New Paltz School Board Member Urges Boards of Education to Vote No on NYSSBA Resolutions – updated 10/24/14 with New Paltz BOE decisions

New Paltz School Board of Education member Steve Greenfield posted the following two write-ups on facebook and has asked for them to be shared throughout New York State prior to the New York State School Boards Association convention beginning on October 26, 2014.  I (Jolyn) will be asking the Kingston City School District Board of Education to change their support of NYSSBA resolutions 4, 9 and 10 at the BOE meeting tonight.

Update 10/24/14:  See end of post for results from New Paltz School Board of Education meeting on 10/15/14.

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Fellow School Board Members of New York State, parents, taxpayers, and all concerned:

My name is Steve Greenfield, and I am a member of the New Paltz Board of Education, currently in my second term. The following is the result of research I have conducted into unusual activities being conducted by the New York State School Boards Association, and numerous press releases and public statements by NYSSBA officers and paid staff that run contrary to what our polls have indicated are our actual opinions, goals, and interests. This is not the opinion of the New Paltz Board Of Education, although I have brought it to their attention for consideration at our next meeting.

Concerns about NYSSBA’s independence, and its role as our advocate, came to me while reading the On Board newsletters and numerous press releases, and public statements issued by various officers and staff that I have found in the media. Over the last year there has been a preponderance of content supporting testing, Common Core, data mining, and related hardware and software purchasing as priorities for New York public schools. This stands in stark contrast to the widely disseminated information we’ve seen in which many, perhaps most, school boards are decrying and otherwise challenging those very themes, not seeking financial and training support in implementing them. We have also been subjected to a series of “pulse poll” questions that are actually push-polls, in that they are on themes upon which NYSSBA is already acting, as if seeking a citation of membership support after the fact.

The most significant case of this is a new NYSSBA subsidiary they created called “Student Achievement Institute,” a pro-testing, pro-data mining, pro-Common Core road show that we are invited to attend “free of charge,” that NYSSBA states on its materials is funded by The State of New York, and features Bill Daggett, a prominent education expert who is recently speaking on behalf of several corporate-backed astroturf “reform foundations” that have proliferated in recent years, as the principal presenter and “myth buster.” Tim Kremer, Executive Director of NYSSBA, confirmed to me via e-mail that this entire program is indeed state funded. Given that SED is currently in receipt of at least $19 million in private foundation funding from sources like the Gates and Helmsley foundations, it’s hard to know full sourcing on the funds. Mr. Kremer refused to provide breakdown details, despite the fact that, as a member, I have a right to full disclosure. These NYSSBA-promoted forums feature no range of input. They are sales pitches, and not even attempting to conceal that. The printed materials and slideshows are the products of Daggett, openly labeled as such, not NYSSBA, although NYSSBA distributes them through their (should be “our”) website. NYSSBA has accepted funding from New York State and corporate lobbyists to lobby us, rather than being the member-responsive lobby for us to those agencies. The operating model has been stood on its head. They are no longer our agency. Perhaps they never were, but let’s stick to the present, and what is known now. Here are the two documents in question: http://www.nyssba.org/…/…/slides-sai-common-core1-032914.pdf and http://www.nyssba.org/…/…/slides-sai-common-core2-032914.pdf

Research also has me concerned about the name “Student Achievement Institute.” That name is in wide play in these corporate-backed astroturf foundations. For example: “Student Achievement Partners”http://achievethecore.org/about-us The literature summaries indicate they are all sourced to Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the rest of the usual interconnected suspects with dozens of names and shared funding sources. Example: Predominant Teacher Evaluation Program Will Reflect New Common Core State Standards
10/29/2013 | PR Newswire Helmsley Charitable Trust makes a $3 million grant to align Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching to the Common Core State Standards. “The project will include a field study of the FfT and the CCSS Instructional Practice Guides, a new set of tools developed by Student Achievement Partners to support teachers in making the instructional shifts called for by the CCSS.” The name “Student Achievement Institute” yet again, seemingly of national scope, with the same mission: “All ASAI initiatives include a series of leadership team workshops at which participants learn how to develop an organizational structure and engage educators and community organizations in a series of focused discussions leading to a data-based and accountable strategic plan. Teams are support by a robust online program management system that provides student data, a steering team manual, and discussion facilitation tools. After each local discussion, teams use the online system to submit various reports to ASAI which are evaluated with written feedback provided.” http://www.asainstitute.org/

