Race and Ethnicity: Does the Race/Ethnicity of a Teacher Impact Student Learning?

Back in 2008, after the election of Barrack Obama I began to read the words, “post racial America” (“There is No Post Racial America“), maybe not so fast.

I believe the subtext of conversations are race, gender and class, and, maybe add sexual orientation. From Colin Kaepernick, “white privilege” the twitter war  between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornell West, to the biting humor of Dave Chapelle (“Is Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Style Racist?,”) discussions about race, uncomfortable to some, is essential.

In 2014 the UCLA Diversity Project released a report accusing New York of creating the most segregated schools in the nation.  Slowly, inexorably, New York City moved to create a school integration plan and finally released the plan in June, 2017.

In some districts students of different races live in the same general neighborhoods, in others schools are hyper-segregated, the term to describe neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly neighborhoods of color.

I blogged about the issue last week and mused whether the emphasis on integration/segregation is distracting from working to improve the majority of schools in hyper-segregated neighborhoods

The de Blasio/Farina team continues to look for the “secret sauce,” the highly touted Renewal Schools program is struggling, integration is a politically heavy lift and another initiative is increasing the diversity among the staff.

The Men Teacher initiative, a mayoral program is in its third year,

While male students of color make up 43% of NYC’s public school demographic, only 8.3% of the entire teacher workforce is made up of Black, Latino and Asian men.

By 2020, the majority of U.S. children will be youth of color.  Yet their classrooms—which are the bridges to opportunity, access, and success— will not reflect this diversity.  Research shows that students benefit from being taught by teachers with similar life experiences who help create a positive learning environment and leave a profound impact on students’ grades and self-worth.

 The Men Teach cohort will be closely tracked, do they remain in teaching? Are they more, less or equally effective as all other teachers? A rich source of future research.

Does research actually show that “students benefit from being taught by teachers with similar life experiences,” and what the hell does that that mean? Let’s be more direct: Does the Race/Ethnicity of a teacher impact student learning?

The State Education Department (SED) sponsored report from the Wallace Foundation on Principal Preparation and a recent research paper from David Kirkland at the NYU Metro Center both call for increasing numbers of teachers of color in the schools.

The Wallace Foundation report calls for a quota system,

…[State Education should] put in motion an expectation that local school districts begin to set goals to recruit, select, develop, and place individuals from historically under-represented populations within the ranks of school building leaders, so that the racial and ethnic mix of the principal corps in the district matches the mix of the student population within the district at large.

 Will the State Department of Education actually endorse a racial/ethnic quota system for principals?  A “Rooney_Rule ” for school districts?

The NYU Metro Center report, “Separate But Unequal” recommends,

 The researchers … recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.

Education Trust has released a sortable tracker of teachers of color by district ; teachers of color predominantly work in districts that are hyper-segregated.

Schools with large percentages of teachers of color identified in the tracker do not appear to be any more successful than all other schools with similar students.

Does research support that teachers of color positively impact the achievement of students of color?

Dan Goldhaber and others, well-regarded researchers have taken a deep dive into the research around impact of teachers of color.

The Center for Education Data and Research, “The Theoretical and Empirical Arguments for Diversifying the Teacher Workforce: A Review of the Evidence,” (Goldhaber and others, 2015) reports,

Concerns about the (lack of) diversity of the U.S. teacher workforce—and, in particular, the mismatch between the demographics of the teacher workforce and the nation’s students—are not new. Indeed, the recruitment of minorities into teaching has long been a policy goal, particularly in districts with large percentages of minority students….  As then Secretary of Education Richard Riley put it nearly two decades ago, “Our teachers should look like America … Despite this rhetoric, we have made relatively little progress toward ensuring that the diversity of the teaching workforce reflects the diversity of the student body in U.S. public schools.

 These theoretical arguments suggest several ways that increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce might improve outcomes for racial/ethnic minority students. However, as we describe in the next section, empirical researchers have put these theories to the test and generally found that, all else being equal (and, importantly, all else is often not equal), minority students do appear to benefit when they are taught by a teacher of the same race/ethnicity.

 … there are good theoretical reasons to believe that minority students would benefit from a more diverse teaching workforce, and these theoretical arguments are largely backed by empirical evidence suggesting that there are small but meaningful “role model effects” when minority students are taught by teachers of the same race. Thus, our perspective is that policy makers should consider policies to increase the diversity of the teacher workforce as one of many strategies to attempt to close racial and ethnic achievement gaps in public schools.

 The answer to original question: does race/ethnicity of teachers positive impact student achievement, the answer is yes, with the caveat, “all else being equal” and additionally “there are small but meaningful ‘role model effects’”

Goldhaber’s caveat: “all things being equal.”

I worked in a large high school, over 3,000 kids with only a few Afro-American teachers. The principal called one of the black teachers, a friend of mine, into his office, praised him to the sky, an extraordinary teacher, etc., and offered him the job of one of the deans of students.

The teacher thanked him and turned down the job, the principal pushed, “Why don’t you want the job, you understand these kids?” The teacher asked, “Which kids?” The principal: “Your people.” The teacher: “I’d rather be the faculty adviser to the Honor Society.”  The principal, clearly shocked.” You’re not qualified.” The teacher: “I’m not qualified because I’m black? I’m only qualified to be the slave master keeping the bucks in line?”  They never spoke again; the principal left a couple of years later.

A close friend of mine, one of a few black teachers became the music teacher in an elementary school. The principal asked, “Are you going to teach ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ and spirituals?”

My friend: “First, “America the Beautiful,” “The National Anthem,” and “This Land is Our Land,” and I’m going to teach our students to read music.” The principal: “Why would you teach them to read music?” The teacher: “Aren’t your kids in their Scarsdale school learning to read music? Why should our kids be any different?”

Are the principals referenced above racists or just insensitive?

What we learned?

  • A black teacher in a school with a predominantly white staff can have a difficult time.
  • Schools with large numbers of teachers of color do not have better results than schools in general according to the tracker referenced above.
  • Studies show teachers of color “modestly” improve outcomes for children of color.
  • Studies also show the most diverse schools also “modestly” outperform students in the least diverse schools.

