Friday, October 23, 2020

Do you know where your child's personal data is? Please fill out our survey on your school's use of digital apps -


Class Size Matters, NY Allies for Public Education, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy would like to know which online apps or programs are being employed by schools throughout New York state, and whether they are sufficiently protective of children's privacy. We are asking parents and teachers to take our survey here, to let us know what apps or programs your schools are using.

Since the pandemic hit, districts across New York State have purchased many commercially-produced online apps and digital programs to implement remote learning. Even before last spring, schools had been using a large number of programs, many of which collect and use personal student information. In NYC alone, more than 75 commercially available online programs have been acquired for teachers to assign to their students, and "The DOE has informed schools that for SY 2020-21, they must have a shared, inclusive and digital curriculum in all core subject areas," according to the UFT.

Many of these digital apps collect and use personal student data in ways we do not understand. In some cases, the publicly available privacy policies of these vendors are NOT sufficiently protective and do not comply with the NY state student privacy law, Education Law 2D, which was passed in 2014.  

Among other things, this law and its regulations adopted in Jan. 2020 require that every contract with a vendor with access to personal student data must have a separate Parent Bill of Rights [PBOR], which specifies how the data will be protected and how parents can access the data and challenge it if necessary.

Each of these separate Parent Bill of Rights are supposed to be posted on the district website, along with other important information, including your district’s overall data privacy protection policy, and how you can contact the district data privacy officer in charge of ensuring these protections. Links to the Education Law 2D, the regulations, and a summary of some of the other most important provisions are here.

Please take a few minutes to fill out our online survey to let us know what online apps and/or digital programs are being used in your schools, and whether the district has provided the necessary information about the ways in which that data is being protected from breach and abuse.

Thanks!

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters and Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Lisa Rudley and Jeanette Deutermann, NY State Allies for Public Education

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Testimony on Attendance Reporting Bills

The NYC Council Education and Health Committees held oversight hearings on October 16 on the reopening of schools, as well as two proposed bills to require detailed attendance reporting: Int. 2058 and Int. 2104. Below is my testimony on the issue of class size and how to sharpen these bills to require more precise and disaggregated reporting on the three kinds of instruction students are receiving: in-person face-to-face learning, blended online learning, and full-time remote learning.

The most depressing statistic revealed at the hearings: 77,000 students still don’t have access to devices for remote learning.

The DOE also failed to provide any data on how many students are attending school in-person only to receive instruction on their computers, how many more teachers are needed to staff all three types of programs sufficiently, and/or how many houseless students have logged into any sort of online classes.

The most hopeful finding: Only 0.2% of students and staff randomly tested randomly so far in the public schools have been shown to be positive for COVID-19; more on this here. Dr. Jay Varma, the Senior Advisor for Public Health to the Mayor, also revealed at the hearings that their estimates of the actual current COVID-19 infection rate in NYC is between 0.1-0.7% --rather than the much higher positivity rate which according to the state is 1.3%, and according to the city is 2.17%, which instead reflects how many New Yorkers have tested positive at any one time.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Today's Contract Committee meeting - disappointing with few questions & confusing answers from DOE

Above is the video from today's Contract Committee of the Panel for Educational Policy. It was a short meeting, mostly composed of Charlotte Hamamgian, the DOE Executive Director of Contracts and Purchasing, reading aloud the list of summaries of all the different contracts, which together cost about  $400 million this month. Only two PEP members asked questions, Kathy Park Price with a quick follow-up from Isaac Carmignani; unclear how many others listened in or if there was a quorum.

It was extremely disconcerting how the most elementary questions about the busing contracts were responded to with confusing, inadequate and sometimes downright contradictory responses from the DOE officials in charge. including Lindsey Oates, the DOE CFO and Sean Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the city Department of Education's pupil transportation unit.

