Posts Tagged ‘Harlem Success Academy’

SAT Scores Point to the Systemic Failure of Education Reform

September 5, 2015

SATs
So on Labor Day weekend the College Board releases SAT scores that show that said scores have slipped to the lowest level in ten years, with New York scores falling below the national average.

What to make of this? What to make of this in a nation where public education has long ago been hijacked by private citizens and absolutely dominated by their untested and unproven notions of “education reform”, all of it designed to make students “ college and career ready, “all of it centered on test scores as the ultimate criteria of both student learning and teacher “effectiveness.”

I, for one, find the use of test scores as anything more than one criterion among many to be as cynical and intellectually lazy as one can get. But that said, those who live by test scores should have the integrity to follow out their own logic. If their reforms are working, why after a decade are SAT scores going down? If they are
not, why are they allowed to continue ?
One would think that the people responsible for such failure, should they be reasonable and decent people, might be somewhat humbled at what they have essentially inflicted upon a generation of other peoples’ children.
But humility and decency are qualities in short supply amongst education reformers.

At any rate, New Yorkers were given a prelude to the SAT revelation – the ocean between the promises of reformer and the results of reform — in June 2014 with the startling news that not a single one of the “little test-taking machines
of Eva Moskowitz’s endlessly praised Harlem Success Academies was able to pass the test needed to enter New York City’s selective high schools.
Not one.
That news too should have been met with humility but, of course, it was simply buried, as this too is likely to be buried. But in the mean time you can rest assured that as you read this there are well paid mercenaries busy figuring out some angle with which to blame this failure on teachers and argue the need to double down on the insane policies ed reformers have been allowed to inflict on millions of American children.

A Busy Day for Billionaire Backed Front Groups

April 10, 2014

Yesterday was a busy beaver of a day for billionaire backed front Groups. Someone, somewhere, deep in the bowels of the New York wing of the billionaire based campaign to privatize the public school system, must have recently given the order: Get out the word. Now! Some people are beginning to understand what’s really going on.

How else can one explain not one but two volleys from two billionaire financed front groups ( and one newly minted at that ! ) on a single day ?
Early yesterday afternoon I received word of the advent of Higher Achievement New York, yet another deceitfully created billionaire backed front group passing itself off as “grass roots ” and roping in just enough innocent faces to fool those who don’t know any better.

“Higher Achievement New York described itself as “an organized platform” dedicated to higher standards that will explain what the new standards mean for children, and how they offer better preparation for college and careers, through social media advertising and lobbying.
“Our goal is to foster positive conversation that hasn’t existed around these standards,” said the group’s executive director Frank Thomas, who previously worked in communications for the city’s Department of Education and Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign.”

In plain English, Higher Achievement New York is a public relations project disguised as an education advocacy group.

As the standards belong to the Common Core and the Common Core is an untested experiment in progress, there is no legitimate way to explain how the Common Core can prepare anyone for anything at all. No one has any idea what, if any, effect it will have on students. And explain to whom, by the way ? The parents who have reacted to the experiment on their kids with volcanic rage at what it is doing to their children? To the teachers and administrators who have twisted themselves into pretzels attempting to implement the unholy mess ?

Perhaps they’ll find an audience in the fish and other sea creatures dwelling in New York Harbor. After all, they’re paid and doubtless paid well, to “ foster positive conversation” and they have a better chance these days with sea life than they do with most people not on their pay roll.

As Higher Achievement New York is comprised of more established and experienced fronts such as the Gates Foundation’s Educators4Excellence and Mike Bloomberg’s Students First NY, one should expect an extraordinarily high level of obfuscation, distortion, and shill like behavior.

Many have, in fact, seen a preview of their act. The two aforementioned fronts did their best to dominate the two New York City hearings of Commissioner John King, the first in Brooklyn where Students FirstNew York members were allowed to enter the hall early and hog up no less than 44 of the 45 speaker slots so as to create an impression of wild enthusiasm for the loathed Common Core utterly unrelated to reality outside the world of public relations. At the same time they shamelessly injected the issue of race into the mix, somehow insinuating that the privately owned, secretly created product of the Gates Foundation called Common Core was nothing less than a civil right. The following night when King appeared in lower Manhattan the two fronts showed up in tandem and one heard silly testimonial after silly testimonial from one 24 year old “ex teacher” (currently employed to “raise expectations” by StudentsFirstNY ) after another about how Common Core is the answer to just about every problem in the known universe, bizarre statements by E4E teachers of the almost supernatural power of the Common Core, and, most cynically, insinuations that rejection of the Common Core was merely disguised racism.

