Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chris Cerrone: The Common Core's Role in the Myth of Failing Schools

On Board Online • December 15, 2014

By Chris Cerrone
The Common Core is championed as developing critical thinking skills and preparing our students for "college and career." Perhaps we should apply the former to the latter. Can we predict exactly what university programs or job opportunities will be available many years from now? How do we know that the Common Core will prepare students for what awaits after graduation? Is making students "college- and career-ready" a worthy goal, or would we prefer that our children become "life ready" - caring, responsible, well-rounded, community minded individuals who can adapt to whatever the future holds?
The front page of On Board on Nov. 10 contained a short piece about how six of 10 New York students who took the SAT were not at the level that the College Board claims will show readiness for college and careers. But many studies (including one mentioned in the Nov. 24 edition of On Board) have shown that the most important predictor of college success is a student's high school grades, not standardized test scores. As a school board member, teacher and parent, my concern is that our state and nation's focus on test scores feeds the myth that our schools are "failing" (and could easily be manipulated when state officials set cut scores).

More students are graduating high school and attending college than ever before in American history, and the United States remains the world's leader in innovation and an economic powerhouse. Yet, despite these achievements, there are those pushing the panic button over public education in the United States.

Many proponents of the Common Core and other educational reforms say we need to prepare students to compete in a global economy, particularly with "emerging" China. Such international comparisons have been going on for decades, including worries about falling behind the Soviets during the Cold War Era. Alarms have been raised over PISA scores, yet our overall results have remained consistent ever since PISA's inception. When looking at PISA results compared by wealth, American students in schools with low poverty rates are at the top of the international assessment rankings. The real issue is how to improve the achievement of students who grow up in poverty.

While we can disagree about whether there is a crisis, we can all agree that we want to see schools improve, particularly in areas with high poverty rates. Those who favor current education reforms claim that the best way to do that is to use high-stakes testing and have school and educator evaluations based partly on student test scores. The Common Core is married to these assessments and has been implemented as a way to hold states and local districts accountable.

Educators have always tested what they taught. But now what is tested determines what is taught. As long as Common Core testing is tied to school and educator ratings, schools will focus on the tested subjects of ELA and math, neglecting other disciplines.

While there is nothing wrong with the idea of creating a loose set of national educational benchmarks, it should have been done by the right people for the right reasons. The Common Core was primarily created and driven by the testing industry and related non-profit groups. Educator authors Anthony Cody, Mercedes Schneider and Julian Vasquez Heilig have debunked the claim that teachers played a major role in the creation of the Common Core. K-12 educators had little input in the process other than as part of validation groups.

Notably, the validation committees lacked early childhood and special education educators as well as teachers of English language learners. If early childhood experts had been involved in creating the Common Core, we would not be hearing so many concerns about the appropriateness of the standards for our youngest students. A group that wants to restore play to kindergartens and preschools called the Alliance for Childhood has called for the suspension of the Common Core Standards for grades K-3. The group's advisory board includes many prominent professors of education including Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford, Deborah Meier of New York University and Dorothy and Jerome Singer of Yale.
All students need to be challenged, but the Common Core is an unproven framework that hampers teachers' efforts to diversify instruction for all learners. In the first two years of the Common Core assessments in New York, the achievement gap between white and black students has increased. What about children with learning disabilities or English Language Learners? Will the Common Core leave all of these groups further behind? What will be the impact on graduation rates as students will be required to pass Regents Exams aligned to the Core?

The absence of working K-12 educators in the creation of the Common Core has led to questionable instruction methods in both math and English Language Arts (ELA). As noted on the front page of On Board on Nov. 24, educators are concerned that the Common Core encourages an overreliance on non-fiction and informational text. ELA teachers are also troubled by the approach to fiction. In some modules available on EngageNY, students will spend several grueling weeks "close reading" a novel, frustrating and boring both advanced and struggling readers. Other lessons require only reading an excerpt from a novel - a practice that mirrors test-preparation. As noted in the Chicago Teachers Union's trenchant Common Core Position Paper, students need to find joy in reading, personal connections to previous knowledge and experiences. Boring "canned" readings and excerpts that mirror standardized exams will not inspire a love of reading.

