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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New York State Education Department's Test Security Unit

From Betsy Combier:

And are they investigating principals who scrub and cheat?
Just askin'

New York Unit Focuses on Cheating by Teachers

Thirty-two Teachers and Administrators Settled Cases of Alleged Misconduct with New York State in the Past Two Years.

by Leslie Brody
Richard M. Brzeski had his teaching license suspended for two years by New York after he acknowledged helping fifth-graders on a state math test. His district in Rockville Centre also fired him.
James L. Basham, a social studies teacher, had his license suspended for a year after he admitted helping students on the Regents exam in U.S. history.
And Osman A. Abugana, a Brooklyn teacher, was fined $3,000 by the state after admitting that he changed five students’ scores on the Regents physics exam from failing to passing. The city tried to fire him but a hearing officer suspended him without pay for a semester instead.
They are among 32 teachers and administrators who settled cases of alleged misconduct with the New York State Education Department’s Test Security Unit in the past two years, according to files obtained under the Freedom of Information Law.
Among those settled cases, the unit found a range of alleged transgressions, including tipping students off to wrong answers, giving cheat sheets of math formulas, correcting students’ responses and completing essays for a disabled child. New York had such a big backlog of alleged violations, and some inquiries took so long, that at least one case involved tests in 2010.
Mr. Abugana’s lawyer said his client declined to comment. Lawyers for Mr. Brzeski and Mr. Basham declined to comment.
The Test Security Unit was launched in 2012 after a state-appointed investigator, Henry M. Greenberg, found New York education authorities failed to devote enough time, attention and expertise to rooting out fraud. This focus on test integrity arose in the wake of high-profile cheating scandals in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., among other places.
Teachers unions say the increasing use of student test results to rate some teachers has magnified the temptation to cheat.
“The state’s overreliance on testing and data has created intense pressure around standardized testing and unfortunately it appears that a few teachers have succumbed to that pressure,” said Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers. “We believe the number has always been minuscule. We would like it to be zero but that’s not realistic.”
The union counts 206,000 classroom teachers statewide, and the state administers more than three million exams a year. Tina Sciocchetti, executive director of the six-member Test Security Unit, said that while the number of breaches appears small, the stakes are high. Students have to pass Regents exams to graduate, for example, and officials say any abuses taint the system.
In one case in upstate New York, Watervliet teacher Noel Santiago made copies of a math test and reviewed the material with his eighth-graders before the three-day exam period was complete, documents from his tenure hearing say.
According to a hearing officer’s decision upholding Mr. Santiago’s dismissal, a 13-year-old warned Mr. Santiago that having copies of the test was wrong and that when the student tried to alert his guidance counselor, Mr. Santiago threatened to write him up on a disciplinary charge.
Mr. Santiago didn’t respond to requests for comment, but in his tenure hearing he denied threatening the student with retaliation for attempting to disclose his use of the test booklet. According to the hearing officer’s ruling, Mr. Santiago also said there was no evidence his behavior compromised the test.
State officials say these cases are complex and the state takes into account sanctions already imposed by local school districts. Ms. Sciocchetti said that in the case of Mr. Abugana, the New York City hearing ended in a suspension that cost him at least $40,000 in lost pay.
The teacher said in his hearing that he didn’t know what he did was wrong because the state used to let scorers hunt for overlooked points to help students on the cusp of passing Regents exams.
When the Test Security Unit opened, it cleared a backlog of hundreds of test-fraud allegations and received 916 new ones in its first two years. Of the new cases, 359 remained in various stages of investigation and local disciplinary proceedings as of September. Another 206 were closed after investigators found no proof of violations.
In 19 of the 32 cases settled by the unit, educators agreed to penalties but didn’t admit wrongdoing, so their names were redacted. Sometimes districts imposed sanctions beyond the state’s steps.
The settlements brought fines totaling $191,994. Most came from six teachers and three administrators involved in Glen Cove cheating scandals that made headlines last year.
State officials imposed corrective action plans on dozens of schools. They say they have boosted test security in the past two years by visiting test sites, adding training for proctors, mandating that witnesses of misconduct report it, and prohibiting cellphones in exam rooms.
Write to Leslie Brody at
Established in March 2012, the New York State Education Department’s Test Security Unit is responsible for ensuring the security and integrity of New York State assessments. The TSU works to deter and remedy testing misconduct by educators and administrators who are involved in the administration and scoring of New York State assessments. TSU’s legal and investigative personnel review and investigate allegations of cheating submitted to the Department from sources that include school districts, educators, parents, and the public. The TSU carefully determines whether testing misconduct occurred, and if so, what corrective actions are warranted, including potential disciplinary proceedings pursuant to Part 83 and/or Education Law §3020-a. The TSU serves an important training and educational function as well, developing model testing policies and practices, and educating district personnel about them.
The TSU’s responsibilities include:
  • Ensuring security and integrity of New York State assessments;
  • Developing model New York State test security policies and procedures;
  • Intake of complaints about educator cheating via Incident Report Form found on the TSU website and from other sources;
  • Reviewing alleged testing irregularities involving educators;
  • With Integrity Officers, conducting comprehensive investigations into complaints;
  • Pursuing discipline and corrective action where testing misconduct is verified;
  • Providing training materials to New York State educators; and
  • Reporting to the public about TSU activities and the results of its investigations.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chancellor Carmen Farina Says Charter Schools Push Low-Performing Kids Out To Raise Test Scores

