't change a thing. Firing a teacher for standing up for a student or attending the wrong church or being too far up the pay scale-- those would all be injustices. But as bad as that would be, it's not the feature of a tenureless world that would most damage education.
It's not the firing. It's the threat of firing.
Firing ends a teacher's career. The threat of firing allows other people to control every day of that teacher's career.
The threat of firing is the great "Do this or else..." It takes all the powerful people a teacher must deal with and arms each one with a nuclear device.
Give my child the lead in the school play, or else. Stop assigning homework to those kids, or else. Implement these bad practices, or else. Keep quiet about how we are going to spend the taxpayers' money, or else. Forget about the bullying you saw, or else. Don't speak up about administration conduct, or else. Teach these materials even though you know they're wrong, or else. Stop advocating for your students, or else. 
Firing simply stops a teacher from doing her job.
The threat of firing coerces her into doing the job poorly.
The lack of tenure, of due process, of any requirement that a school district only fire teachers for some actual legitimate reason-- it interferes with teachers' ability to do the job they were hired to do.  It forces teachers to work under a chilling cloud where their best professional judgment, their desire to advocate for and help students, their ability to speak out and stand up are all smothered by people with the power to say, "Do as I tell you, or else."
Civilians need to understand-- the biggest problem with the destruction of tenure is not that a handful of teachers will lose their jobs, but that entire buildings full of teachers will lose the freedom to do their jobs well.
We spent a lot of time in this country straightening out malpractice law issues, because we recognized that a doctor can't do his job well if his one concern is not getting sued into oblivion for a mistake. We created Good Samaritan laws because we don't want someone who could help in an emergency stand back and let The Worst happen because he doesn't want to get in trouble. 
As a country, we understand that certain kinds of jobs can't be done well unless we give the people who do those jobs the protections they need in order to do their jobs without fear of being ruined for using their best professional judgment. Not all jobs have those protections, because not all workers face those issues.
Teachers, who answer to a hundred different bosses, need their own special set of protections. Not to help them keep the job, but to help them do it. The public needs the assurance that teachers will not be protected from the consequences of incompetence (and administrators really need to step up-- behind every teacher who shouldn't have a job are administrators who aren't doing theirs). But the public also needs the assurance that some administrator or school board member or powerful citizen will not interfere with the work the public hired the teacher to do.
Tenure is that assurance. Without tenure, every teacher is the pawn and puppet of whoever happens to be the most powerful person in the building today. Without tenure, anybody can shoulder his way into the classroom and declare, "You're going to do things my way, or else."
Tenure is not a crown and scepter for every teacher, to make them powerful and untouchable. Tenure is a bodyguard who stands at the classroom door and says, "You go ahead and teach, buddy. I'll make sure nobody interrupts just to mess with you." Taxpayers are paying us for our best professional judgment; the least they deserve is a system that allows us to give them what they're paying us for.
Posted by Portside on August 10, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Valerie Strauss: A Strange Definition of a ‘Bad’ Teacher

Valerie Strauss

Keoni Wright is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit organized by Campbell Brown’s education advocacy group that is seeking to overturn New York laws that provide tenure and other job protections to K-12 teachers. Brown has appeared on a number of television shows explaining her new endeavor, which will involve filing lawsuits in other states, as well, in an attempt to have national impact on tenure laws. (Here’s a write-up about her appearance on “The Colbert Report,” and here’s a fact-check of what she said on the show).

The Wright vs. New York lawsuit, which has seven parents as plaintiffs, was filed a month after a Los Angeles judge struck down teacher tenure and other related California laws that offer job security to educators (though the judge stayed the decision until an appeal can be heard). Brown has said repeatedly that she is leading this effort because she believes it is too hard for school systems to get rid of “bad” teachers and that it is union-negotiated teacher job protections that lead to poor quality education for many underprivileged students. Critics say this is nonsense and that giving teachers due process when they are accused of wrongdoing protects against patronage and other forms of administrative whim. They also note that many students get inadequate educations in non-union states where teachers have no job protections and that tenured teachers can be and are fired, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary.

Whatever you think of job protections for teachers, Wright inadvertently raised a separate issue during an interview he did with Campbell on NY1′s “Inside City Hall with Errol Louis”: What exactly is a “bad” teacher? Some answers are obvious, others less so.

During the interview with Louis, Wright discussed the education his young twin daughters are receiving at a New York public school, saying that one of them had a really good teacher and the other wasn’t so lucky. How did the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit explain this dichotomy? vWell, it turns out, he said, that one daughter received homework packets from her teacher while the other daughter didn’t. Why? After talking to the offending teacher, he said he discovered the following:

She didn’t have the supply, you know they were waiting for stuff to come. Meanwhile this other teacher was using her own money to buy these books to have supplies for her regular kids and an extra set for me.