  • When Kathy asked about how much was paid to busing for the entire month of Sept. when schools were closed till Sept. 29, Lindsey Oates said 100% payments were made; adding that one or two days may have been at 85%.  Then Sean Fitzpatrick interjected to say that DOE paid Sept. 23 and 24 at the 85% rate, but after that at 100%. Isaac follow up to ask, so we didn't pay anything before then? and Sean said that was correct, appearing to contradict Lindsey Oates.  This left the actual amount of payments for Sept. as clear as mud. 
  • Kathy then asked what was paid during March & April when schools were closed, Oates said we paid them  at "85% rate for the spring," making it unclear if she was referring to those months or the entire spring.  It was previously reported that only 40% was paid during May and June, although the DOE originally planned to pay 85% for these months, after I and others asked why and the NYC Comptroller objected.
  •  Oates did explain that although more than 100 schools have been closed to in-person learning so far this fall, at least temporarily, this hasn't led to any busing savings, since the 43% clause is only triggered if the entire school system is shut down.  This means that even if more than half the schools are shut and no buses are used for those students, NYC still has to pay 100% of the full amount, or more than $1.1 billion a year -- for as long as every single school hasn't closed its doors.

Kathy also asked if parents are ever surveyed about their satisfaction with the performance of the bus companies.  The Charlotte Hamamgian said no, and claimed that the DOE had a "really rigorous performance evaluation process " for the bus companies, and that a lot of "due diligence" went into this. 

This claim was called into serious question last March by the NYC Comptroller here:

The Comptroller demanded answers about DOE’s persistent refusal to use rigorous and regular performance evaluations to ensure taxpayers are getting the services they pay for and that safety procedures are followed. Comptroller Stringer also raised alarms about DOE’s consistent failure to abide by even the most basic procurement protocols. In December, Comptroller Stringer returned $9.1 billion in school bus contract extensions after DOE failed to satisfactorily explain ballooning spending.

It would to nice to see a copy of the DOE's “rigorous” performance evaluations.

Kathy also asked why the DOE decided to extend the bus company contracts through 2025 at these terms. Sean Fitzpatrick said the the major benefits were to keep the busing contracts "solvent" and ensure the companies have personnel on hand. Yet these long-term extensions seem very unwise, especially  given huge uncertainties about future school closures and the current economic crisis which may cause even more radical budget cuts to schools; not to mention t that this administration will leave office in 2021.  Hamamgian said they would bring the DOE planned acquisition of Reliant bus company costing many more millions of dollars to the PEP at a future meeting.

There remain many more unanswered questions that I included in my memo to PEP members last week. Let's hope more questions are asked at the full PEP meeting on Wed. Oct 21 at 6 PM; more info including agenda here, with a link to the proposed contracts.  You can listen or sign up to speak starting at 5:30 PM here.

Questionable DOE contracts to be voted on Oct. 21 by the PEP, concerns about DOE lack of compliance with student privacy law & ongoing issues about PEP process & lack of training

 I sent this memo to the members of the Panel for Educational Policy last week; questions about their busing contracts, DOE's lack of compliance with the state student privacy law by failing to post their district data privacy policy and contracts with vendors that have access to personal student data, and problems related to PEP governance.   

Update on busing: After this memo was written, it was also revealed that the DOE is planning purchasing Reliant bus company, for an unknown amount, acquiring one thousand buses and thousands of new employees, with ongoing considerable costs to the DOE budget. As I said to the NY Post, this move raises all sorts of questions, including how can the city afford this in the face of huge budget shortfalls? And why are they adding more city employees while threatening to lay off thousands of others? 

Update on the Covid testing contracts:  As of Friday 10/16/20, DOE has now posted the three vendor Parent Bill of Rights agreements here,  after we and others urged them to do so.  We still have concerns about the provisions regarding deletion of the personal student data portions in their Parent Bill of Rights, which do not clearly state when the data is to be deleted and thus do not appear to comply with the state student privacy law Education Law 2D, or regs, which fully came into force January 2020.  There still are no contracts or PBOR posted on the DOE website for the 75+ ed tech companies that DOE has acquired and encouraged teachers to use, many of which also have access to personal student data.

The meeting of the PEP contract is Monday Oct. 19 at 11 AM today; you can see livestream here.  Meeting of the PEP is Wed. Oct 21 at 6 PM; more info including agenda here.  The agenda has a link to the proposed contracts.  You can listen or sign up to speak starting at 5:30 PM here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

"Talk out of School" on "integration fatigue" and what's happening in Finland's schools during the pandemic

Today, on my podcast "Talk out of School," I interviewed Prof. Noliwe Rooks and author William Doyle.

