Día de talleres en el Eighty 20 Bistro…

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27 de mayo de 2014: Día de talleres en el Hotel Verdanza con Abacus Educational Services y comiendo en el Eighty 20 Bistro…

Es fascinante el ver el cómo mis antiguas ilusiones sobre el ser maestro son mantenidos con vida a través de la imaginación de gente que no dan clase.

Promoviendo el nuevo evangelio de maestro no como educador, sino como proveedor de entretenimiento, único responsable del aprendizaje del estudiante y la escuela como centro de cuido y entretenimiento, donde celebramos por el mero hecho de que el niño llegue a la escuela a deleitarnos con su presencia.

¿Qué valores le transmitimos al estudiante cuando no le exigimos nada, cuando decimos que si a todo y cuando sus acciones no tienen consecuencias? ¿En que se convierte el magisterio cuando todo esta responsabilidad es transferida al maestro?

La profesión al cual dedique años de estudio se ha convertido en un empleo de fábrica, sin prestigio, sin respeto y sin futuro.

Se habla sobre el “adaptarse a los nuevos tiempos” y de “enamorar y motivar al estudiante” cuando es el niño que debe adaptarse y crecer ante los requerimientos de los adultos… como si mi empleo dependiera de conversar el estudiante a aprender.

En un salto de ilusionismo, nadie dice te dice que hacer cuando el estudiante no quiere cooperar y no quiere aprender. En su lugar se equivale la actitud del estudiante con la aptitud del maestro, siendo esto el resultado lógico de no querer disciplinar estudiantes y luego decir que el maestro no tiene control de grupo.

Se parte de la premisa de que el maestro no tiene vida fuera de la escuela, y que goza de tiempo y recursos ilimitados para preparar materiales para “enamorarlos”. Eso no es educar.

Es fascinante el ver gente con más escuela y experiencia que yo asintiendo con la cabeza mientras escuchan todo esto. Nadie quiere nadar contra la corriente pero todos sabemos que esta historia no tendrá un final feliz para nadie.

Confucio escribió: “SI NO VOY A SER UN HOMBRE ENTRE HOMBRES, ¿ENTONCES QUÉ VOY A HACER?”

El almorzar en el Eighty20 Bistro mientras que cuatro músicos tocan el “Canon en re mayor” de Pachelbel es bello pero no refleja la realidad económica de ser maestro.

Estamos ante un momento histórico… el fin del magisterio.

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AGD SECURITY SERVICES – PUERTO RICO

Priority-Security-Logo-badge

 

23 de mayo de 2016

“José A. García Barragán” <agdresume@gmail.com>

AGD Security

https://www.facebook.com/garciabarragan1

 

Señor Garcia,

Recientemente envié un resume a su compañía a través de la Alianza Municipal de Servicios Integrados (AMSI).

Ayer, domingo 22 de mayo usted me llamo a las 1:47pm desde el (787)621-6715 y a las 1:48pm desde el (787)675-4717.

Usted me pidió que me reuniera con usted entre las 4:00pm y 5:00pm en el Centro Comercial Las Catalinas Mall en Caguas junto a otros solicitantes para llenar solicitudes de empleo y para entrevistarme.

Honestamente agradezco su interés en mí como candidato para el puesto que vas a comenzar en Cidra en junio. Sin embargo, debo ser meridianamente claro con usted.

De la misma manera que usted necesita saber quién soy – a través de mi certificado de buena conducta, certificado de ASUME, licencia de conducir, etc., yo también como solicitante necesito saber quién es usted – donde está su oficina, donde está su licencia de detective privado, su licencia para operar una compañía de seguridad, etc.

Como no nos conocemos, no deseamos actuar por fe, sino tener nuestras cartas boca arriba sobre la mesa.

Por esta razón me veré imposibilitado de reunirme con usted en un centro comercial para solicitar empleo.

Yo con mucho gusto me reuniré con usted en su oficina donde veré sus documentos con la misma claridad que usted ve los míos. De ser asi el caso, ya sabes mi teléfono.

 

Nuevamente agradezco su interés en mí como candidato y quedo de usted respetuosamente.

 

Efrain Suarez Arce

 

SUNITA EL INTOCABLE (2016)

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“En familia pobre nací, con poca o ninguna comida.

Mi trabajo era degradante. Yo recogía flores dañadas y marchitadas.

Ellos me menospreciaban, me rechazaban…

y dejando caer mi corazón, mostré reverencia a muchos.”

Entonces un día vi al Maestro…

Entrando a la ciudad con un escuadrón de monjes

Yo… le mostré reverencia

Y el se detuvo…

…en compasión y solidaridad…

…solo para hablarme a mí…

Yo me hice a un lado para darle paso.

Y el maestro ante todos estrecho su mano y dijo:

‘Ven, Bhikkhu (monje).’”

(Theragatha XII.2 – Sunita)

 

 

Érase una vez en la ciudad de Savatthi en la antigua India había un indigente llamado Sunita.

 

 

Sunita vestía de harapos y dormía a orillas de la carretera porque no se le permitía tener hogar.

 

Todos los días Sunita observaba que otras personas se divierten y eran felices, pero no podía acercarse a ellos, porque esa gente lo llamaba un “intocable”.

 

 

Los “Intocables” (“Chandala”) pertenecían a la clase social más baja y en la antigua India eran tratados como poco más que animales. La posición de Sunita en la sociedad era tan baja que el único empleo que podía conseguir era buscar flores desechadas entre la basura para de vez en cuando encontrar uno que pudiera vender a orillas de la carretera para comprar comida.

 

 

Sunita no podía entrar a los templos ni a las escuelas. No podía acercarse a miembros de clases más altas ni mirar directamente a sus rostros. No podía acercarse ni bañarse ni tomar agua de los pozos ya que estos eran para las clases sociales más altas.

