Tag Archives: Andrew Cuomo

Say “No” to Cuomo

What, me worry?

What can you say about a governor who refuses to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% of the state, then turns around and passes “pension reform” because the state has budget shortfalls?

What can you say about a governor who pushed for a teacher evaluation system that does nothing but require students to train for and take bubble-in exams every day, every year?

What can you say about a governor who allows the state’s rotten districting regime to continue for the next 10 years, despite his campaign promises to make fair districting a priority?

What can you say about a Governor who is pushing to allow casino gambling across the state, since he knows his policies leave people with no other hope but to hit a jackpot in order to survive?

Cuomo swept into office on the same high-tide of dissatisfaction as Barack Obama. Obama was a stark contrast to the weathered, corrupt and secretive Bush Administration. Cuomo promised bold leadership after years of corruption and incompetence in Albany. They both promised a break from a status quo where the government does the bidding of the corporate.

The Democratic Party is far worse than the Republican. Republicans make no pretense of caring for the poor, workers and anyone else not born on third base. Democrats cloak their corporate policies in a concern for the general welfare.

Cuomo’s pension reform package for public workers requires 10 years of service in order to be vested, raises the retirement age and demands that workers pay more into their pensions. The newspaper columns are full of laudatory articles of the plan, with the requisite derision of public sector workers as pampered, overpaid crumb bums.

I wonder why people are complaining of a pension shortfall. If there is one, would it not have something to do with the stock market that tanked four years ago due to the fraud, greed and recklessness of Wall Street?

This is the same fraud and greed that not only went unpunished by the likes of Obama and Cuomo, but was rewarded with bailouts, Fed loans and consistently low taxes.

But of course, our financial woes are due to that teacher, fire fighter and sanitation worker who have the audacity to believe that they should be compensated for a lifetime of public service by having some sort of income when they reach old age. How dare they? They should know not to expect more than a retirement spent in a roach-infested hovel where cat food is the preferred dinner item.

The fact of the matter is that all people should be taken care of in old age. There should be pensions for everyone. This type of suggestion usually stirs up cries of “radical socialism”. We live in a country where the benefits of the public sector worker set the bar for the private sector worker. Instead of calling for a wholesale reduction of those benefits, people in the private sector would best be served by supporting their fellow workers.

It is no coincidence that the earning power of the American worker has declined at the same time as labor unions.

Oh, but you will never be fired and, if you do, I am sure you will be able to find a great job with the snap of a finger.

It is easy to believe that when your job seems so secure. Around 17% of the labor force who have been thrown out of their jobs and onto the unemployment rolls, part-time work or food stamp program might see things differently.

Jay Gould (and I am sure not just him) said that he could always get one half of the working class to kill the other half.

Cuomo is a mini-Obama. It is fitting that he governs the state that most overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008. It is fitting that he was one of the first to sign on to Race to the Top. There is little doubt that he has his eyes on a 2016 election bid. Let us hope that his quest turns out as fruitless and irrelevant as George Pataki’s.

Cuomo Wastes More Taxpayer Money

From Edweek:

Want to see if New York state school districts are literally checking the right boxes on new teacher evaluations? The Empire State has you covered.

The website, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, allows parents and others to follow the progress of districts in hashing out the new evaluations, in the wake of the Feb. 16 agreement on the basic shape of those evaluations between the state education department and the state teachers union, New York State United Teachers.

At the NY Students First site, you can click on a link to “Track Your School District’s Progress,” which takes you to a map of New York by county that resembles a teacher’s chalkboard. Scrolling over a county brings up a box with each of the school districts in that county. If a district were to submit a new teacher evaluation plan to the state education department, a box would checked next to its name. If the plan were to be approved by the department, the district would get another check mark (this time in bright red).

The website, which you can see here, promises that you can “track your schools district’s progress” towards agreeing to a new evaluation.

It only tells you that a district has come up with a plan, it does not tell you what the plan is. In other words, parents who care about how an evaluation will change the face of their children’s education will find this site less than useless.

So why have the site at all? The article continues:

“I hope the countless parents and advocates who have been demanding accountability in our schools will use http://www.nystudentsfirst.com to get involved in our efforts to put students first and reform our education system,” Cuomo said in a March 6 statement announcing the site.

The online effort represents Cuomo’s eagerness to use parental and other community pressure to ensure districts get evaluations done that are agreed to by local teachers unions and given the seal of approval by State Education Commissioner John B. King.

In other words, more shaming of the teacher’s unions. It is to get parents to pressure “districts” to come up with a plan, giving the districts the ability to apply that public pressure to the unions so that they will accept something less than fair.

The longer a box remains unchecked, the more likely that the “union” will be seen as a barrier to “progress”. It is a gross oversimplification of what promises to be very complex negotiations.

The political hokum continues:

NY Students First has a chart, replete with more check marks, that allows viewers to compare the state’s overhaul efforts on teacher evaluations with those in other states, including the use of student achievement data. It also saves some space for political rhetoric.

A statement on the main page reads in part, “Our system has suffered because Albany has spent more time worrying about the business of education—contracts, salaries, and benefits—than they have worrying about the children.”

And those comparisons between NY’s evaluations and those of other states? You guessed it, more simplistic check boxes.

Parents in the know are aware that these new evaluations have nothing to do with students. As a new NY State parent opt-out site puts it:

Millions of our tax dollars go to the Pearson Corporation to develop the entire assessment program for NYS.  Pearson also sells our schools the many workbooks and review books that your children use daily in school.  Look at the work your child brings home, you will most likely Pearson or McGraw-Hill stamped on the bottom. This corporate intrusion into our schools is draining scarce financial resources and is leading to cuts in the arts and larger class sizes.