Of course they do! Education is not a right, it is a business.

Kids are routinely pushed, or parents are told that their children must be placed into alternative testing classes "for their own good".

That's exactly what happens in your public schools, Carmen! There is an on-going mess out there with so much grade changing, suspensions, moving of teachers to content areas that they are not certified to teach, etc., etc., that the best thing that anyone could do right now is move out of the New York City school district or stay home. There are a lot of great home schooling programs and resources out there.

Betsy Combier

Chancellor Fariña implies some charter schools boosting scores by pushing out students

Geoff Decker on November 20, 2014 7:43 pm

Chancellor Carmen Fariña implied Thursday that some city charter schools prop up their state test scores by encouraging students to enroll elsewhere late in the school year.
“There shouldn’t be a whole movement out of charters the month before the test,” Fariña told reporters on Thursday morning. The well-timed attrition is not happening at all schools, she said, adding, “It happens in some places.”
Though she has expressed concerns about charter schools in the past, Fariña’s comments were perhaps the most provocative she has lobbed at the charter sector since taking over the school system. Her comments echo longstanding critiques of charter schools — which serve a smaller percentage of students with disabilities and English language learners than district schools do, and aren’t required to take new students mid-year — though higher-than-average student attrition from charter schools hasn’t been borne out by recent research.
Fariña made the comments after speaking to Partnership for New York City President and CEO Kathryn Wylde at a conference on Thursday. In her conversation with Wylde, Fariña ticked off ways she supports charter schools, including school visits, inviting them into her Learning Partners Program, and inviting them to the city’s professional development sessions.
“Where we need to do more work is better transparency,” Fariña said.
Asked to elaborate after the talk, she said she was concerned that charter schools look to replace students who leave with only students with top test scores.
She said she wants “to ensure that, as there are openings in upper grades, that the kids that are accepted in are not just kids who get postcards because they’re level 3s or 4s to come to the school.”
Fariña doesn’t oversee charter schools, which are independent from the Department of Education and enroll students through lotteries. But she serves on the board of the New York City Charter School Center and, as the city’s top education official, her public statements on the issue are closely monitored.
Fariña isn’t the only high-ranking education leader to say that more attention should be paid to charter schools’ enrollment practices. Last year, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch urged state education officials to create a “stability index” that would flag suspicious trends like high student discharge rates right before state testing. (A spokesman for the State Education Department could not immediately say whether that metric had been developed.) Earlier this month, Tisch agreed with Fariña’s calls for more transparency on a panel with State Education Commissioner John King.
When students leave charter schools in the middle of the year, many end up in district schools, which can put a new burden on the school charged with getting the student adjusted. Whether charter schools lose students at a higher rate than district schools has been the subject of a number of recent analyses.
A 2012 SchoolBook analysis looked at three years’ worth of student discharge data and found that average student mobility rates were lower for charter schools than they were for traditional public schools, though turnover was higher in some charter-heavy districts. Last year, the Independent Budget Office looked at attrition in lower grades for all city schools and released similar findings.
Another study, released in 2013 by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, looked at 25 charter elementary schools and concluded that the special-ed gap was caused by parents’ enrollment choices, not students being pushed out.
None of those studies looked at when during the year students exited a school.
If Fariña is serious about probing charter schools’ enrollment data more deeply, she could make it happen as the city schools chancellor, said Ray Domanico, the director of education research at the IBO. The department tracks student discharges from district and charter schools by date, he said.
The debate over charter schools will be amplified in the coming months with the state legislature expected to consider lifting a cap on the number of schools allowed to open in the city. As in 2010, when the cap was last lifted, the conversation is likely to include calls for schools enroll more high-needs students.
On Thursday, Fariña said she wants to see more attention on those issues.
“We need to make sure that, when you say that these are the kids that are enrolled through the lottery,” Fariña said, “that these are the kids you graduate.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Another Princpal Who Should Not Be Working At A Public School: David Fanning, Principal of A. Philip Randolph

