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CO’s Jefferson County Schools to Cancel Classes on April 26, 2018, “Due to Labor Shortages.”

On April 26, 2018, Jefferson County (Colorado) Schools (JeffCo) teachers plan to demonstrate at the state capital in a effort to garner increased funding for their classrooms and their pensions.

In anticipation of high teacher participation in the protest, JeffCo “superintendent and chief learner,” Jason Glass, decided to cancel school. Below is the full text of his letter to Jeffco parents, which, according to KDVR.com, was circulated on Tuesday, April 17, 2018:

NO SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS APRIL 26

Dear Jeffco Families,

Jeffco Public Schools will be closed for students on Thursday, April 26, 2018 due to labor shortages.

As you are likely aware, K-12 public education funding and the long-term stabilization of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) system are problematic in Colorado. Public education staff, parents, and other supporters have become increasingly vocal in their advocacy for increased funding for our K-12 public schools and the stabilization of PERA. There is a belief among these groups that years of low funding is having a significant impact on our ability to attract quality candidates into the teaching profession, and is impeding the ability to effectively deliver the high level of educational experience our students deserve.

We expect many teachers and staff members are going to the state capitol to petition their legislators on this matter on April 26. The lack of sufficient staff could impact the district’s commitment to providing a safe learning environment. To ensure students’ safety, we will not have school for students on Thursday, April 26. This remains a work day for all Jeffco Public Schools staff members; leave time must be appropriately used if employees are not at work that day.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our families, but I’m pleased to be able to make the announcement well in advance so families may make needed arrangements. Perhaps some of you will be able to participate in “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” which happens to fall on the same day.

Extracurricular activities will proceed as scheduled, unless you hear differently directly from your school. Charter schools may not be closed, please check with your school.

We will not have to make up the school day unless we encounter a snow day before the end of the school year.

Thank you for your continued support of Jeffco Public Schools. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve your family.

Sincerely,
Dr. Jason E. Glass
Superintendent & Chief Learner
Jeffco Public Schools

On Monday, April 16, 2018, the superintendent of another Colorado district, Englewood Schools, also decided to cancel classes given that most Englewood teachers planned to protest at the state capital, as CNN reports. Below is the school closure announcement from Englewood Schools superintendent, Wendy Rubin:

Dear Englewood Schools Community,

As of this afternoon, district administration has received notice that over 150 Englewood licensed staff will not be reporting to work on Monday, April 16. This means that over 70% of our teacher workforce will not be present to staff our schools, and we expect that number of absences to continue to grow.  Because of this, even with calling in as many substitutes as possible, we will not be able to run academic programs or provide a safe number of staff members to supervise students on Monday. For that reason, ​we will be canceling school for students on Monday, April 16. All schools will be closed to students except the Early Childhood Education Center at Maddox, which will run its program as usual. Though students will not be present, this will still be a working day in the district for employees who are not using their annual leave. We expect that school will resume as usual on Tuesday, April 17.

It is our understanding that the high number of absences is due to a day of action taking place at the State Capitol. The following response with regard to planned teacher absences on Monday, April 16, 2018 was provided to Englewood Schools from the Colorado Education Association and Englewood Educators:

“​Our dedicated Englewood teachers care about your kids more than anything. They are frustrated and fed up with students not having the resources they deserve. Kids don’t have a voice, that’s why teachers are joining a statewide action at the Capitol to stand up for our kids on Monday, April 16. We know this will be inconvenient on Monday, but we hope you​ ​understand that teachers are doing this out of love for your kids. If you have questions about this action or the reasons behind it, please call 303-764-0140.” 

We have been told that teachers in other districts throughout the state will also be participating in this day of action, though it’s possible not all districts will be affected by absences to the same degree that we are experiencing in Englewood. More information is available on CEA’s website at https://www.coloradoea.org/. The phone number we have been provided for questions is 303-764-0140.

We understand that this unexpected change is inconvenient for families. Please know we exhausted all resources before deciding to cancel school for students. Our partners in childcare, Champions, will be open for the full day on Monday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to provide care for students. Care for all students will take place at Charles Hay World School (3195 S. Lafayette St.) The cost will be $30 per student for the day and breakfast, lunch and snacks will be included. Space is limited, so parents should sign up tomorrow at their school’s Champions location.

We truly appreciate your support in this matter.
Sincerely,

Wendy Rubin, Ed.D.
Superintendent
Englewood Schools

On April 15, 2018 (updated April 16, 2018), Denver 7 ABC offered this concise explanation of Colorado economics and school funding:

Colorado’s economy is red hot. The unemployment rate is just 3 percent. New skyscrapers and apartments are going up everywhere as more and more people throw cash at downtown bars and restaurants, but no one invited Colorado’s public schools to the party.

The National Education Association’s (NEA) annual report found Colorado ranks 46th in the country for teacher pay, with an average annual salary of $46,155; seven-thousand below the national average. …

The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Education Week; Quality Counts, and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show Colorado ranks 42nd in how much it spends per student, roughly $2,500 less than the national average.

Which means despite being the nation’s 12th richest state, our public schools land at the bottom of the list for both per pupil spending and teacher pay.

