New NYSUT ad calls Cuomo’s priorities ‘wrong’

NYSUT has taken to the airwaves, producing a new commercial that calls Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education priorities “wrong” and asks that he visit a classroom to learn what all kids need to get a great education.

Since the Governor released his budget proposal on Jan. 21 calling for significant changes to the teacher evaluation process, NYSUT has been on the offensive, launching new ad and social media campaigns. In a recent video address to NYSUT members, president Karen Magee said that Gov. Cuomo has declared war on the teaching profession.

“Instead of standing with educators, parents and community, the Governor has chosen to side with his billionaire friends, and with those who seek to demonize public education and service and seek to vilify and scapegoat teachers,” Magee said.

Cuomo has called for changes to how districts evaluate teachers and principals. Under the existing process, evaluation scores consist of essentially three components: classroom observations, growth on state test scores and locally-selected learning targets, and additional measures of student achievement. Scores on these components result in a rating of highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective.

“They’re baloney,” Cuomo said of the current evaluations. “How can 38 percent of students be ready and 98 percent of the teachers rated effective? The problem is clear. We need real, fair, accurate teacher evaluations.”

In his budget proposal, the Governor outlined a plan that would change the evaluation process so that 50 percent of scores are based on state exams and the other 50 percent on observations. While many other details of this plan are still unknown, Gov. Cuomo did say that the elements of the scoring system for teacher observations would be set in state law, rather than locally negotiated as they are now.

Cuomo also said that teachers would have to be rated highly effective or effective in both areas to receive an overall rating of highly effective or effective, and that this process would eliminate much of the local testing taking place in school districts under the existing evaluation process.

“We will stop local score inflation, which has resulted in virtually all teachers being rated effective by setting,” he said.

Under Cuomo’s plan, a teacher who has two consecutive “ineffective” ratings would be removed from their teaching position.

“The state’s systemic failure to provide enough resources for all of its students and to do so equitably – while giving all teachers the tools and support they need – is the real crisis and the one our governor is trying to sweep under the rug,” Magee said following the Governor’s budget address.

The Executive Budget Proposal now heads to the state legislature for consideration. A final state budget is expected by April 1, 2015.

NYS Allies for Public Education sends Cuomo FOIL request for state aid runs

One has to imagine that it would be easier to get a ticket to the Super Bowl on Sunday than it would be to get a hold of the 2015-16 school aid runs.

That’s not stopping some organizations from trying though.

On Thursday, the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) submitted a FOIL request to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Records Office, calling for the release of any and all records relating to the 2015-16 state aid projections and/or corresponding school aid runs.

Last week, the Division of Budget announced that it would not be releasing school aid runs until the Legislature passes the Governor’s education reform agenda.

NYSAPE believes Cuomo’s decision to withhold the aid figures “creates a hardship and undue burden on our already stressed local public school districts statewide, currently endeavoring to work diligently on their local budget development process before the May vote.”

“We believe your (Cuomo’s) actions fly in the face of democracy,” the official request reads. “We believe this information should be made accessible to the public as a matter of course first and foremost based on principles of good faith and dealing and, second, pursuant to the democratic spirit and intent of open government as codified in the NYS Public Officers Law.”

On Tuesday this week, the New York State Educational Conference Board, comprised of the seven leading educational organizations across the state, penned a letter to Cuomo demanding that state aid runs be released to school districts immediately.

“In our collective memory, it is unprecedented for the state to withhold the release of executive budget aid runs,” the letter read. “These aid runs are not simply a state budget “tradition,” they are necessary and indeed critical to the local budget development process for hundreds of school districts across the state.”

Click here to read the official FOIL request from NYSAPE.

 

 

DiNapoli: 90 school districts in fiscal stress

Ninety public school districts statewide are fiscally stressed, accounting for 13 percent of the 672 reviewed, according to New York state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

This is the second year DiNapoli’s office has assessed and scored the financial stability of school districts. Last year, 87 districts were listed in fiscal stress.

“School districts are the hearts of many of our communities, but they face fiscal pressures that are unlikely to change any time soon,” DiNapoli said. “Although the increases in fiscal stress are relatively minor, the same problems persist, including increased deficits and dwindling fund balances. I urge school officials, especially those overseeing districts with deteriorating fiscal health, to use these scores as an impetus for more deliberate and careful long-term budget planning.”

10 school districts are listed in “significant stress”. They include Wyandanch Union Free School District (Suffolk County); Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District (Niagara); East Ramapo Central School District (Rockland); Lawrence Union Free School District (Nassau); Watervliet City School District (Albany); Copiague Union Free School District (Suffolk); Lewiston-Porter Central School District (Niagara); West Seneca Central School District (Erie); Hempstead Union Free School District (Nassau); and the Peekskill City School District (Westchester).

