Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 year in review: Please give to Class Size Matters to keep us going strong!

Dear friend:

Please consider giving to Class Size Matters, as we rely on your donation to keep our organization going.  We had a very busy year and need your support.  Please click here to give a tax-deductible donation now. 

In February, we blew the whistle when we noticed a two billion dollar internet contract that was going to be awarded to a contractor who had been involved in a corrupt kickback scheme just a few years ago.  After I alerted the media, the NYC Department of Education hurriedly renegotiated the contract down to $1 billion.  The Panel for Educational Policy then voted to approve the contract 8-1, but luckily, the Mayor’s office took notice of the controversy and cancelled the contract – the first time this has happened in the history of the DOE.

In March, we helped organize “Protect our schools” rallies throughout the city, where thousands of teachers, parents, and students formed human chains around their schools,  to protest the Governor’s threatened budget cuts and damaging charter takeover proposals.

In April, we won a lawsuit we had filed against the DOE to ensure that School Leadership Team meetings remain open to the public.  Justice Peter Moulton agreed with us and the Public Advocate that DOE was violating the law by closing these meetings, and that SLTs, half of whose members are parents at every NYC public school, have more than “advisory” powers.  Though the DOE is unfortunately appealing his decision, we are confident we will eventually prevail on appeal. 

Our analysis of school overcrowding has been widely cited by other groups and officials, showing that there is a need for at least 100,000 seats in the school capital plan to alleviate overcrowding and address expected enrollment growth.  We are spearheading a campaign to convince the Mayor to double the number of school seats to be built, and to create a taskforce or commission to improve the accuracy and efficiency of school planning, which lags far behind residential development.  In June, the Public Advocate, twenty-two Council Members and many parent leaders sent a letter to the Mayor and Chancellor, urging them to do take these important steps.  

Along with NYC Kids PAC, we released an Education report card for the Mayor in the spring, in which he received mixed grades in several categories because he has failed to fulfill his promises in many critical areas, including on class size. This fall, we co-hosted a Parent Action Conference in Brooklyn, with workshops on many topics ranging from the Common Core, testing and Mayoral control to School Leadership Teams and overcrowding. 

When the DOE’s class size data was released last month, we reported that the number of students in extremely large class sizes in the early grades has nearly doubled since 2011, with more than 48,000 children in classes of 30 or more.   Our findings were cited in the Daily News and in an editorial in AMNY.   

Our City Council testimony on Renewal schools was also widely covered in the media,  revealing that despite repeated DOE promises,  class sizes have not be reduced in nearly half of all the Renewal schools, and the vast majority continue to have classes of thirty students or more.

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, the national organization we co-founded in 2014 following our defeat of inBloom Inc., continues to make waves.   Our members wrote op-eds and were quoted widely in the media, most recently about Google’s data-mining of students and Mark Zuckerberg’s intention to spend billions to expand risky and unproven online learning.  At the same time, we are working to inform parents about what they should demand in terms of privacy and security protections of their children’s data from their schools, districts and state. 

As part of our work with our state-wide coalition, NY State Allies for Education, we urged parents to opt out of the defective Common Core exams, leading to an unprecedented 240,000 students refusing to take the state tests last spring.  The opt out movement and nationwide rebellion against the flawed Common Core standards has led to significant revisions in the federal education law, and has  caused a  growing recognition among policymakers that it is wrong to use badly designed tests and inappropriate standards to label kids, teachers, and schools as failing.  

But many challenges remain. The need for student privacy protections is more critical than ever, especially as the use of digital learning and data-mining software is being promoted by the ed tech industry and government officials. Meanwhile, in NYC, excessive class sizes and school overcrowding continues to worsen, without any plan or commitment on the part of the Chancellor or the Mayor to seriously address the problem.

Please help us fight for students to be provided with a quality well-rounded education, including smaller classes and real personalized learning, rather than instruction delivered via computers.  We need your help to advocate for every student’s right to privacy, and for parents to have a voice in how their children’s schools are run.

Thank you immensely if you’ve given to Class Size Matters before and please give again as generously as you can.   Just donate online at by clicking here.  If you’d prefer to send a check, address the envelope to Class Size Matters, 124 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10011.

Have a happy holiday and wonderful New Year,

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director

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