Friday, February 28, 2020

Council hearings on class size so overcrowded that scores of parents and advocates are turned away

credit @TeensTakeCharge

For immediate release
Friday, Feb. 28, 2020
Contact: Leonie Haimson;; 917-435-9329.

Council hearings on class size so overcrowded that scores of parents and advocates are  turned away

Today, from 10 AM to 3:45 PM, the City Council Education Committee held hearings on class size at City Hall.  So many people showed up to testify that it was standing room only in the Committee hearing room.  It was so overcrowded that City Hall guards did not allow many of the parents and advocates who had planned to testify enter the room, and many left before they had a chance to speak. 
First, Chair of the Education Committee Mark Treyger, a former teacher himself, opened the hearings by saying that “Unfortunately, efforts to reduce class size in New York City public schools haven’t gotten very far despite all the passion & hard work of parents, advocates, teachers & students - including many here today.”  Indeed class sizes have risen substantially since NY state’s highest court said that class sizes in NYC schools were too large to provide students with their constitutional right to an adequate education.
Chair Treyger questioned Karin Goldmark , Deputy Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education and Lorraine Grillo, President of the School Construction Authority, asking if they prioritized reducing class size as a goal.  Goldmark was non-committal, saying  that though the DOE realized the research shows that smaller classes do lead to better student outcomes, there is a lack of resources and NYC schools have many needs.
When Chair Treyger asked her what number she would give to the importance of class size from one to ten, she refused to say. She also said she didn’t know if the DOE had ever tried to analyze the results to see if smaller classes were correlated with student success, and she did not know if Edustat or any of the other data systems that the DOE currently uses or plans to use in the future even capture class size as a critical factor. It was clear after questioning that the Quality Reviews that DOE officials carry out and that are supposed to highlight for principals what changes are needed in their schools never mention class size.
Then many parents, former teachers, students, advocates, education leaders, professors, school service providers and representatives from community based organizations testified from their own experience how NYC students are deprived of a quality education and a better chance to learn because of class sizes out of control.  Many urged the City Council to ensure that at least $100 million is allocated for class size reduction in next year’s budget, as the first step towards providing an equitable education for the city’s students..  All children benefit from smaller classes, the research shows, but especially those children from low-income families, students of color, English Language Learners, and students with special needs, which together make up the majority of NYC public school students.
Kathleen Cashin, former NYC Superintendent and now a member of the NY State Board of Regents from Brooklyn, observed: “In 1999, when I was Superintendent of District 23 in Ocean Hill Brownsville, the fourth graders had to take a multi-faceted state test for the first time, including reading, writing and listening.  The first thing I did was to reduce class size in that grade to 16 to 20 students per class. The results were astounding.  The children in one of the poorest districts in the nation had the greatest growth of any district in the city.  The key initiative that caused this substantial growth, I believe, was lowering their class size.  Teachers were able to manage their classes better, which caused them to gain confidence, and encouraged them to collaborate with each other.  This in turn, strengthened their professionalism and skills.”  She added, “When you reduce class size, everything changes.  The world changes.”
"Class size is one of the reasons I helped start the Campaign for Fiscal Equity back in 1993, seeing how overcrowded the schools in District 6 were during my time as president of the board," said State Senator Robert Jackson. "I understand some of DOE's resistance to hiring more teachers comes from fiscal concerns. That’s why I’m committed to fully funding the Foundation Aid formula at the state level. I’ve introduced a bill that adds a new bracket to increase income tax on New York’s highest earners, generating an estimated $4.5 billion in revenue. But the DOE has to commit to use that in adherence to the Contracts for Excellence," Senator Jackson added, which requires NYC to implement class size reduction.
Joshua Aronson, NYU Professor of Psychology and Education explained: "I have visited many schools in NYC and elsewhere in the nation. Manageable class sizes aren’t sufficient to fix our schools. But from my personal observations as well my analysis of the research, I believe small class sizes may be necessary to creating the a powerful school culture, especially in underserved populations, that students need to succeed. All children can become eager, curious learners, but only when their key physical and social needs are met.  This takes time, care, compassion— and most importantly—small class sizes. When a school offers small classes it can accomplish what others can only dream of. Reducing class size is expensive on the front end, but the benefits will soon outweigh the costs in my opinion, and in the opinion of nearly every teacher and principal I have ever met."

