Saturday, September 27, 2014

NYC DOE still putting out false discharge data and inflating the graduation rate

Throughout the Bloomberg years, when the administration would trumpet rising graduation rates, I noticed how the discharge numbers were very high and seemed to be increasing. Every student listed as a “discharge” rather than a “dropout” can inflate a school’s figures,  as he or she are no longer counted in the cohort  -- in either the denominator or the numerator for the purposes of calculating the graduation rate.

So in 2009, I co-authored a report with Jennifer Jennings, entitled High School Discharges Revisited: Trends in NYC’s Discharge Rates, 2000-2007.   Our analysis showed that discharge rates had increased over this period, especially among Black and Hispanic students, students with disabilities, and English language learners.  

 Between the classes of 2000 and 2007, the discharge rate for students with disabilities increased from 17 to 23 percent, including in the class of 2005 where it spiked at 39 percent.  The report provided evidence that a thousand students had been “moved” into the special education cohort that year, possibly in order so DOE could claim an increase in the overall graduation rate.  Finally, we pointed out how some of the students categorized as discharges according to the DOE codes, such as students who left school to attend GED programs or because of pregnancy, should have been listed as drop-outs instead, according to state and federal standards. 

Our report led the DOE to change its coding for some of the categories and the City Council to pass a law called Local Law 42, to require detailed and disaggregated discharge reporting each year.  The results of that reporting are here.

A related law, Local Law 43, was also passed required the reporting of discharge rates at closing high schools, shown here; in these schools the discharge and drop out rates increase sharply.  Here is my testimony in support of both these bills.

Also as a direct result of our report, Betsy Gotbaum, then the Public Advocate, asked the NY State Comptroller to audit DOE’s discharge rates.  When the results of that audit were finally released in 2011, they revealed that 14.8% of students who were labelled as discharged should have been identified as dropouts instead, and fully 20% of the special education students. Moreover, the auditors found that DOE had no evidence to show that more than half of their sample of discharged students weren't actually dropouts; taking DOE months to come up with documentation. 

Just a few weeks ago, on Sept. 9, 2014, the NY State Comptroller’s office released a little noted, follow-up report showing almost no improvement in this area. According to a DOE internal audit from 2012, as many as 14% of reported discharges still should have been reported as dropouts.  A subsequent audit from December 2013 continued to find unspecified errors in DOE’s discharge classifications. 

I have now FOILed DOE and the State Comptroller for these two audits; we will see how long it takes them to respond.  Yet it is disappointing that there has been so little progress in the accurate reporting of this data, whether out of sloppiness or to inflate NYC's graduation rate, especially given DOE’s claims of being a “data-driven” agency.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

73 Education professors urge the Chancellor and the Mayor to reduce class size

At the Community Education Council meeting on Sept. 22, 2014, Prof. Mark Lauterbach of Brooklyn College read a letter from 73 professors of education and psychology, urging Chancellor Farina to reduce class size as part of the city's Contract for Excellence plan.  The letter points out that early education does not end at the age of four, and that the benefits of many of the other DOE's initiatives  such as expanded preK and special education inclusion, will likely be undermined without smaller classes.  Then he responded to questions from CEC members, and discussed how class size reduction is the most effective way to improve learning, over professional development and other strategies.  The full letter with signers is below.

Education professors urge the Chancellor and the Mayor to reduce class size from Class Size Matters on Vimeo.

On the need for NYC schools to reduce class size; 
signed by 73 professors of education/psychology/child development
September 22, 2014
Cc: Mayor de Blasio
Dear Chancellor Fariña:

We, the undersigned, professors and researchers, urge you to put forward an aggressive but practicable plan to reduce class size in NYC public schools.  Last school year, class sizes were the largest in 15 years in grades K-3, and the largest since 2002 in grades 4-8.  More than 330,000 children were sitting in classes of 30 or more, according to DOE data.

As you know, robust research shows that class size matters for all students, but particularly students at-risk of low achievement, including children of color, those in poverty, English language learners, and students with special needs.  This is why class size reduction has been shown to be one of the few reforms to narrow the achievement gap.