First, I recapped some of the latest news from NYC, including that despite last week's order from Governor Cuomo to close more than 300 public and private schools in COVID hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens, it has been reported that little enforcement has been done to close the Ultra-orthodox Yeshivas in these neighborhoods. 

Then I greeted back to the show Prof. Noliwe Rooks of Cornell University, whom I spoke to last week as well.  Prof. Rooks, the author of "Cutting School," explained how successful independent schools run by Black educators in the 1960s and 1970s had closed due to the expansion of well-connected charter chains. Prof. Rooks also described why many Black parents and other advocates were suffering from “integration fatigue,” and provided her thoughts about how should the planned reopening of city schools should have proceeded this fall, instead of what actually happened. 

William Doyle, whose book “Let the Children Play” is about to come out on paperback, then joined us. He is living in Finland this year, researching a book on that nation’s education system, and his 7th grade son is attending a public school in Helsinki. Doyle described how Finland is dealing with the pandemic and more specifically what's happening in the school his son attends. He also explained how Finland’s education system provided important lessons for the future direction of US public schools. You can find previous podcasts and//or subscribe here.&nbsp.

Links and Resources:

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Why Covid has spread in Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and "Cutting School" -- how Black schools have been a focus of experimentation and profit

Today on my WBAI podcast "Talk out of School" I updated listeners on the additional school closures planned this week in NYC, first by Mayor de Blasio in nine zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens, and now in larger numbers in red and orange zones of high Covid positivity, determined by Governor Cuomo and his Covid task force.  

On the podcast, Naftuli Moster of Yaffed, who first appeared on the podcast in May, explained why many of the hot spots experiencing high rates of COVID positivity  in NYC are located primarily in areas with high concentrations of Ultra-Orthodox Jews. He said this was for two reasons: one, there is no science instruction at the Yeshivas, the schools that Ultra-Orthodox boys attend, and thus they don’t understand how viral transmission occurs. Two, the members of these insular communities have long flouted the law in areas of education and public health without any consequences, and in fact have received special favors and additional funding because of their political influence. Many have gotten used to violating rules set down by the city or state, in this case regarding the need to avoid mass gatherings, wear masks, and maintain social distancing. 

Naftuli suggested the best way the Governor and Mayor should address the refusal of many members of these communities to comply with the new restrictions would be by threatening their leaders with a loss of public funding, including discretionary child-care vouchers, funds which they have received at disproportionate levels in the past. 

Then I interviewed Noliwe Rooks, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature at Cornell, about her new book, Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education, which analyzes the history of education inequity in the U.S. and the way in which the schooling of Black students has been repeatedly used as an opportunity for experimentation and profit by education reformers and entrepreneurs. 

Instead of providing these students with the same opportunities wealthy white students receive, such as small classes, experienced teachers, and plenty of extracurricular activities, including art and music, as well as intensive support when they are struggling,  Prof. Rooks explained how their schools continue to be defunded and privatized, through the expansion of charters, vouchers and online learning.  You can subscribe and download other episodes of "Talk out of School" here.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Hearings tomorrow for Success Academy charter revisions & comments from District 2 CEC members demanding more transparency

UPDATE 10/6/20 - There was NO discussion or vote on the Success Academy revisions at the SUNY charter committee meeting today; one can only assume that they were accepted without any vote of the committee.  One might ask what is the point of public hearings and submitted testimony without any acknowledgement or even awareness of public input by SUNY Committee members.

Hearings on several matters including revisions to enrollment of 19 (!) Success Academy charter schools will be held by the SUNY charter committee tomorrow Tuesday Oct 6, 2020.  The meeting will start at 9 AM and will be webcast here.  The agenda is here and the proposed Success Academy revisions are included in a document entitled SUNY Charter Schools Institute Update.   

For more on these revisions, which include evidence of high attrition rates including elimination of all three originally planned Brooklyn HS , see the analysis by Brooke Parker here.  

