Friday, January 10, 2014

Governor Cuomo Continues to Avoid Addressing New Yorkers on Public Education

From New York State Allies for Public Education
Posted on January 8, 2014

NYS Allies for Public Education

Parents, educators and community members are deeply disappointed by Governor Cuomo’s failure to address widespread concerns regarding the disastrous implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards, excessive high stakes testing and the collection and sharing of private student data. In recent weeks, Governor Cuomo has remained silent on these harmful reforms and today’s State of the State address confirms that the Governor has failed to fulfill his promise to “put students first.” NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) is dismayed that while he once called himself the “lobbyist for students,” Governor Cuomo has joined the ranks of those in power who have dismissed the voices of tens of thousands of informed parents working to protect their children, their schools and their communities. 

One year ago, Governor Cuomo reminded us that, "the purpose of public education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy."  However, today the governor has confirmed his commitment to political ambition and corporate interests over the millions of students that he was elected to represent and protect. Lori Griffin, Copenhagen public school parent says, “When parents started to seek answers and ask for help, this Governor stayed in the shadows and ignored our pleas to examine the state of public education and the effects on New York’s children.” 

Rather than delivering the honest leadership that NYS students and parents deserve, the Governor used his remarks to distract from what will go down in history as an abysmal track record on public education. "We don't appreciate his thinly veiled diversionary tactics by attempting to shift the attention to medical marijuana, instead of on these abusive and onerous reform initiatives. Cuomo needs to keep his promise that he is the students' lobbyist" stated Tim Farley, a parent and a principal of the Ichabod Crane School in Kinderhook, New York. Regarding Governor Cuomo’s refusal to address parent concerns, Eric Mihelbergel, a Buffalo public school parent and co-founder of NYSAPE says, “Governor Cuomo needs to either step up or step aside."

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters says, "Though the Governor has called himself the lobbyist for students, he has refused to take any position on the state sharing personal student data with inBloom and other vendors without parental consent. With 8 out of 9 states having pulled out of inBloom or put their data-sharing plans on hold, New York is now the worst state in the country when it comes to protecting children's privacy. Leaders of both parties in the Legislature have spoken out against inBloom, called for a moratorium and have bi-partisan legislation to protect parental rights and student data. It is deeply disappointing that in his speech today, the Governor again failed to show leadership on this critical issue.”

“It’s very telling that while Governor Cuomo not only supported and endorsed the State’s rushed adoption and implementation of these so-called reforms, he now seems to want to wash his hands of any responsibility for the botched initiatives. The fact is, it is well within the Governor’s power to slow down their implementation through legislative means” says Bianca Tanis, New Paltz public school parent and steering committee member of Re-Thinking Testing, Mid-Hudson Region.

New York State Allies for Public Education represents forty-five grassroots parent groups from every corner of the Empire State. The organizations are proud to stand with the parents, community members and fellow educators in NYSAPE to call for a change in direction and policy beginning with new leadership at the New York State Education Department.                                          

Read the Latest Resistance News From Our Friends at FairTest:

This week's Testing Resistance & Reform News marks the 12th anniversary of the failed No Child Left Behind law. Time to get ready for the 2014 Assessment Reform Spring!

Read the latest from Class Size Matters on inBloom & Governor Cuomo's avoidance on addressing excessive high stakes testing, private data collection and Common Core.

 Reposted from:

Dear folks,

1.        I have good news on our lawsuit to stop the state from sharing any more personally identifiable student data with inBloom.  NYSED officials said in December that that they could not put off uploading student names, etc. to inBloom Inc. any later than Jan. 22, and our court date asking for an immediate injunction was set for state court this Friday.  Yet just yesterday, the Attorney General’s office informed our attorneys that the NYSED has moved back its date for the transfer of the student data to inBloom to no earlier than April 1, 2014. 

