Friday, December 13, 2019

Why the DOE's analysis of the second year of the literacy coach program provokes more questions than answers

Yesterday, the DOE released an evaluation of the second year of its literacy coach program, created under Chancellor Farina in 2016-2017, and budgeted at $85.7 million this year. Each coach has a salary of $90,000 to $150,000, and there are approximately 515 of them working with K-2 teachers in selected schools currently.  The number of schools and coaches have expanded each year.
In August 2018, the DOE released a brief power point which purportedly contained the sole written evaluation of the first year of the program.  By analyzing the growth scores from October to May of second graders who were administered the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Tests (GMRT) at schools that received literacy coaches, compared to students at similar schools without coaches, they found no positive results in either word decoding, word knowledge, or comprehension.

The results were expressed in grade equivalents, which allowed one to see that rather than progressing, both groups had fallen further behind in terms of grade level.
I submitted a Freedom of Information request for the second year results shortly afterward, since these students' test scores should have been available by then and could have easily been analyzed.  Instead, the DOE waited until December 2018 to tell me that NO such analysis had yet been done. Yet they subsequently proposed an expansion of the program in any case, with little evidence to back it up.

I submitted another FOIL request in August 2019, and on Monday, Dec. 9, they told me they would delay any substantive response till January 16, 2020, with this excuse: "[4] the need to review records to determine the extent to which they must be disclosed, [and 5] the number of requests received by the agency."
Three days later, on Dec. 12, they released the second year evaluation, which found a slight but significantly larger average growth score in comprehension among second graders in the first and second cohort of schools that had access to literacy coaches compared to second graders at similar schools that did not. There were no significantly larger gains in the other areas of word decoding or word knowledge however, nor overall.  

In several ways, the evaluation quite thin.  Here are some of the most glaring omissions:
1- One would expect that the DOE would not merely test 2nd graders in the program, but also analyze the scores of these same students as 3rd graders, to see if the slight gains that they experienced earlier had persisted or disappeared.  They could do this without administering more tests by comparing their 3rd grade state test scores to students at similar schools without coaching. No such analysis is mentioned in the paper.
2- Curiously, the DOE also seemed to switch its methodology in reporting test score gains compared to the first year study.  See this:
 “...in this report we use extended scale scores. In previous reporting, we used grade equivalent scores. Scale scores refer to the continuous scale on which GMRT results are measured, from Pre-Reading to Adult Reading. While grade equivalents are more easily understandable, scale scores are more precise and are used for analyses. Scale scores on the GMRT capture students’ reading ability on a linear scale that is useful for both comparison across grades and for analysis.”
I'm not sure why they made this change, unless the one area of comprehension where there appeared to be a significant difference, the gain was too small to show up in terms of grade equivalents.  Or perhaps they didn't want to reveal that even those students at schools that had achieved significant gains still fell behind in terms of grade level?
3.  The report makes other claims without any data to support them, and overall it is surprisingly sparse in actual statistics.  See this claim for example: "Students of teachers who received ULit coaching grew more than students of teachers who did not."
The study does not include any  data to back this up, and does not actually say that the difference in growth was significant. What this may suggest is that while the growth scores of students at schools that had access to coaches were significantly greater in the area of comprehension, the same significance did not occur when the scores of the students of teachers that actually received coaching were compared to students of teachers who did not receive coaching.

This passage is similarly hard to understand:
Moreover, the more coaching a teacher received, the more growth the students had, on average. The difference between students whose teachers had more coaching and those who did not was statistically significant.

Again, no data is provided to back up either claim, and no definition of  “more coaching” is offered in which would allow one to evaluate the claim made by the second statement.  How much more coaching was needed for a teacher to see a statistically significant gain in his or her students?
4.  The report also doesn't provide the full results of the teacher/coach/principal surveys.  Most frustratingly, though it says that almost half of teacher respondents responded that if they had a reading coach the following year, they would like the coach to work with them "one-on-one", it doesn't report if teachers were asked if they wanted coaching at all, or if they believed the funding might be better spent on more classroom teachers to lower class size or teachers who would work directly with struggling readers.

No information is provided either as to whether the coaches believed their training was useful, even though a third of school leaders reported that  "the coach was out of the building too often for professional learning."
5.  We are now in the midst of the fourth year of the program. Why is the DOE just now  releasing second year results, instead of the third year results that should be available - especially given that we are spending nearly $100 million a year on the program? Or do the results have to be carefully sifted and parsed before released, as these appear to be?
All in all, there needs to be a more comprehensive study with much more data provided before one can be assured that the program is providing benefits to kids that are worth the cost.  And this analysis would be far more credible coming from an experienced and independent research outfit like RAND.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Interview with Diane Ravitch and Talk out of School is now a podcast!

