Advice to deB from a Career Teacher …

(Marc Korashan is a frequenter commenter on this blog, a career teacher of students with emotional disabilities and a union activist.)

The entrenched leadership of the school system is all about test scores and little else. The Danielson frameworks are being turned into checklists and the “talent coaches” are pushing hard for the “gotcha” mentality that is the hallmark of all educational reform since No Child Left Behind. (See the NYTimes piece on the Bumpy Start for the New Teacher Evaluation system where only the talent coach is critical of a minor detail in practice that may or may not be applicable to the students in that class).

The real issue as Ed in the Apple points out is changing the culture. This requires reform above (changes in the evaluation process) and reform below. Principals should be empowered and required to begin working with teams in their schools to rewrite the Danielson rubrics to make them more objective and clearly focused on teacher behavior and not so much on student responses. Principals need to be required to provide SAVE rooms and establish meaningful discipline policies in every school so that we can reach the students who are failing and acting out in class. Guidance services need to be in place for students as well as families that are struggling.

The best way to shake up the culture in the schools may be to disempower principals. We can move away from the nineteenth century model that currently describes principals as all knowing and all powerful and move to a professional system where schools are run at the local level by a team of parents, teachers, and administration who must work together by consensus and receive help from the central bureaucracy. This is what SLTs were supposed to do before Klein imposed his corporate model (Every principal a CEO, see William Ouchi, “Making Schools Work“). Empowering school teams also empowers parents and teachers and brings more expertise to bear on the problems in an individual school than any top down management system can.

The question is does deB have the courage to try a truly progressive approach to remake the system?

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8 responses to “Advice to deB from a Career Teacher …

  1. Working as a professional team does not dis-empower principals! It empowers them to give their staffs the support and guidance they need tio perform at their best. Having so called ‘power’ over the busget– is giving a false sense of empowerment such that principals have no where to turn when they are really challenged to do more with less. Educators are not competing businessmen, we are in it together! Lets make that real!.

  2. The more authority you share, the more influential you become.

    • Oh God, Oh God! Why does Eric speak this way when on the outside, while when on the inside he was such a killer?

      The only possible reason is that when trolling for a job, he says what others want to hear. I KNOW ABOUT THAT!

      Present and in charge when so many of the current know nothings were placed as Principals, and so many schools were closed, and the vocational/technical programs disbanded ( try and put THAT Humpty back together) , how can he possibly type the comment?

      The last thing we need in leadership now is another chameleon. A clean house is in order, and some attention paid to trying to gather up all the broken pieces of what used to be, throwing out what was not effective, and restoring what was effective and useful.

      It’s going to be a real “bitch ” of a time, combatting all that money Bloomberg, Gates, Broad, Walton’s, etc and all the others threw, and are still throwing, around.

      Bill D sure has his work cut out.

      Watch out for the latest State tricksters-the Regents Fellows-if I have that correct.

      Citizens United has unleashed a torrent of cash contributing, politician buying, folk that have the potential to kill the system of public ed that is already on its knees.

      And the educational carpetbaggers are afoot ( ERIC, SHAEL, SANTI, ETC).

  3. In most communities in the world, parents want to know who their childs leader is in school. Who makes the decisions, how are those decisions reached/ Im all for team work and committee work, but Im all for accountability, and that accountability can onle be via The Principals Office..Even Pres Obama would agree with that stand..This is not Reconstructionism, it is at some level a from of anarchy.

