Jeff Diamond for BOE (Facebook Page)

Please visit my new Facebook page which I created for my re-election campaign to retain my seat on the Blind Brook Board of Education.  I am going to speak to the Blind Brook community with video clips, articles, letters, and other commentary so that everyone who wants to know where I stand, and what I have stood for over the last 3 years will know.

Some people talk about transparency, and yet their actions belie their words.  I have tried my hardest to live up to the promises that I made to this community three years ago.  Now it’s time for the community to let me know how I’ve done.  There is an election on May 20th.  I am accountable to the people who elected me.  I’m proud of the work that I’ve done, but in a democracy the people decide.

There is a lot at stake in the upcoming election — perhaps more than most people realize.  I am going to try to make it clear between now and May 20th just how important it is.

Please visit www.facebook.com/JeffDiamondforBOE often, or better yet, if you have a Facebook account, click “Like” so that you get an automatic update in your news feed.  Please view the videos, click “like” if you agree with what I’m saying, and above all, please “share” with your friends and neighbors.

It’s your community.  It’s your schools.  It’s your tax dollars.  Let’s face it.  If you are reading this blog, then you care about what’s going on.  So, get out there and click, but most importantly, please VOTE on May 20th.

Video

Diamond Re-Election Announcement

Signature Flight Tax Issue Resolved

Over the last two years local residents have heard much talk about a tax issue relating to leases at the Westchester County Airport.  On Monday, March 24th, the issue was resolved by the County Board of Legislators.  On March 25th, Legislator David Gelfarb issued the following statement:

At last night’s meeting, following a heated, vigorous debate, the County Legislature passed an act by a 13-4 margin which will greatly benefit taxpayers in the Blind Brook school district, as well as all Westchester County taxpayers. This act will terminate a court case which had the potential to force taxpayers to pay millions of dollars in a tax refund to one of the operators at the Westchester County airport. Passage of this legislation will not only benefit taxpayers, but also the companies doing business at the airport and their employees, and all those who use the airport.

Much thanks goes to Legislator Gelfarb for his hard work on this issue.  Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg also worked diligently to resolve the matter as did Attorney Mark Tulis who represented Rye Town.  The great number of people who contributed to bring this to a favorable resolution is too long to list including the hundreds of local residents and school staff who turned out on a freezing December night to attend a critical meeting in White Plains.

Further news coverage of the latest developments are available online here and here.

Jeff Diamond serves on the Blind Brook Board of Education. This blog presents his point of view and does not represent the opinion of the Blind Brook Board of Education.

Not for Profit? Yeah, Right.

The College Board.  That sounds pretty official.  They administer SAT exams and AP exams.  They are not-for-profit.  They are here to help, right?  Hmm…

I already wrote a blog post a year ago about high stakes testing and AP classes where I question whether or not we can do better.  Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal printed the following letter from a high school student who lets you know what he thinks about the College Board and their not-for-profit model:

Those SATs and APs Were Hard—To Afford

The College Board should behave more like the nonprofit it claims to be.

By BENJAMIN TONELLI
Jan. 26, 2014 5:22 p.m. ET

With college-admission deadlines quickly approaching, my debt to the College Board keeps growing. Two SAT tests, five subject tests and six Advanced Placement (AP) tests later, I am ready to report my scores through the College Board website to the 10 colleges to which I am applying. On top of the total $102 I paid to take the SAT, $114 for the subject tests, and $534 for the AP tests, the College Board now demands $11.25 for each electronic submission of the test scores to the schools on my list.

It seems odd that the College Board—a nonprofit whose CEO, David Coleman, was pulling in $750,000 as of 2012—cannot send a few numbers over the Internet for just a dollar or two, or maybe even free. Instead, I am shoveling out another $100-plus just for electronic submissions, another contribution to the swelling pockets of the College Board (annual revenue in 2011-2012: more than $750 million).

With almost complete control over the business of pre-college standardized testing, the College Board squeezes every penny it can from high-school students—or their parents. The company charges at every turn while attempting to “connect students to college success,” loading on additional fees for every missed deadline and “rush” delivery of electronically sent scores, scores that apparently otherwise take weeks to navigate the labyrinth that is the World Wide Web.

The College Board should behave more like the nonprofit it claims to be. Lowering the cost of the SAT would encourage more students whose parents make modest incomes to retake the test and compete against students from higher income households who often take the test upward of four times, aiming for higher scores. (I took the test twice.)

Allowing colleges to review prospective students’ test scores online through the Common Application would be a common-sense way of easing the financial burden on students. Reducing the price of AP tests to encourage more high-school students to take the exams that grant college credit could mean lower tuition and less student debt. What better way to stay true to the College Board’s belief in “investing in the future”?

I hope that this piece “demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position,” as the scoring guide for the SAT essay test puts it. Somehow I doubt that the College Board will give it high marks.

Mr. Tonelli is a senior at Garfield High School in Seattle.

