Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Who are they kidding? The excuses of NY State Education Department and Pearson for the prominent trademarks in the ELA exam fall flat

American Girl Doll desk

American Girl Doll made by Mattel

Deborah Poppe, of West Hempstead, Long Island, said her eighth-grade son was similarly puzzled by a question, which drew complaints for a second straight year, about a busboy who failed to clean some spilled root beer — Mug Root Beer, to be exact, a registered trademark of PepsiCo.
'"Why are they trying to sell me something during the test?'" she quoted her son as saying. "He's bright enough to realize that it was almost like a commercial."
* * *
"There are no product placement deals between us, Pearson or anyone else," said Tom Dunn, an Education Department spokesman. "No deals. No money. We use authentic texts. If the author chose to use a brand name in the original, we don't edit."
Pearson spokeswoman Stacy Skelly said neither the company nor the education department received any compensation for the mentions. And if any brand comes up in a passage, she said, "the trademark symbol is included in order to follow rights and permission laws and procedures." -- Karen Matthews, AP
The AP wire's story about the brand names of products appearing in this year's New York state 2014 ELA exams has been reprinted in hundreds of news outlets around the country and overseas. As a publishing professional, I have my own take on it.

This is the second year in a row of complaints about not just brand names appearing, but their appearance with (R) and (TM), the symbols for registered and unregistered trademarks. According to teachers, the following products had trademarks after their names, and also listed below the reading passages:

Life Savers, iPods, Nike, Mug root beer, Barbie, Singer sewing machines, IBM, and FIFA, trademark of the International Soccer Federation.

Mug Root beer, IBM, and FIFA and trademark symbols were in last year’s tests as well.

The statements from NYSED and Pearson are misleading. Passages published in a magazine, newspaper, or book would never have (R) or (TM) symbols after a brand name. There is no legal reason for those symbols to appear in print. This is stated in the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style, both industry bibles.  Dunn claims "We don't edit." This is not true. 

Pearson did in fact edit the original material; they put those symbols IN. And why NOT edit? Even though the original works might use brand names, Pearson could have edited them out in order not to distract the children.

Skelly's statement is just as disingenuous. There would be no reason or "procedure" to "include" the symbol. As a copy editor, in my twenty-year career I have never had to obtain permission to use a brand name on behalf of an author. And, an author would not stipulate that reprinting his or her work would require adding the (R) or (TM) symbols for included brand names. What permissions laws and procedures is she speaking of? Did no one else at Pearson correct her? New York is a media capital, many of whose professionals are public school parents. Who do NYSED and Pearson think they're kidding? 

The eighth grader is absolutely correct: the (R) and (TM) symbols appear only when the brand is selling its own item--such as Mattel's American Girl and Barbie dolls on its web site. Adding them to previously published work reflects inexperienced, shoddy work on the part of Pearson and NYSED. 

Oh, and speaking of Mattel: their American Girl sells a miniature Pearson Math textbook. AND, how very convenient that Barbie (TM) appears on the Pearson-produced 2014 ELA!

So did our children think they had to write out "Barbie (TM)" in full in their answers in order to be correct? Did kids as young as third grade have to wrestle with this as well as deal with numbered paragraphs that they had to refer back to? And field test questions, which have helped to make the ELA almost twice as long as the SATs?

What other problems did New York state kids have to put up with so that Pearson can build up a bank of usable test questions to sell to other states? I urge fellow parents to demand that NYSED release the test questions. And this fall, make an appointment to see your child's essay responses. The secrecy of the New York state tests is unconscionable. And the math portion for grades 3-8 is next week, April 30-May 2.

American Girl Doll's Pearson textbook
-- Edith Baltazar is a New York City public school parent and freelance copy editor for major book publishers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Statement on inBloom's overdue demise

UPDATE: news clips of inBloom's closing was covered in WSJEducation Week , Newsday, Washington Post AnswerSheet, NYTimes blog, Schoolbook/WNYC, Times Union, and Chalkbeat.

Today's announcement that inBloom is closing its doors will hopefully make government officials, corporations and foundations more aware that parental concerns cannot be ignored, and that they must stop foisting their “solutions” on our schools and classrooms with no attention given to the legitimate concerns of parents and their right to protect their children from harm.

Yet the statement issued by inBloom’s CEO reeks of arrogance and condescension, and makes it clear that those in charge still have not learned any lessons from this debacle.  The fervent opposition to inBloom among parents throughout the country did not result from “misunderstandings”  but inBloom‘s utter inability to provide a convincing rationale that would supercede the huge risks to student security and privacy involved.

Contrary to the claims of Iwan Streichenberger and others,  InBloom was  not designed to protect student privacy but the opposite: to facilitate the sharing of children’s personal and very sensitive information with data-mining vendors,  with no attention paid to the need for parental notification or consent, and this is something that parents will not stand for.  In New York, the last state to pull out of inBloom and the only one in which legislation was needed to do so, parents were joined by superintendents and teachers in pointing out that the risks to children’s privacy and safety far outweighed any educational benefits.

At the same time, we realize that the fight for student privacy is just beginning. There are more and more data-mining vendors who, with the help of government officials, foundations, and think-tanks, are eager to make money off of student information in the name of “big data” and “personalized” learning, and in the process see parents, if they recognize our existence at all, as ignorant obstacles to their Orwellian plans.  This is despite the fact that the educational value of putting kids on computers and subjecting them to canned software programs is not supported by evidence, and is yet another way in which children’s education is being mechanized, depersonalized, and outsourced to corporate hands. 

As a consequence to inBloom’s overreach, parents throughout the country have also become painfully aware of the way in which the federal government has actively encouraged data-sharing and data-mining of personal student information by eviscerating FERPA.  We will continue to work with parents and advocates to see that the federal government returns to its original role as protecting  student privacy, and recognizing the parental right to notification and consent,  rather than furthering the ability of for-profit vendors and other third parties to commercialize this data without regard to its potential harm.

Friday, April 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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

Noah E. Gotbaum:

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

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

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

WHEN: Thursday, April 10, at 4 PM. 

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

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

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

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

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