Compare that to what the NYSSBA Student Achievement Institute says it’s doing: “What does the Institute Offer? The Institute offers an array of free trainings and resources to New York school board members. Regional hands-on training workshops will take place in Lake Placid, Buffalo, Syracuse, Plainview and Albany. These workshops will help board members understand what student achievement and college and career readiness mean today and what the successes and challenges of Common Core implementation in school districts look like in practice. Other program offerings include: Monthly board meeting agenda items; Sample policies; Polling and research; Clearinghouse of news, innovations and best practices about educational reform; Webinars and/or instructional videos; Social media Innovation awards.”

As you can see, these people have the money, and they get what they pay for. The Helmsley Foundation, cited for the $3 million grant above, is also a $3.3 million donor to the NY SED’s private “think tank” that is designing APPR and Common Core implemenation systems and manufacturing data with which to sell them. Perhaps you saw some of the articles about this, currently privately funded at $19 million, and rising.http://www.timesunion.com/…/Education-reform-backed-by-the-… andwww.nytimes.com/…/free-advisers-cost-ny-education-dept-crit… and this one, which shows the scope of this program is national.http://www.washingtonpost.com/…/secret-policymaking-on-sch…/Compare and contrast these mainstream media investigatory accounts, that include the viewpoints of supporters and opponents, with the NYSSBA report on the exact same thing. To NYSSBA, this is the greatest thing since the invention of typesetting. Its gushing praise is cartoonish. But that should come as no surprise, given that NYSSBA is now on the same payroll as the people and institutions upon whom they’re reporting:http://www.nyssba.org/index.php…

Lastly, so as not to be too burdensome with the full scope of my research thus far (as if I have not already risked that, but due diligence would not be possible without proper citation), I will include this NYSSBA press release from September 2nd, which refers to a Pulse Poll survey from July, in which the headline and the actual poll results are in complete contradiction with each other. This and other polls, including the one from last week that they invalidated after getting results they didn’t like, were intended to create after-the-fact validation for the Student Achievement Institute, which was founded in January with no membership input whatsoever, and to promote three related resolutions we are being asked to approve at the convention at the end of October that support additional Common Core training programs for teachers, and increased use of test scores in APPR. If you read the those three proposals (4, 9, and 10) in the resolution book), you will see that like any push poll, they claim membership survey support for why they’re being proposed, in the text of the resolution, rather than in the rationale section. http://www.nyssba.org/…/poll-training-on-common-core-imple…/ And just this week, NYSSBA was running a poll that asked us whether we felt Common Core would help, hurt, or do nothing for education in New York, and whether we felt most parents in our districts supported or opposed Common Core. The answers for both questions were negative at around 80%. NYSSBA removed and then reposted the poll, after which the results remained about the same. They then killed the poll, and put out an announcement that if any of us had seen the results, we shouldn’t talk about it, because NYSSBA considers them invalid because of the size of the turnout. However, the questions were very similar to those from the July poll — the one NYSSBA lied about in its Sept. 2nd press release — just inverted, in which questions about school board support for Common Core produced results at the same percentiles as those in the poll the cancelled, with 23 percent believing their board would benefit from training in Common Core data-based decision making, twenty percent would welcome board training in Common Core communication strategies, and 12 percent would like additional training in resource allocation for implementing Common Core. In the instance of the first poll, NYSSBA put out a false statement. They declared the second poll invalid and requested our silence on its results.

They shouldn’t get it. They should get an earful — from us, parents, taxpayers, everyone in the pipeline of who we are and what we do as school boards. All of our dues, several million dollars per year, come from our taxpayers. We have a legal fiduciary responsibility to assure that their money is going to what we think it’s for — advocacy for, and public information on the desires of the membership, not the manipulation of those desires, and misrepresentation of them to the SED, elected officials, and the public. NYSSBA is taking us for a ride. They are taking other people’s money and literature to lobby us on behalf of things those people want, instead of being our lobby to others on behalf of what we want. The two goals are in direct conflict with each other. We need to take a stand on this, and get that stand out to the other school boards, the press, and the public as quickly as possible, so that they may have this information before the last meeting at which boards can make decisions on how they will vote at the convention, and any other actions they may wish to take.

