Monday, October 12, 2015

Important questions to ask DOE about their failure to reduce class size at CEC meetings in October


The public can submit questions and comments to until Nov. 6, 2015.  You can also ask questions and comment at October CEC meetings that are posted here.   The questions below can be downloaded here.    You can also check out our  comments  submitted over the summer on the DOE's proposed plan. 

If you get an answer from DOE on any of these critical questions, please let us know us at ; thanks!

  • Why does the DOE not allocate any funds toward reducing class size in its Contracts for Excellence “targeted” or “district-wide” initiatives even though it’s the top priority of parents in the DOE’s own polls?   Of the $531 million in state C4E funds, only $93 million is being used by schools to reduce class size.   
  •  What oversight does the DOE maintain to ensure that schools that say they’re allocating Contracts for Excellence (C4E ) funds for class size reduction actually do so? 
  •  Many schools are too overcrowded currently to reduce class size.  Why did the city reject the recommendations of the Blue Book Working Group to align the school utilization formula with smaller classes if there is an intention to lower class size, as the Mayor has promised? 
  •  Why does the DOE hold hearings on its C4E plan after the funds have already been allocated?  What is the point of gaining public feedback? 
  •  Why did class size increase last year for seventh year in a row, according to the DOE data, with more than 350,000 students attending classes 30 or more?  Doesn’t that conflict with your legal obligation to reduce class size? 
  •    The C4E law specifically forbids “supplanting” – i.e. allowing state funds to substitute for city fund: “the increases in total foundation aid and supplemental educational improvement plan grants [will be] used to supplement, and not supplant funds allocated by the district in the base year for such purposes.”   Yet DOE open admits it in presentation it is supplanting funds in its C4E plan; can you explain why is this allowed? 
  •  Why is the city using class size reduction funds to “minimize class size increases”?  Does that really constitute class size reduction, as the law requires? 
  • Where is the DOE’s state- approved C4E and/or class size reduction plan for the 2014-2015 school year?  Can you provide us with a copy?  It is available neither at the state or DOE website. 
  • Online, the only mention of class size reduction in the DOE’s proposed C4E  plan from last year (2014-2015) was  the following, in the response to public comment:

For the 2015-16 School Year, NYCDOE will focus Class Size Reduction planning efforts on the School Renewal Program. The criteria for selecting Renewal Schools is [sic] aligned with C4E goals to target schools with the greatest needs.  Further information about the School Renewal Program can be found here.

This is mentioned again in the current DOE C4E presentation. Yet there is no evidence that class sizes have been lowered this year in the renewal schools; and we have heard of renewal schools where class sizes have increased.  In which renewal schools were class sizes reduced this fall, to what levels, and how was the list selected?

Prepared by Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters, 10/12/15.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Video Interview: Leonie Haimson on why she started Class Size Matters

Check out the short video below, filmed by Bob Greenburg, about how I got involved in the issue of class size, and why class size matters! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Register today for our Parent Action Conference on November 7!

Save the date! On Saturday, November 7th, we are co-sponsoring a Parent Action Conference at PS 133 in Brooklyn (near the Barclay Center and many subway stops). 

Workshops will be held on developing an action plan to address school overcrowding, rising class sizes, mayoral control, empowering parents and school leadership teams, opting out of testing, protecting student privacy, advocating for your child with special needs, and many other critical issues. Free lunch and child care are included. Please register at Eventbrite today to reserve your ticket or click here:   

You can download the flyer in color here or below; or in black and white. Please download a flyer and post it in your school or forward this message to other parents and colleagues who care. Other co-sponsors of this important conference are NYC KidsPAC, the Education Council Consortium (the organization of Community Education Councils from all five boroughs), and CEC 15.