Then there's math. Some of the new standards emphasize learning a visual process of breaking down a mathematical problem that may be helpful to some students. But Common Core math has become more about learning the language of math as opposed to understanding math itself. Many of the new math processes are confusing and take longer than traditional methods to solve problems. On social media, parents who have degrees and are employed in STEM fields have questioned how the new math would apply to their real world job tasks.

Many people ask: If not the Common Core, then what? New York has had excellent standards across various disciplines for years. Gary Stern of the Journal News recently looked at the "lost standards," an effort by actual New York educators to update the Empire State's educational benchmarks. This laudable process to update our standards was tossed aside as the Board of Regents moved towards adopting the Common Core as part of receiving $700 million from the Race to the Top initiative.

How should New York proceed? We should drop the Common Core Standards and revive and continue the progress that created "lost standards," known as the Regents Standards Review and Revision Initiative. The recent completion of the Social Studies Framework shows that quality standards can be created by New York educators who know their students, content, and age-appropriateness of curriculum.

While standards are important, they have been a distraction from other issues that desperately need attention in Albany. Imagine if all the major political and financial supporters of the Common Core put their energies towards advocating for small class sizes, along with diverse program and course offerings. What if the proponents of the Core began applying their considerable resources to work for community school models that can provide wraparound services for schools in areas of poverty to meet the needs of the whole child? There are many ways we can move education forward in New York State without tying our future to the Common Core and the failing schools myth.
Chris Cerrone is a member of the Springville-Griffith Institute school board, a middle school educator in Hamburg Central Schools and a founding member of New York State Allies for Public Education. This article does not necessarily represent the viewpoints of organizations of which he is a member.


Did Dr. Peter Ianniello Make Private His YouTube Videos After Someone Emailed Him About His Statements as Posted On This Blog?

When I posted my article about Dr. Peter Ianniello on this blog, with Dr. Ianniello's email address, a former NYC DOE employee contacted him with the letter re-posted below (posted with permission by the author). I have removed the author's name.

The author of this letter to Dr. Ianniello believes that the email was the cause of Dr. Ianniello's removal from public scrutiny all of his YouTube videos. The author of the letter added,

"the people in the bronx, you know, Marcus Escobar and Margaret Borelli (UFT) were no help to me..."


From: >
To: efields <>
Sent: Sat, Dec 6, 2014 4:33 am
Subject: Fwd: initial 24hr complaint vs MS228X

"Eileen here is another email that i sent to marcus back in october. Since I asked marcus to respond to me through emails instead of calling me and asking me for the same documents over and over he has not reached out to me at all."

I might as well throw this in:

Peter Ianniello's Dissertation
Keeping Quality Teachers
Best Practice: Strengthening Human Resourcesin Public School Systems

Dr. Peter Ianniello
Please reply, Dr. Ianniello!

Dr. Ianniello on substitute teachers (removed from the public's view)
From: >
To: PIannie <>; 
Sent: Tue, Dec 9, 2014 1:28 am
Subject: re problem code.

Dear Dr. Ianniello:

    My name is                    and I am currently on the OPI ineligible list and can not work as a sub.  This is because a bogus verbal abuse case was initiated against me after I had reported to the assistant principal of the school  a child who had felt agitated by a quote that the dean had placed on the black board during class.  Instead of the dean being investigated for verbal abuse, I was charged with it in retaliation for not only what I observed but also  my  writing up a student later that day who had violated 9 discipline codes.  Instead of the student being suspended I was punished.

     Before this incident, I was working as a sub in good standing from May of 2012 until I accepted a job for ONLY ONE DAY at MS228X in the Bronx. During this time period I had been working continuously at MS80X since October 31 2013, working as a sub, running an after school chess club and working at the school's saturday academy, teaching ELA and Math.  I really didn't have to work at any other sites.  It's very unfortunate that I chose to accept a position when I never should have.  I'm paying for it now. 

     I understand the limitations under which you have to work.  I know that even though you may believe everything I am telling you, with respect to my case, your job is limited to receiving allegations, running discipline meetings for those accused of wrong doing, and giving out whatever corrective action you see fit.

      When I received the write up on May 6, 2014, I filed a grievance on May 9 regarding the procedural aspect of the letter in that the principal never called OSI and that  she and the legal dept at 1 Fordham Plaza did not follow the proper procedures. They not only  altered statements but also tried to submit 8 new statements at my step 1 grievance on June 3 AFTER OSI INFORMED ME MY CASE WAS CLOSED. Those bogus statements are included in my file. 