School integration and staff diversity should be pursued; however. these efforts will only “modestly” impact student achievement.

While student integration and teacher diversity dominate the headline there is a relatively inexpensive fix that will have significant impact, David Steiner writes,

Shifting from a poor to an excellent curriculum can increase student learning by the annual equivalent of several months of additional learning, or, to put the same point differently, can move a student who is performing at the 50th percentile to the 70th. This level of impact is greater than replacing every first-year teacher in America with a veteran teacher.

 Hopefully the new chancellor will move the school system from responding to external criticism to developing a system-wide research-based approach.


“Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?” School Integration/Segregation and School Improvement Policy

“We conclude that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” —Chief Justice Earl Warren

In 1954 the Earl Warren Supreme Court unanimously reversed the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision, states could no longer, by statute, segregate public schools.

 In the late fifties and into the sixties increasing numbers of Afro-American children entered the New York City school system.  David Rogers, 110 Livingston Street: Politics and Bureaucracy in the New York City School System, 1968, chronicles the hesitant and conflicted efforts of the Board of Education: increasing political pressures to promote integration and vigorous community resistance characterized by the Parents and Taxpayers (PAT) organizations. Under the Lindsay mayoralty (1965-1973) the push to school integration waned and moved to support for school decentralization, empowering locally elected school boards with wide powers over hiring, curriculum and budget. Lindsay, a progressive Republican, chose not to antagonize his white voter base and appeal to liberal and black voters.

 The Board of Education, at the high school level, successfully created and implemented integration efforts; and a number of school districts created integration plans within their districts (District 15, 22) while others (District 3) supported pockets of white schools within a primarily Afro-American district.

 For three decades following Lindsay the school wars were over the power of school boards, not school integration: accusations of corruption, suspending school boards in the poorest and most politicized districts, battles over jobs and political influence.

 Mayoral control under Mayor Bloomberg ended local control and placed decision-making back into the hands of a central authority. The Bloomberg administration closed and created hundreds of schools. Over two hundred of the newly created schools were “screened” schools, schools with entrance criteria, usually scores on state tests. To a large degree the screened schools have larger percentages of White/Asian students and lower percentages of Black/Hispanic students, having an impact of further segregating the remaining schools.

Sixty years after Brown v Board of Education the UCLA Diversity Project released a report sharply critical of New York City,

 New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.

 In this report, we provide a synthesis of over 60 years of research showing that school integration is still a goal worth pursuing. From the benefits of greater academic achievement, future earnings, and even better health outcomes for minority students, and the social benefits resulting from intergroup contact for all students – like the possible reduction in prejudice and greater interracial communication skills – we found that “real integration” is indeed an invaluable goal worth undertaking in growing multiracial societies. Can separate be equal, yes. If measured by test scores, a few resegregated schools show high performance. But even if equality can be reached between racially isolated schools, students may never achieve the skills and abilities required to navigate an increasingly diverse nation.

According to 2017 New York State data, the New York City schools are 14.6% White, 27.2% Black, 40.6% Hispanic and 15.6% Asian, if we subtract out Staten Island the citywide White school population declines to 11.8%.

The minority school population is heavily concentrated in a number of districts, District 23 (Brownsville: 75.6% Black, 21% Hispanic, 1% White) District 19 (East New York: 46% Black, 43% Hispanic, 7% Asian, 2% White), other districts have a wider range of races/ethnicities within the district (District 2 Mid-Manhattan: 24.2% White, 23% Asian, 37% Hispanic, 15.9% Black) while the highest achieving schools within the district, for example two of the high achieving middle schools, (IS 104: 28.2% White, 39.8% Asian, 20.9% Hispanic, 8.1% Black and IS 167: 41.9% White, 18.6% Hispanic 27.2% Asian, 8.3% Black) in no way reflect the district numbers.

Attempts to change school zoning lines, one of the few powers delegated to Community Education Councils (CEC), the local school boards, have created contentious battles. PS 191 and 199 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (District 3) are a few blocks apart, one school almost totally white and other school almost totally minority. For months the “white” school battled against any changes that would move white students into the minority school (Read NY Times article here)

Slowly, in the face of mounting pressures from advocates, research organizations and the City Council, the mayor and the department  began to support “controlled choice ,” and, in June, 2017 released a widely criticized plan.

The plan impacts only a handful of schools and creates a task force that will make non-binding recommendations in 2018.

The loudest advocates on the City Council are Brad Lander and Richie Torres; the black council members have not been vocal on the issue. The traditional Afro-American organizations have also not aggressively supported school integration.

Absent from the discussions is what happens within newly integrated schools: what happens when small numbers of children of color are introduced into white classrooms, a parent muses,

“Just as it can be intimidating to be the only white child in a class, it can also be intimidating to be the only child of color in a class,” she said. “If this is going to work, both sides have to really think hard about how to make everybody feel welcome.”

 A larger question: what are the academic data in the most and least diverse schools? David Kirkland, the Director of the Metro Center at NYC explores that very question in a recently released report,

Analysis of 2015-16 achievement data suggests that there is a modest benefit for vulnerable students attending the City’s most diverse schools. Third and eighth grade students attending the most diverse schools modestly outperformed students attending the City’s least diverse schools on state standardized tests in both English and math.

In addition, students attending the most diverse high schools were slightly more likely to graduate on-time than their peers attending the least diverse schools (68.8 percent versus 66.5 percent); less economically advantaged students in particular seemed to benefit from attending the most diverse high schools. By contrast, White, Asian, and more economically advantaged students were much more likely to graduate in four years in the City’s least diverse schools than their peers.

 “White and Asian students seem to benefit incongruently from segregated schooling, which means that school segregation may give some students an unfair and seemingly unhealthy advantage – thus, sanctioning uneven opportunities for success,” said Kirkland.

“The academic achievement and high school graduation evidence that we analyzed suggests that increasing diversity can increase equity in New York City schools and significantly decrease gaps in some student outcomes such as high school graduation,” Kirkland concluded. “Thus, plans to stimulate diversity in New York City schools can pay off for the City’s most vulnerable students.”

