Concerns about NYSSBA’s independence,

Reprinted with permission.

Please send to any school board members you know, and all interested parties, unless you’re in New Paltz — I’ve got that covered.

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

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

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

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

andhttp://www.nyssba.org/clientuploads/nyssba_pdf/PrintOnDemand/SAI/slides-sai-common-core2-032914.pdf

Research also has me concerned about the name “Student Achievement Institute.” That name is in wide play in these corporate-backed astroturf foundations. For example: “Student Achievement Partners”http://achievethecore.org/about-us

The literature summaries indicate they are all sourced to Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the rest of the usual interconnected suspects with dozens of names and shared funding sources. Example: Predominant Teacher Evaluation Program Will Reflect New Common Core State Standards
10/29/2013 | PR Newswire Helmsley Charitable Trust makes a $3 million grant to align Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching to the Common Core State Standards. “The project will include a field study of the FfT and the CCSS Instructional Practice Guides, a new set of tools developed by Student Achievement Partners to support teachers in making the instructional shifts called for by the CCSS.”

As you can see, these people have the money, and they get what they pay for. The Helmsley Foundation, cited for the $3 million grant above, is also a $3.3 million donor to the NY SED’s private “think tank” that is designing APPR and Common Core implemenation systems and manufacturing data with which to sell them. Perhaps you saw some of the articles about this, currently privately funded at $19 million, and rising.http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Education-reform-backed-by-the-wealthy-5006670.php

and www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/nyregion/free-advisers-cost-ny-education-dept-critics-say.html

and this one, which shows the scope of this program is national.http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/12/secret-policymaking-on-school-reform-is-on-the-rise/

Compare and contrast these mainstream media investigatory accounts, that include the viewpoints of supporters and opponents, with the NYSSBA report on the exact same thing. To NYSSBA, this is the greatest thing since the invention of typesetting. Its gushing praise is cartoonish. But that should come as no surprise, given that NYSSBA is now on the same payroll as the people and institutions upon whom they’re reporting: http://www.nyssba.org/index.php?src=news&refno=1605&category=On

Lastly, so as not to be too burdensome with the full scope of my research thus far (as if I have not already risked that), I will include this NYSSBA press release from September 2nd, which refers to a Pulse Poll survey from July, in which the headline and the actual poll results are in complete contradiction with each other. This and other polls, including the one from last week that they invalidated after getting results they didn’t like, were intended to create after-the-fact validation for the Student Achievement Institute, which was founded in January with no membership input whatsoever, and to promote three related resolutions we are being asked to approve at the convention at the end of October that support additional Common Core training programs for teachers, and increased use of test scores in APPR. If you read the those three proposals (4, 9, and 10) in the resolution book), you will see that like any push poll, they claim membership survey support for why they’re being proposed, in the text of the resolution, rather than in the rationale section.http://www.nyssba.org/news/2014/09/02/press-releases/poll-training-on-common-core-implementation-would-benefit-school-boards/

And just this week, NYSSBA was running a poll that asked us whether we felt Common Core would help, hurt, or do nothing for education in New York, and whether we felt most parents in our districts supported or opposed Common Core. The answers for both questions were negative at around 80%. NYSSBA removed and then reposted the poll, after which the results remained about the same. They then killed the poll, and put out an announcement that if any of us had seen the results, we shouldn’t talk about it, because NYSSBA considers them invalid because of the size of the turnout. However, the questions were very similar to those from the July poll — the one NYSSBA lied about in its Sept. 2nd press release — just inverted, in which questions about school board support for Common Core produced results at the same percentiles as those in the poll the cancelled, with 23 percent believing their board would benefit from training in Common Core data-based decision making, twenty percent would welcome board training in Common Core communication strategies, and 12 percent would like additional training in resource allocation for implementing Common Core. In the instance of the first poll, NYSSBA put out a false statement. They declared the second poll invalid and requested our silence on its results.

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

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

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

Steve Greenfield
Member, New Paltz BOE

Updated

While I was googling the agency to see if it had a masthead, I left out “NYSSBA” and just googled “Student Achievement Institute.” In so doing, I accidentally found what is probably the parent agency, a corporate front that’s doing this nationally. http://www.asainstitute.org/

We know that NYSED has taken $19 million to date in donations from the big non-profits that have been funding Common Core and charter school advocacy. And we know that NYSSBA created its own Student Achievement Institute with outside money, and not independently by seeing the need, and with its own money. The founding of the NYSSBA Student Achievement Institute, and its mission, parallel the organizational description below much too closely for me to assume it’s a coincidence. This is going to take a bit of work unraveling.

“‘The American Student Achievement Institute (ASAI) creates national, statewide and regional networks of schools and community organizations who change their culture (systems) and public will for the purpose of increasing Graduate

the % of students who master a rigorous curriculum, and
the % of community members who hold a postsecondary credential.

All ASAI initiatives include a series of leadership team workshops at which participants learn how to develop an organizational structure and engage educators and community organizations in a series of focused discussions leading to a data-based and accountable strategic plan. Teams are support by a robust online program management system that provides student data, a steering team manual, and discussion facilitation tools. After each local discussion, teams use the online system to submit various reports to ASAI which are evaluated with written feedback provided.”

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One thought on “Concerns about NYSSBA’s independence,

  1. Pingback: Never Knowing Which Way to Turn | One Mom's Journey Through Education Reform

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