Today on WBAI, I interviewed Diane Ravitch on Talk out of School.  We discussed her new book, Battling Goliath, to be released in January, about the resistance to privatization, about Mayoral control, and what to pay attention to during Saturday’s education forum of the Presidential candidates on MSNBC.
You can hear our conversation here.   Earlier Talk out of School shows can be downloaded here.
You can also subscribe to the podcast via Apple or Spotify or Google.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Achieve Inc. seriously misleads the Board of Regents on graduation exit exams

Update 12/11/19: Michael Petrilli responds that Fordham does not oppose the use of exit exams, and claims that the term can be used for exams that either contribute to HS grades or are required to pass to graduate from high school. I pointed out that Wikipedia, Chalkbeat and NCES all clearly say that an exit exam is defined as solely the latter.  I did strike out the statement below that Fordham opposes the use of exit exams. 

Thanks for Stan Karp of the Education Law Center for much of the data here.

Achieve Inc. has been commissioned by the Board of Regents to research what other states are doing with their graduation exit exams, and review the current New York high school graduation requirements which mandate that students have to pass five high-stakes exit exams to graduate from high school. They are now engaged in an "information gathering phase" that is being being funded with an $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation.

Accordingly, the organization gave a presentation to the Regents today,  entitled "Graduation requirements review," which included the following statements: that "states are making adjustments to their assessments required for high school graduation" followed by this claim: "28 states administer an ELA, mathematics, science and/or social studies exam(s) that factors into students' grades or graduation requirements."

Missing from their presentation are the following facts:


FairTest reports that currently, only 11 states currently have high school graduation exit exams, down from high of 27.

For the year 2018-2019, Education Week wrote this:  "Thirteen states require students to pass a test to get a high school diploma,...Exit exams used to be more popular: In 2002, more than half the states required them.”

Yet their list included Washington which recently approved an end to exit tests for the class of 2020.

The Fordham Institute put out a report over the summer, with the following information:  "just 12 states will require students in the class of 2020 to pass exit exams, falling from a peak of 30 states requiring them for the class of 2003."


When challenged on Twitter about the disparity in their figures compared to other sources, Achieve responded that they "define them [exit exams] as assessments that matter for students - impacting course grades or graduation."  Yet to conflate states that require students to pass a test to graduate from high school with those that assign ordinary end of course exams is extremely misleading.

 What else was missing from the Achieve presentation?

The overwhelming evidence against the use of exit exams, which has caused conservative organizations such as the Fordham Institute, as well as middle-of- the-road organizations like New America, to join with more progressive organizations, like FairTest and the Education Law Center, to oppose them.

See this New America report by Anne Hyslop, entitled "The Case Against Exit Exams."  Excerpt: 

"In short, typical students do not appear to be any better off after the exit exam policy, and those that were already vulnerable, including low-income and minority students, often became more so. In one of the broadest findings, a blue ribbon commission formed by the National Research Council, the Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability, found that high school exit exams nationwide had not increased student achievement, but rather decreased graduation rates by two percentage points, on average.  Along similar lines, a 2010 meta-analysis on the effects of high school exit exams, including minimum competency versions and newer, more rigorous tests, found that, in general, the “evidence indicates that exit tests have produced few of the expected benefits for students overall and nearly all of the expected costs for disadvantaged and at-risk students.”

Since the 2010 meta-analysis, new evidence has reinforced the conclusion that exit exams disproportionately affect a subset of students, without producing positive outcomes for most. A 2013 study from Olesya Baker and Kevin Lang found that more rigorous exit tests, not MCEs [minimum competency exams] , were associated with lower graduation rates, particularly in states that had not previously had a MCE policy in place. Further, the lower graduation rates were not fully offset by increased GED attainment. As with other studies, Baker and Lang found that there was no relationship between exit exam policies and labor market outcomes. They also examined incarceration rates as another long-term cost of exit exam policies. They found that both MCEs and more difficult HSEEs increased the likelihood of incarceration, but the findings were only significant for the more rigorous tests. In fact, these kinds of exit exams were associated with a 12.5 percent increase in incarceration rates.


Perhaps it's not surprising that Achieve, the organization that help bring us the seriously flawed Common Core standards, would provide such an incomplete picture in the research consensus against the use of such exams, as well as the growing trend among states to reject them.

