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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice Assess Public Education In America

Former NYC DOE Chief Executive Officer Joel Klein and Former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice Assess Needs of Public Education From The "National Security" Perspective
by Betsy Combier, Editor,

From the desk of Betsy Combier:

 It is fascinating how our government pays people to write about successes that the global community knows are actually failures. I wrote an article about "Education Policy Becomes A Matter of National Security" in 2004, before I found out that Joel Klein took Vincent Foster's office after Foster's death, and became the front man for NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's destruction of the New York City public school system. Now we know what Klein and Rice are going to say - that their actions were all taken in good faith as part of the US Government's public policy mandate, but they could not do all that they wanted to do because citizen activists, like me and thousands of others, hindered their progress. The solution? Keep protesters out of the way, take the "public" out of government and education. I dont support this, ahead of the release of the report. Who put these two there in the first place?

   Former New York City Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein, and Secretary of State under George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice    
Here is my 2004 article:

Education Policy Becomes a Matter of National Security

Also read my article on Joel Klein violating Education Law 2590-h because the law mandates that the NYC Chancellor have a contract, and he never had one. He also was never given any performance review, and he was, I say, hired to fire teachers and remove the "public" from "public" policy and "public education". He also was mentioned in Linda Tripp's deposition testimony as the man who terrorized the people who worked for Bill Clinton after Vincent Foster died.

Didn't President Abraham Lincoln say: "You may deceive all the people part of the time, and part of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time."

We - here I speak for "the public" - are not fooled.

Betsy Combier

Betsy Combier and Colin Powell, Washington D.C. 2004

                                                                                                                                                                                        Published on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 by The Washington Post
Joel Klein, Condi Rice, and the Military-Business-Education Reform Complex
by Valerie Strauss
Sometime soon we can expect a report from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security, chaired by Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice. The panel started its work in April 2011 and was charged, according to the council’s Web site, with “evaluating the U.S. public education system within the context of national security.”

Can you guess what the report — which may be released next week — will say? In fact, knowing who headed the commission means that we can do better than just guess.

We can expect it to conclude that public education is in a crisis that threatens U.S. national security; schools need more and “better” assessments; all students should be able to pick the school they attend and therefore we need a new educational structure, and America trains teachers poorly. And what do you want to bet that it says Teach for America is great?

Don’t however, expect to see much, if anything on the fact that 22 percent of American children live in poverty and the consequences of that affect student achievement enormously.

The folks at the Council of Foreign Relations who assembled the commission knew exactly what they were going to get when they put in charge both Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor who now works for Rupert Murdoch, and Rice, secretary of state under former president George W. Bush.

Klein, believing that public education should be run like a business, launched a flurry of initiatives in his eight-year tenure as tenure as chancellor before he resigned in 2010 after it was revealed that the standardized test scores that he kept pointing to as proof of the success of his reforms were based on increasingly easy exams.

Rice has expressed her admiration for Bush’s key education initiative No Child Left Behind, which ushered in the current era of high-stakes testing that is helping to make an already troubled public education system into a real mess. “I liked the way that he thought about education,” she said late last year on NPR. (At this point, there aren’t many people who like the way Bush thought about education.)

The commission project director is Julia C. Levy, who worked as director of communications for the New York City Department of Education under Klein. What a coincidence.

If you are wondering who is on the commission, well, the Council of Foreign Relations wouldn’t say when asked. It is the council’s policy not to reveal who is on its commissions until the final report is released, according to Anya Schmemann, director of communications at the council and director of the organization’s task force program.

Why? Because each report is supposed to be approved by consensus. If someone on the commission decides he/she can’t agree enough with the report to approve it, the person essentially withdraws from the commission. If the person doesn’t want to be identified publicly as having been involved, his/her name stays secret. There is also another option for dissenters: They can sign on to the report but issue a dissent that gets published along with the report, Schmemann said.

So here’s more of what the report is likely to say:

* Expect that it will declare the state of public education to be in such a state of crisis that U.S. national security is at stake because military might isn’t enough anymore to secure America. (But don’t expect it to note that this was always the case).