Parent Action Agenda by Leonie Haimson

My memories of Arne Duncan; why he will not be missed

On Friday, Arne Duncan announced he will leave his post as Secretary of the US Department of Education in December.  Here are some of my memories of his damaging involvement in the divisive politics surrounding NYC schools:

In May of 2009, he personally interceded with the Citizens Union to persuade them to endorse mayoral control without any checks and balances -- so that Bloomberg could continue to fire his appointees on the Panel for Educational Policy at will -- the opposite of what anyone concerned with good government or democracy should espouse.  The organization had previously voted to endorse fixed terms for mayoral appointees, so that the Mayor couldn't summarily dismiss board members who disagreed with him, as Bloomberg had notoriously done when they differed with his decision to hold back third graders on the basis of test scores. Duncan followed up with a letter to the Citizens Union, in which he argued that putting any limits on mayoral control could “turn back the clock and halt progress” and have “profoundly negative consequences for New York City’s students.”

As a result, the organization changed its position on this issue, and mayoral control was renewed without any amendment on the authority of one man to determine the fate of 1.1 million students without any checks and balances..  After the NY Post ran a series of articles full of illusory claims aiming to show the great improvement under mayoral control,  the Legislature voted to retain it.  Arne Duncan then followed up by praising the NY Post series as "thoughtful" and thanked the paper for its "leadership", even though these articles simply regurgitated the spurious statistics provided by the city's press office.

GothamSchools (now Chalkbeat) ran a story entitled the Fruitful Alliance of Arne Duncan and Rupert Murdoch, pointing out that "New York City newspapers have a proud tradition of waging campaigns both on and off the editorial page, and then congratulating themselves when they hit their marks. But having a cabinet member for a sitting president join the cheering is more unusual." Duncan's unalloyed praise for the Mayor was subsequently plastered all over Bloomberg's copious campaign literature, which every voter received at least ten times.

Another favored activity of Arne Duncan was his boosterism of charter schools.  In May 2010, I was standing outside a Brooklyn school building in the rain along with some disaffected former charter parents while Duncan visited  Kings Collegiate Charter School in Brooklyn, one of the chain of Uncommon Schools. He had come to pressure our state legislators to lift the charter school cap.  The former charter parents I was waiting with wanted a dialogue with Duncan about the problems their children had experienced in these "No Excuses" charter schools.

Uncommon is the chain of charters started by John King, now named as Duncan's replacement, and these schools have an uncommonly high rate of suspensions and student attrition.  There are many NYC former charter parents who felt then and still believe that there needs to be more accountability and protection of parent and student rights before any expansion of charters should be considered.  From our press release (which went unmentioned in the press accounts of his visit):

Samantha Jeffrey, a parent at Kings Collegiate Charter School, says, “I support the charter school system, however I believe they have not reached their potential so that my child can reach his potential as well. I would like to work with them on real solutions that focus on the child’s academic excellence, as opposed to the distractions of the current disciplinary code and policy. I have also been ignored when I asked for essential information that I deserve as a parent. Parents at our school as well as other charter schools need a voice.”...

Lydia Temples, a former parent at Leadership Prep [another Uncommon Charter school] , said: “When I had concerns about the unfairness of the disciplinary procedures at the school, I used all the legal avenues of redress at my disposal. I filed grievances with the school, the board of trustees, the SUNY Charter School Institute, the Board of Regents, and finally, the State Education Commissioner, and none of them responded. Instead, the school called ACS to try to shut down my complaints and they took my daughter away from me for two days. I finally had to take my child out of the school.”  

We had entered the school and gone upstairs with the reporters, until David Cantor, the press secretary to Joel Klein, asked us to leave.  We then waited patiently another half hour in the rain until Duncan, along with Joel Klein, Bloomberg and others, walked out of the school. The parents then plaintively called out to Duncan, "When are you going to meet with charter parents?"  Duncan responded, "Soon!" while dashing to his limo.  He never did, of course.