 

 

Siempre que una persona de una casta superior se acercaba Sunita tenía que correr y esconderse para que su sombra no cayera sobre ellas. Si no era lo suficientemente rápido era regañado y golpeado severamente. Sunita vivía una vida miserable.

 

 

Un día mientras estaba buscando flores entre la basura Sunita vio al Buda con sus seguidores que iban de camino a un templo.

 

 

Su corazón se llenó de alegría y a la vez de temor, siendo un Intocable y al no encontrar lugar para esconderse él solo pudo colocarse de espalda a una pared y tapar su rostro con sus manos temblorosas juntadas en saludo. _/|\_

 

 

El Buda se detuvo y hablando con una voz suave y gentil dijo:

“¿Porque te escondes? Por favor, levántate y déjame verte.”

 

 

Avergonzado, Sunita lentamente se puso de pie, con la cabeza inclinada y las manos presionadas juntas en oración delante de su rostro.

 

 

“¿Por qué te agachas allí entre la basura?” el Buda preguntó.

“Bendecido”, dijo Sunita, “Yo no quería dejarme ver para no ofender los ojos. No soy digno de tu mirada”.

 

 

Mucha de la gente que acompañaban al Buda estuvo de acuerdo. Se tiraban de su manga, tratando de que se alejara de este marginado. “No es más que un recolector de basura, ¡un intocable!”, decían.

 

 

“¿Lo es?” dijo el Buda mientras se abría paso entre ellos para poner su brazo alrededor del hombro de Sunita. “Miren, lo estoy tocando, y aún sigo con vida.”

 

 

Y entonces el Buda le dijo a Sunita;

 

 

“En nuestro camino, ya no distinguimos entre castas. Eres un ser humano como el resto de nosotros. No tenemos miedo de ser contaminados. Solo la codicia, la avaricia y la ilusión nos pueden contaminar. Una persona como usted solo nos puede traer felicidad. ¿Cómo te llamas?”

 

 

“Bendecido, mi nombre es Sunita.”

 

 

“Hermano Sunita, ¿Que es para ti este modo tan desgraciado de vivir? ¿Sera posible para ti dejar atrás este mundo?”

 

 

“¡Pero soy un intocable!”

 

 

“Ya le expliqué que en nuestra vía no hay castas. El agua de cada rio tiene nombre propio, pero al llegar al océano todos se hacen uno. De igual forma, cuando cualquier persona se une a nuestra Orden (“Sangha”), se hace uno con la Orden, dejando atrás si nació como brahmán, kashatriya, o Chandala.”

 

 

Y entonces Sunita, parado entre la basura sintió lagrimas bajar por su rostro y con sus manos aun juntadas dijo;

 

 

“Venerable Señor, siempre he recibido órdenes, pero jamás una palabra amable o de aliento. Si un Chandala, un recolector de basura como yo puede convertirse en monje de su Orden, ¡entonces que el Bendecido me pida que dé un paso al frente!”

 

 

El Buda le dio su cuenco a su discípulo Meghiya y estrecho su mano a Sunita. “Ven, Bhikkhu (monje).”

 

 

Entonces dijo a otro discípulo, (WOOF)  “¡Shariputra! ¡Ayúdame a bañar a Sunita! Lo ordenaremos como monje aquí mismo a la orilla de este rio”

 

 

Así que el Buda baño y ordenó a Sunita, le entrego su manto y cuenco y se lo llevo junto con los otros monjes.

 

 

Como era de esperarse, muchas personas se escandalizaron al ver al Buda no solo aceptando a un intocable a su orden, sino también bañándolo en un rio publico… con sus propias manos… con sus más destacados discípulos. Solo era cuestión de tiempo antes de que un grupo de religiosos presentaran sus quejas ante el Rey Pasenadi. A pesar de ser amigo y seguidor el Buda, el rey decidió visitar el Buda en su templo de Jetsvara para investigar este asunto. El Rey, al llegar al templo, se encontró a un monje predicando y quedo asombrado con su dedicación y conocimiento. Al preguntarle al Buda quien era, este respondio:

 

 

“Gran Rey, ese es el Bhikkhu (monje) Sunita, quien era un recolector de basura. En los tres meses desde su ordenación, ha demostrado gran sinceridad, inteligencia y dedicación. ¿Qué le pareció su prédica?

 

 

Luego, el Buda dijo al rey:

 

 

“La sangre y las lágrimas de todos son del mismo color. Por su nacimiento nadie es de casta alta o baja. Es por sus acciones que las personas se enaltecen o se degradan. Debemos encontrar la manera de ayudar a las personas a alcanzar su plena dignidad y potencial. Por esta razón recibí a Sunita en nuestra Orden.”

 

 

Desde ese día en adelante, nadie sabía de qué clase social era Sunita, y nadie lo volvió a tratar con desprecio y crueldad.

 

 

Bibliografia?

1) Theragatha: Historia de los Antiguos (Octavo libro del Khuddaka Nikaya) 242 – XII.2 PTS: Thag 620-631

2) “Old Path, White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha” (Ch. 43) – Thich Nhat Hanh

Lederman v. New York: Mayo 2016

Sheri-Lederman

After earning enthusiastic reviews for 17 years as a fourth-grade teacher on Long Island, Sheri G. Lederman Ed D., was shocked to learn in September 2014 that the state’s new evaluation system gave her only 1 out of 20 points for her students’ progress on state tests. Thus deeming her ineffective — in the Office of Assessment’s Growth Score and Rating system.

 

Lederman’s students, however, met or exceeded test standards at more than twice the state’s average scores since the new testing standards were implemented two years ago, according to State Education Department data.