Sadly, Achieve is now produce a formal report which will synthesize the research on graduation exit exams for the Regents, as well as summarize feedback from state stakeholder groups about their views of these exams.  From this presentation, one cannot assume they will fulfill either of these tasks in a reliable fashion.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Testimony on the need to fully fund and provide more accountability with the Foundation funds owed NYC so that class sizes are (finally) reduced

Here is the testimony from Sarita Subramanian of the IBO which cites an Urban Institute study showing NY ranking second-to-last among 50 states because of how regressive its school funding is (including state and local.) Here is testimony from Michael Mulgrew of the UFT and Andy Pallotta of NYSUT.

Yesterday I spent most of the day at NY Senate hearings by the Education and Budget Committees on the Foundation aid formula for school funding, following a series of round table discussions that have been held throughout the state.

The Foundation aid formula which was established in 2007 but has never been fully implemented. NYC schools are owed either $1.1 billion or $1.4 billion from the state, according to different sources, as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision and the Contracts for Excellence law passed in 2007.  Statewide, the unmet need varies from about $3.4 billion to $4.2 billion according to whom you ask.  Some of the witnesses said there should be a two-year phase in, and others a three-year phase in of these amounts.

There were many experts in school finance, some who said the formula was so badly flawed it should be improved before funding it, and others who said we can't wait for this to happen.  They argued that our schools need more resources now because students are suffering, and can't wait.  They said that the state legislature and Governor need to fully fund the original formula and worry about tweaking the formula later.

The first witness was Lindsey Oates, the Chief Financial Officer of the NYC Department of Education  who began with a long account about how wonderfully our schools are doing, from rising graduation rates, more students taking SATs, more preK, yadda yadda yadda.  The thrust of her remarks would make any listener think that  our schools don't really need more funding at all.

When asked what they would do with the additional $1.1 billion, she echoed Carranza: all schools' Fair student funding would be brought up to 100% and then principals could do with the money what they want.  In the DOE experience, this usually meant primarily the hiring of more staff of one kind or another.   She said it would cost $750 million to bring all schools up to 100%, though a couple of years ago, the IBO estimated less than $500 million. [Update: DOE is now including pension and fringe costs

NYC Council Education Committee chair Mark Treyger was a far more effective witness in outlining the crying lack of counselors, social workers and teachers to provide reasonable class sizes, and argued that the need to fund these positions are "non-negotiable."

The results of a recent survey of School Superintendents throughout the state was released, reporting a sharp increase in the number of English Language learners and students diagnosed with disabilities who need more support, and a need in many districts to supply more mental health services to their students.

Sen. Robert Jackson, the lead plaintiff in the original CFE lawsuit, was vociferous about the fact that the state was in non-compliance with the court decision, and that the Legislature must take action in response.

Sen. John Liu was especially biting in his questions, and pointed out that it would be impossible to find the billions of dollars required unless the Governor Cuomo softened his opposition to allowing the state budget to increase by more than two percent in any year, even if more revenue is raised through a tax increase for the super wealthy.

Liu asked Michael Mulgrew, President of the UFT and Andy Pallotta of the state teacher's union NYSUT, “Will you stand with us and demand that he throw this ridiculously arbitrary 2 percent spending increase cap out the window?”  They nodded yes.

Sen. Shelley Mayer, the Committee chair, seemed most concerned with accountability compared with other legislators, and asked Michael Mulgrew how we could be sure that the additional funding would be well-spent.  He replied rather incongruously that NYC teachers needed new curriculum and training to properly implement the new standards.

I focused on the need to strengthen the accountability, enforcement and maintenance of effort provisions of the Contract for Excellence law, so that we could ensure that a significant portion of these funds be spent on lowering class size, especially in NYC. 

Class size was a central focus of the original lawsuit and the court decision that concluded that class sizes were too large to provide NYC students with their constitutional right to a sound, basic education.  And yet class sizes have risen even higher since that decision was rendered, especially in the early grades.  I included charts with the latest class size data from this fall.

I also pointed out that $2.1 billion was being diverted out of the DOE budget to charter schools, and while every other district in the district receives "transitional aid" to make up for some of the funding lost to charters, NYC does not.

My testimony is posted here and below.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Talk out of School is back! Please tune in next Wednesday to hear from Diane Ravitch on the resistance to corporate education reform

Update:  My interview with Diane Ravitch on Dec. 4 was postponed to next week, Dec. 11 - pre-empted by the impeachment hearings. 

