Queens Courier: Queens parents decide to ‘opt out’ kids from state testing

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

By Angy Altamirano

Parents across the city are coming together this week to stand against standardized testing and the effects it has on their children.

Starting Tuesday and running through Thursday, students are scheduled to have to take the English Language Arts (ELA) test at schools throughout the state. The following week, students are scheduled to take the math standardized test.

Parents and education advocates have spoken against the tests, saying it brings too much pressure onto students and is not being properly used to evaluate the students, but rather to assess teachers. This has led some parents to forbid their children from taking the tests, and the schools have been prohibited from taking any action against those parents.

“I’m here as the chair of the [City Council] Education Committee to call into question the validity of these tests and the reason these tests are being given, and actually question why they are being used the way they are being used,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who on Tuesday stood with parents who have decided to have their children opt out of taking the tests. “These tests actually are not tests to show our children’s strength, they’ve become tests to make our children look like failures.”

Having served as a teacher for 25 years, Dromm added that he is not opposed to tests being used as “one piece of a child’s overall evaluation” but he believes that too much time is spent on taking and preparing for these tests.

“We have heard stories about children who have collapsed under the pressure, who get sick from the pressure, who wet their pants from the pressure of these tests. This is not what education should be about,” Dromm said. “I do not believe that our students should be used as guinea pigs in the governor’s battle against teachers.”

Danny Katch, whose daughter is a fourth-grader at P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, decided to have her opt out of the exams last year and believed the decision served as an educational experience for his daughter because it showed her about standing up for what you believe in.

Katch also said he is not opposed to tests, but the standardized tests do not come from the teachers or schools. Instead, they are being used as a form to evaluate teachers rather than assessing the students.

“If you tell teachers that 50 percent of their evaluation is going to be based on two standardized tests, then you are going to believe that most of what the kids are going to be doing all year is preparing for those standardized tests,” Katch said. “If you want to improve our schools it’s not about shoving more tests down their throats, it’s about improving the resources that they need and they deserve.”

Read more here.

Legislative Gazette: NYC council members trek to Albany to push public schools agenda


By Richard Moody

A caucus of New York City Council members is showing state level officials where they stand on education issues in this year’s budget.

On Wednesday, members of the city council’s Progressive Caucus, including Councilman Daniel Dromm, chair of the Education Committee, came to Albany asking state legislators to adopt a budget that provides funding mandated by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, excludes additional resources for charter schools, leaves the charter school cap at current levels and provides more local control over the city’s schools.

“We are deeply concerned as council members about the governor’s lack of commitment to provide adequate funding to our public school system,” Dromm said. “The state owes [public schools] about $2.6 billion in funding. We need that funding because, without [it], we will not be able to provide an adequate education.”

Earlier this month, the Assembly proposed an increase to education funding by $1.8 billion, and soon after, the Senate proposed a $1.9 billion increase. Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his Executive Budget to increase funding by $1.1 billion, with stipulations that the Legislature pass reforms he proposed as part of the budget, including placing failing schools into receivership.

The Massachusetts receivership model takes failing schools and hands over control to an expert or program for turning schools around.

“We’re also deeply concerned about the governor’s proposal to place our schools into receivership,” Dromm said. “We need and want local control over our schools. We have always believed that in New York City. We do not believe that the state knows better than the local folks.”

Cuomo’s Executive Budget would extend the New York City mayor’s control of the school system which is set to expire this year.

“We’re not here to tell the folks in Utica or Buffalo or Schenectady how to run their cities. We’re simply here to ask for the ability to control our own destiny in New York City,” said Councilman Mark Levine.

Dromm said the Senate and the governor are taking the wrong approach to fixing the public education system by lifting the charter school cap and increasing funding for charter schools. “You cannot improve our public school system simply by funding charter schools. We need adequate funding for our public schools and opening charter schools is not going to help that problem.”

Read more here.

New York Daily News: NYPD still uses typewriters, but City Councilman proposes bill to switch to computers

By Erin Durkin

Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens was shocked when he learned the NYPD still uses typewriters for creating police reports.

A Queens City Councilman wants to drag the NYPD into the digital age — leaving typewriters behind.

Danny Dromm (D-Queens) will introduce a bill Thursday to require cops to scrap their old-school typewriters by 2016, as part of a technology report they’d have to submit.

Dromm said he was floored when constituents started to complain to him that they had trouble getting copies of police reports, because they were prepared by hand on typewriters.

“I can’t believe that the police department is still using typewriters for these types of things,” he said. “We live in a computer age…I don’t even know where they get parts for these typewriters anymore.”

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Currently, some forms are still required to be typed, so we do still have typewriters, but the vast majority of Department forms are now digitized,” Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a state Senate hearing earlier this month.

Read more here.

New York Daily News: (EXCLUSIVE) City lawmaker demands that charter schools show how they use tax money

Councilman Daniel Dromm noted that charter schools 'receive over a billion dollars in taxpayer funds and we don’t know what’s going on.'

By Ben Chapman and Lisa Colangelo

A lawmaker is asking the city’s charter schools to hand over paperwork showing how they use millions of dollars in tax money. And they have five days to do it.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who chairs the Education Committee, said he is troubled by the “lack of transparency and accountability” of charter schools.

“They receive over a billion dollars in taxpayer funds and we don’t know what’s going on,” Dromm, a Queens Democrat, told the Daily News on Monday.

Dromm sent a letter to all 197 charter schools in the city asking them for copies of their committee board minutes and fraud prevention policies. He also asked if they would voluntarily submit to the city Conflict of Interest Board to examine relationships between school board members and developers.