Tiffani Torres, a senior at Pace HS and a member of Teens Take Charge, said: “Having been in both small and large classes, I know first-hand the difference between both.  In smaller classes, I can ask questions without fear of distracting 30 other students, and can receive more one- on- one help from my teachers.”  She talked about how many students had dropped out of her calculus class because it was too large, and how many of those who remained were confused because of the lack of focused feedback and support from her teacher. Both she and Lorraie Forbes, another student, said that they would give class size a ten for its importance for student learning and engagement.
Jacqueline Shannon, Associate Professor and the Department Chair of Early Childhood and Art Education at Brooklyn College, said: “In 2014, I helped write a letter to then-Chancellor Farina, warning her that increases in class size that had occurred since 2007 in NYC public schools, particularly in the early grades, threatened to undermine the gains one might otherwise expect from the expansion of preK.  Our letter was signed by over 70 professors of education, psychology, and sociology. Since then, the city has made very little progress in lowering class sizes.  The number of children in Kindergarten in classes of 25 or more has risen by 68%  since 2007, and the number of  1st through 3rd graders of thirty or more has increased by nearly 3000%.  While the Mayor should be thanked for expanding preK and now 3K, early childhood education does not end at age 5.  The city should now  focus on lowering class sizes in our public schools.”

Shino Tanikawa, the co-chair of the Education Council Consortium, which represents the parent-led Citywide and Community Education Councils in NYC, said, “It has been nearly twenty years since the landmark CFE decision, which mandated smaller classes for NYC schools.  Although the City submitted a class size reduction plan, it was abandoned by both the DOE and the NYS Education Department, and instead our schools experienced a sharp increase in class sizes across the city.  The Chancellor has been pushing for school integration but we must reduce class sizes for integration to succeed.  Class size reduction is an urgent need that cannot wait."
I’ve worked in many schools and know from my own personal experience that class sizes should be smaller to give students a better chance at success,” said Evie Hantzopoulos, Executive Director of Global Kids and public school parent.  “Research proves that this simple strategy helps all students, and especially our most vulnerable ones, achieve the positive learning outcomes needed for the 21st Century.”   
State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose statement was read for him by a staffer, observed : “On average, NYC public school classrooms have 10-30% more students than elsewhere in the state. As the elected representative for thousands of families with young children, I know reducing class size is a primary concern. My constituents — and every child in New York — deserve the opportunity to succeed in school, and class size is an integral factor in determining student success. I’m proud to stand with my colleague Senator Jackson and Class Size Matters in support of reducing class size in New York.”
Tanesha Grant, a member of the Community Education Council in District 5 as well as AQE and CEJ, stated:  “Class size has grown tremendously since 2007 in our schools, which has a deep impact on the quality of education our children receive.  This impacts black and brown students the hardest. Our children are given hurdles to jump over to just to get an equitable  education. As a black mother of three and grandmother of an autistic grandson, I know class size matters. I see how it affects my children’s learning. The  data proves that class size MATTERS!”
Parent advocate Johanna Garcia and plaintiff in the class size lawsuit launched by nine NYC parents, Class Size Matters and AQE that was argued in the Appellate court last month said: "Class size matters. It’s a simple idea, and it’s one of the single most effective tools we have to improve the quality of the education our children receive. As a Black and Latina parent advocate, I understand the failures to reduce New York City class size to be a huge factor in educational racism because it has detrimental effects on a student body that is 85% Black and Brown and predominantly working-class. If we are serious about addressing that educational racism, we must get serious about class size in our schools. We have to be honest about the problems and clear-eyed about implementing the solutions going forward. Let's count our students fairly and hire more teachers in line with the law so our children  get the quality education they deserve."
Nearly half of all middle school students are in classes of 30 or more; and more than half of high school students are in classes thirty or more.  Jessica Siegel, a professor at Brooklyn College and a former teacher, recounted what one middle school teacher had told her about how she felt  being unable to give sufficient help to all her students: My largest 8th grade class is a whopping 37 students. I teach two more classes, one with 32 and the last one with 28. Both include English Language Learners and students who require push in services for their Individualized Education Plans. I feel as though I’m being torn to shreds when I’m helping others, their eyes hungry and ready and yet there you are unable to reach them. It’s as if you have one life raft and must choose which child gets saved. It’s heart wrenching and demoralizing.”
Elsie McCabe Thompson, head of the Mission Society, one of the nation’s oldest social service organizations, testified that they see thousands of children in poverty. One third have diagnosed special needs; but most have suffered trauma. Smaller classes are important for ALL these children, she said, because as a teacher, “you cannot authentically have high expectations for kids that you do not know.”
A statement was read on behalf of Diane Ravitch, eminent historian and education advocate: “The single most effective way to improve instruction is to reduce class size. The benefits of class size reduction are greatest for the neediest students. . If you are serious about helping children, reduce class size. If you are serious about helping teachers to be more effective, reduce class size. Reducing class size is more effective than test prep; it is more effective than hiring coaches and consultants. It is more effective than buying new hardware and software. It is more effective than any of the many other "reforms" that have been imposed by the federal or state government.  New York State's scores on national tests have been flat for twenty years. It is time for fresh thinking. Do what works! Reduce class sizes!”
For data on current class sizes in NYC schools and trends, as well as the research on class size, check out