      The grievance is in it's final stages of appeal with the UFT.  I met with a group of 8 at 50 Broadway on December 1, 2014.  I went to your office to visit you a couple of months ago and I spoke to Elenor Rollins who showed me my file.. In my file there were statements which had never been given to me....... Only two statements were read to me during my initial meeting with the principal.  When the principal rendered it into writing they changed what had transpired in the meeting to something worse and the charges were upgraded to corporal punishment by a Mr. Jeffrey Gamils, whom I had met at Fordham Plaza when I signed for the letter. [Jeff Gamils was a DOE Attorney prosecuting DOE employees at 3020-a arbitration - Editor]

        Your office sent to my attention back in May of this past year a summons for me to meet with you for a disciplinary meeting based on the contents of the letter written to me dated april 25 which I received on May 6, 2014.  Once again I understand that your job is limited to addressing the substantiated allegations of verbal abuse.  I took the route that I felt and still feel was the right one.  I filed a grievance and submitted a copy of the grievance to one of your assistants in May when I visited your office. I also had requested to Ms. Rollins that the disciplinary hearing be held in abeyance until the grievance process has been complete.

      My question to you is why was I allowed to file for a renewal of my substitute license on June 13?   If I really couldn't work until the disciplinary hearing was held?  Another item I have issue with was an email that I received from your unit dated July 29th 2am in the morning where it was stated that because I hadn't worked the 20 day minimum days, I could not serve as a sub for the 2014-15 academic year.  I did receive a follow up email from your unit almost immediately and it stated that your unit was in error and that I had indeed worked the minimum days.  But it left me with a strange feeling that your unit was looking for a way, any way to keep me from working. My suspicions were borne out on September 3, 2014 when I received another email from your unit saying that since OPI has an eligibility issue with me, I can not work as a sub until this issue is cleared up with OPI.  It meant that I was put on the infamous "do not hire" list.

      As of the writing of this epistle, my main focus is CLEARING MY NAME, subbing is the furthest thing from my mind.  I need to have that problem code taken off because I applied for the principal's pool back in June, and you know where that goes, They won't call me for an interview unless the problem code is removed.

     I tried calling OPI and I received a curious voice message from them.  They stated that they no longer accept phone calls unless it is from a law enforcement unit.

     When I received the letter for the file I immediately called SCI reporting the principal for doctoring up the statements.  They gave me a case number and kicked it to OSI. They declined to investigate my allegation saying it was a UNION MATTER. When you summoned me in May I was almost sure that it was to fire me.  However, after seeing youtube videos of you explaining the entire subcentral process and the fact that you went to Fordham as I did, I said to myself, "he's not such a bad guy afterall".   I am in limbo right now. I can't work, not even for a schoool vender that wants me to work for them.  I received a job offer from Dance Academy in the Bronx from the AP. Mr Papas. offering me a half a year of subbing at their school. I had to decline.

     In closing, Dr. Ianniello, Id like to ask you to check something for me.... In one of your youtube broadcasts you stated that because subcentral is now automated you can keep track of all calls.  On April 3 2014 Thursday night I received something from subcentral it was a job offer to work at the very same school for the entire week of April 7 to April 11 at MS228X in the bronx. it was a type of offering that stated "details" and that i could accept it on line.  This was an offer from the very same school which had called me on March 31st Stating that a verbal abuse charge had been leveled against me.  Now, if OSI had really been called would I have been able to work that week or the following week, my answer is no.

Wish you and your family a very happy holiday

 From:   >
To: efields <>
Sent: Fri, Dec 5, 2014 9:19 am
Subject: letter to Marcus Escobar

Subject: The Setup of a Substitute Teacher
Marcus, I received a call to my cell phone from you this morning, in the message you asked me to call you back because you have a few questions.  Please ask me the questions through the email and I will respond.  I have a few questions for you.  Did you contact Daisy Santiago and ask her for a copy of her notes for the meeting convened on April 23 with me and the administration at ms228x  as i've ask you to do. Her notes will indicate that they read 2 statements to me. Her notes will also show that they said, "you held a sign over the girls head that said big trouble and you  said big trouble little china". This is at variance with what was in the April 25th determination. In that letter I received it was said, "you held a piece of paper over her head that said big trouble and you said Big K        Little China".  