*Expect it to mention the terrible scores American students got on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress in civics (but don’t expect it to note that Americans have always scored poorly on civics and history).

*Expect a call for some system to assess whether schools are teaching the skills deemed necessary to shore up national security, such as languages and critical thinking (but don’t expect it to note that this thought is hardly original with the commission).

*Expect it to mention a 2009 report that says some 75 percent of American military-age youth are unfit to serve (and also expect it to stress the poor academic record of so many students rather than obesity and medical issues, which was the main culprit cited in the report released by U.S. military officials.)

* Expect it to say that America needs more competition in education and more choice — so much choice, in fact, that every student should be able to choose his or her own school. (But don’t expect it to say that the public education system is a civic institution, not a business opportunity, and that the “choice movement” has not been the success its backers have touted.)

* Expect that it will say that America doesn’t train teachers well enough, but that Teach for America, somehow, does. (But don’t expect it to explain the contradiction in this position. Teach for America only gives its recruits — college graduates who aren’t interested in careers in education — five weeks of summer training before sending them into some of the country’s most troubled schools. Talk about poor teacher training!)

*Expect it to lament the performance of American students on international assessments and talk about how places like Finland and Shanghai are doing better than we are. (But don’t expect it to say that Finland does pretty much the opposite of what U.S. school reformers are doing today, or that the Chinese education system is known for producing excellent test-takers to the exclusion of many other things, or that American students have never been at the top of the international ratings.)

There is sure to be more — praise for the Common Core State Standards initiative, for example, (which the Brookings Institution just predicted would have little effect on student achievement) and a call for an expansion of the standards into subjects beyond the current math and English Language Arts, for another example, and even new standardized assessments aligned with the standards, for yet a third example.

I could, of course, be entirely wrong.

But I bet I’m not.

Excellent Teacher Maribeth Whitehouse Speaks Out On Teacher Data Reports

A Teacher With Excellent Ratings Tears Down The Teacher Data Reports

NYC Public Voice


Teachers campaign against system that gave them high scores

Maribeth Whitehouse
The most credible critics of the city’s Teacher Data Reports are those with the highest scores.
That’s the outlook of a small band of 99th-percentilers who are signing on to a statement that argues that measuring teacher effectiveness according to students’ test scores “will, in the long run, result in less classroom creativity and more shallow, test-focused instruction.”
The statement was penned by Maribeth Whitehouse, an eight-year middle school teacher in the South Bronx. She reached out by email to other teachers who, like her, had pulled a top rating on the city’s value-added algorithm when Teacher Data Reports were released last month. So far, about a dozen teachers who scored 99s have added their names, and Whitehouse said she expects others to join them. They join a deafening chorus of critics of the TDRs who include 80 percent of New Yorkers, according to poll results released today.
In the Community section today, Whitehouse explains her decision to strike out against the metric that said she was “far above average.” She writes:
I came to teaching more than eight years ago by way of the law — having graduated from Fordham Law School in 1992. So I knew full well how intricate, malleable and unreliable evidence could be. When the New York City Teacher Data Reports came out and were touted as measuring my “value” as a teacher, I was deeply annoyed. Invalid, inaccurate and irrelevant, these data were no more useful in proving or disproving teacher value than the temperature on a single day could prove or disprove global warming. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good teacher, I do. I simply measure it in ways that cannot be captured on a test. My reaction came as a surprise to some of my family, friends and co-workers because I was ranked in the 99th percentile.
Read Whitehouse’s complete Community section piece, “Measuring My Value.” The full statement being circulated among teachers with value-added scores in the 99th percentile is below.
We, the undersigned, were ranked in the 99th percentile on the recently released Teacher Data Reports in New York City.
We believe these data are out-dated, invalid and inaccurate with unacceptable margins of error.
We believe reliable evidence of authentic teaching and learning cannot be derived from standardized test results.
We believe the publishing of these data will, in the long run, result in less classroom creativity and more shallow, test-focused instruction incapable of developing citizens who can think critically.
We believe the publishing of these data has proven demoralizing and humiliating and that media stories which portray some teachers as “the best” and others as “the worst” are incendiary, invidious and irresponsible.
We believe neither student nor teacher excellence can be achieved or maintained in an atmosphere of fear and degradation.
We believe teaching is a complex profession, at least as much art as science, requiring intricate multi-faceted assessments for development.