The report includes recommendations for stimulating diversity, expanding opportunity, and interrupting segregation in New York City schools, including challenging “opportunity monopolies,” such as specialized high schools, that only provide privileges to certain groups of students. The researchers also recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.

Two years ago at a Medgar Evers College symposium, “Improving Education Outcomes for Young Men of Color,” a high school student asked, “Why do I have to go to a white school to get a good education?”

The comment of the student has resonated in my mind, yes, school integration, societal integration, should be a goal. The dramatic rise in interracial marriages would indicate the without any externally imposed policies integration is occurring,

In 2015, 17% of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, marking more than a fivefold increase since 1967, when 3% of newlyweds were intermarried

Race does not define class. There are middle class households that are black and Hispanic, their neighborhood schools are black and Hispanic and parents have no interest in busing their children to white schools.

Gentrification has converted traditional inner city neighborhoods to middle and upper class primarily white neighborhoods further concentrating high poverty families in fewer and fewer neighborhoods.

The goal of the UCLA Report is to encourage, “real integration” which the avers is a “invaluable goal worth undertaking in growing multiracial societies”

 What we don’t know:

Who are the minority children in integrated schools? Do they live in segregated neighborhoods or in integrated neighborhoods? Is their family income equivalent to the incomes of the white families in the schools? Are the classrooms also integrated or are they in segregated classrooms for high needs children? Why have the minority parents chosen to move their children into primarily white schools?

And, a core question: are efforts to integrate schools diverting attention from improving the poorest and least academically effective schools?

For decades the city supported decentralization as a remedy for low achievement in high poverty, high minority schools, without any positive impact, in fact, a negative impact.

The #blacklivesmatter movement, a new generation of black scholars (Ta Nisi Coates, David Kirkland, Edward Fergus, Ibram Kendi), racially conscious black comedians (Dave Chappelle) and rappers – race is widely discussed across the nation, and, I believe, a positive element in our society. The discussion about improving schools must continue, Decentralization was a tragic distraction, I believe school choice is another distraction, and while school integration is a worthy goal we cannot ignore our most dire educational quandary – improving outcomes for our poorest children: regardless of race.

Feds Release ESSA Alternate Assessment Pilot Regulations: Will New York State Apply? Will Parents, Teachers and School Districts Choose to Participate?

The feds have posted the regulations for the ESSA Alternative Assessment pilot. The competitive pilot allows seven state pilots and encourages states to apply as consortia. The regulations (Read full text here) sets an April 2nd filing date and the regulations sets forth specific requirements. The pilot is three years, possibility for a fourth year, with the goal the moving the pilot to the statewide assessment tool.

I know there is enthusiasm among many parents in the state, especially among the opt-out parents, moving from an examination-based accountability system to a project-based system, at first glance, is attractive.

I have heard: “Instead of a test at the end of the year students can submit a portfolio and a project.”

Unfortunately the application is far more specific.

Generate results, including annual summative determinations …. that are valid, reliable, and comparable for all students and for each subgroup of students;

  Provide for the participation of all students, including children with disabilities and English learners;  

 As a significant portion of the innovative assessment system in each required grade and subject in which both an innovative and statewide assessment are administered, items or performance tasks from the statewide assessment system that, at a minimum, have been previously pilot tested or field tested for use in the statewide assessment system.

 Align with the challenging State academic content standards … including the depth and breadth of such standards, for the grade in which a student is enrolled;

 The regulations are 45-pages long and includes the specificity noted in the sections above.

What do the terms “valid, reliable and comparable for all students” mean?

If you move to a system in which teachers grade/evaluate or assess student work: how do you assess inter-rater reliability? How do you assure the teachers/raters in Buffalo, Rochester, New York City, Scarsdale and Great Neck grade/assess projects/portfolios at the same level?

Vermont moved to a portfolio system in the early nineties and asked the Rand Corporation to assess the program, Daniel Koretz, now a professor at Harvard conducted the study.

“For a variety of reasons, such as the variability of tasks used, it may be unrealistic to expect a portfolio program to reach as high a level of reliability as a standardized performance-assessment program” … the report states. “However, the reliabilities obtained in Vermont in 1992 are sufficiently low to limit severely the uses to which the results can be put.”

 On the positive side, the study also found no evidence that teachers assigned higher or lower scores to their own students than did other raters.

 In the ensuing years technology has improved the rater reliability issue; in many schools in New York City regents essays are scanned and teachers grade anonymous papers, the LEA or the SED can review and monitor reliability, although with 700 school districts in the state, a complex process.

A number of states currently have alternative assessments waivers under No Child Left Behind, New Hampshire is in its fourth year and each year the state has added two school districts to a performance task system.

What are performance tasks?

A complicated question: SCALE, Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity, has developed a data bank of tasks,

SCALE provides task and resource materials to schools and districts that have committed to adopting performance-based assessment as part of a multiple measures system for evaluating student learning.

 Check out the SCALE performance assessment resource bank here.

What does the New Hampshire alternative assessment look like?

The principles,

  • common performance tasks that have high technical quality,
  • locally designed performance tasks with guidelines for ensuring high technical quality,
  • regional scoring sessions and local district peer review audits to ensure sound accountability systems and high inter-rater reliability,
  • a web-based bank of local and common performance tasks, and
  • a regional support network for districts and schools.

The New Hampshire pilot has changed the face of teaching and learning, teaching in a performance task system is very different from teaching in a current classroom.

I suggest accessing the New Hampshire site here.

The state works with a consultancy, 2Revolutions, that has played a major role in the training of staffs, much more than training, working with teachers and schools to change cultures, to change the face of teaching and learning in a process that totally engages all the stakeholders.

Are the parents, teachers and school leaders willing to jump off the diving board, to walk into a new world, to move away from rigid testing accountability to performance tasks, to move to a student-centered, highly individualized classroom?

The fed proposal requires consultation with all stakeholders, in a limited period of time.

How will participants be selected? Do you consult with stakeholders, submit the application, and choose actual participants after the application has been approved? Or, work with high opt-out districts in the application creation process? Do you choose a subset of schools within districts, for example, the PROSE schools in New York City? Or, do you expand the Internationals Network for new immigrant arrivals? And. all these decisions within a ten week window.

