Friday, March 13, 2015

East Village students, parents and teachers join in protesting Cuomo’s education reforms

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

Between chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Andrew Cuomo has got to go!” and “Save Our Schools,” parents, teachers and students marched and rallied at the Earth School (600 E. Sixth St., which also houses PS 64 and the Tompkins Square Middle School) yesterday afternoon to express their displeasure with the governor’s budgetary plans.

The proposed budget, which would be decided upon by April 1, would increase the focus on high-stakes standardized testing, and teachers feel that the state would be intruding on their classroom teaching methods. There would also be increased funding for charter schools, which traditionally do not educate the same number of higher-need students.

The parents I spoke to expressed fear that their kids’ public schools would continue to be underfunded and that programs that are much-needed e.g., arts, therapy, libraries would suffer.

I spoke with Fatima Geidi and her son, Jamir Geidi (who is in third grade at the Earth School), about their experiences. Jamir had been at a charter school, Success Academy, for a few years and his mother said she was fed up with the lack of teaching and proper learning at the charter school.

She felt that her son was taught only what was necessary to take and pass standardized tests, not to think critically, or for himself. That he was, essentially, a test score and that the charter school was a test-prep center. And enrolled in public school her son (who has special-learning needs) now has social studies classes, something he wasn’t taught at charter school. She was particularly irritated that Cuomo failed his own standardized tests (the Bar) four times but mandates that public school funding should be cut on underperforming schools.

While I only attended the local Avenue B rally, it was part of a city- and statewide call to action. You can read more about it here.


Ursula Lux said...

Public schooling has been under attack for some time. Private interests (the Koch brothers among them) have been actively working to undermine public education with the end being privatization of schools. This is for no other reason than for future profits. They may hide behind ideology like ending "entitlements" and the failure of "liberal government", but they are fueled by nothing more than greed. Forgive my soapbox, but I personally feel that educating its people is the moral obligation of a society.

Anonymous said...

As a parent it is cool to see one of the best teachers I've had the pleasure of interacting with here on evgrieve. Cuomo's an evil rich kid and the worst is yet to come.

Anonymous said...

My son is also a charter school student at Success. Our family lives in the East Village. We looked at all of the schools in our area/district as well as others out of district. We ended up going to Success because the curriculum was rigorous and seemed to be the most challenging. My son is reading 2 years ahead of the expected reading level of DOE public schools. His math scores are incredibly high, and he is stretching those critical thinking muscles in chess class (which isn't offered in DOE schools, btw).

Here's what really bugs me about "the opposition" to Charter schools: everything is couched with Charters taking over and kicking out traditional public schools as if they are a threat to the fabric of education. We don't want to lose any schools. But we do want all of the schools to succeed. And that's not happening in public schools across the city and across the country.

How many administrations (Dem or Rep) promise education reform? Every single one. Research it. But how many ever succeed with the reform? None of them. It's a hot button political topic.

Charter schools offer an alternative to the failing system. They aren't for everybody. That's fine. We're not trying to cram them down your throats. But for a lot of kids, they work, and they work well. The opposition to the charter school movement has been around for decades, and it was drummed up by teacher unions who were losing jobs to non-union teachers in these newer schools. That's all it was ever about.

We're not taking precious funds away from DOE public school kids. There is a monetary amount from the state budget for every single publicly educated child in the state. Hypothetically, suppose my son's school went away tomorrow and we integrated back into the school system. The same money would be there for my kid from the state. Because Charter schools ARE public schools.

Also, to clear up another misconception about money: our school is privately funded through a corporation (as are all charters) because it's the law. And that is money that can pay for this amazing education my child is getting. It's not the city's money, it's not all state money.

And about the standardized testing: My child is tested frequently to see how he is performing, against the school, against the network and against city and statewide public schools. It's a great barometer to see how he's learning. It's not all he is learning though. The critical thinking and comprehension that is so important to development is apparent as well. Some parents might not want their kids to get tested and that's their choice. But if you look at high school, college and many work situations, testing is the only measurement. I'm fine with my kid getting tested at regular intervals because I know that's what he has to look forward to for at least 15 more years, maybe longer. At least he will be prepared.

Haters are gonna hate, but I wish we lived in a society that didn't always make it an either/or scenario. Why can't we do our thing, you do yours and we wish each other the best? Where we support each other and help when we can, instead of trying to tear down and break apart? I don't want our schools to take over traditional public schools. But I do want to see those schools succeed. I want there to be less failing schools. I want all of the kids to have the same stellar chance at a great education that my son got, and I don't care where it's coming from, so long as it works.


Anonymous said...

Can't charter schools expel undesirable students? Public schools don't have that recourse.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

March 13, 2015 at 3:19 PM

Hedge fund creeps Carl Icahn, Paul Tudor Jones and Dan Loeb, together spent over $10 million on lobbying and state election campaigns (including Cuomo's) in 2014 so as to secure their charter rent deal. Then $4.3 million was spent by a charter school PAC to attack State Senate Dems and Bill De Blasio and purchase control of NY State
Senate education policy. Their PAC The PAC also attacked candidates who supported publicly
funded elections.

Sorry if your plea to not be a hater falls on deaf ears.

Anonymous said...

Charter schools are nothing more than cherrypicked students, Social Darwinism at its worst, and classic example of "haves and havenots".

There were no charter schools when I was a kid and I think it's safe to say graduation rates were higher then ('70s and '80s) than ever since charter schools were created.

Cuomo has to go for the simple fact that NYC still has a pathetic $8.75 per hour minimum wage in the face of Seattle, Chicago etc. voting to raise their minimum wage.