        I received the letter on  May 6, 2014 and signed for it  when I went to 1 Fordham Plaza and met the Field Consultant, Jeffrey Gamils who advised the principal since they didn't have a strong case against me, that they should change the statements to make it look worse than what had actually not occurred and the allegations were upgraded to corporal punishment. Mr Gamils defended the letter as if he had written it himself. he also lied stating that weekends count in  48 hour notices. This was disputed even by a representative of Dr. Ianniello's office Director of Substitute Central. After I received the letter I called Ms Morales and asked her what next.  She stated that she didn't know because she gets guidance and directions  from legal, further implicating Mr. Gamils. 
         My question is why have a 48 rule if you're not going to enforce it. I received a certified letter on April 14 while we were on the Easter break The letter arrived to my p.o. box on April 11 the Friday before we broke for Easter break.  Let's pretend that I had signed for the letter on April 11, 2014.  The school still would have been out of compliance on the 48 hour notice since April 11th was the last school day before April 23rd, the day I was summoned to the meeting.
        The administration in the person of Maria Morales A.P. summoned me to a meeting on April 23, 2014 which translates to no 48 hour notice at all. Nor was there a case number appended in the notice, further proving that OSI was never contacted.   In order for them to be in compliance with and within the 48 hour time frame they should have summoned me on Friday April 25 which would be two school days after I received the notice.  The administration still could have been in compliance if they had requested that I sign for a 48 hour notice waiver at the April 23 meeting.  But they did not do so.
         In the substitute teachers contract this is clearly a violation of Article 9 C-3 which states, "Teachers summoned to a meeting get a 48 hour notice.  An interview which is not held in accordance with these conditions shall not be considered a part of the employee's personnel file or record and neither the fact of the interview nor any statements made at the interview may be used in any subsequent Board proceeding involving the employee."
         Also I need a statement from Daisy regarding her summoning the girl to the main office after dismissal and the conversation she had with her where she asked her "why did you leave the classroom without permission?" and the girl's response  was, "because I thought I was gonna be in trouble".  This proves that the girl  never made an allegation against me and that this case was fabricated by the administration at ms228x to punish me for writing up the principal's monitor who violated 9 student discipline codes.
        I still have not received any communication from UFT Rep. Saul.  Our case has merit, they didn;t give me a 48 hour notice, no case number was entered for me until April .  NO Call was made to OSI by the principal within the 24 hour time frame.  If a call had been made downtown they would have summoned me properly through the 48 hour notice in writing.  Instead they tried to summon me verbally over the phone the entire week from March 31 through April 4th.  They even sent me on  Thursday night April 3rd  via subcentral an offer to sub there for the entire week from April 7-to April 11. If they had indeed called it in to OSI, would they have offered me a one weeks assignment? NO.  It was a ploy to lure me into their school, for what? To conference with me regarding my informing the Assistant Principal Maria Morales on March 28 that a student had felt that she had been singled out by the dean via something that he wrote on the black board (alleged verbal abuse vs Dean Mr. Soler).  I wasn't making any allegations against the dean. I was simply stating what had happened and it aftermath. The principal never gave me a copy of chancellor's regs. 420/421 to read and sign off on thus making her in violation of chancellor's reg 421/420 whereby any staff first coming to the school must be given a copy of both regs and sign off on them that they received them and read them.
         They saw it differently.  That's why they summoned me verbally and fabricated the verbal abuse case.  I informed Ms Morales in our phone conversation on April 1st that if she was not happy with my performance she could put me on the no call list and i would have to go to a hearing downtown to sub central, effectively suspending me.  But Ms Morales stated, No, we want to resolve this" further proof that this was never called down to OSI.
        Principal never asked me during the initial meeting on April 23 if there was anyone who would back up my claim that nothing happened in the classroom. There was a Ms. Turner who they refer to as KT.  She was in the room. On March 28 at dismissal Ms. Turner had approached me and asked me if the principal had spoken to me. I told her, No. She then said "give me your email i got your back." and left