Another core issue: funding. The fed regs do not come with any additional dollars; the governor/legislature will have to add funds to the budget in a restrictive funding year, or, State Ed will have to find funding from external grants.

Daniel Koretz, the current Harvard scholar who wrote the 1992 Rand Report criticizing the Vermont Portfolio Project has a new book, The Testing Charade, Pretending to Make Schools Better (2017); although he is not anti-testing he does skewer the current use of testing – Read review here.

Can you sever testing from accountability and simply use testing a tool to guide instruction?

A weighty nuanced discussion that would normally take many months is squeezed into a narrow time frame; the folks in Albany have an extremely difficult task.

How Do You Choose a New Chancellor for the NYC School System …? Is a Jesus-Moses-Muhammad-Gandhi-like Chancellor Waiting in the Wings?

The New York Yankees decided to have an open procedure in the search for a new manager. The candidates were publicly announced and met the press immediately after the interview. The media debated the candidates and the decision was widely applauded. The New York Mets held their interviews in-house, no announcements of candidates and announced the new manager with fanfare, again, a popular choice.

 At a press conference, de Blasio said he has already begun a national search to replace Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who formally announced her retirement on Thursday. He emphasized that he is not looking for someone to shake things up but rather wants someone who will follow through on the course that he and Fariña set out. He also committed to hiring an educator, an important criteria for the mayor when he chose Fariña that set him apart from the previous administration.

 The mayor said he plans to select a new chancellor in the next few months ….  He gave little information about the search process, saying only that it will be an internal, quiet decision.

 If the plan is to hire “someone who will follow through on the course that [de Blasio] and Fariña set out,” why a nationwide search, select from among the deputy chancellors, Dorita Gibson, Phil Weinberg, or from among the members of the Board of Regents who were highly effective superintendents, Regents Chin, Cashin, Rosa or Young? In the 90’s three chancellor’s, Cortines, Green and Crew, from across the nation stumbled.

Unspecified insiders paint a different picture of the mayor/chancellor relationship, the NY Daily News reports,

… behind the door … insiders have said de Blasio has been growing impatient with Farina’s inability to communicate his education agenda to the public.

“De Blasio thinks the schools are doing great,” said one Education Department official who requested anonymous. “He can’t understand why he gets negative coverage and pushback over things like school safety.”

Farina, in a self-assessment, looking over her four years mused,

“The thing I’m proudest of is the fact that we have brought back dignity to teaching, joy to learning, and trust to the system,” Fariña said.

 The speculation was that Carmen would stay a year or two, and de Blasio would select the “big name,” the new leader; Carmen surprised the sages.

Why wasn’t “the message” getting out? If you look at the pieces of data emerging from schools: higher graduation rates, jumps in test scores, Universal Pre-K, 3 for All;  De Blasio can’t understand the negative coverage from the Post, the Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute and a host of blog sites.

 Marshall McLuhan is famous for the phrase, “the medium is the message,” and the LcLuhan website explains,

… the message of a newscast are not the news stories themselves, but a change in the public attitude towards crime, or the creation of a climate of fear. A McLuhan message always tells us to look beyond the obvious and seek the non-obvious changes or effects that are enabled, enhanced, accelerated or extended by the new thing.

The same can be said for de Blasio himself, in spite of historically low homicide rates, improvements in quality of life, a thriving economy, the negative side, homelessness, lack of affordable housing, transit woes dominate the news.

De Blasio, in person, has an electric personality, charming, engaged, a wonderful public speaker. I was at an annual Christmas season community event a few weeks ago. The hundreds in the diverse crowd were local folks with their kids to see the Christmas lights turned on: Scott Stringer, the Comptroller, Trish James, the Public Advocate and the Mayor spoke, de Blasio charmed the crowd. In September I attended a community Town Hall, de Blasio interacting with a community, hosted by the City Counsel member. For a few hours de Blasio answered questions, knowledgeable, accessible, and seemingly caring about each and every story or complaint.

Yet the press hammers away, at press availability de Blasio is uncomfortable, snarky, why are they asking me about the “bad stuff” and not the “good stuff?”

Charming in person and not able to enunciate a message across the city.

Cuomo, on the other hand, only meets with the public and the press at carefully controlled events with questions limited to the single topic. I can’t remember an open press conference.  Cuomo reads speeches, issues press releases, stands on a stage surrounded by acolytes to announce this or that; the other end of the spectrum from de Blasio.

Aloof in person, effectively sends a message: I am in charge, I am the your leader.

Trump meets the nation through tweets, and campaign rallies, he is at the center, whether you like him or not he is the center of attention, he is the imperial and imperious president.,

We have moved from the era of the presser, from print media to the era of social media, an era of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, podcasts, websites; the New York Times has more online subscribers than hard print purchasers.

The number one “quality” of a new Chancellor should be the ability to communicate, to carry the message.

The substance might be less important than the message.

The current Farina education menu is a la carte. There are dozens, maybe scores, of “new initiatives,” the administration has tossed dollars and “programs” at criticism and perceived “problems.”  On the left hand column the “problem,” in the middle column the programmatic response, on the right side the cost, check off and move on to the next issue.  The old Board of Education was once described as a mass of silly putty, you could stick your finger in and change the shape with ease; however, slowly but surely the lump regained its amorphous shape.

I occasionally call a teacher in a Renewal School to catch up on what’s happening in her school: lots of meetings, lots people floating through, lots of data collection, and lots of confusion.

Me: “Do they ask for feedback, do they ask you for suggestions, do they follow through on teacher ideas?”

Teacher: “Not really, we’re polite, we listen, we try and implement the instructional changes, the new programs seem to be in conflict with other programs, it’s frustrating and depressing.”

I speak with a principal: “A cluster of schools, mine included, was getting significant dollars from a grant, the superintendent asked for ideas, we carefully researched, eventually the program was announced, none of our ideas made the cut, the programs were disconnected, it was chaotic, every program wanted a piece of our kids.”

On the state level the Rosa/Elia team has learned the lesson.

Former Commissioner John King “declared” change after change, call them reform after reform, with most of the Regents rubber stamping, and, defending each and every “reform.” Whether or not the reforms had merit faded as opposition to King increased. King became the message, not the value or lack thereof of the reforms.

