One should never expect anything approximating authentic debate from any corporate owned news agency, that much the more when the subject is as oligarchically driven and defined as is “education reform,” and Time Warner’s NY1 “Inside City Hall’ s attempt at a debate about Common Core and its discontents proved no exception.
Nonetheless, it was satisfying to watch an authentic public advocate and a New York City public school principal teach two members of billionaire backed education reform fronts a lesson.
Ostensibly reporting on the huge spike in the number of New York state parents refusing to subject their children to high stakes Common Core aligned standardized tests, alleged journalist Bobby Cuza gathered together “a special panel” of “experts” carefully selected to deceive any viewer not highly conversant with the issue.
The 12 minute segment, much of it complete nonsense, did serve as a snapshot of how cynically such situations are covered and why many non-teachers can be so easily bamboozled.
But not so much this time.
Bobby’s “special panel” consisted of the following: Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, and Jamaal Bowman, Principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School, Maura Henry, a teacher at the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria, and Stephen Sigmund from the group High Achievement New York.
High Achievement New York is yet another in the seemingly endless line of noble sounding multi- billionaire created “non profit “ fronts passing themselves off as authentic grassroots organizations created to ramrod education policies. ( How nice that the American lawmakers to allow individuals to accrue the wealth of nations so they can hire tax deductible mercenaries like Stephen Sigmund to do their bidding while at the same time deplete the public coffers of tax revenue!) Look at the High Achievement New York’s website and you will find the word “teachers” first and foremost. Look a little further and you will find among their “coalition members” both the Mike Bloomberg-funded, Michelle Rhee-led StudentsfirstNY and the grotesque Bill Gates financed Educators for Excellence.
Rest assured these are very special teachers indeed.
Like their bankrollers who make up less that 1% of 1% of our population yet own 40% of the national wealth, E4E make up less than 1% of 1% of New York City teachers. As their views are abhorrent to 99. 9 % of NYC teachers, this figure would shrivel down to 0% in a week (if that) without cash infusions from Gates and their hedge fund sugar daddies. Claiming to work “to ensure that the voices of classroom teachers are included in the decisions that affect our profession and our students,” E4E
operate as a kind of Fifth Colum, passing themselves off as unionists while attempting to worm their way into union positions in order to undermine it from within. They are reprehensible and minuscule in number yet, as seen here, have constant access to a fawning mainstream media.
As such, out of some 80,000 non E4E teachers, NY1 is fine with selecting just such a member for their “special panel ” on the Common Core.
The only problem was that the E4E teacher, one Maura Henry, didn’t seem to know the first thing about Common Core or even what the “debate” was about.
Henry was introduced as a teacher of English as a Second Language in the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria as well as a member of Educators for Excellence.
Of course, there is no way on earth for the average viewer to know who is bankrolling either E4E or High Achievement New York and that is exactly as they like it to be. But you can rest assured NY1 knows and are not about to tell.
Alas, Ms. Henry’s handlers from E4E did not serve her well, leaving her to babble incoherently about her special feelings toward the NYSESLAT, a test exclusively for ESL students and one that had absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand.
Of this, only Leonie Hamson seemed to notice.
Incredibly, Henry also seemed to be completely unaware of the fact that this year’s NYSESLAT bears almost no resemblance to its earlier incarnation. Far more importantly — and perhaps fatally for all ESL teachers in all New York State – NYSELAT has for the first time been absurdly “aligned” with the Common Core Standards, making it virtually impossible for an ESL student to pass it. You read that correctly. A test that should be designed to measure language acquisition will now be aligned with standards that are ostensibly written to measure language mastery. This act of educational child abuse — setting extremely vulnerable kids up to take tests they have absolutely zero chance of passing — somehow slipped by Ms. Henry. That and the fact that under Cuomo’s sadistic new teacher evaluation, in which 50% of teacher’s ratings will come from such tests, she and thousands of other ESL teachers, my self included, will — save a miracle on the level of the loaves and fishes — almost certainly be fired in two years time no matter what we do.
Oh well. Guess we should have thought of that before we were born.
Ms. Henry also babbled on about how she would like to see Common Core tests more “computer adaptive.”
Stephen Sigmund, on the other hand, was as sleek as a porpoise even as he mouthed one reformer cliché after another. The Common Core Standards, said Sigmund, were developed with “significant input from teachers” and are merely standards which “states have agreed upon, ” written to make students “college and career ready.”
And so on and so forth.
I got the distinct impression I could have listened to this slick operative gasbag for days without hearing a single original or altogether true sentence.
Truth and originality, of course, are not what good mercenaries are paid for.
What they are paid for is to reply to the fact that NYC kids are spending more time on tests than any other students on earth with rubbish like a High Achievement New York analysis, which states that a mere .75 % of school time is spent on testing.
Ergo the “time issue” is specious.
No mention of the shrinking of curriculum to feed the test monster, no mention of endless test prep, no mention of kids being stressed out of their minds across the state, no mention of education being debased into testing, no mention that the entire apparatus is designed to undermine public support for public education by constantly and consciously setting up the overwhelming majority of children to fail.
Earning his pay, Sigmund weaseled around the fact that standardized tests and the divine Common Core are bound together like Siamese twins.
Principal Jamaal Bowman, meanwhile, a man who deals not with abstractions and useless analyses but with actual flesh and blood students taking these monstrous tests, spoke thoughtfully and forcefully about “rethinking” the entire assessment process, “rethinking our approach to testing, curriculum and instruction.”
“13 years of testing,” stated Bowman “ and nothing has changed. ”
And then there was Leonie Haimson, whose Class Size Matters exists on a shoestring and who has taken on the billionaires and thwarted them with her sheer intelligence and moral force. Speaking with precision and in complete command of the facts, Leonie once again spoke truth to mammon and is a delight to behold. These are very, very dark days for education and educators in this country and, due to Cuomo and his super rich employers, that much the more in New York State. As such, such moments resonate very deeply. Watch her here.