From EdNotesOnline:

Exposing A. Philip Randolph High School Hack Principal David Fanning

Happy teachers make for happy students and a safe teaching environment makes for a safe learning environment. It is too bad Carmen Farina is not paying attention to a cascade of principals who are undermining the teaching and learning conditions in so many schools. I get stories every single day and have a backlog of posts on a number of schools.

Even experienced chapter leaders are under assault by principals clearly trained in tactics of divide and conquer - they isolate certain people and woo others. All while the UFT dithers and provides few weapons and support and barebones training. What is funny that because I get so many reports on these principals I can see the pattern of behavior and can advise people - the UFT does not teach this pattern of behavior and help people format a broad array of responses -- which includes a political response - but more on this aspect in future posts

Would you want to work for a guy who clearly has a stick up his ass

One key charge against Fanning is that he covers up incidents to make the school look clean and oppresses staff members who would report. Nothing reported, nothing fixed.

Here is a composite report from various sources on principal David Fanning and the school.

A. Philip Randolph High School was recently ranked by The Daily News as one of the best public schools in New York City.

This comes as a shock to anyone who attends the school, works there, or reads the news.  How can a school with three harassment and/or discrimination lawsuits filed against the school in the past two years--the first years of David Fanning's appointment as principal--be the best of anything?  

 According to the latest Learning Environment Survey, only about 40% of teachers feel safe at APRHS.

That's understandable when you consider that the principal is so negligent about safety that he didn't even seek medical attention for a student who was shot in the face with a bb gun in the classroom last year.  

 According to The Daily News, APRHS touts an array of advanced classes.  Talk to anyone from the school and you'll soon learn that all these supposed advanced classes are not offered.  Or at least certainly not recently or all in one year.  In the course of one year, students' agreement responses to the Learning Environment survey question, "Myschool offers a wide enough variety of programs, classes and activities to keep me interested in school" dropped nearly twenty percentage points.  Where is this supposed array of classes?

 And, again, it's not just the lack of a variety of classes.  There is a lack of safety and mutual respect.  This isn't just about teachers like Sonia Burke and Monte Kuhr, both of whom have filed lawsuits against the DoE regarding theirpoor treatment at APRHS.

This is also, of course, about the students.  A glance at should give you an idea.

"This is honestly the worst school in the city. I've been here for 4 years. Don't listen to what the "Student Government" person is saying, he's sugarcoating it. The school has a bunch of incidents all the time which are covered up all the time. There was a fire in the bathroom and wasn't reported, which smoke was all over the 2nd floor the school reported it as a false alarm. They also had a classroom whose boards where set on fire and the school called the janitors to put it out. Seriously if you love your kid, don't send them here. There is some staff that I absolutely love, Ramirez, Calcano, Lacera, Ross, Stone, Dermott, but that's it."
"The staircases smell like weed. Students go to school high. Students have sex in staircases. Students cut ALL THE TIME. Students are EXTREMELY rude. The classes get disrupted all the time. There are ALWAYS physical fights (At least once a week!). Not to mention the pranks that are far dangerous.

Because of this environment, it is almost impossible for any student to not follow these same steps. Many students have admitted that they started caring less about school once they enrolled to APRCHS. Even though the students can succeed academically (if they try to ignore the craziness), the behavior in this school isn't acceptable. It isn't a school where I would want MY child to attend."

"I don't recommend this school to anyone. I have been in this school for 2 years already and I absolutely hate it. I was really excited about it at first, but it's not a good learning environment for your kid. The staircases smell like weed, there are always students skipping class in the hallways, many students disrupt the class, and much more. There's also no respect towards teachers or students. A few weeks ago I was in my math class and a student had thrown a water balloon at my teacher. There was also the situation when a student had disrupted a class to shoot a student who was sitting in class doing his work. There was even a report on it.