Chancellor Rosa and Commissioner Elia have “included” the immediate world. Task forces, work groups, gatherings all over the state, at times a seemingly tedious and overly lengthy process resulting in this initiative or that initiative.  The message: we want to involve you, all of you, we will listen, and you’re “in the tent.”

The move from the Common Core to the Next Generation Standards garnered thousands of online comments, endless meetings across the state; I attended a meeting in Brooklyn with over 100 teachers interacting with city and state staffers. I attended a meeting at the union with a few Regents members and a number of math teachers who served on one of the task forces.

The Next Generation Standards were adopted with minimal opposition. Are they “better” than the Common Core standards? I have no idea, the message was clear: everyone will have their opportunity to participate in the change process.

In New York City the Panel for Educational Priorities (PEP), the central board meetings are poorly attended, the Community Education Councils (CEC), the local school boards, have numerous unfilled slots and, once again, the people on the stage outnumber the people in the audience.

The message is clear, you don’t really count, we’re doing what we think is the right path.

Carmen was the right person at the right time, replacing an administration that thrived on chaos and confrontation. Some of the Bloomberg/Klein initiatives had disastrous consequences (Open Market transfers allowing teachers to hop from school to school setting up a steady drain of teachers away from the lowest achieving schools) to others that made perfect sense (a longer school day, time for professional development and sharply higher wages) and to some that are debatable (school closing and new school creation). Eventually the public came to the conclusion, polling data confirms,  we trust teachers more than the mayor to create education policy.

The Farina policies lack coherence; for example, there is no New York City curriculum. Carmen likes programs devised by Lucy Calkins and Lucy West, and some superintendents force principals to use the programs, others abhor the programs. The answer to why there is no curriculum has been “we’re working on it.”  Increasingly curriculum is seen to be at the core of improved outcomes.

David Steiner, former New York State Chancellor, writes, ,

An education system without an effective instructional core is like a car without a working engine: It can’t fulfill its function. No matter how much energy and money we spend working on systemic issues – school choice, funding, assessments, accountability, and the like – not one of these policies educates children. That is done only through curriculum and teachers: the material we teach and how effectively we teach it.

Why has it taken four years to address the school diversity issue? The controversy around school segregation began with a research paper from The Civil Right Project at UCLA,

New York has the most segregated schools in the country: in 2009, black and Latino students in the state had the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools. Heavily impacting these state rankings is New York City, home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.

The Farina administration tarried, the pressure to create a school integration plan in New York came from two members of the City Council and a number of advocacy organizations, Carmen finally created a plan that has been criticized by the advocates and electeds.

To make matters more complex, a recent research paper from the Metro Center at NYU, “Separate But Unequal: Comparing Achievement in New York City’s Most and Least Diverse Schools,” finds only modest differences and makes a range of other policy recommendations.

Analysis of 2015-16 achievement data suggests that there is a modest benefit for vulnerable students attending the City’s most diverse schools. Third and eighth grade students attending the most diverse schools modestly outperformed students attending the City’s least diverse schools on state standardized tests in both English and math.

In addition, students attending the most diverse high schools were slightly more likely to graduate on-time than their peers attending the least diverse schools (68.8 percent versus 66.5 percent)

The report includes recommendations for stimulating diversity, expanding opportunity, and interrupting segregation in New York City schools, including challenging “opportunity monopolies,” such as specialized high schools, that only provide privileges to certain groups of students. The researchers also recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.

Did you know the Department has an Office of Equity and Access?  Once again the Department has spun out initiative after initiative, press release after press release, with considerable backslapping. Will the meetings of the newly appointed School Diversity Group be live streamed? Will there be a website for public comments?

Do principals, teachers, advocates and New Yorkers in general, have an opportunity to participate in the policy creation process?  Sadly, no, the gulf between those who work in schools and those who lead the school system is wide. The gulf between advocates and school district leadership continues to be disturbing; it is often confrontational rather than cooperative and collegial.

The chancellor proudly announces she has visited 400 schools; however, her visits are preceded by schools scrambling to put on the right face, new bulletin boards, tighter discipline, etc. The team spends an hour or so and moves on and the school breathes a sigh of relief.

The union contract contains a consultation requirement,

The community or high school superintendent shall meet and consult once a month during the school year with representatives of the Union on matters of educational policy and development and on other matters of mutual concern.

 In my union representative days my district had a different spin, the superintendent met monthly with all the school union reps in addition to the principals and parent leaders, Prior to the Albany legislative session the superintendent hosted a meeting of all the electeds, the District Leadership Team and all the parents associations to discuss district budgetary needs.

The teacher union reps were part of the leadership process – the message from the district to the teacher leaders – we respect and welcome your views, your participation. We created active and participatory school and district leadership teams, the school teams created bylaws with specific conflict resolution guidelines. The district leadership team, the superintendent, principals and teachers, responded to intra-school conflicts.

The district created a diversity plan; over a thousand Afro-American students from overcrowded schools were bused to underutilized all-white schools at the other end of the district. It only occurred because the entire community was included in every step of the process.

In a prior post I suggested that the new chancellor, a Jesus-Moses-Mohammad-Gandhi-like person, might be difficult to identify;  I’m not a fan of the candidates on the Eva Moskowitz list, New York City has a unique culture; I am a fan of including key stakeholders (unions, etc.) on a search team, and I hope the process does not drag on for months.

The Department has always been a paramilitary organization, the general, aka, chancellor, makes a decision, superintendents and principals salute and the orders trickle down to classroom teachers, the soldiers, who nod politely, close their doors and do what they think is best.  Occasionally a superintendent or a principal, or, an island of schools creates truly collaborative worlds; they are the exception and struggle to survive.

We need a chancellor, a leader, who can communicate, who is respected; would principals, teachers, parents and advocates agree with the reflections of the current chancellor? “The thing I’m proudest of is the fact that we have brought back dignity to teaching, joy to learning, and trust to the system.”

When you think of the Department do the words “dignity,” “joy” and “trust” resonate?