“The starting salary in some districts is $29,000. …” said Kerrie Dallman, a high school teacher and president of Colorado’s state teacher’s union. …

She also said some districts, especially in rural communities, are being forced to teach with decades-old textbooks and use outdated technology, while other services like mental health are left unstaffed. …

There are also those who argue teachers have PERA, the public employee retirement account, but that fund is also short about $32 billion.

Sometimes you just have to drill your own pipe in order to make those *trickle-down economics* actually trickle.

As Luke Darby of GQ notes, “smarmy” attacks on teachers for their advocacy feed into the public-school-damning, privatization-promoting narrative:

Opponents of well-funded public education, people like [US ed sec Betsy] DeVos and [Kentucky governor Matt] Bevin who want to see schools as privatized as possible, are relying on this same mindset when they attack teachers pushing for better working conditions. Teachers are caretakers, the argument goes, and therefore if some teachers are willing to walk out of school, then they’re just selfishly concerned with their paycheck and not willing enough to sacrifice their comfort for their students. …

Of course, this is all assuming that these politicians are operating in bad faith, trying to undermine and degrade public education as an institution so they can declare it a failure and shovel more public money into private schools. It’s always possible that they do sincerely have such a contorted worldview that they can look at a profession and earnestly say, “This work is vitally important. It’s so important that there’s no way we can pay you enough to survive without working one or two extra jobs on top of it.”

My best to Colorado’s teachers as they advocate for themselves and their students. And yes, DeVos and Blevin, their teachers’ earning a living wage does benefit students as it stabilizes individual teachers, the schools in which they serve students, and the communities in which both the teachers and students live their lives.

apple scale

__________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

For-Profit SPEDx’s End Game: Cut SPED Services for a Lower Bottom Line

SPEDx (aka Avenir Education) is a for-profit company that purports to “ensure a student’s disability status does not dictate their path to success in life.”

Its founder and CEO, Richard Nyankori, is a Teach for America (TFA) alum with no degrees or certification in special education or educational research. However, he was placed in charge of special education in DC by another former TFAer, former DC chancellor, Michelle Rhee.

SPEDx had a controversial, $4.4M no-bid contract with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), a contract that TEA canceled in December 2017, but not before it had paid SPEDx $2.2M.

Former TEA sped director Laurie Kash was fired from TEA via email on November 22, 2017, the day after she filed with the US Department of Education (USDOE) Office of Inspector General (OIG) a Request for Investigation regarding TEA’s no-bid contract with SPEDx.

Louisiana also has a contract with SPEDx, one of the more suspicious elements of which is that the Louisiana-SPEDx contract is supposedly for “no cost.” However, the word from Kash is that Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) sped policy director Jamie Wong indicated that the Broad Foundation is funding SPEDx’s work in Louisiana and that Wong shared concerns based on SPEDx’s Louisiana report with Kash and likely with California sped director, Kristen Wright (an idea supported by a Wong text provided later in this post).

From Kash, via email on April 09, 2018, and, as it happens, as previously sent to me via email on February 17, 2018, as part of a larger narrative:

NASDSE Conference (October 14-16)

When I attended the national conference for the National Association for State Directors of Special Education, I was able to meet the director from Louisiana, Jamie Wong.  I introduced myself after the first general meeting and said that we had something in common because we both got to work with SPEDx. She gave me an interesting expression.  I said that look is familiar. I said, aren’t you glad they found those 40% of missing IEP goals? She was surprised and angry. She said that she had found the 40% information was incorrect herself and that she had demanded Richard Nyankori of SPEDx fix the slide.  She was angered the information had been passed along to another state. She was not impressed with SPEDx.  She said all the information was data they could get from their own central data system. I agreed that had been true to that point in Texas as well. We agreed to talk more later in the conference.

Later in the day, Jamie told me that the SPEDx was funded by Broad.

She said they would never have paid for SPEDx outright. She and I agreed SPEDx was not a product beneficial to school districts for their special education students and did not reflect accurate data analysis.

Later in the conference she brought her written copy of the report out and showed it to me. The Special Education Director of California, Kristin Wright, was detained, but I think Jamie wanted to show it to Kristin. Jamie had warned Kristen about SPEDx as I had. Kristin had been recently approached by SPEDx and Richard Nyankori. She said she had already said no to them in meetings prior to NASDSE.

Laurie Kash, PhD

In an email exchange dated April 09 and 10, 2018, I asked Wong about Broad funding for SPEDx. In that exchange, Wong maintains that SPEDx is doing the work at “no cost”; she denies that Broad is involved, and she denies telling Kash that she believed Broad is involved.

Below is the text on my email exchange with Wong:

From: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Date: Monday, April 9, 2018 at 2:53 PM
To: Jamie Wong <Jamie.Wong@LA.GOV>
Subject: spedx

Hi, Jamie. I am a La. Teacher/researcher/blogger, and I have a question for you regarding SPEDx:

Is SPEDx’s work in Louisiana being funded by the Broad Foundation? If not, who is funding SPEDx’s
work in Louisiana?

Thank you.

–Mercedes Schneider
deutsch29.wordpress.com

On 9 Apr 2018, at 4:24 pm, Jamie Wong <Jamie.Wong@LA.GOV> wrote:

Hi Mercedes-

The project completed by SPEDx for the LDOE was part of a no-cost contract and was not funded.