Below is testimony submitted by six members of CEC2.

Testimony for the SUNY Charter Institute on 

Charter School Revision Application by Success Academies in 

Community School Districts 2, 3, 14 and 15

 

September 30, 2020

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony.  We submit the below testimony as individual members of the Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2). Due to the timing of the charter revision notice, which was released after the September monthly meeting, the CECD2 is unable to issue an official statement. Thus while the majority of members signed this testimony it does not represent the official position of the CECD2.  

We are against the proposals for charter school revisions submitted by Success Academies Harlem 1, Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Wiliamsbsurg.

  1. Our comments from 2019 are still relevant

In a comment letter submitted by Shino Tanikawa and Ushma Neil on October 3rd, 2019, appended to this comment letter, we listed three reasons for opposing the revision proposal submitted by SA Union Square, Hell’s Kitchen, Harlem I & III and Upper West.  We understand the group of schools included in the current revision proposals are not the same but the substance of the 2019 comments remains very much relevant. 

1.a. Academic year and proposal timeline

Nowhere on the 2-page notice sent by the NYC Department of Education is there indication of the academic year for which the proposal is submitted.  We can only hope that this is for the academic year 2021-2022, since the current year is already underway, even if SA has announced 100% remote learning for all its students. 

Please ensure all future notices clearly state the timeline of the proposal and the academic year for which the proposal is submitted. 

1.b. Organizational & building capacity data

Below is the Enrollment, Capacity and Utilization Report data from December 2019, with grade spans served in each building added (we are making assumptions since grade span information is not in the Blue Book).  When submitting revision proposals, SA and the DOE should be required to provide this information.  While building utilization might be a separate process under the CR A-190, this information is crucial in understanding why these revision proposals are submitted and whether the proposed changes are feasible or sound.  

From the revision notice, we understand SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg will send their 9th graders to Harlem 1, presumably at Norman Thomas but it is not stated.  Harlem 1 is slated to add 118 students to Grade 9. It is unclear if the available seats at Norman Thomas (392 according to the Blue Book as of December 31, 2019) are sufficient to accommodate this and the future increases.  Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg will all serve K - 4 without the 9th grade under the proposal.  

CSD

Org ID

Org Name

Bldg ID

building name

Grades

Enrollment

Target Capacity

Target Utilization

# Seats

2

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M620

Norman Thomas HS

9 - 12

391

783

50%

392

3

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M088

I. 88

5 - 8

309

392

79%

83

3

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M149

PS149 (tandem M207) 

K - 4

393

315

125%

-78

3

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M207

PS 207 (tandem M149)

K - 4

115

299

38%

184

14

K125

SA - Bed-Stuy 2

K059

PS 59

K - 4, 9

346

312

111%

-34

14

K182

SA - Williamsburg

K050

JHS 50 

K - 4, 9

426

562

76%

136

15

K129

SA - Cobble Hill

K293

JHS 293 

K - 4, 9

329

467

70%

138

 

1.c. Enrollment data

The table below is what was provided in the revision notice.  While we appreciate the addition of this information, which was not provided in prior years, we request more granular data, broken down by grade.  In addition, please clarify if the “Authorized Grades & Enrollment” means the enrollment numbers are what was authorized under the charter application or if they are the actual enrollment numbers.  If the latter, please provide the academic year.  

 

Harlem 1

(D2, D3)

Bed-Stuy 2

(D14)

Cobble Hill

(D15)

Williamsburg

(D14)

Authorized Grades & Enrollment

Grades K-12

1,633 Students

Grades K-4, 9

453 Students

Grades K-4, 9

460 Students

Grades K-4, 9

483 Students

Proposed Authorized Grades &

Enrollment

Grades K-12

1,751 Students

 

+118 in Grade 9

Grades K-4

416 Students

 

-37 in Grade 9

Grades K-4

416 Students

 

-44 in Grade 9

Grades K-4

416 Students

 

-37 in Grade 9

 Please verify the numbers for Williamsburg. If the authorized (or actual) enrollment number is 483 and the proposed enrollment is 416, the difference is 67.  However, the table in the notice shows a decrease of only 37 students.  Where are the other 30 students being moved to? 