DrBOP said...

WOW.....failed the Bar Exam F-F-F.....I can`t say it......FOUR TIMESéÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉéÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉééÉéééÉÉÉéÉÉéÉéÉééééééÉéÉÉéééÉé

Crazy Eddie said...

Eva Moskowitz was once my NYC Council Person. Back then, she was for rent reform as in strengthening the Rent Stabilization law and for tenant protections. Now she’s for “education reform” with her almost half million dollar salary. She was a fake back then, she is a fake now, she’s just a corporate shill, just like Michelle Rhee and David Boies. Just follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Back in the sixties you saw the hype "Save Free TV" it was Network opposition to free market competition from cable watch much Network these days? This is Union opposition to competition the sandbox is big enough for both the public and charter systems the issue is over a parents right to choose which is best for their child

Sidney Falco said...

Right, the sweet smell of Success. I don't think that March 13, 2015 at 3:19 PM is who (s)he pretends to be. It reads like it was written by a flack in a PR firm.

marjorie said...

Thanks so much for this coverage, Grieve! Great piece and great pics, Stacie. Our kids are so much more than test scores. High-stakes testing hurts kids and schools AND our society (and, btw, I'm not opposed to tests or accountability or rigor -- I object to tests being used for punitive purposes for which they were never designed; they're supposed to be a broad picture of how a school is doing, and instead, they're having very targeted results).

I wish all our kids could have the benefit of a caring, collaborative, citizenship-oriented education at a truly diverse school (like the four East Village progressives) that respects all kinds of learning styles. Every time a cheating scandal sweeps Bronx Science or Stuyvesant and everyone is SHOCKED, SHOCKED, I have to laugh: When you teach kids --implicitly or explicitly -- that only test scores matter, of course they cheat.

Walter said...

Andrew is no Mario.

Anonymous said...

March 14, 2015 at 8:58 AM

Hedge funds like investing in charter schools because it allows them to take advantage of a very big tax credit. They can combine this tax credit with other tax breaks while they collect interest on any money they lent. All this allows them to double their money in seven years.

Big real estate benefits by promoting charter schools and helping them buy or rent property in inner city communities.

That's why a big Wall Street gala netted $7.75 million for Success Academy last year.

My parents paid for our private school (Catholic grammar) and that's how it should be. Public money for public schools, not private academies.

Stacie Joy said...

Additional info from parents and parents association members!

From Marco Battistella, Earth School parents association co-president, Community Education Council co-secretary for District 1, and participant in the PTA of Tompkins Square Middle School, who has two kids, a daughter in sixth grade at Tompkins Square Middle and a son in second grade at the Earth School:

There are many problematic issues in Cuomo’s current budget proposal (as well in Cuomo’s public school policies in general). The three big ones are:
1. By tying children’s test score with teacher evaluation Cuomo is pushing schools to become test-prep machines and stop being places where real education and learning take place.
2. Cuomo’s call for an increase in charter schools is also detrimental to public education. Charter schools divert public funds into corporations without any meaningful accountability. If implemented properly and in a much smaller scale, charter schools could have been a good idea. Their original conception was calling for schools that could lead some experimentation that later could be applied to public schools, it also allowed for lifting of certain mandates, again with the promise of allowing the findings to instruct new polices. Unfortunately they have become simply a union-busting enterprise and a drain of public resources dearly needed by all public schools.
3. Last (but not least) is the trend that Albany has taken and that Cuomo is supporting to slowly but steadily de-fund public education. This is done in many ways, but any school administrator that has been around for a number of years will tell you that the amount of resources available to schools has been reduced over the past years with the effect of cutting into services and programs that enrich education, and affecting particularly families with the least resources.

My son has not reached standardized testing yet. My daughter took the third-grade test (I had not yet been able to organize a sizable opt-out movement by that time), but she opted out of tests on fourth and fifth grade and will opt out this year. Following a parent request, her school organized meaningful tests (that the teachers can see and use to inform their instruction) as an alternative to state-mandated tests. I have nothing against tests in general, but I feel I must refuse to participate in policies whose only intent is to remove real learning from public education. Public education is a fundamental pillar of any democracy, by undermining it we are undermining democracy itself.

Stacie Joy said...

From Paulino Aboitiz, Earth School parents association co-president, who has a 5-year-old son in kindergarten at the Earth School:

Cuomo’s plan sucks! Why?

1—50% of teachers’ evaluations will now be based on HSS test scores. That’s up from 20%. The other 50%, observations, will be done by independent evaluator, not the principal. A teacher must be rated effective in both areas to get an overall rating of effective. Two ineffective evaluations and the teacher will be fired.

2—A teacher must get an overall rating of effective five years in a row to get tenure.

3—Cuomo proposes raising the cap on the number of charter schools from 460 to 560. With other caps being reduced, which impact the SUNY system, there may be as many as 350 additional charter schools. Charter schools, even though they’re backed by billionaires, take public money and spaces but act like private schools.

4—Cuomo proposes closing the lowest-performing schools, firing their teachers and administrators, and redirecting the students to charter schools.

5—Cuomo will give tax credits to those corporations and wealthy individuals who donate to private schools, and thus, siphoning off tax revenue from public schools.

Remember, Cuomo attended only elite private schools, and has no idea of what the life of a public school is really all about! He continues to withhold two billion dollars owed to New York’s public schools under the Fiscal Equality settlement. This was a court finding that determined our governor had failed to meet the state’s constitutional obligation for funding schools. Needless to say, those two billion dollars would go a long way to help fund our city's schools.