-Jamie

On Apr 9, 2018, at 6:00 PM, “Deutsch29@aol.com” <Deutsch29@aol.com> wrote:

Yes or no: Did the Broad Foundation fund SPEDx for SPEDx’s work in Louisiana?

Yes or no.

Thank you.

—Mercedes

 

From: Jamie Wong <Jamie.Wong@LA.GOV>
To: Deutsch29 <Deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Mon, Apr 9, 2018 8:18 pm
Subject: Re: spedx

No

From: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Date: Monday, April 9, 2018 at 8:26 PM
To: Jamie Wong <Jamie.Wong@LA.GOV>
Subject: Re: spedx

One more:

Yes or no: Did you tell former TX sped director, Laurie Kash, that Broad money was paying for SPEDx’s services

in Louisiana?

Yes or no.

Thank you.

–Mercedes

From: Jamie Wong <Jamie.Wong@LA.GOV>
To: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Tue, Apr 10, 2018 10:35 am
Subject: Re: spedx

No, and I will not make any further comments on this topic.

-Jamie

 

On April 11, 2018, I told Kash of Wong’s denial via the above emails of Broad funding; Kash stands by the veracity of her conversation with Wong in which Wong identified Broad as the money source for SPEDx’s work in Louisiana.

Though Wong denies that Broad funded SPEDx’s work in Louisiana, she appears relieved to be able to say that LDOE did not fund the work.  On December 13, 2017, Houston Public Media published a pointed critique centered on SPEDx’s Louisiana report, which had been made public in Texas by SPEDx officials ostensibly as an example of SPEDx’s work.  On December 15, 2017, a member of the press contacted LDOE press liaison Sydni Dunn, which resulted in a flurried email exchange among LDOE officials over how to handle the bad press over Louisiana’s SPEDx report.

Among those emails is this response by Wong, in which she references LDOE assistant superintendent of academics, Rebecca Kockler and LDOE general counsel Joan Hunt:

From: Jamie Wong <jamie.wong@la.gov>
Date: Friday, December 15, 2017 at 2:14 PM
To: Sydni Dunn <sydni.dunn@la.gov>, Bridget Devlin <bridget.devlin@la.gov>, Rebecca Kockler <rebecca.kockler@la.gov>, Joan Hunt <joan.hunt@la.gov>
Subject: Re: Request from reporter

Looping in Rebecca and Joan. I think we need to keep a response very short but should make sure they note that we did not spend any money on this.

As though handing over Louisiana sped data to an incompetent company is okay because someone other than the state elected to foot the bill.

I also asked Kash to provide correspondence between herself and Wong regarding SPEDx. Kash provided the following texts, which I have chiefly edited to focus on Wong’s thoughts regarding SPEDx, including the arrangement between TEA, LDOE, and SPEDx.

Individuals referenced in the Kash-Wong texts include Kockler, TEA exec director of special populations, Justin Porter; TEA deputy commissioner of academics, Penny Schwinn, and California sped director, Kristen Wright. Wong also mentions “our superintendent,” who is John White.

The Kash-Wong texts span approximately 3 weeks, from October 25, 2017, to November 17, 2017, with most correspondence occurring on October 25, 2017:

 

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Kash’s correspondence with Wong via text ends on November 17, 2107, only five days prior to Kash’s firing.

The “enabled advocacy” that Wong mentions appears to be the parent group, Texans for Special Education Reform (TxSER), which indicates on this timeline receiving La.’s SPEDx report via PIR (“public information request”) on December 04, 2017.

Finally, in trying to better understand what transpired out of the public eye regarding the handing of Louisiana’s special education data over to Nyankori and his SPEDx, I filed public records requests for emails between Nyankori and Wong (12/01/16 – 03/08/18), and for emails between Nynakori, LDOE superintendent John White, and LDOE data governance and privacy director, Kim Nesmith (11/01/17 – 03/08/18).

Below is some of the info gleaned from those emails.

  • No emails apparently directly connect White and Nyankori for the dates requested.
  • Nyankori has apparently subcontracted with a fellow DC crony, Andrew Patricio, who has his own data company, dataeffectiveness.com.
  • I was reminded that Wong and Nyankori also have a connection via DC and Michelle Rhee, with Wong also having minimal exposure to the sped classroom and no degree in special education; still, like Nyankori, she was boosted in ed-reformer fashion to a position of authority as LDOE sped policy director.
  • Nyankori also apparently subcontracts with McKinsey and Company, with three McKinsey and Co. individuals (Neil Chianini, Jake Bryant, Jimmy Sarakatsannis) copied in emails. It is possible that there are layers of subcontracting, with McKinsey serving as a subcontractor to Data Effectiveness, which, in turn, is a subcontractor to SPEDx, who has a “no cost” (ahem) contract with LDOE. What this means is that there are numerous individuals who have access to Louisiana’s sped data, and the public has no idea.
  • The above subcontracting is not the end of the story. Nyankori asks Nesmith for test scores on the sped students, and Nesmith is not prepared for this; she was prepared to provide sped data but not assessment data. She brings in an individual who represents the company, Computer Aid (“Compaid,” or CAI), a contractor that “maintains software that aids in development, configuration, problem resolution, programming and other support in the special education reporting (SER) database system,” as per this LDOE-CAI contract that spans 2012 – 2020 and costs as follows:
    • IMG_1025 (1)

Some more info on Nyankori’s request for assessment data:

From the outset, Nyankori and his subcontracted sidekick, Patricio, want access to assessment data on Louisiana’s sped students. Nesmith was prepared to provide sped data, which makes it seem that Nyankori’s goal differs from Nesmith’s expectation.

