Online survey will seek input as New York State reviews Common Core exams in schools

State education department officials will launch an online survey for public input as part of the agency's review of its controversial Common Core academic standards, state education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said Monday. Speaking to educators and journalists at the annual New York State School Boards Association convention in Manhattan, Elia said the survey would be posted online Oct. 21 as part of the state education department's probe of the tough academic standards. The survey will be hosted on the state education department homepage at "This is the time for us to review the Common Core standards," Elia said. "We have to be very focused on what we expect from our children." New York State rolled out Common Core as part of a national push for higher standards executed in dozens of states, but the difficult standards caused a massive drop in pass rates when they were first used on state exams in 2012. More than 200,000 students across the state boycotted standardized exams in 2015 to protest Common Core and the role of testing in the public schools, prompting Elia to begin a review of the exams. In September Gov. Cuomo unveiled a task force to undertake a "total reboot" of the state's Common Core standards that includes Elia and 14 other members. Cuomo said he would incorporate the panel's findings into his State of the State Address in January. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Springfield Gardens loses to Albany Academy, 61-50, in semifinals of boys Class A New York State Federation basketball tournament in Albany

ALBANY - Springfield Gardens' magical boys basketball run has come to an end. After winning their first PSAL ‘A’ championship since recently deceased Knick legend Anthony Mason was on the team in 1983, the Golden Eagles lost their opener in the New York State Federation tournament semifinals to Albany Academy, 61-50, on Friday. “We were upset but not at the point where we’re crying because at the end of the day, we’re city champs and we fought hard until the last second of the game,” said Springfield Gardens’ Joel Boyce, who led the Golden Eagles with 20 points. “The other team was the better team, but at least we fought until the end.” Albany Academy opened Friday’s game at SEFCU Arena at the University at Albany on an 8-2 run. Even though Springfield Gardens was able to close the first quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 16-14 lead, the Cadets were able to regain the lead in the second quarter, taking a 25-22 lead into halftime. Springfield Gardens never recovered as the Cadets dominated the third quarter – going on a 14-0 run at one point – to take a 44-30 lead. In the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles were able to cut the deficit to eight points, but the clock ran out shortly after that. “They were a very good team, we’ve been down before, but in that third quarter, they went on that run,” Springfield Gardens coach Anthony Buono said. “They started hitting some of their shots, our help side defense was weak, we weren’t making our rotations over and it just kind of fell apart.” After honoring Mason several times throughout their playoff run – which began just days after Mason died on Feb. 28 following a massive heart attack – with a moment of silence and a sweatshirt with Mason’s name on the bench, the Golden Eagles made one final tribute to the former Knicks star on Friday. During warmups, the Springfield Gardens players each wore a bright Continue Reading

Bill de Blasio teams up with Rudy Giuliani in push to grant mayor full control over New York City school system

ALBANY — In an unlikely alliance, Mayor de Blasio is teaming with Rudy Giuliani to push for an extension of the law granting the mayor full control over the city school system, the Daily News has learned. The frequent foes have written a joint letter, obtained by The News, to Gov. Cuomo and state legislators urging them to extend the expiring law without changes. “It is no secret that the two of us disagree on a great many things — but we both know that mayoral control of the public school system ensures direct accountability and is absolutely essential for the future progress and development of New York City schools,” de Blasio and former mayor Giuliani wrote. The letter also takes a veiled shot at Cuomo’s plan to allow the state to take over consistently failing schools. “Proposals that would limit mayoral control will only take us backward to a time of blurred lines of accountability,” de Blasio and Giuliani wrote. “Graduation rates, college readiness rates, and test scores are showing signs of improvement, and the success of our children demands that we move forward.” During his two-term tenure, Giuliani — who has had a cordial relationship with the governor dating to when he endorsed his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, in his failed 1994 reelection bid — unsuccessfully pushed the Legislature to grant him control over the schools. The Legislature relented once Michael Bloomberg took over as mayor. Now the law, last extended in 2009, is set to expire in June. Cuomo has proposed extending it for three years. Assembly Democrats are pushing for a seven-year extension that would carry through de Blasio’s second term, when he will be term-limited out of office. The Senate GOP, which had a good relationship with fellow Republican Giuliani but has feuded with de Blasio after he unsuccessfully tried last year to help the Democrats win control of the chamber, says an Continue Reading

Christ the King’s boys and girls basketball teams both heading to New York State Federation Tournament in Albany

