Posts Tagged ‘Educators 4 Excellence’

King To Replace Duncan in DC Insuring that the Campaign to Privatize Public Schools Will Continue Unabated

October 2, 2015


Today it was announced that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he who has used the awesome power of the federal Government to wreak layered and relentless havoc on the entire public school system, will resign in December.

Duncan said he was resigning to spend more time with his family and stated, in what appeared to be complete seriousness, that he expected to find work “expanding opportunity for children.”

Duncan was the longest serving education secretary in U.S. history and easily the most appalling.

Even as candidate Obama campaigned with Linda Darling-Hammond, in a bait and switch maneuver that can now be seen as characteristic of his presidency,
President–elect Obama named non-educator Duncan Secretary of Education. The appointment, made at the insistence of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a group made up almost entirely of hedge fund managers, signaled that under Duncan the Department of Education would serve in essence as a conduit to the whims and wishes of private foundations, most prominently and disastrously, the Gates Foundation. These private interests,it must be said, Duncan has served with complete fidelity.

Tragically, Duncan will be replaced by former New York State Commissioner John King, whose obsequiousness in the face of wealth and power is equal to Duncan’s, likewise their shocking arrogance if not outright disdain for the public they nominally serve. Having taught three years in a classroom, two in a charter school, King has infinitely more teaching experience than Duncan who has zero. Not that this will make an iota of difference.

In essence, in terms of policy, Duncan will be replaced by Duncan or perhaps Duncan on steroids.

King was last seen on tour in New York condescending or dissembling to parents on stages in Poughkeepsie and New York City in a failed attempt to sell them the miserable and increasingly loathed Common Core. I caught his act in Manhattan where even shills from Students First and Educators For Excellence could not rescue King from his well-earned pathos.

Soon thereafter King resigned as Commissioner in New York only to emerge as an extremely well paid something-or-other in Duncan’s Department of Education where he has hung out ever since.
King’s appointment insures that the Obama administration’s signature education policies of high stakes testing linked to insane and immoral teacher evaluations, mandated charter schools, union busting and ultimate privatization of the public school system will continue until Obama leaves office. And that,in turn, insures not merely massive teacher shortages as teachers flee the profession, but student misery and parental outrage; above all it means billions of dollars in public money to testing companies and millions more to a multitude of other “education reform” parasites. Lastly, it also insures Barack Obama’s standing as the worst education president in the history of the public school system, far more effective in the destruction of public schools than Reagan, Clinton, and both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush combined.

Leonie Haimson and Jamaal Bowman Teach Billionaire Created Fronts a Lesson

April 18, 2015

NY 1 images-1

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.

John King’s End of the Year Message to New Yorkers: I Serve Another

December 31, 2013

ilit k

Through the fall and early winter of 2013, New York State Education Commissioner John King held twenty “forums” in various parts of the state to discuss and explain both the mysteries and the miraculous qualities of the Common Core States Standards. With two exceptions, in each and every “forum” King was met with fury and disgust from an outraged citizenry that included both parents and teachers. These encounters with actual people affected by the Common Core were, in fact, so universally negative and hostile that King initially attempted to cancel the entire project — essentially a public relations campaign designed to alternately sweet talk or buffalo the rubes into acquiescence — and skedaddle back to the safety of his cosy office in Albany where untested experiments on other people’s children are far better received. King’s reaction to the anger at the imposition of the Common Core only served to reveal how far removed he is from the policies he imposes. After one such event in Poughkeepsie where the crowd grew raucous after King’s interminable lecture on the Common Core, the commissioner made the astounding statement that the rebellion had been orchestrated by “special interests”, presumably parents.

The two exceptions to unmitigated hostility and rejection were the “forums” that were held in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan respectively, the former was allowed to be commandeered by Michelle Rhees’, who were let in early and signed up for 44 of the 45 speaking slots; the latter was attended by many of the same paid advocates of SFNY, allied with the Gates-funded Educators 4 Excellence. Both groups did their best to turn the events into creepy cult like love fests for the Common Core and who, for good measure, at times equated the experimental idea with nothing less than a civil right. In short, these two “forums” were a cynical farce bearing no relation whatsoever to the people’s reaction to the Common Core imposition and all that goes with it.