There seems to be two goals for Nyankori and his SPEDx: a surface goal, and a secondary, less-publicized goal. As I read these emails, it seemed that one expectation was that Nyankori would somehow advise LDOE on how to construct “better” IEPs (whatever that might mean).

The other expectation– and one more in line with career ed reformers who go the route of starting their own for-profits– is to promote their services as somehow leading to cutting costs.

In trying to ascertain for-profit SPEDx’s bottom-line offering to states, I asked former Texas sped director, Laurie Kash, to draft a narrative about her experience with SPEDx. Below is what she offered via email on April 07, 2018:

I can definitely understand why there would be confusion about how the analysis is conducted and the purpose for SPEDx.

SPEDx has a different message for each of its two audiences. One audience is the school district, otherwise known as the local user. For this audience, it promises analysis of IEPs that will lead to improved IEP writing. This is very appealing.
However, for the other audience, the high-level, state user or the person who will be funding the SPEDx project, it promises streamlining of “unnecessary” services for a reduction of overall state costs—with “necessity” being determined by standardized testing outcomes.

Here’s how this works: The analysis that is conducted by SPEDx compares the standardized tests scores of SPED students who receive a given service with SPED students who do not receive a given services. For example, SPEDx wanted to compare English Language Arts standardized scores of students who had received speech as a related service versus students who had not received speech as a related service.

SPEDx used their data to try to persuade higher-ups that students who did not receive benefit in the form of standardized test improvement in the area of the English Language Arts should not be receiving speech and language services as a related service.

This struck me as inappropriate for the following reasons:

  1. I can affirm as a former regular-education English language arts teacher and special-education director that that there is not a direct correlation between related service in speech and English Language Arts standardized test scores that works across the board.
  2. Philosophically, this is a profound violation of the spirit of IDEA and IEP meeting laws. The team is to decide the services needed to accomplish the goals set for the child. This is not to be determined by a company or the state. This is not to be abridged by a company or the state.

When one reads the fine print about the purpose of SPEDx, one finds that really the way they make their money is to promise to return the investment the state makes in their services by reducing the necessity for services. This is a violation of the spirit of IDEA. I couldn’t stand for that though it cost me my job.

Laurie Kash, PhD

When SPEDx shows up at a state department of education, advocates of special education have reason to be concerned. Below are Nyankori’s (and Rhee’s) thoughts on the matter are noted in this May 24, 2011, Huffington Post article:

We know, there are a lot of people out there who think we’re too focused on standardized tests. But, really, how can you diagnose learning problems, move kids to the next level or hold teachers accountable if you don’t measure student progress in an objective, standardized way? …

…Arguing against testing for kids with disabilities is discriminatory. Good instruction comes with good assessments. You can’t separate them, and to try to do so creates two, unequal systems, one with accountability and one without it. This is a civil rights issue.

For much of our country’s history, society has expected less of people with disabilities. For all its shortcomings, however, the federal No Child Left Behind law marked a change in that thinking. The law requires that students with disabilities generally have to be included in school accountability measures — meaning they must be tested and schools are judged on those test results. Any weakening of this policy would hurt kids, and we must remember that as Congress considers reauthorizing the law.

Some people say it’s cruel to make students with disabilities take challenging tests. We think it’s cruel to leave them out. Sure, it can be difficult as adults to see kids struggle with a tough task. But think about the smile on that kid’s face, or the confidence in his eyes, after he gives it his best shot. We have to teach children to deal with frustrating moments, not shelter them from ever having them.

It doesn’t take much to see how Nyankori’s enthusiasm for using standardized tests to determine sped outcomes translated into his forming a for-profit that *helps* states reduce overhead in the form of special education services judged unnecessary via standardized testing outcomes.

The SPEDx bottom line is a financial bottom line, and the likes of SPEDx appeals to states looking for a means of cutting overhead linked to dimension-lacking, misapplied standardized test scores.

When one reads the fine print about the purpose of SPEDx, one finds that really the way they make their money is to promise to return the investment the state makes in their services by reducing the necessity for services. –Laurie Kash

…Make sure they note that we did not spend any money on this.  –Jamie Wong

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_____________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

On September 12, 2018, Will AFT President Randi Weingarten Participate in Another Cuomo-Ticket Robocall?

Heads Up: It’s Political!

Cynthia Nixon is challenging New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, in the state’s Democratic primary.

IMG_1035  Cyunthia Nixon

Cuomo considers public education a “monopoly” that he has been working to break.

