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Talk of the Sound Report: The North-South Divide in New Rochelle Public Schools

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Talk of the Sound Report: The North-South Divide in New Rochelle Public Schools

October 02, 2009 - 14:29
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EDITOR'S NOTE: There is a school board meeting Tuesday night 10/6.

The following report is the result of more than a year of research and observing the school board in action. I hope you will read this presentation and share it with your friends, neighbors and, for those of you with children in South End schools, your fellow parents. I hope you will be as disturbed to read this report as I was in preparing it. I welcome your comments and feedback below.

For more than a year I have been a regular presence at Board of Education meetings, much to the dismay of the members of the administration of the New Rochelle public schools and members of the board of education. Over the past two years the school district and their minions have made various efforts to discourage me from working to bring to light the unethical and often illegal conduct of school officials, district employees and members of the school board. Lawyers working for the school district have contacted the company that hosts this web site in an attempt to have them shut down my web site, private investigators have been used to make inquiries about me, my neighbors have received phone calls asking for "dirt" about me and, of course, some have conducted a whisper campaign to spread false, defamatory comments about me and my family. I have even been accused of blackmail by district officials and their lawyers, told I was not entitled to public records, and "banned" from setting foot on school grounds. School officials have been instructed not to speak to me. One school official even filed a false police report resulting in the New Rochelle police coming to my home with guns strapped to their hips to "investigate" the false claims.

Rest assured, I have no intention of slinking off in the face of their various threats, invasions of privacy and smear campaigns. The simple fact is that the New Rochelle public school system is little more than a criminal enterprise operating under the cover of an educational mission. The rot in the system goes all the way to the top: school members routinely violate New York State law by using the cover of "executive session" to meet in secret to discuss public business. As they all agree to do this, it is, in fact, a conspiracy to engage in unlawful activities. Board members are well educated, many are lawyers, and they all know they are breaking the law. I would suggest to readers that a school district that is willing to break the law in one way is willing to break the law in every other way - as one recent arrest has begun to make clear. Let's just hope there are more on the way.

A great deal of effort is expended by the district to convince the public that there is "equity" in our public school system and especially that there is "parity" between Isaac E. Young Middle School (IEYMS) and Albert Leonard Middle School (ALMS). They do this in two ways: (1) administrators make false and misleading presentations of test score results to the board which then sits on their collective hands and pretends to believe the reports; (2) they try to hide any information that would contradict their false claims of "equity" and "parity" and attack, fire or ostracize those who would attempt to bring it to light.

They have gotten away with this for years through a combination of voter apathy and the ability to use the teachers union (controlled by Marty Daly) and the PTA (also controlled by Marty Daly) to turn out their vote. By doing all they can to keep voter turnout low (less than 10% of New Rochelle's registered voters cast ballots last May) and giving the union all sorts of goodies (including a six-figure income for Marty Daly for teaching a single 50 minute class) the union members living in New Rochelle (and their families) vote for the "approved" candidates. Through a combination of union and PTA turnout efforts, homeowners living in the North End and families of kids in parochial schools who are given free busing to private schools to which they are not entitled, the school district gets their way. As a result there are board members currently serving their fourth, fifth and even sixth 5-year terms (all from the North End).

Last year more than 95% of New Rochelle's registered voters did not vote "yes" vote for the school budget or cast a ballot for either of the two "approved" candidates yet the budget and the candidates won by over 1,000 votes. On election night, without a hint of irony, school officials expressed their "gratitude" that New Rochelle voters so overwhelmingly approved their budget. If there was still any doubt about the sort of outcome people can expect when the school district is managing an election to vote on their own budget and their salaries and their benefits and their pensions just take a look at the composition of the school board. The board members have somehow come to believe they were elected not to represent the people of New Rochelle but to provide cover for the administration and close ranks in the face of any questions or challenge from parents or the general public.

This may never change. The deck is stacked so heavily in their favor that unless some outside force comes into New Rochelle to bring about change the District and the School Board will continue to operate as they have long into the future. I offer this report only in the hope of perhaps waking up just a few people to the reality of the nature of the con being perpetrated by our elected representatives on the school board.