Measuring My Value

I came to teaching more than eight years ago by way of the law — having graduated from Fordham Law School in 1992. So I knew full well how intricate, malleable and unreliable evidence could be. When the New York City Teacher Data Reports came out and were touted as measuring my “value” as a teacher, I was deeply annoyed. Invalid, inaccurate and irrelevant, these data were no more useful in proving or disproving teacher value than the temperature on a single day could prove or disprove global warming. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good teacher, I do. I simply measure it in ways that cannot be captured on a test. My reaction came as a surprise to some of my family, friends and co-workers because I was ranked in the 99th percentile.
As the first notes of congratulations began to arrive in my inbox, I understood that people meant well, yet I felt annoyed that anybody would and could delve into my professional life. Notably, I also felt grateful that my numbers would not force me to ashamedly try to explain them away. I was keenly aware that the rope that would have me swinging back and forth in jubilation could just as easily have been wrapped around my neck in humiliation. I felt sickened by the numbers next to the names of my colleagues who I know to be hardworking. I wrote back to those who sent their well wishes, disavowing the data and explaining that the so called “evidence” meant nothing because it could not measure that which makes a teacher valuable.
Now in my ninth year in the classroom, I understand the art of teaching, that is, those things not measurable by multiple-choice questions or by assessors armed with clipboards and checklists who believe the breadth and depth of learning in my room is revealed by the freshness of my bulletin board or the sheer quantity of newsprint hanging from my walls. I could teach in a hut with a dirt floor and be an excellent teacher because what makes me excellent is, in large part, an unquantifiable aesthetic that cannot be captured by a mathematical procedure. Inspiring students, giving them something to think about long after the school day is over, pushing and poking them to be their best selves, nurturing wisdom, stimulating passionate efforts, assisting discovery, facilitating connections, determining when to lead, guide or let go — these things cannot be found using an algorithm.
Armed with this belief about teaching and the positive responses of those I loved and valued, I reached out to other teachers in the 99th percentile to see if they felt the same. Many of them did and a group of us have signed a statement renouncing the data’s usefulness and publication.
Still for all the motivating anger I felt, I also felt demoralized and quite simply sad. The data had no power to prove my worth, yet, since it was being used for political purposes and to misinform the public, the data did have the power to make me feel worthless. And that is when a very unlikely visitor reminded me of the true value that I add to my students’ lives.

A wonderful hallmark of my brief teaching career has been a constant flow of former students who come back to visit me. I can always count on the previous year’s crop to return but last week a student whom I hadn’t seen since my first year came by.  Lena was the type of student a teacher could never forget and not for any positive reasons. She presented a world of problems at a time when I had the fewest skills to deal with them.  She was angry, oppositional, violent and absent a lot. She was the first student to call me a “bitch.” Once she was so mad about something, she put her fist through a glass partition at school. Another time, she and a fellow student got into a fight, which led to a suspension after she hit a police officer who had tried to break it up. And since teaching can generate wildly conflicting emotions, it should come as no surprise that I had loved this girl, prayed for this girl and had also been downright grateful when this girl was not in attendance.
I wondered if my face betrayed all these emotions when I saw her standing in my doorway. She was a bit taller and fuller in the face but otherwise unchanged. We exchanged a long, strong hug in front of my current students. I felt like crying as I thought to myself, “She’s still alive” (something I had wondered about many times over the years). She said she had business nearby but couldn’t miss her chance to see her “favorite teacher.” It was the use of that phrase that filled my eyes with tears. A veteran teacher once said to me, “All you can do is plant seeds. You may never know whether or not they grow.” Her words manifested themselves before me as I looked at this “seed” I had been uncertain would grow. Lena is going to school to become a dental hygienist. She has a 3-year-old daughter and reported that overall things are going well for her. I know there is more to her story that she chose not to share. I know her life is not perfect but still she was alive and working toward a stable future and quite frankly that is more than I had expected. On top of that, to have her call me her “favorite teacher,” well — that was unbelievable given how incompetent I was my first year, how troublesome she had been, and how often we butted heads. We spoke a bit longer and before she left, I tried to hug her long enough to last awhile, as if the strength of my embrace could shield her from trouble. I want so many good things for her.
After Lena had gone, I turned to my current group and said, “Teachers don’t get paid a lot, but when students come back to visit it’s like getting an extra paycheck. I want you to remember that when you are walking by this school one day. Come up to see me; it does my heart good. And to have Lena say that I was her ‘favorite teacher’ — well, that is why I work so hard, because 30 years from now when you have your own children and see me on the subway, I want you to say, ‘You see that woman. She was the best teacher I ever had.’” And as I stood there before my students, having made this confession, generous voice after generous voice said, “I’ll come back to see you, Mrs. Whitehouse.” For a little while, we were all a bit verklempt, me most of all for having been shown my true value.
Figure out a way to put that in an algorithm and perhaps I will accept it as providing some relevant evidence about the value I add to a classroom. Until then, keep your 99th-percentile rating. I prefer a letter of recommendation from one of my students.
Maribeth Whitehouse is a special education teacher at IS 190 in the Bronx. She is in her ninth year of teaching eighth grade.