 

Her employers consider her to be an “extraordinary teacher” and her students’ parents refer to her as “one of the most influential educators” their children have ever had. Her students, years after they sat in her fourth-grade classroom, cite her as an integral part in their strong academic careers.

 

So how did this happen? The state uses a computer program to compare student growth based on standardized tests that are said to reflect the impact teachers have on their students over the course of a year. Lederman’s students, although high achieving, were evaluated at a growth rating “well below average for similar students” with prior academic achievement and similar demographics, according to state teacher growth score definitions. Her own school district awarded her a perfect score in its evaluation.

 

“It’s dehumanized us,” she said of the teaching scores. “It really takes away my significance in terms of my human interaction with the kids and their parents and it’s turned every one of us into nothing more than a number.”

 

Lederman was told by the State Education Department that she can’t appeal her growth rating score, because it is a subcomponent of her composite score of “effective” for the 2013-2014 school year. Lederman was told her only option was to sue, so that’s what she has done, with the aid of her husband who is serving as her attorney.

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“To put my heart and soul into every child, every year, and then have some absurd statistical analysis determine I’m not effective…to me this is just ridiculous,” said Dr. Lederman, who has a doctorate in educational psychology from Hofstra University.

 

Dr. Lederman is now suing the state Education Department to toss out her score. She wants the state Supreme Court in Albany to bar New York from using this rating method for her fellow teachers statewide.

 

Now, the state is attempting to dismiss Lederman’s suit, which claims the evaluation system and Lederman’s rating is “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” according to documents filed with the state Supreme Court in Albany. The state argues that Lederman’s concern about parents finding out her low score is unfounded, as the information can’t be accessed through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

 

Additionally, the state argues her other evaluation scores are high enough that her low growth rating does not bring her overall composite score to the level requiring disciplinary action, according to court documents.

 

The growth test uses a computer software program created by the American Institutes for Research that compares student test scores of one teacher to those of similar students across the state. The program — which has cost the state more than $3.4 million, according to State Education Department invoices — classifies and compares students based on similar demographics, prior academic history and learning classifications.

 

By comparing student performance in this way, the state test system “ensures that all educators have a chance to do well regardless of the composition of their schools or classrooms,” according to the education department.

 

But the American Statistical Association in an April 2014 statement advised “wise use” of these “value-added models” like the growth rating system for teachers, especially when it comes to making high-stakes decisions like hiring and firing educators.

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Bruce Lederman said his wife is publicly acknowledging that the state awarded her an “F” for her ability to help students grow when compared to those across the state.

 

And though Lederman typically deals with real estate and commercial litigation, he said it has been alarming to see how unwilling the State Education Department has been to even discuss the effect these ratings have on teachers. The Ledermans are currently setting up meetings with state legislators to get their story heard. They have had no response from the governor or the governor’s office.

 

“We come at this from a very small piece of the puzzle, but since the governor has made (teacher evaluations) the centerpiece of the puzzle… it needs to be made known how inaccurate the tests are,” Bruce Lederman said.

 

Sheri Lederman isn’t the only teacher affected by low ratings. Her husband said he has received numerous calls from teachers across the state fighting the same battle but lacking the financial means — typically upward of six figures when entering into a lawsuit.

 

Educational organizations across the state want to throw out teacher evaluations based on standardized test scores, none more so than the New York State United Teachers union. NYSUT argues the governor’s proposal places increased pressure on students and teachers whose achievement is dictated by a numerical test score. Others have said it relies on a flaky evaluation system that will turn teachers away from the profession.

 

But Lederman isn’t giving up. She intends to have the scoring system removed from New York completely in an effort to keep teachers judged on qualities like confidence and critical thinking.

 

“You get to a point where if you’re seeing something that’s just wrong, I feel like, as Americans, we have an obligation to stand up and say something. It’s a battle that I think has to be fought — not just for the teachers, but for the kids,” Lederman said.

 

But the state could move in the other direction if Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his way. In his State of the State speech in 2015, he called for tougher teacher evaluations, and using them to make it easier to reward top teachers and remove weak ones.

 

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said state exams should count for 50% of evaluations for teachers of language arts and math in grades four through eight, up from 20% now. Current evaluations are “baloney,” he said, because nearly all teachers get high marks while most students lack proficiency in English and math.

 

The governor’s proposals infuriated teachers unions. Among many complaints, unions cite flaws in the complex computer models that aim to isolate a teacher’s contribution to children’s growth on exams.

 

Researchers have long disagreed on the validity of these models and their value for personnel decisions. Some, including the American Statistical Association, caution that many factors affect test scores, such as class size, extracurricular tutoring, poverty and parental involvement.

 

But other studies back this approach, including one highlighted by President Barack Obama in his 2012 State of the Union speech. Three economists from Harvard and Columbia universities examined test scores for 2.5 million children and tracked them into adulthood. The study found that students with high-quality teachers—identified by test-score gains—were more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries and avoid having babies as teenagers.

 

Many teachers don’t buy these ratings. Dr. Lederman, a 53-year-old mother who grew up in affluent, high-performing Great Neck, is among the first teachers to publicly reveal her own growth score in an attempt to discredit it. Dr. Lederman earned all 80 possible points on district elements, mostly from observers judging her classroom techniques. Her total of 81 points out of 100 deemed her effective overall, but her low mark for her students’ growth on state tests stunned her, her supervisors and effusive parents.

 

Thomas Dolan, superintendent in Great Neck, said: “No one who knows Sheri would accept the label ‘failing’ placed by her name for any reason.”

 

Officials at the Education Department declined to comment on Dr. Lederman’s case, citing the ongoing litigation. However, in an October court hearing in the Lederman suit, Colleen Galligan, a state assistant attorney general, defended growth scores, saying the model was developed with “a lot of input” from teachers unions.