The following spring, in April 2011, after a speech Duncan gave at Princeton, I went up to him and asked why he had called class size reduction a "sacred cow that we have to take on" and why he  advised districts to raise class sizes.  He responded that he had only said that class sizes should be increased "selectively" and asked whether I'd looked at the international test scores of countries like Korea and Finland.  I  pointed out that Finland had turned around its education system when it reduced class size, and that the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the US Department of Education, had cited class size reduction as one of only a handful of reforms proven to work to boost student achievement.  He seemed exasperated that anyone would dare to confront him on this issue and seemed more interested in doing a photo op with members of the pro-corporate reform group, Students for Education Reform.

Duncan's reign of error was inherently political, and he never hesitated from intruding into NYC politics or taking positions contrary to the priorities of public school parents or to what research shows really helps kids succeed.  He will not be missed.  About his replacement, John King?  That's a whole other story!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Notes from Grover Cleveland HS receivership hearing; can the Chancellor's "Framework for Great Schools" be achieved with class sizes as large as 55?

There were about fifty people in the audience at the Grover Cleveland High School receivership hearings yesterday -- not great for a school that enrolls nearly 2,000 students, but not terrible considering it was a beautiful Saturday morning and the hearing announcement was made just a few days before.

I entered the auditorium at about 10:20 AM, as someone from the DOE whose name I didn’t catch was wrapping up a brief presentation about Receivership schools, saying that the administration was still considering whether “receivership schools will get Renewal [school] type supports and funding.”

Principal Denise Vittor followed with a power point presentation showing how the school was improving its graduation rate and attendance – the two data points that apparently had placed it on the state list of “struggling schools” for possible Receivership. 

The four-year June graduation rate last year rose to 60.7% compared to 53% in 2012-13; the August four-year rate is 62.5% compared to 60.2% two years before.  If only those students eligible for a regular diploma were counted, its four year rate was up to 63.9%.   Apparently 2.2% of the students are severely disabled, and according to the principal, only “eligible” for the alternate credentials of the SACC (Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential) or the CDOS (Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential.) The six year graduation rate increased to 69.5%, and attendance at 82.5% last year, compared to 78% in 2012-13.

She then went on to describe various programs the schools had instituted, including “Common Core aligned curriculum units,” AP courses, a Saturday academy, Afterschool Expanded Learning Time, blended learning and CTE programs. The one new program for this year is “schoolwide implementation of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) , which are alternative ways of dealing with school discipline.

Then two DOE representatives and the Principal answered questions that had been written on index cards by members of the audience:

·         What resources has the school received under the Renewal program?  Answer: Extended learning time and more professional development.
·         Is there a plan to reduce class size, especially considering that last year there were classes as large as 54 in math, 37 in English and 38 in Social Studies?  Answer: Most of our classes last year met  the legal limit ( meaning the UFT contractual limit of 34 students per class).
·         What funding is there for electronic resources?  Answer: We receive $22,000 from NYSTL (New York State Textbook Law) funds, and Reso A funds from the City Council for smartboards.
·         Can CTE programs for the health professions be added?  Answer: Unfortunately not; nursing CTE programs require class sizes of nine, and we don’t have the funds.
·         Why is the school receiving only 82% of its Fair Student Funding (FSF)?  Answer:  FSF was developed as an “ideal” funding level; while all Renewal schools are receiving 100% FSF, it is uncertain if the school will receive a higher share of its FSF until a team at DOE looks into the “comprehensive needs” of the school.  At that time new resources may be allocated.
·         How can a school boost its enrollment when letters were sent out saying the school may be closing?  Answer:  The Chancellor is committed to not closing schools, though we’re obligated to send letters about struggling and persistently struggling schools (to whom?).  The principal added that community members and parents should help “re-brand” the school, and let people know that we’re on a fast track to coming off the struggling list.
·         How can I participate as a parent towards helping the school?  Answer: Come to our monthly PA meetings; we also have workshops you can attend.