Yikes!  I hate to tell young Mr. Tonelli, but the College Board isn’t done with him yet if he’s planning to apply for financial aid.  Yep, they’ve got their fingers in that pie, too.  The College Board’s Financial Aid PROFILE is used by most private colleges in the country, and “what a surprise,” it is not free either.

In case you haven’t noticed, applying to college is big business these days, and the College Board is in the thick of it.  In Mr. Tonelli’s letter above he mentions David Coleman, the College Board’s CEO.  Mr. Coleman is also one of the chief authors of the much discussed Common Core Curriculum.  So, let’s go out on a limb and figure that the Common Core is another money-maker for the College Board and its not-for-profit model.  Still, I’m sure that they are only interested in what’s best for our kids’ education…

Jeff Diamond serves on the Blind Brook Board of Education. This blog presents his point of view and does not represent the opinion of the Blind Brook Board of Education.

Invading Student Privacy

“We are the New York State Education Department, and we are here to track your child.”

The sticky fingers of corporate interests and big government are interested in collecting data not only on you, but on your child.  The federal “Race-to-the-Top” Program dangled the lure of billions of dollars in educational aid in order to get states to adopt their Common Core Curriculum voluntarily.  It wasn’t, however, only about Common Core.  There were other stipulations.  In order to compete for the money, states had to also agree to collect data (for educational purposes only, of course.)

Call me skeptical, or even better, call me cynical.  I just don’t believe that student data that is now being collected from preschool to college is only meant to improve education.  You don’t have to look very far to find profit motive of big educational publishers and The College Board.  Even worse, however, is the potential for data to be used in ways that will affect the privacy and the futures of our children.  No matter what assurances we are given that the data will be held tightly and used only for the most legitimate educational purposes, there is the potential for things to go wrong.  Say what you will about Edward Snowden, but he certainly lifted the veil of secrecy on NSA surveillance programs, and exposed how far-reaching government data collection can be.

It is not the role of public schools to collect data for the government, and for private for-profit (and not-for-profit) corporations.  You might also be interested to know that it is your own tax dollars paid locally in school taxes that are funding these new invasive data reporting mandates.  There are laws known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) that are meant to protect student information.  Those laws were written with the understanding that student data is sensitive, and generally require the written permission of parents before student information is released.  The new levels of data collection are making an end run around the intent of these laws.

Pleasantville Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter has been outspoken publicly in her opposition to New York State mandates that require over 400 data points to be reported on each student, and for the records to include student names.  If this data is meant solely for academic research on how to improve educational outcomes, what difference does a student’s name make?  Why couldn’t records be identified by number without any corresponding name?

I suggest that you read today’s Journal News front page article by Gary Stern, “Followed for Life: Children from Pre-School Forward Are Tracked Through Data.”  If you haven’t viewed yesterday’s post with a video featuring Senator George Latimer, then take a look at what he has to say to the Commissioner of Education on this topic, and Common Core in general.  This is no time to be complacent.

Jeff Diamond serves on the Blind Brook Board of Education. This blog presents his point of view and does not represent the opinion of the Blind Brook Board of Education.

Video

NY State Senator George Latimer addresses NYSED Commissioner John King

Common Core has not been much of a topic of conversation in Blind Brook, but there are real issues at stake. Senator Latimer has his finger on the pulse of this issue, and what it means for many school districts.  This video is worth a look.

Jeff Diamond serves on the Blind Brook Board of Education. This blog presents his point of view and does not represent the opinion of the Blind Brook Board of Education.

A Teacher’s Lament

My son recently contributed a letter of his own to this blog.  Today, however, he forwarded to me another letter that he did not write.  A friend of his discovered a resignation letter from his former high school Social Studies teacher in Saturday’s Washington Post.  According to my son’s friend, the retiring teacher was a “fantastic teacher,” the kind that we all remember who inspired us to achieve and to love learning early in our lives.

Of course, there comes a time when the best teachers retire.  While it is unfortunate that future generations will not enjoy the gift of learning under that particular teacher, it is understandable that someone would decide to retire on their own terms.  The letter in the Washington Post, however, is not what you want to hear.  It is not from a teacher who leaves with regret, but rather from a teacher who says that, “I realize that I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me.”

What could make someone whose life was teaching, and wrote that he attempted to live by John Dewey’s famous quotation “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself” feel as though his profession had left him?

While I recommend that you read the entire letter, here’s one passage:

This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education…

For those of us who are working to protect and defend public education, these are demoralizing words, but yet nothing new.  I only recently wrote a blog post asking whether high-stakes testing & AP classes are hurting us.  According to Gerald Conti who wrote his resignation letter with lament, there’s not much doubt as to how that question must be answered.

Please read what he has to say, then feel free to comment here.  I am fairly certain that everyone should have something to say…

Jeff Diamond serves on the Blind Brook Board of Education. This blog presents his point of view and does not represent the opinion of the Blind Brook Board of Education.