Friday, April 11, 2014

Pictures and words from our amazing rally yesterday; protesting Gov. Cuomo's forced charter takeover of our public schools

Yesterday, we held a terrific rally with hundreds of parents and kids, filling the steps of the NY Public Library, outraged at the onerous provisions in the state budget bill that would force the city to give every new and expanding charters preference for public school space going forward or cover the cost for them to obtain private space.  The rally was the result of an unprecedented outreach and organizing effort by Community Education Council leaders, elected by public school parents citywide,  to inform them of what had happened, and allow them to express their justified outrage at the forced privatization of our public schools. For more on the rally see our press release on Diane Ravitch's blog here.

This is the most egregious charter preference law in the nation, and the most acute violation of local control.  As Sen. Liz Krueger pointed out at the rally, the privatizers avidly supported mayoral control when that mayor was Michael Bloomberg, eager to give away our schools to charter operators.

But when New Yorkers overwhelmingly elected  a mayor who said he would charge charters rent and hold a moratorium on co-locations, the powers that be persuaded the Governor and the leaders of the Legislature to perform a bloodless coup, to essentially eliminate mayoral control and force the city to pay for unlimited charter expansion at the cost of our public school students, creating even more division, overcrowding, deprivation and larger class sizes. 

Here are some snapshots from the afternoon -- which sadly few media outlets chose to cover:

Yes!  All Kids do Matter.  And the Governor should stop playing favorites and do his duty by providing an equal education for all children.

Gloria Corsino, President of the Citywide District 75 Council, with a sign pointing out how the Governor and (some of ) our Senators sold us out.

Some of the elected leaders who came to support our rally and oppose the hostile takeover of our schools included State Senators Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger, and City Council Education Chair Danny Dromm.
The crowd continued to gather, and despite the anger, it was a festive occasion with green balloons and an opportunity to have our voices heard for a change. 

Brad Hoylman, one of only three Senators to vote against the budget bill, saying, "Did any ask the parents if they wanted their kids evicted out of classrooms and art rooms to make way for charters?"  The answer was a resounding NO!
Councilmember Danny Dromm, chair of the Education Committee and a former teacher for 22 years, called the new charter provisions "education apartheid."

The civil rights leader Hazel Dukes, President  of the NAACP New York State Conference, told how she will continue to fight for the rights of all children for a quality education, and pointed out that 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, special needs kids are getting their services in closets due to charter encroachment.

Hundreds of us march to the Governor's office on 3rd Avenue, while chanting, led by drummers.

We collect (fake) money to give to the Governor, as this is what appears to be motivating his preferential treatment of charter operators and their hedge fund backers, who have contributed nearly $1 million to his re-election campaign.

Children and their parents cross the street to meet with the Governor's representative, to give her a postcard addressed to Cuomo, signed by kids and parents, urging him not to sell-off our schools, with (fake) money taped to it.

The children hold up the post card to the Governor, with a stamp portraying Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly.  (Thanks Shino Tanikawa for her artwork!)  They  hold more signs, saying "Don't Squish us in, Public Schools Necesitamos Espacio!"

The Governor's deputy press secretary carries the post card back into their offices. 

Meanwhile, Brooklyn parents, facing a Success co-location that the community uniformly opposes, get into a heated argument with a Success employee, there to videotape the proceedings for Eva Moskowitz.

Our protest ends with a speech by Senator Bill Perkins, one of the other three Senators to vote against the budget bill, along with Sen. Velmanette Montgomery.   He compares the proliferation of charter schools to the growth of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises selling unhealthy food; and adds that charter operators are like "wolves in sheep clothing."

More than 37 NYC principals say NO! to the Commissioner; the state exams are unfair & flawed & need to undergo public scrutiny

The day after NY Education Commissioner King in a widely-covered speech claims the state's Common Core aligned exams were "better tests" and the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praises him, by saying under King's leadership the state has an opportunity to “help lead the country where we need to go,” more than 37 NYC principals lead rallies to say the state exams were awful & unfair to kids.  