Nikki Kerr had a hard time describing the feelings the Christ the King cheerleaders had on the sidelines when the Royals’ boys and girls basketball teams both won New York State Federation championships in 2010 in Glens Falls, the only time in state history a school has accomplished that feat. Now, as the Christ the King cheerleading coach, the CK graduate and her team cancelled their previously scheduled competition at St. Francis Prep this weekend to go to Albany instead. There, the school’s girls team will play in the Federation tournament for the first time since it made history five years ago, while the boys team is looking to become the first team to ever win three consecutive Federation championships. "Our girls would rather see their school win something like state and experiencing that rather than being at a one-day competition that's solely for themselves," Kerr, a 2012 Christ the King graduate, said. "It's a completely different dynamic of just seeing both teams there and everyone being so happy for each other." The success of both teams has been the source of plenty of excitement for the Middle Village, Queens, school since the teams won CHSAA championships two weekends ago. For the boys team, getting to the Federation tournament has become an expectation. For the girls, at least this year, it's a little more of a surprise. "I told them, you bunch of misfits lost seven games but you've done it, you were able to figure it out," Christ the King girls' coach Bob Mackey said. "They've been able to put aside individual goals and play as a team, and that's really the key. Once they did, good things happened." The Christ the King girls' team will face PSAL champion South Shore and McDonald's All-American Brianna Fraser in the Friday's ‘AA’ semifinal matchup. The Royals defeated the Vikings 66-53 in January, but Mackey isn't putting any thought into that game. "I'd rather play somebody I haven't seen. Continue Reading

Judge won’t toss case challenging New York State teacher tenure

Teachers in New York State’s public schools lost their initial battle to protect tenure Thursday when a Staten Island judge refused to dismiss a constitutional challenge to the system. Two groups, The NYC Parents Union and the Partnership for Educational Justice, alleged that state laws governing teacher tenure and seniority protect ineffective teachers and deny children their right under the state constitution to be taught basic literacy, calculating and verbal skills. They argued that three years is not long enough to determine if a teacher is effective enough to get tenure and that the systems for evaluating teacher performance are poor because in 2012, for example, only 1% of the teachers were branded as ineffective but only 31% of their students met minimal proficiency standards. City and state education officials and the United Federation of Teachers countered that the plaintiffs needed to persuade the legislature to change the system and not lobby by litigation. They said the tenure system was critical to protect teachers from “official and bureaucratic caprice”; the plaintiffs’ statistics were questionable; and the plaintiffs should be taking the state to task for not providing enough funds to public education. Supreme Court Justice Philip Minardo ruled that the “complaints are sufficiently pleaded to avoid dismissal,” and he rejected defense motions to toss the case. Minardo said the defense papers did a good job of explaining the reasons for the laws but “none of the defendants or intervenor-defendants have demonstrated that any of the material facts alleged in the complaints are untrue.” “This Court ... will not close the courthouse door to parents and children with viable constitutional claims,” Mindaro said. He added that any challenge to the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims “is a matter for another day, following a further development of the Continue Reading

NYC dominates with 9 out of 10 best high schools in New York State

Nine of the top 10 high schools in New York State are city public schools, according to a new report. For the second year in a row, the High School of American Studies at Lehman College was named the No. 1 high school in the state, according to the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings released Tuesday. City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said she was thrilled city schools dominated the prestigious annual tally. EXPLORE THE FULL 2015 U.S. NEWS BEST HIGH SCHOOLS RANKINGS “The U.S. News rankings showcase some of our many excellent high schools,” Fariña said. “We have tremendous schools across the city, and I celebrate when our educators get the recognition they deserve.” The High School of American Studies, which came in at No. 11 in the national rankings, was followed by the High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies in Manhattan and the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College in the state list. “I’m proud of our students, teachers and the parents who support the school — and everybody who is involved on a daily basis in making this a great place,” said American Studies HS Principal Alessandro Weiss, who’s led the 396-student school since 2006. “We want our students to do well on tests, but the most important thing is to foster a love of learning and a love of inquiry.” HOW SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK STATE RANK Staffers at the school work to create an atmosphere where students are respected and urged to consider different perspectives, Weiss said. Students are encouraged to take college courses for credit at Lehman College, with which the Bronx high school shares a campus. Advanced courses in U.S. history and world history are mandatory. Other city schools in the top 10 include: the Brooklyn Latin School, the Baccalaureate School for Global Education, Staten Island Technical High Continue Reading