I am advising our board, and all boards, to vote no on resolutions 4, 9, and 10 at the NYSSBA convention at the end of the month (all are affirmations of Common Core and testing — the first seeking additional CC training for teachers, the second asking the state to make proficiency in Common Core a requirement of its teaching license examination, and the third seeking greater application of student testing in APPR), and to demand that a) NYSSBA’s “Student Achievement Institute” cease all activities, and be dissolved, and have all materials for Student Achievement Institute forums supplied by outside agencies returned to those agencies and deleted from the NYSSBA website; and b) refuse to pay further dues until all unexpended funds from outside sources, be they private donations, or the State of New York, that are dedicated to lobbying of our own membership on curricular and assessment matters, are returned, and a promise made that no more will be sought or accepted. As part of that, we should demand that NYSSBA open its books, so we can assess to what degree our agency is being funded by stakeholders in our decisions on their policies and products.

I ask that you consider this information, and action to take upon it, at your next meeting, so that it will be in effect in time for the convention, which starts on October 26th. You may also wish to consider joining in with resolution(s) from the floor related to these matters. Please disseminate this information widely. Thank you very much.

Steve Greenfield
Member, New Paltz BOE

 

More on the NYSSBA convention.

Sorry this isn’t written in “dry school board information” style. I’m angry. At least I’ve suppressed my instinct to cuss. We’re taking close to 10 grand from our taxpayers every year to finance this, and statewide, scho
ol boards are collectively taking over $5 million. And that’s before you add in how much taxpayers statewide are spending on getting all of us to the convention, with its resolutions written to create evidence of school board backing for all this, and back home again. I will continue to do this research on every single featured presenter at the convention.

Many times I’ve heard people say “it’s not so much Common Core itself, but its use in assessments, and other ancillary issues.” My position has always been “Common Core has always been about those ancillary issues, and not anything known about the curriculum and instructional systems, because the ancillary issues are the gold mine.” One might as well say “I have no problem with the extraction of oil, just with the harm caused by burning it.” And so, with A & B inseparable, and therefore really not A & B, the issue is Common Core itself. And now I have even more information about NYSSBA’s role in promoting, as evidenced by who they’re bringing in to convince us. I also note that Diance Ravitch or other very public, and well-qualified, dissenters are nowhere to be found at the convention. Not a single one.

Take a look at this graphic: http://www.iste.org/standards/common-core . It came to my attention because I was researching the CV of a keynote speaker, Kate Kemker, at the upcoming NYSSBA convention, who is scheduled to deliver a ringing endorsement of Common Core, and how to best implement it. Her CV was not provided by NYSSBA — I went to her LinkedIn Page. This is what she’s been doing for a living. She is from the board of directors if ISTE, and has previously given herself the title of “Visionary” at Florida Digital Education. The link is their Common Core policy statement — but it has nothing to do about Common Core as educational policy, and everything to do with Common Core as a taxpayer-funded tech puchase bonanza. Big surprise, huh?

Take note: “Billions of dollars estimated implementation cost at the state level.” Graphs showing way too high a proportion of professional time being spent on assessments. Need to reduce that with massive tech purchases. Unsubstantiated claims of massive outcome improvements by giving kids laptops, and other tech aquisitions by schools. “Next Step: Implement CC and ISTE standards together. What are ISTE standards? The ISTE standards are the definitive standards for learning, teaching, and leading in the digital age. Contact ISTE today!”

This is who the organization that’s supposed to be our lobby, and by extension, our voters/taxpayers’ lobby, is bringing to explain to us the wonders of CC. It is not about CC. It has never been about CC. It has never been about improving the way we rate teachers, and to improve or terminate them if they’re found lacking. It is about increasing the legislation of tech purchasing from for-profit firms. It is no different that what underlies the drive for charter schools. We already know they don’t provide improved outcomes for students. But they do provide improved outcomes for investors. CC has the exact same money trail. The only thing proven about CC as a product is that it requires legislating billions of dollars from taxpayers to tech firms.

Whenever pivate interests are promoting public policy, there are always two shoes, not one, and when you reach for the first, the second always drops — right inside your wallet. I’m legally bound to be our taxpayers’ trustee, and in that role, I’m required to do these investigations, and publish the results.