UPDATED: here are links to news stories about the rallies (thanks to Edith Baltazar for collecting!)  NY Post ,  NY1, NY Magazine,  CBS Chalkbeat , Newsday , WSJ,   WaPostFOX-TV, and  DNA-Info.

Friday, April 11, 2014
Contact: Adele Schroeter, PS 59; (212) 888-7870
  Lisa Ripperger, PS 234; (212) 233-6034


Call on Education Department, Commissioner John King, and Pearson to Provide Fairer Testing Methods

New York, NY – This morning, New York City’s District 2 schools, along with some in Districts 1 and 3 held public demonstrations to express their deep dissatisfaction with the 2014 NYS ELA exam. More than 37 principals from across the district marched along with parents, teachers, students, administrators and staff.

“We are disappointed by the design and quality of this test as well as the lack of transparency surrounding this process,” said Adele Schroeter, Principal of PS 59. “If administrators, teachers, and parents are expected to empower our students, we need to be provided with better access to the materials used for testing. Allowing the tests to undergo public scrutiny, as they were in the past, will provide the accountability necessary to ensure quality exams in the future.”

Among the concerns shared by many District 2 schools are the following:
·         The test is not well-aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards;
·         Exam questions are poorly constructed and ambiguous;
·         A strict embargo limits transparency as the full tests will never be released publicly;
·         Teachers are not permitted to use the questions or the results to inform their teaching;
·         Students and families receive little or no specific feedback;
·         Length of test (3 days) feels unnecessarily long; and
·         This year, there were product placements (i.e., Nike, Barbie) woven throughout the exam.

“The Common Core Learning Standards are about rigorous, critical thinking.  If state education officials want schools continuing to improve their instruction to better meet the CCLS, it’s critical the test makers design tests that demonstrate that approach,” said Lisa Ripperger, Principal of PS 234. “If this doesn’t happen, there’s a tremendous risk that schools will refocus their instruction on narrow, minute aspects of curricular content.”
The District 2 School Principals are calling on the NYS Education Department, Commissioner John King, and Pearson to implement more transparent methods in creating and distributing the test. These demonstrations follow similar protests in Brooklyn last week, led by Liz Phillips of PS 321.

Parents, teachers, students, and administrators from District 2 schools participated in today’s protests including:

·         Adele Schroeter, Principal PS 59
·         Lisa Ripperger, Principal PS 234
·         Sharon Hill, Principal PS 290
·         Jane Hsu, Principal PS 116
·         Lisa Siegman, Principal PS 3
·         Jennifer Bonnet, Principal PS 150
·         Kelly McGuire, Principal Lower Manhattan Community
·         Nancy Sing-Bock, Principal PS 51
·         Susan Felder, Principal PS 40
·         Tara Napoleoni, Principal PS 183
·         Robert Bender, Principal PS 11
·         Kelly Shannon, Principal PS 41
·         Nicole Ziccardi Yerk, Principal PS 281
·         Lauren Fontana, Principal PS 6
·         Amy Hom, Principal PS 1
·         Terri Ruyter, Principal PS/IS 276
·         Nancy Harris, Principal PS 397
·         David Thacker Bowell, Principal PS 347
·         Samantha Kaplan, Principal PS 151
·         Irma Medina, Principal PS/IS 111
·         Medea McEvoy, Principal PS 267
·         Jacqui Getz, Principal PS 126/MAT
·         Darryl Alhadeff, Principal PS 158
·         Alice Hom, Principal PS 124
·         Lily Woo, Principal PS 130
·         Bessie Ng, Principal PS 2
·         Ronnie Najjar, Principal PS 89
·         Maggie Siena, Principal PS 343
·         Stacy Goldstein, Principal School of the Future
·         Rosa Casiello-O’Day, Principal PS 42
·         Linore Lindy, Principal PS 33
·         David Getz, Principal East Side Middle School
·         Rhonda Perry, Principal Salk Middle School
·         Phyllis Tam, Principal MS 131
·         Henry Zymeck, Principal MS 245 Computer School, District 3
·         Monica Berry, Principal PS 87, District 3
·         Iris Chiu, Principal PS 184, District 1

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rally at NY Public Library and March On Governor Cuomo's Office Tomorrow to Draw Hundreds of Outraged Parents from All Over City

