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Monday, January 27, 2014

California Students File Lawsuit To End Tenure

Raylene Monterroza takes questions from the media, as she is joined by eight other California public school students who are suing the state to abolish its laws on teacher tenure, seniority and other protections, during a news conference outside the Los Angeles Superior Court Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 in Los Angeles. Their case Vergara v. California is the latest battle in a growing nationwide challenge to union-backed protections for teachers


LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a packed courtroom, attorneys unveiled opposing views Monday on the emotionally divisive issue of whether California public school teachers should be protected from dismissal if they are found to be grossly ineffective in their jobs.
The opening volleys in what's expected be a monthlong trial came from lawyers for nine students seeking to abolish teacher tenure and seniority, and from attorneys for the governor, state education department and teacher unions who say such extreme measures are not needed.
"The evidence will show that the impact of an effective teacher is profound and undeniable," said attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. "This is the gateway to their success in society."
He said he will present experts and studies showing that achievements in later life can be measured by interactions with good teachers.
One study showed that students taught by ineffective teachers had their lifetime income reduced by $2 million, Boutrous said.
The trial, being heard by Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu without a jury, is the latest battle in a nationwide trend.
Dozens of states have moved in recent years to abolish or toughen the standards around giving teachers permanent employment protection and seniority-based preferences during layoffs.
Unions say eliminating such laws would erase a vital support system for a profession that is already losing talented people to higher paid positions in the private sector.
The first named plaintiff in the case, 17-year-old Beatriz Vergara, will testify about teachers falling asleep in class, sitting and reading newspapers or playing YouTube videos while ignoring students, the lawyer said.
The students oppose the tenure system they say keeps bad teachers in classroom. Boutrous said the granting of tenure, which amounts to lifetime employment protection, after 18 months on the job is inadequate to guard against accepting unqualified teachers.
He said there are 275,000 teachers in California but under the current rules, the state dismisses just 10 teachers a year for being ineffective in their jobs.
Lawyers for the state and unions countered that most teachers targeted by such claims usually resign before dismissal is necessary.
Central to the lawsuit is the claim that teachers who fail are shuttled to schools in minority and poor neighborhoods, giving those students an unequal education. Boutrous said that is a violation of the state constitution's guarantee of education.
Deputy Attorney General Nimrod Elias told Judge Treu that 18 months is more than enough time to identify teachers who are "the worst of the worst."
He and attorney James Finberg, representing the teachers union, said the guarantees of tenure, seniority and other benefits are necessary to keep teachers in the low-paying jobs.
"Our schools struggle to retain teachers," he said, noting the challenge is greatest in high-crime areas.
Elias noted that Gov. Jerry Brown has made education a centerpiece of his budget and plans to pour funds into schools in low-income and minority areas.
Boutrous said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy will be among the witnesses called by the plaintiffs.
Associated Press writer Julie Watson contributed to this report.

Getting an Accurate Fix on Schools

January 26, 2014
Chancellor Carmen Farina

New York state test data to be released later this spring will include sobering news for Mayor Bill de Blasio and his new schools chancellor, Carmen FariƱa. The data show that only one in four New York City students who started high school in 2009 and graduated in 2013 performed well enough on the Regents exams to meet the state definition of college readiness. Racial and ethnic breakdowns are not yet available. But they are likely to mirror last year’s statistics, which showed striking racial disparities: Only about 11 percent of black and about 12 percent of Hispanic graduates were deemed college-ready.

Mr. de Blasio, who has had a field day bashing his predecessor over this problem, must now find a way to solve it by ramping up the quality of education for poor and minority children. For starters, the city must preserve, at least in part, the controversial school evaluation system that Michael Bloomberg introduced in 2006.

Mr. de Blasio has rightly decided to junk the simplistic, deeply unpopular A-through-F grading system that is used to rate schools. But there is much about the evaluation system that’s worth preserving, including its tight focus on the issue of equity, which means holding schools accountable for how well they educate poor and minority children who are too often written off and left behind.

Historically, the rankings compared a school’s test scores with those of the district as a whole. But under that system, demographics ruled the day; wealthy schools invariably were ranked at the top and poor schools at the bottom. Commendably, the Bloomberg administration devised a way to control for demographically driven differences that enabled it to reach the bedrock question of how much a given school actually improves student learning from year to year. Despite its imperfections, the system found that schools with similar populations of poor and minority children posted vastly dissimilar results. This, in turn, allowed officials and teachers to zero in on a school’s weaknesses, with positive results. The data show that over the last two years, nearly 80 percent of the lowest-performing schools improved their ratings after receiving help in the areas where they were weak.