The New Rochelle School's North-South Divide: This is parity?

NOTE: The District has been uncooperative in providing public information so this is the best I can do with the information I was able to obtain. As more information comes to light I would intend to update, correct or amend this report to reflect additional data.

There are 16 Comments

Until the people in the southern half of the city decide to go out and vote this trend will continue. Keep getting this message out and maybe more people will start to listen.

I just read this well researched and documented report. It is disturbing, but confusing to me. How much of student achievement is related to the school district/teachers and how much is related to upbringing at home?

That said, if a child has two parents with no college and perhaps only one parent at home, is there no hope? If a child is born of immigrant parents and English is the 2nd language, plus their parents can not help with homework, is there little possibility of higher grades except for gradual growth over generations?

Yet, the district seems to be feeding into this dynamic. Do they have lower aspirations for this generation of minorities? This group may need a different type of academic intervention than an American born, 2 parent household student. Has anyone done any research on it?

Plus, it seems, that the south end schools have a higher percentage of minorities. Would it help to have the White Plains model? In WP the parents can pick their child's elementary school and now, 8 or 10 years later, the schools have a mostly similiar demographic breakdown. Would this hurt the north ends higher acheivers?

I think a charter school on the south end is part of the answer.

Robert Cox's picture

NR101,

Thank you for taking the time to read the report. However, you are raising an unrelated issue that is premature to even consider at this time.

You wrote:

"How much of student achievement is related to the school district/teachers and how much is related to upbringing at home?"

The point of my report is that the school district is making many false representations about the the level of equity between the North and South end schools. I do not see how we can have a discussion about what is causing disparities in performance until the school district first acknowledges that there are disparities.

Before even discussing THAT we need to look at the illegal activities going on at the highest level of the school district - lying on FOIL appeals, holding illegal secret meetings, and wholesale fraud on standardized tests.

I did a web search and found this link.

In this district someone realized there was cheating the same way you did. The kids did noticeable too well on a major test, but flunked lesser ones that did not count towards promotion to the next grade. When the disparity was publicized a 4th grade teacher caved and then the principal resigned.

http://www.clipfile.org/2004/11/18/744/

There are a lot of similar stories on the web. In some cases teachers are granted immunity from the BOE to testify against the principal or dept. head.

This "high stakes" cheating seems to come after the No Child Left Behind act where schools have to show improvements.

bob, a daunting task and sadly, likely not to have an effect on parents in new rochelle. you have done much more than most voters know, yet the power structure is apparently content with the status quo. the need is, as peggy says,is to change the entire composition of the city management structure and vote in people who will demand changes to our charter and codes to do exactly one of your recommendations namely a district specific board appointed perhaps by council members who are not frightened to look at a real and pervasive issue that is damaging to the growth and expansion of the city and morally corrupt inasmuch as it mortgages the children of new rochelle; more so on the south side, but not exclusive to south of the high school districts. unless some people of quality and discernment step up and run, we are fated to live with the above while taxes, abominately high as they are here, rise to unparalled heights.

how much this sadly parallels the national agenda. people look for ways to politicize the current state or make mini fixes to enormous issues. the whole debate on health care is warped because few, if any, from both sides of the spectrum are using critical thinking to define the issues and put in corrective actions consistent with the issues. same here -- our pols and parents do little because of fear and loss; of patronage, funding, votes --- the students are secondary, the senior on fixed income, well after all he is a senior, etc.

i have checked with the department of education and regents office in nys -- they are aware of the broader issue of an extraordinary number of illogical results in 2009 based on faulty test logic, protocol and perhaps worse. you could not, unless committed to do so, fail the math and esl.

the so called state results include new york city i assume and so, we have an issue right off. i would have liked to have seen this district present similar findings against county results. the 2006-2008 results would have been enlightening; the 2009 results explainable across the board.