According to the AG office, NYSED claims the delay is because their “contractors” are behind schedule. However, it must be considered that the nearly unanimous opposition of NY parents, educators, school board members, and elected leaders of both parties to the sharing of this data with inBloom-- and most recently Speaker Silver calling for a moratorium -- may be the actual reason for this delay. In a tweet yesterday, the inBloom CTO, Sharren Bates said, “Our dev backlog is public & shows no current tech delays.”

In any case, this gives us more time to organize around legislative restrictions to data-sharing. Please also sign the anti-inBloom petition posted by two Long Island parent activists.  There is also a webinar today on data privacy, Thursday at 3:30 PM, sponsored by the Ed Writers Association (which gets Gates funding); including Joel Reidenberg who did this valuable Fordham study on data computing in the cloud vs. two officials who favor personal student data collection sharing, Aimee Guidera from the Data Quality Campaign and Jim Shelton of the US Dept. of Education; you can sign up here.

When there is further court action scheduled we will let you know. Meanwhile, there are some very disturbing aspects of the State’s legal filings, revealing a plan to transfer all the state’s student data, including presumably personally identifiable information, to the state archives after six years following a student’s graduation; with the data remaining there in perpetuity, with restrictions on access unclear.

2.        Sadly, in his State of the State speech yesterday, Gov. Cuomo did not mention the widespread opposition to data-sharing, the Common Core curriculum or testing. Instead, he proposed two measures that could make the situation worse:  a merit pay proposal that would give an extra $20,000 to teachers rated “highly effective” and a $2 billion bond initiative to expand online learning throughout the state.

Why are these proposals inadvisable?  Merit pay has never worked anywhere in the country, and the state’s evaluation system based largely on test scores is widely recognized as unfair and unreliable.  Not to mention that last year, half of the teachers in the state were rated “highly effective” – though not the teacher of the year.  If half of all the state’s teachers got this bonus, it could cost as much as $2 billion. In his accompanying booklet, Cuomo gave more details which seemed to restrict the proposal to districts that opt in and teachers who agree to teach at struggling schools; however, basing any teacher’s eligibility for this stipend on the state’s invalid evaluation system would still be wasteful and, could lead to even more test prep in our schools. (Here’s
 another petition you can sign against this proposal.)

Cuomo’s other major education proposal – a $2 Billion bond act to expand online “personalized” learning is also disappointing.  Digital instruction via computers has yet to show positive results and most parents do not want their kids subjected to data-mining software or to sit in front of computer screens for more hours in the day.  True personalized learning can only come from smaller class sizes, that have increased sharply in recent years because of budget cuts, the tax cap and inequitable state funding – none of which Cuomo addressed in his speech.

Instead, this expansion could also further facilitate the sharing of data and the online testing linked to the Common Core –the last thing students need.  The only saving grace in this proposal is that he suggested capital funds might also be used to provide facilities for expanded pre-K, though he offered no extra state aid to pay for Universal pre-K in his speech.  

3.       Finally, save the date!  I will be speaking on inBloom and data privacy at the District 3 President’s Council on Wed. Jan. 15 at at 6 30pm at PS 208 Alain L. Locke at 21 West 111th in Manhattan (map here); and at the Ardsley Middle School in Westchester on Jan. 23 at 7 PM (flyer here).

The Network on Public Education will be holding a national conference in Austin, Texas on March 1 and 2, which among other great speakers and break-out groups will include a panel discussion on data privacy, featuring parent activists who are working on this issue throughout the country.  More details on this soon; you can also sign up here.

More soon,

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011


Red Hook Parent to Mrs. Obama - Please Save our Children

Jill Berardi is the parent of a child in kindergarten in New York. She is also the assistant principal of a middle school in Red Hook. Here she appeals directly to Michelle Obama to take action to help children like her own. Maybe The First Lady will read it.

Reposted from:

Mrs. Obama: Save our Children!