Members of the audience were invited to speak.  Several teachers noted that as the school lost enrollment, it had also lost funding leading to increased class sizes.  Parents suggested that the school could provide more information to them about class assignments, etc. by sending messages to their cell phones; these messages should also be translated into their native languages.  Students proposed that more clubs and activities like cheerleading and fencing would help create more spirit in the school.   

One neighborhood resident announced she was a graduate of the high school, as was her mother.  She hoped that the school would not be closed, to be converted into a specialized or selective school instead, as she wanted her daughter who had an IEP to be able to attend the school.  She then asked, what has happened in the past when the state took over schools?  Have they improved? (Her question went unanswered, but a truthful response would be no.)

A Queens UFT representative thanked the Chancellor and the Mayor for taking a “different approach” than the previous administration, and addressing students’ “social and emotional needs.”  David Aglialoro, Communications Director from Cathy Nolan’s office, read a statement from the Assemblymember.  As a 1976 graduate, AM Nolan stands behind the school, recognizes that is getting back on track, and believes that with the right support and resources it can be “the best version of itself.”  Among other things, she recommended that the school be transformed into a Community school, and that its swimming pool be opened on the weekends to neighborhood residents.  

Evelyn Cruz, Chief of Staff of Congresswoman Velázquez observed that it was "unconstitutional" that the school still is burdened with such large class sizes, especially given how many students are linguistically diverse and are struggling to learn a new language.  The school requires more resources to hire additional teachers; with smaller classes, she pointed out, the students would be less likely to walk out of class because they don’t comprehend the material.  The school also needs dedicated funding for more guidance counselors.

I followed by saying that I was glad to hear of some of the promising ways the school was improving its results, but none of these measures have the rigorous research behind them that class size reduction does.  The fact that “most” of the classes met the legal limit of 34 last year is not good enough, especially as in 2007, NYC promised the state as part of the Contracts for Excellence law to reduce class size to an average of 25 in high schools citywide.  In all struggling high schools like Grover Cleveland, class sizes should immediately be capped at 25 or less.  

I briefly went through the Chancellor’s “Framework for Great Schools,” a copy of which with space for feedback had been handed out to the audience, and explained how each of its six elements would be difficult to achieve without reducing class size:

Rigorous instruction” is nearly impossible to attain when there are thirty or more students in a class, many of them English Language Learners, unable to get enough feedback or practice speaking  to be “actively engaged in in ambitious intellectual activity” or “develop critical thinking skills,” as the Framework demands.

How can there be a truly “Supportive Environment” for students with classes this large, with too little individualized attention to feel “safe, supported, and challenged by their teachers and peers”? As for “Collaborative Teachers,” do teachers really have “a culture of respect and continuous improvement” when burdened with excessive class sizes and a teaching load of a 150 or more students?
Can “Effective School Leadership” be maintained, affording“the instructional and social-emotional support that drives student achievement” when students are crammed into classes of thirty or more?  

It would also be far easier to create “Strong Family and Community Ties” if each teacher had fewer students, with the time to reach out to parents when their children are succeeding as well as when they are falling behind.  Finally, it is difficult to see how real “Trust” can be attained, when the administration is ignoring what is the top priority of parents citywide for school improvement – class size reduction. 

After the hearing was over, I spoke to several teachers at the school.  They all confirmed that this fall, class sizes remain at about the contractual maximum of 34 students per class or more; and that even English Language Learners are not provided with smaller classes.  This is clearly unacceptable.  While the graduation and attendance rates at the school may continue to inch upwards, the quality of education at this school and others like it will not fundamentally improve without a concerted effort  to provide more targeted resources so that class sizes can be capped at 25 or less. 

The list of schools faced with receivership along with hearing dates is here;  comments
also can be submitted here,  no later than 5:00 p.m. on the second business day after each school's hearing date. Translated versions of the School Receivership Public Feedback form can be found here for submission as well.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Comments on the unacceptable classroom conditions at the Receivership schools, including Flushing and Grover Cleveland HS

Tonight, Class Size Matters will be speaking at the Flushing HS receivership hearings, and tomorrow morning at the Grover Cleveland HS hearings. Here are the schools at risk of being put in receivership by the state, along with the hearing dates.