So what did King learn from his eighteen encounters with a furious public whom he ostensibly works for and who pays his considerable salary?
Judging from his December 30 epistle, after “reflecting and evaluating,” what King has learned is a whole lot of nothing at all. Not from us, in any case if, arguably a great deal from his fans in SFNY and E4E.
As has been the practice of its devotees from before the Common Core was even completed, King, employing the pronoun “we”, continues to speak of the untested experiment as if mountains of evidence supported its miraculous powers and the only bump in the road to a “college and career ready” army of youngsters is a faulty implementation, due in part to limited resources.
“We understand, writes King, ” that implementation of the Common Core and teacher/principal evaluation in a time of limited resources has come with significant challenges.”

As if speaking of the incontrovertible flatness of the earth or the inevitability of death, King pronounces with utter certainty the “ essential” importance of the CC only to go on mixing
corporate speak (“moving forward”) with the outright, if often repeated, lie that the CCSS is the work of teachers and education experts, and not education entrepreneurs such as David Coleman and testing companies backed by and propagated by the Gates Foundation. ( For information on who really is responsible for the Common Core see the excellent work of Mercedes Schneider. )

Declares the King : “We know that moving forward with the Common Core is essential: study after study shows that our students lag behind in the knowledge and skills required for their future. The Common Core standards, designed by teachers and education experts from across the country – and shaped by many New York State educators – will help us do better.”

The humble King does concede that the Core (as we like to affectionately call it ) “didn’t invent good teaching, ” only to then boast that the “ CC is the first set of learning standards back-mapped grade by grade from what students need to know and be able to do in college and the workforce,” weaseling past the fact that, as Carol Burris has noted, kids don’t learn backwards, and as others have noted, other than menial jobs, we have no idea what the “workforce” of the future requires or will even look like.

But “we” know, somehow, that said workforce needs the Common Core.

King goes on and on and on about said need using the usual language about “rigor” and challenge, ” his way to saying, let the public be damned, “we” are doing what we will. One might conclude from King’s letter following his recent experience that John King, a highly educated and intelligent man, is incapable of learning. But to reach that conclusion one would first have to believe that John King was appointed to his position so that, against all evidence, he might serve the people of New York State; that King as commissioner would genuinely listen to and humanely react to the pained complaints of millions of parents and thousands of teachers so harshly affected by the policies he, himself, has championed. Like many others, I have reached a different conclusion: that the powers that put King in the position he now holds have no intention whatsoever of changing anything at all about the Common Core and King will serve them, not us, until he can do so no more.
Let the heavens fall but they will get their way.
And that is the real meaning of King’s end of the year message.
We need to prepare ourselves.
This struggle has yet to even begin.

On “Left Wing Paranoia” and the Conspiracy to Privatize Public Education

November 26, 2013

On the very same day the New York Times saw fit to publish an opinion piece in which Frank Bruni snidely and condescendingly dismissed the factually based claims of those who are paying close attention to who and what is fueling education reform as the “welling hysteria” of “left wing paranoiacs,” the Times Union published an article confirming the worst fears of those who have been monitoring the stealth campaign – or, if you will, conspiracy — to privatize the American public school system as rapidly, surreptitiously and insidiously as possible. The process is well under way and proceeds, as often as not, extra legislatively, undermining the remnant of our enfeebled democracy at every turn.

The Times Union article, titled “Wealth Backs Reform,” describes nothing less than a privately paid shadow agency of “advisors” to the New York State Regents. The backers of the group are virtually the same mega rich individuals and the same mega rich foundations that bankroll virtually every angle of “education reform” from massive semi-secret projects like the Common Core to phony teacher groups like Educators4Excellence, phony parent groups like Parent Revolution or public relations events like Education Nation. Again and again and again you find Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton’s of Wal-Mart infamy, and an array of neo-liberal foundations. These are not, as Bruni would have it, the hallucinations of “left-wing paranoiacs, who imagine some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats.”
They really are money-mad plutocrats and the campaign or conspiracy to privatize our education system is as real as the eyes in our heads for those who choose not to be blind.

The revelation of the shadow regents, like all the information surrounding “education reform” should shock and disgust all who believe in accountable, representative government. It should also sober up those who, like Bruni, seem to be drunk to the point of madness on the elixir of neo liberalism and plutocracy even as neo liberalism and plutocracy degrade and debase everything and everyone they touch.

Addendum: I learned only after I had written this piece that Bruni is a food critic, a fact that partially explains his complete ignorance of the subject on which he pontificated but does not excuse his arrogance. The fact that the New York Times allowed a food critic ample space in which to babble on about education is merely a continuation of their unstated but apparent belief that just about everyone is an expert on education excepting the people actually engaged in it on a daily basis, which is to say, teachers or, through their children, parents.