  4. Nancy S. Dunetz, K-12 plus college educator

    I have numerous disagreements with the man Eric Nadelstern has become. But let me tell you, he was the best principal I ever had (of around 11, plus those I worked with as a coach.) It was at the International High School at LaGuardia Community College, of which he was the founding principal. The entire program was based on collaboration, which included shared decision making and empowerment of faculty and students. Collaborations were teacher to teacher, student to student, teachers and students, parents and faculty. All the students were immigrants and over 90% went on to college. As a supervisor Eric initiated a peer review system designed by the teachers. Although he had the ultimate legal authority, he always honored the recommendations of the teachers. Likewise, he had the teachers do the hiring, believing that it would give the faculty more of a vested interest in helping their colleagues succeed. Instead of pointing out and harping on weaknesses, he identified people’s strengths and encouraged them to develop those strengths. He delighted in his faculty participating in professional organizations and facilitated their attendance and participation as presenters. He encouraged them to bring along students as co-presenters, even at out-of-town conferences. The school still thrives today amongst 16 international high schools in New York City, founded by the Internationals Network for Public Schools led by Claire Sylvan. There are 2 in California and one in Virginia, plus numerous consultancies. The schools emphasize interdisciplinary studies, language development through content (all content teachers are expected to be language teachers as well), heterogeneity and collaboration, experiential education, localized autonomy and responsibility. This was real education reform, not what later developed under the business model of education fostered by non-educators who have been running the largest school systems in the United States. For the first time in 16 years, our incoming mayor in New York has promised to hire a schools chancellor who is an educator, not one who requires a waiver from the Board of Regents for lack of educational experience and credentials. Let’s hope for a happy New Year in education.

  5. I heard those stories, and was so happy to have him as a Deputy in D72, Bronx High Schools. When the opportunity came to get some seed money for a different approach in high schools, and the Superintendent and the UFT District Rep agreed to not disadvantage the borough by singling out a few schools but to try a a District wide approach. I was thrilled to have THAT Eric. The deal—pure and simple–was to start these new schools with nothing but TENURED staff, and put all the resources into instruction without the overburden of training brand new staff. THAT WAS THE DEAL ERIC AGREED TO. THAT DEAL WAS NEVER CARRIED OUT.

    New principals, brand new staff, hand picked kids, and BS galore was the result, and Nadelstern rocketed downtown. Devastation was wreaked upon the existing schools as the kids were ‘centrally assigned’, and the “failing” schools, bereft of the normal mix of students, slid into unfair closings.

    Sporting a new lead of black hair, and remembering nothing of his past (described above), a new monster was born. And all the Bronx High Schools died, even those that, in the face of having the poorest kids in the city, were doing right by many kids, and giving, in the good old days, vocational training as well as college preparation to many others.

    A generation of kids, mostly from poor families, less well educated than could have been the case otherwise, was pushed through schools by Principals desperate to have good numbers. Many of those kids were sent off to college so poorly prepared that all they have to show is $10-20,000 in college loan debt.

    May G-D exact retribution from those like Nadelstern, Klein, Suransky, and the Rhee types, and also those who take public resources to enrich themselves while operating Charter schools, and those who foster the testing mania.

  6. David

    I agree with you completely. Eric Nadelstern brought in the many policies that failed the schools. Leadership Academy Principals, fair student funding, and the near useless Children First Networks.

    Eric Nadelstern was the problem and his kind has no solutions when it comes to what’s best for the students. Let’s hope the new Chancellor never listens to an ed deformer like Eric who believes his ideas are more important than the education of the students.

  7. Eric Nadelstern has spent decades in education in New York City. During that time, he has worked to actualize a vision of public education in which students leave high school prepared for success in college and life. Among his achievements are those detailed by Nancy Dunetz.

    When I worked with him at The International High School, I found him to be a supportive and demanding principal, an interesting and available conversation partner, and an idealistic leader when it came to envisioning a better life for the young people we served.

    As powerful a position as Deputy Chancellor is, it is not free from the state and federal constraints imposed by NCLB, Race to the Top, and Core Curriculum. These include legal mandates, and sets of criteria to be met in order to obtain the financial support necessary for the city’s schools.

    Finally, in all my discussions with Eric over more than 25 years, he has never engaged in deriding people as “. . . those kind. . .”, or used hair, ethnicity, religion, etc., as a means for communicating his ideas. He focused on the education of the city’s young.

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