The table below is from the SA Harlem 1 Accountability Report for 2018-2019 school year, which includes enrollment figures for all SA schools.  While this table is for 2018-2019, the difference in enrollment figures seem quite large (the last column).  Please provide us with a similar table with up-to-date enrollment figures and make clear the difference between authorized enrollment and actual enrollment.  We request the authorized enrollment (or projected enrollment) as separate figures so that we know whether enrollment targets are being met. 

Schools

Grades

K

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Total

Prop

Bed Stuy 2

K - 4, 9

51

72

70

79

46

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

318

453

Cobble Hill

K - 4, 9

54

56

69

72

59

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

310

460

Harlem 1

K - 12

89

87

94

83

100

88

80

63

50

258

171

134

26

1323

1633

Williamsburg

K - 4, 9

79

74

84

64

71

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

372

483

We need accurate enrollment data - both projected and actual - to understand these revision proposals better.  Lacking these data, we cannot evaluate the merits of the revision proposals. 

 

2.                   Welfare of students enrolled in SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg

We were presented with a similar proposal in 2019 whereby students from some SA schools were moved to other SA schools.  WIthout knowing the effective date of the current proposal and assuming that there are 9th grade students in SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg this academic year, were these students and their families notified that they will be attending school in Union Square? Is there guarantee that Norman Thomas Educational Campus will be able to accommodate this cohort of students through graduation?  Will this move present any hardship to any students?  If so, how will SA address grievances from families?  Will the teachers also move with the students?  

It appears this game of musical chairs has become an annual exercise for SA and we are concerned about the impact of the haphazard nature of these revision proposals on the students.  The concern is now amplified by the pandemic, which has placed additional challenges and stress on all our students. 

We recommend that the SUNY Charter Institute work with SA to develop a master plan for all its schools across the city so that these piecemeal proposals become unnecessary.  Such a plan should critically evaluate the enrollment trends and grade configuration and physical capacity of each school as well as collectively across all schools. The revision process distracts from more important issues for our students (such as whether SA is serving its fair share of students with disabilities and Multilingual Learners, or whether SA is engaged in questionable discipline practices).  

3.                   School level accountability

Considering the history of SA, we are concerned that this co-mingling of cohorts of students makes it impossible to assess individual SA schools’ performance.  Any longitudinal analyses of a given cohort will be extremely difficult when a cohort of students starts in one SA school but graduates from another.

An analysis by an education advocate has shown that attrition in SA schools can be significant.  The Class of 2020 had 350 students in second grade in 2010 but 114 Seniors in 2020.  This analysis was conducted across all SA schools because of the expansion of one SA school into several schools. Expansions and transferring students from one SA school to another make it difficult to determine the cause for this seemingly high attrition as well as attributing student performance and achievement to any one SA school.  Yet, each SA school is chartered separately with charter renewals and revisions subject to approval by the SUNY Charter Institute. How are we to know whether a given SA school is performing well when students move around?  

For these reasons, we oppose the revision proposal. We further call upon the SUNY Charter Institute to immediately conduct a thorough review and evaluation of the entire suite of Success Academy schools to ensure there is a long term, sustainable plan for all of the SA schools.  Additionally we recommend the SUNY Charter Institute consider treating all SA schools as one school with multiple sites under one charter.  When individual SA schools are allowed to shift students among themselves, such maneuvers render individual SA charters meaningless.  Finally we urge the SUNY Charter Institute to reconsider the entire charter process for charter schools seeking or already sited in DOE facilities.  We are not able to evaluate any charter proposals without knowing whether physical facilities are able to accommodate such proposals.  Having two separate yet interdependent processes - charter approval and co-location/building utilization approval - thus does not allow sound decision making.  In the end we must remember it is the students and their families who pay the price for this flawed process.  As advocates, we are willing to work with the SUNY Charter Institute and the state legislature to create a better process. 

Respectfully submitted, 

Shino Tanikawa, Manhattan Borough Appointee

Robin Broshi

Eric Goldberg

Emily Hellstrom

Edward Irizarry

Ushma Neil, Manhattan Borough Appointee