Post script: Herein is a link to an article in a mainstream news outlet reporting a secret meeting of millionaires and billionaires, among them Gates, Bloomberg and Jeb Bush, all whom are deeply involved and invested in “education reform. Mr. Gates claimed the meeting concerned the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which it may well have done. But anyone who has been in anyway following anything that has been done in education for the past decade knows the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation has bankrolled and largely dictated just about every aspect of it. They also know that Arne Duncan takes his marching orders from Gates and that the Common Core is largely the product of Gates and his Foundation. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive of “education reform” without the Foundation. This, despite the fact that Gates is a private citizen and the DOE is a vital public trust.
Given this, I would love to hear Mr. Bruni and anyone else who speaks so contemptuously of “left wing paranoia” explain this little gathering of concerned citizens.

John King’s Astounding Statement Should FInd Him Fired

October 13, 2013

John King:  Builder of airplanes in mid air

John King: Builder of airplanes in mid air

John King does not have the character to be a public official, never mind the Commissioner of Education for the state of New York.

If there was any resistance to the notion of King’s unsuitability to his position following his now petulant and now arrogant performance before parents in Poughkeepsie, it was surely eviscerated with his astounding statement announcing the suspension of any such remaining meetings. King cited unnamed “special interests” that have “co-opted” and “manipulated “ the forum and made “dialogue” impossible.
King showed very, very little interest in dialogue in his endless monologue on the wonders of the deceitfully named Common Core.
Behind any interpretation of King’s statement lie inescapable conclusions dripping with condescension and contempt with a little incoherence thrown in to spice things up. King’s statement insinuates that the Poughkeepsie parents are so weak and mindless that the opinions and beliefs they stated with such clarity and passion – much of it aimed at King’s and his fellow reformer’s beloved Common Core — were merely lines fed to them by unnamed “special interests, ” meaning, one assumes following reformer logic, the usual suspects, teacher unions. A problem: as Diane Ravitch has pointed out, much to the bewilderment and increasing rage of their members, both the NEA and the AFT strongly support the Common Core standards. Another way of interpreting King’s words: King perceives parents themselves as a “special interest” group – at least those who do not genuflecting before the Common Core.

King’s statement illuminates with horrifying clarity the mindset of corporate reformers: If someone opposes them and their ideas, they are but stooges manipulated and dominated by evil forces, pushed here and there with no more will than a balloon. Those who oppose them are “haters” protecting “the status quo” protecting the right of adults and betraying the children. They have to be wrong because the reformers are right. Always. Even when they are “building an airplane in mid flight” carrying your child.


King has no problem sharing a stage with insidious billionaire created front groups like Educators 4 Excellence, but has no time for parents driven to the end of their tether by the effects of the very policies King is championing. A public servant who believes it is his job and his right to lecture the public he is well paid to serve is no public servant at all and should not be in public service. King not only does not seem to understand this, he seems to resent it. It is very difficult to believe a man as narcissistic as is King is capable of change. At any rate, it is impossible to believe he will.
King must go. Now. The people who work for us cannot treat us this way.

Read King’s statement below and ask yourself this: have you ever in all your life read a statement from a public official as condescending as this?

Below is the full statement from Commissioner John B. King, Jr.:
“I was looking forward to engaging in a dialogue with parents across the state. I was eagerly anticipating answering questions from parents about the Common Core and other reforms we’re moving ahead with in New York State. Unfortunately, the forums sponsored by the New York State PTA have been co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to “dominate” the questions and manipulate the forum.
“The disruptions caused by the special interests have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments. Essentially, dialogue has been denied.
“In light of the clear intention of these special interest groups to continue to manipulate the forum, the PTA-sponsored events scheduled have been suspended. My office will continue to work with PTA to find the appropriate opportunities to engage in a real, productive dialogue with parents about our students and their education.
“Parents don’t deserve to be dominated and manipulated.”

Addendum: the Regents who are, in turn, “elected” by the State Assembly appoint King. If you wish to see King replaced by someone more suitable to the position and more respectful of the parents, children and teachers of New York State, Regent Chair Merryl Tisch and Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver are two key people to contact in addition to your own Assembly-person.

Sheldon Siver Contact info
District Office
250 Broadway
Suite 2307
New York, NY 10007
District Office Directions
Albany Office
LOB 932
Albany, NY 12248
Albany Office Directions

Merryl H. Tisch, Chancellor
At Large

Regents Office
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, N.Y. 12234 | Phone: (518) 474-5889