 

To derive growth scores, a computer model compares each teacher’s students to children with similar academic histories and demographic backgrounds and tracks how much they advance in a year.

 

“While Petitioner’s students are still high achieving when compared with the state overall, their growth was significantly below average when compared with other similar students.”

 

Ms. Galligan filed court papers seeking to dismiss the case, on grounds that Dr. Lederman’s overall “effective” rating meant she hadn’t suffered any harm or disciplinary action.

 

In Dr. Lederman’s view, policy makers in Albany have no feel for her fourth-graders. “Children don’t learn in a linear fashion, they grow in fits and starts,” she said. “To take a single moment in time and judge the children, and then add insult to injury by using that to evaluate teachers, is utterly illogical.”

 

On Aug. 12, 2015, New York Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough presided over a hearing in the case — and he was not amused with the state’s case.

 

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The Following is a report on the hearing by Carol Burris, the executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education Fund. Burris retired in June as an award-winning principal at a New York high school, and she is the author of numerous articles, books and blog posts (including on The Answer Sheet) about the botched school reform efforts in her state.

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By Carol Burris

 

The exasperated New York Supreme Court judge, Roger McDonough, tried to get Assistant Attorney General Galligan to answer his questions. He was looking for clarity and instead got circuitous responses about bell curves, “outliers” and adjustments. Fourth-grade teacher Sheri Lederman’s VAM score of “ineffective” was on trial.

 

The more Ms. Galligan tried to defend the bell curve of growth scores as science, the more the judge pushed back with common sense. It was clear that he did his homework. He understood that the New York State Education Department’s VAM system artificially set the percentage of “ineffective” teachers at 7 percent. That arbitrary decision clearly troubled him. “Doesn’t the bell curve make it subjective? There has to be failures,” he asked.

 

The defender of the curve said that she did not like the “failure” word.

 

The judge quipped, “Ineffectives, how about that?” Those in attendance laughed.

 

Ms. Galligan preferred the term “outlier.” Those who got ineffective growth scores were “the outliers who are not doing a good job,” the attorney said. She seemed oblivious to the fourth-grade teacher who was sitting not 10 feet away from where she stood.

 

“Did her students learn nothing?” Justice McDonough asked. “How could it be that she went from 14 out of 20 points to 1 out of 20 points in one year?” He noted that the students’ scores were quite good and not that different from the year before.

 

Back behind the bell curve Ms. Galligan ran. As she tried to explain once again, the judge said, “Therein lies the imprecise nature of this measure.”

 

I met Sheri Lederman a year before she became an “outlier.” In April of 2013, a group of principals organized a forum at Hofstra University, called More than a Score. Sheri’s principal, Sharon Fougner, recommended her as a panelist. “She is not only a remarkable teacher, she is a scholar in childhood education,” Fougner said.

 

At that forum, Sheri spoke eloquently about her students. She explained what good elementary education should be. Her thoughtful presentation full of authentic concern for the effects of Pearson testing on her fourth-graders was the most moving presentation of the evening.

 

The following year, in 2014, Sheri received her ineffective score from the state. Principal Fougner called her into her office to tell her, so she would not have to suffer the indignity of reading it on a computer screen.

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The master teacher, known for her high expectations for students and her belief that every single student can succeed with her help, was in shock. Just the year before her score was rated “effective.”

 

After being told the bad news, Lederman recalls sitting at her desk thinking that there must be some mistake. She thought about quitting — and then she got angry.

 

What started out as a personal affront became a cause. As she recently told me:

 

“I spend a lot of time teaching my students about the injustices that have historically plagued populations across the world. It is often the case that one single person must step up and take a stand against an unjust law or governing body, becoming the tipping point for so many others. I could not stand by and accept what SED [State Education Department] and the Legislature were doing to me and every other educator out there. I have made the choice to take a public stand. Win or lose, I won’t stand by and be ineffective in this fight.”

 

She and her husband, attorney Bruce Lederman, filed for a review. She received a dismissive letter from the State Education Department saying there was no review and if she didn’t like it, the only recourse was an article 78 action.

 

And that is just what she and her husband began.

 

Lederman was not the only teacher in the school to get a poor score. In 2014, 21 percent of the staff at E.M. Baker School received a score of “ineffective,” 21 percent “developing” and 57 percent were “effective.” Just the year before, not one teacher received an “ineffective” score.

 

The irrationality was not limited to the teachers of Sheri Lederman’s school, one of the highest performing elementary schools in the state. In 2014, 44 percent of the teachers of the Fox Meadow School in Scarsdale received growth scores that said they were not “effective” teachers with 22 percent rated “ineffective.” Yet 61 percent of the school’s students were proficient in English Language Arts, and 75 percent were proficient in math—more that double the state’s proficiency rate. Similar results were found at the high-achieving Harbour Hill School in Roslyn, where 36 percent of its teachers received growth scores that labeled them “ineffective.”

 

The Lincoln School in Rochester, is a school designated as a priority/failing school by the state. Its proficiency rate was less than 3 percent. In 2014, 100 percent of its teachers received “effective” state scores, with 7 percent being rated “highly effective.” At another school facing receivership, The Martin Luther King Jr School in Utica, New York, 60 percent of the teachers received “effective” VAM scores and 40 percent were given VAM scores of “highly effective .”

 

I point out these dramatic differences not to disparage or embarrass the teachers of any school, but rather to shine a light on the irrational state-produced teacher scores based on the New York Common Core tests. For more information on the unreliable manner in which these scores functioned in 2013 and 2014, read here.

 

Bruce Lederman argued the irrationality of that rating system before the court. He laid out a careful, systematic argument. He was not opposed to evaluation. He was not even opposed to evaluation based on a measurement of student learning growth. He objected to a rating created in a black box that spit out predictions that compared his wife’s students to “avatar students.” He was disturbed that when questioned, that system responds with “because we say so.” He noted that “the magic of numbers brings a suspension of common sense.”