Smaller classes have also been shown to increase student engagement, lower disciplinary referral and drop-out rates, and reduce teacher attrition.  No teacher, no matter how skilled or well prepared, can be as effective in the large classes that exist in many of our city’s public schools.

We believe that the benefits of many of the other positive reforms that the city is pursuing, such as increasing access to Universal prekindergarten, establishing community schools, and inclusion for students with disabilities, may be undermined unless the trend of growing class sizes is reversed and class sizes are lowered in the city’s public schools.

In particular, placing students with special needs into classes of 25, 30 or more will not work to serve their individual needs, no less the needs of the other students in the class.

New York City schools have the largest classes in the state and among the largest in the nation. We believe strongly that more equitable outcomes depend on more equity in opportunity. We commend you for your commitment to expanding prekindergarten programs, but as you know, early childhood education does not begin and end at age 4.

We urge you now to focus on lowering class sizes in all grades, which will improve teaching and learning in our public schools.

Yours sincerely,

Jacqueline D. Shannon, Chair, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education, New York University
Barbara Schwartz, Clinical Professor, Dept. of Teaching and Learning, NYU Steinhart
Sonia Murrow, Associate Professor, Brooklyn College
Mark Alter, Professor of Educational Psychology, Programs in Special Education, New York University
Xia Li, Assistant Professor, Undergraduate Deputy, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Barbara Rosenfeld, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Childhood, Bilingual, and Special Education, Brooklyn College
Sharon O’Connor-Petruso, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Childhood, Bilingual, and Special Education, Brooklyn College
Carol Korn-Burztyn, Ph.D.,  Professor, Dept. of School Psychology, Counseling, and Leadership, Brooklyn College & Ph.D. Program in Urban Education, Graduate Center, CUNY
Karen Zumwalt, Evenden Professor Emerita of Education, Department of Curriculum and Teaching, Teachers College, Columbia University
Beverly Falk, Ed.D., Professor/Director, Graduate Programs in Early Childhood Education, The School of Education, City University of NY
David Bloomfield, Professor of Educational Leadership, Law and Policy, Brooklyn College & CUNY Graduate Center
Jessica Siegel, Assistant Professor, Education, English and Journalism, Brooklyn College
Barbara Winslow, Professor, Secondary Education, Brooklyn College
Diana B. Turk, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director, Social Studies Education, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University
Peter Taubman, Professor Secondary Education, Department of Secondary Education, Brooklyn College
James E. Corter, Prof. of Statistics and Education, Dept. of Human Development, Teachers College, Columbia University
Jeanne Angus, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Childhood, Bilingual & Special Education Head, Graduate Program in Special Education Co-Director, Brooklyn College
David Forbes, Associate Professor, Brooklyn College
Fabienne Coucet, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Program Leader, Program in Childhood Education, Dept of Teaching & Learning, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
Laura Kates, Associate Professor, Deputy Director, Education Program, Kingsborough Community College, CUNY
Eliza Ada Dragowski, Ph.D., Faculty Graduate School Psychology, Counseling, and Leadership, School of Education, Brooklyn College
Nancy Cardwell, Assistant Professor, Graduate Program in Early Childhood Education, The School of Education, City College of NY, CUNY
Mark Lauterbach, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Robert Lubetsky, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Director, Educational Leadership Program, Dept. of Educational Leadership & Special Education, School of Education, City College of New York
Anna Stetsenko, Ph.D., Professor, Ph.D. Program in Developmental Psychology, The Graduate Center of The City University of New York
Katharine Pace Miles, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Daniel S. Katz, Ph.D., Director, Secondary/Secondary Special Education, Seton Hall University
Nancy Leggio, Education Program Faculty, Kingsborough Community College
Tovah Klein, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Director, Barnard Center for Toddler Development, Barnard College, Columbia University
Rosalie Friend, Adjunct Associate Professor, Educational Foundations, Hunter College
Gigliana Melzi, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Applied Psychology, New York University
Daisy Edmondson Alter, Ph.D, Center for Advanced Study in Education, CUNY Graduate Center