Noah E. Gotbaum:

BREAKING: Rally at NY Public Library and March On Governor Cuomo's Office Tomorrow to Draw Hundreds of Outraged Parents from All Over City

Elected Parent Leaders from Citywide and Community Education Councils Across five boroughs Unite Against Gov. Cuomo's Attacks on Public Education and Demand Fair Treatment of Public School Students 

In an unprecedented show of unity, elected parent leaders and public education advocates from all five boroughs will gather to say all kids matter and to protest the selling off of public school buildings by Governor Cuomo and the State Senate leaders to the charter school lobby, by giving preferential rights and funding to the 6% of New York City students in charter schools while the needs of 1.1 million public school students remain unmet.

WHEN: Thursday, April 10, at 4 PM. 

WHERE: Steps of the NY Public Library, Fifth Ave. at 41st Street. Following the rally participants will march to the Governor’s Office at 633 Third Avenue at 40th Street.  

VISUALS: Parents, advocates, and students holding balloons, signs and flashing fake money.

WHO: Council Education Chair Danny Dromm, State Senator Bill Perkins, NAACP Head Hazel Dukes, former Council Education Chair Robert Jackson, other Council Members, parents, advocates and students, led by Community Education Councils and Citywide Councils from all five boroughs, elected by parents to represent their 1.1 million public school children.

WHAT: Community Education Council members, parents, advocates, and students, educators and elected officials protest how Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders are creating a two-tiered education system, in which the charter school lobby will now be given veto power over New York City’s public school buildings, and any new or expanding charter will be provided free on-demand public school space or private accommodations paid for by the city. Meanwhile, public school students – a majority of whom sit in overcrowded classrooms, buildings and trailers - have no such rights, and still wait for the equitable funding from the State as promised by the state’s highest court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision.

Co-sponsored by Citywide and Community Education Councils; Alliance for Quality Education (AQE); Brooklyn New School PAC; Change the Stakes; Class Size Matters; ICOPE  (Independent Commission on Public Education); MORE; New York Communities for Change (NYCC); New York Lawyers for Public Interest; NYCORE;; ParentVoicesNY; Parent Leaders of Upper Eastside Schools (PLUS); Partnership for Student Advocacy; Teachers Unite; Time Out from Testing, WAGPOPS (list in formation)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Despite parent protests, DOE to go ahead with plan to push class sizes to 46 at PS 11Q Queens & violate building code

For more on the class size violations this plan will trigger, and the opposition of elected officials and parents, see DNA info here and here.  The plan also includes busing Kindergarten students to three different schools for three years in a row.  You can send your comments to before 5 PM today, to be voted on tomorrow night at the PEP meeting at Prospect Heights HS in Brooklyn.

Dear Panel members:
I see that the plan to build an annex at PS 11 in Queens is again on the agenda, to be voted on at this week's meeting on Wednesday April 9.  This will mean doubled up class sizes in grades 1-3.
Please see attached chart, showing proposed room usage next year at PS 11 in which eleven rooms will violate UFT class size limits, with class sizes up to 46; and ten rooms that will violate the building code.  These are the worst class sizes I have seen in over a decade of advocacy work.  Building code violations are simply unacceptable and unnecessarily will risk children's safety.
There is an obvious alternative. Delay construction for one year until PS 339 nearby is completed.  DOE's claim that the money to build the annex could not be put into escrow for one year makes NO sense at all and should not be accepted at face value.
Whatever the solution, these doubled up class sizes should NOT be allowed to occur.  They are unfair to children, will severely undermine their educational trajectory for life, and are probably illegal.  I urge you to vote NO on this proposal.

Sincerely, Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

Monday, April 7, 2014

District 2 principals fight back! Parents, Rally with your school on Friday morning vs awful State ELA exam

See letter from most of the Elementary school principals in Community School District 2 below; D2 takes up a large slice of Manhattan from the southern tip to 96 St. on the East Side and the 50's on the West Side, with a small chunk of the Lower E. Side taken out.