the district presentation is, in a word, horsespit. bob cox is skilled at statistical inference and knows that there are many ways to present data according to the outcome message you want to achieve. what i have problems is with why a district would want to present a picture of lower performance schools in a higher performance light. it makes no sense in terms of any other reason other than sustainability of the status quo. dont' we want all of our students to grow, to compete, to do well on eventual regents and SATS? i guess not; and parent apathy no not just parent, voter apathy accounts for this sad state of affairs.

look, it is sad enough as it is. we are, as a nation, something like 27 in a world-wide proficiency ranking. our best performers are often kids coming directly from some other culture and achieving better results than our native born kids. perhaps you are unaware of the large number of kids from india, china, etc.... who are returning to their countries to make a difference there or more, likely, escape the realities of our educational systems.

if you are reasonable, you would want direct answers to simple questions. for example

1. if the performance of isaac young is as reported and the achievement in closing racial gaps accurate as presented, what are the specific steps you have taken to account for this? did you change principals, assistant principals, process, policy, protocol,,,,,, what, exactly did you do.

2. where does our school system rank and stand relative to our neighbors in westchester?

3. what is the process followed in marking state tests and to what degree are students "front loaded" to achieve higher results and, to what degree does this "front loading" negatively affect outcomes on science, social studies and other subject matter?

again, bear in mind that 2009 was not and will not be representative of results in the past and in the future. the tests will be changed to insure, for example, that literally answering all multiple choice questions will compensate for inadequacies in essays, problems, etc.... in sum, guaranteeing passing and bear in mind that the range scores are embarassingly set at such a low hurdle in terms of low end on the passing grades that our kids will have a false illusion of being able to compete for place in our finer learning institions. trust me, i know what i am saying.

i am sympathetic to the nurture questions. of course too many children have parenting or guardian issues, the streets are mean, the economy punishing and, coupled with enticements like tv, tv games, cel phones, etc.... not conducive to achievement. this is probably most pronounced in middle school -- a fearsome combination of genes, distractions, and peer pressure. but, we have too long looked at a lack of family and community as the leading indicator of student performance. you cannot legislation attitude; only behavior. since that will likely be with us for the future, it is time to label it as a constraint and work with what we have.

we have acceptable teachers; i know because i have seen many of them in action. the same is not so for principals, assistant principals; here the picture is more variable. school district management is tragic and i would say deceitful. bob has told many a sad tale and where there is smoke there is fire. the school board is lamentable. the city counsel is tragically disinterested or unable to see what this means in terms of the growth and sustainment of a thriving city.

mr mayor, you have the capacity and intelligence to step up and demand more accountability. let me plead with you to do this. let me also caution the distric and oversight board that change is coming. i can tell you with certainty that both the national and state picture will change. and, mind you, i really hope that the data you present is simply inappropriate showmanship. if there is any misconduct or conscious mispresentation, it is actionable especially since you are accountable to the people who placed you in your position; something you love to ignore. i do not know if there is any cause for concern on that score, indeed, i hope not. better incompetence than mischief.

fred smith is a good man. i remember him well. he would have made a first rate superintendent. Pocatello Hills is fortunate to have him. If bob has a copy of his report; it should be made public.

new rochelle parents and voters, the ball is again, in your court. you can either act or regret over the years that you failed to act.

bob thank you for taking so much time and so much punishment and grief for serving the people of this city.

warren gross

Robert Cox's picture

Warren,

Let me address the three questions you raised in your comment.

1. This point was addressed last fall by IEYMS Principal Anthony Bongo. He stated that the improvement in Math was the result of offering a Saturday math program for lower performing students.

The board might have asked some follow up questions such as how many students participated in the Saturday program over all, how many attended every session, how many attended all but 1-2 sessions, how many came 1-2 times and then did not come back. Had they been told, they might also have asked why the improvements in Math were not seen in Science. There were no such improvements last year in English but at the recent board meeting where Korostoff claimed that English scores went up 28% at IEYMS in one year they might have asked some similar questions and determined how this was accomplished in a school with such a larger number of "English-learners" in the school.