Pensions Limited For NYC Public Employees

Why do I think that rank and file public employees will get the limited pensions while the big guys and gals will get more, alot more, when they retire?

Just askin'

Betsy Combier
NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
March 14, 2012

New York Lawmakers Vote to Limit Public Pensions

ALBANY — Lawmakers on Thursday morning approved a hard-fought measure to cut the retirement benefits for future public employees in New York City and across the state, dealing a defeat to labor unions at the end of a dramatic all-night session.
The pension changes were less drastic than those sought by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, applying to fewer employees and saving less money than he had hoped. But they reflect a clear-cut victory for the governor over the state’s public-employee unions, which are enormously powerful in Albany and have been frequent sparring partners for Mr. Cuomo as he has sought to rein in costs.
“This bold and transformational pension reform plan is a historic win for New York taxpayers and municipalities,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “Without this critical reform, New Yorkers would have seen significant tax increases, as well as layoffs to teachers, firefighters and police.”
The pension changes were part of a policy package approved overnight that resolved several of the thorniest issues facing lawmakers this year. Working through the night, the Legislature approved a reconfiguration of the state’s Assembly and Senate districts, the language of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling and the creation of one of the most extensive criminal DNA databases in the nation.
The governor and legislative leaders first allowed the public to see the details of the pension legislation at 3 a.m. Thursday. The Republican-controlled Senate approved the measure an hour later.
The Democrat-controlled Assembly approved the pension changes shortly after 7 a.m. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, had kept the voting open for nearly two hours as he called in lawmakers who had gone to sleep in a tense effort to muster the votes for passage. In the end, the Assembly approved the measure by a comfortable margin.
The pension deal comes as state and local governments around the country take similar steps to reduce retirement costs, often prompting pitched battles with labor unions.
From 2009 to 2011, 43 states enacted major changes to retirement plans for public employees and teachers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“The message is, the traditional package of retirement benefits has become unaffordable,” said Ronald Snell, a senior fellow at the conference.
Mr. Snell said the deal approved in Albany was similar to measures passed in other states, in that it reduced the benefits offered to some public employees instead of overhauling the structure of the pension system itself.
Mr. Cuomo had significantly scaled back the most contentious portion of his pension proposal, which would have given new public workers the option of forgoing a traditional pension and instead choosing a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k). He and lawmakers agreed to offer the defined contribution option, but only to new state workers who earn $75,000 or more and are nonunionized.
In another concession by Mr. Cuomo, the deal did not make significant changes to the retirement benefits of New York City police officers and firefighters.
But state and city officials said the measure would still save more than $80 billion for the state and local governments in the next 30 years — including $21 billion for New York City — by reducing the benefits promised to new workers. For example, the legislation raises the minimum retirement age to 63 from 62 for state workers. It will also require most workers to increase the portion of their salaries that they contribute to the pension system from the current 3 percent to as much as 6 percent for the highest earners.
Reining in ballooning pension costs topped the legislative wish-list for a parade of municipal leaders around the state, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who said Mr. Cuomo “has got to get an A-plus” for persuading lawmakers to resist pressure from labor unions and approve the changes.