After an extended hiatus, the "Talk out of School" radio show I host on alternate weeks with Carol Burris has resumed on WBAI radio.

On Wednesday, it featured a fascinating interview with Naftuli Moster, the founder of YAFFED, about his efforts to ensure that ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth receive their legally-mandated right to an adequate education. You can listen to it here.

Earlier shows can be streamed here.

Next Wed. at 10, on WBAI 99.5. or online at www.wbai.org, my guest will be none other than Diane Ravitch, talking about the Presidential politics and her new book, "Slaying Goliath" about the resistance to privatization and corporate reform.   Hope you'll tune in! -- Leonie Haimson

Friday, November 22, 2019

Has the city learned its lesson about not holding early voting in schools, and are their assurances enough? The PTA at PS 116 says no.

As discussed on this blog earlier, 33 public schools were selected as early voting centers this fall in NYC, out of a total of 61 voting sites- though there were none selected in Queens and only one public school in the entire rest of the state.  One problem is that state election law allows other buildings to opt out from being a poll site, but does not give public schools the same authority.

Another problem was the fact that for some reason, the city proposed 168 schools out of a total of 222 potential sites to the Board of Elections earlier this year.

Putting early voting sites in schools caused serious security concerns as well as the loss of lunchrooms, auditoriums and gyms in many schools for a full school week. According to Brigid Bergin of Gothamist, there will be four elections in New York City next year.  If early voting continues to be held in schools, this would cause a total of 20 days in which these conditions would prevail, including during one week when schools are required to administer the state tests.

Because of the widespread criticisms of many parents and concerns expressed by principals about the risks and disruption caused by early voting in schools, the Mayor has apparently learned a lesson, and now city officials say that they will make an effort to see that no school is an early voting venue in the future, according to Gothamist/WNYC:

“We’ve heard from parents, we’ve heard from principals and we think there is a better way,” Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, the city’s Chief Democracy Officer....If you look at the borough of Queens, no schools were used for early voting... We see cultural institutions, we see community centers, we see CUNY. Those are the institutions that should be used for early voting,” she added.

But this is not good enough for many parents, including those at PS 116.  Though they support early voting in general, their children suffered through the first round of early voting this year, and they want schools legally barred from being identified as early voting sites altogether.

Below is the testimony of Erica Rand Silverman, the PTA president of PS 116, given at a joint Assembly/Senate hearing on early voting on November 20. If you'd like to learn more and/or join the campaign to end early voting in NYC public schools, you can email their PTA at ps116ptamembership@gmail.com



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Letter to WSJ re big errors in David Osborne's pro-charter op ed

credit: @CoopMike48
Update #2 (11/22/2019):  After a protracted debate on Twitter, David Osborne has modified his claim that NY "cushions the blow" for districts experiencing charter expansion, writing: "In Massachusetts, New York (outside New York City) and Illinois, the state cushions any revenue loss."  At the end of the article there is also this retraction:


Correction
New York state cushions the revenue loss when students transfer to charter schools only for school districts outside New York City. An earlier version misstated this. 


Yet even in the original version, he had added, "By law, Massachusetts districts should be reimbursed 100% of the state money for the student for a year, then 25% for the next five years—though the state has only met about 60% of that funding since 2015."

So it is clear that this cushion pertains neither to NYC, which has the largest share by far of charters in the state; nor to MA, where this promised reimbursement has not ever been fully funded.  We have yet to hear if  the claim is true for IL.  

See also links to analyses below from CA, PA, and NC, which show that the fiscal impact of charter growth affects public schools nationwide. Moreover, Osborne still hasn't corrected his claim in the oped that public schools can "lease" empty buildings to charters - while as my blog post points out, NYC is obligated to provide space for all new and expanding charters either for free in public school buildings, or help pay for their rent in private space, which last year cost the district about $100 million.