It is a travesty that 66% of the struggling schools on the State receivership list and 57% of the schools on the City's renewal list continue to suffer from class sizes of 30 or more last year.  I wrote about this totally unacceptable state of affairs for Gotham Gazette last month.

Flushing HS is also hugely overcrowded, and instead of capping enrollment at the school and using available space to reduce class size,  DOE placed two new schools in their building several years ago, which is projected to worsen overcrowding and has caused the school to lose about ten additional classrooms this year.

Here are our comments on Grover Cleveland HS; according to DOE data,  there were classes as large as 54 students per class last year at the school.  Our comments on Flushing HS are below.  We are urging DOE that as a first step, all academic classes should be capped at 25 or less in every struggling school. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ghosts of NYC past return to haunt the news: the Rise and Fall of Amplify

Update 9/29/15: the Observer reports an estimated two thirds of the Amplify staff were just laid off.
Update 9/30/15: Today, the company was sold to a group of private investors including Joel Klein, and Klein has stepped down as CEO. 

Many ghosts from Tweed and NYC’s education past have re-appeared in the news the past few
credit; Lindamarie
weeks, some of them popping up in unusual places. 

Former NYC Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who succeeded Joel Klein and Cathy Black, was recently appointed the state monitor of E. Ramapo school board.  This board is controlled by Orthodox Jews who do not send their kids to the public schools and have been accused of raiding public funds to support their religious schools.

Our former Deputy Superintendent, Chris Cerf, who left the Department of Education in 2010 to become State Education Commissioner of NJ, followed by a brief detour at Joel Klein’s Amplify, was appointed the Superintendent of Newark public schools, replacing another former DOE educrat, Cami Anderson. 
While Walcott has little power and Cerf has quite a lot, they both will presumably take orders from the autocrats who appointed them – in the case of Walcott, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and in the case of Cerf, Gov. Christie.  

Walcott has to decide whether to recommend that members of E. Ramapo’s elected school board be removed for diverting public funds to private schools.  Cerf has to decide whether to give power back to Newark’s elected school board, which has been impotent for twenty years (!!) while watching state appointees run their schools and divert resources to charter schools.   

After a public meeting where Walcott was introduced to angry E. Ramapo public school parents, whose pleas to rescue their schools have been mostly ignored by the state, he noted that he is suited to the job, as “I have a lot of experience being yelled at.”  This is surely true given the three years he spent at the helm of NYC public schools, where charter co-locations, funding cuts and a whole lot of unpopular policies were foisted on our schools.  

Cami Anderson stopped attending Newark school board meetings in January 2014,  because she didn’t like all the angry words hurtled at her from parents furious about her “One Newark” plan that expanded charters, closed public schools, and eliminated any right for Newark kids to attend schools in their neighborhood. 

Chris Cerf, on the other hand, who was forced to sit through lots of loud and angry meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy, has promised to attend all Newark school board meetings in the future.  Here’s a video of Cerf’s presentation at the first Newark board meeting, where he claims to want to return the district to local control, but then gets angry yells when he says he will keep the One Newark plan despite widespread opposition, since his data purportedly shows that only 25% of Kindergarten parents selected their closest neighborhood school.

And then there’s Joel Klein himself,  the guy who appointed both Cerf and Anderson to high positions when he was Chancellor, who led the charge to privatize NYC public schools and endured lots of crazy-loud PEP meetings while gazing at his Blackberry.

Klein left DOE in 2010 to run Amplify, the Digital education division of News Corp.  Two weeks ago, it was announced that News Corp intends to sell Amplify, which has lost so much money– up to $371 million in the last year alone – with no profit in sight. 