Dromm’s action comes after The News reported in November that an analysis by the Center for Popular Democracy found more than $28 million in questionable spending and probable financial mismanagement in 95% of the charter schools examined by state auditors since 2002.

James Merriman, CEO of the New York Charter School Center, dismissed Dromm as an “attack dog” for the United Federation of Teachers, which is opposed to charter schools.

For more click here.

New York Observer: Mark-Viverito and Queens Officials Hail Obama Immigration Action

By Will Bredderman

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito addresses the crowd as Councilman Daniel Dromm and State Senator Jose Peralta look on (Photo: Will Bredderman).

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito addresses the crowd as Councilman Daniel Dromm and State Senator Jose Peralta look on (Photo: Will Bredderman).

Dozens of Hispanic New Yorkers, many still dressed in work clothes, packed into the Jackson Heights, Queens headquarters of activist group Make the Road New York this evening to watch President Barack Obama’s announcement of his executive order for immigration reform on a single flatscreen TV.

Before the president spoke, a succession of local speakers and elected officials addressed the crowd in Spanish, repeatedly using the phrase “noche histórico”–”historic night”–to describe to the occasion: the declaration of Mr. Obama’s plan to allow some four million undocumented immigrants who have resided in the United States for five years to register to avoid deportation and work legally in the country, permitted they have no criminal record. Chants like “Obama, eschucha: estamos en la lucha,” and “sí, se puede”–”Obama, listen: we are in the fight,” and “yes, we can”–broke out several times among the audience.

Local Councilman Daniel Dromm was the first elected official to arrive, and spoke to the crowd in Spanish. He praised the president’s action on the issue over the resistance of the Republican-controlled Congress, but said that it was necessary to provide full amnesty to all of the foreign nationals living in the country.

Read more here.


Times Ledger: Second DOT slow zone okayed for Jax Heights

By Bill Parry

Jackson Heights is getting its second slow zone in the last year and a half. Drivers in the business and residential areas on both sides of Northern Boulevard will now be forced to take it slower.

“My message to drivers is slow down,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said when the Department of Transportation and area leaders announced its implementation Monday. “Don’t come to Jackson Heights thinking you’re going to speed through this community and get away with it.”

The entire area between 69th Street to 87th Street between Roosevelt Avenue and 34th Avenue will have a 20 mph speed limit, 26 new speed bumps and 23 neighborhood slow zone gateways, high visibility blue signs announcing the lower speed limit. The Department of Transportation chose the area after an evaluation on crash history, traffic fatalities, community support and the closeness of schools, day care and senior centers.

According to the DOT, there have been 14 pedestrians severely injured, 14 vehicle occupants injured and three fatalities in the zone since 2007.

“Unfortunately during the last few years these streets have seen traffic fatalities,” Dromm said. “The reduced speed and speed bumps will make an impact and get drivers to finally slow down. Additionally, the frequent signs along the periphery of the zone act as an educational tool to alert pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers that this is an area where people need to be cautious.”

Although he had worked to get these zones implemented for 2 1/2 years, DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall said Dromm was the first to apply for slow zones. The councilman credited Community Board 3 for the zones in addition to other projects like curb extensions and pedestrian plazas.

“We have the largest population of students and they gave to cross these streets,” CB 3 District Manager Giovanna Reid said. “Slowing traffic down to 20 mph will definitely make a difference and it will save lives.”

Dr. Laura Newman, co-founder of the Jackson Heights street safety advocacy group Make Queens Safer, said, “Parents are brimming with excitement about the slow zone and our neighborhood kids our fascinated. These are the types of safety features that are easily understood by children.”

State Assemblyman Michael Den Dekker (D-East Elmhurst) pointed out that not a single parking spot has been lost.

“We are particularly grateful to Commissioner Hall for instituting this slow zone without making any changes to the current parking allocation,” he said.

There was an added benefit for Dromm, who lives in the zone on 78th Street: some peace and quiet.

“Oftentimes these drivers would barrel down that street so fast that the windows in my apartment would shake,” he said.

Read more here.

Times Ledger: LIRR plans a return to Elmhurst after nearly 30 years

By Bill Parry

The Long Island Rail Road is taking steps to return service to Elmhurst for the first time in nearly 30 years.

When the MTA released its new Capital Program last week, $40 million was budgeted for a new railway station to replace the one that stood on Broadway between Cornish and Whitney avenues.

U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) as well as Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) launched a campaign in 2012 to bring back rail service to the community.

“Restoring LIRR service to Elmhurst will help a burgeoning neighborhood reach its full economic potential and become a destination for all New Yorkers,” they said in a joint statement. “We are thrilled to learn that the MTA agrees that investing in this community is a win-win and that they have included funding to rebuild the station in their recently proposed capital budget. For years, Elmhurst residents have called for greater transportation options and we are now one step closer to turning this idea into a reality. We will continue to work with MTA officials to ensure this project remains a top priority and look forward to the day when Elmhurst will be the next stop for millions of New Yorkers.”

The original station site, which is on the LIRR’s Port Washington line, was shuttered in 1985 due to a reported decrease in ridership following significant changes to train schedules that made the station unattractive to commuters. Since the closure, Elmhurst’s growing population has suffered from a lack of efficient public transit into Manhattan.

“Elmhurst is the fastest growing neighborhood in my district,” Dromm said. “This is a very good step in the right direction. In Elmhurst people need new transportation alternatives to help them get to work and it would likely draw more business, and more jobs, to the community.”

He pointed out that an LIRR station in Elmhurst would help deliver shoppers and workers to the nearby Queens Center Mall and provide a valuable transportation link for Elmhurst Hospital Center.

Read more here.