Thursday, February 27, 2020

City Council Hearings on Friday, Feb. 28 to feature testimony from elected and education leaders on need to lower class size in NYC public schools

Media Advisory

February 27, 2020

CONTACT:  Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329 

City Council Hearings on Friday, Feb. 28 to feature testimony from elected and education leaders on need to lower class size in NYC public schools

NEW YORK, NY- On Friday, February 28 at 10 AM the NYC Council Education Committee will hold oversight hearings on the class sizes in NYC public schools, which are 10-30% larger on average than in the rest of the state.  This is despite rigorous research showing class size is a key factor in providing equity and a quality education for all students, but particularly disadvantaged children and students of color who make up the majority of students attending NYC public schools.

Among those providing testimony will be representatives from the NYC Department of Education, Board of Regents member Kathleen Cashin, State Senator Robert Jackson, Professors of Education from NYU and Brooklyn College, retired teachers, program providers to NYC schools, high school students, advocates and parent leaders.  A statement will also be read on behalf of education historian and advocate Diane Ravitch.

What: City Council Education Committee oversight hearings on class size  
Where:  Committee room, City Hall
When: Friday, February 28, 2020 at 10 AM


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bloomberg's education record; important for voters to know!

The Indypendent just published a piece I wrote, called Michael Bloomberg's Disastrous Public Education Legacy. For those of you who live outside NYC or don't send your kids to public schools, you may be unaware of how destructive and arrogant his policies really were.

If you are interested in learning more, you can check out this article on Bloomberg that Diane Ravitch and I co-authored in The Nation in 2013 when left office.  In 2010,  I  helped edit a whole book about the Bloomberg/Klein regime which you can find on Amazon or Lulu Press here.
Meanwhile, please watch this short video below by Darren Marelli, most of it shot at a press conference where community leaders and elected officials denounced Bloomberg's school closings in 2012.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sen. Gillibrand's press conference today about her new bill to create a Data Protection Agency

Cross-posted at website of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

Video clip of Sen. Gillibrand talking about how frustrating it is a parent to not be able to know or control where her children's data is going and how it is being used.

This afternoon I spoke at a press conference in NYC to support Sen. Gillibrand's new bill to create a new federal agency specifically devoted toward protecting privacy, called the Data Protection Agency. The bill is posted here; more about it is here.