Tax breaks given to buyers of yachts, private planes in New York State budget

ALBANY — They couldn’t spare a penny for minimum-wage workers, but state lawmakers found a way to help wealthy boat and plane owners. The state budget deal hammered out by Gov.Cuomo and legislative leaders gives lucrative tax breaks for the purchases of mega yachts and private airplanes. “It’s completely unjust that, while the legislators aren’t giving workers like me a raise, they’re giving this benefit to millionaires and billionaires for their yachts,” said Manuel Melendez, a minimum-wage restaurant worker in Brooklyn and member of the immigrant activist group Make the Road New York. “It shows that our government is working for the wealthy and not for me,” Melendez added. Under the budget deal, people buying a yacht in New York would pay sales tax on only the the first $230,000 of the purchase price, regardless of the vessel’s total cost. The buyer of a $1 million yacht would face the same $9,200 state sales tax that the purchaser of a $230,000 boat would, officials said. “A rising tide seems to lift only yachts,” scoffed Ron Deutsch, executive director of the liberal-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute. New Yorkers seeking to buy their own plane would get an even better deal. They would pay no sales tax on the entire purchase of any plane that carries fewer than 20 people. The tax breaks for the 1% were included in the state’s soon-to-be-adopted budget as the Legislature nixed several other measures that would have helped needy and working-class New Yorkers, including property tax relief and the DREAM Act, which would make children of illegal immigrants eligible for state tuition assistance. “I guess the yacht lobby is stronger than people thought,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the Senate’s Democratic conference. “It is outrageous that we are giving tax breaks to buy a yacht but couldn’t raise the minimum Continue Reading

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. speaks at New York Law School commencement

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. gave rookie lawyers some fatherly advice Tuesday — from his own famous dad. Speaking at the New York Law School's commencement, Vance said his late father, an attorney and secretary of state in the Carter administration, “brought his values, the principles underlying them, and his rigors of legal reasoning to everything he did — whether it was counseling a client, advising a president, or guiding his son through life’s inevitable challenges and frustrations.” That’s why he resigned from the cabinet when President Jimmy Carter refused to take a diplomatic course in dealing with the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis. Instead, the U.S. chose to take a military action, which failed. “My father told the President that, respectfully, whatever the result, whether tragic failure or glorious success, he would resign from office the next day,” Vance said at the Carnegie Hall ceremony. “And my father was true to his word.” In addition to his speech to the fledgling legal eagles, the DA was awarded an honorary degree from the university. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

New York state students opting out of Common Core exams continues rise: activists

The number of New York state students opting out of the controversial Common Core reading exams reached 155,237 as of Thursday, activists say. That’s up from 112,763 Wednesday. The anti-testing group United 2 Counter the Core compiled its estimate for the number of kids skipping the tests based on reports from educators and media coverage. The group does not have a complete count for the number of opt-outs in the city. Last year, 1,925 city kids boycotted the tests. This year, the group estimates 2,500 city kids have opted out so far. Gonzalez: Surge of the opt-out movement against English Language Arts exam is act of mass civil disobedience City and state education officials say an accurate count of students who skipped the exams is still weeks away. City schools boss Carmen Fariña said families should think twice before sitting out the math exams that start Wednesday. “As we go into math tests next week, I encourage parents to consider the value of the test,” Fariña said. Continue Reading

A Brooklyn public school teacher says opting out of the New York state tests is an act of courage

I am not a risk taker. I have played by the rules my entire life and prefer it that way. Follow directions, work hard, get rewarded. But what do you do when you feel as if you are playing fair and square against an opponent who isn’t? I’ve been a teacher in the New York City public school system for 10 years. I’ve watched the emphasis on and stakes attached to standardized testing in New York State increase each year. Yet each spring, teachers are expected to proctor these tests without contest or debate. I can no longer do that. Many proponents of testing argue that these state assessments allow schools to follow students’ progress and watch how they are growing each year, to measure what they know and can do relative to the new Common Core Learning Standards in English and mathematics. If that were all they were doing, that would be one thing. In reality, they have become tools to reward and punish students, teachers and schools. Worse, look at the tests themselves. When New York introduced the new Common Core tests three years ago, they argued that high-quality, grade-appropriate reading passages would be used to assess students’ reading ability. What teachers and administrators have found is that more and more of the reading passages and questions asked on these tests are actually above grade-level standards. On last year’s third grade English test, many of the questions were examined by a teacher and former test-maker who normed them at a seventh- and eighth-grade reading level! The math tests use language that’s tricky so that its results often wind up assessing reading comprehension more than problem-solving ability. When students have to select their answers to multiple-choice questions, they have yet another challenge. The state argues that “answer choices will not jump out; rather, students will need to make hard choices between ‘fully correct’ and ‘plausible but Continue Reading