2. If you want to determine our ranking relative to neighboring districts click here: https://www.nystart.gov/publicweb/

I would be very happy to see you publish a report on performance at neighboring districts. It is not hard. Start by collecting the ELA and Math scores for Pelham, Mount Vernon, Scarsdale, Mamaronock and New Rochelle for 2006-07 and 2007-08 (the official 2008-09 report is not online yet). Look at the scores and look at the "growth rate" in scores. When the final results are in for 2008-09 collect them as well. I am curious myself as to whether any other districts are showing 25-30% growth per year in test scores.

3. I do not know what you mean by "marking state tests" and "front loading" so perhaps you can expand on that point.

As for Fred Smith being a "good man", that is not my experience. In my direct dealings with him I found him to incredibly arrogant and irresponsible.

Ironically, after reading that Fred Smith PUT IN WRITING his views about the "shocking" disparity between students from IEYMS and ALMS, I suspect many who despise me will agree that Fred Smith is something of an idiot but for very different reasons.

As for the Smith Report, of course I do not have it. If I had it I would have published it, right? At this point I would imagine that school officials are running around looking for any copies or files of the report so they can erase, shred or burn them.

bob i cannot download the website reference you have given, but i think i have recent data from the state so I will try to satisfy your request as soon as I am able. i realize you have done the work and it would be only fair if others would chip in. i will say that without a doubt there is no way i can come up with to defend the presentation by the district. as for your other points

1. impressions on smith are irrelevant -- i hardly knew him; what i knew was he seemed decent and competent and apparently, at least alert enough to publish what he apparently published. so points for him on that score.

2. my points on front loading, etal simply refer to the likely in-house concentration on isaac spending inordinate amounts of time in concentrating on test material; changing the class syllabi to substitute practice for course requirements. if you think about it for a moment, this is both sad and curious inasmuch as you might reasonably expect that state tests cover material worked out in advance to cover grade and course material. It does by and large with few exceptions. it strengthens the case that students are not learning or teachers not teaching if normal classroom activities do not cover this routinely.

3. how tests, especially essay questons are routinely graded on these tests is covered nicely in the first section of the new york times october 5 edition (letters to the editor area). in a nutshell, what should happen is that two people independently grade and a third is pulled in if there is a significant disagreement between the two. of course we don't know how it works in new rochelle, nor can I support the method used, and as I have said on the blog previously, it all may not be relevant given the power of the multiple choice protocol being used in 2008/09 which almost guarantees against failure and will likely lead in itself to inflated essay scores.

4. bongo assertion on saturday is ridiculous. even if he could mandate attendance, there is no way that it could or would amount to this degree of improvement unless by some form of magic, upcoming test questions and answers materialize in the air.

i will look at what i can dig up and report, but you should accept the fact that you have uncovered something that is more fire than smoke. even if I question the soundness of comparing social study reading to ela or science to math in terms of content and format, you don't need that bit of evidentary material to make your point. you have made it for several years. just accept that and, if you take my advice, conserve your energy for those who take exception to what you have said or to the trolls. the latter dismiss with a sentence, the former, as you mentioned when you said you were changing blog protocol to let any debate take place among known people, you also continue to interest me in this so called smith report. hero or villian, arrogant or open, is this under lock and key somewhere? maybe i should contact smith.

first though, i will try to satisfy your request of me as soon as i can. again, good work

warren

Robert Cox's picture

1. "i cannot download the website reference you have give"

Copy and paste the web address into your browser. If you do not know how then ask for help from someone who does. If you are going to pull the data that is the only source because that is the NYS web site.

2. "i knew was he seemed decent and competent and apparently, at least alert enough to publish what he apparently published."

As I keep saying... Smith did NOT publish the report. That is the entire point. He prepared a report but it was not presented to the board or to the public. In other words, "someone" buried it. Who might that be? Take a wild guess!