According to language in Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget bill, if the Legislature does not enact the education reforms the Governor outlined in his budget address last week, districts will not receive any aid greater than their 2014-15 amount for each of the next two years.

Complicating matters for districts, the Division of Budget announced that it would not be releasing school aid runs until the Legislature passes the Governor’s education reform agenda. The aid runs are usually released within hours of the Governor’s budget presentation.

Click here to read the complete report and a list of school district fiscal stress scores.

NYSECB letter to Cuomo: School districts should not be held hostage

The New York State Educational Conference Board, comprised of the seven leading educational organizations across the state, has penned a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanding that state aid runs be released to school districts immediately.

“In our collective memory, it is unprecedented for the state to withhold the release of executive budget aid runs.
These aid runs are not simply a state budget “tradition,” they are necessary and indeed critical to the local
budget development process for hundreds of school districts across the state.”

Last week, the Division of Budget announced that it would not be releasing school aid runs until the Legislature passes the Governor’s education reform agenda. The aid runs are usually released within hours of the Governor’s budget presentation.

Click here to read the entire letter [PDF]

Supporters of education from 31 school communities “Stand Up for Upstate Schools” at regional event

More than a thousand teachers, administrators, parents and other supporters of education gathered at Saratoga Springs High School on January 22 to advocate for more equitable funding for schools in upstate New York.

The regional advocacy event brought representatives from the 31 school districts in the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES area together to “Stand Up for Upstate Schools.”

“I’m thrilled that so many people attended the event and demonstrated the dedication we have to the schools in our region,” Queensbury Union Free School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas W. Huntley said after the event. “Their support showed tonight.”

Among other advocacy efforts, the event focused on ending the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a measure instituted in 2010 to spread a portion of the state’s budget shortfall among school districts through cuts in state aid. Since 2010, schools in the WSWHE BOCES region have lost $198.5 million in promised state aid to the GEA.

“The state is projecting budget surpluses now. How can we continue to justify the GEA when those budget gaps are gone?” asked Robert N. Lowry, the deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

Lowry was part of a panel of speakers that included representatives from business and higher education, as well as a teacher, a parent and a student.

Allison Lanfear, a member of the panel and a senior from Warrensburg Junior/Senior High School, talked about the impact the GEA and other budget cuts have had on her school.

“Having to make these budget cuts and to cut teaching positions is unacceptable,” Lanfear said. “It’s frustrating for all of us, and it’s frustrating for me not to get a complete education.”

That frustration was shared by each member of the panel in turn. Kristine Duffy, president of SUNY Adirondack, said schools need to do a better job of preparing students for their post-high-school lives, but budget constraints — such as those created by the GEA — are undercutting that need.

“What concerns me is seeing schools have to make choices to cut early-college exposure,” she said, adding that half of the students who enter community college in New York state need some remedial classes.

The panel, moderated by award-winning broadcast journalist Susan Arbetter, host of the Capitol Pressroom, also included Cindy Bartlett-Murray, social studies teacher at Queensbury Middle School; Nicole Clarke, a parent from Galway Central School District; and Peggy Murphy, director of human resources, facility security officer and corporate secretary for Espey Mfg. & Electronics Corp. in Saratoga Springs.

“Just about every school district in our region has reduced programming, or will need to” as a result of the GEA, WSWHE BOCES District Superintendent James Dexter told the packed auditorium. Yet, he was also encouraging. “If everyone can just do one piece of advocacy and get someone else to do one more, we can make a difference.”

He urged supporters to tweet messages to the governor, advocating changes using the hashtag #StandUp4Upstate.

To do your part, tweet the message “I #StandUp4Upstate children! Let’s work together to end the GEA, @NYGovCuomo” or some other message urging lawmakers to fix the state’s educational funding.

 

UPDATE: No aid increase for next two years unless Legislature approves Cuomo’s proposal

According to language in Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget bill, if the Legislature does not enact the education reforms the Governor outlined in his budget address on Wednesday, Jan. 21, districts will not receive any aid greater than their 2014-15 amount for each of the next two years.

Complicating matters for districts, the Division of Budget announced that it would not be releasing school aid runs until the Legislature passes the Governor’s education reform agenda. The aid runs are usually released within hours of the Governor’s budget presentation.

The reforms Cuomo proposed include an overhaul of the existing teacher evaluation law, more stringent tenure requirements, funding to expand preschool programs, lifting the cap on charter schools, and a new turnaround process for the state’s lowest performing schools.

In all, the $1.1 billion school aid increase includes just more than $1 billion in new school aid, $25 million for expanded preschool programs, and $25 million for other education reforms.

The Executive Budget Proposal now heads to the state legislature for consideration. A final state budget is expected by April 1, 2015.

Reaction to Governor’s education budget proposal

Reaction to the Governor’s budget proposal from yesterday has been pouring in. Here’s a roundup.