Yes, “students first”, even after you shut 33 of their schools down in NYC. “Students first”, even though art, music and drama programs are being slashed in poor districts all over the state. “Students first”, even though the exams that students will be forced to take every single year have nothing to do with helping students learn, and everything to do with evaluating teachers.

I wonder how many enrichment programs were slashed so that Cuomo could pay for this useless website.



Let Students Evaluate Teachers?

That is the contention of a recent piece in the Village Voice. It seems like a fair suggestion for Governor Andy, who claims to be a lobbyist for students. Of course, students cannot pour billions of dollars into his campaign coffers like Rupert Murdoch can, so there is little chance that he will take this proposal seriously.

As teachers, we are likely to reject such a harebrained scheme out of hand. But there might be something to be said for students having some say in teacher evaluations.

I was a dean for several years. As such, I always heard student critiques of their teachers. The vast majority of these critiques would be negative, mostly because these were the most disengaged students from school. That means that those rare occasions on which these students said something positive about a teacher’s teaching were that more meaningful. There would be two types of positive feedback. The first, easily disregarded, was complimenting Ms. Smith because she was a pushover. “Oh, but she allows us to eat in class and have parties every day, she is mad cool.” Of course, I considered this more of an insult to Ms. Smith than anything else. The other type of compliment, which one could usually bank on, would be that Ms. Johnson was strict but a good teacher. Usually, they would say something like “But you actually learn in Ms. Johnson’s class.” I always considered this the highest praise a teacher can get.

Usually, the critiques of the most disengaged students had grains of truth in it, even if the rest of their opinions were delusional. Students have a sense of when their teachers work hard or care for them or know their subject. That is why I think student feedback should count for no more than 15% of teacher evaluations.

But, would not students rate teachers based upon personal animus? If Ms. Johnson fails or disciplines a student, does she not put herself at risk of being a victim of sour grapes? Furthermore, do students not already have an inordinate amount of power over the lives of their teachers as it is? Cannot one false accusation of a jaded student ruin the career of an excellent teacher?

I believe these arguments destroy the proposition of the Village Voice. Students already wield too much power over teachers and they know it. Student evaluations would only mean something if teachers are protected against frivolous accusations. That would include no automatic removal of teachers from the classroom, having the right to know the charges against you, being able to face your accuser and an entitlement to a fair, independent investigation. Until these things happen, which is unlikely, the idea of student evaluations has to stay on the shelf.

More importantly, the other 85% of teacher evaluations should come from colleagues and administrators. Teachers should be able to rate their colleagues based upon how collaborative they are with the rest of the staff and how hard they work at perfecting their craft. Administrators should be able to rate teachers based upon how rigorous they are in the classroom and how they do at classroom management. Of course, this would mean that administrators should be able to recognize good teaching and content mastery when they see it. This requires the further step of setting the bar way higher to becoming an administrator. Today, all one needs to be an administrator in NYC is three years in the classroom and a dime store administrator’s degree. It should be increased to 10 years in the classroom, while administrator programs should be more academically rigorous and require future administrators to recognize good teaching. Because of the proliferation of small schools under Bloomberg, there has been a mad rush to pump out administrators and that has meant a huge devaluation of what it takes call oneself principal or assistant principal. As it is now, the barrier of entry into administration is so low, and the stories of petty or incompetent administrators so pervasive, that even the best principals in the city are cheapened.

In short, the Village Voice proposal sounds nice, but it misses the point. Only until both teaching and school administration are held in higher regard by the powers that be can the profession be secure enough to allow student evaluations.

Deformers Trying to Deform a Deformed Law

(Picture from the Failing Schools blog)

The “tougher” teacher evaluation regime that looms over us all in New York must be agreed upon by the unions and districts. It is one of the stipulations of getting Race to the Top money.

Governor Cuomo’s agonizing State of the State address (you can watch it here), which was a load of self-serving hokum, did not give any actual particulars about the special committee the governor will appoint to help deal with the teacher evaluation question. It seems like Cuomo is stalling for time so he can find the best middle way to take. In other words, Andrew is doing what is best for Andrew’s political future.

But, as Gotham Schools reported yesterday:

“education reform groups are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to install a “shot clock” on future talks… When the clock expires, a teacher evaluation system devised by the State Education Department would go into effect, according to the plan outlined in a letter signed by 13 reform organizations from across the state and country.”

Translation: the deformers want to circumvent the law by putting a deadline on all teacher evaluation negotiations. If that deadline is not met, then an evaluation system of the state’s design will be implemented instead. Of course, the union would not be in on any plan the State Education Department might make, but I’m sure a lot of Rhee and Educators 4 Excellence money would. So all school districts like our own beloved Bloomberg’s New York City would have to do is sabotage the negotiations with the union, miss the deadline and, voila, they will get the type of anti-teacher evaluations they want anyway.

The post on Gotham Schools has the text of the letter the deformers wrote the governor.

It’s really amazing. The deformers love to say poverty is not destiny and throwing money at schools will not make it better. Now here they are trying to convince the governor to screw teachers so the state does not lose its valuable Race to the Top money. All of the sudden the deformers are concerned with throwing money at the system. Next they will be calling for smaller class sizes, as long as those classes are taught by inexperienced and inexpensive teachers. The deformers will do anything for our kids as long as it involves getting rid of those kids’ most veteran teachers.