 

“There is nothing in the law that requires a bell curve,” he argued. He explained that a bell curve with its forced failures violates that law that requires that every teacher must be able to get all scores. Not only did he want the court to set aside his wife’s score, he wanted the court to “declare the measure an abuse of discretion” because “the State Education Department does not get a pass on unreasonable and irrational actions.”

 

After 90 minutes of argument, the court adjourned.

 

At its core, this story is a love story. It is the story of a teacher who loves her students, her profession and justice so much that she is willing to stand up and let the world know that she was “an outlier” with an “ineffective” score.

 

It was love that compelled teachers, retired and active, driving from all corners of the state to be in that courtroom to listen on a hot summer’s day. It was love that compelled her principal to drive to Albany to be there. It was the deep and abiding love of a husband for his wife that compelled Bruce Lederman to spend countless hours preparing an extraordinary defense. And it is love that nourishes and sustains the good school, not avatar score predictions for performance on Common Core tests.

 

UPDATE: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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BREAKING: THE LEDERMAN DECISION AND GALLUP POLL: THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF HIGH-STAKES TESTING?

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2016/05/breaking-lederman-decision-and-gallup.html

 

Today, the court decision in the Sheri Lederman case was issued.  Judge Roger McDonough of the NY State Supreme Court concluded that rating teachers via their students’ growth scores on the state exams is “arbitrary and capricious.”  He cited a wealth of evidence from affidavits of academic experts such as Linda Darling-Hammond, Sean Corcoran, Aaron Pallas, Carol Burris, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, Jesse Rothstein and others, showing that the system of evaluating teachers by means of test scores is unreliable, invalid, unfair and makes no sense.  Here is the message from her attorney (and husband) Bruce Lederman:

https://www.scribd.com/doc/312158515/NY-Judge-finds-rating-teachers-through-growth-test-scores-arbitrary-and-capricious

 

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“I am very pleased to attach a 13 page decision by Judge Roger McDonough which concludes that Sheri has “met her high burden and established that Petitioner’s growth score and rating for the school year 2013-2014 are arbitrary and capricious.” The Court declined to make an overall ruling on the rating system in general because of new regulations in effect. However, decision makes (at page 11) important observations that VAM is biased against teachers at both ends of the spectrum, disproportionate effects of small class size, wholly unexplained swings in growths scores, strict use of curve. The decision should qualify as persuasive authority for other teachers challenging growth scores throughout the County. Court carefully recites all our expert affidavits, and discusses at some length affidavits from Professors Darling-Hammond, Pallas, Amrein-Beardsley, Sean Corcoran and Jesse Rothstein as well as Drs. Burris and Lindell.

 

It is clear that the evidence all of these amazing experts presented was a key factor in winning this case since the Judge repeatedly said both in Court and in the decision that we have a “high burden” to meet in this case. The Court wrote that the court “does not lightly enter into a critical analysis of this matter … [and] is constrained on this record, to conclude that petitioner has met her high burden” …To my knowledge, this is the first time a judge has set aside an individual teacher’s VAM rating based upon a presentation like we made. THANKS to all who helped in this endeavor.” At the same time, a national poll was released by the Gallup organization showing how most parents, teachers, students and administrators do not believe state exams are useful:

 

Most teachers find their quality of the state exams are only “fair” or “poor”:

 

And most families, whatever their income level, do not believe that these exams improve learning:

 

Let’s hope that together these poll results, along with the Lederman decision, sound the death knell for the obsession with high-stakes testing that has overtaken our schools.

 

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MR RIPLEY’S GREAT TALENT? MAKING US LIKE A KILLER AND HIS CRIMES

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MR RIPLEY’S GREAT TALENT? MAKING US LIKE A KILLER AND HIS CRIMES

By Sam Jordison

Tuesday 9 June 2015 16.45 BST

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/jun/09/the-talented-mr-ripley-crimes-psychology-patricia-highsmith-reading-group

The Reading group verdict is in: Patricia Highsmith’s amoral protagonist in The Talented Mr Ripley offers a queasy kind of entertainment – and an armchair psychologist’s perfect case study.

 

“I couldn’t make an interesting story out of some morons,” said Patricia Highsmith in 1981. She explained: “The murderers that one reads about in the newspaper are, half the time, mentally deficient in some way, or simply callous. There are young boys, for instance, who pretend to be delivering, or who may help an old lady carrying her groceries home, and then hit her on the head when she invites them in for tea and rob her. These are forever stupid people, but they exist. Many murderers are like that, and they don’t interest me enough to write a book about them.”

 

Ripley, however, is a different case. He, Highsmith says, is “reasonably intelligent” and, crucially, amoral. “I suppose I find it an interesting contrast to stereotyped morality, which is very frequently hypocritical and phony. I also think that to mock lip-service morality and to have a character amoral, such as Ripley, is entertaining. I think people are entertained by reading such stories.”

 

The fact that the Talented Mr Ripley has now been in print for 60 years proves that last point. But it’s a queasy, uneasy kind of entertainment. Ripley may not be a typically moronic murderer. But that doesn’t make him any less real or believable. In the comments about last week’s Reading group article, for instance, a contributor came in with a pathological diagnosis, as if Ripley were a genuine case study:

 

“He is a perfect example of the narcissistic personality disorder. Swinging between the poles of excessive self-criticism and grandiosity, easily to take offence and vicious in retaliation – all to make up for a lack of core self.”

