Monday, December 21, 2015

A Response to a Report of Andrew Cuomo's Demise

On Saturday Fred LeBrun of the Times-Union, Albany’s daily paper wrote an obituary for Andrew Cuomo’s career. According to LeBrun, the Governor's premature passing stems from the strength of the “Opt Out organizers,” who give Cuomo “failing grades” on ethics (i.e., disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver) and education, “the two categories about which the public cares deeply.”

LeBrun omits two salient points. First, this bloodthirsty throng of opting-out Cuomo-haters represents a minority of the electorate. Second, the educational status quo he so defiantly defends is failing the students in the city served by the Times-Union.

LeBrun writes,
Let's cut right to the chase: the penalty if [Cuomo] fails. A manure wagon load of rejection from irate parents across the state as Opt Out numbers soar. The sleeping giant is the electorate rebelling, about the worst nightmares any politician can imagine, because what began as the forceful and effective rejection of the governor's education policy can easily enough morph into a rejection of the governor himself.
Hold the manure, Fred. In this construct, Cuomo is doomed because 20% of  suburban parents – hardly a “sleeping giant although a troubling large percentage -- are unhappy about the legislated linkage between “deeply flawed, pointless Common Core standardized tests” and teacher evaluations. To LeBrun, the recent announcement that New York would forestall that link for four years is meaningless because Cuomo  is “hellbent on keeping his signature Education Transformation Act codifying the public education atrocity we currently have, and simply substituting a state created set of educational standards."

But LeBrun makes nary a reference to NYSUT, the New York teacher union busy hauling sustenance to nurture the suburban backlash against teacher evaluations linked to student academic growth. Grow, giant, grow. Why not? Just last week New York City released its teacher ratings and only 1.2% were rated “ineffective.”

Second, and more importantly, he makes no mention of the educational needs of the student population in Albany’s public schools. A report issued earlier this year called “The State of New York’s Failing Schools” lists the state's most troubled districts and one of them is the Albany Public School District, the primary readership of the Times-Union. The district has been failing its students for at least the last ten years and, hence, is in receivership.  Despite state annual per student spending of $19,891, the highest in the country, only 6.2% of of students at Hackett Middle School demonstrate proficiency in math and only 16.2% demonstrate proficiency in language arts. Only 51.9% of Albany High School students, half of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch and 78% minority, actually graduate. (100% of their teachers, by the way, are rated either “highly effective” or “effective.” Effective in what?, one might ask. The most recent update to the corrective action plan notes that only half the classrooms visited “had evidence of differentiated instruction.")

Let's cut the bull. The opt-out "movement," either the unions that foment it or the suburban parents that Cuomo wishes to placate, don't care about the students enrolled in Albany Public Schools. Neither does Fred LeBrun.


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