The A-through-F rating system has several deficiencies. First, it lacks transparency; many people find it hard to understand how reams of complex information are crunched down into a single grade. Second, when people think of letter grades, they think of an overall quality rating, not a rating based largely on special factors. As a result, parents, lawmakers and others were confused when a school at which the overwhelming majority of students were performing well received a mediocre rating because it saw less improvement than schools at which students were not doing as well. It would be better to do away with the overall grade and continue to report a separate rating for each relevant metric — say, one each for overall performance, success with disadvantaged students and so on.

The Bloomberg administration acknowledged shortcomings in the evaluation system, especially at the elementary and middle school levels, where too much weight had been given to testing and too little weight to nontest indicators of school performance (thus forcing weaker schools to spend far too much time teaching students how to take tests). The new evaluation system must give significant weight to how well schools are preparing students for the next level and keeping children on track for college readiness.

The report cards can be improved and revised. But their basic purpose — providing a plausible system for measuring student progress — cannot be abandoned. If it is, city officials will never know how well students are doing until, on graduation day, they find that too many of them do not have the skills they need to go to college.


Patrik false

Scores of education researchers in this country and elsewhere know that the idea that data-driven "accountability" has very little to do...
Maxine 37 minutes ago

Blah, blah, blah...It is 2014. The 21st Century. Americans have watched public education rot away before their eyes for 60 years, as test...
Scott Koch 38 minutes ago

Here is a great talk by Prof. Hursh on why NYS education is such a mess...

Cathie Black Emails

Just saw this. Priceless.

Joe Baranello, DOE Central Records Access Officer, deserves his own show.



F9359-2013-12-06-resp (final).pdf
CBlack CH FOIL 12-6-2013.pdf
File 01-Nov 2010-release version.pdf
File 02-Nov 2010-release version.pdf
File 03-Dec 2010-release version.pdf
File 04-Dec 2010-release version.pdf
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File 06-Dec 2010-release version.pdf
File 07-Jan 2011-release version.pdf
Hernandez CB release.pdf Continue reading 

NYSUT Speaks on Common Core

Richard Ianuzzi, President of NYSUT
From Betsy Combier:

So, Mr. Ianuzzi, does your disdain of Common Core mean that you will support and defend teachers whose rights are being denied to them in the evaluation process due to the lack of training in Common Core implementation?
New York teachers turn on Common Core
By: Stephanie Simon
January 26, 2014 10:12 AM EST
The board of the New York state teachers union this weekend unanimously withdrew its support for the Common Core standards as they have been implemented — a major blow for Common Core advocates who have been touting support from teachers as proof that the standards will succeed in classrooms nationwide.
“We’ll have to be the first to say it’s failed,” said Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers.
Iannuzzi said he has talked with union leaders in other states who may follow suit. “We’ve been in conversations where we’re all saying our members don’t see this going down a path that improves teaching and learning. We’re struggling with how to deal with it,” he said.
The board also unanimously voted no confidence in New York Education Commissioner John King Jr. and urged the state’s Board of Regents to remove him from office.
The move on Common Core put the New York union at odds with the national teachers unions, which have steadfastly promoted the new academic standards for math and language arts instruction, now rolling out in classrooms nationwide.
Amid fierce and growing opposition to the standards — fanned by conservative political organizations — promoters of Common Core have counted on teachers to be their best ambassadors and to reassure parents and students that the guidelines will lead to more thoughtful, rigorous instruction.
Now, one of the biggest groups of educators in the country is on record saying it’s not working.
The NYSUT, which represents about 600,000 teachers, retired teachers and school professionals — and accounts for 15 percent of national teacher union membership  is demanding “major course corrections” before it can consider supporting the standards again.
It wants more time for teachers to review the Common Core lessons the state has been promoting, and it’s demanding more input on whether they are grade-appropriate. Parents and teachers have complained that the standards push the youngest kids too fast, demanding so much work from kindergarteners that there’s little time for the play that’s deemed essential for young children’s development. On the other end of the scale, they have complained that the high-school math trajectory laid out by the Common Core leaves out key math concepts and does not push top students to take calculus.
The union is also demanding that all questions on the new Common Core exams be released so teachers can review them and use them to shape instruction.
Students across New York performed miserably on the first round of Common Core exams, given last spring. The NYSUT is insisting on a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes consequences attached to the exams; the union argues that no teachers should lose their jobs and no students should lose their chance at graduation because of poor performance on the tests during a transition period.
Iannuzzi said the union still believes “the potential is there” for the standards to succeed, but said that won’t happen unless the state brings everything to a halt and effectively starts from scratch.
In response, Commissioner King issued a statement suggesting flexibility; he said he would work with the legislature, governor and Board of Regents to “make necessary adjustments and modifications to the implementation of the Common Core.” But he did not back away from his staunch support of the guidelines, saying that “now is not the time to weaken standards for teaching and learning.” The statement, issued jointly with Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, continued: “Our students are counting on us to help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life. The higher standards the Common Core sets will help them do just that.”
The Common Core standards are a central plank in President Barack Obama’s education agenda.
They were developed by nonprofits and organizations representing states, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but have been heavily promoted by the White House and by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