“This is real reform, and for the taxpayers of the state gives them a better deal for their money,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a telephone interview. “It does not hurt any of our current employees or any of our current retirees, and down the road, if people don’t want to come to work for the city or the state, they don’t have to. But I think this is still a phenomenally generous plan.”
Mr. Cuomo’s efforts have infuriated labor leaders. Danny Donohue, the president of the state’s largest union of public workers, the Civil Service Employees Association, said that the pension deal was “shoved down the throat of state legislators fixated on their own self-preservation.”
“This deal is about politicians standing with the 1 percent — the wealthiest New Yorkers — to give them a better break while telling nurses, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, and laborers to put up and shut up,” Mr. Donohue said after the vote approving the pension changes.
Overnight, lawmakers also approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow full-scale commercial casinos. The state has nine racetrack gambling parlors and five American Indian casinos; the amendment, which would have to be approved once more by the Legislature and then by voters, would authorize up to seven Las Vegas-style casinos.
Lawmakers also completed their part of a contentious redistricting compromise with Mr. Cuomo. He had pledged during his campaign for governor not to approve maps unless they were drawn by an independent body, but he reversed his position because, he said, approval of the maps drawn by the Legislature enabled him to get long-term redistricting reform.
In exchange for Mr. Cuomo’s approval of the maps, lawmakers agreed to support a constitutional amendment that would create a bipartisan redistricting commission after the 2020 census. In an effort to ensure that the Legislature follows through with its pledge to approve the constitutional amendment two years in a row, Mr. Cuomo insisted that it pass a law that would grant the governor greater power over redistricting if the Legislature abandoned the amendment.
The Assembly and the Senate approved the lawmaker-drawn maps and the constitutional amendment late Wednesday night, and the backup law early Thursday. The maps approved by the Legislature were for legislative districts only; lawmakers have been unable to agree on how to reduce the number of Congressional districts in the state to 27 from 29 and have left that task to a federal court.
Mr. Cuomo’s compromise on legislative redistricting drew criticism from Senate Democrats, who departed the chamber en masse rather than participate in the vote, held just before midnight. Government watchdog groups are pressing the governor to veto the maps, which they described as gerrymandered to protect incumbents and as unfair to minority voters.
The Senate minority leader, John L. Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, questioned whether Mr. Cuomo had dropped his opposition to the redistricting maps in exchange for passage of his pension proposal.
“I would expect this if a Republican was governor,” Mr. Sampson said. He added, “Governor Cuomo always talks about how Albany has changed. Albany hasn’t changed. Albany has changed for the worst.”
Former Mayor Edward I. Koch, who had pressed legislators to pledge during the last election season that they would support independent redistricting, said the deal struck by Mr. Cuomo “puts off reform for a decade and forces the voters to endure 10 more years of the undemocratic way the Legislature’s district lines are drawn.”
“I am disappointed that the governor compromised,” Mr. Koch said.
The DNA database expansion was resolved more amicably. The state now collects DNA from all convicted felons and some misdemeanants; the measure approved by lawmakers will allow it to collect samples from anyone convicted of a crime.
The legislation also attempts to address concerns raised by defense lawyers about wrongful convictions. It allows people convicted of a crime to petition a judge to force the prosecution to turn over all evidence from the case. And it permits defendants to ask a judge to allow testing of DNA samples from that evidence against the state’s database.
Also, people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession will not have to give a DNA sample if they have no prior criminal record.
The all-night session in Albany resolved many of the most prominent issues facing the Legislature. Lawmakers have not yet reached an agreement on a state budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1, but legislative leaders have expressed confidence that they would reach a deal within days.