The statement I gave is below; and below that is the press release, with quotes from Sen. Gillibrand and the other two privacy experts pictured above, Caitriona Fitzgerald of EPIC and Prof. Ezra Waldman of NY Law School.

Hi, my name is Leonie Haimson, and I’m co-founder and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. We are one of the many organizations that have submitted complaints to the FTC about the way companies like Facebook, Google and Google Play Apps have been illegally harvesting young children’s information and potentially using it for commercial purposes without parental consent in violation of COPPA. And yet the FTC’s response to these complaints has been silence, or at best a mere slap on the wrist, a symbolic fine that barely touches the huge profits of these companies.

In addition, the FTC has put out a series of contradictory guidance documents about how COPPA applies to the collection of personal data from children in schools that has managed to confuse nearly everyone. As a result, each school and district interprets their responsibilities differently about whether or not they even inform parents beforehand, no less ask for their consent, . when their children are assigned programs to use that require them to upload their personal information.

For example, Google Apps for Education, also called G-suite, is used in literally tens of thousands of schools across the country; and yet many parents are concerned about the amount of personal data Google collects from their children, including their geolocation and metadata, and how this information may be abused.

More recently, the FTC has signaled that they may be rewriting regulations for COPPA regulations to further weaken student privacy, in and out of the classroom, causing us to worry that they are more interested in serving the commercial interests of the ed tech industry instead of keeping our children safe from commercial exploitation. We are also extremely concerned about the non-transparent algorithms increasingly being used in classrooms across the country to direct children’s learning and steer their educational trajectories – algorithms that may feature inherent biases and be based on inaccurate data.

All this further reconfirms our conviction that it is absolutely necessary that an independent agency be established that has as its first priority protecting the privacy of Americans, especially our most vulnerable children, and which can look into these troubling issues with more objectivity and care. Thank you Senator Gillibrand, for introducing the Data Protection Act, and our Parent Coalition is committed to doing all we can to help get it passed.

From: Gillibrand, Press (Gillibrand) <>
Sent: Sunday, February 23, 2020 1:59 PM


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Contact: Evan Lukaske, 202-224-3873


The Data Protection Act Would Create a Consumer Watchdog to Give Americans Control and Protection of Their Data, Promote a Competitive Digital Marketplace, and Prepare the U.S. for the Digital Age

U.S. Still One of the Only Democracies Without a Data Protection Agency

New York, NY — Alongside data privacy experts and advocates, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced her landmark legislation, the Data Protection Act, which would create the Data Protection Agency (DPA), an independent federal agency that would protect Americans’ data, safeguard their privacy, and ensure data practices are fair and transparent. The push for a national agency to oversee data privacy comes as leaders from EPIC, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, the New York Law School’s Innovation Center for Law and Technology and Institute for CyberSafety, and more express concern for the growing data privacy crisis that looms over the everyday lives of Americans. The U.S. is one of the only democracies, and the only member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), without a federal data protection agency.

“Technology is connecting us in new significant ways, and our society must be equipped for both the challenges and opportunities of a transition to the digital age. Data privacy is becoming an urgent concern for the everyday lives of Americans and the government has a responsibility to step forward and give them meaningful protection over their data and how it’s being used,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Data has been called ‘the new oil.’ Companies are rushing to explore and refine it, ignoring regulations, putting profits above responsibility, and treating consumers as little more than dollar signs. Like the oil boom, little thought is being given to the long-term consequences. The U.S. needs a new approach to privacy and data protection. We cannot allow our freedoms to be trampled over by private companies that value profits over people, and the Data Protection Agency would do that with expertise and resources to create and meaningfully enforce data protection rules and digital rights.”

“EPIC applauds Senator Gillibrand for filing the Data Protection Act,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, EPIC Policy Director. “The United States confronts a crisis. The Federal Trade Commission has consistently failed to protect consumers. The system is broken. A Data Protection Agency focused on privacy protection, compliance with data protection obligations, and emerging privacy challenges is needed now.”