Update (11/21/19): For more on the significant negative impact of charter school growth on public school budgets via "stranded costs", see economist Gordon Lafer’s report  focused on CA, or this Research for Action analysis of  Pennsylvania, or Helen Ladd's study of the evidence from North Carolina


From: Leonie Haimson
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 10:52 AM
To: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com
Subject: Fact check on David Osborne op-ed in WSJ


To the editor:
There are at least two major errors in David Osborne’s WSJ oped, entitled “The Big Lie about Charter Schools,”  dated November 19.
First he writes, In Massachusetts, New York and Illinois, the state cushions any revenue lossfrom the growth in charter enrollment.
Nothing of this kind happens in New York, and the NYC Department of Education is paying more than $2.1 billion annually directly out of its budget to charter schools with no reimbursement.
He also adds: Once their schools are down to 75% capacity or below, they can lease the extra space to charter or private schools.” 
In NYC, the Department of Education is forced to give charter schools space in public school buildings for free or help pay for their private space, which is costing the city more than $100 million per year.  This is fully documented in our recent report, "Spending by NYC on Charter School Facilities: Diverted Resources, Inequities and Anomalies” and posted here: https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Charter-School-Facility-Costs-10.21.19.pdf.

Sincerely,

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
www.classsizematters.org
leonie@classsizematters.org

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

NYS Allies for Public Education asks parents to urge Tish James to investigate the College Board's potentially illegal practice of selling student data

Is it accurate to say that charter schools are the "boogeymen" of progressive Democrats, as Cory Booker and some reporters claim?


In a NY Times oped this week, Senator Cory Booker argued that the expansion of charter schools had a positive role in improving Newark’s school system and by extension, nationwide.  In the process, he described charters as "boogeymen" for other Democratic politicians:
 
“The treatment by many Democratic politicians of high-performing public charter schools as boogeymen has undermined the fact that many of these schools are serving low-income urban children across the country in ways that are inclusive, equitable, publicly accountable and locally driven."
One could easily challenge his claim that in Newark, the expansion of charters was “locally driven” since Newark’s locally elected school board was disempowered and their schools were being run by Gov. Chris Christie at that time.
But in any case, the main point of this op ed appeared to be to allow Booker to strongly reconfirm his commitment to privatization after some ambivalent statements this summer,  presumably in an attempt to strengthen his lagging campaign.  In the process, Booker was implicitly criticizing rival Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have both come out publicly against the continued funding of charters by the federal government:
Yet what struck me the most was his use of the word “boogeymen” in connection with charter schools, which rang a bell. 
Indeed. this was the second time this same analogy has been used in the New York Times in the context of the presidential campaign.
Earlier this spring, on May 23, reporters Dana Goldstein and Sydney Ember used the term “boogeyman” in describing the teacher unions’ position on charters,  in an article on Sanders’ education agenda:
Many Democrats and progressives send their children to charter schools, work within the sector or donate money to the movement. Teachers’ unions, an important constituency to Democrats, have long considered them a boogeyman, arguing that charter schools draw students and funding away from traditional public schools.
There is no evidence presented for the claim that many “progressives” work within the charter sector or donate money to the charter movement.  
Just six days later, on May 29, Michelle Hackman, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal used the term  again, describing how charter schools had become “a boogeyman of Democrats,” again supposedly because of the undue influence of the teacher unions.
The definition of a boogeyman, according to Webster’s, is “a frightening imaginary being, often one used as a threat in disciplining children.”
Whether one supports or opposes charter schools, to call their impact on the system as a “frightening imaginary being” is a condescending mischaracterization – given their potential impact on public school budgets  as they actually  do “draw students and funding away from traditional public schools.” 
Analysts at Moody’s, the credit-rating company, found the growth of charters contributed to a “negative feedback loop” on the finances of public school systems, “particularly painful” to school districts in the Midwest and Northeast.   
In NYC alone, charter schools continue to expand rapidly in enrollment, while taking up more and more space in public school buildings and an increasing chunk of the NYC Department of Education budget – more than $2.1 billion last year alone. 
Last month, we released a report showing that NYC Department of Education is also spending more than $100 million per year on helping to pay for charter school space in private buildings – an amount which if used to finance bonds, could instead pay for a 50% increase in the number of school seats in a system in which more than 500,000 students are crammed in overcrowded schools.
After googling the terms, I discovered that in recent years, the term boogeyman or boogeymen has been used literally thousands of times by charter school advocates in dismissing the arguments of critics, who point out some of their negative aspects, including their excessive disciplinary practices, student and teacher attrition rates, or budgetary impact on public schools. It is not surprising that Booker might invoke the term in order to revive his lagging campaign, especially when he himself has recently pointed out a need to improve its finances.   
One has to wonder when there is a growing recognition among many progressive Democrats of the negative consequences of the unchecked growth of charter schools, why political reporters who are supposed to be objective observers of this debate are adopting this patronizing and essentially incorrect term.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What's really behind the city, state and national drop in NAEP scores