Jacqueline Hollander, Substitute Instructor, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Dr. Johnny Lops, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Marshall A. George, Ed.D,, Professor and Chair, Graduate School of Education, Fordham University
Helen Freidus, Ed.D., Bank Street College of Education
Barbara Barnes, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Education, Brooklyn College
Hugh F Cline, Adjunct Professor of Sociology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Gil Schmerler, Director, Leadership for Educational Change, Bank Street College
Elsie Cardona-Berardinelli, Resource Specialist, Fordham University
Lulu Song, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Jennifer Astuto, Ph.D., Director of Human Development and Social Intervention, NYU Steinhardt
Rena Rice, Graduate School Faculty, Bank Street College of Education
Mary Mueller, Ed.D., Seton Hall University
Beth Ferholt, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Early Childhood and Art Education Department, Brooklyn College, CUNY
Juan Morales-Flores, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, Kingsborough Community College
Robin B. Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Special Education, SUNY New Paltz/Educational Studies
Mary DeBey, Associate Professor, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Susan Riemer Sacks, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Director of Education Initiatives, Barnard College
Jeremy D. Finn, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Buffalo-SUNY
Diane Howitt, Resource Specialist, NYS/NYC RB-ERN Fordham University, Graduate School of Education, Center for Educational Partnerships
Fran Blumberg, Associate Professor, Division of Psychological and Educational Services, Fordham University
Diana Caballero, Ed.D.,  Clinical Professor, Fordham University, Graduate School of Education, MST Programs in Early Childhood and Childhood Education
Gay Wilgus, Ph.D., Assistant Professor. Graduate Program in Early Childhood Education. The City College of New York
Joshua Aronson, Ph.D., Applied Psychology, New York University, Director of Center of Achievement Research and Evaluation
Florence Schneider, Associate Professor, Dept. of Behavioral Sciences & Human Services, Kingsborough Community College
Christina Taharally, Ed.D., Associate Professor & Coordinator, Early Childhood Masters Programs, School of Education, Hunter College, CUNY
Merle Keitel, Ph.D., Professor, Graduate School of Education, Fordham University
John Craven, Ph.D., Science Education, Fordham University
Patricia M. Cooper, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Program Coordinator of Early Childhood Education, Queens College, CUNY
Linda Louis, Associate Professor, Associate Professor, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Herman Jiesamfoek, Associate Professor, Associate Professor, Dept. of Early Childhood and Art Education, Brooklyn College
Edwin M. Lamboy, Associate Professor, Secondary Spanish Education Program Director, City College of New York, CUNY
Florence Rubinson, Professor of School Psychology, Dept. of School Psychology, Counseling, and Leadership, School of Education, Brooklyn College
Lisa S. Fleisher, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, Programs in Special Education, Department of Teaching and Learning, New York University
Nataliya Kosovskaya, Graduate School of Education, Fordham University
Martin Simon, Professor of Mathematics Education, New York University
Maris H. Krasnow, Ed. D., Clinical Associate Professor of Early Childhood
and Early Childhood Special Education, New York University
Yoon-Joo Li, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Childhood, Bilingual, Special Education, Brooklyn College
Paul C. McCabe, Ph.D., NCSP , Professor & Program Coordinator, School Psychologist Program , Dept. of School Psychology, Counseling, and Leadership, Associate Editor, School Psychology Forum, Brooklyn College
Meral Kaya, Ph.D Assistant Professor,  School of Education, Dept. of Childhood, Bilingual, Special Education, Brooklyn College
Laurie Rubel, Ph.D., Association Professor, Dept. of Secondary Education, Brooklyn College
Geraldine Faria, Assistant Dean, School of Education, Brooklyn College

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NYC Schools, Kids, Parents and Teachers will march in historic demonstration for climate action Sept. 21

CONTACT: Kate Finneran,,
DATE:  9/15/14                                                            
NYC Schools, Kids, Parents and Teachers to March
Local Schools to join the People’s Climate March this Sunday September 21st

New York – Upwards of 100,000 people are expected to join the People’s Climate March this Sunday, September 21 in what will be the largest demonstration for climate action in history. The People’s Climate March has been endorsed by over 1,200 organizations, including the nation’s largest environmental groups, 80 labor unions, faith-based groups, and social justice groups including environmental and climate justice groups in New York City.