In Obama’s first years in office, the administration gave states financial and policy incentives to adopt the standards; 45 states and the District of Columbia quickly did so, with little public debate. But as the standards have been introduced into classrooms — in some cases accompanied by notable shifts in math instruction and a much more heavy emphasis on non-fiction texts in English classes — parents have raised questions and conservative advocacy groups have jumped on board with warnings of federal overreach and a loss of local control.
Several states, including Alaska, Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia, have backed away from prior commitments to use new Common Core exams funded by the federal government to assess their students’ progress and measure their achievement against kids in other states. Other states are going further still and considering revoking the standards altogether.
“We don’t ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley recently told a gathering of Republican women. “We want to educate South Carolina children on South Carolina standards, not anyone else’s standards.” She urged the legislature to overturn the Common Core standards, promising she would sign such a bill the moment it came to her desk.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin have also signaled their distaste for centralized standards. “Told attendees at state education convention that academic standards should be set by people in WI, not DC,” Walker tweeted on Friday.
The anxiety has touched Democratic leaders, too. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said he has concerns about the way the standards have been implemented in his state. And at a hearing in Albany last week, Commissioner King fended off a barrage of tough questions and angry complaints about Common Core from legislators in both parties. “Hit the delay button!” state Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat, demanded, banging on the table for emphasis.
Opponents of Common Core said they see the NYSUT vote as a turning point, indicating that the protest movement has expanded beyond parents and political activists.
“Were this a small union no one would take notice,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a think tank that has been active in opposing the Common Core. “But the size and breadth of NYSUT tells even the casual observer that the wheels are coming off Common Core in NY.” The vote, he said, “clearly gives lie to view that teachers support the whole Common Core apparatus. The fact that NYSUT cuts across over a thousand local unions speaks to how widespread opposition has become.”
Carol Burris, an award-winning principal in New York who has been outspoken in opposition to the new standards, called the vote “both courageous and significant.”
But Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which helped develop the standards, called the vote “unfortunate.” He noted that the standards “were developed with substantial involvement from classroom teachers, and teachers overwhelmingly support these standards.”
As evidence of widespread teacher support, the National Education Association points to a poll taken last fall showing that three quarters of its members back the standards. But that support isn’t rock solid. The poll found that 26 percent of NEA members support the Common Core wholeheartedly, another 50 percent back them tentatively, with reservations, and 13 percent said they didn’t know enough to form an opinion.
The NEA has heavily promoted the standards as crucial to making American children more competitive with their international peers. It recently launched a website with more than 3,000 sample Common Core lessons, including videos of master teachers presenting the material.
The American Federation of Teachers has been a bit more nuanced; it supports the standards, but President Randi Weingarten has called for a moratorium on high-stakes testing while the Common Core exams are phased in.
The standards have been promoted as well by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, as well as by prominent education reformers from both parties, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee, the former chief of Washington, D.C., schools.
Supporters of the Common Core have expressed frustration at the mounting opposition, saying the standards have become a convenient scapegoat for anything anyone doesn’t like about education today.
“We’re in an environment where anything anyone thinks is wrong, people think [that’s] part of Common Core,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, one of the nonprofits that helped write the Common Core. In an interview last fall, Cohen said he was counting on teachers to be “credible advocates” for Common Core in every state. Teachers, he said, would be able to parry the conspiracy theories and “get the argument grounded again.”