I have a fair amount of experience with Fred Smith, quite a bit more than you from the sounds of it, so while you are entitled to your opinion please do not try to convince me about him. He is neither a hero or a villain but I do not believe he was competent or decent. I think he was a fool and a jerk. I can tell you a few stories that might cause you to rethink your optimistic assessment of him. However, I do concur that he deserves high marks for having the guts to ask questions and research the disparity between IEYMS and ALMS performance. I only wish he had taken the next step and actually disseminated that report. The community has a right to know when its administrators have in their hands a report from one of their own pointing out the "shocking" performance disparity between ALMS and IEYMS while peers like Dr. Korostoff and Richard Organisciak are telling parents the opposite.

You can contact Fred Smith at Pocantico Hills school district. I am sure he will be just thrilled to take your call. Not!

getting closer on data collection. i will report shortly as briefly as possible concentrating solely on middle schools. what will not be clear to the reader is any "shadow criteria", e.g. was there movement of students from young to leonard to improve the face validity of young in comparison to leonard. possible given the results of your analysis and the "unusual" level 1 and 2 (mostly 1) changes over the years --- seems curious that leonard's low end has risen, young's has decreased. also curious about the out of district although too small at this point to be of priority.

2009 results need clarification from state -- missing county data.

what i am interested in is showing mean scores and differences. this indicates to me intra district differences and inter county differences. unless i come up with something else, this is my best comparison. leonard should and likely will do absolutely and proportionally better than young as concentration is on lowering range (state) for low end and the district just wants to move people into a "passing" level. the mean will tell more about how we are performing as a district than any of its blathering presentation which is largely unhelpful in understanding our progress and growth as a district.

finally, for now, comparing our means to county means (except at this point 2009) will give us a sense of how we look overall county wise for the taxpayer who is paying highest taxes in the nation in westchester. new rochelle is expensive as well as our record of school tax increases largely contribute to. i fail to see how we get value in the district for our money. i also do not understand organisciak's babble about our comparative base. we have a significant part of our city with high net worth people and should be willing to compare how we are doing against other high end districts. kelly knew that, organisciak always looks for the easy way out. i can say this much even without county averages --- new rochelle is no exception in 07/08 and in 09 -- improvements were noted county and even state wide. even low end districts like peekskill, yonkers, and for sure, mt vernon picked up the pace.

again, once i pick up some additional data you will have it in a simple way with one concentration -- middle school. no need to look past that at this time.

warren gross

I truly believe that many sub-issues are being misdirected and mislabeled in a way that unfairly goes on the offensive against the New Rochelle School District, its teachers, its administrators, and its students. I truly do not believe that students in the so-called "north-end" schools are the recipients of greater funds and resources than those in the so-called "south-end" schools. Nor do I believe there is a difference in the the quality of the teachers or the faculty desire to see their students excel.

This critical assessment of performance ratings and rankings is being used to criticize the district, raise doubts about its overall effectiveness, and question the quality of education in the citys schools. This is disturbingly similar to the approach taken by those in less diverse & "more affluent" neighboring communities like Bronxville, Scarsdale, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye, etc. . . . residents in those areas take pride in the quality of their public schools, often using state report cards, or student achievement percentages to justify claims that NR schools are undesirable and ineffective (as opposed to their superior schools). And what is the frequent explanation for why NR schools are "inferior" and "lacking"? why the racial and economic diversity in New Rochelle is most certainly to blame! Just look at performance measurements of Scarsdale or Bronxville schools vs. New Rochelle and you will see a clear difference in the overall achievement levels of the student bodies. . . . does this meand that those schools are better? that NR schools are doing something wrong? that NR schools do not provide a level of education that is commensurate with its Westchester peers? CERTAINLY NOT!

Its disturbing to see this dynamic in play within the NR school district itself. Attention should be on the students and how to help those 'in need'.

When fraud occurs in New Rochelle it affects us all. It does not matter if you live in the North End of New Rochelle or the South End. It is just a matter of “how it is being masked” and to “what degree” the fraud is being committed. Enron, Tyco, Madoff and so many others did not differentiate between stakeholders. All stakeholders became victims of the sham and no one was spared. Today, we all pay the price. The individual “Hustler” or criminal enterprise does not care if you are a family member or friend. The irony has been that in every single case of major fraud, there have been voices pointing it out. But many, including those charged with the duty of oversight as well as those who failed to act, ignored those voices because they did not believe it was possible or thought were insulated from the carnage. Recent history has proven otherwise. The only people winning here are the liars, cheats and thieves.