Organization responses

From Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch:

“Governor Cuomo has laid out an ambitious plan for our schools and our students. Many of his proposals mirror the Board of Regents’ recommendations and we’re eager to pursue those important initiatives. It’s clear the Governor is committed to work together to make sure all our students have the educational opportunities they deserve.

While there is still much to be done, our students have made strong progress in recent years. Even in the face of higher, more challenging standards, New York’s high school graduation rate continues to improve. In classrooms across the state, teachers are successfully implementing those higher standards. Students are building the knowledge they need to be successful in college and the workplace. The Board of Regents looks forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to make sure that progress continues.”

News articles

Cuomo calls for $1.1 billion school aid increase and education reforms, no mention of GEA

cuomo_nysoo

Note: This story was updated on Jan. 23 to reflect the current interpretation of the Governor’s budget bill regarding aid increases.

Under the Executive Budget Proposal outlined by Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday, state funding for schools would increase by $1.1 billion next year – provided that state lawmakers go along with a series of education reforms that he described as “ambitious” in his combined budget address and State of the State message.

The reforms Cuomo proposed include an overhaul of the existing teacher evaluation law, more stringent tenure requirements, funding to expand preschool programs, lifting the cap on charter schools, and a new turnaround process for the state’s lowest performing schools.

An additional $1.1 billion in state aid next year would represent a 4.8 percent increase over the current year. The Division of Budget announced that school aid runs would not be released to districts until the Legislature passes the Governor’s education reform agenda.

According to language in the Governor’s proposed budget bill, if the Legislature does not enact the education reforms he outlined, districts will not see an increase in state aid next year or the year after.

The Governor also did not address the Gap Elimination Adjustment, or GEA, which is the mechanism through which the state has diverted promised school funding over the last five years to meet other budget priorities. In that time, schools have lost more than $9.52 billion cumulatively to the GEA, and they are still owed $1.04 billion.

The overall proposed increase in aid falls short of the $2 billion or more that the New York State Board of Regents and leading education groups have called for to meet the needs of students next year.

The Governor is also proposing to make permanent the state’s property tax levy cap, which is set to expire after this current year, as well as a new “circuit breaker” tax reduction program. This would reduce property taxes for some homeowners and renters based on income and the amount of their tax bills.

The series of education reforms Cuomo called for included changes to how districts evaluate teachers and principals. Under the existing process, evaluation scores consist of essentially three components: classroom observations, growth on state test scores and locally-selected learning targets, and additional measures of student achievement. Scores on these components result in a rating of highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective.

“They’re baloney,” Cuomo said of the current evaluations. “How can 38 percent of students be ready and 98 percent of the teachers rated effective? The problem is clear. We need real, fair, accurate teacher evaluations.”

In his speech, the Governor outlined a plan that would change the evaluation process so that 50 percent of scores are based on state exams and the other 50 percent on observations. While many other details of this plan are still unknown, Gov. Cuomo did say that the elements of the scoring system for teacher observations would be set in state law, rather than locally negotiated as they are now.

Cuomo also said that teachers would have to be rated highly effective or effective in both areas to receive an overall rating of highly effective or effective, and that this process would eliminate much of the local testing taking place in school districts under the existing evaluation process.

“We will stop local score inflation, which has resulted in virtually all teachers being rated effective by setting,” he said.

Under Cuomo’s plan, a teacher who has two consecutive “ineffective” ratings would be removed from their teaching position.

The budget proposal includes funding to continue rewarding teachers with annual stipends who are deemed highly effective and who mentor their peers. The Governor would also create a teacher-in-residency program akin to what is provided for doctors and offer free tuition to top SUNY/CUNY graduates who commit to teaching in New York schools for five years.

The Governor’s proposal also continues to provide grants for the “P-Tech” Pathways in Technology and Early College High School program, which connects high school to two years of college in the STEM fields.

Cuomo outlined a plan to address what he called “failing schools” that would allow a nonprofit, turnaround expert or another district to take over a school after three years of poor results. This entity would be charged with overhauling the curriculum, terminating underperforming staff and recruiting high-performing educators. These schools would be given priority in a variety of state grant programs, and the students would be given priority in charter school lotteries.

The Governor proposed combining the charter school caps for New York City and the rest of the state into one statewide cap and increasing it by 100 new charter schools, for a total cap of 560. Under the existing caps, there are 24 slots left for new charter schools in New York City and 159 slots available statewide. The governor also proposed legislation to ensure that charter schools serve “their fair share” of high-needs populations in relation to public schools, including English language learners, students living in poverty, and students with disabilities.

Cuomo also proposed an additional $365 million in spending for universal prekindergarten, in line with the plan approved last year to phase $1.5 billion in over five years to expand prekindergarten access statewide. He also called for $25 million for new preschool programs for 3-year-olds in the state’s highest-need school districts.