Translation: The good teacher was spending her own money to buy supplies the school system should have provided to teachers in a timely fashion. The bad teacher didn’t.

Translation: The good teacher was giving homework to young kids. The bad teacher wasn’t.

Wright has said that he began to notice the homework discrepancy as soon as his daughters entered kindergarten a few years ago. One daughter had homework and the other didn’t. The one with homework was doing better academically than the one who wasn’t, he said, the suggestion being that a teacher who assigns kindergartners homework routinely is better than one who doesn’t.

It may well be that the teacher of one of his twins was superior to the teacher of his other twin. Yes, some teachers are better than others (as in any other profession), and, yes, some working teachers should be removed from the classroom because they are inadequate, and yes, teacher education should be continually improved to elevate the quality of America’s teaching force. I don’t know a teacher who doesn’t agree.

But in this interview Wright rested his claims about the value of his children’s teachers on the fact that one was spending personal money for supplies and that the same teacher assigned homework routinely. That’s hardly what you would call dispositive. It doesn’t even make sense.

Teachers shouldn’t have to spend their own money to buy supplies. Schools should have supplies ready for teachers at all times. Inadequate supplies is just one of the reasons that teachers in many schools have a hard time doing their jobs, which isn’t something that gets factored into many blame-the-teacher arguments. Teachers who care so much about their students that they buy student supplies with their own money are certainly dedicated, but no more so than those teachers who care greatly about their students but don’t spend their own money to buy what a school system should be providing.

As for homework in kindergarten, the research isn’t there to show that it helps academically. In fact, most of the research on homework in elementary school suggests that less is more and that reading is the best kind. Kids derive no real benefit from doing homework in kindergarten or, for that matter, up until fourth grade, some homework researchers say, while others go further and say there is no benefit to homework in elementary school at all.
Wright sounds like a dedicated, concerned father who wants the best for his children and who wants to help other young people who don’t have two parents who can be advocates and help them with their schoolwork. That’s to be commended.

But it is troubling when the lead plaintiff in an important lawsuit describes a “good” teacher as one who spends personal money to buy school supplies for kids and who gives young kids homework. In this definitional exercise, that means a”bad” teacher is someone who doesn’t do either thing. That’s beyond wrong. It’s scary.

Keoni Wright, plaintiff in Campbell Brown's lawsuit, is a member of Michelle Rhee's Students First.

Also Campbell's hubby, Dan Senor, is on the board of Rhee's NY Students First. I guess Michelle Rhee is wearing another big smile right about now. 

Seems her Students First is playing some big roles in attacking teachers' right to due process before being fired. 

I did not realize Keoni Wright, who is suing on behalf of his twin daughters, was a member of that group also. 

Campbell Brown

Teachers Too Hard to Fire, Lawsuit

Kaylah and Kyler Wright are New Yorkers, first-graders, and twins. But while Kaylah excelled in reading last year, Kyler lagged behind. Their father, John Keoni Wright, blames Kyler’s teacher and he’s suing, but not the teacher—the state of New York. The lawsuit alleges the state’s teacher job protection laws shield incompetence.

Wright is a member of the StudentFirstNY, a non-profit supporting charter schoolsand opposing teacher tenure. He was joined Monday by six more parents filing a lawsuit spearheaded by a former TV personality Campbell Brown and her new organization Partnership for Educational Justice.

....The lawsuit cites a 2009 survey saying almost half of the state’s school districts, excluding New York City, wanted to launch a disciplinary action against a teacher, but didn’t.

Yet it fails to mention that the majority of such districts refrained from taking disciplinary action because the teacher in question resigned or retired.
 One in three reported the process was too expensive or cumbersome.

In the past two years over 800 city teachers faced disciplinary action—about 500 were solved with the rest still pending. Only 40 teachers were terminated, but about half of the 500 resolved cases were settled, often with the teacher leaving or retiring, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Keoni Wright is the plaintiff speaking in this video

He seems to equate giving homework and providing textbooks out of the teacher's own pocket as being an effective teachers. There is so much more to it than that. 

This WP column seemed to have the same understanding of the video as I did. 

A strange definition of a ‘bad’ teacher 

During the interview with Louis, Wright discussed the education his young twin daughters are receiving at a New York public school, saying that one of them had a really good teacher and the other wasn’t so lucky. How did the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit explain this dichotomy? vWell, it turns out, he said, that one daughter received homework packets from her teacher while the other daughter didn’t. Why? After talking to the offending teacher, he said he discovered the following:

She didn’t have the supply, you know they were waiting for stuff to come. Meanwhile this other teacher was using her own money to buy these books to have supplies for her regular kids and an extra set for me.

Translation: The good teacher was spending her own money to buy supplies the school system should have provided to teachers in a timely fashion. The bad teacher didn’t.

Translation: The good teacher was giving homework to young kids. The bad teacher wasn’t.