Nixon is a supporter of public education. From her campaign website:

Eight years ago, I voted for Andrew Cuomo because I believed he was a real Democrat. But since taking office, Governor Cuomo has shown us his true colors. He let the Republicans gerrymander their own districts to suppress Democratic voters, especially voters of color. Then, when Democrats still won a majority, he cut a backroom deal that allowed Republicans to take over the State Senate through the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) — a group of breakaway Democrats who voted with the Republicans to hand them control, and with it, the power to block almost all of our key Democratic legislative priorities.

Andrew Cuomo has given massive tax breaks to corporations and the super rich while starving the state and its cities of the most basic services and decimating our infrastructure. His inhumane budgets have been passed on the backs of our children, our working and middle class, and our elderly.

We hear all the time about how the big money interests control DC. But if Washington is a swamp, then Albany is a cesspool. Andrew Cuomo promised to clean up Albany, but instead, he and his cronies have cleaned up for themselves. There’s a reason why people close to Cuomo keep winding up under indictment for corruption.

New York’s eight years under the Cuomo administration have been an exercise in living with disappointment, dysfunction, and dishonesty. Our state could be a place where every single New Yorker has what we need to thrive, if only we could stop our governor from selling New York off to the highest bidder.

We could fully fund our public schools — all of our schools. We could end the school to prison pipeline, and level the playing field for students in every part of the state, regardless of the color of their skin or their zip code.

We could fix our crumbling subway system by providing the MTA the money we were promised for repairs, and stop asking New York City or its riders to clean up Governor Cuomo’s mess.

We could take on the real estate developers and landlords who are buying off politicians, raising rents, and forcing people out of their homes. We could strengthen and renew our expiring rent laws, and protect affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers.

On April 14, 2018, the Working Families Party (WFP) chose to endorse Nixon, a move that CNN reports has caused (highlighted?) a rift in the WFP, with some unions apparently preferring Cuomo.

One union “that walked away years ago” is the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). From CNN:

“In a meeting earlier this week, the governor was threatening people,” WFP State Director Bill Lipton said on Friday. “Several times, he said ‘if unions or anyone give money to any of these groups, they can lose my number.’ Our friends in labor are in a tight spot, and we respect their decision.”
Lipton kept up the conciliatory tone on Saturday, casting the union defectors not as turncoats, but victims of a pressure campaign by Cuomo and his allies.
The Cuomo campaign denied on Friday that the governor threatened anyone….

“Mr. Lipton is misguided and delusional if he believes the Working Families Party still represents the voices of labor and working people in New York,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “We walked away years ago when it became evident that their focus was on personal political agendas and a few egos. When asked to behave responsibly, they react like children throwing a tantrum in the classroom.”

The apparent unwillingness for Mulgrew to be associated with a Nixon endorsement comes days after Cuomo made a timely, strategic move to woo the UFT, as the New York Daily News reports:

Gov. Cuomo signed a bill Thursday to give unions a boost even if the Supreme Court rules against them in a high-stakes case.

The legislation would make it easier for public workers’ unions to recruit members — and allow them to deny extra services to people who refuse to join.

Cuomo, who is facing a primary challenge on his left from Cynthia Nixon, signed the bill at the United Federation of Teachers Manhattan headquarters….

Even though Cuomo tries to downplay Nixon’s challenge, actions such as the above UFT union-support-toss betray his need to treat Nixon as an increasingly viable contender. An April 12, 2018, article on the Marist poll has Nixon polling early on the same as Fordham law prof Zephyr Teachout, who though relatively unknown, took a third of the votes in the 2014 Democratic primary in New York:

In the Democratic primary for New York State governor, incumbent Andrew Cuomo (68%) leads challenger Cynthia Nixon (21%) by more than three to one among registered Democrats in New York State. 11% are undecided. In 2014 when Zephyr Teachout challenged Cuomo, he received 62% of the vote in the primary to 34% for Teachout.

“The Nixon candidacy becomes a problem for Cuomo if and by how much she surpasses Teachout’s support four years ago,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Also, the more Cuomo needs to attack Nixon during the primary, the more he will have to pivot later to appeal to progressive Democrats nationally if he wants to run for president in 2020.” …

“Despite Cuomo’s wide, early lead over Nixon, among Democrats most enthusiastic about voting, she already attracts the support of close to what Zephyr Teachout got,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Among voters who are highly enthusiastic to participate in the Democratic primary, Nixon receives 32% to Cuomo’s 60%.

Nixon’s challenge to establishment Dem Cuomo brings me to a question I had in mind upon learning that Nixon planned to run and that Teachout agreed to be her campaign manager:

Will American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten conduct another robocall that is little more than back-door Cuomo support?

On September 08, 2014, the eve of the 2014 New York Democratic primary, Weingarten’s voice blanketed New York State as she appealed to voters to elect Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul. From my September 14, 2014, post:

On September 8, 2014, Weingarten’s voice had been heard on answering machines around New York, asking voters to support Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul.

However, she assures voters that she is not Randi Weingarten, union president– she is Randi Weingarten, Democratic National Committee delegate.

Weingarten was “delegated” the task of shutting out the “wrong” Democrat: one Democrat robocalling in favor of another Democrat but against yet another Democrat.

And yet, the “forget that I’m a national teachers union president” Weingarten tries to sell Hochul based upon what she supposedly has done and will do for schools– a word Weingarten repeats five times in her brief script.