Let’s recap some highlights (and low lights) of its history up to this point:

Nov. 9, 2010:  Joel Klein announces he is resigning as Chancellor to join Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and head up a new digital learning division.  His salary is reported as more than $4.5 million per year.  It’s unclear if his departure is voluntary or he has been pushed, though credible sources report the latter.  Some people around the country who mistakenly believed that Klein is progressive are surprised that he was going to work for the right-wing Murdoch.  Those of us who lived through eight years of his militant privatization regime are not surprised at all.  Cerf leaves the DOE shortly thereafter, during Cathy Black’s brief reign as Chancellor.  
Nov. 22, 2010: Murdoch buys Wireless Generation for $360 million in cash, which will form the center of his new division.  It doesn’t go unnoticed that Wireless Gen, an ed tech company, already has several large contracts with DOE, including building and maintaining the $80 million student information system called ARIS.  Wireless also is said to be a “partner” of School of One, the over-hyped online learning program that is being implemented in several NYC schools. Murdoch explains: “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”   

June 8, 2011: Daily News breaks the story of a proposed $27M no-bid contract between Wireless Gen and the NYS Education Department to build their state student information system.  Protests follow, in part because of conflicts of interest but mostly because of privacy concerns, especially as the News Corp phone hacking scandal has erupted just a few weeks before.  We post a petition to the State Comptroller Di Napoli, urging him to cancel the contract. Later, NYSUT, the state's teacher union, expresses its opposition as well. 

July 2011:  Joel Klein is brought into lead a small team to advise Murdoch on the phone hacking scandal in the UK, and sits behind him while Murdoch testifies before a Parliamentary committee charged with investigating the allegations. His involvement in helping to manage the scandal goes on for nearly a year.

August 25, 2011: State Comptroller Di Napoli announces he will cancel the state’s Wireless Generation no-bid contract due to privacy concerns.  

December 2011: The NY Board of Regents approves NYSED’s plan to share personal student and teacher data with the Shared Learning Collaborative LLC, with $44 million slated to be paid to Wireless Generation, the major subcontractor on this $100 million project of the Gates Foundation.  NYSUT says it will not oppose the agreement because Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, its parent union, is an adviser. Nevertheless, we begin to raise the alarm about this project, which claims there are nine states participating, because the Gates Foundation refuses to guarantee the privacy or the security of highly sensitive student data. 

March 20, 2012:  A report is released from a Council of Foreign Relations task force chaired by Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice.  The report says that the low quality of education represents a national security crisis, and recommends the “solutions” of expanding the Common Core State Standards to include subjects beyond math and ELA; instituting more charter schools and vouchers; and requiring an annual “national security readiness audit” that would examine how schools are addressing the country’s needs through increased foreign language, technology and more.

July 23, 2012:  Klein announces a partnership with ATT to create learning devices in the form of tablets, and that the company will be renamed Amplify.

October 14, 2012: Class Size Matters, along with attorney Norman Siegel, holds our first  press conference about the state’s plan to share data with the Shared Learning Collaborative, releasing a letter to NYSED demanding that it release its contract with the SLC, , hold public hearings, and require parental consent before disclosing any student’s personally identifiable information going forward.  This begins a year and a half of our campaign to stop this data-sharing project in its tracks.

December 5, 2012:  Klein gives a presentation at the annual UBS Global Media conference.  He calls the United States K-12 system a $673 billion market “ripe for disruption," and that Amplify will capture a major share through its educational software, assessments, tablets and the Common Core standards.  He says that this is “a national security issue” and that if education doesn’t adopt technology, “the country won’t go forward.”   His power point has the following phrase: “Amplify is a balanced investment opportunity in the disruptive innovation in education.”

