Thursday, May 28, 2020

Problems with remote learning from the perspective of a NYC student and a NYC teacher

First, here is testimony from Joshua Applewhite, NYC high school student, at yesterday's City Council hearings, who said that because of remote learning, "I feel like a robot. As a matter of fact, I feel like this whole situation is handled like we’re robots and we’re not humans with different feelings and different circumstances and different situations.” 

More on the findings from these hearings here and here, including the fact that the city’s summer school plan for remote learning calls for only one counselor or social worker for every 1,045 students and only one teacher for 30 struggling students.

Below this video is a piece by Ronit Wrubel, a NYC teacher, who points out another big problem  with remote learning - it's difficult for teachers to see their students' eyes.


Exactly 10 years ago, in April of 2010, I wrote an essay called "Don't Forget The Eyes".
I had been teaching using a document camera where I projected images onto a pull-down screen and showed most of my lessons using slides, photos, and various worksheets that had been transferred onto clear acetate pages. I used colored write on/wipe off markers to share my teaching points. I found value in the interactivity of this ‘teaching tool’.
My document camera was positioned behind my class meeting area in order to properly project what we were learning. The children would look at the screen while listening to me. They'd raise their hands and crane their necks backwards to respond, then forwards to the screen, and on and on again. It became the new normal, but it never felt right to me. Something was missing.
I couldn't see their eyes.
I couldn't see their smiles. I couldn't see their 'aha moments'. I couldn't see a look of confusion. I couldn’t see a glimpse of humor. I couldn't see their body language or their glances towards each other. I couldn’t see sadness. I couldn’t see a twinkle.
I couldn't see their eyes.
I moved my document camera – I reverted to more time with chart paper and the chalkboard and I eventually got a SmartBoard for forward facing teaching.
I saw their eyes. And it was glorious.
Until now. Now there’s a new normal. Now I'm not in a classroom. And I won't be, possibly, for the rest of this school year. And the children are stuck at home. And they’re confused. And lonely. And bored. And scared. And their parents are faced with the difficult task of working from home, or not. And helping ‘homeschool’ their seven or eight year olds. Without the time or knowledge or tools. And I’m home using my computer, Google Classroom, and more than a dozen websites and platforms to teach my 26 second-graders. But it doesn’t feel right to me. Something is missing.
I can’t see their eyes.
I can’t see their smiles. I can’t see their ‘aha moments’. I can’t see confusion. I can’t see a glimpse of humor. I can’t see body language or interaction. I can’t see sadness. I can’t see a twinkle.
I can’t see their eyes.
We are living in the midst of global trauma. A pandemic, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century. There are no words to describe how sad this is for us all. For the lives lost, the lives impacted, the lives upended, the lives teetering on the edge. The steps being taken now are the right ones. We have to flatten the curve, stem the tide, keep safe until we know more and see more. We have to change the paradigm of teaching and learning. We have to and we are and we will.
I understand the decision to keep NYC schools closed for now. I understand that keeping children, parents, teachers and support staff healthy and safe is the proper choice. I understand that remote learning is the right way to continue. And I understand that I can find ways to ‘see’ my students using various online tools. But it’s not the same.
I’ll be there for my students in all the ways I can. I’ll work with my colleagues and my administration and a plethora of online platforms. I’ll devote endless hours to finding the best ways to use technology so I can make the rest of this school year exciting, engaging, and academically rewarding. I’ll attend to their emotions as well as their skills. \
I’ll keep making videos, and screencasts, and slideshows and documents and parent emails and updates and at home projects and online searches. And I’ll schedule live sessions with my class. I’ll keep the learning going. I’ll keep the class community together in all the ways possible. I’ll still be their teacher and they’ll still be my students. But it’s not the same.
I miss their eyes.

Our testimony on the proposed education budget and capital plan

The following is my written testimony on the education budget and five-year capital plan, detailing the additional staffing and space that will be needed for schools to reopen safely next year. Smaller class sizes are always of concern, but are especially critical now given the need for social distancing in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Download the PDF version here

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Latest podcast of "Talk out of School": My Interview with Chancellor Betty Rosa

Check out the latest "Talk out of School" podcast of my interview with NY Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa on today's "Talk Out of School" on the Regents task force on reopening schools, the search for a new NYSED Commissioner, the process of reviewing the Regents HS exit exams, the need to revisit the state  3-8th grade exams as well, and more.  The interview already made the LoHud news here.