Here is Weingarten’s  full script, compliments of Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News:

Hi, this is Randi Weingarten- you may know me as the president of the American Federation of Teachers but I’m calling today as a fellow Democrat and delegate to the Democratic National Committee, to urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.


I worked closely with Kathy when she was in the Congress. She fought back against extremist Republicans who attacked Medicare, Social Security, affordable healthcare and stood up for public schools, our children, our families and our educators. Her 100 percent pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker pro public school record is exactly what we need in our next Lieutenant Governor.

In Congress, Kathy sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act to require school districts nationwide to implement anti-bullying policies.‎ Kathy has pledged to help invest in our public schools and expand Universal Pre-K to every region of the state so all of our children get a head start on success.

This is Randi Weingarten and I urge you to vote for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor in the Democratic Primary this Tuesday September 9th. Thanks. [Emphasis added.]

Fantastic, right? Weingarten using her national position to support Hochul in a democratic state primary, which amounts to supporting Cuomo by proxy, which allows NYSUT (and UFT) to claim neutrality but also satisfies Weingarten’s allegiance to Cuomo and to a Democratic machine.

Despite Weingarten’s efforts, Teachout garnered 34 percent of the vote.

In an on-the-spot interview I had with Weingarten on April 27, 2015, at the Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Chicago, Weingarten insisted that her Hochul robocall was not a back-door Cuomo endorsement since “they were separate on the ballot”– despite the fact that the Democratic National Party considered the Cuomo-Hochul ticket “complete.” From my April 27, 2015, post:

But let us return to the idea that Weingarten tries to promote: That since the governor and lieutenant governor are separate ballot issues primary elections in New York, then promoting Cuomo’s running mate does not necessarily translate into support for Cuomo.

I researched back to the 1950s and could find no instance in which a New York governor and lieutenant governor who both received the Democratic nomination did not both make it successfully through the primary and end up on the same Democratic ticket.

Given Cuomo’s publicized hatred for New York teachers, it is logical to conclude that former-teacher Hochul could be used as a convenient token to draw career teacher support for Cuomo, and that both the Democratic Party and Weingarten surely knew as much.

On the day that WFP chose to endorse Nixon, Weingarten tweeted this:

The day before, she tweeted this:

Weingarten is a prolific tweeter. However, tweets about Nixon are notably absent from her Twitter page. (If you find one, let me know.)

And so, my question remains:

Will Weingarten participate in some public maneuver to sabotage Nixon and secure Cuomo another term as New York’s governor?

Stay tuned, New York.

New York’s Democratic primary for governor is scheduled for September 13, 2018.

On September 12, 2018, if you’re a New Yorker, you might pick up your phone and hear,

Hi, this is Randi Weingarten….

weingarten7  Randi Weingarten

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Republican-Controlled KY Legislature Overrides Gov Veto, Supports KY Public Ed

Friday the 13th can be a happy day.

Case in point: It’s so nice to read that a Republican-controlled legislature overrode its Republican governor, who chose to veto a tax hike that supports public education.

From the April 13, 2018, PBS News Hour:

FRANKFORT, Ky. — With the chants of hundreds of teachers ringing in their ears, Kentucky lawmakers have completed an override of Gov. Matt Bevin’s veto of a more than $480 million tax hike that helps pay for increases in public education spending.

The Senate voted 20-18 Friday to override the GOP governor’s veto of House Bill 366. The final vote followed a 57-40 House vote in favor of the override. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

The bill raises revenue for the state over the next two years. It includes a 6 percent sales tax on a variety of services, including auto and home repairs, to pay for higher classroom spending.

Bevin vetoed the increase because he said it would not generate enough money to cover new state spending. Republican legislative leaders disagreed. Thousands of teachers rallied Friday at the Kentucky Capitol, urging lawmakers to override Bevin’s vetoes. …

The veto put Republican lawmakers in a tough position, asking them to vote a second time on a tax increase in an election year. But 57 Republicans eagerly voted to override….

And here the amazing reality: Kentucky is the fourth state experiencing organized teacher unrest inside of two months, beginning on February 22, 2018, with the 9-day teachers strike in West Virginia, which resulted in a 5-percent raise, and including a 9-day strike in Oklahoma (ending in mixed reviews, including a $6,100 raise contingent on raising taxes that an anti-tax group hopes to blockand an averted strike in Arizona, with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey promising teachers a 20 percent raise on April 12, 2018, in the wake of obvious teacher organizing.

Public school teachers aren’t greedy people. We aren’t career ladder-climbers gauging “arrival” by our numerous vacation homes and yacht club memberships. But we would like salaries that do not necessitate side employment; safe, clean, and sufficiently-spacious facilities for ourselves and our students, and teaching materials of adequate number and appreciable quality.

In short, we want our state legislatures– red or not– to support us with suitable revenue dedicated to public education.

Attempting to deliver on that might even require Republican legislatures to override vetoes of Republican governors.

Well done, Kentucky!

minion thumbs up

____________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Advocate Reporter Will Sentell Misreports Louisiana TOPS Accomplishment, Refuses to Correct

The same day that the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released scores embarrassing to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) headed by state superintendent John White– April 10, 2018– LDOE ostensibly attempted to counter the negative press with this press release about 52 percent of 2017 graduates being eligible for TOPS (Taylor Opportunity Scholarship Program).