We are expecting over 10,000 kids, parents, teachers, and high school students to march on
Sunday, September 21st

WHO:   10,000 NYC kids, parents, teachers, K-12 youth, college students
Upwards of 100,000 total marchers in Manhattan. 

WHERE:   Kids and Parents Meetup pre-march
66th and Central Park West, north to 68th

WHAT:   People’s Climate March

WHEN:   September 21st, assembling between 9-10 am

On September 23, President Obama and world leaders are coming to New York City for a historic UN summit on climate change. On Sunday, we’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet. A world safe from the ravages of climate change. A world with good jobs, clean air, and healthy communities for everyone.

As parents, grand-parents, teachers, and friends,  we have a historical responsibility to demand that our world leaders respond to the threat of climate change with real solutions. The Kids, Parents, and Teachers contingent of the march will feature activist and musician, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary, his daughter Bethany Yarrow, Cellist Rufus Cappadocia, and more.

This is a peaceful, permitted, family-friendly march.

More details available at:
Details about NYC Schools involvement at:


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Commissioner King and NYSED have failed to implement the new state law on student privacy

See below letter NYSAPE and Class Size Matters wrote to Commissioner King and the Regents about King's failure to implement the new privacy law, passed at the end of March as part of the budget.  

Not only has he missed the deadline for appointing a permanent Chief Privacy Officer, qualified for the job, but also for adopting a Parents bill of Rights, created through public input from parents among other stakeholders.  Instead the "interim" Parents Bill of Rights posted on the NYSED website mistates existing law by omitting key provisions in state and federal law, and provides an email address for parents complaining of breaches that goes unanswered.

Since we wrote this letter we have found additional federal privacy provisions  that are missing from the NYSED Parents Bill of Rights, including the right of parents whose children are using online programs at school to find out what personal student data is being collected, have that data deleted, and opt out of the online program if they so choose.  See this recent FTC guidance on COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Emailed Aug. 25, 2014, sent via snail mail September 12, 2014 

Dear Commissioner King and members of the New York State Board of Regents:

On behalf of New York State Allies for Public Education. a coalition of more than fifty parent and advocacy groups, and Class Size Matters, a parent advocacy group located in NYC, we write to you to state our concerns about the New York State Education Department’s failure to comply with key provisions of the 2014 state law regarding student data privacy and protection.

As you are aware, the budget bill that passed this spring contained many important provisions relating to student data privacy and security, including a halt to the State’s plan to share highly sensitive personally identifiable student data with inBloom, Inc.[i]  In addition, the new law required Commissioner King to appoint a Chief Privacy Officer (CPO).  According to this new law, it is the CPO who is charged with creating a Parents’ Bill of Rights for student data privacy and protection, as well as other important responsibilities.  

On April 29, 2014, a group of parent leaders and advocacy groups, including New York State Allies for Public Education, sent a letter to Commissioner King and the Board of Regents.[ii]  Among other things, this letter urged Commissioner King to appoint a well-qualified CPO, from outside the Department, well-versed in the issue of data privacy and security.  In addition, the letter urged that the CPO hold hearings throughout the State to hear stakeholder views on what the Parents’ Bill of Rights should include. 

Under the terms of the new law, the CPO appointed by NYSED must be qualified, through experience and/or training, in state and federal education privacy laws and regulations, civil liberties, information technology, and information security.  The law further requires that the CPO is to solicit feedback from parents and other stakeholder groups before putting forward a proposed Parents’ Bill of Rights.  That proposed Bill of Rights was then to be open for public comment before being adopted in its final form – all of this to occur no later than July 29, 2014.  In addition, the law requires every district to post the final Parents' Bill of Rights on its website, and to include it with every contract into which it enters with a third party vendor that receives student data.  That July deadline, however, has now long passed.

Shortly after posting an incomplete and deficient Parents’ Bill of Rights (as discussed below) on July 30, 2014, Commissioner King appointed Tina Sciocchetti, Esq., a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, to serve as interim Chief Privacy Officer.[iii]  Ms. Sciocchetti was already employed by NYSED as Director of Test Security and Educator Integrity, and there is nothing in her career or background to suggest that she meets the CPO qualifications and criteria specified in the law.  Moreover, given that Ms. Sciocchetti was appointed interim CPO after the current Parents’ Bill of Rights was posted, and the document reflects no input from parents and/or other stakeholders whatsoever, its legal validity is questionable.