Well, with the coming of Higher Achievement New York, you can bet you’ll hear a whole lot more of that kind of stuff.
By the way, does the name Higher Achievement New York portend a Higher Achievement New Jersey? A Higher Achievement Connecticut, and on and on until all fifty states are achieving higher ?

A few hours after reading about Higher Achievement I arrived home to find a foot long glossy post card, not dissimilar in style from the one my then five-year-old daughter received in her name from Success Academy some years back, festooned with smiling and beautiful African American children, so beloved by the titans of Wall Street. Yesterday’s card bore my name and address and a dramatic shot of Andrew Cuomo giving a speech in front of a ChartersWork sign and came from something called Families For Excellent Schools.
The Families kindly sent the card to implore me to call up “education champion” Andrew Cuomo and thank him for the wondrous job he was doing with our schools. Part of Cuomo’s wonderful work was helping to pass laws that gave charter schools rights that public schools don’t have, such as the right for charter school entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz not merely not to pay rent, but to dictate the terms of whatever she wants when it comes to expanding her publically funded empire into already existing schools. In essence, what Cuomo did in terms of education was to give Mike Bloomberg a forth term as mayor. And then some.

CARD 1 G

The card made me sick just to look at it. And needless to say, it must have cost a fortune to create and another to do a mass mailing of the thing. This from the folks who can’t afford to pay rent.

CARD 2

As a teacher in PS 149, one of the schools that Cuomo essentially gave to Eva Moskowitz, the homage to the Tough Guy governor’s giveaway goes right to the gut. The giant post card seemed like a sick joke: a sick joke played on the neediest and most disadvantaged school kids in all of New York; a joke played on those who would be jettisoned for the comfort of Ms. Moskowitz’s charter children.

Moreover, how did these creepy people get my name and address ? Who gave it to them ? They got it the same way, I suspect, that other creepy people got my daughter’s name and address a few years back. And that way points to the public trust called the Department of Education and the manipulation thereof.

Disturbing stuff.

I decided to look up Families For Excellent Schools curious, when most families I know are scrapping to get by, as to what manner of families have this kind of money to spend on such gratuitous gestures to such odious figures as Andrew Cuomo. This is how they described themselves on their website: “Founded in 2011 by public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools is a community organization that fights for every child’s
right to an excellent education. Through organizing and political
work, we work to amplify the voices of families over the din of
electioneering and special interest campaigning. Rather than speak on
behalf of public school parents, Families for Excellent Schools
empowers parents to speak for themselves.”

Parents speaking for themselves! How touching!

I looked a little further still and found one of the families for excellent schools was none other than Walton family of Wal-Mart fame, not widely known for being particularly fond of people speaking for themselves.

I looked further and found out that Families for Excellent Schools shares an address with the New York division of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

A question: Weren’t front groups, for excellent reasons, once generally regarded as sleazy, unethical and even sinister enterprises?

What has been left almost entirely unexamined in the privatization campaign is, not only the extreme proliferation of billionaire-backed fronts, but their strange, silent metamorphosis from something to be shunned to something to be accepted and even celebrated.
Is not the purpose of a front to deceive? To trick? To pass yourself off as something you are not so as to scam credulous people of good will ? Are fronts not a con job?

Of course, they are. Fronts are bad faith incorporated.

And yet, multiplying like malignant cells, the massive money behind “education reform” has produced more fronts than one can keep up with. Higher Achievement New York is merely the latest. And none seem to betray their utter amorality.

There will be more, to be sure. We are dealing with souls to whom millions are meaningless and whose ruthlessness, sense of entitlement, and narcissism knows no bounds. The only thing they know how to do is to dominate by any means they can. And they believe it is their right to do so.

They are, after all, unimaginably rich and like the charter schools they hold so dear, they have rights that people like you and I do not.

Moskowitz Again Uses Children As Political Props and Tabloids Cheer

March 5, 2014
Moskowitz  surrounded  by  some of her 7000 supporters, some as young as five.

Moskowitz surrounded by some of her 7000 supporters, some as young as five.

For the third time in as many years, Eva Moskowitz, czarina of the Success Academy charter school empire and heroine of the campaign to privatize our public school system, has used school children during school hours as political props and done so with absolute impunity. On the contrary, judging from the ecstatic headlines of today’s tabloids, you’d think the employment of school children for political gain is a noble act.