The results of the biennual national tests called NAEPs were released on October 30, showing stagnant or declining test scores in reading and math in nearly all states in the decade since 2009. 
“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP. “In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.”
The poor results are most likely a consequence of several factors, including the damaging double whammy experienced by schools in 2009-2011 – when the great recession hit, which led to thousands of teacher jobs lost and class sizes increasing sharply, and the imposition of the Common Core standards.
Concerning the recession, see the chart below from the Economic Policy Institute, showing a current shortfall of more than 300,000 public education jobs starting in about 2010:

Many states and districts, including NYC, still have not recovered from the sharp increase in class size that occurred starting in 2008.   Just as class size reduction benefits students of color and from low income families the most, increases in class size hurt their opportunities to learn the most, helping to explain the widening achievement gap over this period.
In addition, the corporate-style policies that proponents claimed would help narrow the achievement gap, including the Common Core standards and state exams aligned with those standards, adopted in nearly all states starting in 2010, likely contributed to the decline in performance on the NAEPs as well.
The Common Core emphasizes informational text rather than literature, and  “close reading” strategies, with students assigned to analyze short passages, often excerpts from literature, in isolation from any larger context.
In essence, Common Core led to a curriculum designed for test prep, but devoid of engaging relevance and content for many students. To make things worse, the assigned texts are often two or three Lexile grade levels above the actual reading level of the students to whom the reading is assigned, in a misplaced intent to provide more “rigor.”
Close reading involves analyzing and re-analyzing individual passages, focusing on details and interpreting the author’s particular choice of words, structure, and intent, without any reference to anything in the student’s own experience or prior knowledge: “Students go deeper in the text, explore the author’s craft and word choices, analyze the text’s structure and implicit meaning” etc..  It is a process that is more suited to a graduate seminar in literary criticism than elementary or even high school English classrooms, and has been imposed upon classrooms throughout the United States in a misguided effort to sharpen their analytic “skills”.  It is hard to imagine anything more boring, and more likely to turn off a young reader.
Here are some recent tweets from teachers around the country, in discussing the Common Core in relation to the latest NAEP scores.
From a second grade teacher in Louisiana:
And a special ed teacher in New York:
Strangely enough, the NY Times story on the NAEPs mentioned neither the recession nor the Common Core in attempting to explain why there has been no  progress since 2009. In a Twitter exchange with one of the reporters, she said no one had mentioned Common Core to her in years.   

I don’t doubt that few if any of its original proponents now mention Common Core  – given its abysmal failure to improve results in our schools -- but that doesn’t mean that millions of students and teachers aren’t still wrestling with its flaws every day in classrooms throughout the nation, as evidenced by the above tweets.

In any case, the last quote in the Times article was from Jim Cowen, the executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, an organization established to promote the Common Core standards, decrying how the state tests -- those explicitly aligned with the standards -- have become too easy and there was a need for "accountability" -- but not apparently for those who promoted the flawed standards themselves.

Moreover, the other experts quoted decried the emphasis on short passages rather than allowing students read longer books with richer meanings and larger contexts, without specifically mentioning the Common Core.

Peter Afflerbach, an expert on reading and testing at the University of Maryland, called the eighth-grade declines “troubling” and “precipitous,” especially for the lowest-achieving students saying that  "too many schools have assigned elementary students short passages instead of challenging them with longer, thematically rich texts and books.The new eighth-grade results show the students haven’t developed the reading comprehension to deal with text complexity."

Compounding the bad news was a just-released report from the ACT, showing that College Readiness levels in English, reading, math, and science have all decreased since 2015, with English and math seeing the largest decline.  
A recent study has provided further evidence for the negative impact of the Common Core. In those states whose original standards differed significantly from the Common Core, the adoption of the new standards had a significantly depressing impact on test scores which has grown over time, with the sharpest negative effect on fourth grade reading scores and especially on the achievement of students with disabilities, English Language learners, and Hispanic students.
Altogether, the falling NAEP scores, the ACT report, and this study represent a devastating indictment of the Gates/David Coleman/Arne Duncan reform agenda -- and yet despite all the evidence against them, and the fervent critiques from teachers, most states are sticking with the standards and the flawed pedagogy they impose.  As Susan DuFresne, a teacher in Washington state, proclaimed:
One more trend may have contributed to the decline in reading scores over the last few years. There has been a sharp increase in the use of digital reading programs across the country – with a survey from Common Sense Media revealing that 94 percent of English/language arts teachers say that they used them for core curriculum at least several times a month. This is despite a wealth of research that suggests that reading comprehension suffers when reading is done on screens. 