 

You can find scores of similar attempts to define Ripley’s symptoms on the internet. Plenty of them are sincerely technical:

 

“We are subtly introduced to the two overriding themes of the antisocial personality disorder (still labelled by many professional authorities “psychopathy” and “sociopathy”): an overwhelming dysphoria and an even more overweening drive to assuage this angst by belonging.”

 

Some kind soul has even devised a treatment plan for Tom:

 

“I would perform an MRI, complete blood work … to rule out comorbidities, as well as run a toxicology screening, STD/HIV screening … and MMPI (personality test) to evaluate the extremities of his personality and discover if other fluctuations other than his ASPD [antisocial personality disorder] could be treated with medication or effective psychotherapeutic techniques.”

 

Of course, all this presupposes the possibility of catching Ripley. Easier said than done.

 

There is something more serious going on here, too. Ripley feels like a real threat. In 1949, when Highsmith was addressing the issue of how to present a true-to-life psychopath on the page, she wrote in a notebook: “The psychopath is an average man living more clearly than the world permits him.” After she had realised her vision in 1955, she made another note: “It felt like Ripley was writing it.”

 

The challenge and fascination of the novel lies between those two observations. Ripley feels real – but in living more clearly than the world permits, he is also able to play out some dangerously enticing fantasies.

 

In a previous article I suggested that there was a moral challenge in the fact that Highsmith has made Ripley both a likable character and a cold-blooded killer. I’m now having to refine my opinion. Quite a few people who commented below the line rightly pointed out that there’s a certain satisfaction to his crimes. Nilpferd said: “Any of us who have seen less talented, more stupid people get ahead of us in life probably experience a certain frisson of pleasure at the way Ripley recalibrates these inequalities.” And Justanoldfool wrote: “Yes, Tom is a likable character for all sorts of reasons, but as much as anything, we like him because he does what he wants – and gets away with it.”

 

Anthony Minghella, the director of the film of The Talented Mr Ripley, stressed the same thing when he wrote about the book in the Guardian:

 

“His actions are an extreme response to emotions all of us recognise: the sense that there is a better life being lived by somebody else, somewhere else, someone not trapped inside the hollow existence in which we find ourselves. It’s one of the things which makes us human. We’ve all been Tom Ripley, just as we’ve all known a Dickie Greenleaf, the man who has everything, whose attention makes us feel special. We’ve all basked in the sunshine of that attention and felt the chill of losing it.”

 

The books don’t just make us like a killer, they make us like his crimes. Writing in the Paris Review, her biographer Joan Schenkar says that Highsmith’s novels “suck [the] reader into their bottomless vortex of moral relativities, transferable guilts and unstable identities”.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in the very next sentence, Schenkar suggests Highsmith herself was “more than a little on the psychopathic side”.

 

When the author was asked how close she felt to being a criminal, she replied:

 

“I can think of only one slight closeness, and that is that an imaginative writer is very freewheeling; he has to forget about his personal morals, especially if he is writing about criminals. He has to feel anything is possible. But I don’t understand why an artist should have any criminal tendencies. The artist may simply have an ability to understand …”

 

Even as she denied any moral ambiguity, however, she brought in bucket-loads:

 

 

 

“I get impatient with a certain hidebound morality. Some of the things one hears in church, and certain so-called laws that nobody practices. Nobody can practice them, and it is even sick to try … Murder, to me, is a mysterious thing. I feel I do not understand it, really. I try to imagine it, of course, but I think it is the worst crime. That is why I write so much about it; I am interested in guilt. I think there is nothing worse than murder, and that there is something mysterious about it, but that isn’t to say it is desirable for any reason. To me, in fact, it is the opposite of freedom, if one has any conscience at all.”

 

Naturally, as upstanding people we all agree that murder is the opposite of freedom. Even if we have a powerful counter-example in the shape of Tom Ripley …

 

 

 

SADE’S COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP WITH FAME CAN STILL TEACH US SOMETHING, 16 YEARS LATER

Paul Natkin Archive
Sade on 1/27/85 in Chicago, Il. (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

 

[ In the year 2000, London-based journalist and broadcaster Ekow Eshun profiled Sade for the 6th issue of The FADER. ]

 

She’s been out of the spotlight for eight years, yet never out of the charts. She’s sold 50 millions records and doesn’t need to work again. She lost a marriage and a house too, but rebuilt the house and rediscovered love, gave birth to a daughter, and finally figured out how to deal with fame. Guess there was nothing left to do but bring out a new album. Welcome to the complex world of Sade.

 

Each listen of Sade’s Lovers Rock started the scratching at the back of my head, setting off a nagging reminding me of something out of reach, the half-revived memory of a previously-forgotten loss. For a long time after first hearing the album I struggled to identify what it recalled, mentally thumbing through my old albums, before realizing that the feeling it evoked had less in common with music than it did with literature. I thought of The Great Gatsby, where doomed love is set against the thrum and hiss of the jazz age. Like that novel, Lovers Rock is underscored by a non-specific melancholy, as though Sade’s world had been soured beyond hope.

 

What is she so sad about, I wondered? What’s she mourning? I’ve thought some of these same thoughts each time I’ve listened to the new record from Sade. Mostly only in passing though. Her music has often seemed stylized—beautifully constructed but ultimately lacking any really convincing passion. But something’s happened in recent years, and a different Sade is emerging. Listen to the new album and it’s clear that the restraint which marked her previous work has given way to a greater intimacy.

 

Helen Folosade Adu was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, 41 years ago and raised in Colchester, Essex, an unremarkable English backwater, after her mother separated from her NIgerian father when Sade was four. She grew up listening to soul legends—Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye—and wanted to be a drummer before becoming convinced that she’d be a writer. Instead she ended up in art school. “I wanted to do painting but I ended up in fashion ’cause I wanted to make a living out of it, to have a trade, which was very much how I was brought up. But I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t reverent about fashion, I didn’t love it at all.”