We don’t need our share of those billions of dollars to go to computer systems. Our buildings are in terrible disrepair, actually dangerous, and because of the expense, and the fact that state law requires putting that expense to the local voters for approval, we can’t fix them. I know this is true throughout New York State. But the state is mandating that we spend that money on computer systems by mandating a curriculum that can’t be operated without them.

And the executives of our own lobby, whose quarter-million dollar compensations are paid with over $5 million per year in school board membership dues, and all of that paid by taxpayers, are in on it. That’s the bottom line — literally.

Additional CV citation on Dr. Kemker. http://etc.usf.edu/fde/ On her LinkedIn page, she actually gave her title at FDE as “visionary,” so I’m assuming the vision statement, and its elucidation on this page, are hers.

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Update following New Paltz School Board of Education meeting on 10/15/14 (from Steve Greenfield):

Going out to many school boards today. Please help by sending to your own school board.

On Wednesday, the New Paltz CSD Board of Education, by unanimous 7-0 vote in all cases, took the following positions on resolutions being presented at the NYSSBA annual business meeting being held on Monday, Oct. 27th at the convention in New York City. We also adopted a resolution intended for introduction on the floor, permission for which will require a 2/3 vote, followed by reading, discussion, and adoption. We encourage all school boards throughout the state to join us in these votes. I am encapsulating key elements of the concerns that informed our decisions.

Resolution One, sunsetting of encouraging diversity, renewal: Yes.

Resolution Two, increase and new schedule of NYSSBA dues: NO. We find that the formula exceeds that which all of us our now required to follow in our budgeting. We also find that the increases, in the absence of disclosure of executive compensation and other expenditures, cost-cutting measures, and performance reports to the membership by NYSSBA, all of which are required of us as school boards, have not been justified.

Resolution Three, RICs for data storage: NO. These systems are known to be insecure. They must be proven secure before support to expand their use is warranted. In addition, NYSSBA’s rationale states that they would be helpful in facilitating SED’s increasing statewide data-mining demands. We oppose these demands, and expect NYSSBA to share that position, and therefore oppose resources going to easing their fulfillment.

Resolution Four, dedicated funding stream for Common Core teacher development: As written, NO. But we will submit an amendment proposal recommending that the portion of the resolution after the words “professional development” be stricken, that is, “and other supports associated with implementation of Common Core,” and should that amendment pass, we will vote Yes. Our Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum is highly dissatisfied with the existing modules as training tools, and feels more development is needed; and the board is concerned that should another election or political process in Washington or Albany result in replacement of Common Core, that NYSSBA is binding itself to restrictive language that will not apply to other systems.

Resolution Five, full day kindergarten: Yes.
Resolution Six, pre-K: Yes.
Resolution Seven, opposition to Albany-administered bonus programs: Yes.

Resolution Eight, cap relief for distressed districts: Yes, with an advisory. We believe NYSSBA should be representing all districts, and oppose the cap completely. By only supporting districts where the tax cap is threatening districts with bankruptcy, NYSSBA is playing politics on behalf of those who wish to minimize the appearance of the cap’s harm to all districts in terms of teacher layoffs, increased, class size, elimination of sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities, deferred maintenance, and other issues stemming from the tax cap. It should not only by imminent threat of district bankruptcy that merits relief. We plan to propose a resolution to that effect for the 2015 convention.

Resolution Nine, supporting Common Core new teacher certification requirements: NO. We feel that nothing can be gained by further burdening young people who are interested in becoming teachers, particularly when the standards in question were established by politicians, and subject to change at any time in the same manner they were instituted. Even among proponents, Common Core is being heavily revised, and will continue to evolve even if it survives the winds and whims of politics. It is too early to discuss ensconcing Common Core into the new teacher licensing process.

Resolution Ten, increasing use of student testing data in APPR: NO. This one was the most vexing for us, as we cannot fathom how it got here. We know of very few people among school boards, superintendents and principals who conduct APPR, special education staff, teachers, or parents who don’t think exactly the opposite. We have previously adopted an anti-high stakes testing resolution, as have many boards throughout the state, and our opposition to this resolution is in keeping with that position. A major study, followed by a superintendents’ statement, just found the use of student test data in APPR to severely skew other components of the overall review, and that their inclusion is too flawed to be fixed, and must be scrapped. In addition, this resolution, if adopted by NYSSBA and successful with SED, would result in significant mandates for expensive hardware and software, and contains no privacy assurances, as was the central issue in the termination of InBloom’s state contract.