Klein adds that due to costs of developing its products,  Amplify has spent about $180 million, which he calls a “disciplined investment” and is expected to generate about $100 million in revenue that year—because technology is “saving money,” and that “school systems want this.” He praises the Race to the Top program which offers grants to implement the solutions offered by his company, and shows the slide above.   (The power point is no longer on the News Corp website, but is archived on the Wayback Machine.)
Feb. 11, 2013:  Chris Cerf, once Deputy Chancellor to Klein, unexpectedly resigns as New Jersey’s Education Commissioner, and joins his old buddy at Amplify.  Cerf is appointed chief executive of Amplify Insight, which is described as marketing “digital products to diagnose students’ weaknesses in reading and math and prescribe interventions tailored to each child.”  Cerf is one of many high-profile and high-priced hires made by Klein, along with Peter Gorman, former Superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, and Justin Hamilton, former press secretary to Arne Duncan.   Shortly thereafter it is revealed that Cami Anderson, who Cerf appointed to head Newark schools, has awarded three contracts worth $2.3 million to Amplify. 

March 5, 2013Amplify unveils their new tablet to great fanfare at SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.  Stephen Smyth, president of Amplify’s Access division, says “This is more than just a tablet. It's a complete learning solution organized around the school day. “Much hype follows; among those who express skepticism are Diane Ravitch and I, as in this interview on NPR. At the same event, inBloom formally debuts – the corporate spin off of the Gates Foundation project formerly called the Shared Learning Collaborative. The initial day of the conference, Stephanie Simon writes about inBloom in Reuters, and for the first time, the mainstream media reveals all the troubling details I had been concerned about in terms of its huge risk to student privacy.  Simon also points out in a separate Reuters article that Amplify projects an operating loss of about $80 million for the fiscal year.

March 14, 2013:  Amplify obtains a contract for $12.5 million through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, funded by the federal government to create Common Core exams.  Amplify will develop a digital library of formative assessment professional learning tools for educators.”  Their first SBAC contract was in 2012, when Wireless Generation, in partnership with ETS, was hired to develop software to report and analyze assessment results.

April 18, 2013: Amplify announces it is purchasing the 20 year rights to Core Knowledge curriculum for grades K-3.  In a press release, the company says, “The company is creating exciting new approaches to teaching and learning that are as immersive as the best films; as compelling as the best video games; as social as the best networking applications; as personal as the best tutors; and as analytically sophisticated as the best search engines.”
May 19, 2013 – I engage in a twitter exchange with Rupert Murdoch, after he tweets that Facebook is losing page views: “Look out Facebook! Hours spent participating per member dropping seriously.1st bad sign seen by MySpace yrs ago,” he writes.
I immediately reply, “@rupertmurdoch speaking of your failure with MySpace I hear @amplify is losing boatloads of money too.” 
To my amazement, Murdoch responds: “@leoniehaimson @amplify not losing money. Not even in business yet.”
I counter, “What @RupertMurdoch? @Amplify projects operating loss of about $80 million this year” and: “Not even @GatesEd & #datapirate @inBloomedu can save @amplify from losing millions @rupertmurdoch.” To my regret, he doesn’t take the bait again.
May 28, 2013 - Amplify announces its biggest deal so far – what is billed as the sale of 21,215 tablets to Guilford County Schools in North Carolina, to be used in 24 Middle schools.  Guilford is spending more than $16 million in Race to the Top funds to purchase these tablets, which Joel Klein callsone of the largest 1-to-1 deployments, if not the single largest, to date in K-12 education….At Amplify, we’re working to transform the way teachers teach and students learn. We aren’t recycling consumer goods for the classroom. We are a company that is 100-percent focused on education.”  This announcement is followed by many credulous stories in the media.

Sept 15, 2013:  The NY Times Magazine runs a long feature on the Amplify tablet. In the article, Joel Klein bewails the amount of money spent on public education: “Any system that poured in as much money as we did and made as little progress has a real problem. We keep trying to fix it by doing the same thing, only a little different and better. This is about a lot different and better.”  Enthusiasm for the potential of technology to transform education is expressed by Secretary Arne Duncan, Greg Anrig of the Century Foundation, and Jonathan Supovitz of the University of Pennsylvania.

