Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gov. Cuomo: please call off the SHSAT, absolutely critical especially during a pandemic.

The letter below was sent to Gov. Cuomo on Monday via his webform; feel free to send your own thoughts on the matter.  

November 23, 2020

Dear Governor Cuomo, 

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, write to request the issuance of an Executive Order to suspend the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) for the specialized high schools in New York City. 

The Hecht-Calandra Act requires that admissions to the specialized high schools be solely and exclusively determined by scores on the SHSAT, which is administered by the NYC Department of Education usually in late October/ early November every year.  Nearly 30,000 students take the SHSAT for approximately 5,000 seats across 8 specialized high schools. The test is administered on campus at these schools.  Obviously this year with the pandemic and particularly now with the increasing infection rates, in-person testing is infeasible and the DOE has not announced how it plans to administer the test. 

The Mayor hinted at offering the SHSAT online at the weekly radio address last week. However, not every student has access to an adequate device or reliable internet connectivity, making the online option discriminatory. In addition to the inequitable access to the digital platform, many of our students are traumatized by the pandemic, having lost loved ones to the disease, facing a new economic reality resulting from parental job loss, or living with the anxiety of a parent who is an essential worker. These traumas disproportionately affect historically marginalized students.

Because the Mayor does not have the power to change the admissions to the specialized high schools, we call upon you to issue an Executive Order suspending the SHSAT this year and allowing the Chancellor of the NYC DOE to develop an alternative method of admissions to the specialized high schools. And given that our estimate of the costs for test administration is approximately $3 Million per year, suspending the SHSAT is also prudent in the face of the fiscal crisis.  We believe this is the only equitable path forward.  



Alliance for Quality Education

Class Size Matters

Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF)

Community Education Council District 14

Community Education Council District 16

Community Inclusion & Development Alliance

Education Council Consortium


El Puente

Families for Real Equity in Education (FREE)



MORE-UFT (Movement of Rank and File Educators)


NYC Opt Opt

S.E.E.D.S., Inc. <www.seedswork.org>

Teens Take Charge

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

DOE delays Panel vote on contract with new busing organization acquiring Reliant company

DOE has made another incongruous and costly busing decision to create a new non-profit that will acquire the Reliant company that apparently owes millions in unpaid pension and health insurance costs.  This debt according to the NY Post may be as large as $148 million.  The contract was about to be voted on tonight at the PEP but was postponed because of Panel members' unresolved questions.

As I said to the NY Post, "Without knowing the cost of the company and what kind of debt the city may be assuming, it is impossible to tell whether this is a good deal or not. In any case, for the DOE to take on more financial risks and obligations at this time seems irresponsible, given the economic crisis we face.”

DOE officials have so far refused to release the proposed contract with this new non-profit so the public can learn what financial obligations the city may incur, or the consultant's report from the TransPar Group that helped create this organization.  They should do so as soon as possible; and also release full data as to how much debt and liability they are foisting on city taxpayers in the process, and explain in detail what the benefits to the DOE or NYC students may be.  Otherwise we can only speculate that it may be related to the large donations of $100,000 bgiven to Mayor de Blasio's political PAC by Reliant's owner.


DOE to delay the release of any class size data due Nov. 15 until Dec. 31, and any disaggregated data until Feb.15

UPDATE: in late February the DOE released links to aggregate class size data that then links to spreadsheets on the Open Data site that seems absurdly low.  Now they say they will not release any disaggregated data that may be more accurate till sometime in March.

UPDATE 1/4/21:  According to City Council staff, the DOE now says they are further postponing the release of any class size data until "early or mid-January."

UPDATE 10/23/2020: Chalkbeat wrote about this issue here.

See the letter from Karen Goldmark below of DOE responding to the letter from CM Mark Treyger, saying they will not release any class size data until December 31, based on the size of classes on November 13, rather than the legal deadline established by city law of November 15.  It also appears from the letter that they do not intend to report any disaggregated data till February 15-- still based on the size of classes as of November 13  (!).

It is very difficult to understand why this should take so long, especially as at the Mayor's press conference on Oct. 26, the Chancellor said that schools have been reporting attendance data and thus class size in "literally three buckets of attendance every single day": in-person classes, remote blended learning classes, and full-time remote classes. 

One suspects that DOE officials just don’t want people to know how large the online classes actually are, as reported by parents and the media here, here and here.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Questions raised by Sen. Hoylman and advocates about the privacy of student data

 Chalkbeat also reported on the lack of DOE compliance with the state law and Sen. Hoylman's letter today. 

NY State Senator Brad Hoylman sent a letter yesterday to the Chancellor, asking questions about whether the personal student data that is being collected and processed by the many online programs acquired by the DOE is sufficiently protected from breach or abuse.

According to the UFT, “The DOE has informed schools that for SY 2020-21, they must have a shared, inclusive and digital curriculum in all core subject areas” in order to implement remote learning. 

We have now amassed a list of about one hundred of these digital programs, many of which were hurriedly acquired by DOE, along with links to their privacy grades from Commonsense Media, if available, along with some clarifying comments. These grades are based upon their publicly available privacy policies, some of which do not appear to comply with the state law because they use data for commercial or marketing purposes and/or have weak security  provisions. We gathered the list from the DOE and UFT websites, as well as our parent/teacher survey. 

Here’s a summary of what the NY State student privacy law and regulations require; more information is available on the NYSED website here. Though the law was originally passed in March of 2014, it took nearly six years for the state to issue and adopt regulations that became fully enforceable last January. Among other things, the regulations require all districts to post a Parent Bill of Rights [PBOR] for every contract with a vendor that has access to personal student information. 

The PBOR is supposed to detail how the personal student data will be used, how it will be protected, how parents can access the data to challenge its accuracy if necessary, and when it will be deleted, among other provisions. Because of the COVID crisis, the DOE received an extension till October 1, 2020 to also post a new, legally compliant data privacy policy. 

Here’s the DOE data privacy page and another DOE page, which, after urging from parents and teachers, has posted ONLY the PBORs for the three COVID testing companies, along with their contracts. 

None of the PBORs or contracts of the 100 online programs acquired by DOE have been posted; nor has the DOE's legally compliant data privacy policy.

In addition, the three contracts with the COVID testing companies do not clearly state when the personal data of students will be deleted, though this is required by Ed Law 2D regulations which mandate that contractors “describe whether, how and when data will be returned to the educational agency, transitioned to a successor contractor, at the educational agency’s option and direction, deleted or destroyed by the third-party contractor when the contract is terminated or expires.”

If you haven't yet, please respond to our survey here, to let us know what online programs or apps your children have been assigned, so we can check out their grades and privacy policies as well.  You can also check out our spreadsheet to see what privacy grade was received by the programs and apps assigned to your kids.

Much thanks to Sen. Hoylman for sending a letter to DOE about this; his letter is embedded below.