 I hope the mayor can find this incredible personage who can change the Department of Education from a reactive organization to a creative organization, from an organization attempting to pacify critics to an organization that truly finds a path to include diverse views, to an organization whose message is “you are part of the process,” whose outcomes lead to better outcomes for students and families.

Rule # 1 of personal and organization change: participation reduces resistance.

Flash: News Sources Report That Chancellor Carmen Farina Will Be Leaving “Early Next Year.”

Flash: Numerous news sources report that Chancellor Carmen Farina will be leaving “early next year” and the national search is underway.

I expect that parents and advocates will call for a search committee that includes a range of stakeholders. In selecting City University presidents the CUNY Board of Trustees creates an advisory committee consisting of alumni, faculty and students; the advisory group signs confidentiality agreements and participates in the process, the final decision is made by the Trustees.

The selection of a replacement chancellor will be made by the Panel for Education Priorities (PEP), the New York City Central Board of Education, remember, the system is a mayoral control system, and the mayor appoints a majority of the PEP.  The real world: the mayor will pick the chancellor.

Four years ago the mayor carried out quick and secretive interviews and rapidly selected Farina, a former community superintendent in the mayor’s home district who served as deputy chancellor under Joel Klein.

The speculation is rampant.

The easiest path is to select from within, promote one of the deputy chancellors or select from a former high level department staffer.

Four members of the Board of Regents are former New York City superintendents: Betty Rosa, the current leader of the Board of Regents as well as Judy Chin, Lester Young and Kathleen Cashin; all were highly regarded.

Former deputy Chancellors Eric Nadelstern is now at Columbia Teachers College and Shael Suransky is the President of Bank Street College.

Former chancellor Rudy Crew is the President of Medgar Evers College, part of the City University, although he might be more interested in the CUNY Chancellor position, the current chancellor has announced he is leaving at the end of the academic year.

Richard Buery, the Deputy Mayor for Special Projects has announced he is leaving the administration; however, Buery would require a waiver from the Board of Regents.

If you just checked on resumes the creator of the Chancellor’s District in New York City, who followed up as superintendent in Cleveland and Chicago was courted by de Blasio four years ago, unfortunately Barbara Byrd Bennett is currently in federal prison.

Josh Starr was a high ranking official under Joel Klein, the superintendent in Stamford, Connecticut and Montgomery County in Maryland.

Identity politics plays a role; electeds and advocacy organizations will lobby for a person of color, the union seeks a chancellor with whom they feel “comfortable.” Those on the right will seek a chancellor more favorable to charter schools and stricter discipline. Those across the spectrum continue to be suspicious of charter schools, favor moving away from testing, lower class size, more community schools, fewer screened programs and definitely aggressively moving to more school integration.

In the nineteenth century the line for patronage jobs would be around the block. Today lobbyists, think tanks and self-described reformers will be peppering the new gal/guy with their latest silver bullet.

Eric Nadelstern would argue that repairing struggling schools doesn’t work, close schools and grant schools, school leaders and staffs, wide discretion in policy-making at the school level.

Other say: fold up the ATR pool, send all ATRs back to schools, they would argue there is no evidence that current Open Market system has improved educational outcomes.

Superintendent after superintendent chancellor after chancellor: what has changed?

Regents Cashin and Rosa were highly successful superintendents, only to see gains wane after they left. Nadelstern proudly points to significantly higher achievement in the small school that replaced the large dysfunctional high schools, only to see small high schools that are also Renewal Schools struggle and end up on the closing list.

Do “reforms” depend on the value of the reform/idea or the ability of the person driving the reform?

The poorest neighborhoods have the lowest achieving schools; hundreds of screened schools collect up the higher achieving students, and, play a major role in keeping higher income families in the city.  Should “measure” schools by achievement or growth?

In an era of “if it bleeds it leads” journalism and politics every action is scrutinized and will be excoriated by one side the other, and, the sides are many.

Joel Klein moved from massive reorganization to reorganization, from reform to reform, closed and created hundreds of schools and eventually was chased out by his original benefactor Mayor Bloomberg. Klein was followed by Cathy Black (we hardly got to know you) and the amiable Dennis Walcott.

Aside from surrounding yourself with highly competent senior staff, having a vision, and being extremely adept at dealing with the media, the electeds, the many advocates, the think tanks and especially the unions, the next chancellor must bend to the will of the mayor as well as being to point to “victories.”

Over the next month or so the mayor will select this Moses-Jesus-Mohammad-Ghandi-like figure, and, I wish her/him luck.

BTW, does a scepter and orb come with the job?

The 2018 Legislative Year: Are You Ready? Are You a Citizen Lobbyist? Do You Complain or Act?

If you’re reading this you probably also have steady streams of anti-Trump comments in your e-mailbox, twitter feed and Facebook page; I have a simple direct response: complaining without taking action is fruitless:

  • Did you contribute to Doug Jones in Alabama? Are you contributing to Democratic Party candidates? Contributing to the Democratic National Committee (DNC)?  Contribute whatever you can afford – $10 multiplied by a million contributors is a great deal of money and whether we like it or not dollars drive elections. If you want to make changes “our” folks have to win seats in city halls, state legislatures and the Congress, and, of course, the White House.
  • Call your elected officials, calls to electeds matter – even if they’re totally on your side they need constituents behind them.  If your elected is on the “wrong side,” even more important. Place the phone numbers on your refrigerator door!
  • Attend rallies and demonstrations – keeping a movement alive is enhanced by realizing you are not alone, you are a part of a movement, a nationwide movement.

Let’s take a look at the political calendar for 2018.

On January 3rd the New York City Council will select a Speaker, the leader of the Council. The voters are the fifty-one members of the Council. The City Council is embedded in the New York City Charter. New York is a “strong mayor” system; the mayor appoints all the deputy mayors and department heads. The key role of the Council is approving the budget and the Council has considerable influence over land use. There were eight candidates, all men (the last two Speakers were women, Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito), both from Manhattan.  The Speaker appoints committee chairs, hires council staff, influences land use decisions and is the gatekeeper for legislation:  it is a powerful position and, needless to say, must work with the mayor. Apparently Corey Johnson, a Council member from Chelsea has wrapped up the votes; of course, to quote the great Yogi Berra, “It’s never over until the fat lady sings” (Can we still use that reference?).