The first time Moskowitz politicized children was in the aftermath of a lawsuit filed jointly by the NAACP and the UFT based on the historic case of Brown vs Board of Education. Both the NAACP and the UFT filed against what they perceived were “separate and unequal “ facilities in the school building Harlem Success Academy, “ co- located” with PS 149 in Harlem. The case is still pending. In protest of the suit, in an act of political surrealism increasingly common in the privatization campaign, Moskowitz led a group of almost entirely African American students to the Federal Building on 125th in Harlem where she held a rally against the NAACP in front of the statue of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

The second such use of children was when Moskowitz employed hundreds of students as ambulatory human advertisements for mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota by marching them over the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of a school day.

Yesterday, Moskowitz went further still, much further still, bussing thousands of children to Albany as part of a rally organized by something called Families for Excellent Schools.
Who paid for such an event?
I have a hunch if was the same people who are lining the re-election campaign coffers of Governor Andrew Cuomo who — Surprise! Surprise! — appeared at the children’s crusade rally to express his love for charter schools, if not for adequately funding public schools.

Meanwhile, the press media went gaga over Eva’s event, with not a single questioning word about the use of children for political gain.
It should be noted that any NYC public school principal or teacher who attempted such a stunt would be removed from her position post haste with ringing condemnations of child abuse and the like from the very same New York Daily News and New York Post. It should be noted that, unlike the Divine Ms. Moskowitz, NYC principals are one and all beholden to rules such as the following from the Chancellors Regulations: Section 1. C. 2, which refers to activities during school hours: “Personnel may not be involved in any activities, including fundraising, on behalf of any candidate, candidates, slate of candidates OR POLITICAL ORGANIZATION/ committee during working hours.”

It should be noted that NYC teachers are expressly forbidden from as much as wearing a political button and are liable to face disciplinary charges if they do.

It should be noted that charter schools such as Success Academy never tire of promulgating the fiction that they are public schools rather than private organizations unaccountable to public oversight that have the great good fortune of being publicly funded.

Moskowitz rationalizes using children in her overtly political actions by claiming that the children, some as young as five or six, are engaging, not in scripted play-acting or political brainwashing — but rather, in civics lessons. As far as I can see, this absurdity – along with the presumption that children can truly comprehend the complexities of the assault on public education and the place of charter schools in this battle — appears to be completely unquestioned by the press. Consider the New York Times account of the event which, while more truthful than the nonsense in the Post and Daily News, makes no mention whatsoever of Moskowitz’s unseemly use of children.
Under the absurd banner of the “War on Charters”, the Post has no problem insinuating that that children bussed to the state capital were in fact “supporters” of charter schools.

Kids Are Adults too.

Kids Are Adults too.

Indeed, in their silly comparison between the sizes of Moskowitiz’s rally and that of Bill de Blasio’s rally for universal pre-K, both the News and the Post seem to consider the kids as you would adults.

390-rallies-0304

It’s hard to say what is more disgusting: Moskowitz’s shameless use of children enlisted for the building of her publicly funded empire ? Cuomo’s shameless pandering to her billionare backers and contempt for the millions of non-charter school non -billionaire backed students and parents ? Or the media’s celebration of both ?

Meanwhile, there is Bill de Blasio, continuing to call for funding for universal pre-K, a program that will unquestionably improve the lives of millions of children, especially the poor, and simply the right thing to do, being jeered and lambasted in the press for drawing a smaller crowd than that of the bussed in kids.

I look at this kind of stuff and feel ashamed to be an American.

Thanks to Michael Fiorillo for his help with this post.

NBC News: How Can You Trust A News Agency To Get its Facts Straight When It Can’t Even Get Your Name Straight?

February 28, 2014

NBC

Granted, at this point in time anyone who gets their nightly news from television is a damned fool and deserves whatever slop is dished out to them. And you can rest assured, whatever the subject, it will be slop. Still, one expects a modicum of something that somewhat resembles real journalism, even from NBC, producer of the risible weeklong billionaire backed infomercial for public school privatization called “Education Nation, ” featuring Goldie Hawn.

This afternoon, following in the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s welcome announcement that NYC charter schools would no longer automatically receive whatever they asked for, as was the case under the endless reign of Mike Bloomberg, I was asked by my union to speak to the press, in this case, NBC News. This I did, trying to articulate as best I could the miserable and degrading experience of “co-locating “ in a building with Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy. Indeed, my school has the unfortunate distinction of being the host in which Success Academy first began to metastasize. Soon, of course, Eva’s chain was spreading all over the city even as it slowly devoured our building, taking at first a few rooms here and there and then swallowing up an entire floor. In this painful process we lost our music room and with our music program. (It’s impossible to gauge such a loss in the life of a child but know it is immense. ) Gone soon was our computor room. Occupational therapy and physical therapy were now delivered in hallways, stairways or rooms formerly known as closets. Whatever. Storage rooms were suddenly designated classrooms. I know. I had one. Lunch schedules were reconfigured so kids were forced to eat lunch soon after they arrived. Without a word to the parents and community of our school, the school yard was rendered largely useless by the imposition of a strange, completely impractical astroturf section.