 The students are absolutely out of control. They "twerk" most of the time. There is dealing of drugs going on. They are extremely rude to the adults. Due to the behavior of this school, I'm afraid that colleges might look at my grades and think that I only have good grades because I look good in front of those awful students. There are, of course, some very good students. But the majority of the students do not care about school and go to school to waste our time and theirs."

The student from the first comment makes a very good point.  "The school has a bunch of incidents all the time which are covered up all the time."  Indeed, this appears to be the case.  How else could APRHS rank as one of the best high schools in NYC?  Maybe the principal, David Fanning, got his covering up degree when he was an AP of Organization at Brooklyn Tech.  Anyone remember this?

The scandal at Brooklyn Tech about administration not reporting violence and robberies.

It appears Fanning comes from violence cover-up central.  If it's not reported it didn't happen, right?  


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Former OSI Director and The Gotcha Squad

Candace McClaren

By The way, Gina Martinez, mentioned in Candace's email,  is no longer the Director of OPI. I met her there, however, before she moved on:

Many months ago I accompanied a discontinued DOE teacher to OPI to discuss her being taken off of the "problem code" list at the DOE.
The interviewer wanted us to check off boxes on a form before talking with her!!! Amazing. We had discussed nothing with her. I asked her why we would check off the boxes saying we had discussed everything with her BEFORE we had done so, and she said, "that's the way we do it here."
I gave her my card, and asked her if we could speak with the Supervisor. She got up and said "wait here".
We did. About 20 minutes.
Suddenly the door to the room swung open, and a woman came running in pointing her pointer finger directly at me, yelling "You know me!!!! You know me!!!!!!"
I looked at her and said that I did not know her.
She said, "I'm on your blog!!!"
I asked her for her name, and she told us, "Gina Martinez."
Then I remembered that indeed, she was on my blog in the sad tale of my friend and former Superintendent Martin Weinstein (former Principal of the UFT Charter School):
I told her that yes, indeed I remembered her name, and she sat down and heard my concerns about the form. Then she asked my teacher what the issue was and immediately removed her from the problem code. We left with a clear record for the teacher.
THANKS, Gina!!!!!
Gina is no longer at OPI (best of luck in your new job!!):

Gina Martinez

Downstate Director - Office of Administrative Hearings at NYS Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance
  1. NYC Department of Education, 
  2. Bronx County District Attorney Office, 
  3. Weitz & Luxenberg
  1. St. John's University School of Law


Deputy Director - Office of Personnel Investigation

NYC Department of Education
   (9 months)Greater New York City Area
Served as the leadership for all personnel investigation matters, including arrests, reassignments, clearances, investigations and information requests from various state and local agencies.

Handled all day-to-day office matters, including supervision, performance management, attendance, timekeeping issues and general human resource strategies.

Reviewed and determined security clearances and appeals for the Arrest and Investigation Units.

Supported the Director in responding to legal inquiries and provided direct support to school networks and the Office of Legal Services on all matters related to DHR employment policies, procedures and systems to ensure all determinations and actions were documented and implemented in a timely manner.

Provided high-level policy input, advice and assistance to the Director of OPI and CEO of DHR.

Advised Director and other agency personnel on various matters, including employment decisions and compliance with state and federal mandates for security clearance procedures. 

Attended high-level cabinet meetings and worked in conjunction with various HR Partners and the Office of Legal Services to ensure that all staff working with DOE students or in DOE facilities obtained and maintained appropriate background clearance. 

Provided ongoing input into internal technology issues and proposed solutions; worked with consultants/vendors/DIIT as needed.

Interviewed and assisted with the hiring and training of new employees.

Attended monthly working group meetings on employee goals, feedback and professional development. 

Facilitated specific trainings to address internal performance issues.

Designed and implemented processes to improve office efficiency and customer service.


NYC Department of Education
   (5 years 4 months)

Manager - Office of Personnel Investigation

NYC Department of Education
   (2 years 3 months)Brooklyn, New York

Assistant District Attorney

Bronx County District Attorney Office
   (4 years)Bronx, New York

Bankruptcy Paralegal

Weitz & Luxenberg
   (1 year)Greater New York City Area