“It is absolutely necessary that an independent agency be established that has as its first priority protecting the privacy of Americans, especially our most vulnerable children, and which can look into these troubling issues with more objectivity and care. Thank you Senator Gillibrand, for introducing the Data Protection Act, and our Parent Coalition is committed to doing all we can to help get it passed” said Founder of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy Leonie Haimson.

“Privacy is a civil right, not a good to be traded in the market. The FTC has tried, but it has overseen the erosion of personal privacy with the lightest of light regulatory touches. It is structurally incapable or unwilling to do what needs to be done to protect privacy from companies that will do anything to extract our data. Along with other proposals from Senate Democrats, Senator Gillibrand’s Data Protection Agency is necessary to empower individuals in the digital economy” said Ari Ezra Waldman, Director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School and Founder and Director of the Institute for CyberSafety.

As the United States transitions into the digital age, the DPA will address America’s growing data privacy crisis. The new agency will have the authority and resources to effectively enforce data protection rules—created either by itself or congress—and would be equipped with a broad range of enforcement tools, including civil penalties, injunctive relief, and equitable remedies. The DPA would promote data protection and privacy innovation across public and private sectors, developing and providing resources such as Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) that minimize or even eliminate the collection of personal data.

Massive amounts of personal information — public profiles, health data, photos, past purchases, locations, search histories, and much more — is being collected, processed, and in some cases, exploited by private companies and foreign adversaries. In some instances, the data was not given willingly, and in many others, consumers had little idea what they were signing up for. As a result, the data of everyday Americans is being parsed, split, and sold to the highest bidder, and there is little anyone — including the federal government — can do about it. Not only have these tech companies built major empires and made billions from selling Americans’ data, but they spend millions of dollars per year opposing new regulations.

In recent years, major data breaches have occurred at banks, credit rating agencies and tech firms. In 2017, Equifax failed to safeguard the sensitive credit data of hundreds of millions of Americans, allowing a foreign government to steal and expose this information. In 2018, Facebook exposed the personal information of nearly 50 million users because it reportedly ignored warnings from its own employees about a dangerous loophole in its security. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has failed to enforce its own orders and has failed to act on dozens of detailed consumer privacy complaints alleging unfair practices concerning data collection, marketing to children, cross-device tracking, consumer profiling, user tracking, discriminatory business practices, and data disclosure to third-parties.

The Data Protection Agency explained:

The DPA would be an executive agency. The director would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, serves a 5-year term, and must have knowledge in technology, protection of personal data, civil rights, law, and business. The agency may investigate, subpoena for testimony or documents, and issue civil investigative demands. It may prescribe rules and issue orders and guidance as is necessary to carry out federal privacy laws. The authority of state agencies and state attorneys general are preserved in the Act.

The DPA would have three core missions:
  1. Give Americans control and protection over their own data by creating and enforcing data protection rules.
  • The agency would enforce privacy statutes and rules around data protection, either as authorized by Congress or themselves. It would use a broad range of tools to do so, including civil penalties, injunctive relief, and equitable remedies.
  • The agency would also take complaints, conduct investigations, and inform the public on data protection matters. So if it seems like a company like Tinder is doing bad things with your data, the Data Protection Agency would have the authority to launch an investigation and share findings.
  1. Maintain the most innovative, successful tech sector in the world by ensuring fair competition within the digital marketplace.
  • The agency would promote data protection and privacy innovation across sectors, developing and providing resources such as Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) that minimize or even eliminate the collection of personal data.
  • The agency would ensure equal access to privacy protection and protect against “pay-for-privacy” or “take-it-or-leave-it” provisions in service contracts—because privacy, including online privacy, is a right that should be enforced.
  1. Prepare the American government for the digital age.
  • The agency would advise Congress on emerging privacy and technology issues, like deepfakes and encryption. It would also represent the United States at international forums regarding data privacy and inform future treaty agreements regarding data.
The full text of the legislation may be found here.