An entire school and community was distorted and contorted almost beyond recognition to satisfy Eva’s rapacious hunger for ever more space as well as Mike Bloomberg’s mad delight in delivering it, whatever the cost to the dignity of the students of our school. The atmosphere was instantly poisonous and, despite the good will and good intentions of a couple of Harlem Success business managers (who seem to run the show) , remains so. From the beginning, we were treated like unwelcome guests if not out right intruders in our own building, an attitude that was not lost on the children of either camp.

This did not come of thin air but from the top.

Year after year there was more and more encroachment; more and more often would the students of Harlem Success Academy be eerily marched by the children of my school without as much as looking at them, as if the act of making eye contact with such riff raff would somehow contaminate the charter school “scholars.” (Note: Eva ignorantly insists her teachers address their students as “scholars”, apparently not realizing that the two words mean very different things. ) Far more often than not, the refusal to recognize the common humanity of another was also shared by Eva’s ever-transient teaching brigade. It is unnerving, I assure you, to be treated as if you are invisible.
And soon enough began the annual ritual of receiving those students who Harlem Success Academy deemed not up to snuff. Out their door they went, in our door they came.
As a truly public school laboring under the ethical obligation of educating every student, regardless of how difficult, troubled or torn, such is our duty.
Not so charter schools which have the luxury of bouncing whom they will when they.

And bounce they do.

One can go on and on but I trust you get the point.

None of this would you have any chance of knowing from NBC’s report/ad for Harlem Success Academy which portrays the chain, not as the spoiled child that can afford to pay Moskowitz almost half a million dollars a year in salary, or spend more than a million dollars a year on super slick recruitment propaganda, but as a suddenly “homeless” orphan punished by a thoughtless and cruel mayor, bent on punishing them for their success. Note: Like thousands and thousands of New York parents, my daughter received in the mail a slick, professionally produced glossy postcard enticing her to enter into a brand new Success Academy that was to open in my downtown neighborhood. (It didn’t.) My daughter was five years old at the time. The Department of Education thought it a fine idea to give her address and the addresses of thousands of children out to help build Ms. Moskowitz’s burgeoning empire.

Anything for Eva.

From the beginning, a public relations campaign plowed on in several fronts, one slicker than the next. There was the full-length documentary, The Lottery. Then there was the egregious book Class Warfare in which author Steven Brill, pitting one school against another, praised Harlem Success Academy to the heavens as the same time he disgraced himself by writing of a teacher no teacher in my school had ever known. No problem!

But O, those tests scores, you may say! Do they not make up for everything ? Of that consider this timely piece.

Back to NBC News. With a few annual exceptions or in emergencies, it has been many years since I have watched “the news” on TV on a regular basis. Still, I am very aware of its effects, mostly horrific, on many of my fellow citizens. We are, after, the nation that twice elected Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (kind of) and Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States, a feat of political imbecility unimaginable without the influence of TV.) Because of its insidious Education Nation, NBC seems especially contemptible to me.
Still, tonight’s “reporting” on De blasio’s decision — “The War on Charter Schools “ — was so preposterously lopsided as to be absurd, even by the absurd standards of the corporate media’s reportage on corporate education reform campaigns. The only word for it is “propaganda.” Here is my always-prescient friend and colleague NYC Educator’s take on the “report. ”

My twenty second cameo under a name not mine was meant to serve, apparently, as proof of giving both sides of the co-location story, regardless of the fact that the charter school advocates were given many, more times the time I or any other public school advocate was given.

What it really serves to prove, however, is the utter shoddiness of NBC News. Consider this: My name is Patrick Walsh, a name I clearly stated and even spelled out for the NBC reporter. In the report I am called Patrick Murphy, a fine name, to be sure, but one that does not belong to me nor I to it.
My question: how is it possible to trust a news agency to get their facts right when they not only produce slick, poisonous garbage like Education Nation, but when they can’t even get someone’s name straight ?

Does Steven Brill’s ‘Class Warfare’ Pass Muster? Not if You Care About the Truth

April 24, 2012

http://www.alternet.org/education/155053

In an attempt to discredit public schools and the teachers who teach in them, Brill ends up mostly discrediting himself.