Excuses about what school children bring or do not bring to school are unacceptable and irrelevant. Our schools get every single resource the Board of Education of the City School District of New Rochelle and the Superintendent of Schools requests from the community. When we dwell upon the hurdles that the children face outside our schools we spend unnecessary energy on things we cannot change. This is not to say that we do not acknowledge them, rather make note of it and move on. Our focus should be what are the issues schools and educators can impact and change and not get bogged down by those they have no control over. Lying about scores is certainly not the answer to issues affecting the children in our schools. The problem here is the case of fraud perpetuated against the residents and stakeholders of the City of New Rochelle.

How am I a troll?

Because I quoted you Mr. Cox and took you to task? I didn't use profanity, CAPS or said anything remotly inappropriate. My post was referring to your article. Is this the kind of blog you want? One that only your "supporters" can post to? I registered, under your rules and posted a retorical question about your writing style, your "slant" on things.

! This makes me a troll??? Really???
Since you "blocked" my new username (Souncheck), I have returned to "Einstein".

Robert Cox's picture

That you admit registering with multiple accounts is just another example of why you are a troll. In this case you are engaged in form of troll behavior called "sockpuppetry".

That you are a liar is another.

Being a troll has nothing to do with cursing or capitalizing your words and everything to do with the sort of behavior you have displayed this weekend.

If you do not like the rules here by all means go start your own site and you can make you rules. In the meantime, don't go away mad...just go away.

Have you had enough yet ? The information in the report is compelling enough . Even more so when you look at all of the other "issues" surrounding the B of Ed this past year . Why is it that when someone has the audacity to question something , people come forward to redirect the discussion rather than to point out what's wrong with the discussion ? Why , because there is no defense to what's being exposed . After reading the report , the only thing soundcheck , einstein , (or Ray or Tom whatever he's calling himself these days) focuses on is whether or not the police had guns . It didn't matter if the Board lied , or if a false report was filed . Factchecker seems to think that the board's skewing their reports means the north end gets more money ? Ridiculous ! Read what's contained in the report and try to show where it's wrong . You can't do it . It may not be what you want to hear , or you might think we should cover up the shortcomings of the district , but that is the worst thing that we could do . Identifying the real core problems and addressing them is in everyones best interest . Taxpayers , teachers , and yes, the kids . Would you prefer to shortchange those that need the most help just to maintain the image you choose ? How could you possibly explain such drastic improvements in one year without the district boasting about their plan to use a new tactic . They brag about everything else , so wouldn't they tout the latest method or approach to close the gap to show us how proactive they are ? You may not agree with all of it but it cannot be denied that something IS going on here . In the past year there has been a litany of issues raised and proven about the character of the boards decisions and practices . The latest report is not an "isolated incident " rather one more chapter in a district that is in crisis . They are merely trying to keep a lid on it hoping it will blow over . Pointing out these things doesn't mean everyone is bad . In fact more transparency can only help those who work hard everyday to bring out the best in the children we send to them . Bringing the proper resources to those who need it most doesn't mean the the so-called""north-end" schools are the recipients of greater funds and resources than those in the so-called "south-end" schools. " . (Maybe factchecker can check on how many other districts had the same investigations or how many other districts made made the same claims about the budget increases , or how other districts kept their budgets essentially flat .) It means helping those most in need by actually helping them , not skewing data or presenting only part of the picture to make oneself look effective . Robert Cox should be commended for his involvement . How many of you run into him at the board meetings ? How many of you follow what is going on in the district or take the time to check the facts as presented by the board ? How many of you voted ? Did you forget about the reform Jeff Hastie proposed while he was campaigning ? The only way to see is to open your eyes . Thanks Robert !

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