An Ed Week analysis of the just-released NAEP data found that in both grades 4 and 8, students who spent more time on digital devices in English class scored lower on these exams. Look at this astonishing graphic - showing that 65% of students who scored below basic on the NAEPs spent four hours or more of classroom time on screens per day.  Whether this association is due to correlation or causation, it is a highly disturbing trend:
As for NYC in particular, the much ballyhooed upward trend in state scores has now been proven to be illusory, as I argued last year, as was the Mayor's claim that the achievement of NYC students has  matched or surpassed average achievement in the rest of the state.  
  
According to the more reliably scaled NAEPs, in no subject or grade do the NYC scores come close to the average in the rest of the state – even though the state scores too have stagnated over the last decade.  Also confirmed was my prediction in 2016 that we have entered yet another era of state test score inflation.
And while in 2003, NYC students scored  above the large city average in all four NAEP exams, we have now slipped behind that level in three out of the four categories– and only equal it in one: fourth grade reading.  The same pattern exists with NY state’s NAEP scores, which were once ahead of curve nationally and have now fallen below it. 
What’s especially disconcerting, though, is how little seems to have been learned from the failures of the past.  A few days after the NAEPs were released, the NY State Education Department announced it was hiring Achieve.org to summarize the research and the public feedback on whether and how to revise the state’s high school graduation requirements, which rely on students passing five high-stakes exit exams.  Achieve.org has been one of leaders in the Gates-funded push for the Common Core,
In addition, the NYSED public engagement process, which will involve a Commission and multiple forums, will be funded by the Gates Foundation, which has spent more than $400 million since 2009 on financing and goading states to adopt the Common Core, with hundreds of millions more spent to encourage the expansion of online learning.   
Eleven states out of 27 have in recent years dropped their high school exit exams, and many of them now allow high school diplomas to be retroactively awarded.  This trend follows research showing that the practice of requiring students to pass these exams leads not to higher achievement or college readiness, but instead to higher drop-out and incarceration rates.    

And yet for some inconceivable reason, the NY State Education Department has chosen to work with the primary funder of the Common Core, as well as  one of the organizations that set our nation’s schools on the wrong path, to help guide their deliberations on this important issue. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Our letter in response to the College Board asking for corrections

Yesterday, we sent a letter to the College Board in response to a letter they sent to us on October 18th, claiming inaccuracies in our petition urging the Attorney General to investigate the College Board's selling of student data, and in the fact sheet we posted that warned parents whose children are taking the PSAT/SAT/ACT/AP exams.

Check out the College Board's letter, as well as our response below.

Update: 11/3/19:  The College Board sent a second letter in reply to our response, insisting once again that I make changes in the parent fact sheet.  I made two minor changes as explained here: one, that the CB sells students'  information related to their "religious interests" or "religious activities" (rather than their religion per se) and that it is the ACT that has been sued for selling student special education status.  The other changes I refused to make, as the CB provided no convincing evidence to back their claims. - LH










Monday, October 21, 2019

Schools with the biggest shortfalls in matching funds for facility upgrades.

Here is the list from our report, Spending by NYC on Charter School Facilities: Diverted Resources, Inequities and Anomalies, of the 175 NYC public schools co-located with charter schools with the biggest shortfalls in funds for facility enhancements, totaling $22 million, which were supposed to be provided according to a state law passed in 2010.

New report reveals over $100 million spent last year by NYC on charter facilities


We  released our report today on NYC spending on charter school facilities – with over $100 million
spent last year on providing rent subsidies for charters or leasing buildings directly for them by DOE.  This includes nearly $15 million spent by DOE since FY 2015 for rent subsidies to charter schools whose charter management organization or affiliated foundation/LLC owns the building. 
We also found $22 million missing from the matching funds that co-located public schools are supposed the receive for facility upgrades.  
Check out the list of 175 public schools in Appendix B to see if your school is among them.  last year.  The press release is below and the full report is posted here.