VARIOUS

By chance something else happened to rescue her from frustration. Some old school friends formed a band and asked her to join as a vocalist, and she did so, reluctantly, on the basis that she’d stay “until they found a proper singer.” From there she moved to another group, a sprawling Latin funk group called Pride. It was the early ’80s in London, a time marked musically by a mood of abandonment and experimentation, which could lead to unfortunate consequences. In the case of Pride, this meant an eight-piece collective remarkable more for optimism than musical ability. For Sade, the two years spent traveling around Britain in the back of a van meant time to hone her nascent ability as a songwriter.

 

Let’s get this into context. With Sade it’s unlikely there will ever be a full, naked baring of the soul. In terms of contemporary icons, it’s better to listen to Mary J for stories of drama and shattered devotion. But Sade, today, is all about the acknowledged presence of absence. What’s missing in her music is as important as what’s present.

 

So on Lovers Rock there are no swooping saxophones and no lush instrumentation. There is instead spare, deceptively simple arrangement—sometimes no more than an acoustic guitar. And there is her voice, offering, instead of glossy lifestyle anthems, tracks like “Immigrant” and “Slave Song”, whose lyrics, suffused with anger and regret, make poetry out of the sometime pain of the black experience. One line on “Immigrant”, He didn’t know what it was to be black/’Til they gave him change and didn’t want to touch his hand, is one written by an artist seemingly less concerned with describing an imagined reality, as perhaps she did before, than delineating the contours of the world as it is, here and now, close-up and uncomfortable.

 

By the time Pride had clawed their way up to a show at London’s leading jazz venue, Ronnie Scott’s, she had co-written “Smooth Operator,” the song which had A&R people thronging to the front of the stage, impatient for her to ditch the group and sign solo. When she eventually did, she took three of Pride with her, Start Matthewman, Andrew Hale and Paul Spencer Denman, and they formed a band which has rarely faltered, from their debut single, 1984’s “Your Love Is King”, through the hit albums Diamond Life, Promise, Stronger Than Pride and 1992’s Love Deluxe, each of which has spawned its own raft of singles, including the quintessential Sade hits “Paradise”, “Sweetest Taboo”, and “No Ordinary Love”.

 

It’s Sunday when I meet Sade. She, and the fellow members of her band, are rehearsing for forthcoming live dates in a cavernous North London performance space. She is dressed casually, smokes copiously and the mood is relaxed. Sade hasn’t released an album of new material in eight years. Rumors of depression and addiction have been rife during that time. Hang out at London fashion and music parties and her absence is taken as proof of that, QED, the stories must be true. But for years I’d seen her walking around Islington, North London, where she and I both live, betraying little visible sign of any terrible struggle with inner demons. Equally absent, on those occasions, was the kind of entourage of personal assistants, managers and hangers-on that orbit most stars who’ve sold 50 million albums.

 

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And that laid-back mood extends to a lack of neurosis concerning the rest of her band. While Sade’s been silent, Matthewman, Hale and Denman have been hard at work. They were responsible for much of the sound on Maxwell’s debut album Urban Hang Suite and also for an album of their own as Sweetback, which, though generally over-looked, featured sublime vocal performances from artists such as Maxwell and Bahamadia. Both projects helped lay the template for the current musical direction of Sade, burrowing reverb and echo effects from dub reggae as well as an ease and fluidity, not to mention tougher beats and basslines, from R&B.

 

“Sometimes,” Sade tells me in a side room away from the rehearsal space, “I think our songs get lost in how people perceive them and how they get listened to. I didn’t want this record to be smoothed out. I wanted it to be rougher. To retain the spirit [of] when they’re conceived rather than taking it further and making it more of a song. Like Stuart went to replay the guitar parts on some of the tracks and we weren’t happy with the new parts, so oftentimes we’d retain the original performances just because they felt right. We just wanted to make it slightly more extreme, to make it more obvious what we are.”

 

I find myself nodding almost despite myself. The Sade version of extremity, after all, remains velvet-smooth, even on tracks like the haunting “Immigrant”. Yet beneath the words and the music is an undertow of emotion that lends the record its own distinct life. In comparison to most contemporary R&B, which offers little in the way of subtext, this is something to be savored. From the futurescapes of Timbaland and The Neptunes to Destiny’s Child sisterhood anthems, black music is currently all about clamoring for attention, demanding to be heard. Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo and their like may offer an alternative but often this is predicated on a romanticized sense of the past, as though what’s modern and futuristic can’t compare with the analogue and the organically grown. Sade fit into neither camp in that they’re a mixed race British group who are unconcerned with either recapturing the roots of soul or claiming its 21st century crown. And yet for all that, they’ve made music that has pushed forward the parameters of modern soul, often by running contrary to the mood of the time. “I don’t think we’ve ever been ‘in’ date,” notes Sade dryly. “I think we’ve been out of date from the start.”

 

Bear in mind after all, that in the early-’80s, when they first formed, critic Nelson George was lamenting The Death of Rhythm & Blues in a book which measured the stars of the ’80s such as Alexander O’Neal and Anita Baker against their soul predecessors and found little to celebrate. Contrary to George’s prediction, R&B thrives today. But it does so as a woefully imitative medium, apparently content to mimic the sounds of innovators Timbaland and Rodney Jenkins ad nauseam. The story has been different in Britain, where the club culture of racially mixed urban areas like London, Bristol and Manchester has produced hybrid music forms and artists who thrive on eclecticism such as Massive Attack, Tricky, Björk and Roni Size, alongside genres such as drum & bass and UK garage. It’s this milieu that informs Lovers Rock, if not directly, then certainly by demanding of the group a more open-ended approach to how they make music in 2000.