Resolution Eleven, Affordable Care Act exemption: No, as per recommendation.

Resolution Twelve, elimination of budget vote for districts staying under the cap: We will propose an amendment striking language recommending budget votes be moved to November general elections. Like many districts, we have multiple towns, and except for New Paltz itself, only parts of the other six, in varying sizes. We have already explored this idea, and found it to be technically impossible to get the exact ballots only to the exact voters, town by town, to have this idea function. Should that amendment pass, we will support this resolution over NYSSBA’s objection. We find the Resolution Committee’s rationale for opposition to the concept itself to be grossly against the interest of school boards. Do any of us find that the combination of the property tax and the public referendum in order to operate, and make capital improvements, is a good idea for education? If so, none of us in New Paltz have met you. And elimination of the referendum will indeed save a lot of money. Should our proposed amendment fail, we will vote NO, because November ballots cannot be done, but should it pass, we will vote YES on the remaining language.

Resolution Thirteen, exemption of school districts from Medicare IRMAA payments: YES (that is, against the NYSSBA recommendation to vote No). Our Asst. Superintendent for Business informed us that the rationale offered by NYSSBA staff for rejecting this resolution is incorrect. Our payments under the law do not relate to, or pass through, NYSHIP in any way. They are between us and our retirees who qualify, and therefore being relieved of the requirement to pay them cannot incentivize NYSHIP to drop our eligibility to participate. The exemption would be a cost-saver, and not have any downside. We will vote YES.

Finally, the resolution we will attempt to bring to the floor. Just accomplishing the introduction will require a 2/3 vote of the floor, and we encourage you to support its introduction and take part in the discussion, even if you are not certain at this time that you will vote “yes” when it is called. But we also encourage you to vote “yes,” and through conversation with boards throughout the state, we have found that many share the concerns expressed therein, with some even taking the major step of refusing to pay further dues. We find that the establishment and conduct of the “Student Achievement Institute,” established and fully funded by SED, but operated through NYSSBA, and other elements of NYSSBA operations represent a conflict of interest with our core mission, and that NYSSBA must refocus itself as our legislative advocates. Towards that end, we propose the following:

Resolution Requesting New York State School Boards Association to Provide Focused Advocacy for its Member School Boards.

WHEREAS the core function of the New York State School Boards Association is to serve as policy advocates for its member school boards; and

WHEREAS acceptance of any State or Federal funding by the New York State School Boards Association represents a conflict of interest;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the membership of the New York State School Boards Association calls upon the executive board of NYSSBA be accountable to its member districts by providing full disclosure of its funding sources, to focus its advocacy and avoid conflicts of interest; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the membership of New York State School Boards Association calls upon the executive board of the New York State School Boards Association to provide member school districts an annual professional review and accountability of its advocacy performance.

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Thank you so much for your consideration of our input. Should you have questions, I will answer them promptly. I look forward to meeting you at the Convention.

Steve Greenfield
Voting Delegate, New Paltz CSD BOE.

One thought on “New Paltz School Board Member Urges Boards of Education to Vote No on NYSSBA Resolutions – updated 10/24/14 with New Paltz BOE decisions”

  1. I attended the Onteora school board meeting this week. Where Steve Greenfield spoke during public comment the same way that Jolyn Safron had at our Kingston School Board meeting. Fortunately for Onteora their school board was responsive and discussed and then eventually agreed with some of Steve’s points and the president will vote accordingly at the meeting. Unfortunately for Kingston our school board seems unwilling to listen to any rational argument that parents or other community members may say on topics such as these. Kingston seems to be a static board and are discussing these items behind closed doors or are not evaluating the different points but rubber stamping most things brought to the board. We need independent school board members who will engage in discussion and be willing to listen not just hear what people are saying. Our discussions should be dynamic and thought provoking and like our children should be critical thinkers not mimic what other people have said or done. I want to publicly thank Jolyn for continually being willing to be the lone voice in a sea of adults who agree at all costs and are unwilling to vote in opposition to anything that is proposed by our school board or administration. I truly question their educational philosophy. I hope our english teachers are teaching our children to research both or all sides of issues before formulating a judgement. Even when deciding what side of an issue they are on, I hope they teach our children to respect the opposing view. Thank you. Diana

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