Also on January 3rd Governor Cuomo will deliver his State of the State in Albany; the speech will lay out the Governor’s agenda for the legislative session and begin the path to an April 1st budget.

Will any education issues be included in the State of the State?

Cuomo has changed the nature of the relationship between the legislature and the governor. For decades the speech took place in the Assembly chamber: the audience, the members of both houses and invited guests. Cuomo moved the speech to the massive convention center space, guests invited by the governor. The speech became a campaign address with all the bells and whistles.

The governor is running for a third term; while there are rumblings of opponents(s) in a possible primary, or, the Working Families Party not endorsing Cuomo, they are only rumblings. There are no strong candidates on the Republican side, the Republican candidate must raise twenty million or so, a heavy lift, it appears to be a futile task.

Cuomo is not popular with teachers; or, to be perfectly honest, is not loved by many. A query: do you endorse Cuomo, stay on the sidelines, or even consider endorsing an opponent in a primary?  Endorsing a Cuomo opponent, and losing, alienating the governor will have dire political consequences: difficult choices, especially when the governor controls the budgetary process and a Republican governor will pursue Trump policies. The proverbial “rock and a hard place.”

The only fly in the ointment is the upcoming trial of Joe Prococo , Cuomo’s former alter ego who controlled and guarded the path to the governor;  Mario pere called Prococo “my third son.” Will the Prococo trial “splash” onto Cuomo?

The Albany legislative session is divided into two sections, from the convening in January to the April 1 budget deadline. The legislative session always starts slowly (see the legislative calendar) and picks up steam as the April 1st deadline approaches. This is a terrible budget year, the federal budget and the new tax bill law will have a negative impact on New York State.  New York State has a 2% cap on local school district budget increases (excluding the Big Five) and with meager or no increases in state funding local school districts will have to cut back on services, perhaps layoffs.

The budget process begins with a proposed budget by the governor, one-house budgets from the democratically-controlled Assembly and the republican-controlled Senate. The Senate has three factions; the Republicans led by Long Island State Senator John Flanagan, the Democrats led by Andrea Stuart-Cousins and the eight member Independent Coalition (IDC) led by Jeff Klein that caucuses with the Republicans.

The Senate lineup was:

23 Democratic members, one of whom Simcha Felder, caucuses with the Republicans

32 Republicans

8 IDC members

Due to a few senators jumping to other jobs the governor will set a date for an election to fill vacant seats in the Senate and the Assembly, or, he can leave them vacant until after the budget deadline, or, wait until the 2018 November election

The budget process: “three men in a room,” Governor Cuomo, Carl Heastie, the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, John Flanagan the Republican leader with Jeff Klein, the IDC leader, just outside the door and Andrea Stuart-Cousins, down the hall.

Ultimately the process favors the governor, after extensive litigation  the state’s highest court sustained the budgetary powers of governors,

When it comes to appropriations bills, the Senate and Assembly can only reduce the spending the governor has proposed or eliminate it entirely. Legislators cannot change the conditions on how the governor wants that money spent. They can add spending, but the governor has the power to line-item veto those additions.

 Additionally Cuomo has expanded his powers by adding items to the budget that appear to have nothing to do with the budget, for example, in 2015, lengthening the teacher probationary period.

The Trump budget will impact significantly on the state budget,

In a conference call with reporters …  Gov. Andrew Cuomo wouldn’t venture when asked what his plans are for increasing education spending in the coming budget proposal.

But Cuomo indicated the budget will be a challenging one nonetheless, given the $4.6 billion deficit and, when spending is capped at 2 percent, a $1.7 billion hole to climb out of before the budget is approved.

The governor just vetoed legislation passed last session that would have provided additional dollars to support CUNY and SUNY, the veto will have a substantial negative impact,

 In November, an election year, the governor and the entire state legislature will be on the ballot, no one wants to run in a year when the budget knife is slicing away dollars. The Democrats will blame the Republicans and the Republicans will blame the Democrats. The Democrats trying to use Trump hostility to gain seats in the Senate and gain a majority, of course, Jeff Klein and his IDC colleagues would still be the deciding votes.(See IDC list of bills in the upcoming session)

The second part of the legislative session, after the approval of the budget, the incumbents will be the building up their reputation, trying to pass popular legislation without impacting the budget.

The moratorium on using student test scores to evaluate teacher will expire in 2019, the governor/legislature could address this year or push it forward into a non-election year, and, everything is part of the electoral process. (“reward your friends and punish your enemies”).  Heavy choices ahead: Do you risk alienating the governor? How can you not alienate the governor and remain independent? What deals can be made in the dark corners of the “smoke-filled” rooms? (you know what I mean)?

The Democrats in New York State as well as across the country will be gearing up to battle Republicans, both for control of the state legislatures as well as Congressional seats, while the election is almost a year away candidates are already on the campaign trail. The Congressional party primaries are scheduled for June 26th, less than a week after the end of the Albany legislative session.

There are more women and young activists candidates challenging Republicans:

See Kate Browning for Congress in Eastern Suffolk (Check out website)

See Gareth Rhodes for Congress in Columbia and Ulster Counties (Check website) BTW, Gareth is a CCNY graduate.

Let’s not forget, with each increasing month the race for the White House in 2020 will gather steam, and Andrew Cuomo is in the candidate mix.

2018 will be a busy political year, followed by the only year in the four-year election cycle without any elections (a few for judges); however, the presidential race will charging forward.

Are you ready?

In whose district do I live:  http://www.mygovnyc.org/

Who is my City Council member: https://council.nyc.gov/districts/

My  Assembly member: http://nyassembly.gov/mem/

My Senate member: https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator

My House of Representatives member:  http://www.ny.gov/new-york-state-congressional-delegation

Let’s get started, let’s move Facebook posts to advocacy and join the movement.

Do New York State High School Graduation Requirements Prepare Students for College and/or Work? Are We Graduating Under-Prepared Students? or, Are The Requirements Ill- Suited to the Current World?

Tuesday morning in Albany was chilly with a few inches of snow, a group of parents were picketing in front of the Department of Education building carrying “Diploma for All” signs; not the first time, they had picketed before, parents of children with disabilities who could not reach the safety net threshold for a high school diploma. It was a little odd, there were no agenda items dealing with diploma requirements.