 

Yet until now, Sade has never more than hinted at unrest beneath the smooth patina of her music. Lovers Rock, by contrast, bubbles with restless discontent, as though its spartan form can barely hold the weight of its emotions. Much of the reason for that—beyond Sade’s own natural inclination toward somber lyrics—has to do with what’s happened in the eight years between her last two albums.

 

In the late ’80s, Sade fell in love with, and married, Spanish film director Carlos Pliego, relocating from London to Madrid as a consequence. But by the making of Love Deluxe, their always-turbulent relationship had finally broken apart for good. “It was a very sad situation,” she sighs. “I had to leave… very quickly… with a very small bag. It took five years for it not to be something that affected the way I felt. It wasn’t like I was crawling out of bed every day or anything like that, but it would have really undermined love for me to get over it quickly. If you really love someone that’s the way it is.” Back in Britain, her new house in North London began to subside, forcing her to move out while it was propped up and put back together in 18 months. Literally as well as metaphorically, it felt as though her life was falling apart. There were times when she wondered if she would ever make another record. “If there’s something big going on in my life I can’t switch it off in the middle and go make a record,” she says empathically. “Luckily, because I am in the position that I don’t have to work, I can put the people in my life as a priority. A relative of mine got very sick and I was there looking after her with my mum. I couldn’t walk away. You can talk about stuff and sing about stuff but if you don’t live it in the end then it’s all fake.”

 

In the wake of that turbulence, she forged a new relationship with a boyfriend she’ll only name as Bobby, who was working with a band in her basement studio. They have a daughter, now four, called Ila, to whom Sade has devoted the past few years of her life. Despite the gap between albums, Lovers Rock was recorded in only a year. But the weight of Sade’s experience during the past decade impresses itself on the album. She has for much of the time been at best preoccupied with the complexity of other people’s lives, at worst extremely unhappy. And while at times she may have wanted to fast-forward past the rawness of the emotion around her, the consequence of it is that Sade herself remains grounded in a world of real responsibilities and concerns, rather than isolated amongst her own preoccupations.

 

A small, yet important, fact: When Sade signed her first record deal with Epic in the early ’80s, she accepted a small advance, worth £60,000, in exchange for an unusually high cut of sales for a new artist—15 percent. It was a deal that ended up proving immensely lucrative, and it has freed her from many of the commercial demands that often encumber artists. Put simply, she only works when and how she wants to. As one executive at her label, Epic, put it to me: “Who’s going to argue with a woman who’s sold 50 million albums? She’s more powerful than anyone working at the label, including the [President].”

 

But such power has had its drawbacks. Unstinting commercial success over 16 years means Sade hasn’t suffered, or enjoyed, the kind of mid-life crisis that afflicted, say, U2, the turning point that prompted them, at least briefly, to throw caution to the wind by drafting in Howie B and digitally remixing their sound and their image. While in Sade’s cases there have been remixes from Nellee Hooper, Mad Professor and most recently, The Neptunes, there has never been a video or photo shoot that dazzles or shocks. She’s not Busta or Björk, performers who relish playing with and confounding expectation. She’s always been Sade, and because being Sade has worked so spectacularly well, she sees no reason for change.

 

The result is that Sade now seems like an artist from a different era. It’s not that her music is out of date. But what separates her from most famous names is her attitude toward fame itself. Back in the ’60s Warhol presciently declared an era of 15 minutes of fame for everyone. And celebrity today is based less on what you do than who you are. Kato Kaelin, John Wayne Bobbitt, the cast of Survivor or Big Brother; none of these people have worked long and hard to secure recognition on the basis of their achievements. They’ve found themselves in the spotlight and, with varying degrees of success and desperation, have tried to cling on to their brief moment for as long as possible. And the true celebrities of our age, like Madonna, grin and bare just as maniacally under that light as the wannabes and no-hopers, so that we don’t get bored and find someone else to lavish our attention on.

 

That’s why Sade, who has a keen distrust of media attention, seems to belong to a time before celebrity when there was only fame and it belonged to Hollywood stars whose image was carefully maintained by the studios. By nature she’s a classicist whose own sound and style has evolved only gradually over the years, rather than altered with each passing trend. Sade tells me about how she first new she was famous. The doorman at a hotel practically spat in her face. “He said to me, ‘Why did you do such a shit version of “Why Can’t We Live Together?” Why did you destroy that song?'” It taught her that fame didn’t automatically bring slavish adoration and very quickly she became wary of it, putting on a scarf and sunglasses whenever she walked outside, ducking her head if passers-by called her name.

 

Even today she sighs with relief after I turn off the tape at the end of the interview, as though she’d just tiptoed through a minefield with her eyes shut. This, too, aside from the trials of her personal life, is why Lovers Rock is so ambiguous yet pervasive in its discontent. It’s the sound of an immensely private person who’s found herself in the public eye. Before she made Lovers Rock, Sade had to think through the whole tricky business of fame, with its Faustian pay-off between success and lack of privacy. She thought of her daughter and her friends and her family, the people whom she treasures more in life than any professions, and what might be at stake in returning to the spotlight. Whether she might lose more than she gained in doing so. With the rest of her band on the phone wanting to get back to work and Epic hungry for another album she still hesitated.

 

“After you make a record your life changes. Beforehand I was living my little anonymous life. But that whole machine that starts going when you make a record… it was all about how that change was going to affect my life, and my new life as a mother.” Eventually though she came to a realization that felt so simple and clear that the apparent conflict between her private and public lives simply dissolved away. How could Sade, the mother/friend/singer/star cease to be any of these things when each of them, after all, is Sade herself? “I just want to be who I am in the end, that’s all you are anyway. It doesn’t matter what anybody says about you, you are who you are in the end. Because in the end I breathe and sleep and laugh and cry, and all the things that everybody does. And that is me.”