In all, the $1.1 billion school aid increase includes just more than $1 billion in new school aid, $25 million for the preschool initiative, and $25 million for other education reforms.

The Executive Budget Proposal now heads to the state legislature for consideration. A final state budget is expected by April 1, 2015.

Click here to download the Governor’s 2015-16 Budget Briefing Book [PDF]

Gov. Cuomo to unveil ‘Opportunity Agenda’ today

Gov. Cuomo will be presenting his 2015-16 budget with the 2015 State of the State Address in a joint roll out being called the ‘2015 New York State of Opportunity Agenda’ this afternoon.

Over the past few weeks, Cuomo has been laying the groundwork for an aggressive education agenda, repeating numerous times that better teachers and competition from charter schools are the best ways to revamp an underachieving and entrenched public education system.

“I believe these kinds of changes are probably the single best thing that I can do as governor that’s going to matter long-term to break what is in essence one of the only remaining public monopolies — and that’s what this is, it’s a public monopoly,” Cuomo said in October.

Cuomo believes that the current evaluation system for teachers is too easy to pass. Cuomo said he would push for a plan that includes more incentives and sanctions that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

“The teachers don’t want to do the evaluations and they don’t want to do rigorous evaluations — I get it. I feel exactly opposite.”

According to the New York Times, Cuomo’s office has declined to comment on his education agenda or disclose what proposals he will make today.

Mr. Cuomo is likely to face resistance to some of his priorities from the Democratic-led Assembly, which tends to side with the teachers’ union, while getting support from the Republican-led Senate.

 – NY Times, ‘Cuomo’s Education Agenda Sets Battle Lines With Teachers’ Unions’, Jan. 20, 2015.

The 2015 New York State of Opportunity Agenda will be presented at 1:30 p.m. in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. Ed Speaks will be live-tweeting the Governor’s address this afternoon. Follow along, @edspeaksNY.

POV: Teacher Evaluation vs. Student Achievement: Minimal Correlation

Points_viewMany would believe that the state mandated evaluation system is a fair and appropriate method for evaluating teachers and principals and that teacher evaluations are linked directly and solely to New York state assessment results. Recent news reports have attempted to draw a direct comparison between New York state assessment results and teacher evaluation ratings. However, these misleading commentaries have been based on a lack of understanding of how assessment scores are used in teacher evaluations.

A recent article serves as a good example, comparing teacher and principal evaluation ratings to NYS assessment results from the 2013-2014 school year. Included was that (not counting New York City) about 39% of teachers and 61% of principals received “effective” ratings while 58% of teachers and 33% of principals earned the top rating of “highly effective.” This was contrasted with the 2014 NYS assessment results, where approximately 40% of students in grades three to eight scored at the proficient level or higher on the NYS math and ELA assessments.

Teacher effectiveness is so much more than results on one annual test. In fact, state assessment results are only mandated to be included in the evaluations of math and English teachers, grades 4-8, and in the evaluations of elementary, middle school and junior high building principals. In my school (Shaker Junior High School) that is a total of 16 teachers out of my total faculty of about 75 teachers.

Yes, such comparisons are clearly misleading. The truth is that NYS assessment results are included in the evaluations of only 21% of the teachers in my building, which is probably consistent with every other school in New York state.

To further underscore how misleading such comparisons are, let’s take a closer look at the evaluations of math and English teachers in grades 3-8 and determine how the NYS assessment results are included in them. NYS assessment results constitute 20 of the 100 points that comprise a teacher’s (or a principal’s) evaluation; these point totals are computed and provided by the NYS Education Department. That’s right, only 20% of a math or English teacher’s (or a building principal’s) evaluation is based on state assessment results.

Think about that. NYS assessment results account for 20% of about 21% of NYS teachers’ and principals’ evaluations state wide. If you just use these two percentages to calculate a rough, non-mathematical effect, (i.e. multiply 20% by 21%), you get an effect range of about 4%. Yes, NYS assessment results constitute about 4% of NYS teachers’ and principals’ evaluations. Interesting, as news reports (and politicians) would have you believe something very different. Not even being considered are the many other aspects of teaching that are included in an evaluation, the comparisons would have you believe that assessment data and evaluations are one and the same.

Let’s at least include the pertinent information about evaluations in news reporting and give readers the true data to fully comprehend the numbers. Let’s make sure that readers understand that there exists no significant connection between the state wide evaluation ratings and NYS assessment results. But, that doesn’t provoke readers nor is it of interest to politicians. No, the real story behind the sound bites is often quite un-newsworthy.

This Point of View was submitted by Shaker Junior High School principal Dr. Russell Moore of the North Colonie Central School District. Dr. Moore is currently in his 27th year as a principal. You can read more from him at his blog “Moore Perspective.”