Note: the letter mentions "product placements":  Among the trademarked products in the ELA exams this year were not just Nike and Barbie mentioned below; but also Lifesavers, Ipods, Mug Rootbeer, Singer Sewing Machines, IBM and FIFA, trademark of the International Soccer Federation, each with the TM after their name and below the reading passage. Mug Rootbeer, Fifa and IBM were also in the exams last year.

Community Action: Join Principals  in Speaking Out Regarding the NYS English Language Arts Exam Friday, April 11th, at District 2 Schools

Dear District 2 Families,
Community School District 2 represents a richly diverse group of school communities and it is not often these days that we have an opportunity to join in a shared effort.  Last week, and for several weeks prior, every one of our upper grade classrooms devoted hours of instructional time, vast human resources, and a tremendous amount of thoughtful effort to preparing students to do well on the NYS ELA exams and, ultimately, to administering them.  Only a handful of District 2 families even considered opting out, and we are not advocating families do so, specifically because we believe our students are well prepared for the rigor and high expectations of the Common Core and our schools have worked hard for several years to adjust our curriculum and teaching to support students in meeting those expectations. 
We had high hopes for what this year’s tests would bring and assured families that they would reflect the feedback test makers and state officials had received from educators and families regarding the design of the test following last year's administration.  Our students worked extremely hard and did their very best.  As school leaders, we supported teachers in ensuring that students and families kept the tests in perspective – they were important, but by no means the ultimate measure of who they are as readers, students, or human beings. We encouraged them to be optimistic, and did our best to do the same.  Frankly, many of us were disappointed by the design and quality of the tests and stood by helplessly while kids struggled to determine best answers, distorting much of what we'd taught them about effective reading skills and strategies and forgoing deep comprehension for something quite different.   
Last Friday morning, Liz Phillips, the principal of PS321 in Brooklyn, led her staff and her parent community in a demonstration objecting, not to testing or accountability or high expectations for kids, but to these tests in particular and, importantly, to their high stakes nature for teachers and students, and the policy of refusing to release other than a small percentage of the questions.  500 staff and parents participated.
By Friday evening some officials were dismissing the importance of their statement, claiming that Liz and her community represented only a tiny percentage of those affected, implying that the rest of us were satisfied.  Given the terribly high stakes of these tests, for schools, for teachers and for kids, and the enormous amount of human, intellectual and financial resources that have been devoted to them, test makers should be prepared to stand by them and to allow them to undergo close scrutiny.
Many District 2 schools will be holding demonstrations this week, making sure our thoughts on this are loud and clear and making it more difficult to dismiss the efforts of one school.  On Friday morning, April 11th, at 8:00am, we invite our families and staff to join District 2 schools in speaking out, expressing our deep dissatisfaction with the 2014 NYS English Language Arts LA exams and the lack of transparency surrounding them. 
Among the concerns shared by many schools are the following: The tests seem not to be particularly well-aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards; the questions are poorly constructed and often ambiguous; the tests themselves are embargoed and only a handful of select questions will be released next year; teachers are not permitted to use (or even discuss) the questions or the results to inform their teaching; students and families receive little or no specific feedback; this year, there were product placements (i.e., Nike, Barbie) woven through some exams. We are inviting you and your family to join together as a school community in this action, helping to ensure that officials are not left to wonder whether our silence implied approval.  
Yours truly, District 2 Principals

Adele Schroeter, PS59; Lisa Ripperger, PS234; Robert Bender, PS11; Tara Napoleoni, PS183; Jane Hsu, PS116; Sharon Hill, PS290; Amy Hom, PS1; Lauren Fontana, PS6; Jennifer Bonnet, PS150; Nicole Ziccardi Yerk, PS281; Susan Felder, PS40; Alice Hom, PS124; Nancy Harris, PS397; Kelly Shannon, PS41; Nancy Sing-Bok, PS51; Lisa Siegman, PS3;  Irma Medina, PS111; Terry Ruyter, PS276; Medea McEvoy, PS267; Darryl Alhadeff, PS158; Samantha Kaplan, PS151; David Bowell, PS347; Lily Woo, PS130; Jacqui Getz, PS126; Kelly McGuire, Lower Manhattan Community MS