         At a meeting convened between myself, [UFT] Vinnie Gaglione and Margaret Borelli on June 6  on the basis of the principal not asking me if there was anyone to back my claim nothing happened, Mr. Gaglione, in the presence of Ms. Borelli and myself stated, "That's it we are going to step II. You were waiting outside the cubicle and heard what he said You then told me to wait outside your office but you never called me in. I waited over an hour and then left. when I returned on Monday June 9th Mr. Gaglione said you were absent . When we finally spoke you changed your stance and told me "an 18 person committee" would hear my case. This is at variance with what Mr. Gaglione had told me
       The principal knows full well what Daisy Santiago asked the girl and what the girl's response was because I brought it up at all three meetings ( initial meeting April 23, step 1 grievance June 3 and the security breach meeting (24 hour complaint) on June 3rd.
   At the conclusion of the June 3rd SECURITY BREACH MEETING Brenda Gonzalez attempted to submit for the record 8 new statements from students and 2 new statements from adults against me, saying i had to sign a privacy notice.     She tried to submit these documents AFTER  OSI had informed me that  the verbal abuse  case was closed. I refused to accept these bogus statements, nor did i sign any privacy notice. telling her the case was now closed. 
As I left she slipped me certain documents unbeknownst to Daisy Santiago. 
          I did not notice these documents until I got home and looked through my papers. Ms. Gonzalez had given me a copy of the girl's statement much different than the one that was read to me on April 23rd.  The letter was a point by point rebuttal of my  May 23 email that I sent to the Mayor, the Governor, the Public Advocate and Catherine Nolan. It was not written in March but in May or there after.  I suspect the bogus letters were written behind closed doors on the same day of the june 3rd meeting because instead of submitting them during the grievance meeting she tried to submit them at the conclusion of the Security Breach meeting, almost two hours after the commencement of the step one meeting. as if they had just been manufactured.  Surely that was plenty of time for them to fabricate such letters.  And why are all the letters dated 3/31/14 when the principal interviewed all three girls (two of whom she pulled out of the class at the same time, violating procedure of questioning witnesses).  She also violated procedure by not getting statements from the students on March 28. This is further proof that OSI was not contacted.
         Clearly the documents are  either a forgery or worse yet,  pre written documents  which were placed in front of the students so that they could  copy them word for word. I know if I were the parent of these students I'd be outraged that the administration was using them as pawns to do in a teacher.
         Ms Gonzalez also surreptitiously gave me  the intake sheet at OSI. I noticed that the case number was not generated in March as it should have been.  It was generated in April because I compared the case number to one I had seen in an online blog belonging to Francesco Portelos.  His case number 14-02468X had been generated in April and was before mine which is 14-02767 which means my case came 299 cases after his.
          Mr Joseph Baranello at Foil downtown confirmed in an email to me that ALL CASES ARE  SEQUENTIAL BY CALENDER YEAR AND THAT ALL CASES END WITH X. At my June 6th meeting Margaret Borelli, after being shown the OSI intake document by me, wrongly stated that X stands for the Bronx and that cases are not sequential.
         The purported day on the girl's statement is 3/31/14. But there is no way that this statement is authentic.   It was written in direct response to my complaint.  They even repudiate my witnessing  what happened in the class the dean was teaching.  and instead say that I did something wrong to the girl who made the complaint about the dean.   In the statement it is alleged that  I also held a sign over the same girls head whom I had reported to the Assistant Principal as being agitated by what the dean had written on the board.  If this was really true then why wasn't I under another investigation.  I'll tell you why.  this bogus document was never sent downtown to OSI.  It was manufactured in direct response to my complaint to the Mayor so that I would back off and not continue to pursue the matter any further.  The statement was given to me to intimidate me into silence.
         I felt that these documents that the principal had given to me out of Daisy Santiago's sight was a subtle message to me to back off, that they had a ready answer for everything that I was saying in my favor and that they were telling me to keep quiet.   What is stated in the OSI intake form is at variance with both what was read to me onApril 23rd and the principal's write up to me dated April 25.   So there is a discrepancy between all three documents: The initial statements read to me, the principal's letter for the file and now the OSI intake form.. They can't seem to get it right.  ON THREE DIFFERENT DOCUMENTS THEY SAY I DID  THREE DIFFERENT THINGS.
        I am about to go to PERB with my findings because it looks like your unit in the Bronx will not help me.. I know I'm retired and getting a pension but my substitute paychecks still indicate that union dues are being withheld.  I'm entitled to the same unbiased union representation  that any active member is entitled to.
 Fraternally yours,