Dear Mrs. Obama,

Your husband, our president, is surrounded by policymakers who are not listening. It is high time that mothers evaluate what is best for our children! I am writing you an open letter because you receive much mail and my letter could be tossed aside by one of your aides. I am also interested in consensus and feel that this is a time when the more voices that are heard, the better our correction course may be!

My son started kindergarten this year and one of the first letters home was about the Common Core Curriculum and how there would be homework every night. And so it began, it is mid-year and I have hundreds of worksheets at home. This is because I only allowed him to do what could be done in a half an hour. He started the school year at four years old and needs time to play, eat and talk with his parents.

Had I allowed him to do all of the nonsensical worksheets that were stamped Engage NY from the New York State Education Department, his parents would have spent more than an hour every evening with a child, who according to good education theory should not be holding a pencil yet.

Those who can afford prestigious private schools are buffered from the impact of U.S. education policy gone very wrong. For the rest of us, our children are being oppressed by developmentally inappropriate curricular materials designed by non-educators. Some of the worksheets are not understandable to me and I find myself wondering how much stress this must cause to mothers who have several children and do not have a Master Degree in Education, as I do.

You see, I am writing to you as a parent, but I am also an assistant principal in a high-performing middle school. In response to this outrage, I am writing a curriculum that will address the “whole child.” Like teachers, children cannot be reduced to a numeric score! The fragmentation that some cavalier policy entrepreneurs think will help kids excel is in danger of producing stress, breakdown and the first generation of American conformists as everyone competes for the correct answers. This unfortunate situation is motivating the design of my social curriculum, which is based on brain-based theories of development related to the main principles of healthy communication, working with others, working independently, empathy and evolution of personal strengths. Personal resilience and wellbeing are the educational foundation that all children deserve so they can learn, thrive and grow.

There are so many things wrong with politically driven education reform that it is difficult to figure out where to start to make sense of a high jacked domain! As a parent of a kindergarten student and an assistant principal in a high-performing middle school, I am asking you to stop the test score harvesting debacle known as RTTT. By removing the number score on teacher evaluations that is related to student performance, much of the unhealthy tension and nonsensical tests and formulas will be lifted off U.S. public schools.
If you would like to meet or speak with me, I would be very happy to come and help you understand how as First Lady you can save a generation of students from the fall-out of a failed education policy.

Jill Berardi

Student privacy concerns grow over ‘data in a cloud’