For immediate release: October 21, 2019
Contact: Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329, leoniehaimson@gmail.com

New report reveals over $100 million spent last year by NYC on charter facilities

Includes payments to help charter schools rent space in buildings owned by their CMOs or related parties
Also: 175 public schools co-located with charters lack $22M in matching funds for facility upgrades

On Monday, October 21, Class Size Matters released a new report revealing how the NYC Department of Education spent more than $377 million on charter school facility costs from FY 2014 to FY 2019.  This amount includes both matching funds for facility upgrades for public schools, co-located with charter schools that spent more than $5000 for this purpose, and on paying the rent for new and expanding charter schools in private space.  Nearly $15 million of this total since FY 2015 was expended  by DOE to help charter schools pay for their space in buildings owned by their Charter Management Organization, affiliated foundation or LLC.
In FY 2019, DOE spent about $25 million on matching funds to public schools co-located with charter schools.  Yet between FY 2014 and FY 2019, more than $22 million in charter school expenditures on facility upgrades were not matched in 175 public schools that shared their buildings, in apparent contradiction to a state law passed in 2010, according to spreadsheets provided by DOE.  In FY 2019, only one third of co-located public schools received their full complement of matching funds. 
The two schools which experienced the largest shortfalls were both District 75 schools that serve students with serious disabilities: Mickey Mantle School (M811), located in two sites in Harlem, which lacked $1.5 million in matching funds, and P.S 368 (K368), located  in two sites in Brooklyn, which lacked $1.2 million. All four sites are co-located with different branches of Success Academy Charter schools.
Mindy Rosier is the UFT chapter delegate from Mickey Mantle School, which enrolls students with multiple disabilities, including autism, emotional/behavioral difficulties and/or significant language and communication disorders.  As Mindy pointed out, “The $1.5 million in matching funds for facility upgrades would have been incredibly helpful to our school.  Our District 3 site needs new wiring, since the internet is very slow and much of our curriculum is online. Our site in District 4 needs new bathrooms and water fountains, and nine classrooms out of ten badly need repainting.” 
The DOE currently holds leases for 12 private buildings that house 15 charter schools, with a cost to the city of $17.1 million in FY 2019 alone.  In addition, there are 88 charter schools that receive a per student “lease subsidy” from the city to help pay for their own private space, which has increased by 72 percent since FY 2017. In 2019, DOE was projected to spend about $83.6 million in lease subsidies for charter schools, with an estimated $50 million of that total reimbursed by the state.
By analyzing audited financial statements, charter school annual reports, and property records, the authors found that the lease payments made by DOE included $14.8 million to eight charter schools housed in buildings owned by related parties of these schools, that is, their own Charter Management Organizations or an affiliated LLC or foundation. 
For example, DOE provided lease subsidies of $2.2 million in FY 2019 for two Success Academy charter schools, even though the Success CMO owns the space in the Hudson Yards complex on the west side of Manhattan. In another case, the city paid $461,965 in lease subsidies in FY 2019 towards the rental costs of Beginning with Children II charter school, despite the fact that the Beginning with Children Foundation bought the Brooklyn building for only ten dollars in 2017. More examples are provided in the report.
Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education said: "It is outrageous that the taxpayers of New York City and the state are required to pay $2.2 million a year to house two Success Academy charter schools located in a building that their Charter Management Organization owns. And Success is not alone. This report documents eight charter schools for which taxpayers are footing the bill that are in buildings owned by the charters themselves or affiliated organizations. The Network for Public Education has studied all of the various charter laws and their loopholes.  I have never seen any other that requires the district to cover the costs of private facilities like this one does. One wonders whether this is about educating children or building a real estate empire at taxpayer expense." 
“New York City has more than 500,000 students in overcrowded public-school buildings, as well as class sizes far higher than those in the rest of the state.  Yet we are also the only district obligated to cover the cost of private space for charter schools, or offer them space in public school buildings,”  said Leonie Haimson, one of the co-authors of the report. “The cost to the city of providing space for charter schools has risen sharply over the last five years.  If the current trend continues, the amount spent annually may soon exceed the cost of the payments to finance the construction of new public schools.” 
“This is unconscionable! While public schools across the city and state have been fighting for more than $4 billion in funding owed under the Foundation Aid formula, we are handing over public dollars to charters such as Success Academy on a silver platter. Rectifying this budgetary fiasco would help ease overcrowded schools and bring much needed funding to our under-resourced schools and districts," expressed Senator Robert Jackson from Manhattan and lead plaintiff for Campaign for Fiscal Equity. 
Concluded Diane Ravitch, celebrated education historian, “The findings of this report should shock the conscience of the Governor and Legislature.  They should amend the law as soon as possible so that the city is no longer forced to subsidize the acquisition of private space by charter schools, even as our public schools are badly underfunded and overcrowded."
The report, entitled “Spending by NYC on Charter School Facilities: Diverted Resources, Inequities and Anomalies is posted here: https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Charter-School-Facility-Costs-10.21.19.pdf

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