As mentioned above, we are very concerned that the Parents’ Bill of Rights, as currently drafted and posted for school districts to use, is incomplete and has several serious mistakes in it.[iv]  For example, it fails to state that NYSED is under a legal obligation, both pursuant to 34 C.F.R. § 99.10(b) of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and pursuant to section 95 of the New York Personal Privacy Protection Law (PPPL), to afford parents the right to review all personally identifiable data that the State holds for their children, and to afford them the opportunity to correct such data, if necessary.

Moreover, the new law delineates specific minimum security protocols that must be followed by any third party contractor that receives student, teacher, or principal data from an educational agency.  The law specifically states that third party contractors must use “encryption technology to protect data while in motion or in its custody from unauthorized disclosure using a technology or methodology specified by the Secretary of the United States Department of Health And Human Services in guidance issued under Section 13402(H)(2) of Public Law 111-5, and that such protocols (as well as a host of additional information) must be incorporated into the Parents’ Bill of Rights.  

Instead, the current Parents’ Bill of Rights provides the far less rigorous requirement that third party contractors must merely “use encryption technology to protect data while in motion or in its custody from unauthorized disclosure.”  Finally, the Bill of Rights states that parent complaints about possible breaches should be sent to, yet emails to this address go unanswered.

We respectfully request that NYSED correct these errors and omissions immediately, direct school districts and educational agencies to post the full provisions of law on their websites, and that NYSED and all educational agencies fully comply with the minimum security protocol requirements.   A recent audit from the NY State Comptroller found that employees in six districts had inappropriate access to sensitive student data.[v]  A report from the Attorney General’s office pointed out that reported data breaches in New York have more than tripled between 2006 and 2013, with an astounding 22 million personal records exposed.  A large number of breaches were reported by education institutions.[vi]  We can no longer risk this fate for our vulnerable children.   

We further urge Commissioner King to act with speed to appoint a well-qualified CPO who meets the criteria set forth in the legislation.   As clearly required by law, once a qualified individual is appointed, he or she must then solicit the input of parents and other stakeholders to help develop “additional elements of the parents bill of rights” before it is released for public comment and put into final form.  In addition, the CPO, along with Commissioner King, is required to promulgate regulations that establish standards to govern educational agencies’ data security and privacy policies, and to develop one or more model policies for them to use.  

We request that the CPO, once appointed, hold hearings throughout the State for the purpose of gaining input from parents, district officials, educators, and other stakeholders vis-à-vis the Parents’ Bill of Rights.  After this occurs, the proposed Bill of Rights should be drafted and made publicly available during a 45-day period of public comment, pursuant to proper notice, during which time interested parties would be allowed to submit comments online, to be posted by NYSED and answered by the CPO.

No doubt school districts, in preparation for the 2014-15 school year, have already engaged third-party contractors who will receive – or who have already received -- a wealth of personally identifiable student data.  Nevertheless, New York State continues to lack sufficient student data privacy and security protections for its millions of public school students, and has failed to provide timely proper and sufficient guidance to school districts that endeavor to do so.  This must change. 

Finally, we urge you to ensure that the State Longitudinal Student Database is developed with the utmost attention to student data privacy and security, and that an advisory body of stakeholders be appointed to oversee it. 

We thank you in advance for your attention to these matters and look forward to your response.

Very truly yours, 
Deborah Abramson Brooks,  Lisa Rudley, Anna Shah, & Allison White on behalf of New York State Allies for Public Education and Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters

[i] The student privacy components of the legislation are at, beginning in Part AA, Subpart K Section 1, and thereafter throughout Subpart L. 

[ii] The letter is posted at

iii Gary Stern, “New York posts 'bill of rights' to protect student data,” Westchester County Jou­­­­­rnal News, July 30, 2014.
iv NYSED’s Parents’ Bill of Rights is posted at
v Office of the New York State Comptroller, “Access Controls over Student Information Systems,” August, 2014.

vi Office of the New York State Attorney General, “Information Exposed: Historical Examination of Data Breaches in New York State,” July 14, 2014.