October 4, 2013, Guilford reports that more than 13 percent of the tablets received from Amplify have been lost, stolen or damaged.  Ten percent of the devices delivered just a few weeks before have developed cracked screens and some battery chargers have dangerously overheated.  The district suspends the use of the devices.    Guilford gets a new shipment of tablets the following July, but the entire episode has cost Amplify millions in lost revenue and prestige.  

March 31, 2014: NY Legislature passes a law against sharing data with inBloom.  We are the last state to pull out of this controversial project after parent protests, and in April, inBloom announces it is closing its doors, which likely represents yet another financial loss to Amplify, which was under contract to build and maintain its operating system.

November 4, 2014:  Joel Klein’s book is released to mixed reviews, called Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools.  He goes on a book tour and gives interviews about his view of how to improve the public school system, which includes a heaping dose of technology. 

November 16, 2014: In an exclusive, the Daily News reveals that the NYC is dumping ARIS, the little-used $96 million student information system built by Wireless/Amplify, along with its $10-$12 million annual maintenance contract, to create its own in-house data system.  

January 2015: According to a subsequent article in EdSurge, Joel Klein sends an internal memo to his staff: “It’s time to move past thinking about divisions and instead focus on our collective strengths.That’s why I’ve decided to begin the process of fully integrating Amplify.”  Instead of three, semi-autonomous divisions with 12 “C-level” executives and three presidents, the company is re-organized. Many high-level staffers begin to depart, including the head of Amplify’s tablet unit, Stephen Smyth.

April 7, 2015 – A devastating investigative report appears in Bloomberg Business by Laura Colby, who has replaced Stephanie Simon as one of the best investigative reporters covering education.  (Sadly, Simon left education reporting at the end of March.)  Colby reveals the multiple failures of Amplify, and exposes Joel Klein’s mismanagement of the company:  

“Murdoch’s News Corp. will have invested more than $1 billion in Amplify, its division that makes the tablets, sells an online curriculum and offers testing services. Amplify, which never set a timetable for turning a profit, has yet to do so. It reported a $193 million loss last year… The education effort has been riddled with technology failures, fragile equipment, a disconnect between tablet marketers and content developers, and an underestimation of how difficult it would be to win market share from entrenched rivals”.   

Amazingly, Amplify’s computer games are compatible only with iPads, not with its own tablets, and the devices have been marketed without any attempt to combine them with the company’s curricular modules.  Joel Klein responds with a letter, claiming that the article has exaggerated its failures, and that “Amplify is sticking by its customers, turning setbacks into wins, and delivering groundbreaking curriculum to students whose lives are better for it.”

June 22, 2015:   It is announced that Chris Cerf will leave Amplify to become head of Newark Public Schools. 

June 26, 2015:  Laura Colby reveals that as part of its retrenchment, Amplify is getting out of the tablet business entirely. 

August 12, 2015:  News Corp announces its intention to sell Amplify as soon as buyers can be found.  Joel Klein writes his staff: “Amplify and News Corp both believe it is time to explore new and exciting strategic opportunities, working with partners who share a deep understanding of what it takes to be successful in education. We are in active conversations with an outside investor regarding the potential sale of Amplify. We expect that this lead investor would be backed by Amplify’s management team, some of whom also plan to participate in the investment. “

August 16, 2015: Among the many negative reviews of Amplify on Glass Door’s website, there are these two:  Absolutely zero leadership. I have been in the industry for a very long time and have never witnessed such a complete void of any sort of leadership. It's not even fair to say "poor" leadership because there is literally no sign of it. Anywhere. Whatsoever. Joel pops his head in once or twice a year.”  

Another: “Assessment division may survive. Free Pita chips every once in a while. Nice office while it lasted. Many talented people. Hope they are able to find better jobs soon…Sad that a lot of people will lose their jobs over the next 6 mos. If deal goes through, one division may survive. If not, likely company will declare bankruptcy.