The parents filled up a meeting room later in the day, and, voila, minutes before the meeting started an item appeared on the agenda, a change in high school graduation requirements:  an additional pathway that would allow students with disabilities to graduate with a local diploma without having to pass any regents. (See proposal here)

Monica Disare, from Chalkbeat tweeted,

Very important Regents item on graduation today. It was not posted until about 5 minutes before the meeting and it looks like the Regents are about to vote.

It appears state officials are saying students with disabilities would be able to graduate with a local diploma by passing no Regents exams and instead earning a CDOS. But this is big deal and we haven’t had a chance to ask questions yet, so I will keep updating as we go.

The Regents passed the proposal with very little discussion followed by applause from the “Diploma for All” parents in the audience.

Chalkbeat and the New York Times followed up with articles, read here  and here.

A little history: for decades New York State had a dual diploma system, the Regents diploma, requiring passing five Regents examinations and a local diploma, requiring passing Regents Competency Tests (RCTs) in English, Math and Writing; the tests are low skilled, perhaps at the Eighth Grade level. Of students in the state who earned a diploma about 75% earned the local diploma, aka, the RCT diploma. After years of debate, in the mid-nineties, the Regents moved to phase in a single diploma, the Regents diploma and phase out the RCT test and RCT diploma.

The phase-in of the all Regents diploma involved reducing the passing grade to 55 and slowly increase the number of Regents requiring a grade of 65, the phase-in took about ten years.

There was a concern: would the single diploma result in reducing graduation rates?

The Regents also created a safety net for students with disabilities, dropping the Regents passing score to 55, the two-day, six hour English Regents was reduced to a one day three-hour exam (passing rates increased by 20%), the Global Studies Regents covering the Ninth and Tenth Grade curriculum was reduced to only cover the Tenth Grade (to be implemented in June, 2019), the 4 + 1 option was adopted, an additional Pathway to graduation.

The Regents also introduced scale scores for the new Common Core-based Regents exams, assuring passing rates similar to previous years; without scale scores pass rates would dropped precipitously mirroring the drop in Grades 3-8 scores when the Common Core test were implemented.

Check out a detailed explanation of the wide range of diploma options available to students in the state.

August 2017: Diploma Requirements Video Series – Information on the credit and assessment requirements to earn a New York State Regents or local diploma.

June 2017: UPDATED Guidance on New York Diploma Requirements  – New Guidance!

February 2017: Diploma Requirements including Multiple Pathways

February 2017: Summary Diploma/Credential Requirements
This chart includes information on the required units of credit and examinations for a Regents diploma, a Regents diploma with advanced designation, a local diploma the CDOS Commencement Credential and the Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential.

The changes have resulted in incremental increases in graduation rates, The New York Times reported in February,

The New York State Education Department said … that the high school graduation rate hit a new high of 79.4 percent in 2016, an increase of 1.3 points from 2015 and more than 12 points from a decade ago. But changes to graduation requirements in 2016 made it hard to know whether schools were doing better or students were simply clearing a lower bar.

Among other changes, the Board of Regents, the body that governs the state’s education system, made it possible for students with disabilities to graduate by passing two Regents exams, rather than five [the new change would not require students with disabilities to pass any Regents exams] if they showed proficiency in the other subjects through coursework. The Education Department said that 418 students statewide benefited from that change alone, which nudged the graduation rate up by 0.2 percent.

Additionally, the Regents allowed more students to appeal to their districts to graduate despite falling slightly short on one or two Regents exams. The Regents also let students graduate by passing four Regents exams and earning a credential showing that they have the skills for entry-level employment.[CDOS] The Education Department said it could not say how many students had benefited from those changes.

The most recent change will result in another jump in graduations rates; however, will students be “college and career ready?”  To put it another way, will high school graduates be able to succeed in college?

The community college completion rates are distressing. For the entering 2014 class in CUNY community colleges only 6.1% earned an associate degree after two years. Staggering numbers of students entering the CUNY system require remediation. According to the New York Times,

… about 80 percent of freshman entering community college in the CUNY system require remediation in reading, writing, math, or some combination of those subjects. Students of color are twice as likely to be assessed as needing remediation as white students. But at the end of one year, only half of all students in remediation have advanced out of those classes. The need for remediation is a chronic problem at community colleges around the country as students graduate from high school without the skills they need for college.

As the Board of Regents nibbles away at the graduation requirements, allowing more students at the edges to graduate are the Regents helping them to move on to college or graduating students who are less able to succeed in college?

The Board of Regents and the State Education Department not only regulate K-12 schools; all colleges in the state require program approval as well as the professions. The Office of the Professions  licenses sixty professions and close to a million practitioners ranging from acupuncture, dentistry, medicine, nursing, psychology to public accounting, social workers and veterinary medicine. The Office sets licensing standards for the colleges and institutions that provide training as well as the examinations required for each profession.

The Commissioner and the Chancellor have vigorously supported high entry standards for prospective teachers, are they proposing easing standards to earn a New York State High School diploma? Are they proposing easing the standards for the other professions?

High school graduation exit testing requirements vary widely from state to state, from the SAT and the ACT to PARCC and Smarter Balance tests, the feds require test in English, Math and Science, the new law, the Every Student Succeeds Act requires a 67% graduation rate for all high schools. (Check out detailed federal guidance here)

Over the next few months I expect the folks in Albany will take a deep dive into the question of high school graduation requirements; it is always worthwhile to reflect on current policies before jumping to the “new thing,” the preferred choice of the so-called reformers.

Homework: Read “Has the high school diploma lost all meaning?” and be ready to discuss the article and the suggestion below:

… rethink the high school diploma. Base it on demonstrated competency rather than time in school or Carnegie units compiled. Or consider, …, instituting a multiple-tier system in which college-bound students receive, say, “academic” diplomas, and those who are career-bound get “applied” diplomas that signal more practical things, like responsibility, reliability, or on-the-job skills. This would not be tracking by a different name; both options would have a whole lot in common, and every student would have the option to choose either at any time.

What say you?