The minimum ACT composite score for TOPS eligibility is 17. However, TOPS has four levels, the condiitons of which are linked in the LDOE press release:

According to the LDOE press release, a total of 19,220 graduates (52%) were eligible for TOPS in 2017. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 5,103 (14%) TOPS Tech (min ACT: 17)
  • 6,662 (18%) TOPS Opportunity (min ACT: 20)
  • 4,235 (11%) TOPS Performance (min ACT: 23)
  • 3,220 (9%) TOPS Honors (min ACT: 27)

Therefore, according to the information above, 14,117 (38%) of 2017 graduates were TOPS eligible due to meeting a minimum ACT composite score of 20. (This number is calculated by subtracting the 5,103 students qualifying for TOPS Tech.)

On April 10, 2018, Will Sentell of the Advocate published an article on the issue. However, he misleads readers to believe that the minimum ACT composite for TOPS is 20, not 17– an error that makes Louisiana’s 2017 grads look like they fared better on the ACT than they actually did.

IMG_1030  Will Sentell

From Sentell’s article:

For the first time, more than half of Louisiana’s high school graduating class qualified for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, state officials announced Tuesday morning.

A total of 52 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2017 were eligible for TOPS, the first such class in state history.

TOPS pays for tuition and other costs for students who meet the academic requirements.

Students have to earn a 20 on the ACT, which measures college readiness, and a 2.5 GPA on their high school core curriculum to qualify.

The more than 19,200 students who meet the standard for TOPS is also the highest ever, according to data from the Louisiana Board of Regents.

That was up from 18,373 in 2016.

The number of TOPS qualifiers is also up 18 percent since 2012.

In addition, the number of students who qualified in each TOPS category also rose in 2017.

About 52,000 students get the assistance.

The most common form of TOPS is called TOPS Opportunity.

Others are TOPS Honors, TOPS Performance and TOPS Tech.

“The increase in the number of students who are eligible to receive TOPS scholarships is another testament to the great work happening in K-12 classrooms across the state to prepare our students for success after high school,” state Superintendent of Education John White said in a statement.

Sentell’s article utterly lacks the clarity that those 19,220 students (52%) include the 5,103 (14%) with a minimum ACT composite of 17. Thus, readers of this article may reasonably (and wrongly) believe that 19,220 of Louisiana’s 2017 graduates (52%) have scored an ACT composite of 20.

I emailed Sentell about this error.

He refuses to correct it.

Below is our exchange (begin reading from bottom):

Re: error in TOPS article
From: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
To: wsentell <wsentell@theadvocate.com>
Date: Wed, April 11, 2018 9:31 am

.

As it stands, your article is misleading. It leads readers to believe that the baseline for TOPS is an ACT composite of 20.

–Mercedes Schneider

—–Original Message—–
From: Sentell, Will <wsentell@theadvocate.com>
To: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Wed, Apr 11, 2018 8:50 am
Subject: RE: error in TOPS article
.

Accurate for most common form of TOPS. Did not spell out requirements for other three categories either.

From: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2018 8:05 AM
To: Sentell, Will <wsentell@theadvocate.com>
Subject: error in TOPS article

Will, re:

“Students have to earn a 20 on the ACT, which measures college readiness, and a 2.5 GPA on their high school core curriculum to qualify.”

in

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/education/article_dcb923c0-3cd2-11e8-9fc1-c70aad362538.html

Wrong info.

Minimum ACT is 17 (TOPS Tech).

5,100 of those 19,220 students have an ACT of 17.

See LDOE press release:

https://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2018/04/10/number-of-graduates-achieving-tops-reaches-all-time-high

–Mercedes Schneider

Sentell selects the minimum ACT criteria for the second category and presents it as the minimum, period, and he excuses himself for creating a lie.

The question is whether Sentell is either just too lazy to correct a critical error or intentionally desires to deceive his readers by promoting an inflated LDOE accomplisment on the heels of this Sentell article about Louisiana’s 2017 NAEP flop.

Feel free to ask him.

question marks

_________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

NAEP and John White’s Computer-Based-Testing Hypocrisy

Concerned about the low NAEP scores he saw prior to public release, Louisiana state superintendent John White petitioned the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) regarding bias against students who lack experience with taking computerized tests and how such inexperience might reflect disproportionately on certain states.

Below is an excerpt from White’s letter to NCES– an excerpt which represents his primary concern regarding Louisiana’s 2017 NAEP scores:

…No Louisiana student in 4th grade or 8th grade had ever been required to take a state assessment via a computer or tablet as of the 2017 NAEP administration. This fact, coupled with a variety of social indicators that may correspond with low levels of technology access or skill, may mean that computer usage or skill among Louisiana students, or students in any state, is not equivalent to computer skills in the national population.

I would like to be assured, as soon as possible, that when NCES reports math and reading results on a state-by-state basis over a two-year interval, the results and trends reported at the state level reflect an evaluation of reading and math skill rather than an evaluation of technology skill.