You can apply for the job of NY State Education Commissioner here.  I think this is the most important quality among those listed, sadly lacking in most of our previous Commissioners:
"Ability to collaborate effectively, communicate openly, and listen carefully."

Episode Summary

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

"Talk out of School" with Naftuli Moster of Yaffed and biomedical expert Kaliris Salas-Ramirez on reopening schools

Update: the podcast is available here.

On tomorrow's "Talk out of School" on Wed. May 20 at 10 AM on WBAI Radio 99.5 FM and, I'll talk to Naftuli Moster of Yaffed about the latest "smoking gun" emails, revealing Mayor de Blasio promised to delay & soften the Yeshiva report in exchange for renewing Mayoral control; and also parent leader & biomedical expert Kaliris Yimar Salas-Ramirez on what precautions will be necessary to safely reopen schools . Please join us!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy found guilty of violating NY State student privacy Law

For immediate release: May 14, 2020
More information: Fatima Geidi,; (646) 373-1344
Leonie Haimson,; 917-435-9329

Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy found guilty of violating
NY State student privacy Law

The Chief Privacy Officer of the NY State Education Department issued a ruling on Tuesday May 12 that Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy had violated Education Law 2d, the state student privacy law, that prohibits the disclosure of personal student information without parental consent except under specific conditions required to provide a student’s education. 

In 2015 and thereafter, Success Academy officials published exaggerated details from the education records of Fatima Geidi’s son when he was attending Upper West Success Academy, and shared them with reporters nationwide.  They did this under Eva Moskowitz’ direction to retaliate against Ms. Geidi and her son, when they were interviewed on the PBS News Hour in 2015, about his repeated suspensions and the abusive treatment he suffered at the hands of school staff from first through third grade.

Ms. Geidi filed a student privacy complaint to the State Education Department in June of last year.  In response to her complaint, Success Academy attorneys made a number of claims, including that the statute of limitations had lapsed, that charter schools were not subject to Education Law 2D,  and that school officials have a First Amendment right to speak out about her child’s behavior.  All those claims were dismissed in the decision released yesterday by the NYSED Chief Privacy Officer, Temitope Akinyemi. 

The State Education Department has now ordered Success Academy to take a number of affirmative steps, including that administrators, staff and teachers must receive annual training in data privacy, security and the federal and state laws on student privacy, that they must develop a data privacy and security policy to be submitted to the State Education Department no later than July 1, 2020, and that after that policy is approved, it must be posted on the charter school’s website and notice be provided to all officers and employees.

As Fatima Geidi said, “ I am happy that my son’s rights to privacy and hopefully all students at Success Academy from now on will be protected, and that Eva Moskowitz will be forced to stop using threats of disclosure as a weapon against any parent who dares speak out about the ways in which their children have been abused by her schools.  However, I am disappointed that the Chief Privacy Officer did not order Ms. Moskowitz to take out the section of her memoirs, The Education of Eva Moskowitz, that allegedly describes the behavior of my son.  I plan to ask my attorney to send a letter to Harper Collins, the book’s publishers, demanding that they delete that section of the book both because it contains lies and has now been found to violate both state and federal privacy law.  If they refuse, we will then go to the Attorney General’s office for relief.”

Last year, the US Department of Education also found Ms. Moskowitz and Success Academy guilty of violating FERPA, the federal student privacy law.  The official FERPA findings letter to Ms. Moskowitz is here.  Yet Ms. Moskowitz launched an appeal of that ruling on similar First Amendment grounds, with the help of Jay Lefkowitz of Kirkland and Ellis to represent her in the appeal.  Lefkowitz is the same attorney who negotiated a reduced sentence for Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious child sex abuser, in a controversial plea deal in Palm Beach County in 2007. Though Ms. Geidi has repeatedly asked the U.S. Department of Education about the outcome of this appeal, she has heard nothing in response.

As Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out: “Fatima’s son is not the only child whose privacy has been violated by Success Academy.  Last year, Success shared details from the private education files of Lisa Vasquez’ daughter with reporters from  Chalkbeat without her consent, after Ms. Vasquez spoke about how her daughter had been unfairly treated at Success Academy Prospect Heights.  The SUNY Charter Institute also noted unspecified violations of FERPA by SAC Cobble Hill, SAC Crown Heights, SAC Fort Greene, SAC Harlem 2, and SAC Harlem 5 during site visits, noted in their Renewal reports.  The time for Eva Moskowitz to comply with the law and stop violating the privacy of innocent children whose parents dare to reveal her schools’ cruel policies has long passed.”