By Carol Burris

From The Washington Post, January 3, 2014

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is indecisive when it comes to uploading student information into inBloom, the cloud-based system designed to provide student data to vendors. He says that he is waiting for Commissioner John King’s report on privacy, even as the upload begins.  Cuomo claims that massive student data collection is “necessary.” Meanwhile, eight other states that originally committed to inBloom have pulled out, or put their plans on hold. 
The collection and reporting of school data is nothing new. We used to send data on scan sheets; test scores, drop out rates, the percentage of students with disabilities, etc., were all reported in the aggregate. As technology progressed, we began to electronically send data, not in the aggregate, but by student.  Students were assigned a unique identifying number so that their privacy was protected, with identity guarded at the school or district level.  More data, including race, ethnicity and socio-economic status, were added to what we sent. This allowed the state to disaggregate data by student group, while still preserving anonymity.
Now that wall of privacy is shattered. Names, addresses (e-mail and street) and phone numbers are to be sent.  Schools are required to upload student attendance, along with attendance codes, which indicate far more than whether or not the student was absent or present.  Codes indicate whether a student is ill, truant, late to school or suspended.  Details about the lives of students are moving beyond the school walls to reside in the inBloom cloud.
As a high school principal, I am worried by the state’s ever growing demands for student information.  I believe that all disciplinary records should be known only to families and the school.  All teens are under tremendous strain to perform — sometimes for adults, other times for peers. Some live on the emotional breaking point — others visit that point now and again. Kids make mistakes. Some make bad decisions. Others lose their temper and get out of control. Such serious infractions result in suspensions. We have to keep our schools safe, even as we are concerned about the well being of the offender.
When I suspend a student, I frame it within the context of learning. I also assure students and parents that discipline records are only known to us.  Once that information is in the state database or the inBloom cloud, I can no longer give that reassurance.
What, then is the rationale for shipping personal data beyond the school? The New York State Education Department defends the collection of individual attendance and suspension data, claiming that it must be collected and uploaded to inBloom because it is one of several “early warning indicators” of dropping out. That rationale is insufficient. The identification of students with those indicators can be done at the school level. What is needed are the resources and supports so that schools can better intervene. Schools also need community support for dealing with problems such as student truancy. We do not need data in a cloud.
An additional justification is that inBloom data dashboards will allow parents to check to make sure that a suspension was removed from their child’s record if the commissioner overturns a suspension on appeal.  In those rare cases, if a parent wants reassurance that the suspension was expunged, parents should visit the school.  Schools are obliged to produce every written record,  as well as give parents access to computer records.  Disciplinary records are kept in both hard copy as well as in school data systems.  Looking at a data dashboard would give an incomplete picture at best.
There is simply no justifiable reason for a state education department to know whether an individual student was ever suspended. It is an intrusion into the privacy of kids.
Similar arguments are made to justify the increased collection of individual disability information as well as test modification data.  The years during which data is collected and stored is expanding as well.  New York’s Race to the Top application committed the state to a P-16 system which would, according to their proposal, eventually become a P-20 database–thus tracking students from age 3 into well beyond their college years. Educational records would be linked to workforce data, all to be held in the inBloom cloud.
Post high school data collection has already begun.  This year, information on the college progress of our alumni was placed in my Nassau Boards of Cooperative Educational Services data dashboard. I was startled to see information on students who graduated years ago.  In the past, we did follow-up phone calls, identifying ourselves, and giving parents the choice as to whether or not they wanted to let us know if their child had graduated college. Most  were willing to speak with us, but it was their choice based on their trust in our high school. I wonder if there are other agencies with access to that data, or if graduates even know that data was captured and shared.
I wonder when New Yorkers decided that it was acceptable for a state agency to collect  children’s personally identifiable information from pre-kindergarten until well into their adult years.  I do not remember the debate. If  it is acceptable today to store whether a student has an emotional, intellectual or physical disability in the inBloom cloud, will the collection of even more personal information be viewed as necessary tomorrow? Logically, couldn’t every detail of a child’s life be justified on the basis of serving “research purposes”?
We are living in an era of data fascination.  Too many policy makers  have been seduced into believing that there is a perfect research algorithm from which we can extract wisdom to design a personalized education for every child. This belief persists even though pilot programs, such as the study of the much heralded School of One, have failed to demonstrate improved learning results.
Despite the lack of evidence, the inBloom website actively encourages the development of  products to be sold to schools, which will encourage schools to turn over student data for the creation of personalized educational products.This belief that “the algorithm knows best”  is based on nothing more than the speculation that a data-driven instructional world will better serve our children. Whether or not children prosper, however, may be inconsequential to those lining up to  develop products and sell technology to schools.
On Jan. 10,  2014, parents opposed to the upload of their children’s data to the cloudwill have their lawsuit heard in a New York State Superior Court. I am grateful for the hard work, research and persistence of Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters who has fought to protect student privacy since inBloom’s inception. Leonie played a critical role in the development of the lawsuit and no matter what the outcome, she has made parents and educators aware of inBloom. Let’s hope that this lawsuit not only puts the upload of student data on pause, but also serves as a catalyst for the needed debate that we ought to have regarding the involuntary collection of student data.
Perhaps we can agree that before any personally identifiable data is collected, the government and its agencies should have to provide a compelling justification, and not collect data because they deem it to be “necessary.”  Those who have no problem setting high standards for our students, should, when they collect student information, be held to high standards as well.