NAEP scores for 2017 were publicly released on April 10, 2018, and indeed, Louisiana’s 2017 NAEP scores were embarrassingly low; here is how Will Sentell of the Advocate opens his article on Louisiana’s 2017 NAEP scores:

In the latest snapshot of education achievement, scores for Louisiana public school fourth-graders plunged to or near the bottom of the nation in reading and math.

In addition, eighth-graders finished 50th among the states and the District of Columbia in math and 48th in reading.

The exams, which sparked controversy this time, are called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

Math, reading and other results make up what organizers call the nation’s report card.

In 2015, fourth-graders finished 43rd in the U. S. in reading and 45th in math.

But both scores dropped five points – to 212 and 229 out of 500 respectively – during tests administered to 2,700 students last  year.

That means fourth-grade math scores finished 51st while fourth-grade reading scores are 49th.

The group that oversees the exams, the National Center for Education Statistics, said both drops are statistically significant.

The results were also at odds with other states, where most scores were unchanged from 2015 in both subjects and both grades.

State Superintendent of Education John White, as he did on Friday, renewed his view that this year’s scores were affected by the fact the exams were done online for the first time.

And so White did. Below is what he told Wilborn Nobles of nola.com:

“According to the NAEP, the gaps between high-performing students and low-performing students in Louisiana and nationally are growing, and there will be speculation as to whether or not that is a real change in reading and math skills (or) whether that has to do with the change to online technology,” White said.

White is apparently concerned about drops in 2017 NAEP being due to students’ unfamiliarity with taking the tests online.

However, in April 2017, when LaSalle Parish math teacher, Herb Bassett, asked White about a similar situation associated with Louisiana’s school letter grades, White readily brushed aside such concerns.

Below is Bassett’s question and White’s corresponding answer, as captured in this document from Bassett and this response document from White, respectively:

Bassett: …What accommodations will be made or what revision process will be implemented to adjust for the shift in achievement level distribution that likely will accompany the transition to computer-based tests from paper-and-pencil based tests this year (for K-8 students)?

White: All students in grades five and above are transitioning from paper assessments to online assessments, as have been used in high school for a decade. Some districts have already made the shift to online testing in elementary/middle school grades without a significant impact on results. Additionally, all districts have had many years to prepare for the transition. Thus, no major impact on results is expected.

Ultimately, the Department’s objective is not to create a particular distribution of
results, but rather to build a fair and honest accountability system that holds students and schools to the same high expectations as anywhere else in the country. A core component of that system is expecting students to use computers, as is required for all adults and children in the 21st century.

In light of White’s computer concerns related to Louisiana’s low 2017 NAEP scores (which reflect poorly on him), let’s examine part of White’s casual, sorry-no-adjustment response to Bassett once again:

Some districts have already made the shift to online testing in elementary/middle school grades without a significant impact on results. Additionally, all districts have had many years to prepare for the transition. Thus, no major impact on results is expected.

Let’s go for more:

Ultimately, the Department’s objective is not to create a particular distribution of results, but rather to build a fair and honest accountability system that holds students and schools to the same high expectations as anywhere else in the country. 

And let’s polish it off:

A core component of that system is expecting students to use computers, as is required for all adults and children in the 21st century.

There you go, John White: A live-with-it answer drafted a year ago by your own hand.

IMG_1027

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Louisiana’s 2017 NAEP Does Nothing to Promote White’s Effectiveness as a State Superintendent

Louisiana state superintendent John White has been fretting over 2017 NAEP.

Here’s why:

Louisiana’s 4th grade math falls from 234 (2015) to 229 (2017)– the same as it was in 2009– and 2 points lower than it was since John White’s arrival as state superintendent (2012):

  • 2000: 218
  • 2003: 226
  • 2005: 230
  • 2007: 230
  • 2009: 229
  • 2011: 231
  • 2013: 231
  • 2015: 234
  • 2017: 229

Louisiana’s 4th grade reading falls from 216 (2015) to 212 (2017). It was 210 in both 2011 and 2013. So, during White’s tenure, reading fell more in two years (2015 to 2017; -4 points) than it rose overall from 2011 to 2017 (2 points):

  • 2002: 207
  • 2003: 205
  • 2005: 209
  • 2007: 207
  • 2009: 207
  • 2011: 210
  • 2013: 210
  • 2015: 216
  • 2017: 212

Louisiana’s 8th grade math falls from 268 (2015) to 267 (2017). It has not dropped below 268 since 2003– nine years prior to John White’s arrival as state superintendent (2012). It was 273 in 2011 (prior to White):

  • 2000: 259
  • 2003: 266
  • 2005: 268
  • 2007: 272
  • 2009: 272
  • 2011: 273
  • 2013: 273
  • 2015: 268
  • 2017: 267

Finally, Louisiana’s 8th grade reading score has vacillated between 255 and 257 since 2011 (i.e., prior to White’s arrival):

  • 2002: 256
  • 2003: 253
  • 2005: 253
  • 2007: 253
  • 2009: 253
  • 2011: 255
  • 2013: 257
  • 2015: 255
  • 2017: 257

So there we have it: John White’s 2017 NAEP problem.

Let’s watch as he tries to spin it.

john white 8  John White

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.